New Japan Pro Wrestling
The New Beginning in Osaka
February 11, 2019
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium (EDION Arena Osaka)

Watch: NJPW World / AXS TV

Meet our previewers

Ryan Glaspell: I’ve mercilessly skipped most undercard action since New Year’s Dash. Follow my sporadic, often-mild takes on Twitter @RyGenerico.

John Carroll: Unlike Ryan I’ve watched I think every single New Japan match that’s made tape this year. I’m a completist, what can I say. Follow me on Twitter @toshanshuinla or better yet just follow my podcast @wrestleomakase instead, you’ll get less random garbage that way.

TenKoji & Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku)

Ryan: Having not seen a lot of dad matches from the New Beginning tour thus far, I can’t elaborate on any stories that might be playing out here. Iizuka’s retirement is fast approaching in ten days’ time from this show. He made his presence felt in Sapporo, and I expect his devious ways will be ever-present here as well. Prediction: TenKoji & Liger (via DQ)

John: The big storyline involving these guys on the Sapporo shows was Tenzan trying to convince Iizuka to shed this out of control wildman gimmick he’s had since his heel turn way back in 2008 and go back to the old Iizuka, which I talked about wanting to see when I wrote the last two previews. It might seem kind of crazy to write now after nearly 11 years of forehead biting, but pre-heel turn Iizuka was a fine wrestler (especially in tags) who competed in some memorable matchups and once even won the G1 Tag League (the precursor to the World Tag League) alongside Yuji Nagata. Unfortunately for me and anyone else wanting to see the old Iizuka one last time, he pretty forcefully rebuffed Tenzan on both nights; I liked the added touch that, after Tenzan had tried two nights in a row to get through to Iizuka unsuccessfully during their undercard matches, they even had him be the Suzukigun member who attacked Tetsuya Naito on the ramp before his main event match with Taichi. It’s almost as if this was done specifically to show you there’s no sign of the old Takashi Iizuka in there, and he’s just the same violent wildman he’s been for the last 11 years, retirement or no retirement. With all of that said, I think things will take a sudden turn here. New Japan didn’t upload the match where Iizuka first turned on Tenzan as their free Youtube match of the week as an accident, and with this being his final match before his retirement at Korakuen Hall for the New Japan Road show on February 21st, if something’s going to happen it probably has to happen here. Tenzan will finally get through to Iizuka, whether during or after the match, and Iizuka will drop the wildman gimmick and team with Tenzan (and maybe other 3rd generation peers) for one final match at Korakuen. Probably. I think. Maybe. Prediction: TenKoji & Liger

EVIL & SANADA vs. Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida

Ryan: The LIJ boys had an impressive title retention against Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr in Sapporo, and I expect this to be add more fuel to their momentous title run. Also, this will probably be really good. Umino and Yoshida are both athletic young guys with a lot of potential, and are probably due for the next step in their careers. I expect to see a lot of fire out of Umino and Yoshida, but anything short of a Magic Killer finish would surprise me. More interesting is who will take the fall. Prediction: LIJ

John: I don’t think it really matters which of Umino and Yoshida lose the fall here, since neither are anywhere close to the level of the tag team champions anyway. I’m really into this match in general though, and it feels like exactly the kind of match I’d like to see more often on these undercards: current top stars vs. young lions, especially in straight up 2 vs. 2 or 1 vs. 1 matches. Usually the young lions are either wrestling each other (which is understandable as that’s a great way to tease future generational rivalries and/or teams, like White-Finlay and Roppongi 3K) or the 3rd generation guys (since they also tend to be at the bottom of the card), but when you have these split shows where legitimate, current upper mid carders and main eventers won’t have much to do anyway, I would much rather see them fight the young lions as a change of pace than the kind of thing we see in our next match. The only reason why we’re getting this match is probably because ZSJ has already left the tour, though. Prediction: LIJ

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Suzukigun (Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Ryan: This is a six-man that has every reason to rock. There is still plenty of heat left between Shingo, BUSHI, Despy, & Kanemaru, as their previous match ended with a title change and a de-masked Desperado. Whether or not another title match is in the near future doesn’t change the fact that there is bad blood boiling amongst the juniors. Regardless of how you think the Naito vs Taichi match was (I enjoyed it once the bell rang), there seems like less unresolved business there. Naito is 3-0 against Taichi, even when he was murdered with a ladder at the hands of Iizuka. I can see this being a fun sprint, and the outcome will point to whether Suzukigun will continue to challenge for gold, or drift down the card. Prediction: LIJ

John: As much as I have absolutely loved the LIJ-Suzukigun feud- the last few weeks has honestly been more enjoyable for me than pretty much all of New Japan’s 2018 was, and I put a large amount of credit on this feud- this type of match is my least favorite part of NJPW’s current “split show” tour booking. The feud, for now at least, came to an end at New Beginning in Sapporo, with LIJ getting the three straight title match sweep. All three LIJ members here beat their Suzukigun rivals about as decisively as you can get. So having them paired off on two more televised shows (they’ll all be facing each other two days earlier on the EDION Arena #2 show too) feels pointless and lazy. You could say “well Suzukigun is out for revenge” or whatever, but we all know that Naito is moving on (he’s already started talking about the New Japan Cup and it looks like his next big storyline will be something like “is the Intercontinental Champion allowed to enter it” as part of his ongoing quest to hold the IC & Hvwt titles at the same time) and putting Taichi in his rear view mirror, and Shingo & BUSHI are likely moving on to someone like Roppongi 3K as well. This is just time filler to wait things out until the tour is over, and I would much rather see them all get different random undercard matches, even if it’s stuff like the last match where they’re facing the young lions instead. Oh well. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter at all which team wins this which makes it hard to pick, so let’s just go with LIJ. Prediction: LIJ

Tomoaki Honma & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens

Ryan: Unless I missed some major development over the course of the past few weeks, this seems like the glaring definition of a filler match. The bottom tier of Bullet Club vs the bottom tier of CHAOS. Is Honma in CHAOS? Is YOSHI-HASHI still in CHAOS? Is CHAOS still even a faction? Let’s see if YOSHI-HASHI can score a pinfall. Prediction: Honma & YOSHI-HASHI

John: Let me try to answer my colleague’s questions: No Honma is not in CHAOS, yes YOSHI-HASHI is still in CHAOS, yes CHAOS is still a faction (well, sort of; they just team with the normal NJPW sekigun now all the time, which kinda makes you wonder what the point of them is). And yes, this is indeed the glaring definition of a filler match. Who could possibly care? Prediction: Honma & YOSHI-HASHI

Togi Makabe & Toru Yano vs. Guerrillas of Destiny

Ryan: This match is marginally more interesting than the previous due to whatever nostalgia remains for the Most Violent Players and “Good Guy” Tama Tonga. I can see both teams being set up for title shots in the not-so-distant future. It’s just a matter of who is first. I could be convinced of either outcome, but I can feel a low blow rollup coming. Prediction: Makabe & Yano

John: My gut tells me we will get some kind of resolution on the whole Tama Tonga “Good Guy” thing here, as this kind of random 2 vs. 2 tag between two relatively pushed acts is so rare it kind of seems like it has to be leading to something. The Tama gimmick has been fun but it does feel like we’re reaching the end of the line on it, with Tanga Loa and the other BC members becoming increasingly exasperated with it all throughout the New Beginning tour. My prediction? Tama snaps out of it and returns to the “Bad Boy” by helping the GOD cheat to win. He even has a ready made excuse: Toru Yano, supposedly a “good guy” (or one the fans cheer at least), cheated to beat him on the last two shows in a row. Prediction: GOD

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title
Taiji Ishimori © vs. Ryusuke Taguchi

Ryan: As an ardent supporter of the greatest faction of all time, Taguchi Japan, I will have my rugby gear on as I cheer on the Funky Weapon. People get tired of Taguchi’s antics. One can only take so many butt-centered spots before the eye rolling commences. With that said, it shouldn’t be a secret that Taguchi can bust out one or two awesome matches a year. 2018 was a low year for him, as he didn’t have any absolutely stand out BOSJ bouts. I think there’s a good chance he exceeds expectations here. He is great at making his ankle lock look painful, and Ishimori doesn’t want any part of it. Sadly, there isn’t a chance in hell of him winning. This will be a very good defense for Ishimori as he carves his place in the junior division. Prediction: Taiji Ishimiori

John: Taguchi is always a good placeholder challenger since he’s both popular and credible enough with the fanbase at large to make the build up not feel completely pointless, as far as these kinds of “no chance in hell the challenger wins” title matches go. This feud has been a good mix of serious (dueling ankle holds) and silly (Taguchi referencing Ishimori’s long ago Toryumon past in the Sailor Boys; go look at how many recent Japanese comments there are on this Youtube upload of their signature single), and I’m excited to see it all come to a head here. Like Ryan said, Taguchi usually has no problem busting out a great match when the time comes, so I’m sure this will probably be no different. Prediction: Taiji Ishimori

Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale

Ryan: BAD LUCK FALE IS SO BAD. Remember when he lost all that weight and people thought that meant he’d be more mobile and better at wrestling? He takes fewer (and worse looking) bumps than ever before, and his strikes still look like he’s trying to lightly dust something. The nail in the coffin was his abysmal match against Tanahashi last G1. If Tanahashi couldn’t drag a decent match out of Fale I don’t see this being any different. I just hope it’s short. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

John: Yeah, I don’t know what there is to say about this one except it’s long past time to end the Okada vs. Fale post-WK placeholder feud tradition. Fale at one point was pretty decent, but that time has long come and gone: he doesn’t care anymore (and made that very clear for months recently just with his t-shirts) and has become more and more immobile as time has gone on. I’ll never really understand why he looked so much more easily winded in the G1 last year after he lost a lot of weight, but I guess aging just kind of catches up to you all at once sometimes (and Fale is older than you might think for a guy who hasn’t really been around that long, as he’s already 37). Anyway, obviously Okada is winning this as he gets ready to participate in his first New Japan Cup since 2015 (when he lost in the first round to, coincidentally, Bad Luck Fale). Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

IWGP Heavyweight Title
Hiroshi Tanahashi © vs. Jay White

Ryan: It’s been roughly four years since someone other than Tanahashi, Okada, Omega, or Naito has held the IWGP Heavyweight Title. If you also remove AJ Styles, that takes it to about eight years. Only the most elite competitors get to hold the most elite belt in their grasps. It seems statistically illogical that a gaijin who has only been wrestling on the main card for a couple years would usurp the Ace of New Japan at a New Beginning show. So, why does it feel like Jay White could win here? From a macro standpoint, NJPW may be losing Kenny Omega as their megastar foreigner, and they need to put their yen behind someone else. In kayfabe, Jay White humiliated Okada at Wrestle Kingdom and tapped out Tanahashi in Sapporo. He has a rocket on his back, while this feels like it could very well be Tanahashi’s last reign as IWGP Heavyweight champ. Can Tanahashi persevere, and beat Switchblade for a third time? It is so hard to bet against the Ace, but New Japan is in the business of making stars, and this seems like a star-making opportunity. I can absolutely see them sticking with the status quo, and Tanahashi retains, but Gedo’s got me breathing with the Switchblade. Prediction: Jay White

John: This is my favorite kind of IWGP Heavyweight Title match, in that I really have no idea who is winning this. I can make very convincing arguments for both guys, so why not, let’s do that. Jay White obviously has had the rocket strapped to his back, and as my colleague just noted, NJPW needs to cement someone new as “top gaijin” with Kenny Omega quickly becoming a memory. He didn’t beat Okada in fourteen minutes for no reason, after all. This is a guy who is clearly being set up to be Omega’s replacement in the “big 4” (just look at the new NJPW World splash image on the Fire app if you don’t believe me) and establishing that kind of position needs big wins. What better way to cement it than by being the second man to dethrone Tanahashi at a New Beginning event, in the same building that Okada did it no less (which adds a nice bit of symmetry too, given White’s longstanding feud with the Rainmaker)?

On the other hand, I do think any notion that he absolutely needs to win this match isn’t really right either. White is already a made guy, win or lose: again, he just beat Okada in 14 minutes at the Tokyo Dome, clean as a sheet! Losing here would not destroy him, and there’s other ways to give him big wins this year (he and Tetsuya Naito have been kept apart since the moment he came back from excursion; couldn’t you picture a big spring feud between the two of them, where White beats him in the main event of Sengoku Lord, the new show in Aichi, and takes the IC title, preventing him from his goal of holding both the top titles at once?). On some level it really does just feel too early to me to be beating Hiroshi Tanahashi, who is riding a career resurgence in popularity (his standing in fan polls throughout all of 2018 was the highest it’s been in many years) and still seems to have more life in him as the old ace getting one last run. I’m not saying he has to have a year+ long title reign or anything, but I think him holding the title until Dominion or something would make sense. It would also allow him to fulfill his goal of being the “last champion of the Heisei era”. For those who don’t know what this means: the current “era” of Japan is always defined by the Emperor’s reign, and the Heisei era is the reign of Emperor Akihito, beginning in 1989. Emperor Akihito will officially abdicate his position on April 30th, 2019, which will simultaneously end the Heisei era. For those keeping score at home, that would mean Tanahashi could lose his title at either Wrestling Dontaku (5/3 & 5/4) or Dominion (6/9), two big shows where there will be an IWGP Heavyweight Title defense, and still be the last champion of Heisei. Of course, all of this could simply be a fake out, a way to give White even more heat when he shockingly dethrones Tanahashi, preventing him from achieving his Heisei goal. So who is it going to be here? Gun to my head, after White laid out and tapped out and just repeatedly humiliated Tanahashi at every turn of the build up, I think Tana gets the ultimate revenge here and retains his title. But I won’t be at all surprised if I’m wrong and the Switchblade walks out of Osaka as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and that’s what will make this match so much fun to watch. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi