The first of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s New Beginning shows kicked off today in Sapporo City, Japan. The second night comes at us tomorrow, and the final show takes place on February 9th in Osaka. As we’ve come to expect from NJPW, every card is stacked to the rafters and we’ll be treated to some of the best wrestling in the world.
Here’s everything that went down on Night One of the Sapporo shows.
Bullet Club defeated Yuya Uemura & Tiger Mask @ 8:15 via submission
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, & Toa Henare defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi, & Yota Tsuji @ 9:45 via pin
Will Ospreay, Sho, Yoh, & Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Zack Sabre Jr., El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & DOUKI @ 12:00 via pin
KENTA & Jay White defeated Tetsuya Naito & SANADA @ 18:50 via pin
Taichi & Minoru Suzuki defeated Kazuchika Okada & Jon Moxley @ 17:55 via pin
Tomohiro Ishii defeated EVIL @ 21:15 via pin
Shingo Takagi defeated Hirooki Goto @ 20:15 via pin to win the NEVER Openweight Championship
Yuya Uemura & Tiger Mask vs Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori)
The match got off to a quick start, with newbie Yuya Uemura showcasing a few impressive moves. But as is tradition, the momentum shifted and Bullet Club extracted a ruthless beatdown on the Young Lion. Tiger Mask got the tag and put out a few high risk manoeuvres before going for the double-team on ELP. Uemura went toe-to-toe with Ishimori and held his own, but Ishimori locked in the Yes Lock, causing Uemura to tap out. A fast and entertaining match.
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Yota Tsuji
This match is one of Manabu Nakanishi’s final few retirement matches before he hangs up the boots in three weeks. The match was hard-hitting and packed with hard lariats and stiff punches. Makabe, Honma and Henare focussed on working Nakanishi’s knee throughout the match, but it was Toa Henare who hit a brutal Rock Bottom on Yota Tsuji for the win. However, both Henare and Tsuji came out of the match looking great. Henare in particular has an intimidating presence and a classic heel look, and he and was able to generate heat from his facial expressions alone. No doubt he’s one to watch.
Ryusuke Taguchi & CHAOS (SHO, YOH & Will Ospreay) vs Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Zack Sabre Jr)
As predicted, this match was Chaos from the off. In true Suzuki-gun style, they attacked before the bell rang and all eight men began brawling on the outside. We immediately cut to Osprey and ZSJ, with Ospreay hitting a flying forearm off the railing. Back in the ring, SHO, YOH and Taguchi triple-team Kanemaru, but the real focus is on ZSJ and Ospreay, now brawling in the crowd.
The match finally gets under control when all men find their way back to the ring. An incredible sequence between Ospreay and ZSJ follows, moving from high-flying attack to complex submission hold within milliseconds. The match turns into a free-for-all in the closing few minutes. SHO and YOH get some impressive offense in, but it’s Taguchi who gets the pinfall victory over DOUKI after hitting the Dodon. A surprising finish and interesting finish, but the real story here was between the two Brits. Tomorrow sees them battle one-on-one, and this match did everything to hype it up.
Robbie Eagles & Ryu Lee vs BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi
Ryu Lee appeared with the ROH TV Championship around his waist, adding a little fuel to the ongoing speculation about the current relationship between ROH and NJPW. The match began with Lee and Takahashi trading chest strikes, leading to an impressive sequence which saw the two men brawl to the outside. If there’s one rivalry which the chant of ‘fight forever’ applies, it would be the one between these two. For years, the two have brought the best out in each other and show no signs of slowing down.
The match maintained a constant face pace with Takahashi and BUSHI pulling off some interesting double team moves on Eagles. Taka and Lee again get to show off what they’re capable of in the ring, but it’s Eagles and BUSHI who bring the match home. Eagles locked in an inverted figure-four leglock which is apparently named the Ron Miller Special (not to be confused with the old Disney CEO) to make BUSHI tap. A hard-fought win for Lee and Eagles.
Robbie Eagles & Ryu Lee defeated BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi @ 11:47 via submission.
SANADA & Tetsuya Naito vs Jay White & KENTA
KENTA came out to audible boos and began taunting the crowd right away. Jay White talked smack to the English commentary team during the rest of the entrances. The match began with Naito and White, but quickly descended into Naito and KENTA taunting each other from either side of the ring. Naito tagged out to Sanada who displayed some mightily impressive athleticism on the ring apron, dodging attacks from White and Gedo and flipping back into the ring.
KENTA and Naito finally went at it, brawling out amongst the crowd. KENTA took him down with use of a guard rail and kept him immobilized while White and KENTA double teamed SANADA in the ring. The rest of the match was a slow burn with KENTA generating great heat by toying with a half-dead SANADA.
SANADA finally caught a lukewarm tag and Naito cleaned house, followed up with a preview of what we can expect from Naito vs KENTA in Osaka on the 9th. White and SANADA brought the match to a close when SANDA went for the reverse roll-up, but White pushed SANADA into the ropes. Gedo was waiting in the wings and delivered a chair shot to SANADA’s head, allowing White to get the victory with a roll up.
Jon Moxley & Kazuchika Okada vs Minoru Suzuki & Tachi
The real question on everyone’s mind was whether or not US Champion Jon Moxley would show up with an eye patch. He didn’t disappoint. Before that, we’re treated to perhaps the cutest thing ever seen in an NJPW arena (apart from Miho Abe), which is a young girl in the front row dressed in full Okada regalia. Moxley and Okada rush into the ring and begin their offense, quickly turning into a brutal exchange between Moxley and Suzuki. The two won’t face off one-on-one until the 9th but this match gave us a taste of the brutality which is no doubt going to be on display.
All four competitors end up fighting out into the crowd, with Moxley and Suzuki degenerating into nothing short of a deathmatch. Okada and Taichi find their way back to the ring and the match gets under control. Okada and Taichi put on an entertaining spectacle but the big story here is between Mox and Suzuki. Their intensity is equally matched with neither able to gain dominance over the other. Moxley pulled out a table, but it remained unbroken while they returned to the ring. After a stiff headbutt exchange, Suzuki hits the Gotch Piledriver and pins Moxley for the win.
Meanwhile, Taichi strangles Okada on the outside, causing him to pass out. The match has officially ended but Okada and Taichi continue battling in the ring, however, Zack Sabre Jr shows up and attacks Okada. Will Ospreay makes an appearance to defend his CHAOS stablemate, but Suzuki-gun stand tall. Taichi then adds another exclamation point, dragging Okada to the ramp and hitting his finishers.
Taichi and Okada will face off in tomorrow night’s main event, and no doubt Okada will be looking for redemption. On the microphone, Taichi says that Sapporo is his home town and that tomorrow night, he’ll beat Okada as though he was a Young Lion.
Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
A video package recaps the story between Ishii and EVIL. It’s titled DESTINY TO DESTROY, which is a very apt name for this match. To date, EVIL and Ishii have faced off eight times in singles competition, and Ishii has won every one of them.
The match starts as you’d expect from these two monsters. Ishii pulls out a chair and beats down EVIL in what would have clearly been a disqualification in any other promotion. Back in a ring, a lock up leads to a battle of strength, but it’s clear that EVIL can’t match the brute force of the Stone Pitbull. Although these men are two of the heaviest on the roster, they throw each other around like it’s not even a thing. I lost count of the amount of suplexes, slams and powerbombs which took place, and for a few moments, it looks like EVIL is about to pick up his first victory over Ishii. A stiff headbutt knocks Ishii to the ground and it’s clear the momentum is in EVIL’s favour. A series of close two-counts follow, but at the last minute, Ishii hits a brutal brainbuster and pins EVIl for the win.
Ishii has a way of putting on matches of the night when you least expect it, and this was no different. Expect this feud to carry on throughout 2020.
Hirooki Goto vs Shingo Takagi
In just over a year, Shingo Takagi has become one of the biggest stars in NJPW. The man has got main event level written all over him, and every time he shows up he appears even more intimidating than the previous week. Tonight, he’s got a green and yellow grill and multi-coloured hair which makes him look like a Bond villain’s henchman.
Hirooki Goto comes off a surprising win over KENTA at Wrestle Kingdom 14, which saw him capture the NEVER Openweight Title for the fifth time. This is his first title defense.
This second hoss fight of the night brings a feeling of déjà vu from the previous match. Brutal lariats, harsh strikes and lots of shouting in Japanese. This match was exactly as you’d expect for the first ten minutes, but then they ramped up the intensity tenfold. Goto hit a sunset flip variation from the top rope and captured some momentum, leading to a series of ground attacks on Takagi. A series of near falls follow, but Takagi gains the advantage. He hits a Made In Japan out of nowhere, but Goto amazingly gets the shoulder up (this might be the first kick out of MIJ so far). However, Takagi capitalized on Goto’s weakened state and immediately hit a Last of the Dragon for the win. We’ve got a new champion.