Wrestling Review: NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo (2020) (Day 1)

I usually wouldn’t review a New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) event between Wrestle Kingdom and the upcoming New Beginning in Osaka, but when I saw the top two matches for this show, New Beginning in Sapporo, I had to. At the top of the card, the NEVER Openweight Champion, Hirooki Goto, fresh off a victory at wrestle Kingdom over KENTA, will face the Dragon of Los Ingobernables de Japon, and my pick for wrestler of the year, Shingo Takagi. These two men will absolutely hard as hell on each other, perhaps only outdone by the semi-main event, when Tomohiro Ishii squares off against EVIL. It’s a big night for big men, but perhaps even more intriguing is the top tag match on the card, which will see former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, teaming up with current IWGP US Champion, Jon Moxley, to face the Suzuki-gun duo of Taichi and Minoru Suzuki himself. These three massive matches, and many more tag team matches on the first night of action at NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo.

+ Hirooki Goto (c) vs Shingo Takagi (NEVER Openweight Championsip): this was fucking fantastic. From memory, these two have had two previous singles matches and both were absolute bangers, and this was just as good if not better than them. Shingo is my pick for wrestler of the year 2019 (yes, better than Ospreay, fight me) and he and Goto have such phenomenal chemistry. EVery strike, slam and emotion only adds to the match, and I would happily see them fight again, forever
+ Jon Moxley & Kazuchika Okada vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Minoru Suzuki): everything about Moxley, Moxley/Suzuki and the MoxKada tag team was just wonderful. Taichi really did manage to get some nuclear hatred flowing from the crowd, all while Moxley/Suzuki were going to war all over the arena, so believe it or not, Okada was almost the weakest member of this match. I loved this, both in ring and in terms of what it set up, and I can’t wait for Suzuki/Moxley to get to go at it properly
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs Bullet Club (Jay White & KENTA): KENTA is the biggest asshole on the planet, and I love it (compared to stablemate ELP, who is a jerk it is hard to love). Surprisingly, my favourite wrestling portion of the match was White/SANADA, particularly their final few moments. I worry about Naito/KENTA, because as much as I love them, and as great as their charcater work is, I can’t really see them gelling all that well, if I’m honest. Nonetheless, this match was good, and that gives me a bit of hope
+ Robbie Eagles & Ryu Lee vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi): hoo-boy, this is where the show picked up. Despite the mostly dead crowd, Lee/Hiromu picked up exactly where they left off so long ago. Eagles is really, really solid, as well, and I’ll always love my main man BUSHI. Part of me really wants NJPW to have more miulti-man free for all matches, because these four in a four way would be insanely good, but I’ll settle for these fantastic tag matches
+ CHAOS (Ryusuke Taguchi, SHO, YOH & Will Ospreay) vs Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Zack Sabre Jr.): there were two sub-stories here, with the R3K duo having taken the Junior Tag Team Titles from Kanemaru/Despy, as well as the upcoming Ospreay/ZSJ match tomorrow, which did leave Taguchi and DOUKI as the odd men out (which was funny, later, for a different reason). This was better than the earlier tag team matches, but I still would have liked a bit more

njpw_newbeginninginsapporo_2020_day1_2
Jon Moxley, sporting his eye patch from an attack in AEW, has no respect for Minoru Suzuki.

Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL: this was okay, but man, I feel supremely underwhelmed. In my head I had this built up as a monstrous slug fest, but it felt a bit too slow to be defined as such. They still laid into each other, but not nearly at the pace I would have thought. If there is to be a rematch, I do hope they were intentionally holding some stuff back, otherwise I’d have to say this was better on paper than it was in presentation
Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs Yota Tsuji, Manabu Nakanishi & Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Henare is getting there, and Tsuji is another ‘very good for his experience’ guy, but overall this was not great. The other four are all slow and/or old, and it made for a slow, uneventful match
Yuya Uemura & Tiger Mask vs Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori): I love this Bullet Club duo so, so much. ELP is such a god almighty jerk that it is difficult to love him, even though he is such a good wrestler. Uemura is getting so good, so quickly, but this was still just a standard, young-lion-inclusive opening tag match

> Moxley came out with his eyepatch… which was the result of an angle in AEW a few weeks ago. That is insane, and makes me so happy that NJPW and AEW are still in the same shared universe

Should you watch this event: While I do have to admit I was disappointed by Ishii/EVIL, Shingo/Goto and the strange bedfellows tag team match more than made up for that. A handful of early tag matches were fun, if not entirely important, but if you just ignore the first two or so matches you’ll have a great time watching.

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