This is the first of back to back spot shows to start The New Beginnings Tour. New Japan is slowly adding shows here and there. Because this is essentially a House Show, there are no commentators and they’re only using 1 Hard Camera. It’s a very stark production contrast to the big PPV’s.
Also, for those few that asked me on Twitter, I will get around to reviewing the two NJPW vs CMLL FantasticaMania shows. Lucha isn’t really my thing but I figured I’ll do them for completist sake as I’d like to give you insight into everything offered on New Japan World.
This is taking place at the Tokorozawa City Gym. Maybe 800 people in the house?
Alex Shelley vs Jay White
This is White’s first match for New Japan. He’s a 2 year pro and wrestled primarily out of the UK. He’s playing the Young Lion (rookie working from the bottom) role here with the plain black trunks. Shelley’s the right opponent to make him look good in his debut, as he sells well and knows when to let his opponent take control. White’s fiery, works the crowd well, and is technically sound. It’ll be enjoyable to see his progress. *½
Yohei Komatsu vs Kyle O’Reilly
Komatsu is one of the top 2 Young Lions in the company, along with partner and rival Sho Tanaka. He’s a 27 year old, 2 year pro who came through the Dojo system. O’Reilly is ½ of ReDragon with Bobby Fish and ½ of the ROH Tag Champs and NJPW Jr. Tag Champs. I highly recommend tracking down his work. His creative fusion of Shoot & Pro style is truly something to behold. While Shelley gave White plenty of offense, this match is worked with O’Reilly doling out punishment and Komatsu showing he has the Fighting Spirit to take it and keep pushing through. Komatsu had a bit of an off night as he mistimed a couple of spots, detracting from the flow of the match. This was otherwise solid. **¼
Mascara Dorada & KUSHIDA vs The Young Bucks
This is my first look at Dorada. I rarely dip my feet in the Lucha pool. I only know he’s been in the business for around 10 years and worked CMLL before coming to New Japan. KUSHIDA is one of my favourite Junior workers. He typically teams with Alex Shelly in The Time Splitters. The Bucks are my outright favourite Tag Team in any company right now (though Cesaro & Tyson Kidd are creeping up there). The Bucks, Time Splitters, and ReDragon are in a 3 way Jr Tag Title match at the New Beginning In Osaka PPV on 02/11 so this is to further that along. The Bucks do what they do best as they work a fast paced style with creative spots. They’re especially heelish in this one, mocking the Japanese girls for chanting Dorada’s name. Dorada is everything I dislike about Lucha as his work is overly contrived with excessive movement before actually hitting his offense. He works a blistering style though. The match is US Face In Peril formula with a hot Face start, FiP, and then hot tag finish. Sadly short and cookie cutter for such high level talent. *½
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Jushin “Thunder” Lyger vs Captain New Japan & Tiger Mask IV & Manabu Nakanishi
Six Man Tags with aging veterans is commonplace on Japanese spot shows. If this had taken place 15 years ago, it could have semi main evented. Now it gives the crowd something fun to watch for a few minutes. The match is slow and plodding. Not a surprise when the average age of the workers is 45. Most of it is worked for comedy. The crowd loves to chant along with trademark spots like Kojima’s Machine Gun Chops (a tribute to Kenta Kobashi) and Nakanishi’s chanting Lariat. Odd to see Lyger and TMIV on opposing sides, as they’re usually partners. *½
Yugi Nagata & Togi Makabe & Tetsuya Naito & Tomoaki Honma vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Yoshi Hashi
This match is meant to lay the groundwork for a few stories leading up to the big shows of the tour on 02/11 & 02/15 respectively. The 02/11 card has Nagata/Makbe/Naito vs Nakamura/Ishii/Hashi. The 02/15 card has Ishii getting his rematch with Makabe for the NEVER Open Weight Title that he lost at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015 ****¼) and Nagata challenging Nakamura for the Intercontinental Title. Nagata & Nakamura’s exchanges throughout the match were frankly sloppy. This is exactly why you work these kind of spot shows leading to the big singles match though. They’ve got to work the kinks out. Makabe & Ishii work what is now their customary stiff exchanges. I’m always left at a loss as to how these guys hit each other so hard without serious injury. The other 4 participants are entirely inconsequential. **¾
Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi
This is a continuation of the stable feud between CHAOS and The Bullet Club. Fale scored a clean pinfall on Okada at the 01/05 show (think of it as the Raw after Wrestlemania). CHAOS vs Bullet Club will have tag matches on 02/11 & 02/15 with Okada vs Fale being the underlying theme. The match has an odd dynamic. CHAOS as a stable are more heelish, though not strictly heels per se. The Bullet Club however, are concretely portrayed as heels. As such, you get guys like Gedo, who’s annoying beyond words most often (though a fantastic Head Booker), working as Face In Peril while Okada is pounding Turnbuckles to build the crowd up. This is the first match the crowd was really into from the get go. They absolutely love Okada. The Fale vs Okada story will play out for a while as they aren’t booked in a singles match on this tour. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga & Kenny Omega
This match is more about continuing feuds than starting new ones. Goto & Shibata ended Gallows & Anderson’s 1 year Tag Title reign at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015 ***½). Omega defeated Taguchi to win the IWGP Jr. Title on the same card. I’m a bit surprised to see AJ Styles wasn’t in this match. He lost the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Tanahashi at the King Of Pro-Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014 ****). Styles scored a pinfall over Tanahashi on 01/05 in an 8 Man Tag match, setting up their Title rematch at the New Beginning PPV on 02/15. Taguchi’s resemblance to the late Eddie Guerrero in this match is staggering. The tights, build (he’s really starting to get a hard body), moustache and now shorter haircut just scream Guerrero. This was a fast paced, hard hitting, but entirely forgettable match. While Styles wasn’t there, the story with Tanahashi is furthered through his work in the match. It’s actually a bit of a “WHOA” moment and instantly elevates your interest in their title match. A hot crowd made this match all the better. ***
Final Thoughts: It’s pretty much what you’d expect from any House Show. The matches were solid. The bigger matches all moved stories and feuds forward to the big shows in mid February. I’ll be back with thoughts on the 02/01 Korakuen Hall show soon.
Question/comments are always welcome. You can also find my thoughts on various random matches that cross my path on Twitter at @NagataLockII.