Thursday, February 9, 2017

NJPW Road To The New Beginning Review

NJPW Road to The New Beginning
February 7th, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

I had no idea this show was even happening. I woke up and was so confused at there being another show to watch. As usual, this is meant to build towards the New Beginning in Osaka event this Saturday. There are a rare three elimination tag matches on this card, which should be fun.

Henare def. Tomoyuki Oka in 5:32
It’s nice to see a singles match open a card full of tag matches. I’ve seen Henare more but I feel like Oka has more potential. Being under Yuji Nagata’s wing helps. These two had some good back and forth, with both guys impressing. There’s potential for great hoss battles between them down the line. Henare worked the crab but Oka escaped twice. Oka got the better of a strike exchange but Henare came back with a Samoan drop, suplex and the crab for the win. Fun opener. I love when the young lions get a chance to do their thing because they always bring effort. **½

Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata def. Jushin Thunder Liger and YOSHITATSU in 6:59
Seriously, when the hell is YOSHITATSU leaving? He made the mistake of trying to strike Nagata, which led to him getting his ass kicked. When Liger came in, the match improved. Watching the heavyweight dads and the junior dad go at it was a blast. TATSU came back in and tried fighting Nagata again. BRING HOME A BETTER REPORT CARD! He didn’t learn because Nagata beats his ass again. Nagata cut off the Pedigree and shortly after, Kojima won with a lariat. Better than I expected. Kojima and Nagata are great together and that bumped this up in quality. **¾

Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tiger Mask IV def. TAKA Michinoku and Takashi Iizuka via disqualification in 8:14
The Suzuki-Gun team attacked before the bell because that’s what they do. Iizuka working over Tenzan was slow and dull. TAKA vs. Tiger Mask should have quickened the pace, but it did so only slightly. We got some brawling in the crowd before Tiger Mask fired up with a tiger bomb. The faces took over and Tenzan locked in the anaconda vice. TAKA made the save and tried to use a chair. He got cut off but Iizuka attacked with the iron claw gimmick, resulting in the DQ. I liked almost none of that. I have a soft spot for Tenzan, but everyone else in here was the shits. ¼*

Elimination Match: Great Bash Heel, Juice Robinson, RPW British Heavyweight Champion Katsuyori Shibata and KUSHIDA def. CHAOS (Gedo, NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, Jado, Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI) in 15:46
Hirooki Goto. Still can’t win the big one and is captain of the CHAOS B-Team here. Since his stuff with Goto ended last week, the emphasis was on Shibata and Ospreay. They went to war from the start and Shibata booted Ospreay to eliminate him. I was surprised at how quickly it happened. Shibata followed suit, eliminating himself to further assault his opponent for Saturday. So much for that being the focus of the match. Things calmed down after, with each guy getting some shine. Gedo was next to go after a Makabe hot tag and King Kong Knee Drop. Jado suffered a similar fate to Makabe shortly after. Makabe, protected from a pinfall loss, got sent over the top by YOSHI. KUSHIDA then sent YOSHI packing and was knocked out by Goto. Goto was left alone with Honma and Juice. Juice nearly accidentally eliminated Honma but Honma held on until Goto sent him packing. It was time for Goto vs. Juice, which was great at the last show. They teased a suplex to the outside and they kept countering one another. Juice then used three clotheslines to eliminate Goto and win. Good fun. The Ospreay/Shibata stuff was great, the match didn’t go too long, everyone got some shine and the finish potentially sets up another Juice/Goto match, which I’m all for. ***¼

Elimination Match: Suzuki-Gun (The Killer Elite Squad, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) def. CHAOS (IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Roppongi Vice and IWGP Tag Team Champions Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) in 25:39
I will never not mark for the fans singing Suzuki’s theme. Suzuki attacked Okada during the introductions. Things broke down quickly and RPG Vice nailed stereo suicide dives to a pop. They tried their high five celebration outside but KES cut them off and worked them over. Suzuki went after Okada’s knee again, but after 40 minutes of it failing last weekend, does it even matter? However, I do like that Suzuki is sticking to his guns, hoping to weaken him big time if he gets a rematch. Rocky ran wild with FOREVER clotheslines until he was dumped outside by the Suzuki-Gun juniors. Ishii entered and showed no fear, spitting at KES and getting jumped. Thank goodness Ishii turned it around and got rid of the awful Taichi with a brainbuster. Ishii battled with Smith on the apron before eliminating him with a dropkick. Archer took out Ishii after a chokeslam and strikes. Yano nearly used his antics to get rid of Archer but the big man held on. Archer hooked him in the midst of his RVD taunt with a full nelson and dumped him over. Okada came in fighting but his leg was shot. He barely managed a dropkick to get rid of Archer. Suzuki attacked the leg again but Okada refused to submit. He fought off the Gotch piledriver and got Suzuki on the apron. Using a sleeper, Suzuki pulled Okada over the top. He slapped on another knee bar that led to Okada falling outside. Beretta dropkicked Suzuki out, leaving it down to him and Kanemaru. They went back and forth, with Beretta coming close on a running knee. Taichi helped Kanemaru out, leading to him winning via deep impact. Another strong elimination bout. It did a great job of building towards future tag title matches, while also furthering Suzuki/Okada. These matches are simply fun. ***½

Elimination Match: Dragon Lee, Michael Elgin and NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito) in 20:31
The babyface team wore shades, while Taguchi again had a cheap bat and mask to mock SANADA. Naito stopped during his entrance to argue about Don Callis replacing his buddy Steve Corino. Like New Beginning in Sapporo, Lee and Takahashi started this with their fantastic chemistry. Similar to the previous match, it was a while before an elimination, with everyone getting their shit in. Elgin had a particularly good spot where he hit a deadlift German on SANADA while Takahashi was on his back. He destroyed Naito with several violent lariats. BUSHI was first to go, unsurprisingly, with High Fly Flow. With Takahashi around, I fear BUSHI will get lost in the shuffle. We got some interactions between Tanahashi and SANADA, reminding me of their great matches in 2016. In a surprising move, Tanahashi was next out, thanks to EVIL, after teasing skinning the cat. They botched Nakanishi’s elimination with him falling to the mat before getting sent over by Naito and EVIL. Elgin ended his hot run with a hip toss to send him outside. More from Elgin and Naito saw Naito hang on for dear life after several strikes. Naito fought Elgin on the apron but dropped off rather than get hit. Smart man that Naito. He held Elgin so Takahashi could dropkick him out, though Elgin fell awkwardly. Naito wasn’t saved when Takahashi back dropped Lee over and onto him. Taguchi was left alone with SANADA and Takahashi. Taguchi ended up on the apron with both men. He ducked their double team, causing SANADA to kick Takahashi and eliminate him. They exchanged stuff, with Taguchi mostly having to fight from behind. A ref bump caused SANADA getting eliminated to be missed. SANADA got back in and whacked Taguchi with his own bat. Taguchi still managed to survive a fair amount of SANADA’s offense before countering the dragon sleeper into a flash rollup that won things. The most fun of the three elimination matches. Everyone worked hard and it made me even more pumped for the upcoming New Beginning show, which looks far better on paper than the Sapporo one. Almost every interaction was great, though I’d rather Taguchi not have pinned SANADA to win. Still, I’d say this was my favorite non-WK 11 NJPW match this year. ***¾

Overall: 7/10. I enjoyed that more than last weekend’s New Beginning event. Having only six matches helped as there wasn’t much fluff. The only thing I’d say was worth skipping was the terrible Iizuka tag. Even the YOSHITATSU match over delivered. The three elimination matches were all fun and different, while building to the upcoming New Beginning event in great fashion.