Hiroshi Tanahashi’s first championship defence is a big one, as he must face The Switchblade, the leader of the Bullet Club, Jay White at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) New Beginning in Okasa. After defeating Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom, Tanahashi has looked to bring the old school style back into prominence, but the Switchblade will be looking to immediately bring things back into the present in his first ever IWGP Heavyweight Championship match. Kazuchika Okada and Bad Luck Fale looks to end the tie breaker between them in singles matches in a special singles match, whilst the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori defends his title against Rysuke Taguchi. These three huge matches are just the tip of the card, which will also feature the Guerrillas of Destiny, Tetsuya Naito, Minoru Suzuki and Hiroyoshi Tenzan trying to bring some sense back into the madman, Takashi Iizuka.
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Jay White (IWGP Heavyweight Championship): a fantastic 30-second burst of each man countering the other’s best offense was the turning point here, with everything before it being nothing special. I couldn’t believe it when Tanahashi won the title at Wrestle Kingdom, but White defeating Okada meant this match was an inevitability. It was not one of the “best ever” matches NJPW has had in many previous title defences, but there was enough here after that aforementioned turning point, to cement this as the main event, and a worthy title match for Tanahashi’s eighth reign
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Bad Luck Fale: after his short-but-sweet (depending who you ask) match at Wrestle Kingdom, this was a return to the longform Okada match of the past few years. Shenanigans on both sides and some big move trades added a lot to the excitement in the arena, and the match reached its climax just as it should have. I enjoyed this, though I probably wouldn’t have put it after the Ishimori/Taguchi match
+ Taiji Ishimori (c) vs Ryusuke Taguchi (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): I really enjoyed this. Ishimori makes a good villain, and the comedy stylings of Taguchi (not to mention that he can really go when he wants to) make him a solid underdog. Ishimori got the reaction of the night for one uncharacteristic moment, and overall this was a good title match
+ Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Shinga Takagi & Tetsuya Naito): this was pretty good. Mostly built around Naito/Taichi, the most interesting aspects, for me, though, was the continuing beef between Despy and BUSHI, with commentary even mentioning a potential mask versus mask match down the line. Shingo Takagi is still fantastic, and should be on a monster tear in the junior division as a singles guy. I miss Hiromu
– Togi Makabe & Toru Yano vs The Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa) (w/ Jado): this match did nothing for me. Tama Tonga being “the good guy” was a refreshing change of pace, so I’m disappointed he went right back to where he was. Yano did no comedy, and he didn’t get a chance to show his legit wrestling background, so this felt like a waste all around
– Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) (w/ Pieter) vs YOSHI-HASHI & Tomoaki Honma: I don’t know how long Honma has been back wrestling for now, but I still can’t believe he is even in a ring again (and YOSHI-HASHI is back after that wild botch of his). This was not much more than a spot-filler match, but it did show, at a few places, just how damn good Chase Owens is. I can’t believe I didn’t used to like him that much. What a fool I was
– Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino: this was very one sided, as you may expect, and the young lions didn’t even get that “comeback cheer” the rookies often do. Stil EVIL is great, and while SANADA didn’t do much, what he did do was a lot of fun too
– Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki) vs Jyushin Liger, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan: The most important take away from this was that Suzuki has hair again. This was a slow and really not-good match, at least until Kojima/Suzuki got int against each other. I know this was all built around the impending retirement of Iizuka, but as far as matches go, this was not good
> On this show we also learned who some of the first competitors in the New Japan Cup are. Things are looking good.
Should you watch this event: With no Ishii, Goto, Juice, Finlay or Nagata, and the noticeable absences of Cody, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, this really would have been a filler show, were it not for the great final three matches. Watch those final three matches, but even the best of the worst, the LIJ/Suzuki-gun match was not worth it unless you are a big fan of the guys involved.