Friday, February 12, 2016
This morning, New Japan Pro Wrestling held the New Beginning in Osaka event, their first major one since the departure Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. I had to watch it throughout the day in between doing work at my job so it took longer than normal.
By now I’m pretty much beating a dead horse when I say that I enjoy most of the Young Lions. This wasn’t their best stuff but I also wouldn’t call it anywhere near bad either. Both guys continue to show improvement and work hard with every opportunity they are given. This did happen to have one of my favorite finishes I’ve ever seen from then. After surviving a Boston crab, Jay White caught a cannonballing Finlay in mid-cannonball, bringing him down into a Boston crab of his own and forcing him to submit. Solid work from solid performers.
I was kind of surprised at this result. Granted, this wasn’t the top dogs of Chaos, but it still came as a bit of a shock. The match itself was about as standard as a New Japan six man tag comes. Each guy got a chance to do a little bit of their stuff, while nobody really shined in a particular way. Ryusuke Taguchi continued his Shinsuke Nakamura tribute by doing his signature taunt towards the end of the match. I still don’t like him though. I do like Kazushi Sakuraba, but he just seems to sleepwalk through matches like this. Anyway, Taguchi made Gedo tap out to the ankle lock to win a ho-hum affair.
So, I enjoy two of the guys in the match but not really the other two. Nagata and Kojima are great, while Nakanishi moves like a planet and Tenzan has never really clicked with me. We got a preview of this on the final Road to New Beginning show on January 30th in a six man tag. I called that match a bit of an old man war and this was more of the same. Just four old dudes beating the stuffing out of each other. Because of that, I rather enjoyed this. The right team went over in my mind since I’ve really come to like Tencozy. They won and showed respect before and afterwards to their fellow elder statesmen. Solid match here.
Tetsuya Naito was up to his usual antics before the match, antagonizing one of the commentators. When he revealed a Yuji Nagata shirt, Naito ripped it off of him. This was my favorite thing on the show so far. Again, it was the interactions throughout that really allowed this to shine. I’d love to see Naito vs. KUSHIDA in the future and even think Elgin/Naito in the G1 this year would be fun. This was obvious build for KUSHIDA vs. BUSHI in a few nights, which should ultimately deliver. KUSHIDA got the mist again, Elgin showed off his power based offense, Naito was great at playing the dick heel and in the end, it was Juice who took the fall after EVIL hit an STO. Really fun sprint.
The first of our two Wrestle Kingdom 10 rematches. So far, Bullet Club members have been the only people to get shots at these belts. Like most Toru Yano matches, this featured a fair amount of brawling outside of the ring. Of course, we also had the turnbuckle pad removed. Like a lot of things involving the Bullet Club recently, Tonga shined in my eyes. He was actually the one that got the pin on Yano to crown the new champions. While I could do without Takahashi ever holding gold again, it’s nice to see Tonga get something. I kind of expected this result since I assume the Briscoes will go back to the States for a while and they love putting belts on the BC. As for the match itself, it was similar to Wrestle Kingdom, but slightly more entertaining.
While they added Ricochet and Matt Sydal, things are still relatively the same in the junior tag division. While I don’t mind either guy, they don’t add anything different to a very stale division. Basically, this is my least favorite tag team (Young Bucks) against a team I don’t care about against the best tag team in the world (reDRagon). They worked in some variations on some spots but this was largely the same multi-man junior tag match that we’ve seen countless times. I did like the spot where each team missed a top rope stereo move, one after the other. They unfortunately even repeated the spot where Cody Hall runs off with Kyle O’Reilly. Shortly after, Sydal and Ricochet nailed their dual shooting star presses to win the straps. Look, I’m always happy with a loss for the Young Bucks, but this revolving door of champions in the division continuing is terrible. Why even do the Wrestle Kingdom title change? reDRagon could have just retained there and dropped them here in the same fashion. The Bucks winning the belts again did nothing. I liked this a bit more than the WK10 match but not by much.
The last time I saw these two wrestle in Osaka, I gave them the rare, full five star treatment during the G1 Climax 23. I love it whenever these two square off and this was no different. While their matches are all similar, they do just enough different each time that it feels fresh, unlike the previous contest. As one would expect, they beat the shit out of each other and it was glorious, but this time around, there was a bit more emphasis on submissions leading up to the climax. Shibata hit a spinning back fist that literally made me gasp aloud. Instead of challenging one another to hit each other harder, like they’ve done in the past, this time, they traded Brainbusters. How insane is that? The closing moments saw them slap each other profusely in a manner that is unthinkable. How they are able to stand at the end of these wars is beyond me. Shibata finally laid in a big enough slap to knock Ishii loopy. That gave him the time to apply the sleeper and win with the PK. Just another fantastic battle between two of my favorite wrestlers in the entire world.
This was a preview of the Tag Team and Intercontinental Title matches at the New Beginning in Niigata show coming up. The Bullet Club were good old fashioned heels throughout this one. Kenny Omega’s broom and Togi Makabe’s chain were both used to assault the babyfaces. While I’m still not a fan of Omega’s overacting, him sweeping up Tanahashi was pretty great. The heels focused on Tanahashi’s arm, which he sold wonderfully, even struggling to skin the cat at one point. Tanahashi played the face in peril which I expected from Honma since he’s basically born for that role. Things picked up near the end and got pretty fun. Omega picked up his second win over a heavyweight this year by pinning Honma with the One Winged Angel. That was the best outcome as it gives Kenny momentum and Honma is a guy that can still afford losses. The Bullet Club attacked after the match, complete with Omega laying into Tanahashi with a steel chair. They punctuated it by placing Tanahashi’s arm on a garbage can and having Omega hit High Fly Flow onto it.
The pre-match video package seemed to focus on Goto being 0-7 in IWGP Heavyweight Title matches, as well as him watching his partner, Katsuyori Shibata, win major singles gold at Wrestle Kingdom. Goto sported a new look. Picture Hakushi and his tattoos and then spill white paint over it. That’s Goto’s new look. Like almost all Okada matches that he leads, the early stages of this were kind of boring and pointless. Once it got going near the end, also like most Okada matches, it really picked up. Goto got a near fall after Shouten Kai that I bit on but Okada got his hand on the bottom rope. Okada finally hit the Rainmaker, then picked Goto back up for two more and earning the win. It kind of felt like Okada was kicking Goto back to the start. Like, you can change your look and attitude, but you still come up short when it matters. Ouch. A good match, but Okada’s second disappointing title match of the year.
Overall: A pretty good show from NJPW here. Most of the card is good and gets at least three stars and none earn less than two. Shibata/Ishii stole the show for the second straight time, putting on yet another classic for the NEVER Title. The entire event clocks in at just under four hours but it moves along relatively quickly and delivers a strong show. With the loss of Nakamura and Styles, and Goto out of the title picture presumably, things are certainly looking interesting heading into the New Japan Cup.