FanPost

Previewing NJPW New Beginning in Osaka

NJPW Global's X

New Japan is back and the New Beginning tour rumbles on, this time in Osaka. Despite the name "New Beginning", this tour is perhaps most notable for its endings - Tama Tonga's already finished up with the company, Kazuchika Okada's farewell tour rolls on, and tonight we say goodbye to Will Ospreay as he makes his final appearance as a full time member of the New Japan roster. But there's more to this card than that, and after a rather lacklustre start in Nagoya, Osaka brings us a much stronger offering, with the final chapter of an all time great rivalry, a dream rematch, and two teams going to war inside a steel cage.

Where can I watch it? New Japan's streaming service NJPWWorld (subscription required).

When is it? Sunday 11th February. 5PM JST/8AM GMT/3AM ET/12midnight PT

Match 1: YOH & Toru Yano v Ryuske Taguchi & Boltin Oleg

A decent opener that pits a duo from Chaos against Annoying Butt Man and a Young Lion. While Oleg is certain to be eating the pin here, he can count it a moral victory if he makes it through the match without Yano attacking his gentleman's area.

Match 2: Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) v United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Callum Newman)

It's Bishamon's first two-on-two tag match since losing the titles at WK, and they'll no doubt be eager to get back in the title hunt. If they've got an eye for singles opportunities, beating KOPW champ O-Khan could get them a shot at that belt. For their part, the Dominator and the Prince of Pace could put themselves in tag title contention with a win over the much-decorated former champs.

Match 3: Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma, Shota Umino & El Desperado v House of Torture (EVIL, SHO, Ren Narita & Yujiro Takahashi)

While stretching out New Beginning over so many shows left Nagoya in particular feeling very slight, they have made use of the longer tour to make some interesting moves – EVIL's now the NEVER champ following his victory over Tama Tonga, Shota overcame Ren Narita in Korakuen, and a post-match assault by HoT led to Tama making the save – and urging Shooter to take the title from EVIL. That match will be at Sapporo night one, on the 23rd. This is an eight man Hontai v HoT tag match to preview it.

Match 4: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, Yota Tsuji, Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito) v Just 5 Guys (SANADA, DOUKI, Yuya Uemura, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku)

We draw ever closer to Sapporo night two and the series of LIJ v J5G singles matches that will form the backbone of that show, culminating in Nairo v SANADA for the World title. Naito recently proposed that the loser of that match not be allowed in the New Japan Cup this year – as the Cup winner is likely to be the next challenger, that would ensure that we won't have a rerun of this at Sakura Genesis. In the meantime, it's another ten man tag to preview the upcoming show.

Match 5: Kazuchika Okada v Hiroshi Tanahashi

Okada, the biggest star in New Japan, is leaving. That's news that still seems slightly surreal. Under other circumstances another instalment of this feud would feel redundant. It ended by quite definitively telling us Okada has surpassed the former Ace, and Tanahashi is no longer the performer he was in his prime. But these aren't other circumstances. This has been a defining rivalry for Okada, it made him a star, and helped push New Japan's international expansion. One more as part of Okada's farewell tour feels like a fitting way to say goodbye.

It's also fitting that the farewell match takes place here, in Osaka. It was at New Beginning 2012, in Osaka, that the Rainmaker defeated the Ace to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Not technically their first encounter – Young Lion Okada faced Tana in 2010 before his excursion – but the first since his return. The brash, young upstart had defeated YOSHI-HASHI on the undercard of WK 6, a match that marked the return from excursion of both men. After the main event, a cocky Okada issued a challenge to the victorious Tanahashi. That would pave the way for their New Beginning bout and the start of their epic rivalry, a rivalry that would see Okada proclaimed the new Ace of New Japan after his victory at WK 10 in 2016.The gap between them has only grown since then, but the President might have it in him to pull out one final victory over his former rival.

Match 6: IWGP Tag Team Championship

Guerillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo)(c) v Bullet Club (Chase Owens & KENTA)

Fresh off their successful defence of the STRONG tag titles against the Bullet Club duo of Chase Owens and KENTA in Nagoya, GoD now make their first defence of the IWGP tag belts they won at the Tokyo Dome. They'll be defending against the Bullet Club duo of Chase Owens and KENTA. OK then. Hikuleo and ELP have gelled into a fun big guy/little guy tag team. Their five STRONG tag title defences is a record. Both have history with KENTA – KENTA helped kick ELP out of Bullet Club, and he and Hikuleo traded the STRONG title back and forth. Chase Owens is here as well.

Match 7: Bryan Danielson v Zack Sabre Jr

If you saw their match at AEW WrestleDream back in October you'll know if this match is for you. It's two of the best technical wrestlers going – two of the best to ever do it – going at it in an absolute dream match. Their previous encounter saw Danielson emerge victorious thanks to his Busaiku Knee finisher, but Sabre was quick to point out that using a strike to win a match that was all about determining the best technical wrestler did not entirely resolve the question, and he called Bryan a scoundrel. Fighting words, making a rematch inevitable. Will we see a more definitive outcome here? Or will perhaps Sabre pull off a scoundrel move of his own to even the score? Either way, it's heaven for grapplefuck fans – this match will rule and you should watch it.

Match 8: Dog Pound Cage Match

United Empire (Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb, HENARE, TJP & Francesco Akira) v Bullet Club War Dogs (David Finlay, Gabe Kidd, Alex Coughlin, Drilla Moloney & Clark Connors)

Finlay smashed Ospreay's title belts. At WK he stole a win to become the inaugural Global Champion. Catch 2/2 and the Connors/Moloney duo warred over the jr tag titles, with the War Dogs losing the gold at WK. Kidd and Coughlin didn't even make the main card, being relegated to the preshow – and the War Dogs in general and Gabe Kidd in particular have a chip on their shoulders at the best of times. With that in mind, it shouldn't be seen as too surprising that at New Year Dash!! tensions between the two factions exploded into a wild, bloody brawl. With Will Ospreay on his way out of the company he wanted to settle things with the War Dogs and so threw out a challenge for a match between the two teams, with Finlay allowed to pick the stipulation. He picked a steel cage.

Or at least, that's what it seemed like at the time. Since then, he's indicated there's a bit more to it. Staggered entries at regular intervals, so his boys will have a numbers advantage much of the time. Sounds suspiciously like... WAR GAMES! (But they can't call it that, it's a WWE trademark.)

For the War Dogs this would be a huge, statement win. For United Empire this will be a chance for their leader to go out on top – and, perhaps, a chance for a new leader to emerge. And for both, bragging rights, a victory over a hated rival, and a chance to position themselves for bigger and better things in 2024. United Empire have been on the losing end more often than not on the way here and are coming in in rather battered shape, but Will Ospreay vows that "The BULLET CLUB wankers will not leave without scars on their faces. My last stand, we will fight to the bitter end". Can't wait.

So there we have it, another show in the can. Next week the stars of CMLL will be over for FantasticaMania, which runs from the 12th to the 19th - as previously mentioned, I won't be previewing that, but the shows are usually fun so give them a watch if you have time. New Beginning will conclude in Sapporo, with shows on the 23rd and 24th, and there's some exciting stuff to come on those shows. I'll see you then.

Pics via NJPW1972.com

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