Preview by Joseph Currier
New Japan Pro Wrestling returns tonight and into tomorrow morning with its biggest show since Wrestle Kingdom 11 as the New Beginning in Sapporo takes place at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.
The show will be headlined by Kazuchika Okada's first IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense since retaining his title against Kenny Omega at the Tokyo Dome. Okada will face Minoru Suzuki, who returned along with Suzuki-gun on NJPW's New Year's Dash show to set up his match for the title.
Suzuki-gun will challenge for two other championships as well. Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer will challenge IWGP Tag Team Champions Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano in a three-way match that also includes Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma. And Roppongi Vice will put their IWGP junior tag titles on the line against Suzuki-gun members Taka Michinoku & Taichi.
The rest of the card will feature mostly tag matches to build to the New Beginning in Osaka later this month, as well as a NEVER Openweight Championship match with Hirooki Goto defending against Juice Robinson.
Our coverage begins at 1 a.m. ET.
YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & DESPERADO VS. HIRAI KAWATO & KUSHIDA
About what you'd expect. Despeardo pinned Kawato with a spinning power bomb. Kawato, who is 19, got on the show with the David Finlay injury. Kushdia looked ral godo in one spot with an O'Connor role on Kanemaru and German suplex on Desperado at the same time. Kawato's timing was good.
Minoru Suzuki attacked Kazchika Okada at the press conference and put a kneebar on him. They pushed that he's coming into the match with an injured knee.
HIROYOSHI TENZAN & SATOSHI KOJIMA & YUJI NAGATA VS. HENARE & YOSHITATSU & TOMOYUKI OKA
The finish here was Nagata beaitng Oka with the crossface submission. Nice finish as Oka broke the crossface on one side, but Nagata moved it to the other side. Really good action with Nagata and Yoshitatsu with the stiff elbows and kicks was the highlight. Solid match, about what you'd expect.
KATSUYORI SHIBATA & JUSHIN LIGER & TIGER MASK VS. GEDO & JADO & WILL OSPREAY
Not much to this match. The focal point was just to get Ospreay over. Ospreay used the spinning kick and Oscutter on Tiger Mask for the pin. After the match Shibata went after Ospreay, but Ospreay came back and laid out Shibata with the Oscutter to help build this coming Saturday's match for the British title. Ospreay didn't do his spectacular stuff, and while the exchanges with Shibata and Ospreay were good, it was nothing like at Korakuen Hall.
YOSHI-HASHI VS. TAKASHI IIZUKA
At least it's over. Yoshi-Hashi pinned him after a twisting power bobm. Iizuka did his act running through the crowd. He had the advantage most of the way using chair shots, choking him with a rope and he finally used the Iron Fingers from hell but Yoshi-Hashi ducked and went to the finish. I'm surprised they beat Iizuka on his first big show and didn't built more of a mid-card program between the two.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & MICHAEL ELGIN & MANABU NAKANISHI & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & DRAGON LEE VS. TETSUYA NAITO & SEIYA SANADA & EVIL & BUSHI & HIROMU TAKAHASHI
No reaction to the new Tanahashi theme. The crowd was quiet here which hurt the match a little. It turned into a good match with the highlight being Lee vs. Takahashi. Big win for the face team as Elgin power bombed Naito over the top rope onto Evil & Sanada. Tanahashi then used the high fly flow to the floor on Evil & Sanada. Lee pinned Bushi with a power bomb. Lee and Takahashi put each aman's title belt in the others' face. Taguchi put on a mask and he, Tanahashi & Elgin & Lee all posed with their various title belts.
ROCKY ROMERO & BARETTA VS. TAKA MICHINOKU & TAICHI FOR THE IWGP JR. TAG TEAM TITLES
This match was a mess. Baretta pinned Taka with Strong Zero. Afer the match, Kanemaru & Desperado challenged for the titles. Most of the match was then beating on Baretta and it was like a five-on-two with Desperado & Kanemaru interfering as well as Taichi's nymph girl who was constnatly distracting the referee. The match didn't have mudch heat even with all the heel tactics used. It told a stroy but the crowd wasn't much into it. Romero was very good here and on paper, what Baretta did should have worked but crowd wasn't buying Taichi's stuff..
HIROOKI GOTO VS. JUICE ROBINSON FOR NEVER OPEN WEIGHT TITLE
Stiff physical match which Goto won using the GTR after kicking out of a draping GTR. It turned into a good match because it was hurt early on because nobody bought that Robinson could win in the early part of the match. Robinson ended up with a bloody nose. He made a good showing in losing.
TOMOHIRO ISHII & TORU YANO VS. TOGI MAKABE & TOMOAKI HONMA VS. DAVEY BOY SMITH JR. & LANCE ARCHER FOR THE IWGP TAG TITLES
Yano & Ishii retained when Yano used a low blow and cradle on Makabe. . Archer and Smith then went crazy after the match beating everyon in sight. The story is that Suzuki-gun continues to not win. These teams are all rematched next week. Fast moving match. Good match.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS. MINORU SUZUKI FOR IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
This was an unreal match. It was probably the best prolonged selling of any match in a decade or longer. The first 30 minutes were Suzuki just destroying Okada's knee. He put him in all kinds of heel hooks and kneebars and even the figure four. The story was that Okada would never submit. The crowd was actually almost quiet becauase of how one-sided the match was. The entire story was that it was clear Suzuki was winning but Okada kept never quitting. They did a ref bump spot and then Taichi, Archer and Smith interfered. Then Ishii and Yano ran them off. They teased the Royce Gracie-Sakuraba finish as Gedo, in the role of Helio, was about to throw in the towel, but Okada told him not to. Later, Okada was back getting his knee destroyed and they brought up how nobody was going to throw in the towel. What is amazing was how this played off the Blaydes-Milstead fight earlier tonight. The ref was about to stop the match but Okada made the ropes. Okada and Suzuki then started trading slaps and twice Suzuki got Okada in the choke. Okada actually teased a Gotch piledriver. Suzuki did as well but Okada got out of it. Finally after almost 40 minutes, Okada twice hit the rainmaker but coiuldn't follow up on it because of knee damage but won with tjhe third rainmaker. This was totally unlike any great match you'll ever see.
No challenge because the New Japan Cup winner gets the next title shot.
They also announced there would be English commentary on the Korakuen Hall show on Tuesday.