New Japan Pro Wrestling
The New Beginning in Sapporo 2019 Night 1
February 2, 2019
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center
Sapporo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Ren Narita def. Yuya Uemura

Narita is one of the top two Young Lions in this Young Lion class and as his excursion is likely coming up sooner rather than later he’s being allowed to show more. Uemura looked decent here but the match was designed to showcase Naritas heart and his beautiful bridging belly-to-belly suplex. Good match. ***

Toa Henare & Manabu Nakanishi def. Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida

I liked this match. I love Umino; he will be the biggest star in the company one day. Yoshida is a good worker but he doesn’t scream ‘big time future star’as Umino does. Nakanishi was Nakanishi in this match but when Henare was in with the young lions the match was pretty good. Henare feels wasted in New Japan and should’ve been in the Juice Robinson ROH stable and feud with Cobb or something but alas it’s always nice to see Henare pick up the win. ***

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tiger Mask def. Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku

The definition of an average match. The one positive of this match is its at least building to Iizuka’s retirement match with some sort of story, as Tenzan wants to bring Iizuka back to normal. Besides that this was just crowd brawling and a DQ finish. Average but totally inoffensive. **1/2

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Ryusuke Taguchi, YOSHI-HASHI & Tomoaki Honma def. Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Taiji Ishimori, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi

The first time the new NEVER 6-man Openweight Champions are in action since winning the titles on Wednesday. I really liked this match; well paced and the shtick didn’t get overbearing. I’ll give you the Harley Duncan guarantee that the Taguchi/Ishimori match will rock significant ass, this will be Taguchi cashing in one of his two great matches for the year token, all of their interactions so far have been really good and the story of them both going for ankle locks is interesting. This Bullet Club feels so refreshed even though the guys that have mostly been in it for years but at least now they all feel like a unit again instead of two separate groups wearing the same T-shirts. Pretty good match that did its job to build to the bigger matches these wrestlers will be in later on the tour. ***1/4

Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru def. Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI

Surprise, surprise another really fun LIJ/Suzuki-Gun multi-man match. These title matches for night two are being really well built and I am very much looking forward to them. Say what you want about Taichi but he looks like a credible threat to Naito and if their last two matches are anything to go by, this should at least be great. This match made me feel like BUSHI might be getting some spotlight in the title match, which is fine – he is way popular than his push and ability. A cool spot in this match was when Naito was going for the Combination Cabron to Kanemaru, instead of hitting the slingshot dropkick he slung over the ropes and went for Taichi in the corner, a super simple spot but it just makes sense and that’s what I like in my wrestling. ***1/2

Minoru Suzuki def. SANADA

This was easily the match of the night for me. I know they’ll be a lot of people that will detest Suzuki being put in the Paradise Lock, but in wrestling canon, it’s a humiliating hold to be put in, who cares if an MMA guy gets put in goofy wrestling hold it’s not MMA, its wrestling. What happened after the Paradise Lock though really made the match for me, Suzuki incensed at being humiliated tried to destroy SANADA and it really set the tone for the match. A little botch with SANADA going for the backflip into the Skull End but nothing that hurt the match. Get the ‘certified banger’ stamp and slap it on this match. ****

EVIL def. Zack Sabre Jr.

Finally revenge for EVIL. This watch had a slow, plodding start, which seemed even slower due to a surprising lack of heat. This got better and better and the heat rose as it got on though. As aesthetically pleasing as it is to watch Zack transition from submission to submission his roll-up pin attempts for me are his most exciting moves and this match had them and I bought probably nearly all of them as the finish. The result for this and the previous match also makes the Tag Title match tomorrow even more unpredictable. By the end of this, it was very good stuff. ***3/4

Jay White & Bad Luck Fale def. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada

A little disappointing main event, but still a good match. I was saying in the group chat that I felt the Okada/Tana team has lost some of its novelty and as I hit send on that they stood on the stage together in full entrance attire and posed together…and I was back. Jay White is the best wrestler in the world outside of the bell, he presents like a star, talks like a star and really is a star but there is just something that’s not clicking with me in the ring which is a big part of being New Japan main eventer, he does get legitimate heel heat however. White taps Tanahashi out with the TTO (Tana Tap Out), which is such a great asshole heel finish and the heels leave the babyfaces laying as we all were told to “breath with the switchblade.” ***1/2

Final Thoughts

A pretty good show that built up night two and the Osaka show really well. Nothing bad on this show but the only matches to go out of your way to see would be the two singles matches unless you’re die-hard LIJ or Jay White fan or something.