NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo
February 1, 2020
We’re in Sapporo, as you’d expect, at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center. This drew 4,569 fans. The same show last year drew 4.868. Not a huge decline but it is a decline. That show was headlined by Tanahashi and Okada teaming against Fale and Jay White so it’s not like it had a loaded top end. I’m skipping a few undercard matches here because I don’t have enough time to watch both this and Feb 2.
Ryu Lee & Robbie Eagles vs. Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI
Hiromu vs. Dragon Lee is a modern classic. Two guys who are both nuts doing nutty things. I showed my mate one of their matches from CMLL as an advertisement for getting back into wrestling and he looked sorely tempted.
Hiromu & BUSHI, being from the same faction, have better tag team chemistry. The Lee-Takahashi sequences are mad as usual. You almost expect a reduced amount of insanity seeing as their rivalry resulted in Hiromu breaking his neck but it’s still nuts. The match feels less important when they’re not in there and Eagles in particular works really hard to try and shake that feeling. Eagles taps out BUSHI and the hint of Lee vs. Hiromu part 20*, or whatever, looms.
Final Rating: ***3/4
*They’ve wrestled each other in various formats nearly 100 times. In singles they’ve wrestled 17 times. Lee is up 11-6, although Lee’s dominance was early on. Since Hiromu returned full time to NJPW they’re 2-2. It’s tough to call the winner based on their history.
KENTA & Jay White vs. Tetsuya Naito & SANADA
The KENTA angle at WK sure got a lot of heat but will it actually lead to a good match? I’m saying not, probably. KENTA is in rough shape and Naito isn’t doing much better. It’s left to the unlikely duo of SANADA and Jay to pick the pace up. Two wrestlers who are very capable but I find boring in long matches. This being SANADA they do weird spots that don’t work and fail to use his natural athleticism. The match is needlessly long and I actively want it to end. They run antics and Gedo sneaks in a chair shot for Jay to roll up SANADA. I did not enjoy this in the slightest.
Final Rating: **
Minoru Suzuki & Taichi vs. Kazuchika Okada & Jon Moxley
Okada and Mox; together at last!
I appreciate Mox selling his eye injury from AEW like big Tim Thatcher did when he got a cigarette in the eye in wXw a few years ago. Mox vs. Suzuki is one of these weird dream matches that you never think will happen. Suzuki will probably have a handful of those Mania weekend. I love it. Suzuki belting Mox in the good eye is great stuff.
This motherfucker right here is about to get his fingers broken. The main issue this match has is the lack of fire from Okada in facing Taichi. He doesn’t seem bothered. The contrast between this and Suzuki vs. Mox is palpable. Suzuki has an aura about him but Mox knows what he has here. Taichi seems to be saving himself for tomorrow. Mox and Suzuki slap each other in the face a lot and I dig that Suzuki sneaks under into the sleeper under Mox’s bad eye. He literally can’t see him. Gotch Style Piledriver finishes and Suzuki gets one over the US champ.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Miho Abe is beside herself at Taichi’s savagery here. I bet she has a Rainmaker poster in her room. The good news is that Taichi finally gets some heat on that Okada match after the match. The post match gets wackier with Sabre choking Okada out and Ospreay trying, and failing, to save his mentor. And it’s still not over; Black Mephisto and Stretch Plum on the ramp. Okada must have thought he was having a nice little preview match, Taichi is trying to kill him.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. EVIL
These two are going to kick fuck out of each other. I can’t say I really buy into EVIL but that’s largely connected to my overall disinterest in LIJ rather than anything he’s done personally. His style of wrestling tends to vary. He’s very capable of having a smashmouth match but also he likes to grind away at meh. The pacing is perhaps a little lacking in urgency and they crawl to 15 minutes. I love Ishii but he feels borderline sluggish here compared to his big matches and I can’t help but feel this is down to EVIL’s pacing. When the match does kick into gear, just after twenty minutes, it’s basically over in a matter of seconds. Ishii winning with a Brainbuster. It’s rare that, as a big Ishii fan, that one of his matches does so little for me. Again, I’m going to blame EVIL. I don’t much care for his shtick.
Final Rating: ***1/2
NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Shingo Takagi
Goto is another wrestler who I struggle with but at least he has a couple of matches a year that are fucking amazing. Which is a couple more than EVIL.
Shingo is arguably the best wrestler in the company and certainly has an air of explosiveness that’s pretty much unparalleled in New Japan. This combination of explosiveness, power and intensity is what makes him feel so special. After about ten minutes it becomes apparent that Goto is in The Mood and we’re in for a cracker. If this Goto showed up consistently he’d be one of the best wrestlers in the world. I cannot comprehend why he’s so patchy. Also, I don’t much care for his finish but he breaks out a variant here with Shingo draped off the ropes and it looks absolutely fucking badass but also doesn’t feel like a near fall even.
They do some good work throughout the match with little moments working. Shingo having to spit out his mouth guard when he’s headbutted in the back of the head is cool but I’d like to see that logically lead to a spot where he’s knocked out. Instead Last of the Dragon scores the win and the title for Shingo. This felt good but not quite great. Goto was much better than usual here though so it’s recommended.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Shingo out here making the NEVER belt relevant.