By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “The New Beginning in Sapporo”
February 5, 2023 in Sapporo, Japan at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center
Streamed on New Japan World
This is the second consecutive day in this venue. The venue is a large fieldhouse with just a few rows of seating in a balcony. I’ll put the crowd at 1,500-2,000. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided live commentary from ringside.
1. “United Empire” Will Ospreay, TJP, Francesco Akira, and Great-O-Khan defeated Taichi, Douki, Taka Michinoku, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru at 10:08. Ospreay and Taichi are coming off a superb singles match a day ago. Akira and Douki started, and Akira hit a dropkick. This was quick action, with wrestlers going in and out of the ring. Ospreay and Taichi brawled on the floor. The UE worked over Kanemaru in their corner, which is weird because Kanemaru draws zero babyface sympathy from the crowd. Akira tied him in a Tajiri-style Tarantula in the ropes at 4:00.
Charlton and Kelly talked a lot about the upcoming New Japan Cup single-elimination tournament. Taichi finally made the hot tag at 6:30 and traded Mafia Kicks with Ospreay. Ospreay nailed a springboard forearm shot for a nearfall. Taka entered and applied an STF on Ospreay. He nailed a punt kick for a nearfall on Ospreay. However, Ospreay nailed a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall on Taka, then the Hidden Blade forearm to the back of the head for the pin. Good opener.
* Great-O-Khan got on the mic. He pointed that between the four of them, they have three belts, and that the United Empire is powerful. (TJP and Akira are junior tag champs, while GOK wore his Rev Pro title from the UK.)
2. Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Ren Narita, and Yuto Nakashima defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Dick Togo, and Sho at 10:31. The HoT attacked at the bell. Kevin Kelly wondered where the HoT is keeping the six-man title belts and when will they ever defend them. The HoT began working over Nakashima in their corner. Desperado finally made the hot tag at 3:00. Suzuki entered and beat up Togo. EVIL slammed Minoru’s back into the guardrail at ringside and choked him against the guardrail. EVIL shoved a mic in his face. (All signs point to an EVIL-Minoru ‘I quit’ match.)
The HoT worked over Suzuki in their corner. EVIL choked Suzuki with a shirt. Narita reached out for the hot tag and the crowd popped. Ren tagged in at 8:00 and hit some Yes Kicks to EVIL’s chest, then a Northern Lights Suplex with a high bridge for a nearfall. Yujiro entered and hit a fisherman’s buster on Narita for a nearfall at 9:30, and he set up for Pimp Juice jumping DDT, but Ren blocked it. Ren hit a Northern Lights Suplex on Yujiro, then he tied him in a mid-ring Octopus submission hold, and Yujiro tapped out. Good match, and I really like the story they are telling of Narita slowly aligning with Desperado and Suzuki, as they shook hands to a huge pop.
* Minoru got on the mic and said the three of them are officially on the same page, and he challenged the House of Torture for the six-man titles. EVIL got on the mic and said the belts are retired, and they won’t be defending them. The crowd booed. Minoru said he wants a title match next Saturday in Osaka.
3. “Bullet Club” Taiji Ishimori and Kenta defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and Master Wato at 10:41. Hiroshi and Kenta started and they took turns playing to the crowd. Kenta tagged out, upset he lost the crowd’s show of support. Funny. Wato and Ishimori traded quick offense. Ishimori slammed him shoulder-first into the corner, and the BC began working over Wato’s injured arm. Kenta dropped a knee in Wato’s face and got a nearfall at 5:00, and Kenta jawed at the referee.
Hiroshi entered and hit a dragon screw leg whip on each heel, then a second-rope summersault slam on Kenta for a nearfall at 7:30, then the Twist-and-Shout neckbreaker. Kenta fired back with a DDT. Ishimori tagged in and they worked over Tanahashi. Wato made the hot tag at 9:00 and traded offense with Ishimori. Wato nailed his springboard forearm for a nearfall. Wato got a seatbelt double-arm slam for a nearfall. Tanahashi hit a senton to the floor on Kenta. In the ring, Wato’s head struck the exposed steel in the corner, and Ishimori got a schoolboy rollup with feet on the ropes for the cheap pin.
4. Hikuleo, Tama Tonga, and Jado defeated “Bullet Club” Jay White, El Phantasmo, and Gedo at 12:57. Jay White again stopped at the commentary team to rip on his opponents. Tama and ELP started, and they have developed an intense dislike of each other. They traded shoulder tackles with neither man budging. Hikuleo entered at 3:00 and he twisted Phantasmo’s left arm. The Bullet Club began working over Jado, with White choking him on the mat.
HIkuleo made the hot tag at 7:00; White scrambled to try and get away. Hikuleo beat up Gedo and ELP on the floor, then he got White alone in the ring. They traded chops, and HIkuleo nailed a Mafia Kick. Hikuleo hit a double clothesline on ELP and Gedo. White worked over Hikuleo in the corner. Hikuleo set up for a chokeslam, but White escaped and hit a DDT, and they were both down. Tama and ELP tagged in at 10:00 and brawled again.
Tama nailed a running Stinger Splash, then a Bulldog Powerslam, and he set up for the Stun Gun but ELP avoided it and got a rollup for a nearfall. They traded stiff forearm shots. They hit simultaneous crossbody blocks. Gedo and Jado tagged in at 11:30. Hikuleo hit a powerslam on White. White left the ring and headed up the ramp. In the ring, Tama hit a Gun Stun on Gedo; Jado immediately applied a crossface, and Gedo tapped out. Phantasmo struck Tama in the head with the NEVER Openweight title belt after the bell. Really good match; both ELP-Tama and White-Hikuleo should be fantastic singles matches.
5. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Shota Umino defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, Bushi, and Sanada at 11:02. Umino nailed a shotgun dropkick on Naito at the bell; he shoved the ref to the mat and kept hitting Naito in the corner. Charlton and Naito talked about Umino being frustrated after losing to Naito a day ago, and he wants an immediate rematch. They traded forearm shots, and Naito hit a standing neckbreaker.
Yano entered and removed the corner pad, and he traded silly offense with Bushi. The babyfaces worked over Bushi in their corner. Shingo tagged in at 4:30 and hit a running forearm on Okada and a short-arm clothesline. Okada fired back with a running back elbow, and they began trading forearm shots. Okada hit his dropkick at 7:00, and they were both down. Okada hit a flapjack on Sanada, and he applied the Moneyclip sleeperhold. Sanada applied Skull End dragon sleeper on Okada.
Naito and Shota got back in the ring and traded more offense. Bushi barreled through the ropes onto Taguchi on the floor. In the ring, Okada hit a Tombstone Piledriver and a Rainmaker clothesline, then a second one, on Sanada, for the pin. Really good match. Okada was bleeding from a cut on his back/right shoulder. Shingo and Okada argued at each other some more after the bell.
6. “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hoshi defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls to retain the IWGP Tag Team Titles at 15:19. Nicholls and Goto started. Yoshi-Hoshi hit a senton on Haste. All four brawled on the floor. In the ring, Nicholls got a neckbreaker on Goto for a nearfall at 4:30, and TMDK worked over Goto in their corner. Goto whipped Nicholls into the corner, and Mikey did the Flair-flip over the ropes and crashed to the floor. Yoshi-Hoshi finally made the hot tag at 7:30, and he hit a standing neckbreaker on Haste for a nearfall.
TMDK hit a tower suplex on Yoshi-Hoshi from the corner. (Kevin Kelly called it the Oliva Newton Bomb, which was funny.) Yoshi-Hoshi hit the Head Hunter flipping neckbreaker on Haste. Goto hit a double bulldog at 12:00, and he traded forearm shots with Nicholls. Goto hit his neckbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. Bishamon set up for Shoto, but TMDK avoided it. Nicholls hit a DDT for a believable nearfall, then a Blue Thunder Bomb on Goto for a believable nearfall. Bishamon then hit Shoto team slam on Nicholls for the clean pin. Really good tag match.
7. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Tomohiro Ishii to retain the NJPW TV Title at 14:39. A reminder that TV title matches have a 15-minute time limit, and Charlton clarified that the title doesn’t change hands on a draw. They opened with standing switches. Charlton said each man has won 3 of 6 prior meetings. Sabre immediately focused on the left arm. Ishii hit a shoulder tackle at 2:30 that dropped Sabre. They each hit a kick to the back while the other was seated. Sabre tied him in a knot on the mat. Ishii hit a belly-to-belly overhead suplex, and they were both down at 5:30.
Ishii hit some chops; Sabre hit some European Uppercuts. Ishii hit a Saito Suplex. Sabre went back to working on each of Ishii’s arms, and he applied a cross-armb reaker at 7:30, but Ishii escaped. Ishii hit a sliding clothesline on Sabre’s arm! They got up and traded more forearms. Ishii hit a headbutt and a suplex. Ishii hit a running shoulder tackle that sent Sabre flying at 10:00, as Ishii has blood coming from his mouth. He hit a standing powerbomb for a nearfall; Sabre turned it into a cross-armbreaker, but Ishii reached the ropes. Nice series of moves. Ishii applied a mid-ring Octopus move, then a Code Red. “What?????” Kelly shouted!
Sabre got an O’Connor Roll for a nearfall. Ishii hit a German Suplex for a nearfall at 12:00; the time was announced and the crowd reacted, aware there is only three minutes remaining. Ishii hit a hard clothesline for a nearfall. Sabre got a rollup for a believable nearfall. Sabre nailed a Dragon Suplex with a bridge for a believable nearfall. Ishii missed an enziguri, and Sabre immediately hit a punt kick to the chest. Ishii hit the enziguri, and they were both down at 14:00 as the fans react to the one-minute warning. Sabre hit a sit-down piledriver for the pin. That was absolutely great. Sabre stopped at the commentary table to boast about his win.
8. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Yoh to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at 29:42. An intense lockup at the bell and they are starting at a slower pace. They brawled to the floor, with Yoh crashing into the guardrail. In the ring, Hiromu hit a sliding dropkick for a nearfall at 3:30. They brawled right back to the floor, and Yoh got whipped into the guardrail. Hiromu hit a snap suplex on the thin mat of the entrance ramp at 5:30.
In the ring, they traded chops. Hiromu hit a dropkick, and they were both down at 8:30. Yoh nailed a flip dive to the floor. Back in the ring, Yoh hit a missile dropkick for a nearfall. Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow, and they were both down. They got up and traded forearm shots for a full minute. Hiromu nailed a Shotgun dropkick into the corner at 12:30. Yoh nailed a dropkick to the knee, and Hiromu grabbed his left leg in pain. Yoh immediately hit a pair of dragon screw leg whips, and he twisted the leg on the mat.
Yoh hit a superplex and went right back to a leglock around the left knee. He applied a Figure Four Leglock at 16:30, and Hiromu teased nearly tapping out. Hiromu hit a headbutt, but he struggled to get to his feet. Hiromu nailed a German Suplex and a clothesline, and they were both down at 19:30. Hiromu hit a Death Valley Driver into the turnbuckles. Yoh hit a clothesline. Yoh applied a Full Nelson, but Hiromu quickly escaped; Yoh immediately hit a chop block to the back of the damaged knee.
Yoh nailed a Poison Rana at 24:00, then a Superkick for a believable nearfall. Yoh hit a neckbreaker over his knee, and he nailed a Dragon Suplex with a high bridge for a believable nearfall. Hiromu nailed the Time Bomb swinging slam for a nearfall, and they were both down again. Yoh set up for his double-arm DDT, but Hiromu escaped; Hiromu immediately hit a stunner, then a butterfly piledriver for a nearfall at 28:00. Yoh got a rollup with an O’Connor Roll for a believable nearfall. “I thought that was three!” Kelly shouted. Hiromu nailed a Superkick and a clothesline. Hiromu then nailed a Time Bomb 2 sideslam for the clean pin. An excellent match.
* Hiromu was lying on his back, staring at the lights, as he spoke on the mic. He said he had a helluva fight against Yoh, and didn’t know Yoh had that in him. He said it was a great crowd, but not a 100 percent sellout. He feels pressure as a champion. He said it’s his job to fire up the crowd. He said Shingo Takagi has to complete the Hat Trick for LIJ by winning the IWGP title next week from Kazuchika Okada. As Hiromu left the ring, he waved it in front of El Desperado, who was doing commentary at ringside, taunting him with the belt.
Final Thoughts: Wow, what a really good show, and I don’t mind that all the champions retained, as they all just won those belts at Wrestle Kingdom, and it just wasn’t time for them to lose. A superb main event; they didn’t go at a rapid-fire pace at the start, but they maintained energy and it never felt like it dragged despite going thirty minutes.
I love Ishii and he always brings a great fight, whether he wins or not. Sabre is such a good choice to hold the TV title and potentially defend it all over the world. While I am not a big fan of Bishamon, they had a good tag title match, and I have to assume Aussie Open wll be returning soon to face them.
As I noted above, I have enjoyed how Ren Narita has been so hesitant and reluctant to team with Minoru Suzuki, and each show, he’s inched closer to accepting Minoru (and Desperado) as teammates. The crowd pop for him reaching out for the hot tag was great.