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NJPW: Road to New Beginning Day One Review

Today’s show wasn’t your average Road to New Beginning show. It was the farewell show for the Ace of the Junior Division, KUSHIDA. He would be in the main event fighting against Hiroshi Tanahashi in front out of a passionate crowd in a sold out Korakuen Hall. It was an emotional event to send off for one of the lynch pins of NJPW’s junior division. That being said it wasn’t the only thing that happened with some more important story beats being made ahead of the New Beginning Shows. Right enough talk, let’s see what went down.  

Ren Narita defeats Yuya Uemura via Bridging Belly to Belly Suplex

As per tradition, the event kicked off with a young lion match. This was a heated exchange between Yuya Uemura and young lion stalwart Ren Narita. There was a clear experience edge as Narita instantly went for the legs. Uemura managed to hit a powerful Wrestling Slam but ended up locked in a Boston Crab and forced to break through. He takes some more strikes from Narita but ended up coming back with a Dropkick followed by a corner Dropkick. He gets his own Boston Crab locked in but Narita gets out of it. Uemura manages to hit a Double Underhook Suplex but gets too confident hitting multiple strikes on Narita. Once again Narita takes advantage and wins the match with a nasty looking Bridging Overhead Belly to Belly Suplex.

This was an exciting opener that saw a massive amount of fire from both young lions. There’s a strict time limit to these matches so there is barely ever a wasted moment. Uemura had an excellent showing that revealed an expanded move-set and the fighting spirit to break through holds. Narita is still going strong so it’s probably only a matter of time before he goes on excursion.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi defeat Shota Umino & Yoshida Ayato via Anaconda Vice

Following that, we got a tag match between a grizzled legends team and another young lion team. This time it was Umino and Ayato taking on the intimidating team of Nakanishi and Tenzan. The match started with Nakanishi absorbing Umino’s blows and blocking a Body Slam. Ayato is tagged in and is worked over by both veterans. He tries to get into a strike exchange with Tenzan but is cut down. Eventually the young lions get back into it and start to bring it to the older team. Umino manages to Body Slam Nakanishi and Ayato hits a Neck Breaker Drop and a series of kicks on Tenzan. The legends take control again and attempt to hit a double team manoeuvre but don’t get all of it so Tenzan finishes the match by hitting Ayato with an Anaconda Buster and tapping him out with the Anaconda Vice. This was another fun match that saw the young lions try to bring the fight the veterans only for them to fall short. It was another sprint that never really allowed the match to drag.

Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi defeat Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare via Pimp Juice

Next was a match designed to build towards the upcoming Junior Heavyweight match between Ishimori and Taguchi. They started off the match and almost went hold for hold, only faltering when Taguchi couldn’t kip up out of a Wrist Lock. They both tag out and Yujiro and Henare take over. Takahashi tries to play dirty by biting Henare’s fingers but Henare bites back. They continue locking up but Takahashi attacks the finger and takes control. Henare is bullied until he makes a tag to Taguchi. Taguchi starts to take the match seriously and busts out a series of springboard attacks on Ishimori. He tries to lock in an Ankle Lock but Ishimori breaks out and starts to pick up the pace. Taguchi’s rugby ball starts to come into play as Taguchi hits both the heel team with it. Henare hits a Shoulder Block and attempts to hit his finisher. Yujiro reverses and hits a Fisherman Buster but only gets a two count. Yujiro finishes Henare off with Pimp Juice DDT and the match is over. After the match Ishimori boots the rugby ball into the crowd and storms off. The highlights of this match came from the sequences between Ishimori and Taguchi. It’s always nice to see Taguchi mix both comedy and serious wrestling into a match like he did here. Henare got to show off a bit before being taken out by Yujiro.

Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toru Yano defeat Chase Owens, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa via King Kong Knee Drop on Owens

There was more Bullet Club action as the Guerrillas of Destiny and Chase Owens took on the newly formed home team. Tama Tonga was still in full on good guy mode, trying to be sportsman like and mostly refusing to take part in the heel tactics of his team. He would often try to play nice with his opponents and even tried to reattach a turnbuckle pad that Yano had removed. Tanga Loa and Makabe started with a nice strike fest and Honma was the unfortunate bullying target as Loa and Owens were working him over to the misery of Tama. Makabe would win the match for his team by powering through some double team offense, throwing Honma into a Kokeshi and finishing the match with the King Kong Knee Drop. It was a simple yet fun match that foreshadows what could happen during the Six Man Openweight Tag title match. Tama Tonga’s reluctance to do anything nefarious is slowly starting to cost his team victories and nearly always seems to give his opponents the upper hand. That being said it is still a riot to watch and the longer he can drag it out, the more crowds will bite. Everyone is just waiting for him to turn again and reclaim the Bad Boy mantle.

There was also an interesting moment between Jado and Honma as Jado whacked Honma with the Singapore Cane and would attempt to hit a Draping DDT on him since the ref was out. This was a throwback to how Honma got a broken neck so this may be a tease to a future storyline.

Jay White & Bad Luck Fale defeat Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi – Hashi via Grenade

The final round of Bullet Club contests saw the team of Jay White and Bad Luck Fale take on Okada and Yoshi-Hashi. White was being his usual arrogant self as he messed with some young lions on his way to the ring, dragging Tsuji into the camera to ask him who’s gonna be the new IWGP Heavyweight champ. White and Fale attack early with Fale going after Okada. Both Chaos members are driven into the railings and Hashi is eventually thrown into the ring to be worked over. Both White and Fale take turns attacking Hashi with one notable spot being Fale standing on the back of Hashi and Okada trying to make the save but just adding to the weight. Eventually Okada is tagged in and runs through White. Okada controls White until he is hit with a Saito Suplex. Hashi makes it back into the ring and starts running through his opponents. He hits the Head Hunter and manages to reverse a Grenade into a Code Breaker but ends up eating another one to finish the match. Fale isn’t done and forces Okada to make the save only to also get hit with a Grenade. Bullet Club look to run rampart but are stopped by a horde of young lions. It seems that Yoshi Hashi just can’t catch a break. He has been victimised since coming back and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. White once again acted like the perfect heel and knows just how to get under the audience’s skin.

Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi defeat Taichi, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr via Everything Is Evil on Kanemaru

This was all out chaos, a brawl from the start with LIJ deciding to take the fight to Suzuki Gun instead of waiting to be ambushed. Everyone fought around ringside with Naito going straight for Taichi despite Taichi being nice enough to hold the ropes open for him. The action returns in-ring with Evil and ZSJ locking up. EVIL tries to overpower ZSJ but mostly ends up trapped in holds. Suzuki and SANADA are tagged in and mix it up. SANADA tries to outmanoeuvre Suzuki and pays the price for trying to put him in the Paradise Lock. SANADA is then targeted and worked over until another brawl ensues. Suzuki takes SANADA near the crowd and attacks him with a railing. Taichi smashes Naito with a chair and everyone else in LIJ is also attacked. SANADA eventually makes an escape and brings in Naito. At the same time Taichi comes in and the square off. Naito decimated Taichi and uses a ref bump to get in a cheeky low kick. Shingo and BUSHI get a chance to take to the ring with Shingo dominating both Kanemaru and Desperado before pulling some double team moves with his tag partner. The closing stretch sees EVIL taking out Kanemaru with Darkness Falls and eventually hitting the Everything Is Evil to seal the deal. Naito goes after Taichi after the match and even threatens to break the mic stand over him but decides against it.

If it weren’t for the KUSHIDA send-off then this would easily have been match of the night as it was frantic, fun and completely off the rails for long time. Both factions have amazing chemistry against each other. These two will be feuding over a number of the titles during New Beginning so this is a great way to keep momentum going whilst also providing something different from the rest of the card. This is a riot for those who may fall off during tag matches.

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats KUSHIDA via Texas Cloverleaf

Last but certainly not least, the Ace of the Junior Division had to battle the Ace of the Universe in one last bout before leaving for pastures new. These two were perfect opponents as both men are able to adapt to fit a match. They started technical, exchanging mat wrestling sequences. Normally KUSHIDA would excel here but Tanahashi was keeping pace and at times out doing him. They would transition between holds and locks before Tanahashi started targeting the legs. This was meant to knock out KUSHIDA’s speed and painted a large target on the ace’s limbs. KUSHIDA would start fighting back though, going for Tanahashi’s arm to soften it up for the Hoverboard Lock. There was an elongated battle to lock in a Cross Arm Breaker and a series of targeted kicks and Inverted Dragon Screw Leg Whips. There was an Ace’s High Standing Crossbody that was kicked out of and then a struggle over the full application of the Hoverboard Lock as Tanahashi kept locking his fingers so the hold could not be applied. The same struggles would come over the Cloverleaf as KUSHIDA would often work his way out of that too. Unfortunately Tanahashi kicked out of the Back to the Future and finally locked in the Texas Cloverleaf to put away KUSHIDA and get one last win over the Time Splitter.

There was an emotional exchange between the two that was ruined by the appearance of Jay White and a steel chair. He attacked Tanahashi repeatedly and bust his knee with a chair wrapped knee shot. He gloated over getting one over Tanahashi and left to allow KUSHIDA to make a heartfelt farewell. He thanked the audience for being with him over the years and most importantly said this isn’t goodbye it’s see you later. This is him leaving to carry on his journey as he has done all he can for now in NJPW. The audience gave him a thunderous goodbye and he got the chance to interact with them before leaving. It’s going to be nice to see what KUSHIDA does next as he is a special kind of hybrid talent that can put on excellent matches with everyone. He is capable of so many varied styles and wherever he goes will definitely benefit. KUSHIDA is a fan favourite and has been a dependable face for the junior division. He will be missed by the NJPW fans but there as he said there is always a chance he’ll be back.

So there you have it. That is what happened at the Road to New Beginning 29th January show. It offered some fun tag matches and two stellar final matches, one that saw off one of the junior division’s best and the other offering another chaotic bout between two factions at war. There was a lot of good here and though some can see tag matches as boring, each one had a purpose. Jay White somehow managed to almost steal the show by being a total heelish monster. Whilst most of the card was meant to look to the future, let’s focus on the present and take a moment to appreciate KUSHIDA until the next show comes around.

(All images courtesy of NJPW Facebook page)

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