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NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo recap & match recommendations: Suzuki-gun nearly get swept as all titles on the line are retained

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Well, it took me a few days longer than normal to be able to have a crack at it, but let's look at 2017's first New Beginning show, shall we?

As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

Hirai Kawato & KUSHIDA vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (2)

Suzuki-gun dominate the young lion until KUSHIDA can come in and nearly pin both men with an O'Connor roll / bridging German suplex combo. Kawato comes back in and gets some shine, but as young lions always do...

Suzuki-gun win by pinfall with Guitarra de Angel from Desperado on Hirai Kawato.

Fairly standard opening tag stuff-- it goes down easy, all four dudes got a nice little spotlight, but you're not really missing anything by skipping it.

Post-match, Suzuki-gun beat their opponents down in passing.

Henare, Tomoyuki Oka, & YOSHITATSU vs. TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Yuji Nagata (2)

Wild brawling out the gate, but the dads take charge. YOSHI, as his team's veteran, mounts a comeback going forearm for forearm with Nagata, then Oka comes in and picks up the slack, but all hell breaks loose when he locks a Boston crab on. Nagata has him alone in the middle of the ring...

TenCozy & Yuji Nagata win by submission with Nagata Lock II on Tomoyuki Oka.

Again, very standard stuff here. Worth a watch if you love the dads or want to check out the new young lion, but not in any way essential.

Chaos (Gedo, Jado, & Will Ospreay) vs. Jushin Liger, Katsuyori Shibata, & Tiger Mask IV (2)

Shibata and Ospreay start, a nice little preview of their title match, before Liger comes in and finds himself isolated by the Chaos men. Tiger Mask comes in and sees himself meet the same fate, dominated by Will even as Shibata tries to get things going...

Chaos win by pinfall with an OsCutter from Will Ospreay on Tiger Mask IV.

The Shibata/Ospreay stuff is naturally great, but you're gonna get plenty more of that out of their singles. Easy skip.

Takashi Iizuka vs. YOSHI-HASHI (3)

Tacos jumps Iizuka before the bell but it doesn't go exactly how he'd hoped, and Takashi leaves him for dead behind the barricades. YOSHI-HASHI ain't dead yet, but Iizuka straight-up tries to murder him by hanging him with a microphone cable. The match proceeds normally for a bit and Tacos gets an opening, but the wild man chokes him with the tag rope!

Iizuka tries to use some kind of metal glove for an advantage but the Chaos man is ahead of him...

YOSHI-HASHI wins by pinfall with Karma.

A fun little brawl that finished up before it could really outstay its welcome. Skip if it drives you mad when New Japan referees (in this case, Tiger Hattori) show a lot of leniency, but if you got a few minutes, it's not a bad time.

Dragon Lee, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi, Michael Elgin, & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) (3)

Lee and Takahashi start, doin' their thing with aplomb, then we cycle to BIG MIKE and Naito. Bit of unusual structure here as the faces run roughshod on Naito with quick tags. The match breaks down as Taguchi looks for a dive and Los Ingobernables take the advantage.

Annoying Butt Man is trapped for a while but Elgin saves the day and starts chuckin' dudes around. A bit more breakdown, then Hiroshi and EVIL duel it out before we go back to Lee/Takahashi pyrotechnics. Dragon Lee isolated, LIJ work him over while keeping the other four men occupied outside and then we hit the "everybody does something cool" part of the match.

Including, as it turns out, BIG MIKE POWERBOMBING NAITO TO THE OUTSIDE! Dragon Lee hooks BUSHI...

Dragon Lee, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi, Michael Elgin, & Ryusuke Taguchi win by pinfall with a capture Orange Crush from Dragon Lee on BUSHI.

Good stuff. I'm playing it a bit conservatively with the number I’m handing out because you'll likely see tighter, more focused versions of everything happening here in Osaka, but it's a match that's worth your time.

Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) (c) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship) (2)

Suzuki-gun's valet distracts the ref long enough for them to put a beating on RPG Vice, but they don't have time to settle into their dominance and Beretta and Romero throw tandem dives. The match settles into a rhythm where Suzuki-gun cheat and Beretta struggles to come back only to get cut off by the next bout of cheating.

Rocky finally tags in, running wild with the FOREVER! lariats, a bit of back and forth but he tags Beretta back in. A very tight nearfall leads to a Strong Zero attempt but the valet comes into it again and the cycle starts anew. A kick-assisted powerbomb sets up the Just Facelock but Trent is made of sterner stuff and hangs in there.

The Dudebuster almost ends it, then Suzuki-gun try valet shenanigans again but he's wise to it now and fends them off! Trent catches TAKA off the ropes...

Roppongi Vice win by pinfall with Strong Zero on TAKA Michinoku, retaining the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

I'm of two minds on this one. On one hand, RPG Vice put in as strong a performance as I've seen from them, tightening up the schtick and really getting to business. Beretta in particular, a guy I've generally cooled on the further we get from the days when I was watching him on Superstars every week and wondering why he couldn't buy a push with a half-off coupon, was great taking a beating here.

But Suzuki-gun were the epitome of "just there", especially Taichi, who was thoroughly half a step off the entire match. So, if you're a big Roppongi Vice booster or just love NJPW junior tag matches, make the time, but otherwise, this is a pretty firm skip.

After the match, Desperado and Kanemaru hit the ring for a beatdown and issue a challenge for the junior tag belts themselves.

Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Juice Robinson (NEVER Openweight Championship) (5)

Juice bringing it hard out the gate! He takes the fighting outside, really taking Goto pillar to post, and eats barricade hard when the champion dodges a cannonball! Hirooki makes the most of it, punishing Robinson, attacking his back in particular, stiff kicks, an elbow drop, a Boston crab, and so on.

Robinson back at it with a clothesline to the outside, slingshot crossbody, but he's hurting and struggling to capitalize. Back in the ring, Juice strings offense together culminating with a running frog splash, but it's not enough and the match gives way to slugging, forearm on forearm. A dodged Ushigoroshi sets off a string off awesome tight dodges and exchanges, but so much of Robinson's offense puts his own back into the mat and aggravates his troubles.

Struggle in the corner, Juice catches Goto with a folding powerbomb, not enough, goes for his finish, Goto reverses and dumps him on his head with a German suplex, but since his head is fresh and his back is so worked over he's able to just roll through and soon catches the champion with a lariat!

Counters on counters, Goto hangs Juice on the ropes and hits GTR that way... NO GOOD! But that was clearly Robinson's last gasp, and soon...

Hirooki Goto wins by pinfall with GTR, retaining the NEVER Openweight Championship.

Awesome match. Juice has been proving himself bit by bit and I think after a match like that, it's undeniable at this point that the guy is quite good. Goto, also, not always a guy that clicks with me, but if we can get the guy that was working Juice's back over so viciously every time out, I'm in. Give it a watch!

Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) (c) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (2)

Brawling early from everybody except for Yano, who watches from a safe distance like the genius he is. Archer goes after him but BREAKBREAKBREAKBREAKBREAKBREAK BREAK!

And with interludes, that's what Killer Elite Squad are going for here, isolating Yano and keeping him from indulging in any of his shenanigans. Of course, eventually Ishii comes in and clears house for his pal and the focus shifts. Notable here is that neither team particularly wants GBH in, clearing them off the apron whenever they can.

So of course Honma manages a tag and KES work him over, only Yano's timely intervention keeping them from taking the titles. Makabe runs wild, Honma hits a match-winning Kokeshi.. but Yano steals the pin! Honma breaks it up, they bicker, and KES take advantage, Archer coming off the top with a ropewalk crossbody!

Our initialism teams wear each other out and Chaos try to pick the bones but Makabe and Honma aren't out yet. They isolate and destroy Yano, but KES are right behind them. Yano is up to hits low blows all around...

Chaos win by pinfall with a schoolboy pin from Toru Yano on Togi Makabe, retaining the IWGP Tag Team Championship.

Basically the same formula as the tag title match from Wrestle Kingdom, but something fell flat here. Not bad or anything, just pretty missable, especially with a rematch coming one week later.

Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki (IWGP Heavyweight Championship) (5)

Suzuki going after the leg early and Okada is feeling it fast, screaming agony. The fighting spills outside and the champ manages to fight through the pain and carve himself an advantage. It can't last, however, and despite his best efforts, Kazuchika finds himself being destroyed on the outside by camera tripod, barricade, and chair alike.

Back in the ring the beating continues, dropkick into the knee wrapped around the rope, inverted heel hook, stump puller style kneebar, just trapping Okada's leg and breaking it down, tendon by tendon, even putting his own signature Red Ink on him.

Okada manages to fire up and catch a boot, coming back hard with a Japanese stranglehold legsweep, elbows, uppercuts, he's hurting but he's doing his damnedest. He goes up top and Suzuki goes under, forcing the champion to jump over him and land hard on the bad leg, letting Minoru take control once more.

The Rainmaker finds himself an opening and dropkicks Suzuki clean off the top turnbuckle but the pain is too much for him to capitalize. Back in the ring, he sets up the Rainmaker but Minoru has it scouted and takes him down into the inverted heel hook again!

Gedo wants to throw the towel in! Okada gets the ropes! A figure four locked on, and Gedo's thinking about it again, begging Okada to move! Out of the hold, Okada goes for his finishing sequence but Suzuki throws Red Shoes into him and Suzuki-gun come down! Chaos even the score!

Okada goes for a Tombstone but gets cocky and switches to Minoru's trademark Gotch lift, so he gets his heel hooked! Struggling, the champion reaches over to manually separate his challenger's hands but he gets swatted away and repositioned.

Fighting out with kicks to the face, both men fired up, Suzuki falls back and wrenches it in harder! Both legs trapped now, almost an inverted Volk Han double heel hook, but Kazuchika makes the ropes once more. Minoru switches tactics, slapping Okada hard in the face. He takes a few in return before locking the sleeper hold on, but Okada flips out of it.

Back to the sleeper after a few exchanges, Suzuki hooks the Gotch piledriver but Okada is able to reverse, hold onto the wrist... RAINMAKER! He can't get a cover! Wristlock applied again, Minoru throws slap on slap, a headbutt, but the champion floors him with a straight lariat.

Rainmaker ducked, Okada holds on, second try, Suzuki goes for the leg, he stands firm, holds on, German suplex, wristlock still on...

Kazuchika Okada wins by pinfall with the Rainmaker, retaining the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

So, like so many Okada matches I can pick and pick and say I'd cut this or I'd cut that, but overall this one's quite successful. A lot of great little moments like Gedo conflicted over throwing the towel in and Okada likely having it won after the the interference but getting cocky and going for the Gotch lift go a long way.

Plus the match-long legwork story almost always works, and I think the decision to go big with the screams of pain played out well in the sense of creating a contrast and a real feeling of waves of fighting and then giving into the pain. Perhaps wish it had played out a bit stronger at the end, but that's picking, and you should definitely go watch this and form your own opinion, folks.


A good but not great show, as so many of these split NJPW shows end up being. But with two real knockout singles title matches in Goto/Robinson and Okada/Suzuki, there's plenty worth checking out on NJPW World. (Especially since, as a sidebar, Matt Riddle vs. Katsuyori Shibata from RevPro High Stakes 2017 is up now! Watch it!)

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.

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