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NJPW ‘The New Beginning in Sapporo’ (2.1.20) Results & Review

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The New Beginning 2020 makes its first stop in Hokkaido with the NEVER Openweight Championship on the line as Shingo Takagi challenges Hirooki Goto. The night also serves as a precursor for the rest of the tour with tag team interactions between Jon Moxley and Minoru Suzuki, Tetsuya Naito and KENTA, among others including tomorrow night’s main event between Kazuchika Okada and Taichi. Let’s get started!

Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo def. Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura @ 8:13 via Ishimori YES Lock on Uemura – **1/4
I love the team of Tiger and Uemura, the two were the highlight of last year’s junior tag league. Tiger is a great mentor for someone as technically gifted as Uemura. One of the most underrated hot tags in the game, Tiger went off on Phantasmo with a nice flurry midway through the match. Bullet Club did their usual spots and the babyfaces did what they could until Uemura’s inexperience caught up to him and was put away with the crossface.

Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Yota Tsuji @ 9:41 via Henare TOA Bottom on Tsuji – **1/4
Nakanishi is on the final month of his in-ring career and gets his old man knees worked over by the Three’s Company team of Makabe, Honma & Henare. His team manages to fight back and lock their opponents in a combination of Argentine backracks, Anaconda Vices and a Boston Crab for a cool moment. Tsuji rolls through a TOA Bottom and transitions it into a Boston Crab but Henare regroups and makes his comeback to take the win.

Will Ospreay, YOH, SHO & Ryusuke Taguchi def. Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado @ DOUKI @ 11:45 via Taguchi Dodon on DOUKI – **
SHO’s selling continues to stick out like a sore thumb. No one else in the company sells a body part as hard as him which in turn makes him look weak. The match was the usual Suzuki-Gun car crash, everyone getting their stuff in at a breakneck speed. Sabre showed off some new counters to Ospreay but everything goes so fast that it loses any impact. These matches always try to do too much for the time they’re given.

Ryu Lee & Robbie Eagles def. Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI @ 11:48 via Eagles Ron Miller Special on BUSHI – **1/2
Eagles and Lee make an early mistake by going after Hiromu rather than BUSHI. Their opponents makes the better call to isolate Eagles. These guys had a well structred tag match on paper but having Hiromu and BUSHI goon on Eagles didn’t elicit the desired reaction. No one wants to boo LIJ in favor of Eagles who otherwise is a good babyface but no one is choosing to cheer him over LIJ. Strong match from a fundamentals standpoint but a bizarre booking decision caused most of the match to be lifeless.

Jay White & KENTA def. Tetsuya Naito @ SANADA @ 18:43 via White Schoolboy on SANADA – **3/4
Did a preliminary tag need to go nearly twenty? No, but at least they had a story to sink your teeth into. KENTA’s heel charisma is some of the best stuff going on in the company right now. He and Naito try to one-up each other on who can be the bigger jerk while White and SANADA show good chemistry themselves. SANADA gets blasted with a chair which leads to a roll up by White for the win. White can be a nice mid-level heel for guys like SANADA to overcome while KENTA is the main prize. I’m on board with their roles swapping permanently but I know better than to expect that to be the case.

Minoru Suzuki & Taichi def. Kazuchika Okada & Jon Moxley @ 17:48 via Suzuki Gotch-style Piledriver on Moxley – **1/2
Suzuki and Moxley were given more attention bell-to-bell and a motivated Suzuki is a sight to see. They brawled outside, traded submissions in the ring and traded a fair amount of strikes. The match was fun when the cameras were on them but dragged with Okada and Taichi outside of two Dangerous suplexes.

The big stuff between Okada and Taichi was largely saved for the post-match. Sabre and Ospreay came out in aide of their respective stablemate, Sabre puts Ospreay away with the Zack Driver. Taichi gets the last laugh in his home prefecture by hitting Okada with a Black Mephisto on the ramp followed by a Stretch Plum before taking the mic to run Okada down more.

Tomohiro Ishii def. EVIL @ 21:15 via Brainbuster – ****
Ishii gets wrestling. The move that perfectly incapsulates this statement is the spinning heel kick about midway through he match. Ishii understands spontaneity is important. While EVIL is doing his regular schtick of chair spots and referee-assisted Magic Killers, Ishii is giving the fans something new.

EVIL is now 0-4 in singles matches against Ishii and deservedly so. The company has done nothing new with him for years. Ishii can do something we see from Tenzan every night and make it exciting. You feel like you know what you’re going to get from Ishii but he’ll throw in something wild that catches you off guard and he does this time and time again because he gets wrestling.

NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi def. Hirooki Goto (c) @ 20:11 via Last of the Dragon – ***3/4

Goto is tugging at my heartstrings with the Kaiten and Shouten Kai but his goose is cooked, the prime example being Shingo hitting a rope-assisted GTR. The rubber match between the two ends in Shingo’s favor, resulting in him picking up his first singles title in New Japan. The title is considered by many to be cursed. Most wrestlers who win the title haven’t seen success in winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

I’m fine with this being Shingo’s final destination. Beat up dudes in the NEVER division and give Okada a challenge or two and you’ll meet my expectations. This wasn’t the best match between the two but it put Shingo over hard as the guy to solidify the division.

Overall Thoughts
The show died a bit in the middle with the odd decision of trying to heel LIJ over Eagles but picked up with the interactions between Naito and KENTA. The top two matches delivered even if somewhat underwhelming. EVIL needs to toss his signature spots and start anew but Ishii put together a killer performance as it’s expected of him.

Now that Shingo has the title I hope we move far away from Goto. Shingo can do anything Goto can and better, we don’t need the guy taking up space in the division anymore. He delivered well enough but it’s plain as day to see his days in the main events are numbered. Shingo as champion provides so many fresh opportunities.

Recommended Matches
Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
Shingo Takagi vs Hirooki Goto

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for WrestlingDesk.

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