Saturday, February 11, 2017
After a disappointing (to me at least) Sapporo event, the second half of the New Beginning shows is upon us. This one has a stronger card on paper and Osaka is always a hot crowd, which should only help things. The Osaka New Beginning shows have produced some classics in recent years (Naito/Ishii in 2014 and Ishii/Shibata in 2016 come to mind).
I had no clue TAKA’s theme was basically still his old WWF one. The injury to El Desperado caused some reshuffling but I’m okay with this because Henare should benefit from work with a veteran like TAKA. TAKA did his best to wear down his larger opponent and slapped on a crossface but Henare reached the ropes. Henare came back with a diving shoulder block for a near fall. TAKA played the youngster when he trapped his arms and legs in cradle to end it. Fine enough for the opener. It could have used another minute or two to get better though.
You have to feel bad for KUSHIDA considering his partner. YOSHI attacked before the bell, which is rather hypocritical from the “Bullet Club Hunter”. KUSHIDA didn’t take part in the attack. TenKoji played the underhanded game too when Tenzan dropped a knee in KUSHIDA’s groin. YOSHI got a mild tag to no reaction. His spinning heel kick looked worse than Tenzan’s did during his injured G1 25 run. It’s like Viscera levels of bad. Kojima entered and lit them up before winning with the lariat. Another decent match. TenKoji was a lot of fun. Again, not a fan of YOSHI’s performance.
After the match, YOSHITATSU refused to shake hands and brawled with Kojima. I’m assume he returns from CMLL as a heel, hopefully one who performs better in the ring and drops the Triple H cosplay nonsense.
We’ve gotten a lot of Jado on recent shows and I don’t like it. He’s a shittier Gedo in almost every way. Speaking of Gedo, we got some of his hilarious shouting while Tiger Mask worked him over. I must say, the interactions between Liger and Goto were quite fun. Juice got a hot tag and went after Goto. They must be setting up a rematch between the two. Goto hit USHIGOROSHI and somewhere, Mauro Ranallo popped. Things broke down, leaving Juice with Jado. The former CJ Parker took care of that scrub, winning with pulp friction. Another slight uptick in quality on the show so far. Juice brought a lot of fire, Goto and Tacos were their usual selves and Gedo was funny. The only guys who didn’t do anything for me in this were Jado and Tiger Mask.
This is slightly different (Kanemaru instead of TAKA) from the Road to New Beginning match on 1/27. It was RPG Vice who got off to the hot start here. Suzuki beat up Okada outside, again focusing on the leg. The endgame to this better be Suzuki literally ripping Okada’s leg off and beating him over the head with it. That’s the only acceptable outcome. Minoru is such a bad dude, he put both RPG Vice in leg locks at the same time. Okada mostly sold the leg well here. He hit the dropkick but couldn’t follow up due to pain. I appreciate that and felt it was missing at times in their title match. CHAOS took over until that dirty Taichi went low. Suzuki tried putting Okada to sleep while Kanemaru pinned Romero. Good way to further Okada/Suzuki but the Jr. Tag Title picture isn’t interesting me at all.
We’ve reached the portion of the show dominated by LIDJ matches, which should be the jump in quality I’m looking for. Taguchi was dressed as EVIL again. LIDJ attacked early because that’s what heel stables do in NJPW. The faces turned it around and posed for the crowd. Taguchi ended up taking somewhat of a beating, even getting tied up like he was wrestling Jack Gallagher or something. It was interesting to see Taguchi’s ass be the focal point of their attack. Dropkicks and atomic drops galore. Tanahashi got the hot tag because, GO ACE! He ran wild until tagging Nakanishi, who used his power to his advantage. The champs worked a cool trio of submissions (ankle lock, cloverleaf and torture rack) which led to the Hercules cutter, only there was a ref bump. LIDJ hit a series of offense on Manabu but the pin was broken up. After hitting a cross body, Nakanishi had the mist spit at him. He fell into the dragon sleeper and tapped out. As expected, the best thing on the show so far. They made the right booking decision and gave us a fun match. The faces brought energy and entertainment, while the heels did their thing. I thought attacking Taguchi’s ass was smart and different. Down the stretch, they did a great job with false finishes without doing too many kickouts.
Ospreay holds the RPW British Cruiserweight Title here. Unlike the tag previews of this match, Will and Shibata didn’t go right at one another, instead staying completely still. Interesting as neither guy wanted to make the first mistake. They went with grappling early. It isn’t the strongest part of either man’s game but they both do it well enough. Ospreay missed his first two high risk moves but connected on two right after and stole “sit in the ring cross legged” taunt. Will targeted Shibata’s taped knee. He also did Shibata’s corner dropkick. BIG MISTAKE WILLY! He gave Shibata his hardest strikes but the champ shrugged it off and lit into him, finishing with the corner dropkick. Instead of the typical trading Germans spot, Ospreay landed on his feet on one. He went for a handspring kick but got caught into a German anyway. Outside, Will kicked Shibata’s head into the ring post, nearly resulting in a countout but Will powered up and carried Shibata inside. That wasn’t enough so Will pointed to Okada on commentary and called for the Rainmaker. It was blocked but he still caught Shibata with a spinning kick. He nailed the imploding 450 splash yet Shibata got his shoulder up. Will hit a spin kick only for Shibata to counter the Oscutter into the sleeper! Sleeper suplex and the PK ended young Ospreay. A fantastic match that exceeded my expectations. They got creative with their spots, making this just different enough from a lot of Shibata matches. Ospreay looked great taking a heavyweight to the limit, but his best shot wasn’t enough. Along with the first KUSHIDA match last year, this was the best Ospreay performance I’ve seen. Give me a rematch please.
Continuing the trend of Suzuki-Gun injuries, Lance Archer needs back surgery. So instead of Archer and Desperado, we have to watch Taichi and Iizuka. Yikes. Though it does make this slightly different from the last Nee Beginning show. Why book the same match on two straight shows? Because, Gedo. This started with a brawl outside before Yano did his best to avoid Iizuka. He tried tagging out but no one was having that shit. More brawling on the floor followed, killing time. Makabe ran through everyone for a bit before he and Ishii reignited their rivalry from 2015. Suzuki-Gun took control and Iizuka nailed Ishii with the iron claw gimmick. He tried it on Yano but accidentally hit Smith. Yano rolled up Iizuka to retain. Decent fun but nothing more. The one at the last New Beginning show was better.
Their match during Fantastica Mania last year got ****½ from me. There’s a star quality about Takahashi that no other junior, except maybe KUSHIDA, has. They worked the opening sequence at an absurd pace. Lee ended it with a tope suicida that came off like a headbutt. Takahashi superkicked Lee on the apron and delivered a great sunset flip bomb to the outside. Inside, Takahashi went after Lee’s mask. THE BASTARD! They continued to go to war, in and out of the ring, including Lee hitting an insane rana off the apron and a tope con hilo. Lee went for the double stomp off the top but Takahashi pulled off him with a belly to belly to the floor that nearly killed him. Lee answered back by catching a leaping Hiromu in a powerbomb on the floor. THEY’RE GONNA KILL EACH OTHER! After some more exchanges inside, Lee tried the apron rana again but Takahashi countered into a killer apron bomb. After hitting his insane senton spot, Takahashi found himself in trouble in a submission. He survived and we got a weak ref bump. Takahashi completely unmasked Lee, leading to an excellent near fall. They continued with huge near falls, including one a Takahashi destroyer that was among the best I’ve ever seen. Finally, he nailed a corner DVD and the time bomb to keep the title. That was exhausting. It was so different from everything else NJPW puts on in a great way. They told a story of two men who had an answer for everything the other did. They both went out and threw their all at the other to try and beat their rival. This was special.
Post-match, Ryusuke Taguchi entered the ring to congratulate Hiromu Takahashi. Takahashi didn’t care and tried to attack but ended up in the ankle lock. Taguchi/Takahashi is a good idea for the next defense. You hold off on the KUSHIDA rematch, Taguchi is popular and as he showed in the BOSJ finals last year, he can deliver if called upon. It would also work as a bit of a cool down for Takahashi who worked some wild matches since returning.
They ran an awesome video package where Michael Elgin spoke about dreaming of competing in Japan.
Tetsuya Naito has been so good since turning heel, it’s scary. Elgin lost the title to Naito in September and missed his rematch when Naito fractured something in Elgin’s face. Naito’s early stalling was cut off by a slingshot back elbow. Elgin had counters for Naito’s attacks and hit a somersault off the apron. He caught a Naito tope suicida into a suplex on the ramp in an awesome spot. To slow the pace and stop the wild Elgin, Naito went to the knee, which has also worked for him in their past matches. Elgin tried fighting through submissions. His comeback saw him nail modified versions of offense due to the knee. He murdered Naito with lariats, to the champ went back after the leg. Elgin had Naito scouted and showed flashes of power but would still fall victim to stuff because he didn’t have enough in the leg. Naito got caught leaping into a powerbomb for two. Again, Elgin’s power nearly helped him block a super rana but he couldn’t hold on and got hit with it anyway. Naito followed with a reverse rana for two. Elgin caught the disrespectful Naito with an apron air raid crash and then a dead lift falcon arrow. HE DID THE DEAL! Elgin did Naito’s taunt and hit a sick back fist and buckle bomb. Naito countered the Elgin Bomb by attacking the recently injured eye. Destino wasn’t enough and Elgin nailed a corner DVD. They fought outside where Elgin nailed an apron bomb and then a bonkers one into the guardrail. JESUS! On top of that, Naito kicked out of an Elgin Bomb inside. WTF! Naito countered burning hammer twice before eating a spinning back fist. He still came back with a rolling kick and corner Destino for another near fall. Another Destino was finally enough to keep Elgin down. Holy shit. Usually I prefer Elgin stay in his wheelhouse of 10-15 minutes, but with Naito he can go 30+ and be awesome. Their matches have gotten progressively better over time. Both guys delivered outstanding performances and everything they did made sense. The drama was well built and my only gripe would be a bit too many false finishes. Almost everything else worked here. Naito continues to amaze.
Overall: It should come as no surprise that the show centered more around Los Ingobernables is far better than the one last week. The first half of the show is nothing special but nothing there is bad. It mostly features relatively fun tag matches that helped build future matches. Once we got to the NEVER Tag Title match, things picked up. That was a fun match and the IWGP Tag Titles were decent. Shibata/Ospreay was out of this world and somehow the third best match on the card. Lee/Takahashi was one of the best Jr. Title matches I’ve ever seen and a step up from their already insane matches. Same goes for Naito/Elgin. They bested their past and put on an incredible main event.