NJPW The New Beginning In Niigata 2/14/2016

Written by: Kevin Pantoja

The New Beginning in Niigata
February 14th, 2016 | Niigata, Japan

Happy Valentine’s Day. New Japan celebrated by holding their New Beginning in Niigata show this morning.

The Bullet Club (The Young Bucks and Cody Hall) def. Captain New Japan, Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask in 5:55
I’ve grown so used to seeing the young lions in the opener. Not having them here and giving me Cody Hall and the Young Bucks instead certainly disappointed me. This was pretty much exactly what you’d expect. The New Japan vets did their thing, Cody Hall has shown slight improvement but is still pretty bad and the Young Bucks, were the Young Bucks. Obviously, not my cup of tea. Hall assisted on a team up Indytaker that put Captain New Japan down for the count. At least it was short. **

reDRagon def. Chaos (Gedo and Kazushi Sakuraba) in 8:25
Hey, it’s the only junior tag team that I actually give a damn about. I was looking forward to this because Sakuraba is a badass and seeing him mix it up with the best tag team in wrestling could be a treat. It was, but I do think some stuff was held back and there is more potential there. Gedo saw a lot of the action, slowing things down. reDRagon continues to be booked very strongly, picking up another win by hitting Gedo with Chasing the Dragon. Not bad work here from the guys involved, but I wanted more. ***

Matt Sydal, Ricochet and Tencozy def. David Finlay Jr., Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi and Yuji Nagata in 8:14
This was an interesting clash of styles. I’ve seen Finlay and Taguchi mix it up with the heavyweight vets, but not Sydal and Ricochet. As they came out, Ricochet said they’d be champs for a long time. Apparently, he hasn’t seen the booking of the division for the past year. I found this to be a fun match. The veterans always work well together and know each other so well, while the addition of Sydal and Ricochet was welcome. I liked them a lot more here than I do in those multi-man junior tags. I think it’s because here, their athletic offense came as a change of pace, while in those junior tags, they feel like just another spot in a series of fancy spots. Ricochet won it for his guys with one of the prettiest shooting star presses I’ve seen in a long time. ***

EVIL and Tetsuya Naito vs. Jay White and Michael Elgin in 8:38
Los Ingobernables just get it. They know how to be great heels without bordering on annoying. Like, at the start, Jay White wanted Tetsuya Naito. Naito teased it, then tagged in EVIL, only to still attack White from behind. They used a chair on Elgin and slammed White hard on the outside floor. They’re just so good at executing those things. Elgin really got the crowd into it with his impressive offense. As expected, White was here to take the fall, though he got some time to shine as well. They keep doing a good job of giving EVIL wins in these tags, as he put down White with the STO. After the match, they attacked the referee and some young lions. Considering his character work since the heel turn, Naito deserves to win the New Japan Cup and even dethrone Okada. ***

NEVER Openweight Tag Team Championship: Toru Yano and the Briscoes def. The Bullet Club (c) (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi) in 8:21
Yes, this is indeed the third time in a month and a half that we’re getting this match. It is nice to see Tama Tonga with gold. When Gallows and Anderson leave, he’ll be the only Bullet Club member remaining that I like. Yano was great, running in fear of Tama Tonga. It’s like, Yano does the same spots in most of his matches, but he never fails to be entertaining. I always find myself laughing. Surprisingly, he rolled up Takahashi, allowing his team to regain the titles just three days after losing them. Maybe Gedo introduced these titles and will hot shot them back and forth so much that we forget how poorly he handles the Jr. Tag Titles. Anyway, this was the best of their three matches. **¾

Meiyu Tag and Juice Robinson vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) in 16:36
I was pretty sure that Robinson or YOSHI-HASHI would eat the pin in this one. Goto is back to his usual look for this one. Okada called out Goto instantly, who he pretty much ejected from being a viable contender on the last show. Okada won out this exchange again before bringing in Shibata vs. Ishii. Of course I loved their back and forth. I’ve seen them wrestle five singles matches and never gave them less than ****¼ which is a better average than any other rivalry I can think of. Shibata seemed to get aggravated with Goto in the match, probably wondering why his partner comes up so short in big matches. I was right about the pinning situation as Juice ate the Rainmaker. Good, fun match. Okada again tried to get Goto to join Chaos. Goto was great at playing the role of someone who looks at a loss for what to do next. Also, why does Juice have a tattoo on his ass cheek? ***½

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) def. BUSHI in 16:32
The pre-match video package was pretty sweet, showing KUSHIDA winning the title along with BUSHI’s injury and subsequent heel turn when he returned. Early on in the match, Naito and EVIL showed up and began to cheat in BUSHI’s favor, even bringing chairs into the mix. Like he did throughout the build to this match, BUSHI spit the green mist at KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA withstood it, wrestling with his face green. It caused him to get aggressive, which he showed by trying to rip open BUSHI’s mask. The mist and Los Ingobernables interference sent KUSHIDA a bit over the edge, which was excellent. BUSHI spit red mist also at KUSHIDA and I legit bit on every single near fall after that. I was on the edge of my seat. While trying to apply the Hoverboard Lock, KUSHIDA dropkicked Naito off the apron. When he got it locked in, the Young Lions and Ryusuke Taguchi held Naito and EVIL back, getting a bit of revenge as BUSHI tapped out. Great match for the drama rather than the actual moves involved. Outside of Kyle O’Reilly, no junior is even close to KUSHIDA’s league now. Far and away the MVP of the division for the past year. ****

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Great Bash Heel (c) def. Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson in 14:16
Karl Anderson got the Prince Devitt treatment from Bad Luck Fale, who carried him to the ring on his shoulders. They worked the match you would expect from these guys. Honma played the face in peril, though he did get a cool spot where he lifted Gallows for a sweet suplex. Makabe cleaned some house when he got tagged and the fans popped for every Kokeshi from Honma. They did a good job building drama despite us pretty much knowing the outcome beforehand. Anderson did a tribute to Devitt and Styles with Bloody Sunday at one point. A flurry including the Doomsday Kokeshi, King Kong Knee Drop and top rope Kokeshi as enough to keep Anderson down for the count. Much better than their Wrestle Kingdom outing. After the match, Tama Tonga (who looks strange without face paint) entered the ring and challenged the Tag Champions. He says his partner will be the new Bullet Club member, though we don’t find out who that is just yet. ***½

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kenny Omega def. Hiroshi Tanahashi in 29:10
I still want to point out that having Nakamura take the belt back from Goto in September was a mistake. Just had to get that out there. Putting Omega in there with Tanahashi was smart, since Tanahashi is better than almost everyone else at telling a story in the ring. They did early teases for the One Winged Angel. Tanahashi started pulling out Nakamura’s offense in a cool tribute. The focus of the match ended up becoming Tanahashi’s taped up shoulder. It was rather weird to see Omega put on a Los Ingobernables mask in the crowd while taunting Tanahashi with his own air guitar taunt. I found it odd. Anyway, having Tanahashi sell the shoulder was great since it built sympathy and he’s great at selling, while that’s not Omega’s strong suit. With Tanahashi nearing victory, the Young Bucks came from under the ring to hit him with superkicks and the Indytaker. Omega hit the Styles Clash but Tanahashi still kicked out. He also tried Nakamura’s Boma Ye but missed, leading to more back and forth full of close calls. After a ref bump, the Bucks got involved again, bringing out Michael Elgin to even things out. He hilariously carried those scrubs on his shoulders to the back. It became one on one again and Omega won with the One Winged Angel. Great drama and selling, but too much overbooking at times to really make this great. Besides the KUSHIDA match last year, this was easily Omega’s best performance in NJPW. ****

Overall: 8/10. Coming into this set of shows, I fully expected to like the Osaka card more. Instead, this show in Niigata was a pleasant surprise. KUSHIDA shined brighter than anyone here, just delivering in another big time performance. Kenny Omega and Hiroshi Tanahashi had a big time main event that was great, but could have been better with less overbooking. The two Tag Title matches were much better than the original ones we saw at Wrestle Kingdom, and just most of the card, sans the opener, was fun. With the loss of two big stars, things are certainly interesting so far in 2016.

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