Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New Japan Pro Wrestling: New Beginning In Osaka (02/11/2015)

This is the first of two major shows ending New Japan's "New Beginning" tour. The latter show takes place on 02/15. All the major titles are at stake between the two shows, though this one has the majority of them oddly enough.


Before I get started, a quick apology to those of you who were looking for my review of the 02/01 spot show. The show didn't get archived quickly and I had to leave for my flight to Cuba on the same day. The timing just didn't work out. If people really want it, I'll be happy to do it up.

Yohei Komatsu vs Sho Tanaka
These are essentially the top two Young Lions out of the New Japan Dojo. They've had more singles matches on various shows than I can count since making their debuts in late 2012. You have to figure they're either going to be re-packaged or sent overseas and come back with new personas pretty soon. The match itself is well worked, if very basic. These two obviously know each other very well and it shows in their timing and positioning. The match is worked very snug, much to the delight of the still being seated crowd. An enjoyable start to the card. **

Tiger Mask IV & Mascara Dorada vs Manabu Nakanishi & Captain New Japan
This was a fun back and forth match. Nakanishi is essentially in there to provide power spots while the Juniors bounce off of, and bump for him. The crowd really likes Dorada. He gets amazing height on his jumps, great extension on his moves, and provides some creative spots. I'm happy to see he's curbed a lot of his Lucha tendencies and is working a less contrived style in this match. He'll make for an interesting contrast to Kenny Omega down the line. They're on a collision course to unify the CMLL Welterweight and IWGP Junior Titles. *1/2

Jushin "Thunder" Lyger & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Rob Conway & Chase Owens
Yes... that Rob Conway. This tag match has come together due to two respective feuds. Owens debuted as the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion at the King Of Pro Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014) and challenged Lyger after a successful defense. Lyger accepted, and subsequently defeated him at the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014) for the belt. On the flip side, Tenzan is being put into a program with current NWA Heavyweight Champion Conway later this year. He's got history with TenKoji (Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) going back to Wrestle Kingdom 8 where he lost the NWA Title to Kojima. He also lost the NWA Tag Titles (partner Jax Dane) to TenKoji at the Invasion Attack PPV (04/06/2014). Conway got the NWA Title back on 06/02/2014 and has held it since. The match is worked US style with a fast opening, Tenzan working as FiP, and a hot finish. I can't say I'm happy to see Conway again. He's muscled up even more, slow in the ring, and oversells everything. The match is nothing more than a story springboard to better matches down the line. *3/4

Tomoaki Honma vs Kota Ibushi
I got very excited when I saw this match was signed. Ibushi is my current favourite worker in New Japan. Honma is a perennial crowd favourite. He actually has Ibushi to thank for that in an odd way. Ibushi suffered a major concussion on his way to losing the IWGP Junior Title to KUSHIDA on 07/04/2014. He was removed from the G-1 Climax tournament and Honma was put in his place. While Honma didn't win a single match, his performances were absolutely top flight, with multiple **** matches. The crowd got behind him for his Fighting Spirit as a result and he's been riding the wave ever since. His sheer presence, and the crowd's love for him, instantly elevates this match. They cheer for every Forearm Shiver, headbutt (his trademark), Slam and Suplex. Ibushi to his credit gives Honma the vast majority of the offense, thus keeping the match heated from start to finish. The match is fast paced, hard hitting, crazy heated, and will put a smile on your face. A relatively flat finish keeps it from entering legit contention for a low end MOTYC. ***3/4

The Young Bucks vs Time Splitters vs ReDragon (C) (IWGP Junior Tag Team Titles)
This follows a simple history. Time Splitters (Alex Shelly & KUSHIDA) defeated the Bucks at the Dominion PPV (06/21/2014 ****1/2). ReDragon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) defeated Time Splitters at the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014 ****1/2). So we have the last 3 Championship teams in a match. This format only allows 2 guys in the ring at once so one team has to find a way to tag in at any given time. Well... ideally it should work that way except everyone goes into Scramble mode not even 5 minutes in and then it's on. Someone pumped rocket fuel down everyone's throat and lit a match. It's non stop action from the start. If you've watched these 3 teams against each other over the last year, this is very rewarding. They constantly play off each others previous spots. The match builds and builds until the final sequence, where you're at the end of your seat. The crowd is oddly less heated than you'd figure, but they could have been burned out from the Honma/Ibushi match. This was great and well worth tracking down. ****

Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kenny Omega (C) (IWGP Junior Title)
This is a rematch of Omega's title win at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015). The match is slow to get out of the gate. It's initially worked for comedy, which I feel has no place in a title match. It's a sad byproduct of matches involving The Bullet Club though. After getting the junk out of the way, they settle into a finely worked match. They play off of a couple of spots from 01/04. These two are both very talented but I don't think they're capable of anything more than what was done here and on 01/04. I had high hopes as Dome shows are not typically conducive to strong Junior matches. With a smaller venue I had hoped for something very strong. Like 01/04, this was good. Just not great. ***1/4

Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuchika Okada vs Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale
This is a continuation of the Okada vs Fale feud that was set up at New Year Dash (01/05/2015) when Fale secured a clean pinfall on Okada. I have absolutely no idea why Sakuraba is booked in this match. Okada & Yano are part of the CHAOS stable and their opponents are all part of The Bullet Club. I figured Sakuraba was a wrap after his feud with Minoru Suzuki ended at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Okada and Tonga really shine in this match. The latter is an athletic freak. At his size, I'm surprised the WWE hasn't come knocking on his door yet. Okada takes a massive beating but keeps pushing through. The way the match is worked, it might as well have been a handicap match. Yano and Sakuraba work maybe 1 total minute. Okada is head and shoulders above everyone in here both in selling his opponents offense and in his spirited comebacks. Sadly, I'm slowly losing interest in this feud without a singles match in sight. **1/2

Yugi Nagata & Satoshi Kojima & Tetsuya Naito vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi
Well this is odd. Kojima is working the match in place of Togi Makabe. The latter is supposed to be continuing his feud with Ishii as the last stop before their NEVER Open Weight Title match on 02/15. Naito is being booed out of the building and I have no idea why. he was being cheered at the Dome show and the spot shows. Maybe it's an Osaka crowd thing? If anyone knows, I'd greatly appreciate some insight in the comments. Ishii and Kojima work some extended sequences. I'm forced to wonder if Ishii is going over on 02/15 and will start a new program with Kojima. This was a rock solid six man tag. Nagata and Nakamura looked to have worked their chemistry issues out. There isn't much in the way of drama. Just a well worked match. ***

Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson vs Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto (C) (IWGP Tag Team Titles)
This is the 3rd match in 3 months for these teams. Shibata & Goto beat the then champions in the World Tag League Finals (12/07/2014) to earn a title shot. They then defeated the champs at Wrestle Kingdom 9. This is the match I knew these 2 teams had in them. The 1st match was outright disappointing. The 2nd match had the work but was limited by time, not even getting 10 minutes. This had the time, work, crowd, drama, and near falls these teams needed to put on a great match. Gallows & Anderson really bring their work boots in this one, working far faster than you'd figure for guys their size and bumping big for the smaller champs. I was on the edge of my seat by match's end, wondering which way it would go. I'm glad these teams were able to live up to expectations this time around. ****

AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (C) (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
This is a title rematch 4 months in the making. Tanahashi took the title from Styles at the King Of Pro-Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014 ****). After working separate programs, Styles scored a pinfall on Tanahashi in the main event of the New Year Dash (01/05/2015). This was a match of layers. From the get go you can tell it's going to go long. They start with basic mat work and as each five minute announcement comes on, the moves grow slightly bigger in scale. These two know each other very well. They counter and re-counter constantly, including an incredible Tanahashi reversal of a Styles Enzugiri into a mid air Dragon Screw Leg Whip. The match really takes a notch up after an odd occurrence. Tanahashi executes a Super High Fly Flow onto the entire Bullet Club on the outside and receives a brutal hardway cut over his left eye. The blood only serves to elevate the match. They continue to build well to the finish, and in that finish the match fails to reach its true zenith. It's a fine finish and you could call it satisfying, playing off an underlying story going back to Styles match with Yoshi Tatsu at Power Struggle. However, the finish keeps it from becoming a true high end MOTYC. It's an odd complaint when you're disappointed only giving a match ****1/4. It's just a tough pill to swallow knowing something truly fantastic was within their grasp.

Final Thoughts: New Japan continues to deliver on their big shows. I've got 3 **** matches and I'm sure many will argue that Ibushi/Honma is **** worthy as well. Do yourself a favour and track this show down, you won't be disappointed.

Please feel free to leave questions/comments/constructive criticisms in the comments below. I'll endeavour to answer everybody. I can also be reached via email at NagataLockII@gmail.com or on Twitter @NagataLockII.

19 comments:

  1. Good review, the ending was shocking.

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  2. I wasn't expecting the main event or tag title match results, that's for sure. It's a bold move for New Japan. I don't think Styles and Tanahashi have *quite* the chemistry I'd hope for, but like you say, it's odd to complain about a match that cleared **** no problem.


    I liked Honma/Ibushi a little more, and the tag title match a little less. Shibata as a babyface is working well, though, and Goto's been underrated for a while.

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  3. I can see the reason they gave AJ the title back, he's now over with the fans and the Styles Clash is a MDK move for them.

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  4. Indeed, but I hadn't expected Tanahashi to quite such a transitional reign. Same for Goto/Shibata.

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  5. Thanks Justin. More of you and less of miracle would be swell.

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  6. The Heavyweight Title was basically used as a tool to put Tanahashi vs Okada in the WK9 ME and truthfully, I don't have a problem with that. It was the right match for a card of that magnitude.

    The tag titles on the other hand made no sense to me at all unless they plan to break up Goto/Shibata in the very near future. They click really well as a team and The Bullet Club doesn't need any more titles than they currently have. I'm praying that Gedo isn't planning to hot potato the belts.

    I mulled over Honma/Ibushi's rating a lot. I was as low as ***1/2 and as high as ****1/4. It ws the only match I re-watched. The match is nearly devoid of a hot finish as Ibushi basically took everything Honma had to offer, killed him with Lariat, Phoenix Bomb, Phoenix Splash. If the near falls were staggered and Honma was given a chance to show his Fighting Spirit, it would have been of huge benefit to the match and likely put it into low end MOTYC territory.

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  7. It's amazing how New Japan has managed to turn Tatsu's broken neck into a means to establish The Styles Clash as the one true move to fear in the company.

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  8. It carried serious finality. I can't imagine Tanahashi getting a rematch any time soon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Nagata goes over Nakamura on Sunday to free him up for a run at Styles. It looks like CHAOS vs The Bullet Club will be a big theme in 2015.

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  9. I'm relatively new here so I may have missed something. Is there a reason the patrons of th site don't like Muraco's posts? As far as I can tell, he puts in a good amount of work tracking down matches that people otherwise wouldn't have ready access to.

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  10. Disagree. Nakamura should keep the IC title throughout the year, and should be kept apart from the IWGP title until WK10.

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  11. I don't much care what they are doing with Kenny Omega. He should be doing great matches, not just good...

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  12. Really enjoyed this show. I'd have Ibushi/Honma at ****1/4 myself but can't argue with your reasoning.

    I was a bit disappointed with the ME, agree on Tanahashi and Styles not having the greatest chemistry. I enjoyed the finish and Styles getting the belt back, but man that cut over Tanahashi's eye was nasty - but as you say, the blood really added to the match, giving Tanahashi that grizzled warrior look.


    Looking forward to Sunday now, the tag interactions between Nagata and Nakamura were tremendous and that match could be awesome.

    One final thought, how awesome is Yujiro Takashi at just being a complete dick? The guy cracks me up.

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  13. In that case, who do you see as a viable contender to the IWGP Title? Tanahashi was soundly defeated. Ibushi lost to Nakamura for the IC belt and will have to rebuild cred. Okada is stuck with Fale for now. Both Shibata & Goto are coming off major losses. It's a bit weak at the top of the card right now.

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  14. I'd almost prefer Takashi as a manager than a worker. His participation in most Bullet Club matches gives you an indicator of who is getting jobbed much akin to a guy like Mr. New Japan. Agreed in terms of him being a dick though. His involvement leading to the returned low blow in the Main Event was fantastic.

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  15. His character still needs fine tuning. I can only assume he's done with Taguchi. All indications look to be Omega vs Desperado leading to a unification bout. I've got fingers crossed for something far better than the Taguchi feud.

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  16. Must say whoever gave the tiger mask match *1/2 is retarded and has no idea how to OBJECTIVELY rate matches. You are turning ppl away from the product as a result

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  17. TMIV was involved in a throwaway tag match with a couple of fun power spots for Nakanishi and a few spots to showcase Mascara Dorada. If you have insights into aspects of the match I missed, I'm gladly open to reading them.

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  18. Who won these matches? And what were the finishes? I know Styles won and also that The Bucks win but besides that? Anyways, as always keep up the great work and glad you're back.

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  19. I prefer to keep the reviews spoiler free in case the readers want insight into the matches but don't want to have that "live" feeling taken from them when watching for the first time.

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