Turns out Suzuki Gun are not Ichiban…
Tonight we saw the culmination of the entire LIJ vs Suzuki Gun feud as three title matches featured the faction going to war. This was an event that will heavily please LIJ fans as they ran rough shot through the card and managed to keep the titles in their first defence. Read on now to find out how.
[Replay ‘THE NEW BEGINNING in SAPPORO Night 2’ on Feb 3rd, 2019]
4TH MATCH: #NJPW main unit & #CHAOS vs. #BulletClub!! #NJPWWorld Watch now▶︎https://t.co/Tj7UBJ4PjP #njpw #njnbg pic.twitter.com/0XQD7tIJfM
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) February 3, 2019
Toa Henare defeats Yota Tsuji via TOA Bottom
The show starts with Tsuji stumbling down the ramp. It’s not a sign of things to come as his in-ring performance is as flawless as it can get against his opponent. He starts of going hold for hold with Henare but loses the strike battles and starts getting worked over. He comes back after hitting a Body Slam and locks in the Boston Crab but is too near the ropes. They have a rugby Tackle off that sees Henare start, hit some vicious knees in the corner but is then hit by a tackle from his opponent. Henare finishes the match by getting a two count on a Lariat and finishing with the TOA Bottom. Another excellent starter match that saw dojo graduate beat dojo trainee. Henare’s newfound intensity is making him much more enjoyable to watch.
Tiger Mask & Manabu Nakanishi defeat Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida via Avalanche Butterfly Suplex on Ayato
This was the perfect chance for the young lion team to show off. They started fast with Umino showing up Tiger Mask but faltered once Ayato and Nakanishi were tagged in. Ayato gets his licks in but can never quite overcome the veterans. He eventually makes the tag and Umino once again tries to slam Nakanishi. He succeeds on the third attempt after being slammed for his two failures. Ayato mixes it up with Tiger Mask and nearly chokes him out with a Sleeper Hold. Nakanishi breaks it up and Ayato narrowly manages to get to the ropes when he’s caught in a Heel Hook. Umino manages to break up the pin on the Tiger Driver but is taken out by Nakanishi and the match ends with an Avalanche butterfly Suplex to Ayato. Once again the lion’s team came out guns blazing and looked set to win on multiple occasions but fell to the experience of the veterans.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ren Narita defeat Taka Michinoku &Takashi Lizuka via DQ
In a similar bout to the one last night Taka and Lizuka bully Tenzan’s team. Tenzan once again tries to reason with Lizuka but is beaten down for his troubles. Taka bullies Narita in the ring whilst Tenzan is kept out of the match. Narita hits the Belly to Belly early but is unable to put Taka away. Suzuki Gun control the match as Narita is kept away from his partner, bitten and goaded into cheap shots by Taka. Tenzan also gets an extended biting session and the match goes on. Narita finally gets a tag to Tenzan after a Vertical Suplex and Tenzan goes haywire. There are Mongolian Chops galore and Narita is able to save Tenzan from the Iron Glove. Tenzan signals for the Moon Sault again after a Mountain Bomb but is stopped by Taka. Lizuka hits him with the Iron Fingers and the match is thrown out. Afterwards, Lizuka chokes out Tenzan with a microphone cable and the Suzuki Gun pair leaves. This has to be leading to a match of some kind at Lizuka’s retirement show later in the month.
Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi defeat Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori via Roll Up on Loa
We once again see Tama’s good guy attitude cost his team a victory. Throughout the match, he was unwilling to aid in cheap tactics, prevented multiple Kendo Stick strikes and ultimately got his brother Low Blowed and Rolled Up. This was just as chaotic as yesterday’s match featuring the two groups. Taguchi getting the best of Ishimori and delivering a little dance, Honma being bullied until he finally hit a Kokeshi and ultimately another Yano win. This is still more of a Bullet Club storyline than anything as its Tama Tonga ruining these matches for his team. There was the focus on the juniors that may have been the exchange of the match too as Taguchi keeps getting the Ankle Lock on his much faster opponent.
Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi, Okada & Yoshi-Hashi via TTO on Yoshi-Hashi
What looks to be an Okada/Chase Owens start is soon broken as Fale attacks from behind and BC try to take control. Fale and Owens try to hit some double team offence but Okada blocks and Chase ends up eating it all. White and Tanahashi take to the ring but the match devolves into a brawl with Tanahashi’s knee targeted once the action returns to the ring. This continues until Tanahashi makes the hot tag and a wild Okada is let loose on the heels. He takes it to chase then Fale, slamming him and attempting a Tombstone. This is unsuccessful and Fale is back in action. White is brought in, is hit by a Neck breaker from Okada and then blitzed by Yoshi-Hashi. He hits the Head Hunter, a Bunker Buster and is saved from interference by Tanahashi who tells him to wrap this up. He hits Karma on White but only gets a two count. He then goes top rope, fails and gets caught with a Head and Arm Suplex from White. White looks to finish the match with a Blade Runner but instead turns to Tanahashi and locks Hashi in the TTO. Tanahashi is forced to watch on as his partner desperately tries to break the hold to no success. Hashi taps but White refuses to break the hold prompting Tanahashi to interject. He receives a Blade Runner for his troubles and White once again leaves the arena with Tanahashi’s title. This was another amazing slice of chaos between Bullet Club and the Dream team that saw Yoshi-Hashi caught in the crossfire.
BUSHI & Shingo Takagi defeat Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado via Rebellion on Kanemaru
This has been a collection of two rivalries, the one between BUSHI and Desperado and the burgeoning hatred between Shingo and Kanemaru. That all came to a head here as Shingo and Kanemaru started out going hold for hold until Shigo overpowered Kanemaru. They both tag out and both luchadores go straight for the masks. Both are semi untied and BUSHI maintains control, double teaming Desperado with Shingo. They keep control until BUSHI is low bridged out of the ring and a brawl breaks out. Shingo’s leg is targeted and BUSHI is launched into the crowd. BUSHI is then worked over when he gets back in the ring until he eventually makes the hot tag to Shingo. Shingo is on fire until his knee gives him trouble and Kanemaru is able to take advantage trying to put Kanemaru away with the Moon Sault. This only gets a two count and the follow up Deep Impact is reversed. Shingo fights through his pain to hit multiple Pumping Bombers but is unable to put Kanemaru away as the ref is dragged out of the ring. There are several double team attempts and eventually the ref is thrown into Shingo and Desperado tries to attack with a chair. This connects with Shingo but is blocked by BUSHI who takes it off him. He hits Desperado with the chair and then uses it to block the Santori surprise. He hits Kanemaru with the Poison Mist and Shingo drops him with more Pumping Bombers. Kanemaru kicks out so LIJ seal the deal with Rebellion. They have retained on their first defence but Desperado is not happy about it. He tries to attack after the match but is unmasked by BUSHI. He retreats and LIJ leave with their belts.
EVIL & SANADA defeat Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jnr via Moon Sault Press on Suzuki
There is an instant brawl as LIJ aren’t even allowed to finish their entrance before Suzuki and Sabre go on the attack. LIJ mainly manage to outlast this and would remain in control until Minoru Suzuki interjects himself and we get another brawl. SANADA only just makes it back to the ring and is systematically picked apart by Sabre and Suzuki whilst EVIL is incapacitated on the outside. SANADA is targeted by arm heavy attacks and holds until he can hit both Suzuki and Sabre with Dragon Screw Leg Whips. He tags in with EVIL who overpowers Sabre for a bit until Sabre and Sukuzi get back into it. The two trade momentum until SANADA and EVIL are both locked in submission holds. The stereo Piledriver/Zack Driver attempt is reversed and Suzuki is hit with the Magic Killer. He is saved from the pin fall and Suzuki tries to get back into it. He is reversed by SANADA, hit with another Magic Killer and finished with the Moon Sault Press. The second LIJ team has retained and SANADA was able to return the loss he received from Suzuki last night.
Tetsuya Naito defeats Taichi via Destino
Another match where the LIJ member cannot make an entrance as Naito is ambushed by Lizuka with a ladder as a smug Taichi looks on. Naito is mauled and Taichi hits him with the Black Mephisto on the ramp. Naito is carried away and Taichi poses with the belt for a good ten minutes gloating at the crowd that the match won’t happen so they should just go home. He tries to provoke a fight with Makabe and Chono at commentary but both men are held back. Just when it seems all hope is lost, Naito reappears with BUSHI and the match starts at Naito’s request. At first it would seem Naito can’t get any offence in at all until he hits a small comeback flurry that is quickly shut down. Taichi brings out a table then looks to hit the Black Mephisto through it. Naito reverses and drives Taichi through it with a Piledriver. Both men avoid being counted out and Naito hits a super Rana on Taichi. He is in control until Taichi reverses, hits a series of kicks and retakes control. It seems like a Taichi win until Naito reverses a knee strike into a Pop up Spine Buster. Naito looks to be in control when IIzuka appears again and the ref is lost in the chaos. Taichi tries to use the IC Title as a weapon. He misses and Naito uses the mic stand on him. Taichi begs for mercy but Naito jabs him in the neck sending him back towards his corner. Taichi is handed a chair by Miho Abe and breaks it over the head of Naito. He follows up with a Dangerous Suplex but only gets a two count. The match descends into rapid two counts as two Black Mephistos are reversed in Reverse Ranas, both men hit a Low Blow combination and Taichi is able to kick out of the Destino. Unfortunately he can’t kick out of another is put down with a final Destino after being dropped on his head multiple times.
This was probably the result most people expected but all it has really done is make Naito look superhuman and Taichi weak.
The best match award goes to the Junior Title match as it excelled in showcasing both teams, provided equal amounts of competition and proved that Shingo does have weak spots. There was a lot of chaotic fun and the grudge match feel to it just maximised the stakes involved. No one had a weak showing and it’s always great to see BUSHI mist someone.
Worst match unfortunately goes to the main event as it may have been exciting for the last few minutes, it made Taichi look like an idiot. The pace was inconsistent and the crowd had to deal with ten minutes of Taichi gloating like a madman. Naito pulled a Goto style match, coming back from death and ensuring he still went over. Some will see this as a showcase for fighting spirit. Others will see this as bad booking. Taichi may not be a fan favourite but he has a cult following who will hate this match. The ambush idea was clever but it should have either been successful or less severe. It left a bad taste in my mouth and ended the show on a low note.
A strong show with a weak finish. Both tag title matches delivered and everything before that hit some kind of positive note. Nothing really dragged before the main event so this should feel like a fast fun card until Naito’s entrance. Even then if you love Naito this show will just make you even happier as he certainly got to look strong. A bad night for Suzuki Gun sees no titles change going into the Road to Osaka. Hopefully they can rebound and start taking scalps again. Though Taichi will need to dig himself out of that hole he was buried in first.
(All images courtesy of njpwworld twitter & njpw1972.com)