Editorial Note: Please welcome the inaugural post from our most recent Cagesider called up to the big leagues and promoted to our CSS staff -- Author Nich Lichter.
Some of you may have been following Nich's fantastic coverage of NJPW in the FanPosts up until now, and have likely seen them promoted to our front page over the past month. So it will come to no surprise to you to see that we have added such a talented asset to our staff. Nich has some great things in store to help you dip your feet, or even dive headfirst, into the world of NJPW. How is that, you ask? Well, because Mr. Lichter will be our New Japan Pro Wrestling 専門家 Senmon-ka (expert).
Yes, we now have a new hub (mini-website) for you called Alternative Wrestling. It now houses a section on Japanese Wrestling, and so of course Nich's all new NJPW section lies therein. The Alternative Wrestling section also now houses our CSS Indie Corner, CHIKARA, ROH and Indie Promotion of the month sections. Soon to come: CSS Alternative Wrestling Tape Trading Network Section -- watch for more exciting things here at CSS.
Coming off a successful internet pay-per-view (iPPV broadcast of WrestleKingdom, NJPW's next iPPV The New Beginning is this Saturday night/Sunday morning (February 9/10, 2013) for the western world on their official Ustream channel. In Japan, it starts at 3 PM Sunday afternoon, but for the rest of us:
- Pacific US: Saturday Feb 10, 10 PM
- Eastern US: Sunday Feb 11, 1 AM
- UTC / GMT: Sunday Feb 11, 6 AM
If you're not willing to stay up late, or wake up early, the iPPV is available as video-on-demand for a week after the event. As with past events NJPW has a video with their English-speaking talent hyping the event. You might even see a few names you recognize:
via NJPW's official UStream page
So you want to know what The New Beginning is all about, but are new to NJPW? Then let's go through all the major matches. Be forewarned: you're going to get a bunch of Japanese names thrown at you really quick, so don't be afraid to open Wikipedia in another window and follow along:
Hiroshi Tanahashi (C) vs. "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson
Everything I've seen coming out of Japan has this match as a case of two opponents who respect one another, but Anderson is largely considered outclassed by Tanahashi. Anderson is on a losing streak when it comes to singles matches having lost to Okada, and then Nakamura, on the two major cards leading up to WrestleKingdom.
Anderson recently revealed in an interview that WWE had contacted him multiple times over 2012 in an attempt to get him to defect, but he stayed with NJPW because he sees it as the number one pro-wrestling company in the world, and his dream is to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
The unwritten rule in NJPW is that if you pin the champion in a non-title match you're owed a shot at the championship somewhere down the line. Anderson earned his shot by beating Tanahashi during the G-1 tournament six months ago. He caught Tanahashi's finisher, the High Fly Flow (a frog splash), by getting his knees up and into the gut of a descending Tanahashi, and then delivered his finisher, the Gun Stun (a jumping cutter or stunner, somewhat similar to an RKO), to get the win via pinfall. (Watch for a spot similar to this.)
Also, keep in mind, Tanahashi stated he plans on debuting a new finisher since Anderson caught his High Fly Flow last time.
It's been reported, that backstage Tanahashi specifically requested a title match against Anderson some time ago. Their match during the G-1 tournament was short but exciting, and both are capable of having an excellent main event match. Wrestling Observer reports the early start time of 3 PM in Japan is in hopes that a 10 PM west coast start time will help with North American buys.
It's possible the thought might be that Anderson, as an American, might help with buys. But he hasn't been promoted heavily as representing the US in English videos and it may simply be an experiment to see if the time difference has any effect.
For those new to NJPW, Hiroshi Tanahashi is the company's top star. Anderson was formerly a part of the successful tag team Bad Intentions with Giant Bernard (now Tensai in WWE).
Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kengo Mashimo
For the uninitiated, CHAOS and Suzukigun (also known as Suzuki Army) are the two major heel groups in NJPW. They recently heated up their feud in a "this promotion ain't big enough for two of us" kind of way. In the press, Suzuki's called it a "turf war" and expressed his desire to destroy CHAOS. The rising star of 2012, Kazuchika Okada, is stepping up to the plate for CHAOS here.
Kazuchika Okada and Shinsuke Nakamura are the two biggest stars in CHAOS. Minoru Suzuki, as you might guess, is the leader of Suzukigun. Kengo Mashimo is a relatively new recruit to the group from Kaientai Dojo--a training school and promotion run by Taka Michinoku, a member of Suzukigun.
For Okada and Suzuki, they both were some of the best in-ring performers of 2012. Suzuki is a rough, ugly fighter who made his name in the 1990s as an MMA fighter with Pancrase in Japan. 2012 saw Okada go from no-name geek (practically getting laughed out of the ring when he first challenged Tanahashi) to being the youngest winner of the G-1 tournament, having a months-long IWGP Heavyweight title reign, and main-eventing WrestleKingdom.
Shinsuke Nakamura is the reigning IWGP Intercontinental Champion, but his match with Mashimo isn't a title match. Nakamura is a top card mainstay who works a "drunken master" type of style.
Laughter7 (Kazushi Sakuraba & Katsuyori Shibata) vs.
Hirooki Goto & Wataru Inoue
The backstage tiff around WrestleKingdom that saw the CEO of Bushiroad (the parent company of NJPW) Takaaki Kidani step away from running day-to-day operations at NJPW seems to have settled as Sakuraba and Shibata are both back on a NJPW show.
Kidani reportedly brought in Sakuraba and Shibata without informing other staff of his intentions. Both men are former shootfighters (Sakuraba is arguably the biggest MMA star in Japan), which brought back bad memories of Inoki's failed MMA experiment in NJPW in the 00's. If you're interested, I did a write-up detailing the whole situation. The thought was Shibata and Sakuraba were done with the company, and Kidani, who had been in their corner, would no longer be a part of shows. That doesn't appear to be the case.
Laughter7 is positioned as two outsider shooters coming into NJPW being supported by Kidani often at ringside. They had worked a series of tag matches against Inoue and brawler Togi Makabe leading up to WrestleKingdom, with Inoue essentially being the underdog whipping boy taking a lot of punishment.
During the tour leading up to The New Beginning Goto called out Shibata and, lo and behold, Kidani was sitting ringside in the stands. Japanese blogger Enuhito has a bunch of great photos from that event at his site, and the best I can tell it seems as if Kidani calmly flipped through his program when Shibata was called out -- as if to say, "Why are you looking at me? What do I have to do with Shibata?"
In the press, Goto has pushed his and Shibata friendship as they grew up.
Another element to keep in mind is that Shibata was in the corner of KENTA as he won Pro Wrestling NOAH's GHC Heavyweight Championship, and lower card NJPW wrestlers have been working inter-promotional matches at NOAH shows.
Keep an eye out for KENTA and/or Kidani during the match.
Togi Makabe vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Will be a rough and tumble match. NJPW's great strength is the variety of types of matches on their cards, and this will likely be the most brutal.
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Killer Elite Squad (C)(Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs.
Ten-Koji (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan)
Archer is working with a moveset that borrows a lot from The Undertaker, and Smith seems more comfortable in a NJPW ring. This is the latest in a series of matches these two teams have been having.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Prince Devitt (C) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
These two used to team together as Apollo 55, and is similar to the main event in that both of them are friendly. Devitt is the jr. heavyweight equivalent of Tanahashi in that he's the ace of the junior's division and has been a mainstay in the title scene for the past couple years as the good-looking, clean-cut foreigner.
IWGP Jr.Hvt. Tag Team Championship
Time Splitters (C)(Alex Shelley & Kushida) vs.
Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov)
Should be a fun juniors tag match. Rocky Romero is entertaining as the obnoxious gaijin asshole.
Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Tama Tonga & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask vs.
Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi & Jado
NJPW will often start their major cards with large multi-man tag matches. They exist solely to warm the crowd up, so if you're late to watching the iPPV and miss this match... it's likely you won't miss much.
What to watch for:
Their April iPPV is titled Invasion Attack, and Kidani was rumored to want to run an invasion angle before he stepped away from the company, so it seems these plans are back on. The question is who the invaders will be, and how big the invasion will get.
There are a lot of fun possibilities when it comes to what it may shake out to be. It seems likely, with Kidani back at ringside, that he and Laughter7 will play a part. NJPW's working relationship with NOAH has gotten cozier, and with Shibata cornering current GHC Heavyweight Champion KENTA, it's possible that NOAH wrestlers could be a part of any invasion. The CHAOS/Suzukigun feud may also spill over. If this is a proper invasion angle, the groundwork should soon be laid to gain steam heading into Invasion Attack.
Just keep in mind that NJPW falls more to the sports side of pro-wrestling's sports-entertainment spectrum, so you aren't going to get a million run-ins or other wackiness to set up any angles. Pay attention to who wins and loses (it matters), who gets called out, and who follows who to the ring.
In some ways, The New Beginning was booked as a b-show coming after WrestleKingdom. But it has all the trappings to be a great show, especially the top two matches. If you are interested in giving NJPW a try, The New Beginning should be a great place to start.
I'll have all the results posted soon after the show is over, and a more in-depth review the Tuesday after. And you can read my new CSS Feature column "This Week in NJPW" every Tuesday, where I'll do my best to keep you abreast of everything going on with the King of Sports.