NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka

February 11th, 17:00 from EDION Arena, Osaka

The second of two New Beginning shows features Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin, Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee and Katsuyori Shibata vs. Will Ospreay. Need I say more? Let’s get to it.

Unfortunately, it was confirmed yesterday that Lance Archer will need surgery on a severely herniated disc in his back, which means he’s off today’s show and, you’d imagine, out for the foreseeable future. It’s real shame since, aside from Minoru Suzuki himself, Archer’s tag team with Davey Boy Jr. is the undoubted highlight of the Suzuki-gun stable.

That, as well as El Desperado’s absence, means the card has been reshuffled, with Takashi Iizuka replacing Archer in the three-way tag title match and much of the first half of the card being altered. In more ways than one Suzuki-gun’s return has not panned out as many would’ve expected.

Here we go…

Henare vs. TAKA Michinoku

Yesterday it was announced that Hirai Kawato, who gave a good account go himself in last Sunday’s tag team appearance, would face off with Taka, but it looks like plans changed. Henare was in this until a blatant eye poke saw Taka take control. After surviving a single-leg crab, Henare used his power to get back in it, peaking with a diving shoulder block from the top-rope, but Taka transitioned a triangle choke into a pinning combination for the win. Just a match. *1/2

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. KUSHIDA & Yoshi Tatsu

Tatsu heelishly attacked before the bell, then he and KUSHIDA targeted Kojima. KUSHIDA saw a double-wristlock reversed to a suplex and was soon at the mercy of Tenzan’s Mongolian chops, but an overhead kick allowed the tag to Tatsu, who hit air with a spinning heel kick before receiving a mountain bomb for his troubles. Kojima was in to deliver machine gun chops, and despite a couple of interruptions, connected with the Western Lariat on Tatsu for the three-count. Post-match, Tatsu slapped away Kojima’s handshake and they had a bit of scrap, which is likely related to the comments after the Korakuen Hall show on Tuesday. **

Juice Robinson, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Yuji Nagata vs. CHAOS (Jado, Gedo, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto)

I always appreciate Yuji Nagata’s disdain for youngsters, in this case the 34-year old YOSHI-HASHI. Tiger Mask got to show off a little more than usual, then in came Liger with Shotei palm strikes for everyone. He was outnumbered in short order, however, with each member of CHAOS taking their turn, including a mouthy exchange with Goto. Tag made to Juice, who found some success at first before succumbing to an Ushigoroshi, then the match broke down, leaving Juice alone with legal man Jado. Tiger Mask and Liger hit a suicide dive and apron cannonball respectively and in the ring Juice connected with Pulp Friction for another pinfall victory. Certainly looks like another match with Goto is on the cards. **1/2

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero & Baretta) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi)

Suzuki attacked Okada before the bell, but Roppongi Vice put CHAOS in control with some double-team moves and stereo suicide dives. That was short-lived though, and Suzuki’s interjection allowed his boys to cheat to their heart’s content while he took care of Okada on the outside. He succeeded in the trapping Baretta, then Okada, then Romero in the knee bar, before the hot tag was made to the IWGP champ, who flattened Suzuki with a DDT and elbow smash, but his still-injured leg delayed him long enough for Suzuki to hit the Penalty Kick for two. Elbow battle, into a sleeper, finishers were blocked, but The Dropkick connected. Romero was in to take care of Taichi and Kanemaru with Axe Bombers, but a low blow from Taichi allowed Kanemaru to nail the headscissor DDT for near-fall. Taichi went low and followed a Last Ride, which Kanemaru followed with the Deep Impact diving DDT for the win. ***

Post-match, Taichi and Kanemaru raised Roppongi Vice’s belts, suggesting that match is happening soon and that El Desperado is expected to be out for a while.

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI)

Our heroes – announced as Taguchi Japan – were out in LIJ-mocking gear, with all three wearing Evil-style eye makeup. Nakanishi started strong, suplexing EVIL and SANADA before throwing BUSHI out of the ring onto them. Taguchi landed hip attacks after some extended rope-running, then Nakanishi and Tanahashi did the same. BUSHI’s dropkick allowed LIJ to swarm; SANADA tied up Taguchi up in a ball and literally kicked his ass then EVIL was in to cause damage before a springboard hip attack led to the hot tag to Tanahashi. Dragon Screws all round! Spinning neckbreaker to EVIL, but he popped straight back up with a lariat. Nakanishi and SANADA went at it, then Taguchi Japan each hit Nakanishi-style clotheslines, before all three applied submission holds. SANADA flipped out of a German, and LIJ took turns on Nakanishi before SANADA’s back suplex got a two-count. A parade of signature moves led to a crossbody from the top-rope from Nakanishi for 2.9(!), but BUSHI blinded him with mist and SANADA applied the Skull End dragon sleeper for the submission victory. Los Ingobernables de Japón reclaim the belts. A thoroughly entertaining match, with Taguchi Japan’s coordinated cosplay proving too great an insult to countenance. ***1/2


Okada and Gedo joined the Japanese commentary team.

Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Championship

Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Will Ospreay

Since New Year Dash on January 5th these two have engaged in a number of heated confrontations, most recently on Tuesday, when Shibata willingly ejected himself from a 10-man elimination tag match in order to continue his beatdown of Ospreay. The main title of British promotion Rev Pro is on the line, Shibata having claimed the belt from Zack Sabre Jr. and successfully defended against Matt Riddle in a match that was recently added to NJPW World.

An almost respectful start as they exchanged holds, but neither could connect with a kick. Shibata stomped the arm and applied the short-arm scissors, but Ospreay made the ropes then planted Shibata with a running dropkick to send him outside. The apron shooting star press missed, but Ospreay landed on his feet, rolled over the apron to avoid Shibata, then floored him with a kick. Crazy. He followed with a suicide dive and Sasuke Special before returning to the ring to mimic Shibata’s cross-legged pose. Back in, he worked a little on the leg before stealing the corner dropkick, which didn’t please Shibata, so he smashed Ospreay with elbows and delivered a dropkick of his own. Hatch suplex for two and the Cobra Twist was applied, then, after Ospreay twice flipped out of German suplex attempts, Shibata caught the handspring kick to deliver a leg-trap German. Very nice. The elbow battle up from the knees was comprehensively won by Shibata, who sent Ospreay to the floor, but the Englishman replied by yanking Shibata into the ringpost and nailing a kick to the head, and used a rolling fireman’s carry to lift him into the ring to avoid the count-out. Ospreay was caught up top, but slipped out to hit the Cheeky Nandos kick for a two-count. Springboard elbow, Rainmaker pose, a twisting kick floored Shibata, and the imploding 450 connected! Two-count only. Corkscrew roundhouse, but the Oscutter was countered to a sleeper. Shibata delivered a sleeper suplex and held on to the sleeper, then finished Ospreay with the Penalty Kick. Great match. It felt fresh and lean, and, not that they were holding back, but it feels like there’s plenty of scope for a rematch. ****1/4

Post-match handshake, which the crowd enjoyed.

IWGP Tag Team Championship

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs. Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka & Davey Boy Smith Jr.)

Brawl on the ramp to begin, then “Break!” from Yano as soon as he and Iizuka were in the ring. Tag made to Honma, whose Kokeshi missed, and who got dragged into the crowd to be smacked with a chair. Davey Boy impressively applied the Stretch Muffler, but Iizuka was caught cheating and in came Ishii and then Yano, to whom Honma’s Kokeshi was finally delivered. Makabe landed a slew of clotheslines, mounted punches to Yano, and a double clothesline to Yano and Iizuka. Rocket Kokeshi from Honma, and Makabe’s German suplex earned two, but he was caught up top, where Ishii landed a delayed superplex. Clothesline and a kip up from Davey Boy, and the bridging double underhook suplex to Yano got two. Powerbomb, pin broken up by Honma. With the referee knocked down, Iizuka started to jab fools in the neck with his metal claw thing. Eventually though, Yano snuck a couple of low blows and rolled-up Davey Boy – the legal man – for the three-count, and again he and Ishii escape with the belts. Like last week, there was plenty going on, but the nature of the match doesn’t make for a particularly satisfying contest. Enjoyable enough, but I hope that’s it for the three-way tag matches. ***

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Dragon Lee

A nice video package chronicles the rivalry, from their long feud in CMLL (where Hiromu competed as Kamaitachi) to Ring of Honor to NJPW, where the pair faced off at Fantastica Mania 2016.

They went at it with slaps and elbows, and Dragon Lee flipped out of a couple of ‘ranas, before sending Hiromu to the floor and hitting a suicide dive. Back in, a single-leg dropkick got two, but Dragon Lee got caught on the apron and Hiromu planted him with the sunset flip powerbomb to the floor! Running dropkick, two-count in the ring, stomps and slaps, then Dragon Lee leapt over the top-rope to hurricanrana Hiromu off the apron! A beautiful tope con hilo followed. Three roll-through suplexes for two. A big slap floored Hiromu, and he was set up on top, but somehow he righted himself to flip Dragon Lee out onto the floor with a belly-to-belly suplex! The running senton from the apron was countered to a powerbomb, however, and both men struggled to make the count. German suplexes back-and-forth and the Spanish Fly earned a two-count for Dragon Lee.

Hard slaps to the chest, then Hiromu was suplexed into the turnbuckle pad, but this time the leaping ‘rana was countered into a powerbomb onto the apron! Hiromu followed up with the senton from the top-rope to the outside, cracking Dragon Lee’s head into the railing. Ouch! Back in, Dragon Lee managed to apply a modified crossface, with Hiromu just stretching for the ropes, then up top, Hiromu pulled off Dragon Lee’s mask in order to hit the Victory Roll Driver, but it still only got a two-count. Dragon Boom (cradle Orange Crush) from Dragon Lee for a near-fall, Last Ride countered into a Canadian Destroyer by Hiromu, and both men were down! High knee from Dragon Lee, super kick from Hiromu, and another Canadian Destroyer for 2.9! Death Valley Driver into the turnbuckle, Time Bomb, one, two, three! And breathe. I have to question their sanity, but good lord that was a hell of a showing from both guys. A spotfest, absolutely, but done right. ****1/2

Post-match, Taguchi continued his campaign against LIJ and cut a promo on Hiromu before catching him in the ankle lock.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Michael Elgin

Naito defeated Elgin for the title at Destruction in Kobe last September, but was forced to pull out of a rematch scheduled for Power Struggle in November due to a fractured orbital bone. Now that he’s healed up he gets the shot.

Naito took his time removing his suit and generally stalled as long as possible, but Elgin caught him with a slingshot elbow and splash for an early two-count. He blocked Naito’s corner dropkick, sending him to the floor, and hit a cannonball from the apron! He then caught Naito in mid-air from an attempted suicide dive and suplexed him onto the ramp! Big Mike’s feeling frisky. Naito turned the tide by blocking the superplex and kneebarring Elgin’s left leg through the ropes, then continued to attack with elbows, stomps and a low dropkick. A shinbreaker set up figure-four, but Elgin made the ropes. Enzuigiri and an inverted Landslide from Elgin – very nice – who followed with a couple of huge corner clotheslines and German suplexed Naito into the turnbuckle. Deadlift German for two, then hard standing clotheslines from Elgin, but Naito landed a reverse atomic drop. The slingshot corner dropkick was once again blocked, and Elgin hit two German suplexes, but Naito countered the third into a Tornado DDT, despire Elgin’s best efforts to block it. Back to the knee went Naito, but a big boot turned him inside out, and as both men got to their feet the crowd chanted for Elgin.

Elbow smashes and a rolling elbow from the Canadian, who lifted Naito up top only for Naito to rake the eyes, attack the knee, and land a sunset flip powerbomb. Naito went back up, but Elgin countered the missile dropkick to a powerbomb of his own for two! Elgin slowly climbed up top after a scoop slam and the Big Mike Fly Flow connected! Two-count only. Another low dropkick and enzuigiri from Naito, immediate lariat reply from Elgin, running lariat, two-count only. Elgin’s knee wouldn’t allow him to hit a powerbomb, so he tried one from the corner instead, but Naito slipped out and hit the super frankensteiner and an inverted ‘rana for two! He then rolled-through an attempted German into the scissored kneebar and Elgin just made the ropes. With both men on the apron, Naito spat at Elgin, so Elgin dropped him with Air Raid Crash and then the deadlift Falconplex connected for a big near-fall! Rolling elbow to the back of Naito’s head, bucklebomb, but the spinning powerbomb was countered and Naito hit the tornado DDT. Destino! One, two, NO! The crowd were losing it at this point. A second was blocked and Elgin dumped Naito into the turnbuckle. They rolled outside, where Elgin powerbombed Naito onto the apron, followed with a motherfucking bucklebomb into the railing(!) and sprinted into the ring to deliver a spinning powerbomb! 2.9!

Elgin set Naito up top for the Burning Hammer but Naito countered to Destino and both men were down. Naito flipped out of another Burning Hammer attempt, spinning backfist from Elgin, koppu kick from Naito, and a reverse tornado DDT for two! Destino!!! One, two, three! Naito retains at 36 minutes. A tremendous performance from Elgin, who received huge support from the Osaka crowd and whose selling was mostly top notch (until he forgot about it in the closing stretch). He’s 0-4 against Naito, but it honestly hasn’t harmed him one bit. This was also a very generous display from Naito, who made Elgin look like both a star and a threat at every opportunity. The Los Ingobernables leader carries himself with such assurance these days that he’s practically bulletproof. He and Okada are operating at a different level right now. ****3/4

Post-match promo from Naito and the whole Los Ingobernables de Japón gang. The confetti falls and we’re out.

Final thoughts: As hoped, the three matches I highlighted in the intro delivered huge. Most of the opening half was forgettable, but understandably so given the changes, although the NEVER six-man tag is worth a watch. Needless to say you should check out all the singles title matches from the second half. Like, now.

I’ll be back in two weeks’ time, joined by Rick Poehling, for the NJPW/ROH Honor Rising shows. See you then.