New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Beginning in Sapporo Night 2
February 2, 2020
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell
Watch: New Japan World
Meet our previewers:
- John: Again, John is writing this very early (January 24th) because they’ll be on a mini-vacation the week of the show. If anything changes that week, please blame their girlfriend for having a birthday. Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla or their podcast @wrestleomakase.
- Lorien: Lorien loves NJPW and will never not spend $30 to briefly stand next to Kota Ibushi when the option is presented. You can follow her at @divingmeteora if you also want to see some yelling about video games and K-pop.
Toa Henare vs. Yota Tsuji
John: In 2019 Toa Henare had 10 singles matches, and went 6-4. All six of his wins were against Young Lions, including 3 against Yota Tsuji. Here he is in 2020, and his first singles match is against…..Young Lion Yota Tsuji. I’m sure the match will be fine, and it could even be pretty damn good, but can we get Henare something else to do please? When guys get stuck in this “Not technically a Young Lion but still loses to everyone except the Young Lions” role they sure get stuck in it. Prediction: Toa Henare
Lorien: Maybe I should start out by saying that I’ve been a little out of the loop for a while because I’ve been working a lot, and this is my first show back since last year (excluding Wrestle Kingdom, obviously, I still observe the holidays). So I’m diving back in with, hopefully, some fresh perspective.
Moving right along – what the heck is Henare’s situation? I want the poor guy to have something interesting to do, too. I understand not everyone is going to have a long-term galaxy brain Gedo booking story arc, but having him in this weird purgatory doesn’t really seem to be doing anyone any favors, either. I used to consider David Finlay to be in the same category, but he got out via the success of FinJuice. So maybe there’s hope for Henare, if he can team up with a lovable rogue with a penchant for novelty eyewear. (Watch out, Taguchi.) Prediction: Toa Henare
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Yuya Uemura vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask
John: The Nakanishi retirement tour marches on with another six-man. Absolutely nothing else you can say here except obviously Uemura is going to eat a pinfall. Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask
Lorien: Six guys, chillin’ in the ring, five feet apart ‘cause they’re… dads, and Yuya. No NJPW retirement story is going to top the extremely high-profile recent one that I know is lingering in all our hearts… the failed Tenzan-Iizuka reunion. But I respect Nakanishi’s nonetheless, and hope he’s having a good time as he winds it down. Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask
El Phantasmo vs. Gabriel Kidd
John: I can’t say I’m a big Revolution Pro or British indies watcher so I’ve never actually seen Gabriel Kidd compete, but according to the NJPW English website he’s been with the LA Dojo since he caught Katsuyori Shibata’s eye in June 2019. His NJPW debut will actually be on the pre-Sapporo Road to New Beginning shows that aren’t making tape, but since he weirdly isn’t booked for Night 1 in Sapporo this will be his first televised match. It’s kind of interesting they’re giving him a bit of a showcase singles match in his televised debut; even though the result obviously isn’t in doubt, perhaps it’s a sign that they see big things in the kid (no pun intended, he’s only 22!). Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how this battle of RevPro alums plays out. Prediction: El Phantasmo
Lorien: I, too, know next to nothing about Gabriel Kidd! Sources (my husband) tell me he was a big heel in Defiant, notably feuding with David Starr and Joe Hendry, to whom he eventually lost a “loser leaves Defiant” match which I assume facilitated his joining the LA Dojo. The phenomenon of an established singles competitor with his own style and character, especially someone primarily known as a heel, joining the dojo system is somewhat at odds with the way I usually think of a Young Lion; given that, his TV debut being a singles match against someone who’s not a dad or fellow Lion seems fitting. I’m assuming he’s still working with the regular Young Lion moveset (and trunks), but seeing someone with a different background working within those same parameters in a slightly different context should be pretty cool. Prediction: El Phantasmo
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Robbie Eagles) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, EVIL & BUSHI)
John: The split tour phenomenon of the, uh, “post-hype match” returns in Sapporo, as Goto, Ishii, Shingo and EVIL will be fresh off their big singles matches from the prior night. If things go how I’ve predicted, with EVIL beating Ishii and Goto retaining his NEVER title against Shingo the night before, perhaps we get our first teases of a future Goto-EVIL program. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that match get booked for next month’s Anniversary show from Ota Ward Gym. Or maybe I’m totally wrong and we’re setting up Shingo’s first NEVER defense against Ishii, who knows. But no matter what we’re teasing for next month it seems likely to me that BUSHI eats a pin here. Prediction: CHAOS
Lorien: I don’t think I’ve seen Robbie Eagles tag with either of his partners here before, so that’s something that could be interesting if it comes into play. I can’t really think of a way to try to predict the outcome of this match other than by determining who’s most likely to get pinned, and Eagles and BUSHI do seem like the only reasonable candidates in this match. Since I’m predicting an LIJ loss later in the show, I’ll go with a win here. Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon
Jon Moxley, Roppongi 3K & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
John: The Integration of Jon Moxley continues, as he goes from his first time teaming with anyone in New Japan not named “Shota Umino” to his first ever multi-man tag. Of course this is all about hyping up two matches for Osaka, Moxley vs. Suzuki for the US title and Roppongi 3K vs. Despy & Kanemaru for the junior tag titles. DOUKI once again sticks out like a sore thumb here to likely eat a pinfall. Prediction: Jon Moxley, Roppongi 3K & Ryusuke Taguchi
Lorien: I know I’m a little slow to process things, but the concept of “Jon Moxley, Roppongi 3K, and Taguchi tag team” still sounds like something out of a dream to me. Not like “dream match” dream, but like “weird dream where I was wearing a clown suit at the bank, except the bank was actually Donkey Kong’s banana vault, and also Jon Moxley was there tagging with Taguchi.” Further points to this match for including DOUKI, my favorite masked gremlin who generally exists to be an asshole and eat pins. This match is pretty clearly a venue for Moxley and Suzuki to menace each other, and I hope to see some first-rate menacing; a Suzukigun loss and ensuing Young Lion beatdown would be a good way to end it with as much chaotic energy as possible to carry them into their singles match. Prediction: Jon Moxley, Roppongi 3K & Ryusuke Taguchi
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, KENTA & Taiji Ishimori)
John: More hype for Osaka (Naito-KENTA for the double crown and SANADA-White), plus Hiromu is getting ready to fight Ryu Lee who weirdly leaves the tour after the first night in Sapporo, not returning until their junior title match on the 9th. I really have no idea why he suddenly vanishes from the tour unless he has a booking in Mexico or something, because the only upcoming ROH show (he’s still their TV Champion remember) is on……February 9th, when he’ll be in Osaka! Shrug. Anyway, this is the kind of six-man tag that looks really tasty on paper, because obviously all six guys here are extremely talented, but you never really know how these things will turn out. If they all take the night off it doesn’t matter how loaded the match looks on paper, but third from the top on a pretty big show, I think we’re a little more likely to get a great match here. Ishimori isn’t doing much right now and could easily get pinned, so look for LIJ to get the win and then probably get jumped by the BULLET CLUB team at the end for more brawling. Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon
Lorien: I definitely don’t expect KENTA to take the double belts off Naito in Osaka, even if the smallest part of me would like to see it just in order to give KENTA the biggest possible stage upon which to be a delightful shitlord. That said, when there’s a title match coming up where the champion is likely to retain, I always expect the challenger to win the lead-up match; this might just be something I picked up during a phase of watching a lot of 90s WCW, though, so do with that what you will. Looking at the other two matchups, Taiji definitely isn’t going to pin Hiromu here, and I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with SANADA and White. John’s prediction is pretty spot-on, but just to counter, I’ll say either KENTA or Jay White are going to get a pin on a non-Naito person. Prediction: BULLET CLUB
British Heavyweight Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Will Ospreay
John: With apologies to Marty ‘I’m still listed on the profiles page actually’ Scurll, the top two British wrestlers in New Japan have crossed paths far less than you probably think they have. This is likely due to the fact that they’ve been separated by the heavyweight/junior divide since both were in the company together, but they’ve only had one singles match in NJPW proper so far: a match in the G1 last year which Sabre won. That was their first meeting anywhere since 2017, but before that they had a lot more meetings on the British indies so let’s quickly go through them all. Ospreay won their first singles match in 2014 in the SWE, only for ZSJ to defeat him in the finals of IPW:UK’s Super 8 tournament in the same year. Will paid him back by defeating him in the finals of 2015’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament in PROGRESS, and then came their big year of 2016 where they had FIVE singles meetings in that year alone! ZSJ won in RevPro in February, in the quarterfinals of wXw’s 16 Carat Gold tournament in March, in their first ever meeting in the US in EVOLVE in April, and in PROGRESS in August. Ospreay finally got on the board that year in the PWG BOLA quarter finals, ending his four match losing streak. They met two more times in 2017, both in RevPro, where Ospreay beat Zack in August and Zack then retained this very British Heavyweight Title against Will on a RevPro/NJPW Global Wars show in November. And that was their last meeting until the G1 last year. Phew! So that leaves us with a record of 7-4 for ZSJ, including two straight.
So anyway, I think Will Ospreay is winning this. It just seems like the perfect way to transition him up to heavyweight, as he’ll get to hold his home country’s title for the very first time. And he’s already booked on the RevPro High Stakes show on 2/14 (where RevPro officials have said “there will be” a title match) where they could even do a quickie change back to Zack if they wanted to, but I think a big win over Sabre is a great way to officially graduate him up to heavyweight. Either way, I hope they produce something better than their G1 match last year, which I personally found very underwhelming. Prediction: Will Ospreay
Lorien: When I saw this matchup, my lizard brain immediately got hyped to see ZSJ tie Will Ospreay in a knot. I’m not a huge Ospreay person but I am very, very much a Zack Sabre Jr. fan, and seeing him go up against someone I’ve rarely seen him face is always exciting, especially with the element of clashing styles. I can’t really see much of a purpose to having Sabre win this, though, whereas a win will absolutely give Ospreay the heavyweight boost, as John says. I’m sure my pro-ZSJ bias is showing when I say this, but I think in terms of character, Zack can either be a cocky winner or a pouty loser and still maintain interest, whereas if Ospreay loses it feels kind of like him coming up against a dead end. Prediction: Will Ospreay.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Taichi
John: Like a shark that smelled blood in the water, Taichi looked at Kazuchika Okada standing across the ring from him at New Year Dash and saw (with apologies to Tanahashi) New Japan’s ace at perhaps his lowest point in ages. He had lost one of the biggest matches of his life the previous night, the double title match with Tetsuya Naito at the Tokyo Dome, and on top of that his neck and shoulders were covered with athletic tape, showing a physical weakness as well. It made perfect sense that Taichi decided this was his moment to try and go after Okada, and he really made his presence felt when he struck the Rainmaker with Takashi Iizuka’s IRON FINGERS FROM HELL~! at the end of the match. Now Okada will come to Taichi’s hometown of Sapporo (ok, technically he’s from a town in Hokkaido called Ishikari but close enough) and look for some measure of revenge.
The last two times Okada lost a main event at the Tokyo Dome, both to Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2013 and 2015, he also lost his next singles match as well (to Minoru Suzuki at the New Beginning and to Bad Luck Fale in the first round of that year’s New Japan Cup, respectively). Will history repeat itself again here? It would be the biggest win of Taichi’s career whether it came clean or by hook or crook, and it would perhaps set Okada up with a new 2020 rival that he has to eventually vanquish later (perhaps in the New Japan Cup?). While I could easily see this show ending with Okada hitting a Rainmaker for the pin and sending the crowd home happy, I’m gonna side with history on this one and say that Okada-Taichi is just getting started. This will be the Holy Emperor’s day, and it shall be glorious. Prediction: Taichi
Lorien: If you are looking for any anti-Taichi sentiments, you have come to the wrong part of town. I have cosplayed Taichi. I am Taichi gang for life. I cannot overstate how in favor of an Okada-Taichi rivalry I am. And it makes sense! Taichi has steadily gained fans since joining the heavyweight division, and in my opinion he’s shone at every opportunity in the last year especially. Having Okada be as dominant as he is makes it really hard to know what to do with him when he’s not on top or even really in the main title picture, because it takes a lot to present someone as a legitimate threat to him, given how he’s streamrolled basically the entire planet in the past. You need someone kind of out of left field to surprise him and the audience, someone he hasn’t recently faced and defeated, but who is still believable as a challenge. Taichi can wrestle a match where he wins clean, shake Okada even more than he’s already been shaken and establish himself as someone to be taken seriously. Or he can win by trickery and be the infuriating thorn in the side that galls Okada into retaliating with a bit of an attitude: maybe he lost the title to Naito, but that doesn’t mean he has to let Taichi of all people walk all over him. All of this and more can be yours if the Holy Emperor prevails in Sapporo. Prediction: Taichi