NJPW “The New Beginning Sapporo” results (2/24): Vetter’s review of Tetsuya Naito vs. Sanada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, Yota Tsuji vs. Yuya Uemura in a hair vs. hair match


By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “The New Beginning Sapporo”
February 24, 2024 in Hokkaido, Japan at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center
Streamed live on New Japan World

This show features five singles matches between Los Ingobernobles de Japon and Just 5 Guys. Walker Stewart and Chris Charlton provided commentary. This venue is a small arena. Charlton said late in the show the attendance was 5,355.

* NJPW announced during the day that Hiroshi Tanahashi hurt his ankle in his match against Matt Riddle and would not be competing tonight. Toru Yano will take his place in a multi-man match. (I didn’t see any injury on Friday, but I did note that the match was shorter than I anticipated.) A reminder that Henare isn’t on these shows as he suffered a gruesome gash in his head in the cage match a couple weeks ago.

1. Shota Umino, Yoh, Boltin Oleg, El Desperado, and Togi Makabe defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Yujiro Takahashi, and Ren Narita (w/Dick Togo) at 8:13. Desperado attacked Sho on the floor; those two got in the ring and brawled. Charlton talked about the absurdity of Sho winning the Juniors Title via count-out on Friday. The massive Oleg (I always compare his body type to Lars Sullivan) got in the ring and knocked everyone down, and he flipped Ren around in his arms. EVIL choked Boltin, and the HoT kept him in their corner. Oleg hit a double suplex and he tagged in Shota at 4:30. Shota hit a dropkick on Ren, then a fisherman’s suplex on Kanemaru for a nearfall.

Togo hit his knife-edge chop to Shota’s groin. Kanemaru swung and missed with his whiskey bottle. Shota went for Death Rider but EVIL blocked it; EVIL went for Everything is Evil but Shota blocked it. Togi hit a double clothesline. Desperado hit a dive to the floor. In the ring, Shota and Kanemaru traded rollups. Shota hit a Hidden Blade to the back of the head, then the Death Rider double-arm DDT to pin Kanemaru. More energy and fast-paced than a typical HoT match.

* Up on the top of the entrance ramp, Yoh held the Juniors title! He taunted Sho, who was irate. Sho chase Yoh to the back.

* The lights went out and we had a video on the screen of Shota Umino. It was a clip of “Scapegoat” Jack Perry beating up Shota at the Battle in the Valley event. Shota walked over to the English commentary and said “Jungle Boy?” Chris responded, “I don’t think they call him that anymore.” Shota replied, “I don’t care. I will beat his ass.”

2. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi defeated Matt Riddle and “United Empire” Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, Callum Newman, and Franceso Akira at 11:29. Riddle had his own, separate entrance from the UE; Charlton noted that Riddle and Cobb have a long history together. The crowd loudly chanted for Okada. Riddle and Okada opened and they immediately traded forearm strikes. Goto and Akira entered at 1:30. O-Khan entered and hit his Mongolian Chops. Goto hit a brainbuster on Akira a 4:00. Riddle hit some kneestrikes. Ishii hit a German Suplex on Riddle. Cobb hit a standing moonsault on Ishii. Cobb and Ishii traded German Suplexes, and Ishii hit a suplex and they were both down.

Yoshi-Hashi and O-Khan entered at 6:00 and they traded chops. Y-H hit a Dragon Suplex. Okada got the hot tag. THe UE team took turns hitting Okada in the corner. Okada hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip on Akira. Okada shoved Cobb into Riddle. Okada hit a dropkick on Callum at 10:00, then the Landslide slam, then a top-rope elbow drop. He hit the Rainmaker clothesline and scored the pin on Newman. A fun match and the winner (and the exact finish of the match!) was never in doubt. We see Tanahashi seated at ringside, wearing a suit. The five babyfaces celebrated and Okada hugged each of his teammates.

Okada got on the mic. “Thank you for looking after me all these years,” Okada said. “I will see you all once again.”

3. Hikuleo and El Phantasmo defeated Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa at 14:02 with Jado as special referee. This also is Tama Tonga’s finale New Japan match. Hikuleo and ELP’s tag titles are not on the line. Tama and Tanga had facepaint on; they haven’t done that in a few years. Hikuleo and Tama opened and they pounded fists, then had some basic reversals. ELP and Tanga entered at 2:00, with Loa hitting a shoulder tackle, and they traded rollups for some comedy and Jado refused to count. Jado shouted “clean fight” but all four began to brawl. Hikuleo hit a DDT on Loa at 4:00 and he hit some chops. Tanga Loa hit a top-rope missile dropkick on ELP.

Tama got the hot tag at 6:30 and he clotheslined ELP, then peeled off his red vest. He hit a Stinger Splash and an Exploder Suplex on ELP for a nearfall. ELP put Tama on his shoulders and hit an Airplane Spin. Tama tried a Stun Gun but Hikuleo blocked it. Hikuleo hit a chokeslam on Loa. ELP went for a frogsplash, but Tama hit a Gun Stun as Phantasmo came down! Nice spot. Loa hit a spear on Hikuleo and they were all down at 9:30. Tama and Tanga hit the Magic Killer team slam. Hikuleo hit a powerslam. Tama again couldn’t hit the Gun Stun on Hikuleo at 12:30. Hikuleo hit a Gun Stun on Tama, then a clothesline for a nearfall! Hikuleo hit a standing powerbomb on Tama for a believable nearfall. Hikuleo then hit a chokeslam to pin Tama. That was fun. Tama kissed his hand and placed it on the NJPW logo in the center of the ring.

4. Nic Nemeth and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated David Finlay and Gedo at 7:28. Nic has a noticeable, large black, left eye. Charlton said he had it prior to last night but it got worse. (I didnt’ notice it Friday.) Nemeth and Finlay opened with intense, quick mat reversals. Nic and Taguchi hit some buttbumps on Gedo. Finlay hit some European Uppercuts to Taguchi’s lower back at 3:30. Gedo grabbed a small mallet and he beat Taguchi up with it on the floor. Taguchi hit some more buttbumps. Nemeth made the hot tag at 6:00 and he hit some dropkicks, and he clotheslined Finlay over the top rope to the floor. He hit a series of elbow drops on Gedo. Nemeth hit a superkick on Finlay, and Taguchi hit a flying buttbump on Finlay. Nemeth hit his leaping inverted DDT to pin Gedo.

* Nic got on the mic, looked at Tanahashi, and said he wants to defend his Global Title against him. Tanahashi stood up and shouted “I agree with you.”

* As I noted above, the rest of the show is a series of matches between the LIJ and J5G factions.

5. Bushi defeated Taka Michinoku at 9:14. Charton said Taka hasn’t had a singles match since July 2022! Basic reversals on the mat early on. Taka applied a leglock around the head. Taka applied a crossface and cranked back on the head. Bushi hit a basement dropkick on Taka’s knee at 3:30. Bushi hit a second-rope missile dropkick, then he dove through the ropes onto Taka. In the ring, Bushi hit a swinging neckbreaker for a nearfall. Taka again got Bushi on the mat and cranked back on his head. Taka hit a dropkick at 7:00. Bushi hit a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall! Bushi hit a second-rope missile dorpkick on the knee, and he applied a modified Figure Four Leglock, and Taka tapped out.

6. Douki defeated Hiromu Takahashi at 14:54. These two went to a 10-minute draw recently although Hiromu is 4-0 in singles matches. Stewart said Douki scored a pin recently in a multi-man match, and it has made Hiromu go crazy. Douki dove through the ropes onto HIromu to start the action. He tried to hit the Daybreak slingshot DDT but Hiromu blocked it. They went to the floor, where Hiromu put Douki on his shoulders and slammed him into a guardrail at 1:00. In the ring, HIromu hit a basement dropkick. He hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 3:00. Douki hit a dropkick. Charlton talked about how Douki is the underdog.

Douki hit a springboard back elbow, then an Asai Moonsault to the floor. In the ring, Douki applied the Douki Chokey triangle choke at 5:30. Douki applied a Gory Special and dropped to the mat. Hiromu hit a sunset flip powerbomb from the apron to the floor. In the ring, Hiromu hit a Death Valley Driver into a corner pad at 8:30. He hit a clothesline, then a Time Bomb sideslam for a nearfall at 10:30. He hit a superkick that dropped Douki to a knee. Douki hit a clothesline. Hiromu hit another superkick and a clothesline. He hit a modified Death Valley Driver for a nearfall. Douki again applied a Douki Chokey! Douki hit a leaping DDT for a nearfall. Douki hit a swinging back suplex at 14:30 and he was fired up. Douki hit a Dragon Suplex with a high bridge for the pin! “Douki has done it!” Charlton shouted.

7. Taichi defeated Shingo Takagi at 17:18. Charlton noted that Shingo has the travel lag after competing in the UK last week. They traded chops and forearm strikes in the first minute and Charlton wondered if a 30-minute time limit is too short for them. Shingo dropped him with a shoulder tackle, then a senton at 1:30. Charlton and Stewart talked about the “holes in the roster” with Ospreay, Okada and Tama leaving, and this is an opportunity for them to step up. Shingo hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip and a sliding clothesline. Taichi hit an enzuigiri at 5:00, then an Air Raid Crash over his knee! He ripped off his warmup pants and that got a pop.

Shingo hit a huracanrana and a DDT at 6:30. They traded headbutts in the corner. They traded back suplexes and both were down at 9:30. They traded clotheslines while holding onto each other’s wrist. They kept hitting them until they both collapsed; they got up and hit more clotheslines. They switched to hard forearm strikes. Taichi hit an enzuigiri; Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber; Taichi hit a uranage and they were both down at again at 14:30. Taichi hit another enzuigiri. He hit a dropkick and a back suplex for the pin! I didn’t expect it wrap up there. That was hard-hitting and intense.

8. Yota Tsuji defeated Yuya Uemura in a hair-vs.-hiar match at 28:18. Aren’t we all losers after this match? Charlton said this is just the eighth hair-vs-hair match in NJPW history. Standing switches to open. Uemura got a rollup for a nearfall at 3:30, so Yota rolled to the floor to regroup. In the ring, Yota hit a senton at 6:30 and a flying body splash for a nearfall. He hit a punch to the gut and Yuya collapsed. Tsuji hit a stiff kick to the spine, then a backbreaker over his knee at 9:00, and he applied a Boston Crab and sat down on the lower back, but Uemura reached the ropes. Uemura hit some deep armdrags and a dropkick at 11:00. He it a back suplex for a nearfall.

Uemura applied a hammerlock and he kept Yota grounded. He applied a crossarm breaker but Tsuji reached the ropes at 13:30. Yota re-applied the Boston Crab. He turned it into a Lion Tamer/vertical Boston Crab, planting a knee in Yuya’s spine, and the commentators were shocked Yuya was hanging on. Tsuji hit a Giant Swing. Yuya hit a Flatliner while working a hammerlock. They butterflied each other’s arms as we hit the 20:00 mark and the clock is right-on, and they traded rollups. Tsuji hit a titl-a-whirl backbreaker. Uemura hit a double-underhook swiniging suplex for a nearfall. Tsuji hit a Spanish Fly for a nearfall at 22:30. Uemura responded with a Deadbolt double-underhook suplex, and they were both down again.

They both got up before the 10-count. Tsuji hit a bodyslam, then another. Uemura hit a backbody drop at 26:30. Uemura missed a splash and Tsuji immediately hit a Stomp on the head, then a swinging slam for a nearfall. Uemura applied a cross-armbreaker but Tsuji escaped. Uemura hit a stunner. Yuya couldn’t hit another Deadbolt, but he hit a German Suplex. However, Tsuji popped to his feet, hit a spear, and scored the pin! That was excellent.

^ Tsuji pulled Uemura to his feet by the hair. They pulled a tarp and chair into the ring for the haircut. Uemura sat down in the chair, making no effort to run and save his locks. Tsuji used the scissors to cut off the long ponytail and you could hear the crowd gasp as it was taken off. Tsuji started to use an electric clipper, but Uemura took the clippers and buzzed down to his head. He didn’t finish the job but I’m sure that will happen later. Yota walked over to Okada, who was now on commentary, and asked him, “Are you satified with the way you are leaving? I’m disappointed in you.” Yota then marched to the back, still holding Uemura’s ponytail. Great post-match segment that really delivered.

9. Tetsuya Naito defeated Sanada to retain the IWGP World Title at 24:04. A feeling-out process to open. Sanada tied him in the Paradise Lock at 3:00, then kicked Naito in the butt, and Naito rolled to the floor to regroup. Naito teased a dive but instead did the Tranquilo pose. They fought on the floor, where Sanada whipped Naito into the guardrail at 5:30. Naito put Sanada’s feet on the ring apron and he hit a DDT onto the thin mat on the floor. Sanada rolled back into the ring at the 18-count. Naito tied up Sanada on the mat. They rolled to the floor, where Naito applied a leglock around Sanada’s head at 8:30.

In the ring, Sanada hit a dropkick on Naito’s knee. He hit a second one, and Naito collapsed and sold the pain. Sanada hit a dropkick to the chest at 10:30, then a plancha to the floor. In the ring, Naito hit a backbreaker over his knee. Naito went to the top rope but Sanada kicked his legs, and Naito fell forehead-first onto the top turnbuckle. Sanada then hit a slingshot neckbreaker for a nearfall at 13:30. He went for Skull End but Naito escaped. Sanada tried again and this time he locked in Skull End dragon sleeper on the mat. Sanada went for a top-rope moonsault, but Naito got his legs up at 15:00, and they were both down. Naito hit a Frankensteiner at 17:00.

Sanada hit a dropkick. Naito got a partial Destino. He hit a Spinebuster. He went for Destino but Sanada blocked it. Naito avoided a Shining Wizard and he an enzuigiri. Sanada couldn’t hit Deadfall. Sanada nailed an STO stunner at 20:00; the clock is spot-on. Sanada hit a top-rope moonsault for a nearfall! He hit a second one, and he again set up for Deadfall but Naito blocked it, and Naito hit a Destino. Sanada hit an enzuigiri and a Shining Wizard at 22:00. However, he again couldn’t get Deadfall! Sanada hit a Shining Wizard to the back of the head and they were both down. Sanada kipped up and hit a Shining Wizard to the forehead. However, he again couldn’t hit Deadfall. Naito hit a springboard tornado DDT and scored the pin; I initally thought all four shoulders were down.

* Naito got on the mic and he thanked everyone for coming. He said there is someone who won’t be around here anymore, and the camera flashed over to Okada on commentary. He did the roll call and was covered in gold streamers. Okada got in the ring. Naito offered a raised fist bump! Okada went to do it, but instead they brawled for 30 seconds before Naito did the Tranquilo pose. That was fun. Stewart said Naito will now face Sho, as Sho is the juniors champion, on March 6.

Final Thoughts: A really enjoyable show. Because of the stakes — all that long, flowing hair! — I was really invested in the Tsuji-Uemura match and I’ll go with that for best of the night. The main event is a close second. I really like how Sanada came so close, over and over, but he just couldn’t hit the Deadfall to score the pin. Of course, the final NJPW matches for Okada and Tonga were also great moments. I was happy to see Douki score that pin; I wrote just a week ago that he feels on the verge of breaking out and could be this year’s Master Wato by greatly improving his record at Best of Super Juniors this year.


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