A war of lariat bombs! The British are taking over! And Okada is teaming with… Jon Moxley?!
It must be time for the New Beginning tour to kick off with two big nights in Sapporo.
Taking place on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd February, live on NJPW World with English commentary available, New Japan will be setting up a two night residency in Hokkaido as all the stars convene to give us defences of the NEVER Openweight and British Heavyweight Championships, previews of upcoming title matches and Jon Moxley in a couple of… unique teams. I’ll be taking a look at the biggest matches taking place in this preview.
Ryu Lee & Robbie Eagles vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
A preview of the upcoming IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match on February 9th, Ryu Lee (Dragon Lee) and Hiromu will be opponents in the ring for the first time since Hiromu’s neck was broken as the result of a phoenix-plex delivered by Lee. But there’s more at stake here than gaining momentum on the way to that Championship match.
Robbie Eagles currently holds a pinfall victory over the now IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, a victory earned during the first Road To Tokyo Dome show. Although Hiromu wasn’t the Champion at the time, Eagles does have a valid claim to challenging for the title and he’ll be looking to remind everybody of that by defeating the Champion again. Conversely, Hiromu will be keen to get that blemish off his record and may look to get back on equal terms with Robbie. With this much talent in the ring, this match could be a stand out from the night.
Jon Moxley & Kazuchika Okada vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki & Taichi)
In one of the most bizarre but wonderful pairings in recent memory, Moxley will be teaming up with the Rainmaker (team name ideas in a tweet please). This occasion will mark the first time that Moxley and Suzuki officially meet in a ring and will be a preview of the singles match set for February 9th that will see Moxley defending his IWGP US Heavyweight Championship against Suzuki. Whilst the draw of this is certainly seeing a confrontation between Moxley and Suzuki, we can’t forget that Okada is also in this match and will be gunning for Taichi, hoping to gain an advantage before their singles match on February 2nd.
Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
We’re going to find out what happens when you try to fight a fridge. The seeds were planted for this match at Wrestle Kingdom 14 when EVIL eliminated Ishii and his team from the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship gauntlet match. EVIL added some emphasis to the victory by hitting Ishii with Everything Is Evil following the three-count, leading the men to meet at New Years Dash!! in tag-team action.
It’s great when Ishii is in a singles match as the Stone Pitbull rarely, if ever, disappoints. And that feeling is multiplied when he has the likes of EVIL standing across from him. Whilst there may be no titles on the line, a victory here will push the winner straight onto a path to be a future challenger for a Championship. This will be a hard-hitting match between two bruisers who will be unwilling to relent and show any weakness as they look to dominate.
NEVER Openweight Championship – Hirooki Goto (C) vs Shingo Takagi
Take a shot whenever these men hit a sickening lariat and I promise you’ll be very drunk or passed out. There’s a very real chance that Goto or Shingo’s head may end up knocked off their shoulders, into the crowd. Every time Shingo and Goto step into the ring together it is spectacularly brutal. Both men hold singles victories over the other with the record being 1-1 and this being the decider.
I think when February is over that this could be the match of the month if it is as good as their previous meetings. Shingo picked up a decisive victory at New Years Dash!! when he pinned Goto in a tag-team match to earn this title shot. As hard-hitting as the match before this will be, I expect this will be a step up. Shingo is always amazing to watch; it’s like he has rockets attached to his boots as he hits the ropes at frightening speed when prepping for a lariat or Pumping Bomber. Take cover as both men will be throwing bombs at each other throughout.
- Yuya Uemura & Tiger Mask vs Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori)
- Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma & Togi makabe vs Yota Tsuji, Manabu Nakanishi & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
- Ryusuke Taguchi, SHO, YOH & Will Ospreay vs Suzuki-Gun (DOUKI, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr.)
- Robbie Eagles & Ryu Lee vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
- Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs BULLET CLUB (KENTA & Jay White)
- Kazuchika Okada & Jon Moxley vs Suzuki Gun (Taichi & Minoru Suzuki)
- Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
- Hirooki Goto vs Shingo Takagi – NEVER Openweight Championship
Gabriel Kidd vs El Phantasmo
Kidd will making his NJPW World debut as he takes on the challenge of the ever cocky and arrogant ELP. Being under the tutelage of the one and only Katsuyori Shibata at the LA Dojo means that Kidd will be no push over. The result may be a foregone conclusion but Kidd will be looking to make an impact and prove he belongs in a New Japan ring.
ELP will no doubt be looking past Kidd and seeing him as an easy victory to add to his record. We may not have any New Japan footage to see of Kidd just yet but based on the prowess of the rest of the LA Dojo I’m confident in saying that Kidd will be anything but a pushover.
Ryusuke Taguchi, SHO, YOH & Jon Moxley vs Suzuki-Gun (DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki)
It’s so exciting to see Jon Moxley in a match like this, it really makes him feel like part of the roster opposed to somebody who only shows up for the big shows. It turns what could have been an average tag-team match into something special.
Whilst it is intriguing to fathom how the individualistic Moxley will function in a team that includes Taguchi (Funky Riders?), the pulling point of this is seeing Suzuki and Moxley step inside the same ring again. This also offers a preview of the upcoming IWPG Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match set to take place in Osaka where SHO & YOH will be defending against Kanemaru and El Desperado.
British Heavyweight Championship – Zack Sabre Jr. (C) vs Will Ospreay
“People in Sapporo or watching on NJPW World are going to see what the next evolution of British wrestling is.”– Zack Sabre Jr.
This match will make history as the first time two British wrestlers compete for a Heavyweight Championship in a New Japan ring; another notch on the belt of both these men who will be proving why British wrestling is some of the best in the world.
Both take pride in their British roots and take great pride in representing the nation but that’s about where their similarities end. This will be Ospreay’s second challenge for a heavyweight title since joining NJPW, perhaps marking his step up from the Junior division although I expect he will venture between the two weight classes.
Despite being one of the biggest names in British wrestling, Ospreay has never held the British Heavyweight Championship, having unsuccessfully challenged three times (against Shibata, Scurll/AJ Styles and ZSJ). But this is a title that is synonymous with Zack. He is a record holding four time British Heavyweight Champion and has the most combined days as Champion. The last singles meeting between Ospreay and ZSJ was during G1 Climax 29 at the end of July, in a 20 minute match that saw Sabre walking away with the submission victory.
These are two wrestlers not seemingly capable of having a bad match and their different styles have always fused to give us something distinctive and exciting. This seems dead-set to be the match of the night and a real contender for match of the tour.
Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi
At New Years Dash!! Taichi made his intentions clear as he gunned for Okada throughout the 8-man tag and ended things early with a low blow followed by viciously using the Iron Claw to lay Okada out. He took advantage of the biggest opportunity he could in that tag match and now has the chance to gain a singles victory over the Rainmaker, which would put Taichi on course to challenge whoever the IWGP Heavyweight Champion is. Whereas Okada will be looking to get back to winning ways after losing his title on Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom 14.
Taichi has proven himself over the last few years to be a very competent general in the ring, perhaps proven most during his rivalry with Ishii that seemed to bring out a competitive side of Taichi rather than the snivelling side we had grown accustomed to. Somewhat surprisingly, this is the first singles meeting between the two since Okada became the Rainmaker, with the only previous meeting being in Okada’s first New Japan match in 2008.
- Toa Henare vs Yota Tsuji
- Yuya Uemura, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
- Gabriel Kidd vs El Phantasmo
- CHAOS (Robbie Eagles, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & Shingo Takagi)
- Ryusuke Taguchi, SHO, YOH & Jon Moxley vs Suzuki-Gun (DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki)
- Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori, Jay White & KENTA)
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs Will Ospreay – British Heavyweight Championship
- Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi
The New Beginning is the ideal way to continue the New Japan adventure following Wrestle Kingdom 14 and perhaps the best part is that on February 9th the tour rolls into Osaka-Jo Hall for a huge show that will see giants clash for gold as KENTA challenges for Tetsuya Naito’s Double Championships.
You can find me on Twitter @CiaranRH.