NJPW New Beginning in Nagoya 2021

 

Howdy!

Time for our first true big one since Wrestle Kingdom, as tonight in our main event, Hiroshi Tanahashi challengers Shingo Takagi for the NEVER openweight title in what could end up a Match of the Year contender!

(Spoiler alert – it was.)

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

It’s a 5 match card tonight, we’ll be reviewing 4 of those matches. As I said, this is the first big show on the New Beginning tour, as we’ll be going into February and ending with shows featuring Hiromu/SHO for the Junior title, Dangerous Tekkers/GoD for the tag titles, and Ibushi/SANADA for the double gold.

I normally listen to the English commentary because I like Kevin Kelly, but I wasn’t sure I was feeling an entire show of El Phantasmo on color. I did go with English the second time around and found him much more tolerable than he was before, so that’s a……win?

Bullet Club (EVIL,Yujiro Takahashi) w/Dick Togo vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada,Toru Yano)

To continue the EVIL/Okada skirmishes, we’re opening with this tag match that certainly has some bold choices for partners. Well, at least Okada’s partner can work. I am still currently on the train that the KOPW title should be Yano’s forever. 

Bullet Club does some cheating against Okada so far as Togo distracts, but that backfires as Okada and Yano double team him for the lulz. Okada and EVIL do their usual okay stuff, and I know I’ve said this before, but I just don’t get why we’ve gotta do Okada/EVIL; we’ve done it more than once, their chemistry isn’t great, and Okada basically has to win if they have plans for him against Ibushi at some point. 

EVIL gets the advantage and heard me type the previous sentence, so he decides to show ME some negative chemistry and tags in Yujiro. Joy. Hey, remember those Takahashi/Okada classics from earlier this year? Yeah, me neither. Hey-oh! They do the triple abdominal stretch spot on Okada, which is always kind of neat. Okada makes the comeback against EVIL with a big boot and it’s WACKY TAG TO YANO! He comes in and goes for a corner pad, then a second one, then an eye rake on Takahashi. Hey, I don’t care if it’s cheating, I’m always for some good abuse of any of Takahashi’s body parts.

Bullet Club cheats a bunch and Yujiro goes for his cane and nails Yano with it, but Okada saves it and dropkicks Takahashi. Yano goes for the stick but Togo gets it away from him, which distracts the ref so Yano can lowblow Yujiro and roll him up for the pin. (CHAOS over Bullet Club, pinfall, 7:46)

THOUGHTS: **. I mean, it’s a standard opening tag. Okada gets one star, Yano gets the other one, no one really embarrassed themselves, which is sometimes possible in Yujiro matches. Good enough for me. 

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA) vs Kota Ibushi, SHO, Tomoaki Honma, Master Wato

Naito and his position on the card is going to be very interesting to watch over the next year. If he kind of ‘takes the year off’ similar to the time period where Okada went down a bit while Kenny was champ, it might end up being a good thing for him and his overall health. On the other hand, he’s absolutely RIPE for a heel turn, frankly – EVIL’s betrayal, SANADA moving into the #1 contender’s spot, him not even making it to the second night of Wrestle Kingdom…..if, and it’s a big if because Naito being a heel was what ended up getting him over as a babyface in the first place, but IF Naito could pull off a heel turn, he’d be a hell of a top one. 

Do I think this will happen? I dunno. You’d probably think that he would be like 2 or 3 in a heel pecking order (behind Jay White and probably behind Ospreay if GEDO is setting him up for the big shove this year), but to pull it off he would have to do something pretty dastardly, like beat Hiromu within an inch of his life or something, and I can’t imagine that NJPW wants to set the LIJ cash cow on fire right now. 

Anyway, we’ve got a match here. Should probably talk about that and stuff. Kota Ibushi is carrying himself like an absolute f------ superstar these days and it’s noticeable in a good way. He’s the top guy and is starting to act like it. Wato and BUSHI kick us off and the work is a bit less than tight, we’ll put it that way. Honma tags in and I think I’ve made my disdain for him perfectly clear in the past. He and Naito do their thing and LIJ charges the babyfaces in the corner as it breaks down a bit. 

Back in and LIJ cuts the ring in half on Honma and beats him up. I approve of this. Naito especially whoops his ass, then tags in SANADA, who brings in the rest of LIJ to stomp a mudhole in Honma to my delight. Unfortunately, my fun ends when Honma gets free and tags in Ibushi. Kota comes in and flies all over the ring, hitting a moonsault for two. SANADA counters into a ‘rana that sends Ibushi to the floor, then a plancha over the top. Back in and they do a very nice sequence of reversals and counters. They should have a pretty nice title match, and I say that not being the biggest fan of Cold Skull. 

SHO and Hiromu both get tags, and these two are simply magic together. They have a crazy forearm battle in the corner, then SHO sends him out with a dropkick. Hiromu slides back in and counters a spear, but runs the ropes and misses a clothesline and now SHO drops him with a spear. Pop-up Powerbomb by Takhashi to try to get a breather, tag to BUSHI. LIJ double-teams SHO now, then BUSHI hits a lungblower for two. Everyone runs in to cut everyone else off and SHO hits BUSHI with a Last Ride Powerbreaker for two. Shock Arrow by SHO gets the three count. (Kota Ibushi, SHO, Master Wato, Tomoaki Honma over LIJ, pinfall, 11:32)

THOUGHTS: **1/4. This was fine, not much more. Definitely a Naito leaves his shirt on match for sure. But everyone got a few minutes to get some stuff in and Honma was kept to a minimum, so that isn’t bad. 

ELP demands the director change angles and cut several times in a funny little bit.

The Great O-Khan vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan – Loser can no longer use Mongolian chops

That stip is absolutely tremendous. I cannot imagine Tenzan not being able to chop people, but I also cannot imagine him winning this match. Kevin Kelly notes that O-Khan was undefeated in Rev Pro, so ELP buries the promotion. 

O-Khan attacks on Tenzan’s entrance, but Tenzan ain’t taking that crap, he’s got something he actually cares about at stake here! This isn’t some Master Wato b-------! Tenzan dominates to start with headbutts and hits the first Mongolian chops to put him down. Khan comes back with chops of his own and if you watch this thing as kind of a kung fu movie, it’s really pretty entertaining. More chops to the back of Tenzan’s neck put him down and Khan puts him in a nerve hold. Cravat by Khan, then a chinlock and a headscissors on the mat. 

Tenzan makes the ropes, so Khan hits a neckbreaker for two. ELP asks Kevin if he knew Tenzan was in the nWo? “Because that’s cool as hell. Get up Tenzan, beat his ass!” Okay, ELP is kind of amusing, I’ll admit. I may have been wrong on that one. Khan off the ropes, Tenzan with a rolling leg lariat and he’s got a minute to breathe. Tenzan with the chops now and Khan falls to the floor. Back in and Tenzan goes to the eyes, then splashes Khan in the corner. 

Tenzan goes up to the TOP, which isn’t exactly familiar territory these days for him, and hits a falling kneedrop to the back of Khan, then hits a Mongolian chop off the second rope. What, are you trying to KILL the man? Good God. Instead of taking what would surely be the easy pin, he opts for more punishment and hits a suplex for two. Up next, he calls for the Tenzan Tombstone Driver, but Khan counters that with a Stroke. 

Tenzan blocks the Dominator and it’s more Mongolian chops, which are returned in kind by Khan, as we’ve got ourselves a good ‘ol-fashioned MONGOLIAN CHOP OFF. Finally Khan goes to finish with a running one, but Tenzan lariats him and puts on the Anaconda Vice. Khan gets to his feet, so Tenzan takes him down with a uranage for two. Tenzan calls for the moonsault, as we’re in full-on LUCHA TENZAN~! territory at this point, but Khan sadly moves and Tenzan misses. 

Khan with chops to the back of Tenzan’s neck, but Tenzan drops him with a headbutt. Khan escapes the TTD and his bicycle kick of the air in front of Tenzan is SO powerful, it knocks Tenzan down for two. 

Alright, that was an unnecessary cheap shot. I apologize.

Mongolian chops from Khan put Tenzan down again, and the TTD hits for two. Tenzan fires up after the kickout and charges…..right into the Dominator from O-Khan, and there’s no more Mongolian chops for Tenzan. (The Great O-Khan over Hiroyoshi Tenzan, pinfall, 12:45)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. I don’t know about rating this one, because it really wasn’t all that great, but I had quite a bit of affection for it as kind of a throwback to a fun little hoss fight main event from one of the Saturday morning syndicated shows. They were cartoony and over-the-top, and they really did hold it together just fine. I mean, we weren’t going to get a **** workrate classic or anything from Tenzan at this point in his career, and if this was one of his last big singles matches or even his last one, it was at least pretty fun. 

Intermission! Clean that ring! 

Up next, Will Ospreay defeated Satoshi Kojima in a no-DQ match. Time was 16:57.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shingo Takagi (C) – NEVER Openweight title match

Let’s GO.

Lockup goes to the ropes and Tana takes a shot, which is a bit shocking from the Ace, and gets an armdrag. Armwork continues as Shingo reverses into a hammerlock, which Tana escapes. They trade headlocks as we’re taking our time here on pace in the beginning of the match. More grappling goes to a draw on the mat and we reset. Shingo clobbers him in the corner, Tana fights back, so Shingo rains down forearms on Hiroshi. 

Tana dropkicks the knee of Takagi as Tana is already doing all the subtle things that he does, slowing down his movements of affected body parts, laying the blueprint for the rest of the match as he starts to work over the leg of Shingo with a few elbows. He rides that hold on the mat and forces Shingo to the ropes to break. Takagi hooks the top rope on a whip and then bowls Tana over with a shoulder, the clotheslines Tana to the floor. To the outside goes the Dragon for some abuse as he whips Hiroshi to the barricade, then slams his face into the mat a few times before DDT’ing him on the floor. 

Back in and Shingo gets a suplex for two, then a vice on the mat. Top rope elbow has Tanahashi groaning in pain as Takagi gets two. Tana tries to come back with a dragon-screw, Takagi rolls through it and goes for a sliding lariat, Tana avoids that and hits the dragon-screw. That sequence was so simple and yet so well-paced and sold by both guys, it’s a marvel. All the little things they do are incredible. Tana hits a slam and the somersault senton for two. 

Necksnap by Shingo and they both end up on the apron, but Tana escapes a Death Valley Driver on the apron and hits another dropkick to the knee to send Takagi to the floor. Hiroshi goes up, Aces High to the floor on Shingo! Tana rolls back into the ring and catches Shingo coming back in with another dragon-screw. He goes for Twist and Shout, but Shingo fires strikes hopping on one leg, then reverses into his own Twist and Shout! Another one from Takagi! Sliding lariat hits but Shingo can’t get up as the knee is hurting too badly. 

He finally uses the ropes to get to a standing position and kicks Tana in the head a few times with his good leg, but that just pisses off the Ace, who gets to his feet and dropkicks the knee again, wiping Takagi out. Tana fires kicks but Takagi shrugs them off and chopblocks the knee of Tana to get to work on that. He hangs Tana in the ropes and dragon-screws him there, then MOCKS THE AIR GUITAR USING TANAHASHI’S LEG.

KILL HIM DEAD, ACE.

Shingo with a lariat, then a powerbomb, Tana kicks out….right into a half-crab by Takagi. He converts that to a stepover toehold on the mat and cranks on it. Tana fights for the ropes, makes it! Shingo goes for Made in Japan, but Tana escapes and hits consecutive dragon-screws on the mat, but Takagi makes the ropes to stop the Cloverleaf. Shingo tries to escape by going to the top, but Tana still has the leg and dragon-screws him off the top, and it’s Cloverleaf time. Tana releases and it goes up, High Fly Flow to the back of Takagi! He goes up again…..Takagi rolls out of the way!!! 

Shingo grabs Tana, wheelbarrow suplex into the buckles by the Dragon! Tana tries some reversals, but Takagi is ready and hits a Dragon Suplex on Tana, then a Pumping Bomber! Second one, but Shingo has nothing left on the leg, Tana avoids it and goes for a Slingblade, Takagi escapes that and hits Made In Japan…..on Tanahashi’s F------ HEAD. It’s a goddamn miracle that Hiroshi escaped that without a broken neck. He kicks out at two, so clearly his neck is kind of intact. 

Seriously, I was legit terrified after that happened. 

3 straight Twist and Shouts by Tana, then a straightjacket suplex for two. Slingblade hits and Tana goes up, Aces High, but Shingo steps back a bit to catch him and hits a Death Valley Driver! Takagi gets a Dragon Sleeper, but Tanahashi gets to the ropes, so Shingo powers him down into a neckbreaker off that. Shingo runs the ropes and damn near decapitates Tana with a GIANT Pumping Bomber! 1, 2, NO!! Last of the Dragon is escaped by Tana, so Shingo just clobbers him with a clothesline, then slaps at the top of his head. They slug it out and just beat the S--- out of each other with strikes. 

Shingo off the ropes, Tana avoids a shot and hits a Dragon Suplex! Shingo pops up and charges, Tana with a Slingblade! Shingo kicks out at 1! Takagi with a giant lariat! Tana kicks out at 1!! They charge each other with clotheslines and Shingo just DROPS Tana with a stiff shot. Last of the Dragon time…..countered by Tana into a Slingblade! Tana goes up, Aces High hits! Dragon Suplex by Hiroshi with a bridge! 1, 2, NO!!!! Tana goes up…..HIGH FLY FLOW!!!! 1, 2, 3!!! Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a NEW NEVER Openweight champion! (Hiroshi Tanahashi over Shingo Takagi, pinfall, 35:40)

THOUGHTS: ****3/4. Everytime I think that Tanahashi might be done, he goes out and reminds us that he may, in fact, be the greatest that New Japan has ever produced. Every single thing he did in this match drew me in, from his halted movements to sell the accumulated wear and tear he’s been doing to the tremendously paced closing sequence which had exactly the right amount of no-selling to put over both Takagi and Tanahashi. Hiroshi’s babyface comebacks were interspersed throughout the match in the right spots, and that miss of the HFF was surely looking to be the end but the Ace wasn’t to be denied and it made his kickout all the better. Takagi had to be the heavy in this match and did one hell of a job in that role, especially selling the knee through the match and making sure that even when he powered through into moves, he did a delayed sell afterwards to emphasize the pain. This was the polar opposite of his match with Jeff Cobb – in that match, it was all big moves and spots, whereas here it was selling and pacing. A hell of a story here that built and built on itself as Tanahashi managed to pull it out in the end, for the year so far it’s only been topped by the Ibushi/White classic from Wrestle Kingdom. This match is a reason to watch pro wrestling. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: A one-match show, really, but by GOD what a match it was. Takagi/Tanahashi was absolute must-see wrestling. The rest was a mixed bag with what was admittedly a fun match between O-Khan and Tenzan, and some relatively fun undercard tag work. Overall, worth watching the show. 

I’ll be back with the next New Beginning show, everyone!

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email