New Japan’s first New Beginning show (if we don’t count the ones taking place in America) might not have had the big title matches, but there was plenty of intrigue going around. This was another chance for Tanahashi to get an elusive win over Jay White before their title match while EVIL finally got his hands on ZSJ. How did it go down? Read on and find out.
Ren Narita defeated Yuya Uemura
Am I right in saying that Uemura has jacked up? I don’t remember him being that ripped. The boy is looking good.
For the most part, this was your standard Young Lion fare. A well-worked example of it, but an example of it all the same. However, towards the end, we began to see that these two are being trusted to do a bit more. Firstly, we got a nice Arm Trap Belly to Belly Suplex from Uemura. Then, Narita one-upped him, by hitting his new Belly to Belly into a Bridge for the three.
While Uemura getting a flashy move is a cool sign for him, Narita being handed his first finisher is a huge moment. It suggests we’re heading into excursion territory, and it’s well-deserved. We’ve all raved about Umino (rightly), but Narita has turned into a cracking wee wrestler in his own right. There’s nothing stopping him going on to do great things.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Toa Henare and Manabu Nakanishi defeated Shota Umino and Ayato Yoshida
Talking of Umino, he and Yoshida are more than ready to be raised above Young Lion status. Although I’m still not entirely sure whether Yoshida counts as a Young Lion, as he’s been plopped into an in-between stage. Whatever he is, his interactions with Henare were the highlight here as they continued to growl at each other after the bell. A short feud between the two could do them good, it would be a chance for Yoshida to impress while Henare could rack up the wins.
Elsewhere, Nakanishi played the hits and Umino was his usual reliable self. Nothing about it will blow your mind, but you’ll have fun.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tiger Mask defeated Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka and Taka Michinoku) by Disqualification
Tenzan is trying to entice the old Iizuka out before the old cannibal retires. Judging by what happened here, it ain’t working. If anything, it made Iizuka worse as the match would end when he went crazy with a steel chair.
Before that, it was, well, it was what it was. If you were kind, you’d say there was a lot of experience in that ring. If you were truthful, you’d say the years weighed heavily on it.
I’ve no issue with Iizuka getting a short programme before he goes. However, no-one can pretend it’s going to produce wonderful matches.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano, Togi Makabe, YOSHI-HASHI and Tomoaki Honma defeated The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa and Yujiro Takahashi)
It’s nice to see Tama embracing his role as a mid-card comedy act. Can he convince his brother to join him? Then I might never have to review them challenging for the tag titles again.
Not that what we got was much better. A lot of this was tedious nonsense with the Bullet Club trying to work around Tama’s newfound heavenly ways. The only joy was that it was low on the card, so they didn’t get enough time to go too far into it.
There was a flash of inspiration when Taguchi and Ishimori took the ring, as they actually focused on wrestling rather than the bullshit, I have faith that they’ll have a good match. Apart from that, this was bad, with Honma really standing out in that sense. While I feel bad for the guy, his time is up, as even simple runouts expose him horribly.
Verdict: Two Stars
Suzuki-gun (Taichi, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI)
I don’t know what to say about this one. I can’t sit here and tell you it was a bad match because it wasn’t. Shingo and Despy had an enjoyable slappy interaction while the Taichi vs Naito stuff is mildly diverting. However, I just don’t give a shit. I love LIJ, they’re my favourite faction, but I’ve seen them do this match-up a million times. The second the teams walked out I felt lethargic.
Maybe I’m a miserable bastard who should sit back and enjoy things for what they are. Or maybe, New Japan’s over-reliance on multi-man tags is beginning to take its toll. It’s certainly making these shows a right old slog.
Verdict: Three Stars
Minoru Suzuki defeated Sanada
If you are looking for an example of the other way that New Japan could build matches, look no further than these next two. I know Gedo wants to protect singles bouts, but sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice one or two for the greater good.
Anyway, there has been a lot of discourse surrounding this online, with most of it negatively concerning Sanada. I’ve seen people lamenting his beard, his lack of personality, the Paradise Lock and his in-ring work. Well, I’m about to tell you that you’re all wrong.
Because I think Sanada is great and I really enjoyed his performance. He went out there and in his arrogance decided he wanted to put Suzuki in the Paradise Lock. Well, he succeeded, but that turned out to be a mistake. Sanada has released the Murder Grandpa’s inner murdery feelings, and he was in trouble.
The rest of the match saw Sanada pay for his arrogance. He had moments where he was able to use that incredible athleticism to gain control, but Suzuki was just too smart, too willy and too evil. Sanada can be as quick as he wants, but when he’s in there with MiSu he has to be violent too, and no one is as violent as Minoru Suzuki.
I will concede one point to the Sanada haters, his Dragon Sleeper is awful. He either needs to learn to apply it properly or ditch it, but that’s it because I even like the beard. This was a perfectly told story that showed while Sanada is good, he ain’t ready for Suzuki yet. So suck on that haters.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarters Stars
EVIL defeated Zack Sabre Jr.
This match has had a fantastic build. For months now, Sabre has been catching EVIL off-guard in tags, trapping him in the European Clutch and slipping out with the three. It became such a recurring theme that they were set to face off at King Of Pro Wrestling, only for Chris Jericho to attack EVIL before the bell even rang. Now, a handful of months later, they finally get the chance to face off.
And the months of frustration played into EVIL’s story in this match. Early on, it was like he wanted to wrestle Zack. He knew he had more power, so he was trying to use that to beat Sabre at his own game. For a while, it worked too, but if you play cards with the devil, you know he’s going to have an Ace or two up his sleeve.
Because we all know what Zack can do. If you stay close to him, you are asking him to grab a limb and start wrenching on it. The first chance he got, he began twisting EVIL up, pulling on everything from his neck to his nose. If EVIL was going to play Zack Sabre Jr’s game, he was going to lose… again.
Thankfully, EVIL finally seemed to learn. He realised that rather than using all that power to try and out-wrestle the wee prick, maybe he should use it to smack him in the face. At that moment, you could almost see the confidence pour back into him, Zack Sabre Jr. was still in the fight, but he was no longer up against an EVIL who thought he was going to lose. He was up against the King Of Darkness.
The final confirmation of that was EVIL kicking out of the European Clutch before going to kick out of another flash pin and finally reversing one into the EVIL for the win. Zack’s hold over him was broken, and Suzuki-gun and LIJ go into tomorrow Heavyweight Tag match at one each.
Verdict: Four Stars
The Bullet Club (Jay White and Bad Luck Fale) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada
Okada and Tanahashi have been teaming for a while, but this was their first straight up tag. It was also their chance to get one over on Jay White, or that was the theory anyway.
Because somehow, Jay White went into a match with two of the greatest wrestlers of all time and came out as the star. He was incredible here, right from the moment where he barged in front of Tana and Kazu as they posed for the camera, declaring that he was the story, not them. You 100% buy him as the brash and arrogant little shit who believes the world owes him a podium.
And the worst part about him? He’s always right. He said he’d destroy CHAOS and on this show not a single solely CHAOS team wrestled a match (YOSHI-HASHI and Yano were on the same side of a multi-man tag). He said he’d beat Okada and he did. Now, he’s saying he is going to beat Tanahashi, and if Gedo has any sense, he will.
There was too much Bad Luck Fale in this for it to be any good while Gedo was also getting involved at every stage. However, for Jay White’s character, this match was huge. A week out from his first IWGP Heavyweight Title shot he made the champion tap out. Sure, he cheated to get there, but Jay White would say that’s just a sign that he is smarter than all of you. You know what? He’s probably right about that too.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
This was a Road To show up till the final three matches which prevented me from feeling like I’d completely wasted my time watching this. Check out the Young Lions, skip all the crap in the middle and then watch from Sanada vs MiSu onwards. With the rest of it, you’re just giving away time that you ain’t ever getting back. Christ, that’s a depressing way to look back at my afternoon.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/