By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Road to The New Beginning”
February 4, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
Chris Charlton is back on live commentary. Jeff Cobb is injured and off the show.
1. “House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, Yujiro Takahashi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Ren Narita (w/Dick Togo) defeated Shota Umino, Yoshi-Hashi, El Desperado, Boltin Oleg, and Togi Makabe at 10:12. The HoT attacked at the bell. Sho and Desperado opened and they have been feuding lately. The massive Oleg got in and hit a double suplex at 2:30, and he flipped Sho around in his arms before hitting a gut-wrench suplex. The HoT began working over Yoshi-Hashi in their corner. Shota got a hot tag at 6:30 and he hit a shotgun dropkick. He hit a fisherman’s suplex on Yujiro for a nearfall, then a tornado DDT on EVIL. Togi tagged in at 8:30. Togo tripped Makabe, and he got a chain and choked Togi with it. Togi hit a double clothesline. He hit a bodyslam on EVIL. EVIL hit the Everything is Evil uranage to pin Makabe. Okay match. Desperado chased Sho to the back.
* EVIL got on the mic and spoke to Shota. EVIL pulled out black spray paint and covered the NEVER Openweight title with paint! Charlton said it was a mockery of the belt to deface it like that.
2. “Bullet Club” Chase Owens, Kenta, and Taiji Ishimori defeated “Guerrillas of Destiny” Hikuleo, El Phantasmo, and Tomoaki Honma (w/Jado) at 11:21. ELP and Kenta opened and took turns playing to the crowd. Ishimori tied ELP in the Tree of Woe and stood on his groin, and the BC worked over Phantasmo. Hikuleo entered at 5:00 and he hit a double clothesline on Kenta and Chase. Owens hit a running knee to Hikuleo’s chest. Honma entered and hit a bulldog on Owens, but he missed a Kokeshi falling headbutt at 8:00. Owens missed his own Kokeshi. Honma hit a DDT on Chase. The babyfaces hit stereo Kokeshis on Owens for a nearfall at 10:00. Honma hit a leaping headbutt on Owens for a nearfall. Owens hit Honma in the head with a title belt, then he hit a package piledriver for the pin.
3. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Zack Sabre Jr., Kosei Fujita, Mikey Nicholls, and Shane Haste defeated Yoh, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tomohiro Ishii at 12:38. Tanahashi wore his TV Title belt. No sign of the six-man tag belts. Tanahashi and Nicholls opened, traded mat reversals and had a standoff. Kosei and Yoh entered at 1:30 and had an intense lockup. Taguchi entered and hit a buttbump. Kosei hit a suplex on Yoh at 4:00, and he threw Yoh into his corner, where TMDK took turns working him over. Sabre hit a snap suplex. Nicholls hit a delayed vertical suplex on Yoh. Ishii made the hot tag at 6:00 and he hit some shoulder tackles, then a suplex on Haste.
Haste hit a neckbreaker on Ishii. Ishii and Tanahashi hit basement dropkicks on Kosei. Ishii hit a German Suplex on Nicholls at 8:30. Sabre and Taguchi both tagged in, and Taguchi hit a buttbump and a running bulldog for a nearfall at 10:00. TMDK began working over Taguchi. Sabre hit a running Penalty Kick for a nearfall, then some European Uppercuts to the lower back. Taguchi hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip, then he applied an anklelock. However, Sabre somehow tied up Taguchi and forced him to tap out. Entertaining.
4. “Just 5 Guys” Sanada, Douki and Taichi, Yuya Uemura, and Taka Michinoku defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Bushi, Shingo Takagi, Yota Tsuji, and Hiromu Takahashi at 7:37. J5G came out first; LIJ rolled into the ring and attacked and they all brawled in the ring and on the floor. Hiromu and Douki traded quick reversals in the ring. Taka hit a superkick on Bushi at 2:30. Yota and Uemura brawled on the floor and toward the entranceway. Sanada hit some dropkicks on Naito. Sanada missed a moonsault at 5:30. He placed Naito’s feet on the top rope and hit a swinging neckbreaker. Yota and Uemura tagged in and traded forearm strikes. Tsuji hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee, then a superkick. Uemura hit a huracanrana, and he slapped on a cross-armbreaker, and Yota tapped out! That came out of nowhere. I don’t like this at all; it sure makes Yota look weak to tap out that quickly.
5. Great-O-Khan defeated Alex Coughlin at 11:59. Intense lockup at the bell and O-Khan hit his Mongolian Chops. Alex applied an anklelock. They traded reversals on the mat. This looks more like a shoot, amateur wrestling match than most. Coughlin hit a German Suplex at 7:00. He hit a fallaway slam for a nearfall. O-Khan hit a gut-wrench suplex, so Alex hit one. O-Khan hit a belly-to-belly suplex, so Alex hit one. O-Khan hit a back suplex, so Alex hit one at 9:00. O-Khan hit a scoop-style piledriver for a nearfall. O-Khan hit his Claw-Slam to the face for the pin. Intense; not for everyone but this was good. Worth pointing out we never saw any other Bullet Club War Dogs in this match.
6. Gabe Kidd vs. Henare ended in a draw at 20:33. They charged at each other and immediately traded forearm strikes and headbutts; they have immediately set a different tone and pace from the mat-battle in the previous match. Kidd hit a German Suplex; Henare hit a clothesline at 1:30. They brawled to the floor, and Henare was whipped into the guardrail. Kidd was whipped into the guardrail. Kidd clotheslined Henare over the guardrail, and they both landed in the front row at 4:00. They brawled up into the lower deck of seating. Kidd hit a jumping knee at 6:00.
In a nice spot, Kidd leapt off the stairway entrance, but Henare caught him with a forearm strike. They returned to the ring at 8:30, but Kidd shoved Henare off the corner to the floor, and Henare sold a shoulder injury. Back in the ring, Kidd backed Henare into the corner and hit some chops. Kidd sat down and let Henare hit some stiff kicks to the spine at 12:30. They traded Mafia Kicks and both men were down. Henare nailed the Rampage football tackle for a believable nearfall at 15:00. They got up and traded blows, and Kidd hit a short-arm clothesline, so Henare hit a clothesline, but Kidd kicked out before the one-count.
They hit stereo clotheslines and Henare hit a spinning back fist. Kidd hit a brainbuster. Henare hit a Death Valley Driver, and they were both down at 18:00. This has been REALLY good. They got up and traded more forearm strikes until they both collapsed. This crowd is hot. Kidd hit some headbutts. Henare hit a leaping headbutt and they were both down again. Neither man responded to the 10-count and the ref called for the bell, saying this was a draw. What a show-stealer; this match should earn some buzz.
7. David Finlay (w/Gedo) defeated Callum Newman at 10:28. Callum attacked from behind, and they brawled to the floor. In the ring, Finlay was in charge. They brawled back to the floor; Newman leapt over the guardrail at 5:00 instead of being tossed against it, and that popped the crowd. In the ring, Newman hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a nearfall at 7:00. Newman hit a Tiger Suplex for a believable nearfall, and the crowd was fully behind him. Finlay jumped on Callum and hit a series of punches and was booed. He hit some crossface blows, then a release powerbomb for a nearfall at 10:00, but he pulled Callum to his feet. Finlay then hit his pop-up kneestrike to the chest for the pin. The winner was never in doubt but Newman had the crowd fully behind him.
8. “Bullet Club War Dogs” Drilla Moloney and Clark Connors defeated “Catch 2/2” TJP and Francesco Akira to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at 18:37. All four brawled at the bell and went to the floor. Connors speared Akira against one of the unbreakable Japanese tables at 3:00; it didn’t break, so Connors whipped Akira against it again and this time it cracked. In the ring, the BCWD worked over TJP. Clark hit a snap suplex at 5:30 and kept TJP grounded. Akira got in at 8:30 and hit some running back elbows, then a flip dive to the floor on both BCWD. He hit a top-rope crossbody block for a nearfall on Connors. Connors nailed a Pounce on Francesco and they were both down at 10:30.
TJP tagged back in and hit a top-rope flying forearm and he was fired up. He hit some face wash kicks in the corner. TJP hit a superkick on Connors. Connors caught Akira and hit a powerslam. Connors and Moloney hit front-and-back kicks on TJP for a nearfall, but Akira made the save at 12:30. Connors accidentally speared Moloney, and suddenly everyone was down. Akira hit a doublestomp on Moloney’s chest, then a dive to the floor on Clark. Catch 2/2 hit front-and-back kicks on Drilla for a nearfall.
Clark jumped back in and speared TJP, and suddenly everyone was down again at 15:00. Drilla and Connors hit superkicks on TJP, then front-and-back kicks for a believable nearfall. Akira hit a Frankensteiner. TJP hit a tornado DDT, and Catch 2/2 hit their team X-Factor faceplant for a nearfall. Moloney got a fork! Connors hit his No Chaser spike piledriver, then a spear on Akira. Drilla held Akira upside down, and Connors hit a second-rope spear on Akira for the pin! That was really good, too.
* The rest of the BCWD hit the ring to beat up TJP and Drilla, so the rest of the United Empire ran down to make the save, including the injured Jeff Cobb. Finlay grabbed his shillelagh and slammed it against Cobb’s injured knee. They beat up Akira some more, too.
Final Thoughts: NJPW always seems to rise to the occasion whenever in Korakuen Hall. Henare and Kidd had a helluva match and that easily was best of the show, even with no winner. Yes, NJPW needs to rebuild, and Shota, Yuya, Yota, and Narita are a big part of that, but Kidd has to be in that conversation, too. The main event earned second-best, and I’m a bit surprised the Bullet Club won back the belts, which have been a hot potato between these two teams. Likewise, the quite young Newman is part of the great rebuild. He was never going to beat Finlay, but there match was good for third.