wrestling / TV Reports

Kevin’s NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo Night One Review

February 2, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo N1
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Kevin’s NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo Night One Review  

NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo
February 2nd, 2019 | Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center in Hokkaido, Sapporo | Attendance: 4,868

When I first started watching NJPW, The New Beginning was a two night event. But, Gedo is obsessed with breaking shows into a bunch of nights. It sells more tickets but the cards tend to suffer. Anyway, this is my first major NJPW review since Wrestle Kingdom and New Year Dash. I watched the “Road to” shows and they were solid.

Ren Narita vs. Yuya Uemura
Commentary has mentioned that Narita is a bit ahead of Uemura in terms of Young Lions tenure. Their encounters always feel evenly matched. They roll around and have matches that come across as scrambles. There’s an urgency to them and this was no different. It gradually moved from that style into something more hard hitting as they traded blows in the middle of the ring. The Boston Crab led to some close calls, before Narita busted out a belly to belly to win in 9:45. Does he have a finish because he’s a bit ahead of Uemura? I like that this was evenly matched until Narita busted out something different. [***]

Ayato Yoshida and Shota Umino vs. Manabu Nakanishi and Toa Henare
Umino has bulked up this year. I like this team of Nakanishi and Henare, even if they won’t be full time because Nakanishi isn’t working that often. Meanwhile, the Yoshida/Umino tandem is a blast. They have been on this whole tour. It was a case of a lot of fire from that team being combated by the power of the other duo. Umino survived a fair amount before falling to a Henare uranage at 8:53. Solid tag match. Give me more of this Yoshida/Umino tag team and I’ll be a happy man. [**½]

Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tiger Mask IV vs. TAKA Michinoku and Takashi Iizuka
I guess Takashi Iizuka is retiring soon. The stuff I saw from him in the 90s was quite good. The last few years? Not so much. Tenzan seemed to request tagging with Iizuka before his retirement, which just triggered Iizuka to attack him and set up a brawl. A lot of this match was just plodding brawling. Even the junior heavyweights couldn’t come in and save this one. I say this as a guy who usually enjoys TAKA and especially Tenzan. This all built up to chairs being used and the Suzuki-Gun guys getting disqualified in 9:26. Too long for what they were going for. Just the usual bland shenanigans.[*¼]

Chase Owens, The Guerrillas of Destiny, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi vs. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions The Most Violent Players, Tomoaki Honma & YOSHI-HASHI
No PIETER with Yujiro today so he’s no longer my favorite wrestler. They’re still running the “Good Guy” Tama Tonga angle. Like everything else Tama does, it’s not very good. Tomoaki Honma got put in position to play the face in peril. It’s a spot he works well in. Tama kept “agonizing” over whether or not to use underhanded tactics. I kept not caring. Taguchi got a hot tag and then Makabe got the next one. The NEVER Openweight Champions did their thing. The finish saw Yujiro get hit with a Yano low blow, who then rolled him up to win in 13:38. Not bad, but the Tama Tonga stuff is so bad. It drags down the enjoyment of any match. [**]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions BUSHI and Shingo Takagi and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. El Desperado, Taichi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
A preview of the Jr. Tag and Intercontinental Title matches tomorrow. As he has on the rest of the tour, Taichi held the ropes open for Naito. He is playing the aloof role that Naito usually plays. MIND GAMES! Also, as the juniors brawled before the bell, Taichi and Naito just stood still. The intensity did pick up, with brawling in the crowd and Taichi posing with the Intercontinental Title. The stuff with the tag teams was the highlight in terms of action, while the Taichi/Naito stuff delivered on the story front. Taichi isn’t interesting, but this angle is at least somewhat intriguing. In the end, Naito was held at bay as BUSHI got beaten with Taichi’s Backdrop Driver in 13:28. An uptick in quality after the previous two matches but still nothing great. [**¾]

Minoru Suzuki vs. IWGP Tag Team Champion SANADA
I really enjoyed their G1 27 match (***½). This was meant to work as a preview for the upcoming IWGP Tag Team Title match. Between SANADA’s beard and Suzuki’s hair, this was a rough match to look at. SANADA has been trying to get Suzuki into the Paradise Lock during the tour. He finally did it here and it just pissed Suzuki off. He beat on SANADA in the crowd, threw chairs on him, and nearly won via countout. The beating continued inside, but SANADA did get the Skull End applied. His moonsault failed and commentary kept calling back to a Suzuki match from 2006 against SANADA’s mentor, Keiji Mutoh. Suzuki kept throwing stuff at SANADA, finally putting him away with the Gotch Piledriver in 19:40. Man, SANADA really shouldn’t have put him in that Paradise Lock. A very good match that showcased Suzuki’s sadistic side, SANADA’s fire, and had callbacks involving SANADA’s mentor. [***¾]

IWGP Tag Team Champion EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr. w/ TAKA Michinoku
This was scheduled last year but EVIL got attacked by Chris Jericho and it never happened. EVIL is consistently bested by Sabre in tags and was looking to right the ship here. EVIL overpowered Sabre at the start, but found himself in trouble when he tried going to the mat. That’s Zack’s wheelhouse, buddy. EVIL had to go back to the power to turn things around and did so with a Fisherman Buster on the aisle. That was kind of the theme of the match. EVIL’s brute style against Sabre’s technical work. As they neared the 20 minute mark, it felt like they were getting tired. In a good way, though, as it was two guys giving their all for this fight. There were some late near falls that never felt overdone, before EVIL finally beat Sabre using Everything is EVIL in 22:01. A banger of a match. Great exchanges, crisp wrestling, and wonderful storytelling in terms of the power vs. wrestling stuff. [****]

Bad Luck Fale and Jay White w/ Gedo vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada
Tanahashi and Okada are feuding with Bullet Club members. It must be 2013. Or 2014. Or 2015. Or…you get the picture. It is odd to see Tanahashi and Okada pose and team together. This followed a formula you’d probably expect. The “Dream Team” started hot but were stunted by their opponents’ willingness to take shortcuts. For example, Tanahashi was beaten up in the crowd and had a Young Lion slammed onto him while he was under a guardrail. Creative. That put Okada in the face in peril position. That portion of the match didn’t click great, though I appreciate White picking him apart. He owns Okada. Following the Tanahashi hot tag, this picked up. We got the individual battles ahead of the big matches, with Fale against Okada and Tanahashi against White. The team efforts of Okada and Tanahashi were cool. Okada doing the dragon screw, they saved each other from an attack, and combined for a Tombstone/Styles Clash/elbow combo. That last one got interrupted by Gedo and Fale before Tanahashi could finish it with the High Fly Flow. Eventually, White used a chair on Tanahashi’s knee, softening it up enough to make him submit to a modified Figure Four in 24:36. This went a bit long for what they were doing as a few minutes could’ve been shaved off the heat segment or closing stretch. Still, it was a good match that utilized everyone involved properly and set the stage for the rest of the tour. [***¼]

The final score: review Average
The 411
A slightly above average show. It starts old solid, but hits a real rough patch in the middle. Thankfully, the final three matches are all strong enough to make this a recommended watch. If pressed for time, see SANADA/Suzuki and especially EVIL/Sabre.