NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
ROAD TO THE NEW BEGINNING: NIGHT 6
FEBRUARY 7, 2017
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: NJPWWorld.com

Two days after Sunday’s big mid-tour event in Sapporo, NJPW returned to Korakuen Hall for a unique house show that featured three elimination matches. Before the opening bell, the ring announcer mentioned that Suzuki-gun’s El Desperado would miss the show due to a right shoulder injury. He later clarified that Despe’s injury was to his right knee.

HENARE DEF. TOMOYUKI OKA

Tonight’s opener was Oka’s first televised bout against someone other than his presumed trainer. Both young lions showed aggression with elbow strikes. Oka needs to work on his chops, but he did show off his beautiful front suplex once again. For his part, Henare hit an impressive diving shoulder attack. Both guys did a good job of selling, particularly while trapped in Boston crabs. It’s quite a departure from recent opening match staples, but I’m looking forward to see how this heavyweight pairing develops. **

YUJI NAGATA & SATOSHI KOJIMA DEF. JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER & YOSHITATSU

My two favorite heavyweights in 2001, Nagata & Kojima are basically a dream team for me. Some quick research uncovers that they haven’t teamed up in a traditional tag team match since a January 2013 NOAH tour. Prior to that, their last tag match together was in June 1994 against JJ Jacks (Akira Nogami and Takayuki (Takashi) Iizuka).

Nagata spent the opening exchange beating some fire out out YoshiTatsu. Liger assumed the defensive role, but eventually got a hot tag after hitting a shotei on Nagata. YoshiTatsu was surprisingly solid in this outing; better than in recent memory. His offense is much better when in short spurts. It’s almost as if he has to unlearn the plodding WWE mid-card style. As expected, the veterans were a treat to watch. They kept this short and it worked. Hopefully the third generation can continue to whip young Yamamoto into shape. Recommended. **1/2

HIROYOSHI TENZAN & TIGER MASK DEF. SUZUKI-GUN (TAKASHI IIZUKA & TAKA MICHINOKU) BY DISQUALIFICATION

You’ll have to take my word for it, but this encounter would have been excellent in 2003. In 2017, it was skippable. *1/2

I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that there is a new young lion:

SPECIAL ELIMINATION MATCH
TOGI MAKABE, TOMOAKI HONMA, KATSUYORI SHIBATA, JUICE ROBINSON & KUSHIDA DEF. CHAOS (HIROOKI GOTO, YOSHI-HASHI, WILL OSPREAY, JADO & GEDO)

Shibata and Ospreay started this one out hot. After eliminating Ospreay with a running high kick, Shibata eliminated himself with a rare plancha onto his challenger. It was a short night for Shibata and Ospreay, but they certainly generated more interest in their title match on Saturday.

Based on their brief exchanges, I’m reminded that I want to see KUSHIDA and Gedo meet again in Best of the Super Junior. The middle portion was slow (particularly when Jado was in the ring), but it picked back up towards the end. In a great callback to their title match, Juice evaded a rope-hanging reverse GTR from Goto. Like in the tour opener, Juice ended up back in the spotlight with the win for Hontai. Recommended. **3/4

SPECIAL ELIMINATION MATCH
SUZUKI-GUN (MINORU SUZUKI, LANCE ARCHER, DAVEY BOY SMITH JR., YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & TAICHI) DEF. CHAOS (KAZUCHIKA OKADA, TORU YANO, TOMOHIRO ISHII, ROCKY ROMERO & BERETTA)

I enjoyed the interactions between the heavyweight tag teams. I hope this division returns to traditional 2-on-2 tag team programs after this tour. The three-way matches don’t really do anything for me or the involved teams. However, I think the return of KES and emergence of CHAOS odd couple Yano and Ishii are positive developments. I particularly liked the exchanges between Archer and Yano.

Minoru continued his attack on Okada’s knee; re-starting Okada’s week-long selling of the injury. The downside of splitting the big matches across two shows is that some match-ups linger on past their supposed climax. Nonetheless, the interactions between Okada and Minoru were entertaining. Minoru also caught Beretta in a kneebar, giving Trent a chance to shine in an underdog role. Beretta’s selling, offense and facial expressions were all effective. Hopefully another BOSJ preview, the sequences between Trent and Kanemaru were crisp and exciting. Recommended. ***





SPECIAL ELIMINATION MATCH
MICHAEL ELGIN, HIROSHI TANAHASHI, MANABU NAKANISHI, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & DRAGON LEE DEF. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (TETSUYA NAITO, SANADA, EVIL, BUSHI & HIROMU TAKAHASHI)

Another show, another costume for BUSHI. I’m convinced this man spends more on gear than anyone. I love the chemistry between Taguchi Japan (Tanahashi, Nakanishi & Taguchi). The team name is a play on the Japanese national soccer team; typically referred to as “[Insert coach’s name] Japan.” Hopefully the team can stick together for a while. It gives Tanahashi a chance to rest up for a big second half of the year.

I appreciated the main event placement of this match. Members of these teams will be headlining Saturday’s sold-out show in Osaka. The opening exchange between Hiromu and Dragon Lee was especially frantic. I expect the juniors to try to steal the show on Saturday. Later on in the match, Hiromu ripped a hole in Dragon Lee’s mask. There was a good offensive-showcase portion for Elgin. Based on their chemistry and previous matches, I have very high expectations for Elgin’s encounter with Naito. Taguchi, as the sole survivor for his team, sent the crowd home happy with a hybrid soccer coach/Naito-esque promo. Recommended. ***1/4

FINAL THOUGHTS

Tonight’s show was an easy watch that flew by. The elimination match format was a welcome change of pace for New Japan. Nothing was must-see, but the matches appropriately previewed and teased the remaining title bouts for Saturday. Check back later in the week for an in-depth preview and review of Saturday’s tour-ending show in Osaka.