By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “The New Beginning”
February 10 in Osaka, Japan at Edion Arena Osaka
Broadcast live on New Japan World
The English broadcast team was Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.
1. Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuya Kitamura. Late in the match, Nagata and Kiramura engaged in a slap fest that turned to punches with Nagata getting the better of the exchange. Kitamura was able to survive an armbar submission hold by reaching the ropes, but Nagata got the win off of a suplex.
Yuji Nagata beat Katsuya Kitamura
Powell’s POV: A solid opening match. Plus, Kelly and Callis were wisely quick to point out that there’s no shame in Kitamura losing to Nagata.
2. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champions Roppongi 3k “Sho and Yoh” (w/Rocky Romero) vs. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru in a non-title match. Sho continued to sell a back injury and had medical tape as a visual aid. Late in the match, 3k set up for their finishing move, but Sho’s back gave out. Kanemura performed a superplex for a two count. Kanemura applied a Boston crab. Desperado prevented Yoh from breaking it up and then choked him with a chair. While the ref was distracted by a pleading Romero, Desperado struck Sho’s back with a chair. Kanemura reapplied the Boston crab and got the submission win. Afterward, Desperado and Kanemura continued to attack. Romero laid over Sho and took some of the beating for him before Romero was tossed to ringside…
El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Roppongi 3k.
Powell’s POV: A nice match to set up Desperado and Kanemaru as the the next challengers for 3k. Sho works the back injury for sympathy well.
3. Kushida, Michael Elgin, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Togi Makabe vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku, Taichi, and Takashi Ilzuka. Late in the match, Suzuki-Gun knocked Makabe’s partners off the apron and then worked him over. Elgin saved Makabe from being pinned. Makabe came back with lariats on Suzuki and Michinoku, then performed a King Kong (top rope) knee drop on Michinoku and pinned him.
Afterward, Makabe cut a promo and then held up Suzuki’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Suzuki charged the ring and picked up the belt and fired back at Makabe on the mic. Makabe got pissed and wanted to fight Suzuki, but his teammates held him back. Suzuki roughed up one of the young boys on his way to the back.
Kushida, Michael Elgin, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Togi Makabe defeated Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku, Taichi, and Takashi Ilzuka.
Powell’s POV: I’m not big on the faction wars and all of the six- and eight-man tag matches, but I like that this one had a purpose in terms of setting up Makabe challenging Suzuki.
4. “Switchblade” Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, and Toru Yano vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Toa Henare. The broadcast team tried to play up White beating Kenny Omega for the IWGP U.S. Championship as the biggest upset in pro wrestling history. They noted that Hangman Page will be White’s first challenger. There was a fun spot early with Yano taking the turnbuckle pad off only to have Robinson giving him an airplane spin as he held the pad. They both stumbled around while acting dizzy afterward. White hit the Bladerunner on Henare and threw elbows at his head until the referee stepped in to call the match…
“Switchblade” Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, and Toru Yano defeated Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Toa Henare.
Powell’s POV: This was the most forgettable match of the show thus far. The finish was more of the same with the continued attempt to get over White as being ruthless. He still feels out of place in the Switchblade role, but hopefully he will grow into it.
A video aired with Rey Mysterio challenging Jushin Thunder Liger to a match at the Strong Style Evolved show that will be held in Long Beach, California on March 25. The camera showed Liger, who was sitting in on commentary with the Japanese broadcast team. He held up his fist for the live crowd.
Powell’s POV: I love that this match is happening for what I believe is the first time since 1996. Both wrestlers are past their prime, but fans are well aware of that and won’t be expecting a five star classic. That said, I actually believe there’s a chance that they will exceed the modest expectations from. Either way, it’s a really cool attraction match for the U.S. event.
5. Bushi vs. Gedo. Bushi brought out hedge clippers during his entrance and Kelly said he was planning to remove the beard of Gedo. He also wore a mask with a tongue that appeared to have a mini Gedo head on it. Meanwhile, Gedo wore a two of Bushi’s masks around his neck during his entrance. Gedo went after Bushi’s mask, and Bushi grabbed his beard early on. The referee took the hedge clippers away from Bushi, who ended up yanking pieces of Gedo’s beard out. Gedo came back and made a play for Bushi’s mask. Kelly noted that Gedo would be disqualified if he removed it. Gedo actually tied Bushi’s mask to the top rope. A young boy eventually cut Bushi loose using the hedge clippers. Late in the match, Bushi performed an MX (Codebreaker) for a two count. Bushi followed up with leap from the middle rope into the MX for the win…
Bushi defeated Gedo.
Powell’s POV: So when is the hair vs. beard match? The beard and mask play didn’t do much for me, but I assume that’s where this is going.
6. Tetsuya Naito vs. Yoshi-Hashi. Kelly noted that Osaka is an LIJ (Los Ingobernables de Japon) town even though they were the first to turn on Naito. Hashi attacked Naito from behind during his entrance. Naito took offensive control once in the ring. He played to the fans by putting his hand to his ear, then spat once they responded. Later, Hashi blocked Naito going for his Destino finisher. They traded punches and hard slaps with Hashi getting the better of the exchange. Hashi blasted him with a superkick and turned him inside out with a clothesline for a two count. Hashi controlled a good portion of the match before Naito came back with a wicked German suplex. Hashi popped right up from a dragon suplex. Naito ended up winning after a pair of Destinos.
After the match, Naito went to the stage and posed. Taichi showed up and attacked Naito with a weapon and dragged him down the steps.
Tetsuya Naito defeated Yoshi-Hashi.
Powell’s POV: Naito is the star and it was hard to buy into the possibility of Hashi going over given that Naito lost at Wrestle Kingdom 12. They seemed to be playing up Hashi seeking some measure of respect from Naito during the build to this match, but that never really materialized here as it was just a straight forward match and finish.
7. Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. There was quite the video package before the match featuring a cat and both wrestlers. Kelly said the cat provided the narration (in Japanese) of the story that led to this match. Takahashi performed a German suplex on the floor and then performed an overhead suplex that resulted in Ospreay crashing into the barricade. Takahashi controlled the bulk of the offense early. Takahashi ran the ropes and bumped Red Shoes the referee. He followed up with a sunset flip powerbomb off the ring apron on Ospreay.
Takahashi performed a top rope senton onto Ospreay at ringside. Callis said that bump took a year off of Takahashi’s career. Takahashi went for his Time Bomb back in the ring, but Ospreay avoided it only to be turned inside out with a clothesline. Ospreay caught Takahashi going for a move on the top rope and ended up dropping him head first onto the turnbuckle. Cool spot. Ospreay performed an implosion 450 splash for a two count. Ospreay went for his OsCutter finisher, but Takahashi performed a cutter instead.
Ospreay performed a reverse huracanrana that planted Takahashi on his head. However, when Ospreay went for the cover, Takahashi kicked out at one. Well, then… Ospreay went for a Time Bomb, but Takahashi countered into a sunset flip powerbomb for another near fall. Ospreay went for a springboard move. Takahashi caught him and performed a German suplex on the way down. Ospreay shot up and performed a Spanish Fly. Ospreay placed Takahashi over the top rope and performed a shooting star press into a leg drop. Ospreay got another near fall and showed some frustration. Ospreay removed his elbow and struck Takahashi with his elbow and then hit the OsCutter for the win. Ospreay walked over and patted Takahashi on the back as young boys were tending to him…
Will Ospreay defeated Hiromu Takahashi to retain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.
Powell’s POV: The athleticism in this match was off the charts great. Some of the near falls were a bit over the top, but obviously that style works for a lot of viewers. This was the match of the show thus far. These two are just insanely talented.
8. Hirooki Goto vs. Evil for the Never Openweight Championship. Early in the match, Evil wrapped a chair around the neck of Goto and then ran him into the ring post. Later, both wrestlers fought on the ropes. Evil shoved Goto off the ropes and referee Red Shoes was bumped (again). Evil used the string of balls that Goto wears to the ring as a weapon. The referee woke up and saw Evil choking Goto with the balls, but Evil just pushed him down again. Goto came back with a neckbreaker on his knee. The crowd fired up once they started hitting each other with clotheslines. Evil hit his Darkness Falls move for a two count. In the end, the wrestlers jockeyed for position and eventually Goto hit his GTR finisher and scored the pin…
Hirooki Goto defeated Evil to retain the Never Openweight Championship.
Powell’s POV: The live crowd was slow to get into the match given the slower pace compared to the insanity of the previous match. I had the same issue and in some ways it felt like a buffer between the two big matches regardless of whether that was the intent.
9. Kazuchika Okada vs. Sanada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Kelly said there was a 50/50 reaction for both men when they looked to the crowd before getting started. Callis oddly stated that whoever beats Okada won’t do it in the first ten minutes (I get what he’s going for, but it also makes the first ten minutes feel pointless). Callis also noted that Goto was not at ringside for the match. Okada took a bump on the ringside barricade. A short time later, Sanada performed a piledriver on the ramp. Callis questioned why Red Shoes was checking on Okada rather than counting him out.
Later, Okada came back and scored a two count off a nice DDT. Okada followed up a short time later with a hanging DDT on Sanada at ringside. Back in the ring, Okada toyed with Sanada by lightly kicking the back of his head and then smiling at him. They traded forearm shots with Sanada selling pain. Okada ended up performing a top rope elbow drop and then called for the Rainmaker. Sanada ducked it and performed a Saito suplex. Sanada sent Okada to ringside with a dropkick and then dove onto him on the floor. The Sanada fans came to life. Sanada performed another dive over the top rope onto Okada on the floor. Back inside the ring, Sanada performed a springboard dropkick for a two count.
Kelly noted that they were 20 minutes into the match. Sanada repaid the earlier disrespect by softly kicking the head of Okada. Okada got up and threw three forearms, but Sanada dropped him with a single forearm. Okada got up, but Sanada put him down with an uppercut. Sanada hit a TKO for a near fall. A short time later, Sanada performed a backflip off the top rope and applied the Skull End and eventually grapevined Okada. At the 25:00, Okada slipped out of the hold.
Sanada performed a Liger suplex for a very good near fall. Sanada essentially clotheslined Okada off the ropes and onto his knee for a good near fall. Sanada applied the Skull End, but Okada slipped out and went for the Rainmaker, but Sanada ducked it and hit the move himself for another great near fall. Sanada picked up Okada to apply his finisher, but Okada countered into the Skull End instead. Okada released the hold and dropkicked the back of Sanada’s head and then threw him into the ropes and performed another dropkick.
Okada performed a tombstone piledriver and then went for his finisher. Sanada avoided it and applied the Skull End again. Sanada released the hold and performed a moonsault for another good near fall. Sanada came up holding his knee in pain. Sanada went up top and went for the same move, but Okada put his knees up. Okada stood up Sanada and hit him with a Rainmaker clothesline, but both men stayed down after the move. Okada eventually got to his feet and performed another Rainmaker. He went for another, but Sanada ducked it. They jockeyed for position as both went for tombstones. Eventually, Okada performed a jumping tombstone piledriver and connected with another Rainmaker clothesline for the win…
Kazuchika Okada defeated Sanada to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
After the match, Okada spoke to the crowd in Japanese. Kelly noted that Okada said he wants to compete for the New Japan Cup. Okada also wants to face Will Ospreay at the anniversary show. Gold streamers fell on Okada as he posed and played to the crowd…
Powell’s POV: An excellent main event and easily the best match of the night. There was no reason to expect a title change, but they still created great drama for some of Sanada’s near falls. Here’s hoping that Sanada gets a significant push coming out of this because he was terrific. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be working with Okada, but this was definitely a two man effort. Overall, a solid show with the main event and the Ospreay vs. Takahashi matches standing out. The Bullet Club and Kota Ibushi were definitely missed, but those two matches are definitely worth going out of your way to watch.
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