NJPW: The New Beginning in Osaka
February 9th, 2020
1) Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, & Yuji Nagata vs. Tomoaki Honma, Toa Henare, Togi Makabe, & Ryusuke Taguchi
This is Nakanishi's last match in Osaka before retirement so there's a lot of legends in this one from Nagata to Honma to Taguchi. This was a simple, feel good opener as Kojima gets the pinfall with an assist from Nakanishi in his Osaka farewell.
Match rating - **1/4
2) Roppongi 3k (Sho & Yo) (c) vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru - IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title Match
Sho & Yo are so consistent as a team and they delivered another super solid effort here. Desperado & Kanemaru targeted the knee of Sho and worked it from bell to bell which built the comeback of R3k that resulted in them retaining the titles. Good stuff all the way around.
Match rating - ***1/2
Post match, Taguchi comes out with a basketball. Asks Rocky Romero to team with him to challenge R3k for the junior tag titles. Rocky accepts and holy hell this is gonna rule. Rocky & Taguchi are such solid veteran hands and after Rocky's insane BOSJ performance last year I am super stoked to see him mix it up with the two men he's had under his wing for years.
3) Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson, & David Finlay vs. Guerillas of Destiny, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi
Soooo admittedly and obviously, Bullet Club is not what it used to be and is way past it's heyday but to be honest, I still sorta fuck with it. Whether it's full of all stars or not, or the concept is burnt out or not, everyone currently in the group has a great grasp on the schtick and I enjoy it no matter how cringe it can be sometimes. But none the less, this went about how you'd expect. The faces win and BC attacks them immediately after the bell. I love the Tana/Ibushi tandem, I hope they can spice up the tag title scene over the next few months.
Match rating - **3/4
4) Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi
The two main events from Sapporo collide here in tag action and it's great fun. Ospreay and Sabre still have some unfinished business so the fire is still under that and Okada is Okada and he's perfect for hot finishing sequences so when you bring that to tag form it's sick. Nothing crazy here, but real good tag match with a nice closing stretch.
Match rating - ***1/2
5) Jay White vs. SANADA
To preface this, I actually skipped this match on my original watch through of this whole show so that probably tells you where I stand with these two. But they honestly turned this into a fairly enjoyable match. Although Sanada has become less interesting to me as time has gone on, Jay has grown on me and despite some overbooking/interference this had some good exchanges near the end. Sanada loses and officially is 6 months without a victory, that's rough. Maybe they can pull a good story out of that!
Match rating - ***
6) Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Ryu Lee - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
The epic feud continues here between the freshly returned and crowned IWGP Junior Champion Takahashi and the former Dragon, Ryu Lee. This was just as awesome, if not more so than all their previous encounters. It started off differently with a stiff chop battle that went a good 5 or so minutes, something not normal for the junior style especially in the year 2020. Lots of crazy spots thrown in here too though to keep with the tradition of both these men being completely out of their minds against one another. After a barnburner, Takahashi retains. I actually liked this a little more than his match with Ospreay at WK last month that also got rave reviews. Match of the night.
Match rating - ****1/2
7) Jon Moxley (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki - IWGP US Heavyweight Title Match
From the moment this erupted on the second night of Wrestle Kingdom, I was insanely excited. An absolute dream match and the start of it with Moxley going up the ramp and challenging Suzuki to come get him which ensued a chair duel was the perfect kick off to a great brawl that played to both men's strength. A death rider onto a chair ends it with Mox retaining after a 15 minute slugfest.
Match rating - ****
8) Testuya Naito (c) vs. KENTA - IWGP Heavyweight and IC Title Match
Naito made history at Wrestle Kingdom becoming the first ever double champion in New Japan history. He also FINALLY defeated Okada after years of falling short. For those reasons, this first defense is super important. The start of a new era and the question of if Naito can stand the test of time against a newly motivated, and villainous KENTA. I found myself very enthused heading into this which I don't think I would have believed if you told me 8 months ago. But KENTA joining BC envigorated so much more interest in him after the age began to show in his initial return and honestly, how could anyone expect the Kenta from 14 years ago to show up? But regardless the KENTA of 2020 has sunk his teeth into a new dynamic and I think it's awesome whether the opinions on it are split or not. The Bullet Club frontman brought his cohorts to the ring with him only for them to be booted and the first 15 mins of this match end up being a cat/mouse game by KENTA with an insanely slow build which can either sit wrong or right with me but I loved it here. Now admittedly the climax out of this control sequence didn't quite hit me right, I did enjoy the Hiromu spot where he interfered to save Naito from a Jay White assault considering what's to come between them. The final 10 minutes of the match ruled with the action picking up and Naito getting busted open which added to the drama as he bled profusely in the process of putting KENTA down for the three count. This was an overall good match, but not the epic I thought it could be heading into it and even in the opening moments. Still a great first defense for Naito none the less as he bleeds for his spot as double champion.
Match rating - ***3/4
Post match, Naito challenges stable mate Hiromu Takahashi to the annual Heavy vs Jr champion match at the upcoming Anniversary show. YESSSSS. CANNOT WAIT to see those two go all out as I'm sure they will for such a big match.