The big matches of the New Beginning tour get started today! Can Shingo Takagi take the NEVER title off of Hirooki Goto?
With New Japan just finishing up their Fantastica Mania tour with CMLL partners, it’s time we get back to regularly scheduled programming!
As we know from certain other tours (e.g. Destruction), New Japan has a few tours that are capped off with a major day, but there are a few events headlined by lesser belts to try and give ample attention to their champions. Hirooki Goto and Shingo Takagi have fairly large swells of supporters, so even if the NEVER Openweight belt isn’t considered prestigious; this is still a match to be seen.
- El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori vs Tiger Mask & Yuya Uemura: Ishimori wins via Crossface @8:15 – ***
- Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yota Tsuji vs Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Henare: Henare wins via Toa Bottom @9:40 – ** 1/4
- SHO, YOH, Ryusuke Taguchi & Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI: Taguchi wins via Dodon @11:45 – ** 1/2
- Ryu Lee & Robbie Eagles vs Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI: Eagles wins via Ron Miller Special @11:45 – *** 1/4
- Jay White & KENTA vs Tetsuya Naito & SANADA: White wins via Roll-Up @18:40 – ***
- Kazuchika Okada & Jon Moxley vs Taichi & Minoru Suzuki: Suzuki wins via Gotch Style Piledriver @17:50 – *** 1/2
- EVIL vs Tomohiro Ishii: Ishii wins via Vertical Drop Brainbuster @21:15 – *** 3/4
- NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto (c) vs Shingo Takagi: Shingo wins via Last of the Dragon @20:10 – **** 1/2 – TITLE CHANGE!!
Gino Gambino calls the Corona Virus, the Steve Corino Virus. That’s such a good reference since Corino used to do English commentary, before Don Callis…who was also Cyrus the Virus. Gino’s wit is so multi-layered I don’t know if he’s even aware how deep it goes.
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori vs Tiger Mask & Yuya Uemura – In a match that many would expect to be an enhancement match for the Bullet Club duo, turned out to be quite great. Taiji and ELP continue their Back Rake variations, most notably ELP’s Frog Rake, which is just great heel work. Yuya showed a lot of heart, Tiger Mask came in and he was actually pretty great. It wasn’t much ring time, but everything was crisp and still made Tiger look like a legit wrestler. The tandem Hip Attack, rolling ELP to Tiger Mask for a Tiger Driver, was a neat spot. All in all, the Bullet Club team had a heavy advantage, but Yuya put up a great fight and it was a better match than expected.
Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yota Tsuji vs Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Henare – Unlike the previous match, this match had 1 Young Lion and 5 more veteran wrestlers, so we all knew who the fall guy was. The nice part to this match is it’s one of Nakanishi’s last matches since he’s retiring on February 22nd. We saw a decent amount of ring work from Nakanishi, who’s just trying to get his fill before it’s all over. Most of the veterans had time to shine, there was even a triple submission spot. Nakanishi had the Argentine Backbreaker, Tenzan with the Anaconda Vice and Tsuji doing the Boston Crab; that was a cool visual, but it didn’t finish the match. Tsuji and Henare ended the match, and Henare overcame the Young Lion with a little trouble, but nothing crazy. Decent match.
SHO, YOH, Ryusuke Taguchi & Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI – This was more of the usual 8 man style. Early scattered brawling and trading of opponents who have feuds coming to a head. ZSJ and Ospreay have their British Heavyweight match tomorrow, while Despy and Kanemaru have their challenge against SHO and YOH on the 9th. Taguchi and DOUKI have a little heat from Fantastica Mania, so it’s nice to see that everyone has a reason to be in this match. Solid enough work, but nothing crazy. It is cool to see Taguchi pin DOUKI, since that still leaves the title matches wide open thanks to speculation of momentum or giving the losing side a non-title win to look strong. Average match, but the booking is a nice touch.
Ryu Lee & Robbie Eagles vs Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI – The venom between Ryu Lee and Hiromu definitely was cranked up in this match. Heavy exchanges early, a little mocking and disrespect from Lee added to build up of their Junior championship match. BUSHI is a great complimentary piece to Hiromu and they work well as a tag team. Numerous tandem moves and well executed combinations really drove home the synergy that Los Ingobernables have, as opposed to the makeshift tag of Eagles and Lee. Robbie picked up the win over BUSHI after the Turbo Backpack into the Ron Miller Special. Robbie is getting positioned as the next challenger for the Junior title.
Jay White & KENTA vs Tetsuya Naito & SANADA – This was great in regard to the personalities of everyone involved. KENTA powdered and tried to be cheeky, but when Naito repaid the favor, KENTA got frustrated and tagged in White. So White asked for SANADA, and we saw the dynamic in White’s cockiness in contrast to SANADA’s stoic demeanor.
Outside spots were entertaining, especially with KENTA goading the crowd, Jay taunted, and this was just fun from an entertainment perspective. Eventually there was real wrestling, but White and KENTA are so easy to hate, this match did a great job at just solidifying them as slime balls. Gedo even got involved to add to the reasons why you should hate the Bullet Club duo.
Kazuchika Okada & Jon Moxley vs Taichi & Minoru Suzuki – This was a great pairing. Since Fantastica Mania took some attention away from the angles for New Beginning, this was a great way to stoke the flames for these four. The match was basically a split match the entire time. Taichi paired off with Okada and Suzuki focused on Moxley.
Normally I hate when they split crowd attention between two spots, but this was done correctly. Taichi had Okada in a couple submissions, but not exactly riveting television. All while Suzuki was tearing off barricades and chairs to beat the hell out of Moxley. There was even a great spot where Moxley and Suzuki were jousting with barricades. A little goofy yes, but it was a sight to behold. By the time everyone returns to the ring, Okada has managed to bring the match to parody, and we finish on Suzuki and Moxley. Both strike the hell out of each other, and keep begging for more punishment. Suzuki manages to counter a Death Rider, Sleeper Hold turns Moxley purple and Gotch Style Piledriver ends the match.
After the match Taichi continues to beat down Okada. As soon as Okada gets a small reprieve, Zack Sabre Jr comes out to help Taichi hit Okada with the Iron Fingers. Ospreay tried to help Okada, but Taichi and Zack put and end to that, and a Zack Driver stopped Ospreay’s save. Just when we thought it was over, Taichi continues the assault on the ramp. Black Mephisto, Stretch Plum and then he heads to the ring to cut a promo basically saying he’s going to beat the hell out of Okada, just like he did when Okada was a Young Lion in 2008. I do really like serious Taichi.
EVIL vs Tomohiro Ishii – The main event and this match were both set up during the tag match at New Year Dash. We saw both Ishii and EVIL go to the chair fairly early, but some of the set ups just looked awkward. Especially when you try to put a chair around a guy’s head, who has no neck. Each tried extremely hard and it was a great hard hitting affair, but every time there was supposed to be momentum, the next spot seemed to hiccup or come across weirdly. The crowd seemed very supportive of this match, but to me it was decent up until the last few minutes. We got a bunch of heavy bombs, Superplexes, Lariats, just numerous high impact power moves. Unfortunately for LIJ, EVIL just couldn’t get the job done against Ishii. I think this match was also a little hurt from the fact the main event will be of a very similar style, so it couldn’t really upstage that match and went a bit long.
We started off the year with everyone except SANADA winning in LIJ, now Shingo is LIJ’s last chance at a victory today.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto (c) vs Shingo Takagi – This was one of the matches I was generally excited for since I’ve been a fan of Shingo for years, he was one of the few reasons I paid attention to Dragon Gate. We get a nice basic feud of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’. Shingo dashed Goto’s hopes at making the G1 Finals, but Goto did get the win back a little after that. This is the rubber match, and we get to see how the plans for Shingo are looking in New Japan.
The small elements the last match didn’t contain, were here in spades. Shingo’s facial expressions and selling makes everything more enjoyable to watch. Heavy Lariat exchanges, hell there was even dueling Headbutts…who does that? In what book do you go into a match thinking “Let’s smash skulls a couple dozen times”? Another little thread during the match was SHO being down at Japanese commentary. SHO and Shingo had a rivalry during the Best of Super Junior tournament, so it sowed an early possible challenge if Shingo won.
Goto pulled out every move in his arsenal short of the actual GTR, but Shingo pulled off the rope assisted GTR (Great Takagi Revolution). Shingo counters Goto’s first attempt at the normal GTR, grabs the wrist and turns it into Made in Japan for a big near fall. Both men were tremendously resilient and this was a fun match to watch, not only because of the violence, but because of the expressions and selling. NEVER matches are truly impressive when it’s rooted in the more Strong Style/hard hitting technique.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Surprisingly, this was quite an enjoyable show. Most people would probably perceive the show as having the weakest headliners, but the whole show built up nicely. Even some of the more throw away undercard matches had a lot of effort and the ones that needed to tell a story, achieved their goal.
Shingo also managed to do two things with his victory. Firstly, get himself his first singles gold in New Japan. Secondly, he made sure LIJ wasn’t swept on the first New Beginning event. Los Ingobernables de Japon has been the most popular stable in New Japan for a few years now, so the fact that they hold nearly all the gold is very smart. When Chaos was the hot the stable with Nakamura and Okada, they had runs where most of the gold was with them. It’s just nice to see New Japan finally pulling the trigger on LIJ in general.
We get a damn solid show with a tremendous main event. Tomorrow’s show should be fun as well, but I’m going to enjoy the prospect of a long NEVER reign for Shingo first.