New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road To The New Beginning 2018: Night 6
February 5th, 2018
Watch: NJPW World
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Tiger Mask def. Ren Narita, Shota Umino, & Tetsuhiro Yagi
You can never really go wrong with a team of veterans going up against some young lions. They always prove to be entertaining, and this match was no exception. Narita got in Liger’s face before the bell rang, and Liger slapped him right across the face in response. The first half of the bout featured a one-sided domination by the veteran juniors, as Liger and Tiger Mask stretched Narita and Yagi. The action picked up once the hot tag was made to Shota Umino, who got a strong response from the crowd in Korakuen Hall. While the others fought on the outside, Umino had a fun exchange with Taguchi before he eventually got hit with the Dodon and pinned. It’s clear, with Kawato already on excursion and Kitamura soon to follow, that Umino is now at the top of the young lion pecking order, along with (presumably) Oka. At the same time, however, I find it curious that he was the one on his team to take the fall here. Regardless, this was still a fine way to kick off the show. ***
The Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Hikule’o) def. Manabu Nakanishi & Tomoyuki Oka
I don’t think New Japan could’ve put together a more uninteresting match than this one. The first few minutes were pretty boring, as Oka was at the mercy of the duo from The Bullet Club. He eventually tagged to Nakanishi, who did run wild for a bit. However, once he tagged Oka back in, the action picked up a bit. Oka got a big response from the crowd after hitting a big suplex on Hikule’o, and went on to have a nice exchange with Yujiro before getting pinned after a DDT. It had one or two bright spots, but this was easily the worst bout on the show, as expected. **
Katsuya Kitamura Trial Series – Match #4 – Hiroyoshi Tenzan def. Katsuya Kitamura
In the first few matches in this Trial Series, Katsuya Kitamura took on some relatively younger stars on the roster. Now, in the second half of his Trial Series, he’s moving on to the New Japan Dads, with Hiroyoshi Tenzan being the first of those. This was a relatively average singles bout that clocked in at just under ten minutes. It was easily the worst match in Kitamura’s Trial Series thus far, but I wouldn’t call it bad. Tenzan did his best (in what has to be his first singles outing in a long time), but you could tell at times that he was really struggling. Kitamura worked hard, and even managed to hit a spear on Tenzan at one point, but he wasn’t able to follow up with the jackhammer, and ultimately tapped out to the Anaconda Vice. This was fine for what it was, and to be completely honestly, it probably wasn’t going to be any better than this. **1/2
CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) def. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, & Taka Michinoku)
Aside from the typical Suzuki-gun brawl on the outside in the first few minutes, this was a fine six-man tag. Once things got back in the ring, the team of Suzuki-gun juniors worked over the injured SHO, who had tape all over his lower back. He eventually made the tag to Rocky Romero, and from that point on, the tide turned in the favor of CHAOS. In general, the second half of this one was pretty entertaining. El Desperado tried to use one of Roppongi 3K’s IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title belts, but he was quickly thwarted. Taka Michinoku would end up eating the pin after getting hit with the 3K. It’s pretty clear that a Roppongi 3K/Suzuki-gun program over the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles is on the horizon, but if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Taka Michinoku probably won’t be one of the challenging team, based on the fact that he got pinned here. ***
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) def. Juice Robinson & Toa Henare
On the New Beginning in Sapporo cards at the end of last month, we saw this Ishii/Yano team score two straight victories in tag team action against a pair of Bullet Club teams. Their winning streak on this tour grew to three with a win here over the makeshift team of Juice Robinson & Toa Henare. This was by no means spectacular, but it ended up being pretty solid. It was without question better than the two aforementioned Sapporo matches. There were a couple of fun moments between Robinson and Yano, but the real highlights of this one were the exchanges that Ishii had with Henare. Those two seemed to have some very good chemistry here, to the point that I’d be all for a singles bout between the two. Henare definitely had a fine showing here, but he ultimately came up short after getting hit with a vertical brainbuster from Ishii. It’s obvious that this CHAOS duo is headed for a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and although most of us don’t like the fact that Ishii is in the tag team scene, at least New Japan has done a good job building up this team in preparation for their eventual title bout. ***1/4
Togi Makabe, “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin, & KUSHIDA def. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
This wasn’t exactly a good night for Suzuki-gun, as they went 0-2 in their two matches on this particular night. There second outing saw them come up short to the team of Makabe, Elgin, & KUSHIDA in another fine multi-man tag. Much like the earlier Suzuki-gun bout, we got a brawl on the outside to start, with the focus primarily on Suzuki and Makabe, who went after each other. KUSHIDA had some fun early sequences with Kanemaru, but he soon got isolated by the heels. The momentum changed once Elgin and Makabe became more involved, with the former hitting some of his impressive power spots, while the latter went toe-to-toe in the ring with the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Makabe would eventually get the win for his side after hitting Kanemaru with the King Kong Knee Drop. This was far from a stand out match, but it served its purpose well. ***
Afterwards, Makabe got the mic and issued a challenge to Suzuki for the IWGP Intercontinental Title. In response, Suzuki destroyed some of the young lions with a chair before leaving. Now that the match is all but official, we just have to wait and see where it ends up taking place.
Non-Title – IWGP United States Champion Jay White def. David Finlay
It’s crazy to think that these two were facing off in young lion singles matches a few short years ago. Obviously the two have taken much different paths since Jay White left for his excursion back in 2016. Kevin Kelly & Rocky Romero made sure to mention the fact that, in their nine singles meetings as young lions, Finlay only won their first meeting, while White won eight straight. Now they’re meeting under much different circumstances, and they ended up having a really good back and forth match. There was plenty of good action throughout this one. While we saw some cool things from White (including a trio of Saito Suplexes in three totally different places), Finlay took the fight to “Switchblade” on a few occasions. At one point, Finlay decided to counter the Blade Runner by just spitting right in White’s face. Later on, in a very pivotal moment, a chair was introduced by White. Finlay countered, and went to use the chair himself, but he stopped, and threw the chair away. He couldn’t bring himself to hurt the man who he spent so much time with in the dojo during their young lion days. This got a big reaction from the fans in Korakuen Hall, but White quickly took advantage of Finlay’s hesitation, and hit him with Blade Runner for the win. Again, this was a really solid bout from start to finish, and Finlay had a strong showing here against the IWGP United States Champion. ***1/2
After the match, Jay White continued his attack on David Finlay, nailing his former friend with repeated elbows until young lions eventually pulled him off.
Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match – Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, & SANADA) def. CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI, & Gedo)
This is actually the first time I’ve seen one of these big New Japan Elimination Matches, and… it was a ton of fun to watch! The action throughout the bout was very good, and all of the eliminations made sense, with regards to the different feuds going into the big Osaka show in a few days. Hiromu took himself out in order to to eliminate Ospreay, Naito got tossed out by YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo got disqualified for ripping BUSHI’s mask off, and SANADA was eliminated by Okada (who was eliminated by EVIL shortly thereafter). It eventually came down to EVIL (who had also tossed out Goto) against YOSHI-HASHI, and in the end, EVIL managed to hit his EVIL STO to give the win to LIJ. I’m just happy that New Japan finally put a new twist on one of these CHAOS/LIJ multi-man tags. It was a strong main event (with a lot of the usual very good wrestling that we always see when these two units collide) that served its purpose perfectly. ***3/4
The top two matches are the only things from this show that are even worth checking out. The fourth match in Kitamura’s Trial Series was the worst thus far, but it was still a fine bout for what it was. The only other newsworthy item from this show was that Makabe officially challenged Suzuki. This was a fine Korakuen Hall event that had some good matches, but nothing that was very outstanding.