NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka
February 11 2017
We’re in Osaka, Japan, as the title explains. Hosts are Kevin Kelly and Don Callis. The latter replacing WWE bound Steve Corino. They did commentary on a couple of shows before this but tonight would be my first experience listening to them. This show is highlighted by Ospreay going after Shibata and his British title. I’m very excited.
TAKA Michinoku vs. Henare
Henare is impressive. He’s bigger than TAKA but not by a lot. It puts Henare into perspective a bit. I’m pleased that TAKA is involved in singles and there’s no Suzuki-gun scum hanging around ringside. Henare looks measured and confident. TAKA is both devious and sneaky in tying Henare into knots. That’s enough to score a pin. TAKA has the flu and it showed here. He did next to nothing and sweated profusely.
Final Rating: *3/4
KUSHIDA & Yoshitatsu vs. TenKoji
I really like TenKoji’s dubbed music. To the point where I can’t imagine them entering to anything else. This is a weird combination of guys. Tatsu had his deal with Captain New Japan/The Boner and it just ended and we moved on. Only Tatsu has nothing going on. He’s the “Bullet Club Hunter” only there’s no Bullet Club on this tour. He’s borderline heel in his aggression. KUSHIDA goes after Kojima’s arm a bit but it doesn’t feel like seeds are being sewn for a future singles match, due to the size difference. The best of the match is Kojima getting incensed at Tatsu trying to hit a lariat. Kojima ends the match shortly afterwards. Fuck you, Tatsu.
Final Rating: **1/4
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo & Jado) vs. Yuji Nagata, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Juice Robinson
Goto is starting to feel like he belongs in CHAOS. His win over Shibata at Wrestle Kingdom has done him a power of good and carrying around a title, albeit one that doesn’t mean much, makes him seem more important. Juice Robinson had a good showing opposite Goto and a series of less experienced challengers would do the belt good. It’s no use putting a strap like that on someone like Makabe, or even Goto for that matter, unless you line up lesser challengers to create a storyline. The NEVER belt was always designed as that secondary level of strap. Juice looks good again here and pins Jado clean with Pulp Friction. He didn’t get the same crowd response as he did in Sapporo here but next time he’ll be more over.
Final Rating: **1/2
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Trent Beretta & Rocky Romero)
Suzuki hasn’t let his defeat to Okada get him down and he puts a vicious beating on everyone, Okada included. While Suzuki is masterful in his destruction of everyone, only cheating outright when he’s on the floor, while Taichi uses the ring hammer in front of the ref. Try to learn from the best and not be a complete knob. Suzuki is compelling when he’s dissecting opponents. His cohorts merely exist to kill time in between pieces of Suzuki dickery. He is a magnificent bastard. Rocky finds himself isolated and Kanemaru kicks him in the balls en route to a pinfall victory. The Suzuki stuff in this match was all kinds of great. I wish he’d been able to jettison the rest of Suzuki-gun in NOAH.
Final Rating: ***
NEVER Six-Man Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI)
LIJ had these belts until losing to this wacky trio at New Year’s Dash.
The champs come out with mocking facepaint to annoy EVIL. In order to make their mockery look stupid SANADA decides to put three tins (or bottles, or whatever) of gel in his hair. There is a healthy dose of comedy to offset the usual seriousness associated with LIJ. This creates a lovely disparity between the butt assaults of Taguchi and LIJ’s murderous ripostes. Tanahashi looks as if he’s genuinely having fun, copying Taguchi and Nakanishi and doing their spots.
It’s a really fun match with both teams contributing a lot. LIJ are constantly popping off these great trios and other multi-man matches but they work especially well with three babyfaces with entertaining offence. Big Nakanishi gets the Mist and the Skull End gets the submission. Los Ingobernables get their belts back and hopefully they’ll have a long run with them. Not because I think the belts need to be more established but I just want to see loads of LIJ trios matches.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Rev Pro British Heavyweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Will Ospreay
I’m very excited to see how this plays out. Ospreay has done a bang up job of doing exciting things in NJPW’s cruiserweight division but nothing excited me as much as him coming after Shibata. It means Will is serious about stepping up and competing with the very best. It opens up a world of exciting contests. Okada joins commentary to offer his opinion on his protégé going after Shibs. The match is technically solid, with Ospreay constantly having to remind viewers how good he is at mat technique. There is a feeling that Shibata just needs to land one big shot and it’ll be over. To counter that Ospreay does several genuinely insane things, like hitting a Fosbury Flop and landing on his feet before handspringing over Shibata on the apron and going right into a tope. Just insanely difficult stuff and all clean as a whistle.
Will can do all the flipz he wants but eventually Shibata is going to get pissed off with him. Will has excellent strikes too but Shibata has no interest in selling them. It’s a tidy little story of Ospreay bringing more than Shibata was excepting but Shibata being equal to Will’s aggression. Occasionally Ospreay gets Shibata into genuine trouble, which is good for his stock, but the crowd are surprisingly listless. Especially when stuff is genuinely amazing like Will’s rolling lift to haul a deadweight Shibata back into the ring and beat a count out. That’s incredible. Plus Ospreay gets cocky by doing the Rainmaker Pose and the camera even obliges by pulling out. There are some great ideas at play even if it feels like the opening match in a series. They don’t quite land some ideas, like a backflip in the sleeper but the building blocks are there for a phenomenal match at some point. This was great by itself though and Ospreay pulled out a load of stuff from his bag of tricks. Shibata pulls out his handshake of respect after the match. That should do Will the power of good,. Normally Shibs just storms off when he beats someone beneath him.
Final Rating: ****
IWGP Tag Team Championship
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) (c) vs. Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Takashi Iizuka) vs. GBH (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)
Suzuki-gun bringing Iizuka out on a leash is literally the only good thing about Iizuka. This was supposed to be Lance Archer but he has herniated a disc and will be out for a while. Iizuka brings the usual crap by cheating right in front of the referee. If you don’t hide cheating you’re not doing it properly. It should always be a DQ. The match belts along at a tidy pace with Ishii getting back into his previous feuds with Makabe and Honma. The addition of Iizuka adds nothing but the rest of the boys work hard and the match has a much higher tempo than in Sapporo with a similar line-up. Iizuka and Yano have a trashy ‘who can cheat the most’ contest and Yano wins that with ease because he’s a sneaky swine. He positions the referee to perfection and nut shots everyone into defeat. I’m rather surprised that Ishii & Yano keep retaining the belts but it’s better than Anderson & Gallows.
Final Rating: ***1/4
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Dragon Lee
These two had some crazy matches in Mexico but the best one I saw was in NJPW because their referees aren’t the dirt worst. In CMLL the referees stink. You know New Japan have faith in their ability to do crazy things because it’s on second top, compared to Shibata-Ospreay, which followed the interval. Both are dream matches for most promoters but this one is a proven match.
In Mexico Takahashi was an absolute nutcase but he’s managed to add yet another layer of weirdness on top of that. He doesn’t just show reckless abandon in his moves but also behaves like some kind of sex fiend. Mexico broke this man. While Takahashi is a crazy person, Dragon Lee is one of the most focused fliers in the business. If Takahashi is representing the drug addled wild-eyed rock star then Dragon Lee works with military precision. It doesn’t make him any less entertaining though. His tope is incredible. The response is Takahashi hitting a sunset flip bomb to the floor. It’s not as pretty but it’s far more brutal. Collectively it’s like watching a conflict of ideologies within the high flying milieu. Some of the spots they insert in this match are nothing short of insanity. The kind of things that sane men would never even consider. It’s as if Dragon Lee has decided he needs to kill himself in order to stop the evil of Takahashi. He does the dive over the ropes rana once but the second time he attempts it Takahashi release powerbombs him on the apron. When he staggers to his feet Hiromu hits a diving senton into his face.
The only way this feud ends is with death. One of these guys is going to die doing a ridiculous move and landing on his head. These are guys that feel the urge to use a head-spike Canadian Destroyer counter as a transition. Dragon Lee gets dropped on his head one too many times and Hiromu gets the pin, essentially to put to bed his Mexican business so he can continue on as the boss of this division. This match made me further question Hiromu Takahashi’s sanity. Dragon Lee is just along for the ride but neither of them have the sense of self preservation that normal human beings possess. They should both seek psychiatrical help.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: Ryusuke Taguchi shows up to throw his hat into the ring as Takahashi’s next challenger.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Michael Elgin
Osaka has always hated Naito and booed the shit out of him as a babyface. Now he’s turned his back on fan support and doesn’t give a fuck they’re actually closer to being split. Speaking of ‘doesn’t give a fuck’, Naito couldn’t care less about the IWGP IC title. He does not care about it in the slightest. He wanted to beat Tanahashi to prove a point. He wanted to put people in their place. Naito gets some genuine heat from the Osaka crowd, which is exactly what he wants as a heel. He wants to be hated. Elgin decides this is a good match to do a load of high flying antics in. Yes, you read that correctly. Elgin’s wheelhouse is power though and he manages to catch Naito on a tope. It’s not a half pace, ‘catch me please’ tope either. He’s going full tilt and Elgin just catches him right into the suplex position. Elgin’s strength is terrifying. Naito, as a worker, is calm and never worries about strength or freakish abilities because no matter who he’s wrestling he can always break their leg.
Elgin is very capable at doing the kind of limb selling that people who love selling are into. Like heavy limping and bridging a suplex off one leg. He manages to devise a way of staying put and delivering clubbing blows to prevent the need to move and sell. It’s a masterful performance from him and Naito’s limb work is suitably brutal and varied. It’s Elgin’s mixture of desperation power offence and selling that really catches the eye. He’s been great since arriving in Japan but this is a true main event top tier wrestling performance. It’s nuanced, it connects to the crowd and Elgin hits harder than the native Naito. More importantly, if you’re Naito, this match blows Okada-Suzuki out of the water for an assortment of things from emotional attachment to subtlety to consistency to excitement value.
Elgin’s performance is so good that he has to be made in New Japan. To the point where it’s not inconceivable that he could win the IWGP title. That’s how good he is here. His strikes are wonderful, his timing is majestic and it’s a genuinely great performance in a huge match. Before it began I figured it was a Naito cakewalk against a guy he’d already beaten but the match has told a story where an Elgin win makes perfect sense. It’s a great revenge story. Elgin overcoming the odds, one shot at a time. When Elgin kicks out of Destino the crowd roars its approval before shunning the usual stoic viewing to chatter amongst themselves. People in shock. Naito takes some sickening bumps, peaking in a Bucklebomb into the guardrail. The match continues, perhaps unaware that one of the participants is dead. Somehow Naito comes back and hits another Destino for the win.
Final Rating: ****3/4
The second half of this show delivered huge. It was way better than Sapporo. Often that’s the case with New Beginning. One show outshines the other. Here it was Naito, Elgin, Takahashi, Lee, Ospreay and Shibata out to prove a point. The point being; they’re the fucking best at what they do. They all delivered huge here. Great show, easy thumbs up. At least three ‘must see’ matches.