NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
THE NEW BEGINNING IN OSAKA
FEBRUARY 11, 2019
OSAKA PREFECTURAL GYM
EDION ARENA OSAKA

Watch: NJPW WORLD

After a mostly tame New Beginning tour thus far, we arrive at the grand finale. John Carroll and I previewed this show last week, and while the main event is by and large the most exciting bout on the card (and the entire tour), there is the potential for this to showcase some good wrestling and storytelling. Whenever we have a final stop on a tour, it’s safe to assume some bows will be tied, and some fresh storylines will be presented. Which feuds will be wrapped up, which will continue, and which new ones will emerge? Let’s find out.

TENKOJI & JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER DEF. SUZUKIGUN (MINORU SUZUKI, TAKASHI IIZUKA & TAKA MICHINOKU)

Can Tenzan make any ground on his heroic quest of bringing Iizuka back from the edge of insanity? I’m not going to operate under the pretense that Tenzan and Iizuka are capable of ignoring the sands of time and having a stellar match, but this one detail really adds a layer of interest onto typically mundane undercard matches.

After their initial confrontation, Tenzan and Iizuka make their way to the ring apron as their teammates take charge. Suzuki is in the ring for a long time, trading blows with Kojima. After connecting with a Koji Cutter, Tenzan tries to clear the villainous fog in Iizuka’s mind by showing him a shirt of their past team. It seems like it might just work when Iizuka stops Suzuki from blasting Tenzan with a chair. As Iizuka rips the chair from Suzuki’s hands, Tenzan’s face is beaming with glee. That look quickly vanished as the Great Betrayer decided to ram the chair into Tenzan’s teeth, resulting in a DQ. This was a totally fine match. Nothing worth noting in the way of work rate, but this was yet another page in the tale of Iizuka’s path to retirement. **1/2

EVIL & SANADA DEF. SHOTA UMINO & AYATO YOSHIDA

The rookies here are riding the high of victory after getting a win two days earlier over Tenzan and Yota Tsuji. Umino is subjected to scoop slam after scoop slam at the hands of the tag team champs. These sort of matches are always fun because regardless of how good the Young Lions are, there will always be that element of the story where the veterans display their superiority by doing things like repeated scoop slams and Boston Crabs.

Yoshida’s size is very apparent here. He stands taller than EVIL, and is roughly SANADA’s equal in terms of height and weight. There is a surprising amount of back and forth here as all four guys trade strikes and suplexes. Umino gets a couple of flash pin near falls on SANADA before falling prey to Magic Killer. This was more competitive than one might expect, which peaked with those couple of near falls where logic was thrown out the window and I genuinely thought there was a sliver of a chance Umino sneaks one out on SANADA. ***

LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (TETSUYA NAITO, SHINGO TAKAGI & BUSHI) DEF. SUZUKIGUN (TAICHI, EL DESPERADO & YOSHINOBU KANEMARU)

To the shock of no one, Taichi interrupts Naito’s entrance with a microphone to the eyeball. Taichi may fail time and time again to best Naito, but that’s not going to stop him from trying to murder him at every given opportunity. This is just part of New Japan’s touring process. Regardless of when their featured match is, wrestlers will normally face off with the same opponent(s) all tour. While BUSHI and Desperado are the ones with mounting tension, I would love to see a Shingo and Despy singles match. This was a short, sweet match with Kanemaru eating a Pumping Bomber and Destino as LIJ win. This put a nail in the coffin for the junior tag feud. As is often the case, it seems like the mask vs mask stuff was just played up to add heat to the matches. Naito and Taichi have a post-match face-off, and I can’t see their rivalry immediately continuing, but it seems like they have not seen the last of each other yet.  ***

After the match, Roppongi 3k stopped BUSHI and Shingo on the ramp, gave them a brief beat down, and took their titles into the ring to issue a challenge. This came off as RPG3k being the heels, and that seems to be the best way to do it. The cocky party boys of Roppongi versus the cool anti-heroes of LIJ is a match that I can get behind.

BULLET CLUB (YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & CHASE OWENS) DEF. TOMOAKI HONMA & YOSHI-HASHI

I think YOSHI-HASHI could be the one person to benefit from a SANADA beard. At least he’s got a nice haircut. Chase Owens mentions there being a Bullet Club clean sweep tonight. Honma starts the match by eating a multitude of boots and fists from the Tokyo Pimp and the Crown Jewel before the Head Hunter gets the hot tag. If you close your eyes and visualize what this match should look like, that’s exactly what you get. We have missed Kokeshis, Don Callis making questionable comments about Pieter, YOSHI-HASHI existing, and Owens securing a win with a package pile driver. **3/4

Kota Ibushi’s music sounds, and he walks out sporting a nice blazer over top of his black attire. IBUSHI IS STAYING IN NJPW! Could it be that the Golden Star doesn’t follow his Golden Lover to the land of the Elite? Ibushi announces that he is going to compete in the New Japan Cup.



GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY (TAMA TONGA & TONGA LOA) DEF. TOGI MAKABE & TORU YANO

At the Road to New Beginning show on the 9, Tama Tonga snapped out of his “Good Guy” gimmick and reverted back to his dastardly ways. Why Tama chose to do the inevitable Bad Boy turn at a smaller show and not on the big stage of Osaka is beyond me. Nonetheless, the OG Guerrillas of Destiny have returned, and they waste no time jumping Makabe and Yano on the ramp. Tama brutally assaults Yano with a woman’s oversized red purse, before dumping the contents of the purse on the ground. What a dick. The crowd gladly sends a chorus of boos GOD’s way.

Jado keeps Makabe and Yano at bay with his kendo stick throughout the course of the match. After the sublime master thief executes his signature move of distracting the ref and hitting a low blow, he is greeted with a stick shot to the forehead.  Tama follows it with a gun stun, as the newly re-emerged “Bad Boy” picks up the victory. Bullet Club continues their clean sweep, and GOD may be lining themselves up for a title shot. **3/4

IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
TAIJI ISHIMORI © DEF. RYUSUKE TAGUCHI

Taguchi walks out wearing green overalls and a wireless mic, paying homage/mocking Ishimori’s old school, Toryumon “Sailor Boys” gimmick. As Ishimori is sent to the outside, the Funky Weapon reenacts the Sailor Boys’ “Keep On Journey” dance. Moments later, the Bone Soldier Reborn shows Taguchi just how the dance is done, as Osaka howls with delight.

Ishimori gets the better of Taguchi in most of their early grappling exchanges. After a dropkick and a tope con hilo, the crowd gives Taguchi some of the praise he so rightfully deserves. We always say how Taguchi is capable of busting out a good performance every so often, but it never fails to impress me just how fluid and crisp Taguchi can be when he wants to be. He has the ability to transition almost anything into the Oh My Garfinkle submission. As Taguchi tortures Ishimori with the ankle lock and gets a near fall with the Dodon, this crowd erupts. The size disparity is glaring at times, but Ishimori’s offense is rapid and snug enough to make up for it. The champion counters a second Dodon attempt with the Bloody Cross for a somewhat abrupt conclusion to the match.

Despite the outcome never really being in question, this match was awesome. Taguchi’s comedy was kept to a minimum, and the match benefitted because of it. If they had another five minutes, and a few more back and forth segments, this could have really been spectacular. But alas, this was not the time or place, and Taguchi is sadly not the opponent for that. ****1/4

Ishimori challenged Jushin Liger afterward, which he gladly accepted. It appears the Bone Soldier is setting his sights on veteran juniors, which I’m all for. That’s a great way to bide his time until Hiromu returns.





KAZUCHIKA OKADA DEF. BAD LUCK FALE

We are two months into 2019, and Okada’s tights are still getting a modest pop. If this match is anything other than awful I will walk away satisfied. Fale gives Okada a mile-high backdrop, and it sounds like he is coughing up a literal lung on the outside. As Callis mentions, Okada has an obsession with slamming Fale. It took a few failed attempts, but he eventually succeeds in scooping up the big man.  The good thing about Fale matches is that every strike is complemented by a spray of sweat flying off of his head. It makes for a dramatic, if not gross, visual. Fale pulls Red Shoes directly in front of an Okada forearm, which gives Chase and Yujiro the leeway to come assault the Rainmaker. Luckily, everyone’s favorite dope YOSHI-HASHI sprints down the ramp (successfully) to make the save, before being decapitated by Fale.

When the Rogue General climbs to the top rope, his poor decision making is met with a super-plex. That signaled the end, as Okada would hit the spinning Rainmaker, followed by Rainmaker proper for the victory. I can’t lie, this match rocked. For all of the vitriol that I’ve dished out Fale’s way, he made me eat my words here. He was taking solid bumps left and right, and all of his offense looked painful (with the exception of the Grenade, but there’s not much you can do with that). This was a 50/50 match that had the slightest amount of Bullet Club interference, and a definitive finish. This had to have been Fale’s best match since 2017. ****

IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
JAY WHITE DEF. HIROSHI TANAHASHI ©

The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The first thing White does is roll to the outside, to the chagrin of those in attendance. Tanahashi is acting supremely confident. As New Japan main events usually tend to go, this starts off slow. White knows exactly what he needs to do to get the crowd to hate him. It only takes a few minutes for Tanahashi to tweak his right knee, which White happily capitalizes on. Red Shoes implores White to get back in the ring and stop torturing the champion with the surrounding environment. SwitchBlade rebuts “I’m not using any weapons!” Great point.

As I type in real time, my fear is that this will turn into a knee vs knee bout with overly long submission spots. White continues to brutalize the Ace, but a dragon screw leg whip and High Fly Flow to the outside shifts the momentum in the champ’s favor. During a sequence of rapid reversals, Kevin Kelly valiantly tries to call every single attempted to move. After some Twist and Shouts Tanahashi repeatedly lines up White for a Sling Blade, and he repeatedly slides out of the way. It’s like White’s sole purpose is to deprive the fans of anything they want to see. Switch Blade’s first application of the Tanahashi Tap Out (TTO) is thwarted when the move’s namesake reaches the ropes. Nonetheless, the Bullet Club leader is in firm control until Tanahashi catches him in a few dragon screw leg whips of his own, and locks in a Texas Cloverleaf. Neither of these submission spots overstayed their welcome, and instead ushered in a high gear.

Signature moves are exchanged, and Tanahashi sizes up White for a standing High Fly Flow, but instead of connecting with the crossbody, the champion is caught. White drags him to the center of the ring and quickly connected with the Blade Runner to secure his new championship, and his new place atop of New Japan. As quickly as this upper gear began, it was over. Tanahashi was pinned as clean as can be in the center of the ring.

Gedo’s involvement never changed the direction of the match, which was important. He was more like a fly, easily swatted away, but staying close enough to be a nuisance. Both guys worked and sold the knees excellently, and the submissions never once got into the “okay just break the hold already” territory. White’s victories are almost always out of nowhere, which can make the finishes seem lackluster. As aforementioned, White loves to rob the New Japan audience of their desires. That includes your typical, high octane closing stretch of a main event. Once the match has a few moments to breathe, however, it sinks in. SwitchBlade is now the premiere gaijin, and will hoist up the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Madison Square Garden come April. I can’t say that this match had me on the edge of my seat, or moved me in any sort of emotional way. It did, however, cement White as one of the top guys. ****1/4

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This was the strongest looking card of all of the New Beginning shows, and it did not disappoint. Nothing here stunk. The undercard stuff was all more or less good and entertaining. The junior title match was exactly what I hoped it would be (though I’d love to see Taguchi fastening that belt around his waist). Not only did Bad Luck Fale not suck, he was in an actual good match. As for the main event, I’m happy they pulled the trigger on Jay White. Tanahashi’s mobility is hindered more and more with every passing year, and Jay White can have a myriad of fresh title matches, starting with the victor of the New Japan Cup. Kota Ibushi, I’m looking at you.