New Japan The New Beginning in Sapporo 27/1/18 Review

Tanahashi’s reckoning was upon him. Credit: NJPW

Sadly, New Beginning doesn’t feature flying cavemen or drunk drones. It’s the New Japan equivalent of the Bat Signal. It’s time to put that silliness behind us and get back to business. Which we’re doing by having a battle of the legends as Tanahashi takes on Suzuki. Not a bad way to start the year by anyone’s measure. Let’s dish out some stars.

Michael Elgin defeated Katsuya Kitamura

Good Kit. Credit: NJPW

Fuck Michael Elgin.

I love Young Kit, and it makes me sad to see him sharing the ring with a piece of shit. That aside, he’s at a point in his career when he gets better with every match. I doubt he’ll be an elite worker, but he’ll become more than good enough to do what he has to do. His charisma will carry him up the card.

Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin

Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and KUSHIDA defeated Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Manabu Nakanishi, El Desperado, Taka Michinoku and Taichi)

He’s a strange chap. Credit: NJPW

Iizuka should have got a babyface pop for interrupting Taichi.

Hello to the Suzuki-gun tag match. Greet all the usual spots. Hello attack during the introductions, bonjour crowd brawling, hola bell hammer and adios to Taichi’s trousers. I’ve seen it so many times that I could have closed my eyes and pictured every moment from the audio alone.

The babyface comeback was enjoyable, although you can only do so much with Tenzan and Nakanishi. Luckily, KUSHIDA was around to raise the quality. Even when he’s being cycled down the card, he turns up and works hard.

There isn’t much more to say. It filled its spot and let the crowd see some legends.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) defeated Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi)

So close. Credit: NJPW

A match with Chase Owens and an Ishii hot tag? I think it would be physically impossible for me to dislike that. It’s all my favourite things in one place.

And it was a solid showing. While they didn’t go all out, they did enough to keep you entertained. Ishii vs Chase was the highlight (and not just because of my Chase love). Ishii is one of the best wrestlers in the world and Chase is New Japan’s hidden delight. An undercard guy who makes everyone look good.

I hope 2018 is the year that New Japan gives Owens something to do. They gave him some shine in the Wrestle Kingdom rumble, and while I don’t expect to see him headlining shows or holding World Titles, it would be nice to see him involved in a program.

Verdict: Three Stars

The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa) defeated Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Henare and Togi Makabe)

Taguchi presents himself. Credit: NJPW

Another perfectly decent runout. While you could argue that the NEVER Six Man belts don’t mean very much (and you’d be right), they are perfect for B-shows. It gives the fans a title clash and the action is usually good.

Since returning from injury, Henare has been on a steady upward curve. It took him a few weeks to regain his footing, now that he has, he’s getting better and better. I also think these mid-cards belts are the right spot for GOD and Fale. GOD were played out in the tag division and some time away will do them good. The format of the matches also allows you to hide Fale’s weaknesses. He can come in and bully people before nipping out for a rest.

An entertaining outing that zipped by quickly. Exactly what it needed to be.

Verdict: Three Stars

The Bullet Club (Cody, Marty Scurll and Hangman Page) defeated Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson and David Finlay

Kota is chilling. Credit: NJPW

How good is Kota Ibushi? I like Hangman more than most people and even I have to admit he’s rarely looked better than that thirty-second sequence with the Golden Star. I am delighted that Ibushi appears set to play a major role in New Japan this year.

I doubt David Finlay is in position for similar treatment. He always looks good in these tags. I love his offence as he throws himself across the ring with wild abandon, but he needs a change. Whether it’s going out on an excursion, being rebranded or even just getting new gear. Something needs to happen to help him stand out. Why not send him to the UK for a few months? Let him wrestle in something that isn’t multi-man tag matches where he takes the fall.

Kota and Cody were the glue that held this together. Ibushi wanted Cody, Cody wanted none of that. It prevented it descending into Bullet Club chicanery, and it needed that. We’ve seen that too many times before.

With the risk of sounding repetitive, this was good. I don’t think it is possible for Kota to be bad. Throw in the likes of Juice, Finlay and Scurll, and it was always going to be a lovely time.

Verdict: Three Stars

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi) defeated CHAOS (Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI)

Will’s face says he knows what’s coming. Credit: NJPW

I want to be best friends with Takahashi and Naito. I’d be their uncool pal that tags along, and I’d be 100% fine with that. Basquing in their awesomeness would be good enough for me.

Also, YOSHI-HASHI has had a haircut, thank God.

Unsurprisingly, Ospreay and Hiromu stole this match away from everyone else. Those two have mad chemistry and their match has a chance to be truly outstanding. They are both absolutely mental and I can’t wait to see what they cook up.

Of course, Naito was great too because he’s Naito and YOSHI always does his job well. It was nice to see him show some personality by losing it with Naito after the bell. He’s going to lose in Osaka, but I enjoyed their G1 showing, so I’m looking forward to it anyway.

Another decent encounter. They could have gone faster and harder and yet they didn’t need to. It was about building for the future.

Verdict: Three Stars

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto and Gedo) defeated Los Ingobernable de Japon (Evil, Sanada and Bushi)

Night night Bushi. Credit: NJPW

It’s amazing how one well-booked match can change your entire outlook on someone. I spent most of last year not giving a crap about Goto and yet that Suzuki war has completely changed that. He suddenly feels exciting again.

And he looked good again I want him and Evil to have a big boy stiff off when they meet. Although I’ve just realised what that sounds like. Oh well, might mean we pop up in a few different Google searches. They’re two burly wrestlers and they should be unleashed on each other. Christ, there is no way to write this shit without sounding homoerotic. I want them to fight!

The other big focus was Okada vs Sanada which has all the potential in the world. It’s a big match for Sanada. He needs to prove he can step up and going out and having a fantastic outing with Okada is not a bad way to do so. Judging by their interactions here there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a tremendous showing.

The rest of the action was entertaining. This has been a very solid show, and it continued that trend.

Verdict: Three Stars

Post-match Okada called Sanada back to the ring. When Sanada refused to cut a promo, Okada attacked him from behind, stuffed some Okada bucks in his mouth and choked him out.

Evil and Bushi probably owe their mate an apology. Where the fuck did they go? Perhaps more importantly, it was a heel move from the champ. Looks like dickhead Okada is in town.

The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) defeated CHAOS (SHO, YOH and Jay White)

Be a star! Credit: NJPW

I like that even as a member of CHAOS White is being presented as something separate.

This surprised me. When Kenny came down to the ring wearing his t-shirt I thought we were going to get The Elite six-man tag that we’ve seen a million times. Fifteen minutes of antics. Instead, we got a straight-up match. There was some Elite shtick, but it wasn’t the focus. The focus was on building White vs Omega and The Bucks vs Roppongi.

Which (to continue the theme of this show) it did a good job of. In their one on one encounters White was able to get the upper hand on Omega, attacking before the bell and nearly hitting him with the Bladerunner before a Bucks interruption. He’d then sneak in and attack Kenny after the bell. It was all establishing that while Omega is the bigger star, there were cracks for White to attack.

Meanwhile, Roppongi and the Bucks continue to be brilliant. They compliment each other nicely, with both teams happy to work at pace. I have every faith their match will be just as good as their Wrestle Kingdom one was.

Verdict: Three Stars

Minoru Suzuki defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi by referee stoppage to win the Intercontinental Title

My new favourite picture. Credit: NJPW

Imagine how terrifying it would be to have Minoru Suzuki laugh at you when you tried to elbow him in the face? I’d run. Fast.

What a beautifully constructed match. They started slow, grappling for control and then begun to build on that. Tanahashi going after Suzuki’s leg and Minoru attacking the injured knee and bicep of the former Ace. It wasn’t the thrilling, end to end action that we often get from New Japan main events. Instead, it was intelligent, with a well-crafted story and the perfect pay-off.

And the bulk of that story is that you had two tough old bastards in that ring. This is the Suzuki that I love. The guy who will walk out there and dissect you while also happening to throw one of the best dropkicks in the game (have you seen that thing? It was beautiful). He wasn’t just trying to beat Tanahashi at the end of this, he was trying to break him. He wanted to make sure the man who carried New Japan never walked again. The faces he pulled, and the way he’d move his body to increase the pressure while they sat in that leg lock sold the idea that he wanted to maim Tana’. It was a masterclass in psychology.

Talking about masterclasses, how good is Tanahashi? It’s hardly a surprise but he must be a bit banged up and he still wrestles like the champion he is. He showed fire, refusing to tap and dragging himself back to his feet when everyone knew he should stay down. It was a step too far for him and yet he wouldn’t admit it. He was going to fight right until the bitter end.

Which he did, and what an end it was. Tanahashi didn’t give up, he would never give up because that’s not the man he is. However, on this day he needed to give up, and Red Shoes (despite clearly being desperate not to) took that decision out of his hands. After hitting a Gotch Piledriver (one of the most protected moves in wrestling), Suzuki went straight back to that leg. Tana’s selling had told us it was already basically gone but he wouldn’t die, he refused. Eventually, it got to the point where Red Shoes couldn’t sit back any longer, he called for the bell and put the champion out of his misery.

The story told in this match is something you could only do in pro-wrestling. The beaten down champion, refusing to bow down but defeated by his own body. Suzuki was a step too far for Tanahashi and even if he wouldn’t admit it. Even if he couldn’t admit it. It was true. This was exquisite pro wrestling and make sure you watch it.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Overall Show

You nearly got him. Credit: NJPW

I guess you could call this a three-star show. For the majority of the card, these matches trundled along at a good standard. Never touching great but never dropping below decent. While it won’t linger in the mind, it was easy to watch. Then the main event raised the game. I loved that match and it was wrestled to perfection. There was no Suzuki-gun and no shenanigans. Just two legends fighting it out. You can skip most of this card if you don’t have the time, just make sure you watch the masterclass.

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