New Japan Pro Wrestling
The New Beginning in Sapporo (Night 2)
February 3, 2019
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers

Paul Völsch: Is a known coward and didn’t want to preview Night 1.

John Carroll: John has been enjoying the New Beginning tour a lot so far and is enjoying feeling positive about New Japan overall for the first time in a while. Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla and check out their podcast @wrestleomakase.

Toa Henare vs. Yota Tsuji

Paul: Henare has been in a weird holding pattern for the last year. The company quietly moved him on from young boy status, but he also has been kept in openers since then as well. Here he’ll face off with young boy Tsuji who he has been teaming with on the tour. Prediction: Toa Henare

John: Henare seemed pretty offended on Wednesday that he and Tsuji lost to Shota Umino and Ayato Yoshida (that team’s first win ever), even though he wasn’t the one who got pinned, but he’ll get the chance to take his anger out on Tsuji here. I don’t know what the end game is with Henare either; on one hand you’d think maybe a heel turn and joining the BULLET CLUB or something is what it might take to elevate him, but pretty much all he’s done since starting out is play the fiery babyface role (and he’s pretty good at it most of the time). Would he even be any good as a heel? He’s replaced David Finlay (who finally has been elevated a little bit) in the “I don’t know where this is going, but I do know that I want it to go somewhere soon” spot. Anyway, of course he’ll beat Tsuji here. Prediction: Toa Henare

Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask vs. Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino

Paul: The old vs the new as the grumpy barely mobile veteran team of Nakanishi and Tiger Mask takes on the young boys. Both men have entered the last parts of their career now and neither is even teaming with their regular tag partner. On the other side we have two of the biggest prospects of New Japan and it’ll be a joy seeing them grow over the next years. Prediction: Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask

John: As I just mentioned, the team of Yoshida & Umino finally got their first win this past Wednesday in Sendai, but something tells me they won’t be putting together a two-match winning streak here. We go long stretches without seeing much of Nakanishi these days and I’m sure we will again this year, so enjoy your shoulder blocks while you can get them. He still has his charm to me so I got no problem with him being in there. Prediction: Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ren Narita vs. Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku

Paul: The most interesting person in this match is TAKA. Just last week TAKA left Kaientai Dojo, a promotion that he founded and was leading until recently, after it was revealed that he had been cheating on his wife. When Taichi was in a similar situation he got suspended by New Japan, but in this case New Japan seems to be satisfied with him leaving K-DOJO. That being said with Taichi moving up to heavyweight and Despy & Kanemaru being the default Suzukigun junior tag team, TAKA is quite directionless as a wrestler right now. New Japan will keep him around though since he does tremendous work as ZSJ’s mouthpiece. Prediction: Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku

John: As I mentioned in the Night 1 preview, the number one thing I’ll be looking out for in these next few matches is whether or not Takashi Iizuka shows any signs of transforming back into his old self for his retirement match. I guess it would be fine if he just does the wildman thing right up until the end, but he at least needs to throw a Blizzard suplex or two before he goes off into that good night. Anyway, look for him to get a nice little win over Narita here, something he rarely gets many of these days. Prediction: Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. BULLET CLUB (Guerillas of Destiny, Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori)

Paul: Tama Tonga has been a lot of fun in his new Good Guy persona. The leadership change in the Bullet Club has breathed new life into a faction that felt incredibly stale. On the other side we have the Togi Makabe and Toru Yano continuing to team. In a way this situation is kind of awkward with Honma being right there and him potentially not realising that he is getting replaced. Prediction: Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Tomoaki Honma

John: Makabe, Yano and Taguchi are the new NEVER 6-man tag team champions, having ended the reign of the GOD & Ishimori this past Wednesday in Sendai after over five and a half months. As Paul mentioned, the Tama “Good Guy” gimmick has been an interesting little twist on things with the GOD and BC in general so far in 2019; on first blush you’d think Tama is not really being serious about it and is just messing with everyone (and sometimes in his performances it comes off that way), but then he just takes it so far in his matches that you don’t know what to make of it; you can even say his new antics helped cost the team those trios titles this past week. The other side is interesting too with Yano & Makabe having made up as part of the CHAOS/hontai truce of sorts, which as Paul mentioned definitely leaves Honma (and Toa Henare too!) kind of out in the cold. Not sure what will come of all of this, if anything, but at least it’s more intriguing than most of these multi-man tags are. Prediction: BULLET CLUB

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens)

Paul: This match merely serves as a precursor to Tanahashi’s and Jay White’s title match on Night 2 of New Beginning in Osaka. At that same show Okada will attempt to break out of his funk by overcoming Bad Luck Fale. Meanwhile YOSHI-HASHI and Chase Owens will face off in a tag team match so I guess it makes sense for them to be here too. Jay’s heel antics have been a ton of fun as he is able to elicit genuine boos. I expect those to continue here as he builds up heat for his title match. Prediction: Bullet Club

John: Tanahashi vs. White has been built up really well so far, with White even interrupting KUSHIDA’s going away party this past Tuesday at Korakuen, a moment that drew legitimate anger from the crowd. The BC had been undefeated in multi-man tag competition against the so-called “dream team” of Tanahashi and Okada (dating back to many meetings on the World Tag League tour), but that finally came to an end this past Wednesday night in Sendai, as this team of Tana, Okada, YOSHI and also Honma defeated the BC team of White, Fale, Owens and Yujiro. I think White & Fale will likely get some revenge by spoiling Tanahashi & Okada’s first real teaming together on Night 1 in Sapporo, and then the babyfaces will get them back here, with Owens screaming “fall guy” even more than YOSHI. Prediction: Tanahashi & Okada & YOSHI

IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship
Shingo Takagi & BUSHI © vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Paul: The LIJ team won the titles at Wrestle Kingdom in convincing fashion and that was down to Shingo Takagi. BUSHI was mostly just along for the ride in that match and it’s clear that Shingo is going to be a pushed commodity going forward. I fully expect him to be in the final of Best of the Super Juniors. A final that yours truly is going to be in attendance for. I expect his run of dominance to continue here as he builds steam before the tournament. Prediction: LIJ

John: Like Paul I also expect big things for Shingo this year, including quite possibly a BOSJ finals appearance (that I will also be in attendance for!). Some would say it then would make sense for him to drop the junior tag titles, and I think he will… Roppongi 3K, maybe as soon as the upcoming Anniversary show in March. But in the meantime, I think he and BUSHI will be able to defeat Desperado & Kanemaru here. The Suzukigun duo had an awesome reign in 2018 but it’s probably time for Despy to move on to bigger and better things, specifically being a real player in the junior heavyweight singles division (a suddenly wide open division with KUSHIDA gone and Ospreay busy with the NEVER belt). Either way, after both Desperado and BUSHI ripped each other’s masks off in a six-man tag this past Wednesday everybody should be in an extra aggressive mood. Expect some more mask-ripping and ringside brawling. Prediction: LIJ

IWGP Tag Team Championship
EVIL & SANADA © vs. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.

Paul: Suzuki and ZSJ at first might seem like a random team, but they actually have a lot of experience teaming with each other. They are the current RevPro Undisputed Tag Team champions and have held the title for over a year, including a great title defense against Okada & Ishii. Now I know LIJ just won the titles, but I can see an upset happening here. The topic of the top of this card is LIJ vs Suzuki-gun and I don’t expect it to be a clean sweep for LIJ. The tag team is clearly a holding pattern for EVIL & SANADA until they get their singles pushes. While I don’t expect those to kick off so soon, I do think we will see a title change as the tag titles will give Suzuki something to do. Prediction: Suzuki-gun

John: I actually kind of DO think that LIJ might get the clean sweep here, which would obviously mean EVIL & SANADA retain, but if LIJ is going to lose one of these matches this would be the one for sure. Neither of these two teams needs the belts per say, but the benefits of having the tag titles as a secondary prize for legitimate singles wrestlers that are at least at an upper mid-card level are high. No matter who walks out with the titles here that will continue for at least a little while longer; let’s hope we’re not just killing time until GOD or KES or whoever gets them back. The feud between the two teams has been really fun already, and we’ll be coming off two big singles matches from the night before so things should be even more heated. Prediction: LIJ

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Tetsuya Naito © vs. Taichi

Paul: Now this is certainly going to be an interesting one. Quite frankly I’m not sure what to expect from this one. Taichi has proven in the past that if he really wants to he can have a good match. Like his match with Yuma Aoyagi in All Japan or his match against Ospreay late last year. On the other hand he is just as likely to lay a big egg as well. We shall see which Taichi we will get on this night. As for Naito he seems to be taking different perspective on the IC title than he normally does. In the past the title has been treated with a lot of contempt by Naito, but he seems to be warming up to it now. While I do not expect him to lose the title here I do not see him holding this title for much longer though. Naito is building up for bigger and better things this year and is one of the favorites to win G1 this year. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

John: Naito has been undergoing a major character shift already this year, especially when it comes to the Intercontinental title. In the past he always seemed to view the belt as both an unwanted nuisance and kind of an anchor or an impediment from getting to his real goal of the IWGP Heavyweight title, but things seem to be different this time. Already Naito cut a promo this past week about wanting to be the first person to hold the IC and Heavyweight titles at the same time (and pointed to then-US Champion Cody challenging for the Heavyweight title in the three-way match with Omega & Ibushi back at King of Pro Wrestling as proof that champions can still challenge for other titles), so he’s sort of shifted the entire feeling around this latest IC run. Rather than treating it like a temporary prison that’s keeping him from the true goal (which rubbed off on his fanbase as well when it came to an aversion to wanting him to get involved with this belt again, myself very much included) he’s treating it as part of a newer, even bigger goal: holding both belts at once. Whether that’s ultimately how things go or not, it at least gets this IC reign started off on very different ground from his prior ones, helping to avoid this feeling like a rerun. Taichi, meanwhile, has been a super enjoyable first challenger. I know not everyone likes him but I find it hard to believe anyone has found the build-up for this match to be anything but good at the very least; the two have played off each other brilliantly, as two dudes who can both be very scummy have basically spent the entire time trying to out-scum each other. I’m confident the actual match can be quite good as well, given that they had two great ones last year in January & March. I don’t think there’s really any chance of Taichi winning here, but they’ve built him up well enough that I think the big belt shot nearfall will get a good reaction at least. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito