New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Beginning in Osaka
February 11, 2016

EDION Arena – Osaka, Japan
Watch: NJPWWorld

It seems like forever ago – Wrestle Kingdom 10. Shinsuke Nakamura was the IWGP Intercontinental Champion… now he’s in WWE. AJ Styles went from wrestling for the same title… now he’s in WWE. Kenny Omega was losing a Jr. Heavyweight Title match… now he’s the prime contender for the Intercontinental Championship. Hell, maybe it’s not that much has changed in NJPW in that month long span, but rather the Intercontinental Title itself just causes weirdness around it.

Either way, it’s been a trying month for NJPW. A trying month out of the ring. Finally, with New Beginning in Osaka, we get back to in ring action for NJPW on a big stage. Tonight, the IWGP Heavyweight title and NEVER Openweight titles are on the line. Both very important championships, especially now as the Intercontinental championship is about to go through a bit of a rebuilding period. Also, the NEVER 6-Man championship rematch between Bullet Club and Toru Yano & the Briscoes.

With the departures of Nakamura and Styles, stalwarts of 2014-2015, it’s a new beginning for NJPW – The New Beginning in Osaka!

Jay White def. David Finlay 

In the recent past, an exciting part of watching the openers to New Japan Pay-Per-Views was witnessing the growth of Yohei Komatsu and Sho Tanaka. Now, those two are away… wrestling in Mexico for CMLL. This year, we witness the growth of two more young lions. Jay White and David Finlay, both foreigners, are already pretty good. Rather than particular in-ring growth, I await to see the evolution of Jay White and David Finlay as characters. Jay has the mohawk, shows charisma and playfulness in the ring, and gets the crowd behind him. David, at times, is a non-nonsense fella like his father, Fit. While I see more potential in Jay than I do David, both have the chances to become big time players in New Japan down the line. If not in NJPW, certainly somewhere. ***

Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger def. Gedo & YOSHI-YASHI & Kazushi Sakuraba 

Tiger Mask was motivated, which was a big factor in how much I’d enjoy this match. The second match of the night, it was a fun live experience for the crowd but not much to rely on for the TV audience. Easy, quick match seeing Taguchi tap Gedo out to the ankle lock. **

TenKoji (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan) def. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi 

TenKoji is now in line for an IWGP Heavyweight tag title shot, as Kojima pinned Nakanishi after a strong lariat. Both teams showed respect for each other before and after the match… a match that was pretty slow going. Understandably so, considering the bodies involved. The bout was pretty strong, good despite the slower pace. ***

EVIL & Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI def. Juice Robinson & Michael Elgin & KUSHIDA 

At times a mess, but at times a real good look into the future. BUSHI and KUSHIDA were limited in their interaction, but the brief tidbits made me quite excited for their Jr. Heavyweight title match on Sunday. Michael Elgin and Tetsuya Naito seemed destined to square off, as well, in the near future. Whether it’s an important match in the New Japan Cup, or perhaps earlier at ROH Honor Rising, it is a match I’m looking forward to, as well. EVIL got the win, pinning Juice Robinson, a predictable result. Naito never took the Los Ingobernables shirt off. He also got in a confrontation with commentary on separate occasions. What a jerk. **1/2

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Championship
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga) def. Toru Yano & Mark Briscoe & Jay Briscoe 

Bullet Club won the titles, a change that was relatively obvious based on the same match being announced for Niigata. I assume now that the non-title match will turn into a title rematch. The appearance of the NEVER 6-man titles on ROH Honor Rising is still uncertain. Given ten minutes, the match never clicked much. Mark Briscoe and Tama Tonga were probably the stars of the bout, really trying to let this match come across as a big deal. Wearing camo pants, Tama Tonga looked like Mark Briscoe from the back at times. It could just be a result of my early morning lack of focus, however. **

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Ricochet & Matt Sydal def. The Young Bucks & reDRagon 

Sydal & Ricochet pinned the Young Bucks after stereo Shooting Star Press aerials off the top rope. The victory came after Ricochet had cut off the Bucks during More Bang For Your Buck. If you enjoy chaotic multi-team Jr. tag matches in NJPW, this one should surely lit your fire.

Early on, a pretty traditional tag match was seen. However, like usual, a melee broke out in the ring and the action went swiftly. In a funny moment, Kyle O’Reilly was sent over the top ropes into the arms of Cody Hall on the outside. Hall, not knowing what to do at first, had the idea of stealing O’Reilly. Yep… theft! Hall carried O’Reilly on his shoulders to the backstage area, presumably dumping him there as O’Reilly never returned.

The finish gave Ricochet and Sydal the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight tag titles, another title change in a division perpetually involved in a game of hot potato. Ricochet and Sydal are super popular here, and come off as big stars even moreso than the Young Bucks. From presentation, in ring, body type, etc. I hope they get a long run with the belts, having strong matches with various teams in the division. A singles bout with RPG Vice on a big PPV show would be great. ***1/2

NEVER Openweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata def. Tomohiro Ishii 

Katsuyori Shibata retained the title after a Penalty Kick. Shibata was beloved by the crowd, of course. The match was fantastic stuff, but much as you’d expect in-ring. Hard hitting, back and forth chop and slap battles commenced. The finishing sequence featured Shibata brushing off almost all of Ishii’s offense to eventually slap Ishii so hard it turned him around, allowing Shibata to lock in the sleeper hold.

The NEVER title match flowed, never slowed, and an almost twenty minute match felt like five. There’s been a lot of talk about concussions and head injuries in wrestling lately with the retirement of Daniel Bryan, and while there were a few headbutt exchanges in this match, the rest of the bout was relatively safe. I understand the issues some will have with continuing to enjoy these types of NEVER title matches as more comes out about head injuries and quality of life, but as far as entertainment, this was the most entertaining match of the night. In ten years, will I look back at myself and wonder why I liked this so much? Possibly. ****1/4

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe

Kenny Omega pinned Tomoaki Honma with the One Winged Angel, as Hiroshi Tanahashi lie prone on the outside selling injuries from the match. Afterwards, the Bullet Club destroyed Tanahashi with superkicks, a chair, and even a metal garbage can. Omega came out clean, Tanahashi comes out hurt… the story going into Niigata. If Omega wins, it seems like they wanted to make sure they gave Tanahashi a reason for losing, selling an injury to his right arm. A healthy Tanahashi against Omega for the IC Title could be a fun story spread out all the way to Wrestle Kingdom, if wanted. I suppose that will only happen, though, if Omega really gets over as a heavyweight during this expected title run. ***

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada def. Hirooki Goto 

Fantastic atmosphere added to the match, a match that was pretty basic in terms of IWGP title matches. It took three Rainmaker lariats to finally put Goto away – Okada not taking a chance of having Goto kick out. It also played off like it was Okada straight up kicking Goto out of the Heavyweight title division, sending Goto back to the drawing board. Indeed, with New Japan Cup coming up, it doesn’t look like we’re getting a needless Goto rematch. ***3/4

Okada cemented his standing as a heavyweight great by defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Now, Okada seeks out to cement his legacy as a true great IWGP Heavyweight Champion, looking to extend his reign by defeating a variety of opponents. There’s no more AJ Styles, no Shinsuke Nakamura, and Tanahashi is involved with other stuff right now. So who does Okada have to go through now? Goto is done. There’s always… oh wait a minute… it might happen… yes… KATSUYORI SHIBATA FOR NEW JAPAN CUP CHAMPION!