NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo 2017
Watch: NJPW World
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center – Sapporo, Japan
It’s that time of the year, New Beginning season! New Japan’s signature start to their new year (beyond Wrestle Kingdom, New Year’s Dash and Fantasticamania) of wrestling. New Beginning always puts on fun cards that have produced some great matches in recent years, this year looks to be more of the same with two of my favorites Minoru Suzuki and Kazuchika Okada colliding for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a match that is shaping up to be a certified BANGER on the first night, and what should be another memorable clash between Big Mike and Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship on the second show. Sprinkle in some great matchups like Will Ospreay vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Hirooki Goto vs. Juice Robinson and the continuation of one of the best series of matches maybe…ever between the former Kamaitachi Himoru Takahashi and Dragon Lee and you have all the makings of some great shows!
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado def. Hirai Kawato & KUSHIDA**1/2
I want to start this off by saying that I am a big fan of El Desperado, I think a lot of people sleep on Despy because of his connection to Suzuki-gun but if you go and seek out some of his pre-Suzuki-gun matches such as his Junior Heavyweight title shot against Ibushi I think you’ll see that Despy has a lot of singles potential. Before the match KUSHIDA ran to a child in the crowd who was dressed up like him and gave him his necklace, this was adorable. For what this match was it was fun, Kawato garnered a pretty good reaction from the crowd who bit on his near falls and popped for his kickouts, but in the end my boy El Desperado picked up the victory on the tenacious young lion. Post-match we saw some interaction between Despy and KUSHIDA. Hopefully this leads to a singles match.
Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan def. Tomoyuki Oka, Henare & Yoshitatsu**
Another match where the young lions came out looking good in the end, Henare has impressed me since his run in the Tag League with Nakanishi and Oka is beginning to look like hes finding his way in the ring, he looked a lot less awkward moving around. The dads of NJPW are always fun to watch no matter what position they are on the card and Yoshitatsu was there. Not a lot of meat to this match but what was there was good. Nagata gets the win defeating Oka, I could see a Nagata NEVER title challenge soon.
Jado, Gedo & Will Ospreay def. Tiger Mask IV, Jushin Liger & Katsuyori Shibata**3/4
I really like the way that this Shibata/Ospreay match has been built up, starting with Ospreay trying to go head-to-head with Shibata’s striking before changing his game up and relying on his speed more. These multi-man matches have been used to build up Ospreay (a Junior Heavyweight) as a legitimate threat to one of the main heavyweights in the company and it’s working. Ospreay has been legitimized through this feud. Outside of the Ospreay/Shibata interactions this match didn’t have much. Ospreay pins Tiger Mask after the Os-Cutter, post-match Shibata tries to attack Will but Ospreay out speeds him and gives him an Os-Cutter as well.
YOSHI-HASHI def. Takashi Iizuka*1/4
This was a whole lot of nothing. Iizuka stinks and is a major negative about Suzuki-gun being back. At least New Japan had the foresight to put YOSHI-HASHI over. YOSHI-HASHI hits an impressive looking Karma for the win.
Dragon Lee, Ryusuke Taguchi, Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin vs. Himoru Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito***1/4
This match was made with the intent to get both Dragon Lee and Michael Elgin some momentum going into their respective title matches on the next show. Whenever Takahashi and Lee were in the ring together the match went up a whole other level these two were made to fight each other and their match next show is going to be a MOTYC. I feel like in recent months SANADA has almost been forgotten which Is a shame because he is really good and should be in a higher position. With that being said, Manabu Nakanishi is a champion in 2017, we truly are blessed (regardless of all other booking decisions). Dragon Lee picks up the win on BUSHI after hitting the Orange Crush Powerbomb. After the match all the lads celebrated by playing air guitar on their belts to “GO ACE”.
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship: RPG Vice (Rocky Romero & Baretta) (c) def. Suzuki-gun (Taka Michinoku & Taichi)**3/4
Ill always have a soft spot for TAKA and Taichi but having them lead the Junior Tag Team division after it had began to find itself over the last year would have been a horrible decision. RPG Vice picking up the win here was for the best and the focus of the division at least for now should be on them. These teams didn’t seem to click during the match and at one point there was a scary Powerbomb botch that looked liked it could have really messed Beretta up. He seemed to shake it off, continuing the match were he’d later pick up the win on Taka after the Strong Zero, a slightly disappointing match for me filled with outside interference. After the match Kanemaru and El Desperado beat down RPG Vice and presumably challenged them to a match which I’m sure will be better than this.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto (c) def. Juice Robinson***1/2
This match was slow in the beginning, spurts of Juice firing up and hitting hard strikes was always sandwiched in between Goto throwing on some slow plodding move that brought the pace right down. Besides this I think Juice really proved something in the match, because as with most Goto matches, the last five minutes were amazing! Goto started murdering Juice with all his signature spots, and a GTR variation off the top rope was exceptionally sickening. Goto managed to finish Juice off with GTR in a decent match with a great performance from Juice Robinson, in which I think earned him a spot in the G1 Climax this year.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano def. G.B.H. (Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe), Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer)***1/2
This was the match I had the least interest in going into the show, but this was actually really good. Being a three team tag match, there was a lot going on but K.E.S. looked great in their big show return. I look forward to not only this rematch but to an eventual K.E.S. vs. Yano and Ishii Tag Title match. Yano beats Makabe after many low blows and shenanigans. K.E.S. do Suzuki proud and beat up some Young Boys after the match. Worth noting that Suzuki-gun are 0-2 in title matches so far.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) def. Minoru Suzuki*****
MY GOD, WHAT A MATCH. I loved this. Suzuki repeatedly destroying Okada’s leg, tearing it apart while laughing. Literally laughing while he assaults this man. Suzuki came across as the biggest sadistic piece of shit and it was amazing. Okada repeatedly trying to fight back into it but Suzuki out smarting him at every opportunity. The moments where they teased Gedo throwing the towel in I brought into, they actually managed to use the outside interference to enhance the match. They told the story of Suzuki doing everything in his ability to win the match but Okada’s resiliency being too much as he manages to fight through everything and deliver a barrage of Rainmakers for the victory. Much like the Omega match, Suzuki never hit his Gotch Style Piledriver so that leaves this match open for a rematch which I hope we get. Post-match Okada name drops Tiger Mask W wishing him well in the NJ Cup!
NJPW THE NEW BEGINNING IN SAPPORO 2017
Decent - 6.5/10
I thought that most of the show was okay, but the main event was killer. It will be interesting to see the next show, especially to see if Naito and Elgin can top this.