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NJPW ‘The New Beginning in Sapporo’ (2.3.19) Results & Review

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The second of two nights in Sapporo sees Suzuki-Gun challenge Los Ingobernables de Japon to three title matches. Over 6,000 fans come to the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center to watch Taichi challenge Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship in the main event. Let’s get started!

Toa Henare def. Yota Tsuji @ 7:08 via Toa Bottom – **3/4
Good strongman battle between the two beefy boys. The match was mostly strikes and slams. Tsuji hit a dropkick and locked in the Boston Crab but once Henare got to the ropes, a flip was switched. Henare took the young lion to the corner and dished out a series of knees to the chin. Tsuji fired up and landed a slap across Henare’s face. That was met with a Henare headbutt and lariat but Tsuji kicked out. Henare quickly followed with the urange for the win. Great intensity from Henare that we don’t normally get to see.

Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask IV def. Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida @ 9:31 via Tiger Avalanche Butterfly Suplex on Yoshida – **1/4
Nakanishi wasn’t the best dance partner tonight but luckily had Tiger on his side to keep the pace up. The young lions looked to bring the fight to Tiger. They both lit him up, Umino with strikes and Yoshida with a rear-naked choke. This only fired Tiger up who proceeded to lock in a kneebar on Yoshida and follow up with a Tiger Driver that Umino breaks up. Finally, Yoshida is put away with a Butterfly suplex off the top. Tiger worked well with the youngsters.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ren Narita def. Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku @ 9:48 via Disqualification – **
Tenzan once again takes the mic before the match and pleads with Iizuka to wake up. Instead, he’s mauled and a brawl breaks out on the outside. In the ring, TAKA encourages Narita to bring the heat, only to cut him off with eye gouges and kicks to the shin. TAKA gets the mask off Iizuka and everyone gets bit. He puts on the Iron Fingers but Narita makes the save with a dropkick. This gives Tenzan time for a comeback but TAKA kicks him off the ropes and Iizuka drills him with the Iron Fingers for the DQ finish. Iizuka grabs the mic post-match and the crowd cheers but he has nothing to say and instead uses the mic cord to choke Tenzan before stomping off to the back.

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi def. Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori @ 14:15 via Yano Schoolboy on Loa – **1/2
More from ‘Good Guy’ Tama. His team is becoming increasingly annoyed. Everyone yelled at him but no one louder than his brother. It’s Tama’s new found attitude that can be attributed to his brother taking the loss to Yano here tonight. Tama would also block Jado from using the Singapore Cane which did not go over well with Jado. The Bullet Club drama is being done in comical fashion and it helps break the monotony in these shows. Loa takes the low blow and roll up from Yano.

Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Chae Owens def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI @ 17:57 via White TTO on Y-H – ***
Owens and YOSHI-HASHI are added to yesterday’s main event match and to great effect. Owens as a comedy character and being the butt of Bullet Club’s planned sneak attack was funny. Okada would dodge two corner splashes by Fale and Owens would wind up taking both. White spent the majority of his time picking apart Tanahashi’s knee as much as possible. He turned his attention to Y-H, looking for the easy win, but Okada would help Y-H out of the Blade Runner with a dropkick. This gave Y-H the opportunity to fire up, landing a huge lariat and cradle Fisherman Buster for a two count the entire arena bought into. He’d rush to the top looking for a senton but White got the knees up, Sleeper suplex, inverted Dragon Screw and TTO for the win. The crowd coming unglued for Y-H along with the comedy from Owens were two nice wrinkles to a match we’d seen the night before. Tanahashi slapped Gedo post-match and would then eat a Blade Runner from White who’d walk to the back with Tanahashi’s belt over his shoulder.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Shingo Takagi & BUSHI (c) def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado @ 18:05 via Rebellion on Kanemaru – ***1/2

What makes the feud between LIJ and SZKG better than the one between 3K and SZKG is that LIJ have BUSHI and he isn’t afraid to fight fire with fire. You couldn’t help but to see 3K as dorks in their feud with SZKG last year. Every match would end by shenanigans while 3K had to act surprised. BUSHI is allowed to rip at masks, gouge eyes and spray mist which, after some build, fit this rivalry perfectly because BUSHI is equal parts Kanemaru and Desperado. The match had all the usual bells and whistles of a SZKG match, pulling refs out, involving weapons, all the shenanigans. The big spot came when BUSHI ripped the chair out of Desperado’s hands and used the chair as a way to block Kanemaru’s mist and immediately spray Kanemaru with mist of his own. When the shenanigans become too much for the power of Shingo, BUSHI is there to hit back in the same SZKG stylings. LIJ are the perfect teams for any type of opponents and that was on full display in this match. Afterwards, BUSHI unmasked Desperado and threw his mask into the crowd.

IWGP Tag Team Championship
EVIL & SANADA (c) def. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. @ 16:56 via SANADA Moonsault on Suzuki – ***1/4

We had seen the night before that SANADA was unable to beat Suzuki on his own. Luckily for SANADA, he didn’t have to go into this fight alone. EVIL’s win over Sabre helped get him over the mental block he’d been dealing with over the last six months. Suzuki and Sabre would set their opponents up for the Gotch-style Piledriver and Zack Driver but EVIL and SANADA would counter those moves into both a TKO and Darkness Falls. They’d follow by dropping Suzuki with a Magic Killer and EVIL would focus on keeping Sabre down while SANADA finished Suzuki. The problem was, SANADA couldn’t handle Suzuki. Like the night before, Suzuki escaped the Skull End and set SANADA up for a piledriver. Luckily, EVIL was right there to help SANADA and they dropped Suzuki with another Magic Killer. SANADA was then able to land the Moonsault and take the win over Suzuki. EVIL shaking his demons and now being able to help SANADA was the key story and a good one at that.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Tetsuya Naito (c) def. Taichi @ 21:32 via Destino – **1/2

There’s a lot to break down, steaming beyond just the match. Taichi had promised Naito he had a plan; something more than what he saw the last time these two faced off. The plan? Bring Iizuka out for an attack. Iizuka was a key factor in helping Taichi beat Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship in September. Both Iizuka and Taichi attacked Naito until he was carried to the back for further evaluation. The officials didn’t want to cancel a scheduled main event because of Taichi’s poor sportsmanship so they allowed Naito time to regroup. After ten minutes of waiting, Naito finally came back out and declared himself ready to fight.

Once the match starts, Naito has no power in his strikes and Taichi laughs in his face. Taichi takes a table from under the ring and sets Naito up for the Dangerous Suplex. Naito fought out of the hold and drove Taichi through the table with a piledriver. Naito has become a master of this style over the last year. Iizuka comes back out to help distract Naito for Taichi. Naito turns around, doesn’t let Taichi use the belt as a weapon and decides not to use it himself.

Instead, Naito grabs Taichi’s microphone stand. Taichi pleads Naito not to use it which affords Taichi time to break a chair over Naito’s head. He quickly follows up with a Dangerous suplex but Naito kicks out so he kicks Naito low, sets up for a Gedo Clutch, but again Naito escapes. Naito returns the favor with a kick low, lands Destino, and it’s Taichi’s turn to kick out. After another Destino, Taichi is out and Naito retains the title.

From a story perspective the match served the purpose of showing that Taichi can’t rely on old tricks, he needs to bring something new to the table. His inexperience at adapting lead to his downfall while Naito has learned exactly what it takes to change your game plan in order to pick up the win. On the surface this looks like a burial of Taichi and that’s because it’s exactly what it’s meant to be. Taichi can’t win if he keeps trying the same tricks. All of LIJ retain and come out to celebrate after the match. That’s how we go off air.

While this wasn’t the most satisfying show, there are a lot of stories coming out of the top three matches. The main event’s sole purpose was to seemingly showcase where Taichi is at right now and the answer is: not where he needs to be if he wants to main event. He was unable to prove himself as anything to worry about and will have to change moving forward. There was about fifteen minutes of setup between the beatdown and Naito disappearing backstage before the twenty minute match started. That’s a total of thirty-five minutes of Taichi which is stretching it too long as far as I’m concerned. It’s a story they’re set on telling but not one that’s been particularly engaging.

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Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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