Faction Warfare provides a chaotic preview of things to come…
After shows of build-up we finally get to day one of the New Beginning in Sapporo. Today’s show was a preview of things to come in the title scene. The show offered a series of LIJ vs Suzuki Gun matches with the right degree of chaos to keep anyone happy and stories progressing. Let’s see what went down.
Ren Narita defeats Yuya Uemura via Bridging Belly to Belly Suplex
NJPW once again starts with another young lion’s match and a rematch between Uemura and Narita. Uemura is still trying to get a win back in singles competition so it was on him to bring his A game. He starts off going hold for hold with Narita before getting caught out and beaten down. He eventually makes a comeback and locks in two attempts at the Boston Crab. Narita gets to the ropes both times and once again attempts to hit the Overhead Bridging Belly to Belly Suplex but is blocked. Uemura once again gets too cocky and Narita manages to hit the Belly to Belly from a different position and wins the match. Yet another excellent bout between the two that showcased the development of both lions.
Toa Henare & Manabu Nakanishi defeat Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida via TOA Bottom on Umino
Ayato and Toa start off in a heated exchange that leads to Umino being tagged in. Umino starts hot but is soon bullied by both Nakanishi and Henare. We get the eventual hot tag and the match picks up with both teams exchanging combos and moves. Umino tries to lock in a Cross Armbreaker multiple times but is unable to lock it in. He is eventually hit by the TOA Bottom by Henare and the match ends. The show continues with a hot tag bout that didn’t end when the match finished as both young lions wanted to continue fighting with things especially getting tense between Ayato and Henare. There should be more to come from those two.
Tiger Mask & Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeat Taka Michinoku & Takashi Lizuka via DQ
It’s always nice to see Taka back in the ring again. There was another fast start as Tenzan instantly calls out Lizuka wanting to tag with him again. Tenzan wants to fight and Lizuka is happy to oblige, choking him out with the mic lead and lynching him from the ropes. The two fight with Lizuka dominating and a brawl soon spills out with Tenzan being taken into the crowd and Tiger Mask smashed at ringside. The match eventually ends up back in the ring and the non-Suzuki Gun team suffer some more abuse between Lizuka and Taka. Lizuka is unmasked and bites at the head, arms and feet of Tenzan. Eventually, Tiger Mask gets the tag and gets some offence in on Taka, including the Tiger Driver. The face team take advantage and Tenzan sets up for a Moon Sault after failing to put Suzuki Gun away with the Anaconda Vice. Before he can hit it, he is pelted in the back by a chair. The match ends in DQ and Tenzan ends up being hit in the throat with the Iron Finger of Doom. He once again gets on the mic despite being throat struck and again insults Lizuka. Something tells me this won’t be the last we see them fight, especially with Lizuka last show coming up soon.
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Yoshi-Hashi, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi defeat Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori via Low Blow/Roll Up on Yujiro
Good Guy Tama Tonga strikes again as he tries to be nice to Yoshi-Hashi before the match. Hashi does not oblige and the two fight. Tama doesn’t want to hurt Hashi and ends up getting overpowered. Honma is tagged in and so is Chase after a bout of frustration from Bullet Club. Tama is kept out of the match for a while as his team are sick of him messing things up. Thanks to some interference from Jado, Honma is targeted and bullied by Bullet Club. He is hit with multiple strikes and double team moves. They try to run him into corner boots but only succeed until Tama is brought in to participate. He is reversed and Honma eventually makes a tag out. The match gets chaotic with Tonga Loa and Makabe mixing it up, Makabe getting the better of the exchange and Yano being tagged in. Yano can’t deal with Loa’s power and more chaos occurs. In the end, Yujiro is in-ring and eats a Low Blow from Yano and is rolled up. There were some fun spots between Ishimori and Taguchi and everyone else got to shine but there wasn’t a whole lot to this match. Good guy Tama Tonga is still a riot to watch though and the ever-mounting frustrations with his team are going to see this either spill out or Tama is gonna change.
Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeat Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi via Dangerous Backdrop on BUSHI
One chaotic faction war led into another chaotic faction war as the first of three LIJ vs Suzuki warm-upm up matches got underway. After entrances, both BUSHI and Shingo are knocked out of the ring so Naito and Taichi can fight. They come to a stalemate and have a tranquilo off. Naito tags in BUSHI who strangles the life out of Desperado. A brawl breaks out that see Suzuki Gun take out the members of LIJ and results in Shingo being targeted for all offence in the ring. He is beaten down for a while, tries to mount some comebacks but is stomped down by numbers. He eventually breaks through tags in Naito and the speed picks up. He decks everyone and stops the Combination Cabron to hit Taichi. Since he has the advantage, he tags in BUSHI who manages to hit everyone. He lands a double Rana on Kanemaru and Desperado and pulls some double team with Shingo. He tries to set up for MX but gets hit with the Santori surprise and then suffers a double team finisher from Desperado and Kanemaru. Taichi tags in and finishes Bushi with the Dangerous Backdrop as Naito is forced to watch. Suzuki Gun wins the match and have the advantage going into the Junior Tag match on the day. They don’t end it there as BUSHI is unmasked and Taichi steals the IC Title.
Minoru Suzuki defeats SANADA via Gotch Style Piledriver
SANADA got his highlight early as he locked Suzuki in the Paradise Lock during an Armbreaker early on after three failed attempts. This just riles Suzuki up because after that action, he goes out of his way to destroy SANADA. He brutalises him with strikes and takes him to the outside where he hits him with chairs, against the announcer’s table and is eventually buried under barriers and chairs. During this time the ref tries to stop Suzuki but he’s overpowered and ignored. Suzuki is so emotional he even falls over trying to level SANADA. After the burial, a count is started and SANADA only just makes it. SANADA is worked over by Suzuki with holds and strikes until SANADA finally counters with a Dragon Screw Leg Whip. Things even out and we enter a battle of the Sleeper Holds. Suzuki traps SANADA in an extended Sleeper Hold but fails to hit the Gotch Style Piledriver and is trapped in Skull End. Suzuki breaks out of this and SANADA tries to finish him with a Moon Sault. Instead he eats the double knees. The two start a series of striking contests. Every time Suzuki knocks SANADA out he comes back for more. He once again breaks through the Gotch with a backdrop and locks in Skull End again. Suzuki breaks through and wastes no more time. He gets one more Sleeper then finishes the match with a Gotch Style Piledriver. There were more spots throughout the match where we saw PK’s galore and SANADA managing to hit Suzuki with a Plancha to the outside.
EVIL defeats Zack Sabre Jr via Everything is Evil
This was EVIL’s proving match. He has suffered a string of defeats to the Submission Master in multiple matches and was once again looking to prove he could take it to Sabre. The two trade holds early on with EVIL using the power advantage to trap ZSJ in a Double Wrist Lock multiple times. Sabre can’t power out at first but soon makes a new escape attempt by picking the leg and locking in another hold. From there, ZSJ tries to take it to a corner and lock in a Cobra Twist but is once again stopped by the power game and trapped in one. EVIL then hits a Sidewalk Slam, a Lariat and a Bulldog to ZSJ. EVIL looks to have the advantage but Sabre is never far behind reversing holds and hitting strikes of his own. After a series of exchanges ZSJ has EVIL in a Triangle choke but EVIL powers through with a Powerbomb. EVIL takes ZSJ to the ramp and tries to hit Darkness Falls. This is reversed and ZSJ locks in a Guillotine but EVIL reverses this into a Fisherman Buster. EVIL throws ZSJ back into the ring and drops him with Darkness Falls. He signals for Everything is Evil but ZSJ reverses and throws a series of strikes. The two go to the top rope where ZSJ locks in an Octopus across the turnbuckle before being forced to break it. EVIL powers through and hits a Superplex. ZSJ tries to lock in a series of pin attempts including the European Clutch and a Jack knife cover but only gets two counts. He reverses another EVIL finisher attempt but can’t evade a third and eats the STO. EVIL finally gets a win over an opponent that has been nothing but a thorn in his side. EVIL was finally able to cope with ZSJ’s offence and he managed to overcome the tricky pinfall attempts to overpower Sabre for a win. This means going into Day 2’s title match both Suzuki Gun and LIJ have a win apiece in the Heavyweight Tag match.
Jay White & Bad Luck Fale defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada via TTO (Tanahashi Tapped Out)
This was a showcase for the upcoming singles matches between White and Tanahashi and Fale and Okada. White started the match with his usual overconfidence. He attacked another young lion forcing them into the camera. However once he was in ring he was bullied by Tanahashi and Okada. White makes a tag and Fale breaks up the dream team’s offence until Okada locks in a Sleeper on Okada. Fale reverses by falling back and crushing Okada then takes the match to the outside. Here White works over Tanahashi with more railing shots and slamming a young lion on top of him. Once in ring again, Fale and White dominate and we see White hit his apron to railing spot. Tanahashi is eventually tagged in and drops both members of Bullet Club. White and Tanahashi clash with White taking advantage with a Chop Block. Okada and Tanahashi come back though once again working together to avoid danger and hit Dragon Screw Leg Whips. They hit a combo of Tombstone, Styles Clash and Elbow Drop but cannot finish with the High Fly Flow as Gedo interferes. Tanahashi is hit with a Grenade but is able to reverse a Blade Runner attempt. Gedo interferes yet again so White now has a chair but whiffs the shot. Gedo comes to the rescue again but earns himself a slap. This is just enough of a distraction though as White hits Tanahashi in the knee with the chair. Okada has taken a Grenade and rolled to the outside. White locks in an Inverted Figure Four on Tanahashi and Okada is hit with the Bad Luck Fall as he tries to make the save. Tanahashi taps out and White gets to gloat whilst holding the title. Tanahashi takes umbrage to this but eats a Blade Runner. White heads to the back with the title to end the show.
Match of the night has to go to SANADA and Suzuki as they put on a near twenty-minute slug fest that easily could have been seen at Wrestle Kingdom. Both men were game to take some stiff offence and the shot of Suzuki in the Paradise Lock will be a highlight of the year. He even got approval from Milano at ringside.
No match was objectively bad but the lowest quality match was probably the war between Bullet Club and the Home Team/Chaos collaboration team. It wasn’t bad in terms of in-ring quality and was certainly kept entertaining through Tama’s antics but still didn’t have much of a point other than to keep that feud chugging on.
This was an excellent opening show for the two New Beginning in Sapporo shows. It previewed title matches perfectly and offered enough match variety to stop the show dragging. The final three matches all felt big fight and the undercard was full of serviceable matches. It didn’t drag and definitely set up everything it needed to whilst setting up for the next day’s title matches.
(All images courtesy of njpw1972.com)