New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road to New Beginning Night Six
January 24, 2021
It’s time for some more fun, fun fun on the autobahn to New Beginning. Fun is definitely what was needed after yesterday’s dirge and it certainly delivered that. There were more competent builds to the big shows and some examples of proper, honorable cheating.
Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki) def. Yuya Uemura, Tiger Mask, Yuji Nagata & Togi Makabe)
Last night’s main event was plagued with cheating. Obviously, I’m not concerned with morality in pro-wrestling. The opposite in fact. I love nefarious wrestlers. However, last night we were cheated out of some good cheating.
Cheating in professional wrestling has to be clever for it to be effective. There has to be a sense of the smartest guy in the room making a fool out of their opponents in a way that brings back memories of all the times you were embarrassed by someone who is both a prick and better than you. There’s nothing impressive about dispatching a paper referee who crumbles at a whisper of violence. The long silences that followed Red Shoe’s Dr. Frankenstein-esque crisis served to highlight how pathetic it was.
Here, however, we have cheating at its most masterful. The speed at which distractions led to foreign objects being launched into the ring delayed the brain’s cognizance of what had just happened. Before I had realized that bad men were doing bad things, the Suzuki-gun team had intelligently cheated their way to an advantage. This worked so much better than the wink-wink nudge-nudge naughty boy routine that ELP insists on using.
The act of cheating, by definition, relies on a recognition of the rules that are being broken. Good cheating doesn’t completely disregard rules, but manipulates them. Without this recognition, the heat moves from the cheater to the incompetence of the officiating.
I really think ELP should watch this match. Rubbish tropes with a smirk and a wink are still rubbish tropes.
The veterans of the match wrestled with a brilliant, fresh violence. Nagata and Tiger Mask were righteous in their grumpiness and this wonderful attitude permeated every strike. El Desperado got the pin and hopefully began his slow elevation.
This was the perfect Sunday opener and the reason why I watch Road To shows. Fun, intelligent wrestling. ***½
THE EMPIRE (Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan) vs Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan – NO CONTEST
I was critical of Great-O-Khan during his RevPro excursion, but something clicked when he teamed with Sha Samuels. He would walk to the ring with a horrendously violent swagger. His arms would flail everywhere as if he were searching for any skull to crack. Sometimes, he would even wear jeans, the universal uniform of a wrestler about to ignore the rules.
He channeled that energy here and it was brilliant. By wailing his way to the ring, devoid of his Hacienda-reject twitching, the sheer intensity of the character was foregrounded. There was a beautiful, pathetic irony to his annoyance stemming from TenKoji using their own tactics against them during last night’s show.
This was exactly what it needed to be to build the upcoming singles matches, but it being declared a no-contest makes it almost impossible to rate. That being said, it was a wonderful build. Tenzan lying on the floor while The Empire launched chair after chair into the ring was great, especially when an errant chair landed directly on the mulleted bonce of Tenzan. The disrespect of O-Khan standing on the back of Tenzan’s head before being dragged to the back screaming put this feud back at the forefront of excitement for the New Beginning shows. NR
BULLET CLUB (EVIL, Dick Togo & Yujiro Takahashi) def. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada)
Consistently the weakest altercations of the tour, the CHAOS vs BULLET CLUB feud threatened stagnation without Ishii. He has been the MVP of every one of these matches so far, especially when battling Togo. Fortunately for us, Goto and YOSHI-HASHI must have felt the void he left behind, and did more than enough to fill it.
There was more good cheating here, as if to consolidate the lesson for ELP, with concise weapon spots that stayed around for exactly the amount of time they needed. In fact, the pace of this match was superb, with a Goto and YOSHI-HASHI adding much-needed noise and rhythm.
As always, the weakest link in these matches was EVIL and Okada. He’s not quite balloon Okada, but this is barely a step up. I understand that he’s not in a featured program, and the wait for some effort will undoubtedly make these delaying tactics worthwhile, but it’s worth noting that one of the greatest wrestlers of all time has been consistently the least interesting thing in all of these matches.
As my VOW overlords often point out, perception is reality. The Okada/EVIL feud is presented as a squabble, with neither man nor booking making any effort to elevate it into something worthwhile. If they don’t care, why should we? ***
Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito) def. SHO & Tomoaki Honma
I love the relationship between Naito and Hiromu. In a medium where relationships are often over-complicated to the point of nonsense, it’s amazing how refreshing it is to see two mates winding each other up. They walk a brilliant tightrope of clear mutual respect whilst still trying to get one over each other at every opportunity. Nothing highlighted this more than the sneers as they raised each others’ arms in the direction of Honma, leading to Naito twisting Hiromu’s arm to push the joke that step too far. It’s a real relationship, and so it means so much more.
One of the sad realizations from this tour is that Honma is finally done. It’s interesting that they didn’t attempt to cover that up in this match. There were long periods of Honma focused action, both offense and defense, and he just couldn’t cope. Naito’s boots to the back of the head looked great whilst still managing to protect him, but when it came to Honma’s fight back, it seemed like he couldn’t even lift his arms properly.
SHO and Hiromu were as dynamic as expected, and their match continues to be an exciting prospect. What is less exciting, however, is the prospect of more Honma/Naito. The swiftness of the roll-up victory was hardly decisive, but it technically gives Naito his win back after the elimination. Let’s hope that’s the end of it. **¾
Kota Ibushi, Master Wato and Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA & Shingo Takagi)
There was a worry that Master Wato had started to become competent on this tour, but a hilariously terrible tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on SANADA, a man twice his size, has saved us all the embarrassment of reading “Wato is #actuallygood” analysis. The act of giving a graduated Young Lion a gimmick based around learning wrestling is a damning, ridiculous indictment of a really rubbish wrestler.
Despite its objective averageness, I found myself enjoying the Wato/BUSHI segments. There’s something captivating about a wrestler who doesn’t seem to have much control over what his body does, and Wato wrestles like he’s driving a quad bike without a helmet.
It felt like everyone took a bit of a night off here. There were lots of ghostly strikes that missed the mark by miles and a general lack of effort from many.
Ironically though, this is the first time all tour where SANADA and Ibushi have looked good, and justified the forty-five minute “respectful-yet-determined” stare down they share every night. I just can’t divorce myself from SANADA’s pacing problem. He doesn’t seem to be able to build matches into any meaningful crescendo, and he always slows matches down at the worst time. The Skull End looking as terrible as ever only serves to highlight this.
A hilariously terrible 619 from Wato was elevated hugely by the cheesy point to Tanahashi afterward. It was such a misjudged moment of confidence, as he arrogantly deferred control that was never his. I found myself laughing out loud. Put Wato at the bottom of the card and I might even like it.
Tanahashi wrenched in the Cloverleaf to get the victory and brought an end to a perfectly functional match. He didn’t do much with Shingo here, but they’ve already done enough to get me excited for their NEVER bout. ***
I didn’t like yesterday’s show at all, but luckily this was a huge improvement. Every match had a little wrinkle to chew on. At just under two hours, NJPW’s Road to New Beginning Night 5 was a breezy watch that is well worth your time. Perhaps put it on the background whilst painting a Space Marine.