Just a few days removed from one of the more controversial New Japan Pro Wrestling events in recent memory, “The New Beginning in Sendai” sees a lot of fresh match ups, new title contenders and a main event featuring NJPW’s secondary title. Shinsuke Nakamura as Intercontinental Champion headlining show worked like a charm last year from both business and in-ring perspectives — will he be able to repeat the success with a NJPW legend in Yuji Nagata? Nagata hasn’t been on this big of a stage since his Wrestle Kingdom 7 match with Minoru Suzuki, how much does the 46-year-old have left in the tank?

New Japan Pro Wrestling
“The New Beginning in Sendai”
Sendai, Miyagi, Japan
February 14, 2015
18:00 JST / 4:00 a.m. EST (3:00 a.m. CST)

Live: NJPWWorld.com

Captain New Japan, Manabu Nakanishi and Sho Tanaka vs. Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma and Yohei Komatsu

Rich Kraetsch: This match won’t be very long but I think people are poo-pooing it a bit too much. Look at who you have here: Tanaka & Komatsu are supremely talented, Kojima is criminally underrated, Captain New Japan is great as his role, Nakanishi…is…well, okay but Honma is the greatest. I have no doubt these guys will put together a compelling, fun 8-minute match.

Prediction: Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma and Yohei Komatsu

Jason Felix: I think the most interesting thing about this match is whether Kojima ends up in it or if he moves up the card to face Ishii in a singles match. I assume Togi Makabe is going to be healthy by show time (I’d rather see Ishii v. Kojima…), so I think Team Kojima will win this one fairly easily.

Prediction: Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma & Yohei Komatsu

Alex Giardini: These matches are becoming a little repetitive, and quite frankly, they aren’t deemed mandatory in terms of viewing. I expect Honma to steal the show here, like he does almost every time he’s in tag competition (and maybe even singles competition, too).

Prediction: Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma and Yohei Komatsu 

Damon McDonald: Here is what is going to sell you on this match : The short time Honma and Sho Tanaka will be in the ring together. Everything else will result in the usual ** six-man tag tomfoolery you see on EVERY SINGLE New Japan show. It is like a salad at the beginning of a meal. You eat it because it is there. Bring on the steak, please.

Prediction: Captain New Japan, Manabu Nakanishi and Sho Tanaka

 Jay White and Tiger Mask vs. reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) 

Rich Kraetsch: When previewing this show a few weeks back on the VOW podcast, we looked at this match as proof that reDRagon was going to drop the tag titles in Osaka. Welp, here we are! Let’s hope this isn’t reDRagon’s send off and it’s just a brief distraction from eventually getting back in the junior tag division. Either way, I can’t see either young boy Jay White or the awful Tiger Mask winning so reDRagon probably lives to fight another day.

Prediction: reDRagon

Jason Felix: The now former champs still haven’t been beat since last August (who ever invented matches where you can lose titles without being beaten? I hate them), so this is probably the easiest match to pick on the card. Can the former champions beat the Young Lion and the old timer? Yes. Yes they can.

Prediction: reDRagon 

Alex Giardini: I’m not sure when ROH is planning on taking back their youth, and you can’t blame them, either, since their contracted wrestlers have actually been getting more over elsewhere. After a long unbeaten streak, reDRagon are likely to continue their feud against The Young Bucks in both NJPW and ROH, and I don’t see them doing the job to White & Tiger Mask. Maybe if this was WCW and interference was imminent in every match, the Young Bucks would screw them out of a victory, but I think we’re safe.

Prediction: reDRagon

Damon McDonald: reDRagon have been put in a tough spot here. Tiger Mask isn’t gonna help and Jay White’s rung on the New Japan ladder isn’t going to allow for much aside from taking the fall. It’ll be short and a bit of a one-sided affair but can’t see any other result than reDRagon winning and winning big.

Prediction: reDRagon

Alex Shelley, Kushida and Máscara Dorada vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson)

Rich Kraetsch: We’ve seen TimeSplitters vs. Bucks 1,000 times, we know what we’re going to get out of those two so I’m not too worried, concerned or outwardly interested. It’ll be good, there will be flying, superkicks for everyone, etc., etc. All of my focus will be on Omega and Dorada who kickstart their IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title feud with this match. Omega has been nothing short of disappointing as “The Cleaner” and a feud with Dorada, as well as some genuinely good matches will help me get back on board.

Prediction: Bullet Club

Jason Felix: The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega immediately became some of my favorites wrestlers in the world when they took Ryusuke Taguchi out of this show with a Spike Tombstone on a chair. This match should be a lot of fun if they give it some time. I’m excited to see Omega in the ring with some actual talent. Considering the Time Splitters lost on Wednesday and they have Dorada in the match to build for the Junior Heavyweight Title match, this makes it another slam dunk choice. By the way, how did Dorada ever earn a shot at the title?

Prediction: Mascara Dorada & Time Splitters 

Alex Giardini: On one side, you’ve got a crop of fan favorites that can entice any crowd in the world to get behind them, and on the opposite side, you have arguably the most exciting group of wrestlers walking God’s green earth today. Kenny Omega and the Bucks have wrestlers that work equally as hard as them across the ring, which should be a doozy to watch. I’ll say this could be one of the best matches of the night, if not the best (the main event is pretty saucy). I’ll pick the faces for this one, but it’s a bit of a coin flip for me.

Prediction: Alex Shelley, Kushida and Máscara Dorada 

Damon McDonald: This is the first match on the show that I can say I am looking forward to seeing and I’ll go out on a limb and say it’ll be match of the night. It needs a little more time than the usual six-man pre-intermission match, and I pray that Omega is done shoving poles up people’s asses (Really, Kenny you are pushing me to the limit with this DDTish comedy (?) gimmick)…but with that said a match with Time Splitters, Young Bucks, Omega and Dorada has the potential to be a wild ride. The match is here to help further the Dorada / Omega title match so bank on a post-match nose-to-nose/mask confrontation between the two.

Prediction: Mascara Dorada & Time Splitters

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship
Jushin Thunder Liger (c) vs. Chase Owens

Rich Kraetsch: Tharpe, Tharpe, Tharpe! But seriously, we get to see Bruce Tharpe and that’s always a good day. Owens has definitely found his groove in New Japan over the past few months after a terrible debut. Liger doesn’t give you much these days but he can still piece together a compelling match. With the uneasiness about NWA/NJPW’s future relationship, I’m looking at Owens winning the belt here and taking it back with him to the states. Liger is coming to the United States at the end of February, but to New Jersey’s PWS promotion, none of the NWA affiliates. A title switch is not out of the realm of possibility here.

Prediction: Chase Owens

Jason Felix: I am not looking forward to this one. Liger really doesn’t look like he’s got much left in the tank as of late. Owens pinned him on Wednesday, so I fully expect Liger to get the win on this show.

Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Alex Giardini: This NWA vs. NJPW rivalry isn’t really dazzling anyone, yet the matches haven’t been all that bad. Maybe the plan is for Liger to do more dates in the States, but I sort of think he loses here. Owens needs to step up in this rivalry, though, and here’s hoping it doesn’t end prematurely if he claims gold.

Prediction: Chase Owens

Damon McDonald: Look, Jushin Liger is over 50 years old but I’ll tell you he can still construct a match that can be real good. Not great. Not five stars. Solid. You saw it last year with KUSHIDA and Adam Cole – in a big spot where he needs to go solo for 10 minutes ( and with the right guy carrying some of the heavy lifting ) Liger can give you a good middle-of-the-show match. Here is where I worry. Chase Owens really hasn’t done it for me and I don’t think he is a guy that can get those last drops of “really good” out of Liger. I haven’t seen them as a good fit together and, truth be told, I don’t know if that is on Owens or Liger or just that they just don’t mesh well. Liger gets the win, he comes to New Jersey, I get my 10th picture taken with him, and we eat sushi off of the NWA Jr. Title.

Prediction: Jushin Liger 

NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Rob Conway (c) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan 

Rich Kraetsch: Rob Conway has 35 NJPW matches to his name, 9 of those (25%) have involved Hiroyoshi Tenzan in some form or fashion. I’m sure you would love for me to break down every one of those nine but I’ll spare you this time around. This won’t be good but it won’t be bad, it’s what we like to call on the VOW podcast “The Rob Conway ** Special.” I’d like to see a fresher opponent for Conway, perhaps a non-TenKoji opponent but what can you do. This will be meaningless in the grand scheme of things, Conway will win and we will forget it happened five minutes after it’s done.

Prediction: Rob Conway 

Jason Felix: I must say that I am really glad that Tenzan seems healthier. I remember one year ago and I couldn’t stand seeing the guy in the ring. He’s been perfectly fine ever since his impressive G1 showing. Conway will hold his own as well, so if the crowd is not dead (and that’s no guarantee with these NWA matches) I expect this will be a decent little match. I think Conway is going to drop the belt in New Japan again soon, but I don’t think it’s going to be against Tenzan.

Prediction: Rob Conway

Alex Giardini: Not the most mouthwatering contest on the card, although I think these two heavyweights can surprise many. I doubt Tenzan will be taking the title from Conway, who will most likely hold on to the strap for another few months before dropping it to someone with a little more upside in regards to being an up and comer, instead of a veteran of Tenzan’s caliber.

Prediction: Rob Conway

Damon McDonald: Ugh. Not going to pretend I am into this match in any way. This is the type of match that takes me back to the New Japan dark ages where big, thick, plodding, heavyweights clotheslined each other and the crowd to sleep. The NWA title matches have zero sizzle and if the relationship died here I really wouldn’t lose much sleep over it…nor would anyone else aside from Tenzan and Kojima because it feels like they are the only two New Japan wrestlers that EVER get a shot at NWA titles. Please, just make it quick. That is all that I ask.

Prediction: Rob Conway 

Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano vs. Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito

Rich Kraetsch: Things I like: Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito as a tag team building up to a tag title reign for the duo before they break out on a great singles run halfway through the year. Things I don’t like: Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano. I know, I know, Wreddit and the like love Toru Yano but he sucks. Sakuraba is capable of having good matches but refuses to do so unless it’s on a grand stage with a great opponent (and who can blame him). I can’t put a handle on this match, is it going to be awesome, will it suck? Will it be fully comedy or Sakuraba as a badass interacting with Ibushi (this could be fun). I have no idea but I do know Ibushi/Naito are winning.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito 

Jason Felix: I was really excited for this match up until Wednesday. I was so sure Goto & Shibata were going to win and then Ibushi/Naito would win setting up an amazing tag team title match. Well, that’s not going to happen. Even so, I think this match is going to be a lot of fun. Yano looks like he’s been having a good time lately getting to wrestle people not named Minoru Suzuki. It’s also pretty cool seeing guys like Ibushi & Naito have to wrestle Sakuraba’s style. This match will be a pleasant surprise.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito

Alex Giardini: This match could be fun, or it could be the moment where you decide to make a tuna sandwich out of sheer boredom and lurk some Facebook profiles until it’s over. I can’t see how Ibushi & Naito lose to Saku & Yano, but I guess anything’s possible after Wednesday’s offering.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito 

Damon McDonald:  This match could be great or it could really be a disappointment and a bit of a stinker (way to go out on a limb, right? ). The idea of Sakuraba and Yano together is super scary (and NOT in a good way ) while Naito & Ibushi has me juiced up for a future run as tag champs. Naito finally would have some direction in the new year, you know you’d have great matches, and you know you’ll have one hell-of-a- babyface tag team. If Ibushi & Naito can pull  ***½ out of Yano and Sakuraba, I am giving them Tag Team of the Year right after the show. Done deal.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi

Rich Kraetsch: Okada may be my favorite current wrestler in the world right now, I love everything about the guy from his aura, his entrance, his moves, his dropkick, everything, I love the dude. The other three guys I can’t stand. In the case of Yoshi-Hashi, I just don’t think he’s any good and I’d like for someone else to be giving the opportunities he gets. Fale and Yujiro? I would be fine never seeing them work again. I don’t hate Yujiro as much as others but he’s really not good and Fale is just a waste of space who keeps pre-occupying NJPW stars for months at a time. Okada wins and keeps his momentum going, hopefully towards a big win against Fale and better things ahead.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi

Jason Felix: This is the best worst feud that New Japan has done is a long time. The story of the Fall of Okada has been brilliant, but the matches have been well below par. Okada really dominated on Wednesday, so I expect Fale will get the win on this show. I don’t think he’ll pin Okada again, though. I’m still trying to figure out where/when the eventual singles match will come. It’s either in the First Round or Finals of the New Japan Cup or at Invasion Attack (or I suppose the First Round of the New Japan Cup AND Invasion Attack). My money is that they will keep them apart until Invasion Attack. One other possibility is that Yujiro will get the pin on YOSHI-HASHI and then due to the Nagata Principle immediately declare himself the #1 contender for the Intercontinental Title.

Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Alex Giardini: So, this is basically a precursor to Okada vs. Fale, which should take place in the very near future. Takahashi should make this match fun, and I strongly believe he’s the most underrated Bullet Club member (even though I seem to be the only person on this site that thinks Tama Tonga is being misused – Editor’s Note: Nope, listen to the most recent VOW podcast!). Anyway, stemming from the Bullet Club’s overhaul a few days ago, the heels will take this one and Fale can rub it in Okada’s face (even if he does it silently with his arms crossed).

Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Damon McDonald: Fale and Takahashi. Let’s let that roll around in your mind for a moment. Fale has done little since his Nakamura run last year and Takahashi is Takahashi. I think we can see the direction of Okada and Fale matching up at Invasion Attack in April so a safe bet would be the Bullet Club getting the win. It is also a safe bet to say that this has been the longest month and a half for Okada fans. It feels like this Fale/Okada thing has been going on forever and it has only been a bit over a month since Wrestle Kingdom. Do I want to see if Okada can make magic out of Fale? Yes. Do I wish Fale/Okada was on this show and we could be over it? Yes, because of matches like this.

Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Bullet Club (Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga) vs. Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata

Rich Kraetsch: I should be more excited about this match given the competitors but it seems like a boring, thrown together six-man. I think the real crux of it is Goto & Shibata vs. Guns & Gallows has been done to absolute death the last few months and seeing these guys interact in the ring isn’t doing it for me anymore. Tanahashi will be fun but given his brutal match with Styles just a few days ago and the penchant for stars to treat these six-mans as a formality, look for him to be a complete non-factor.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata

Jason Felix: Three of the top stars in New Japan vs. The tag champs and modern day Barry Horowitz. This match is solely there for the battered and beaten babyfaces to save a little bit of face after being soundly defeated last Wednesday.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata

Alex Giardini: Giving the titles back to Gallows & Anderson was a strange move, since Goto & Shibata couldn’t have been more loved by their Japanese faithful  and it seemed like it was their time (for Christ’s sake, they even made cute little t-shirts). I don’t know who Tanahashi pins after hitting the High Fly Flow, but the babyfaces aren’t dropping this one.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata 

Damon McDonald: I am baffled as to why Goto and Shibata would drop the straps back to Gallows and Anderson. It’s been a long time since I have sat on my couch and have said “what the fuck are they thinking?” when it comes to the direction and booking of NJPW. With that, this has “make-up” win written all over it. Hopefully, Tanahashi doesn’t go into his six-man shell and take the night off. Whew , I am not pumped about this match at all. Tonga takes the fall – I just hope everyone has their working shoes on.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata 

NEVER Openweight Championship
Togi Makabe (c) vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Rich Kraetsch: Ishii winning the title back sounds like a good idea. I don’t mind Makabe, I actually enjoy him most of the time but he doesn’t need the title now, it does nothing for him while it does a lot for Ishii. It means more opportunities for Ishii, higher profile matches and a bevy of other contender. Sure, those same opportunities can be given to Makabe but does anyone really want to see that in 2015? I know I don’t.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Jason Felix: I never thought that there would be an Ishii match that I wasn’t looking forward to, but here we are. They had a very good, yet disappointing match at Wrestle Kingdom. Then Makabe gets sick and they put Kojima in with Ishii and it makes me think, “I’d sure rather see that match.”  I wasn’t quite sure what the point was of putting the belt on Makabe. Now, if Ishii loses again, he would be dropping back down to the tag match section of the card. I just can’t see that happen. Ishii made this title the way Nakamura made the Intercontinental Title. I expect him to win it back here.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Alex Giardini: If this was America, I’d have Ishii rip off the tape from his shoulder and choke the living daylights out of Makabe. Although titles frequently switching hands can be a lot of fun if done properly, I don’t think it’s going to happen here, even though that would be the right call. Makabe will get another victory over Ishii, and dare I say it, the match will be better than their encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 9, paving the way for Ishii to take some time off (like a month, realistically) and heal.

Prediction: Togi Makabe 

Damon McDonald: I’ve gone back and forth on thinking this might be a title switch but in the end I am going with Makabe keeping the NEVER championship. Maybe, just maybe, it is finally time that Ishii takes a well-deserved break and gets healthy again. Probably not as we’ve been saying this since last year’s G1 but let him lose here and I don’t want to see him until Invasion Attack. This is your out – please take advantage of it, Ishii. Go out with a bang but take some time off. You’ll thank me when you turn 40.

Prediction: Togi Makabe 

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Yuji Nagata

Rich Kraetsch: You either like Nagata or you don’t. He’s very polarizing and for good reason, he hasn’t been many truly compelling matches as of late. I don’t blame Nagata though, I blame the nothing matches he’s constantly put in. This is not a nothing match, this is a big deal for him and NJPW. I’ll eat crow if he stinks the joint up but I think he’s going to put on a performance that will make us all realize how poorly utilized Nagata has been over the past few years. Put this into perspective, Nagata has had 8 non-G1 televised singles matches since 2012. His opponents in those 8 matches: Toru Yano, Bad Luck Fale, Taichi, Kazushi Sakuraba, Takashi Iizuka and Minoru Suzuki. It shouldn’t come as any surprise the best of those matches was against Suzuki. Nagata has simply not had the opportunity over the past few years to shine as a singles competitor in New Japan. This is his chance, I hope he doesn’t blow it.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura 

Jason Felix: This is the match I am most looking forward to on this entire tour. I can’t explain it, but I love everything about this match. I love that Nagata somehow earned the title shot by pinning YOSHI-HASHI on back to back nights. I love that Nakamura appears to be treating Nagata as a total joke. I think this is going to be an awesome match. They had a great one at the G-1 last year, too. What I remember about that match is Nakamura taunted old man Nagata all match, acting like Nagata just wasn’t in his league anymore. Then at the end of the match, Nakamura beat Nagata, proving that he wasn’t in his league. It’s been quite similar this time around, with Nakamura acting shocked Nagata would even ask for a match to the relentless taunting and mocking of Nagata. The point is…and I may be the only person on the planet that thinks this…but I think Nagata is going to win this match. I thought it was a mistake putting the IC Belt back on Nakamura last September. Now with the Bullet Club going for all the titles again, that would scream another potential Nakamura vs. Bad Luck Fale match. I don’t think they want to go that way again. However, Nagata is close with Fale, and I have a feeling they’d be fine going with that match. On top of that, we’ve got the New Japan Cup. Imagine if Nakamura loses. Then we’ll have Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura, Ibushi all in the same tournament. Imagine the intrigue of those four on top of the other top guys, like Shibata, Naito, Ishii, Goto, Makabe, Fale, etc. This tournament is deep. I don’t think Okada is winning the tournament, due to the Fale singles match that I think is coming at Invasion Attack. I think Nakamura is going to win so New Japan can run a HUGE first time match at Invasion Attack, A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.

Prediction: Yuji Nagata

Alex Giardini: Despite being the most used image to promote the New Beginning events, I think this contest is going to be magical, and we may not realize it right away because of all that’s been happening in Japan (and elsewhere) right now. I think the concept of this match will be to tease a victory for Nagata the whole way through, as he batters the younger and quicker Nakamura into a bloody pulp. Some feel like Nakamura should drop the title and insert himself into the heavyweight championship picture alongside the likes of Styles, Tanahashi, and Okada, and while I agree, I’m not so sure Nagata is the one that should take the belt away from him. Either way, this match should be incredible, but maybe not a five-star bout.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Damon McDonald: Remember earlier when I wrote all that stuff about Tenzan? Well, you can insert Nagata’s name in there as well. He does NOTHING for me. Sorry. It makes it real hard for me to get excited about this match. I just don’t get it with Nagata…I never have and I never will. The build has been fine as Nagata has something to prove against the younger, brash Nakamura but I just can’t find that spark that makes me want anything other than a Nakamura win. I am not rooting , in any way, for the old, grizzled vet to find a way to get the win. In fact, it is just the opposite. I want Nakamura to end it violently. I was not thrilled when this was built in January but I am really hoping my feelings going into this match are proved wrong. I want to be proved wrong. I want Nagata to shove it in my face. I want it to be great but my gut is saying that we might all be disappointed in this show as the closing video package is shown.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura