Still reeling from Wrestle Kingdom 14 and establishing a new equilibrium, there’s a lot to prove for everyone on the
New Japan roster on the first tour of 2020.
TOA Henare defeated Yota Tsuji
I think it’s fair to say that Henare has found it difficult to strike out from the Young Lions and forge his own path in the company. However, calling out the newly minted NEVER Openweight champion Shingo Takagi will certainly do it for him. In the meantime, Henare had to get through one of the most formidable Young Lions in Yota Tsuji.
This was a good match that set the tone for the night with big guys throwing big shots at each other. Tsuji himself must surely be on the cusp of excursion at some point soon and seeing his Dojo alumni Ren Narita and Shota Umino strike out on their own must have ignited the flame of having something to prove. Two young men to watch this year.
Tiger Mask, Manabu Nakanishi and Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Yuya Uemura, Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe
The story here was the build to Nakanishi’s retirement later on this month. However, it was also good to see Uemura building some heat with Tiger Mask in light of some disparaging backstage comments made by the veteran. With the likes of Ren Narita in LA and Shota Umino on excursion here in England, it’s good to see Uemura get a bit more exposure and potentially work an angle with one of the veterans of the company.
El Phantasmo defeated Gabriel Kidd
A first singles outing in New Japan for former WCPW/Defiant resident jobber Gabriel Kidd who, since joining the Rev Pro Contenders division and heading off to New Japan’s LA Dojo, has been a man on a mission to prove himself. Kidd’s years of experience served him well here – he stuck to the basics as Young Lions do and played off well against ELP’s usual heel schtick. Kidd looked good and ELP is still great as an unlikeable heel.
Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto and Robbie Eagles defeated Shingo Takagi, EVIL and BUSHI
The first of the multi-man tags was brilliant. The acrimonious rivalry between Shingo and Goto continued with Shingo literally rubbing Goto’s face in the NEVER Openweight title that he took from Goto. Their rivalry is still festering nicely.
Meanwhile, a pissed off EVIL was throwing bombs against Ishii, effectively wiping him out of the first part of the match he hit him so hard. Considering this was a preview match for LIJ’s NEVER 6-man title defence against the Chaos team, it held absolutely nothing back.
SHO, YOH, Ryusuke Taguchi and Jon Moxley defeated Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado and DOUKI
If the previous match was brilliant, then this was pure insanity, even by Suzuki-gun’s standards. Really, there were two matches going on as Suzuki zeroed in on Moxley (with his eyepatch still in place courtesy of Jericho in last week’s AEW Dynamite – kayfabe lives!). Moxley and Suzuki brutalised each other in the stands, at ringside and, after a nice will-they-won’t-they table spot, in the ring.
It’s no secret that Moxley saw Suzuki versus Tanahashi and cites this as a principle reason for wanting to come to New Japan in the first place. Be careful what you wish for, though, Jon…
Meanwhile, the rest of Suzuki-gun were busy putting the boots to Taguchi and Roppongi 3K with poor Taguchi straying into the middle of Moxley and Suzuki at one point only to get a good kicking for his trouble.
This match also gave us one of the greatest post-match comments ever:
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) February 3, 2020
Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA and Tetsuya Naito defeated Taiji Ishimori, Jay White and KENTA
This was a good match, building up to SANADA versus Jay White and Naito versus KENTA in Osaka. With Bullet Club initially gaining the upper hand after jumping LIJ before the bell rang, LIJ were able to fight back for the win.
The focus was mainly on KENTA beating up on Naito on the outside but there was also a great spot at the end with SANADA squaring off against Ishimori, probably one of the most underrated wrestlers on the New Japan roster. This did well in terms of building up the heat between Bullet Club and LIJ.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Will Ospreay for the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
A rivalry going back years for a title that Ospreay has never held, this was probably the best match on the card. The stakes were high with Ospreay having something to prove and ZSJ was characterised by his usual arrogance and his previous promise that he will never lose the title ever again.
These two know each other so well that it’s always a pleasure to watch them fight. Now that Ospreay has beefed up, the added dimension of the two of them throwing hands adds even more danger to proceedings.
Despite some back and forth, it was not to be Ospreay’s night, though, and ZSJ put him away with the submission. The build to their rematch at RevPro’s High Stakes on Valentine’s Day has been excellent and there’s still no love lost between these two.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Taichi
This was a good match, probably Taichi’s best in some time (maybe ever) but it was difficult to get behind Taichi as a credible threat to the Rainmaker, given he hasn’t really done much apart from get in Naito’s way over the last several months. And it turned out Naito was seeing triple for most of that time, anyway.
Taichi’s usual shenanigans with the iron glove were dispensed with pretty early on so that they could get down to some wrestling. Hooray. There was the usual Taichi tactics, though, with Miho Abe getting in Okada’s way to protect her man as things went to the outside.
Taichi had Okada in a few spots of bother but it was nothing that wasn’t sorted out with a Rainmaker. Inevitably, Okada was always going to win this but it built up some credibility for Taichi who, random Phantom of the Opera knock-off gimmicks aside, is a good wrestler.
Overall, there was a good build for the rest of the tour and there were some good multi-man tags that delivered. Match of the night probably goes to ZSJ and Ospreay, though. Next, all eyes are on Suzuki versus Moxley and Naito’s first double gold defence.
Images courtesy of njpw1972.com