New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) returned to Sapporo on February 5, 2017 to present its first of two New Beginning PPV events.
Held at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center, the event drew an announced crowd of 5,545.
Kevin Kelly and Don Callis handled the English commentary. Nine matches were held, four of which were contested for championships.The story of the show was Suzuki-Gun aiming to take complete control over New Japan following their shocking return at New Year’s Dash.
1st Match: Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) defeated Kushida & Hirai Kawato in 7:34
The big takeaway of the match was Kawato’s fighting spirit. He fought most of the match for his team and has already grown in confidence and skill. Kawato insisted on starting the match which Kushida obliged though perhaps to his better judgment.
Kanemaru stuffed early takedown attempts and fired Kawato into the ropes for a high back bodydrop. He then knocked Kushida off the apron with a forearm smash. Kanemaru executed a nice looking suplex to Kawato.
Desperado tagged in and threw Kawato through the ropes onto the floor. He sent Kawato into the guardrail and grinded his boot into the side of his face. Desperado rolled Kawato back into the ring and slammed him, covering for a nearfall.
Kawato got a foot on the bottom rope to break a chinlock but Desperado put him back on the mat with a chop to the chest. He tagged in Kanemaru who slammed Kawato then sent him into enemy territory with a chop.
SZG worked over Kawato in their corner. Kanemaru applied a modified camel clutch while Desperado stood in front to ward off Kushida. Kawato was able to scoot backwards and get his foot on the ropes a second time to force a break.
Kawato caught Kanemaru with a kick as he went for a backdrop but his dropkick was swatted away. Kanemaru knocked Kushida off the apron with an elbow strike but walked into a Kawato dropkick.
Kushida got the hot tag and knocked Kanemaru down with elbows. He caught Desperado coming in with a hip toss/cartwheel dropkick combination. Kanemaruo landed a boot to the midsection but Kushida was able to leapfrog him as he came off the ropes.
In a cool combination, Kushida hit a bridging German suplex on Desperado while going into a Backlund Bridge on Kanemaru nearly pinning them at the same time.
Kushida connected with a pair of kicks to Kanemaru’s arm but he caught a third one and elbowed the leg. Kanemaru came off the ropes into an elbow smash. Kushida came off the ropes but his momentum was halted when Kanemaru pulled the referee in front of him.
This allowed Kanemaru to connect with a dropkick and tag in Desperado. SZG sent Kushida into the ropes but he came back with a double handspring elbow. He saw Kawato with his hand outstretched and tagged him back in.
Kawato ducked under a pair of attempted strikes and hit a spinning elbow. He caught Desperado in the corner with a running elbow smash. Kawato struggled to lock in the Young Lion Crab but eventually got Desperado over.
He had to abandon it quickly to dropkick Kanemaru as he stepped through the ropes. Kushida took care of Kanemaru on the floor. Desperado planted Kawato with a spinebuster as he came off the ropes.
Kawato kicked out at two but Desperado converted it into a single leg crab. After a massive struggle Kawato was able to get to the ropes. Kawato got successive nearfalls on Desperado with an inside cradle, school boy, and backslide.
Desperado speared Kawato for a nearfall then immediately hit the Guitara de Angel for the pinfall.
Post-Match:Desperado tossed Kawato to the outside and had words with Kushida. As Kushida tended to his partner, SZG suddenly returned for another assault on their beaten opponents before finally heading to the back.
Kelly and Callis discussed the incident that took place at the official press conference for the main event where Minoru Suzuki attacked Kazuchika Okada and put him in a kneebar. That further damaged the leg he went to town on at the last Road To New Beginning show on 2/2.
2nd Match: TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Kojima & Satoshi Kojima) & Yuji Nagata defeated Yoshitatus & Henare & Tomoyuki Oka in 7:48
This was a basic but very good battle between the grumpy New Japan veterans against Tatu’s team of hungry Young Lions.
Nagata had defeated Henare and Oka in separate singles matches leading to this show.
Team Tatsu attacked Team Nagata before the bell rang.
Oka drove Nagata from the ring. He and Henare sent Kojima into the ropes and hit a double shoulder tackle. Kojima sprung up right into a Tatsu dropkick.
The trio triple stomped on Kojima and sent him into the corner. Henare missed the follow in and Kojima wound up stacking all three opponents into the corner for his trademark rapid fire chops.
Kojima tossed Tatsu to the outside and chopped away at Oka. After casting Oka aside, he continued chopping Henare and sent him across the ring. He followed in with a running forearm smash.
Kojima hit a diving elbow for a nearfall then tagged in Nagata. Nagata worked over Henare with body shots; he then sent him into the ropes and flipped him with a knee to the midsection. Tatsu got knocked off the apron with a boot for good measure.
Tenzan tagged in and took Henare down with Mongolian Chops. He put him in the corner for more Mongolian Chops and then sent him across the ring. Tenzan followed in with a corner clothesline followed by a suplex for a nearfall.
Henare avoided a falling headbutt and got the tag to Tatsu. Tatsu hit a springboard missile dropkick on Tenzan and knocked Kojima and Nagata off the apron. Tatsu dropped Tenzan with a trio of kicks to the chest.
Tenzan reversed a whip but got caught coming in with an elbow. Tatsu leapfrogged Tenzan from the middle rope and ducked a clothesline to hit a spin kick for a nearfall.
Tenzan caught Tatsu with a headbutt to the gut and Mongolian chops. He came off the ropes right into a knee to the midsection. Tenzan caught Tatsu with a modified Samoan drop before tagging out to Nagata.
Nagata landed a pair of chest kicks, Tatsu blocking a third and dropping an elbow to the leg. Mid-riing they had an extended forearm war with Nagata getting the upperhand. Nagata came off the ropes and was met with a chest kick that took him down.
Oka picked up the mantle for the forearm exchanges and fared much better. That is until his mentor/trainer reared back and slapped the taste out of his mouth.
Oka pushed Nagata off a side headlock and couldn’t be taken down with shoulder tackles. A kick to the chest didn’t work either and Nagata was nailed with a powerful tackle.
Oka applied the Young Lion Crab with TenCozy coming to Nagata’s rescue. Tatsu and Henare entered the frey to aide their partner as well. Henare and Tatsu sent TenCozy to the outside leaving Oka and Nagata to do battle.
Oka sent Nagata into the corner but Yuji came firing out with a big boot. Nagata delivered an Exploder Suplex and locked on the Nagata Lock II.
Oka surprisingly held on and grabbed Nagata’s wrist to pry his hands apart. Being a crafty vet, Nagata simply transitioned to the other side and reapplied the hold. Spent, Oka was forced to tap out.
3rd Match: CHAOS (Will Ospreay & Gedo & Jado) defeated British Heavyweight Champion Katsuyori Shibata & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV in 6:47
Very short but great showcase for Ospreay. He came off looking like a big deal headed into his title mach with Shibata on 2/11.
Ospreay and Shibata started the match as Ospreay tried to grapple with his rival. Shibata shut him down and trapped him in a waistlock on the mat. Ospreay got to his feet and cranked on the arm, turning into a hammerlock. Shibata easily escaped and reversed into his arm lock of his own.
Ospreay reversed momentum back into his favor and applied a standing neck vice. Shibata broke free, saw his kick blocked, and avoided a lethal head kick attempt from Ospreay.
Shibata buried a knee into the midsection and sunk in a side headlock deep. He took Ospreay over onto the mat but Ospreay countered with a head scissors around the neck. Shibata escaped but Ospreay avoided a buzz saw kick.
Liger and Jado tagged in and Jado immediately tried to take Liger off his feet with shoulder blocks. Liger stayed vertical and came off the ropes with a shoulder block of his own. Jado didn’t budge and the two flexed in duel intimidation attempts.
Gedo nailed Liger from behind as Ospreay knocked Shibata and Tiger off the apron. Liger reversed a double whip and sent Gedo and Jado into one another. Gedo avoided a palm exploder and poked Liger in the eye.
Gedo landed several boots to Liger’s midsection, working him over in the corner. He put him down on the mat and tagged in Jado. Jado stood on Liger’s chest using the ropes for leverage.
Ospreay tagged in and rocked Liger with an uppercut. He followed with a nice flying elbow and got a nearfall, Tiger making the save.
Gedo tagged in and snapmared Liger onto the mat. Gedo stepped on Liger’s throat and did his trademark air Jordan rake with his boot. Liger fired back with chops so Gedo slowed him down by grabbing at his mask and forcing him into CHAOS territory.
Jado got the tag but Liger turned a double backdrop into a double DDT. Tiger got the hot tag and flew onto Gedo with a crossbody. Jado nabbed him in a waistlock but he managed to kick both he and Gedo away.
Tiger landed a spinning back kick to the ribs and rocked Gedo with chest kicks into the corner. He sent Gedo across the ring and pretty much caved in his head with another deadly kick.
Gedo rammed Tiger into the corner to prevent a Tiger Suplex. Tiger ducked a forearm and hit a Tiger Driver for a really close nearfall. Tiger hit the ropes but Gedo caught him with an inverted atomic drop. Gedo followed with a jawbreaker that put Tiger on his knees for a superkick for a nearfall.
Ospreay tagged in and immediately went back to Shibata, booting him off the apron. He charged Tiger and was backdropped onto the apron. Ospreay hit a rope grab enzuigiri followed by a springboard elbow that didn’t fully connect.
He still got a two count off the cover with Shibata making the save. Shibata just peppered Ospreay with forearms in the corner. He backed up and charged but Ospreay was there to meet him with a nice dropkick.
Ospreay avoided a boot from Tiger and hit a springboard head kick followed by a twisting leg kick to the back of the neck.
Ospreay connected with the OsCutter on Tiger for the pinfall.
Post-Match: Shibata kicked Ospreay in the back of the head and unloaded uppercuts. Ospreay slowed him down with a roundhouse kick to the ribs then laid him out with an OsCutter. He taunted a fallen Shibata with his title before laying it at his head.
4th Match: Yoshi-Hashi pinned Takashi Iizuka (w/ El Desperado) in 7:00
This really wasn’t much of match. It was Iizuka mugging Yoshi and Yoshi showing tremendous grit and heart in spite of the punishment.
Desperado led Iizuka through the crowd on a leash. He nearly got to the Japanese announce team but Desperado pulled him away.
Yoshi executed a baseball slide to Iizuka who had his back to him wandering around on the floor. He sent Iizka into the railing but Iizuka came back with a rake of the eyes.
Iizuka fired Yoshi into the railing and pulled out a chair from under the ring. He pulled Yoshi into the crowd and beamed him with the chair.
Iizuka stomped on Yoshi then bounced his head off the Japanese announce desk. He kept up the assault with more stomps and choking him with the announcer’s chair. Yoshi just barely beat the count back into the ring at 18.
More stomps from Iizuka ensued as well as choking, breaking each time at the count of four. He grabbed the microphone and wrapped the cord around Yoshi’s throat as Desperado distracted the referee.
Iizuka hung Yoshi over the ropes by the cord then commenced with more stomps in the corner.
Izuka sent Yoshi into the corner but got caught running in with a boot. Dazed he charged a second time but Yoshi avoided contact and took him down with a unique spinning kick.
Fired up Yoshi laid into Iizuka with chops and forearms. He ducked a sledge and hit a flipping neckbreaker off the ropes. Yoshi landed a chop then picked up Iizuka in a front face suplex position to drape him across the top rope. Yoshi connected with a flying dropkick straight to the back for a nearfall.
Iizuka simply grabbed Yoshi in for a double handed choke. Yoshi broke free and threw forearms to the side of the head. He came off the ropes where Iizuka caught him with an inverted atomic drop.
Desperado again distracted the official so Iizuka could grab some rope from his trunks and choke Yoshi to the mat. He made a cover but the referee stopped when he noticed the illegal tactic. Undaunted, he just kicked away at Yoshi some more.
Yoshi came back with a lariat followed by a quick release slam. He came off the top looking for a Swanton Bomb but Iizuka got the knees up.
Once more Desperado provided a distraction and Iizuka slipped on his Iron Claw. He took a swing and missed, Yoshi connecting with a superkick. Yoshi followed with a lungblower and a sliding dropkick to the small of the back.
Quickly Yoshi delivered the Karma, planting Iizuka right on his head for the pinfall.
Thoughts:The first four matches provided some solid action as short as they were.I really liked what we saw from Oka, Henare, and Kawato in their respective matches. Of the three I like Henare’s potential the most but the other two aren’t far behind.Will Ospreay has a big future in New Japan. If he stays on trajectory, he could bust through the Junior Heavyweight Division. His interactions with Shibata are just a small sample of both what he can do and what kind of match they can have in six days.Yoshi-Hashi continues to move up the ladder. You aren’t going to get much from Iizuka ever but they told a good story with Yoshi hanging in there and pulling out the win.
Overall, I give a recommendation of checking out all the matches covered here.
5th Match: Michael Elgin & Never Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi & Manabu Nakanishi & Dragon Lee defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito & IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi & SANADA & BUSHI & EVIL) in 13:03
Really excellent match with a ton of action from bell to bell.
Taguchi’s costume on this night was a parody of EVIL.
Lee and Takahashi started off renewing their long standing rivalry as well as offering a glimpse into their big match in Osaka.
They exchanged rapid fire chops mid-ring. Lee connected with a spinning back kick to the ribs and hit the ropes. Takahashi went for a backdrop but Lee backflipped over him, ducked a clothesline, and took him over with a snap Hurricanrana.
Both hit the ropes a few times, Takahashi attempting a headscissors and Lee cartwheeling to land on his feet. Takashi trapped Lee in a waistlock but Lee managed to power him into his corner where Elgin tagged himself in.
Elgin called for Naito who actually obliged and made the tag. The rest of LIJ dropped to the floor as their leader evaded Elgin’s grasp. As Elgin’s focus was on Naito posing on the mat, BUSHI and SANADA attacked him from behind.
They held Elgin for Naito but he ran into a boot to the face. Elgin pulled BUSHI and SANADA into one another then floored SANADA with a rolling elbow. He pressed slammed BUSHI onto Naito.
Elgin held Naito up in a delayed vertical suplex for a long time before dropping to the mat. Taguchi tagged in and took Naito over with a snapmare followed by a short range hip attack. He executed another for a nearfall.
Tanahashi briefly tagged in for the same snapmare/hip attack combination and tagged in Nakanishi. Nakanishi kept the hip attack train rolling as well. He chopped Naito then tagged Elgin back in.
Not wanting to be left out, Elgin snapmared Naito and did a hip attack after some funky weapon dancing of his own.
Taguchi got back in and tired out Naito by constantly sending him into the ropes and dropping down multiple times. Finally he threw him over the top rope onto the floor.
Taguchi readied himself for a dive but Takahashi kicked him in the head. Lee dropkicked Takahashi out of the ring and followed with a no ropes somersault plancha, his legs catching the guardrail on the way down.
Taguchi tried to run the ropes for another dive but this time SANADA interrupted with a pair of leapfrogs and a well placed dropkick. LIJ took the rest of Team Elgin off the apron and fought them around the ring.
SANADA stomped Taguchi down in the corner. Naito landed a forearm to the small of Taguchi’s back and applied a front facelock. SANADA sent Nakanishi into the corner when he rolled back into the ring.
EVIL and BUSHI posted Nakanishi where it hurts the most as SANADA followed in with a basement dropkick. Naito caught Tauchi coming off the ropes with a boot to the midsection, BUSHI following with a sunset flip. BUSHI leveraged Taguchi back up for a Naito sliding dropkick to the face.
Naito covered for a nearfall and nudged at the official for what he thought was a slow count. EVIL tagged in and slammed Taguchi. He followed up with a running senton for a nearfall before grinding into Taguchi with a chinlock.
Taguchi fought up with shots to the body but EVIL sent him to the mat with a chop. EVIL measured Taguchi in the corner and charged in only to be met with a boot to the face. EVIL turned a hip attack into an atomic drop.
Taguchi was sent into the ropes but turned things around by springboarding his entire body backwards onto EVIL. Elgin got the tag and landed a head kick from the apron.
Elgin hit an impressive slingshot splash on EVIL and laid out Takahashi with a bicycle kick. BUSHI took flight for a crossbody but was caught easily by Big Mike and hoisted onto his shoulders. Elgin delivered a Samoan drop/fall away slam combo on BUSHI and Takahashi.
Naito surprised Elgin with a kick to the midsection but Elgin plucked him out of the air as he left his feet looking for his trademark forearm smash. Elgin dumped Naito and SANADA on their heads with a German Suplex. EVIL swung at Elgin who ducked and delivered a rolling pair of German suplexes.
EVIL grabbed onto the rope when Elgin went for a third and threw elbows to break free. Elgin blocked his strike attempt and hit an Enzuigiri followed by a dead lift German suplex for a close nearfall.
EVIL found himself in the corner as The Never Six Man Tag champs unleashed a flurry of offense. Tanahashi landed a running crossbody and sent him into a Taguchi hip attack. Nakanishi completed the trifecta with a big splash. Tanahashi got a nearfall with a senton splash.
EVIL avoided the Sling Blade and went for The EVIL; Tanahashi countered and went for the Dragon Suplex but EVIL elbowed free. They traded forearms with EVIL winning out with a rolling elbow. Tanahashi turned an attempted fisherman’s buster into a rolling neckbreaker.
EVIL evaded a second Sling Blade and caught Tanahashi on the nose with a forearm out of the corner. Lee and Takahashi both got the tag and we were right back to where the match began.
Lee ducked a clothesline and flipped Takahashi with a knee to the midsection. He connected with a sliding dropkick for a nearfall. They had a back and forth on reversing an Irish whip, Takahashi landing a forearm.
He sent Lee into the ropes chest first for a rebound German Suplex but Lee flipped over onto his feet. Lee looked for the rebound German and hit it. He followed with a pump knee strike flush on the jaw.
Takahashi landed a superkick in response followed by a release overhead belly to belly suplex when Lee stayed on his feet and charged forward.
BUSHIi got the tag and delivered a springboard missile dropkick to Lee. A Bushirooni later he landed an enzuigiri followed by a lungblower. LIJ ran in to attack Team Elgin, preventing them from stepping in.
BUSHI, SANADA, and EVIL went to work on Lee. Lee was sent into the corner, BUSHI following in with a double knee strike. He sent Lee into a kick to the ribs from EVIL followed by a kick from SANADA.
BUSHI got a nearfall with the Codebreaker. He went for the MX but had to leap over Lee who was ready for it. Nakanishi hit a lariat on BUSHI but seconds later SANADA hit a dropkick to the knee. Taguchi took out SANADA with a hip attack.
EVIL hit a sidewalk slam on Taguchi and was then taken down by a Tanahashi corkscrew dragon leg whip. He went up for a High Fly Crossbody to the floor but Naito stopped him momentarily.
Elgin got underneath Naito and sent him onto LIJ with a power bomb. Tanahashi completely wiped out LIJ with the High Fly Crossbody.
In the ring Lee hit the Death Nukadora on BUSHI for the pinfall.
Post-Match:Lee and Takahashi shared a tense staredown as Lee motioned he’d be taking the Time Bomb’s Junior Heavyweight title in Osaka.
A brief intermission followed as the Japanese crew recapped the action thus far.
6th Match: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Roppongi Vice (Barreta & Rocky Romero) defeated Suzuki-Gun (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku w/El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Miho Abe) in 13:37 to retain the titles
This was pretty much a prolonged 5 on 2 handicap match with RPG Vice overcoming the odds. The interference hit a ridiculous level but Romero and Barreta put on a clinic in the process.
Abe tried to entice the champions during introductions but they weren’t having any of it.
When her second attempt of seduction failed, she turned her attention to the referee and lured him into the corner. This allowed all of SZG to get the jump on RPG Vice.
Taichi stomped on Romero and went for a powerbomb. Romero turned it into a hurricanrana but before he could follow up, TAKA was in to kick him in the midsection. TAKA threw some knees and hit the ropes only to be surprised by Barreta and an overhead belly to belly suplex.
TAKA rolled to the floor but RPG Vice allowed no breather as they took him and Taichi out with stereo dives through the ropes. Romero taunted Desperado and Kanemaru as Barreta rolled Michinoku back into the ring.
Barreta delivered a chop then slammed TAKA onto the canvas. He hit the ropes but took a spill when Taichi pulled the top rope down. TAKA elbowed Romero off the apron and pulled the referee to the mat. Meanwhile Taichi, Desperado, and Kanemaru put the boots to Barreta on the floor.
Taichi held Barreta long enough for Abe to slap him silly; he then not so subtly put the bell hammer down the back of his tights.
In the ring TAKA raked the eyes of Barreta who fired back with forearm shivers. TAKA reared back as if he were going to deliver a hard strike but only poked Barrera in the eye instead.
Taichi tagged in as Desperado distracted the official and clubbed Barreta in the head with the handle of the hammer. He then jabbed it into his eye ala Magnum T.A. and Tully Blanchard at Starrcade ’85.
SZG sent Barreta into the corner, Taichi following in with a clothesline and TAKA with a knee strike. Taichi dropped a knee low and covers with TAKA administering their own three count. Taichi taunted Romero who came into the ring but was stopped by the referee.
Taichi flipped Barreta upside down in the corner with a strong Irish Whip but he came right back with a lariat. Barreta tried to tag Romero but Desperado pulled him off the apron at the last second. Taichi did a mocking version of the Forever Clothesline on Barreta in the corner.
He took too long going for a second and Barreta moved out of the way. Barreta spiked Taichi with a Tornado DDT allowing him to make the tag to Romero. Romero caught TAKA with a springboard crossbody then Taichi with a snap Hurricanrana off the ropes.
Romero rocked Taich with a palm thrust into the corner and proceeded to go into Forever Clothesline mode. Romero ducked a clothesline attempt from Taichi only for SZG to avoid a double clothesline. Romero ducked a double chop and finally hit the double Forever Clothesline on them both.
Taichi blocked Sliced Bread and a kick from Romero; he ducked one enzuigiri but not a second. Romero chopped Taichi in the corner and sent him across the ring. He missed a charge allowing Taichi to connect with a step up enzuigiri. Taichi got a great nearfall with a wicked buzzsaw kick.
Taichi got serious and ditched the pull away pants. Romero ducked a head kick and landed an uppercut. Taichi responded with a kick to the chest. Romero caught Taichi with a leaping knee strike and a rolling Sliced Bread.
Barreta decked TAKA off the apron. He draped Taichi across the top rope and Romero came off with a dropkick square to the head. Barreta followed with a sliding knee to the face for a very close nearfall, TAKA barely breaking it up in time.
Romero tossed TAKA through the ropes. RPG Vice set up for Strong Zero but Abe “fell” into the ring distracting the referee. Romero got drug under the bottom rope onto the floor as Barreta escaped a powerbomb to chop Taichi.
Baretta rocked Taichi with a forearm but as he came off the ropes, Taichi sent him into a chair being held by Desperado. Taichi nearly won with a Taichi style Gedo Clutch.
TAKA tagged in and went for the Michinoku Driver; Barreta escaped but received a thumb to the eye for the effort. TAKA kicked out Barreta’s leg and got a nearfall with a la Magistral cradle. He followed with a running knee to the face for another nearfall, Romero making the save.
Taichi went after Romero and tossed him to the floor. Barreta followed courtesy of a jumping front kick from TAKA. TAKA wiped out both RPG Vice with a beautiful asasi moonsault.
In the ring TAKA leveled Barreta with a leaping knee strike followed by a Taichi superkick. TAKA covered for a nearfall. SZG earned another nearfall with a Powerbomb/springboard spin kick combination; Romero made the save this time around.
TAKA applied a modified crossface as Taichi took Romero back to the outside. Barreta nearly got to the ropes but TAKA stood up and did a front facelock roll to reapply the submission. Taichi hit a sliding kick to the face garnering TAKA another nearfall.
Barreta slipped out of a Michinoku Driver and hit the Dude Buster for a really close nearfall. Taichi sent Romero into the railing. Kanemaru grabbed ahold of the referee as Taichi slid into the ring with a chair. TAKA took the opportunity to roll to the floor.
Barreta ducked a swing and grabbed the chair from Taichi. Taichi begged off into the corner and Desperado interfered once more. Barreta was ready and nailed him across the back with the chair then nailed Kanemaru in the head as he rushed in.
As the referee pried the chair away from Barreta, Taichi stunned him with an enzuigiri. He came off the ropes but Romero was back in for stereo knee strikes to the chest. Taichi went to the floor where Romero took him and his SZG cohorts out with a middle rope tope.
TAKA tried for a slingshot sunset flip but Barreta caught him and RPG Vice hit Strong Zero for the pinfall.
Kanemaru and Desperado got the jump on RPG Vice and laid them out with their own title belts. Kanemaru got the on the mic and issued the next title challenge on behalf of himself and Desperado.
7th Match: Never Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto pinned Juice Robinson in 14:41 to retain the title
An excellent physical bout. Robinson had easily his best match in his run thus far and Goto reminded everyone just how great he is against opponents not named Shibata.
Robinson caught Goto off guard as soon as the bell rang with a dropkick. He delivered repeated clotheslines in the corner followed by a cannonball and a slam in the center of the ring.
Robinson came off the top rope with a diving headbutt for a close nearfall. Goto rolled to the floor and the referee prevented Robinson from giving chase. Twice he stopped Juice from diving over him so Robinson opted to roll out on the other side of the ring.
Unfortunately by then Goto had recovered and caught him with a boot to the midsection. They traded forearms until Robinson got the upper hand with a boot to the midsection and a headbutt. He sent Goto into the railing where he dropped him with continued headbutts.
Referee wanted Robinson back in the ring but he went for a cannonball instead. Goto moved and Robinson took a nasty spill into the rail. Goto rammed Robinson into the post before firing him back into the ring. The champion punished the injured stomps with precision stomps.
Goto delivered sharp forearms to the small of the back then sent Robinson into the corner. After a boot to the midsection he fired Robinson hard into the adjacent corner further damaging the back. Goto got a nearfall with a top rope elbow onto the back.
Another stomp to the back kept the advantage in Goto’s court. He snapmared Robinson over and delivered a stiff kick to the spine. He then locked in a crab; Robinson fought like a warrior and eventually reached the bottom rope.
Goto was undeterred however and took Robinson over onto the mat to apply a tightly cinched chinlock. He dropped an elbow to the bridge of the nose for added measure but Robinson still managed to get back to a vertical base. Goto converted his hold into a side headlock, Robinson throwing shots to the gut to force a break.
Goto smashed him with forearm strikes but ate a boot coming off the ropes. Robinson fired up and clotheslined Goto over the top rope. Though obviously pained, Robinson threw caution to the wind and took out Goto with a nicely executed springboard crossbody.
Robinson rolled Goto back into the ring and hit an STO into a backbreaker followed by a side Russian legsweep. Robinson hit a senton then came off the ropes with a standing frog splash for a nearfall.
They traded forearms center of the ring until Robinson cut Goto off with a boot to the midsection. Juice came off the ropes but was caught by Goto; Goto went for the Ushigoroshi but Robinson landed on his feet and blasted the ribs with a superkick.
Robinson rocked Goto with a combination of alternating jabs and chops. He wound up for a big punch but had to duck a clothesline instead. Goto turned Robinson around as he came off the ropes and ducked a leaping leg lariat.
Robinson blocked the GTR and hit a leaping side kick. Robinson put Goto on his shoulders and hit a double knee gutbuster for a nearfall. Robinson missed a top rope moonsault.
Goto charged Robinson in the corner but met a boot to the face. Robinson connected with a very stiff right hand to the jaw. Robinson went back up top but Goto knocked him off balance with dropkick.
Goto stood on the middle turnbuckle and peppered Robinson with forearms. Robinson threw a weak body shot, Goto answering with headbutts that left him dazed.
Still, Robinson slipped out of a middle rope Samoan drop to deliver a powerbomb, folding Goto up for a nearfall. Robinson wanted Pulp Friction but Goto dumped him on his head with a sick looking German suplex.
Amazingly Robinson got right back up to throw a lariat. When Goto remained standing, he challenged him to come off the ropes with one of his own. Goto obliged and this time it was Juice who wouldn’t go down.
Twice both men connected at the same time with lariats. Juice loaded up his right hand but Goto threw a headbutt to block it. Goto landed another headbutt but when he came off the ropes, Robinson nearly knocked him out of his boots with a lariat.
Robinson hooked the leg but Goto was somehow able to kick out. Robinson looked for Pulp Friction but Goto fought it and stayed on his feet as Robinson crashed back first to the canvas.
Robinson countered the GTR and went for a suplex but the bad back prevented a full lift. Goto picked Robinson up for a suplex and dropped him across the top rope. Goto hit a draping GTR for a nearfall.
A straight kick to the chest from Goto only garnered him another close nearfall. Finally a standard GTR put Robinson down for the three count.
8th Match: Tag Team Triple Threat Match – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) defeated The Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr) and Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) in 13:45 to retain the titles
A lot of moving parts but still a pretty good match. Smith is so poised for a major singles run now that SZG are back full time. Yano was entertaining as usual.
Yano spewed his water at Archer then decided he liked it better outside the ring.
Everyone else in the ring began brawling. KES cleared the ring in short order and Smith rammed Honma’s head into the ring apron.
Archer sent Makabe into the railing. KES surrounded Yano who had a chair to try and fend them off with. Smith knocked it out of his hands allowing Archer to drill him with a right hand.
Back in the ring Archer connected with more raw boned punches with Yano backed against the ropes. Yano was sent into the ropes but hooked onto the top one to stop his momentum; he then ducked between them and called on the referee to back Archer off.
The second it was safe, he darted across the ring and tagged Makabe into the match. Archer pounded on the back of Makabe’s neck while yelling at the crowd to shut up. He sent Makabe into the ropes but he was able to duck a clothesline and a chop.
Makabe came of the ropes with a shoulder block but Archer stayed on his feet. Makabe landed a few punches but had his Irish Whip reversed. Fortunately he came back with a tackle that did send Archer to the mat.
Yano, seeing Archer down, tagged himself back in and removed the corner padding as usual. Archer nailed him with a forearm, Yano avoiding further attempts and taking him to the mat via hair pull. Yano went into his trademark thumb pose but Archer caught him with a big Full Nelson slam. Archer knocked GBH off the apron then rocked Yano with a shoulder tackle.
Smith tagged in and stomped Yano down in the corner. He choked him
with a boot to the throat which Archer continued as the referee forced a clean break. Smith took Yano over with a snapmare before applying a chinlock.
Yano struggled before getting his foot onto the bottom rope. Smith kept up the offense with a pair of uppercuts. Yano tried to catch him off the ropes with an inverted atomic drop but it had no effect and Smith rocked him into the corner with a lariat.
Yano avoided an elbow and Smith struck the exposed steel. Ishii got the tag and withstood a few boots to the face as he came off the ropes. Smith threw elbows to prevent a German suplex but missed a clothesline allowing Ishii to deliver one anyway.
Archer ran into a forearm smash and Ishii set him up for a suplex. Archer went dead weight and muscled Ishii up for suplex of his own but Ishii floated over and landed a stiff chop.
Archer reversed a whip and Ishii put on the brakes to avoid the steel. Archer lunged but Ishii moved and he crashed into the steel. Ishii went for a suplex and landed it after brief struggle.
Archer rolled to the floor so Ishii spit at Makabe. Makabe took the bait and ran into a snap powerslam. Honma took Ishii down with a shoulder tackle but missed a Kokeshi coming off the ropes.
Ishii leveled Smith with a pair of lariats but couldn’t drop him. He went for a third and both went down off a double clothesline. Smith covered for a two count then went for a running powerslam. Absent minded, he backed up near Honma who made the blind tag.
Honma stomped on Smith who delivered the slam and went for the cover. Honma chopped Smith but saw his whip into the corner reversed. Honma avoided Smith’s charge and hit a nice running forearm smash.
Honma hit a running bulldog followed by a Kokeshi. He landed more chops and wound up for a strong lariat; as he hit the ropes Archer decked him from behind allowing Smith to land a forearm across the back. Smith got a nearfall with a bridging butterfly suplex.
Archer cleared the ring and hit an assisted powerslam on Honma. Smith covered but Yano as there to break it up at two. Smith hit a back suplex for a nearfall. He went for the Bulldog Bomb but Honma punched his way out to land on his feet.
Honma took Smith down with a flying Kokeshi to the face. Makabe came in to start cleaning house; Smith, Archer, and Ishii all received big time lariats. Yano landed a boot but came off the ropes into a powerslam.
Makabe backed Smith into the corner for ten punches as Honma readied himself on the top rope across the way. Makabe sent Smith in his direction and he came off with a Kokeshi. Seeing Smith in a seated position, Honma came off the ropes with another Kokeshi to the face for a nearfall.
Honma went up top for a third Kokeshi but Yano cleverly tagged himself in before he took flight. Honma connected only for Yano to toss him aside. Yano got a nearfall with a dismayed Honma breaking up the pin. The two argued which allowed Smith to tag Archer.
As Yano and Honma exchanged shoves, Smith assisted Archer in walking the top rope and he flew off with a massive crossbody onto both. Archer kicked Honma towards the apron then delivered a chokeslam to Yano. He got a nearfall with Honma making the save.
Archer forearmed Honma but missed a charge in the corner. Makabe tagged himself in to Archer’s displeasure. Makabe blocked a choke slam and rocked Archer with right hands.
Smith came up from behind with an eye rake and a whip into the corner. Smith missed a knee strike and again went into the steel.
Makabe ran back and forth delivering corner lariats to KES. Smith got out of the corner and Makabe hit the steel; at the same time Archer was right behind him to level him with a forearm across the back.
Makabe ducked a double clothesline and hit one of his own to take down KES. Yano kicked Makabe in the shin, ducked one lariat, and got nailed with a second. Ishii ran into one then got sent to the floor with a Kokeshi.
GBH sandwiched Yano with front and back lariats. Makabe nailed a third lariat in the center of the ring then a fourth in the corner. He went for the spider German Suplex off the middle turnbuckle but Yano fought it.
Makabe finally delivered it but immediately Archer ran in and knocked him off balance. Honma rescued Makabe from a Killer Bomb and the two teams brawled.
Smith hit a T-Bone suplex on Honma. KES hit a Heart Attack on Makabe and Archer caught an incoming Ishii with a boot to the face. Ishii fought off a Killer Bomb and avoided Smith who ran into Archer.
Ishii hit a double lariat on KES who wouldn’t go down. So, Yano slid in for a duel low blow to help his partner out. Ishii nailed Archer with a lariat and Smith with an enzuigiri.
Makabe knocked Ishii down with a lariat. He for one on Yano who ducked. They traded waist lock reversals when Yano kicked Makabe between the legs out of the referee’s view.
Ishii hit Makabe with a lariat and Yano rolled him up for the pinfall.
Post-Match:An enraged KES beat the crap out of every young lion that was unfortunate enough to be in their sight line.
A history package aired detailing the return of Suzuki-Gun at New Year Dash and the history between Kazuchika Okada and Minoru Suzuki.
Main Event: IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada (w/ Gedo) pinned Minoru Suzuki (w/Taichi) in 40:46
I thought this was just a fantastic match. The intensity and storytelling through moves, body language, facial expressions, etc were spot on.
At first I thought it was a bit ridiculous Okada overcame three days of an attack on his leg but further viewing revealed the beauty of what they left out there in the ring.
Taichi took his sweet team exiting the room and for a minute it appeared Red Shoes was going to eject him entirely.
Okada was cautious in engaging Suzuki once the bell rang. They locked up with Okada powering Suzuki against the ropes. Okada reared back feigning a slap only to give his standard double chest tap to the challenger.
Another tie up saw Suzuki back Okada into the ropes and emulating the champion with his own double chest tap. He seemingly backed up but quickly landed several kicks to the bad leg. Suzuki out Okada n his back with an elbow to the leg then went for the knee bar.
Okada immediately rolled to the ropes, Suzuki not breaking until the count of four. Okada rolled to the floor and tried to walk off the pain. Okada returned to the ring by the count of ten where Suzuki resumed throwing leg kicks.
Showing fighting spirit Okada roared back with forearms across the face. They exchanged forearms with Okada getting the upper hand. He took Suzuki over with a snapmare following with a sliding dropkick.
Suzuki sought refuge on the apron but Okada was there with more forearms. Okada avoided an attempt of a cross armbreaker in the ropes and knocked Suzuki to the floor with a springboard dropkick.
Okada fired Suzuki into the guard rail and surprisingly used the injured right leg to deliver the follow in boot to the face. Okada hit a draping DDT on the floor and returned to the ring. Once on his feet, Suzuki used the count to his advantage in order to recover; he returned to the ring at the count of sixteen.
Okada went after him as soon as he stepped though the ropes and hit a neckbreaker in the center of the ring. A cover barely garnered a one count so Okada kept Suzuki grounded with a straight jacket choke. Suzuki tried to power to his feet but Okada cranked up the pressure of the choke.
Suzuki settled for getting a foot on the bottom rope for the break. Okada laid into him with stomps then uppercuts. Each one only fired up Suzuki who fired back with a hard slap. Okada answered with three more uppercuts that put Suzki back on the mat.
Suzuki rolled to the floor with Okada right behind him. Okada sent Suzuki chest first into the barricade then delivered more uppercuts. Taicho shoved Okada behind and got his attention; this allowed Suzuki to attack from behind with a leg kick.
Suzuki took Okada into the crowd and sent him into the Japanese announce table. He grabbed a chair and repeatedly struck the bad leg. Suzuki wedged the leg through a section of railing and cranked on it.
Taichi took out Gedo at ringside as Suzuki bashed the leg with another obtained chair. Red Shoes and Oka checked on Okada while Suzuki taunted Tanahashi who was a guest at the Japanese announce table.
Taichi got in a cheap stomp to the leg and sauntered away. Okada rolled back in under the bottom rope, Suzuki joining him after further assaulting Gedo. Suzuki picked up the bad leg, Okada firing away desperation forearms. Suzuki only laughed and took him to the ground with a kick.
Suzuki tied up the leg in the ropes so he could deliver a basement dropkick directly to where the most damaged had been done. Suzuki cranked on the leg before settling in a tight heel hook.
Twice Okada rolled onto his stomach to try and reach the ropes; both times Suzuki pulled im back to the center. Suzuki stood up and locked in a combo of the heel hook and a modified crossface. He transitioned that into a chinlock before Okada finally got to the ropes.
Suzuki kept repeatedly stomping at the leg and knee, coming off the middle rope with a particularly nasty stomp. Okada valiantly got to his feet but Suzuki poured it on with forearms. Okada fired back, Suzuki rocking him into the corner with an extra vicious forearm smash to the jaw.
Suzuki kicked out the knee and then stood on it while he pulled on the boot of Okada. He then delivered several kicks to the face. Okada had too much pride to just lay down though and threw more forearms. Perhaps angered Suzuki unleashed an ungodly devastating strong combination of a forearm, uppercut, and boot to the face.
Okada blocked a boot in the corner and landed one of his own to Suzuki’s face. He followed with a zip tie neckbreaker. Okada landed forearms, Suzuki reversing his Irish whip attempt. Okada avoided a boot and hit a flying cross chop.
Okada hit a flying elbow smash in the corner followed by a DDT. To try and show he was fine, he gutted through the pain to do a kip up. A spinning uppercut got Okada a nearfall. Okada went up top for his elbow drop but Suzuki was already on his feet.
Okada leapfrogged over Suzuki and did further damage to the leg in the process. Suzuki hit a running boot in the corner then snapmared Okada to the mat. Suzuki hit a Penalty Kick for a nearfall. Suzuki stood Okada up but took too long toying with him; Okada fired away with forearm strikes.
Another forearm exchange ensued until Suzuki kicked at the knee. Okada reversed a whip but effortlessly Suzuki glided back to the leg and took kada down with a knee bar. Suzuki pulled Okada up so they would lock eyes. Okada kicked at Suzuki who cranked back on the leg in response when he tried to step in.
Suzuki stomped on the leg but was distracted forcing Red Shoes away again. Defying pain, Okada lifted Suzuki onto the top rope and dropkicked him to the floor. Suzuki rolled back in and Okada came off the top with a missile dropkick to the face for a nearfall.
Okada slammed Suzuki in the center of the ring and though hobbling managed to get to the top rope. He hit a diving elbow and went for the Rainmaker; Suzuki though revered it into another knee bar.
Suzuki grabbed Okada’s arm for added leverage pressure though Okada was able to break that grip quickly. With his champion nearly tapping, Gedo got the apron and considered tossing in the towel. Okada got to the ropes to his relief.
Suzuki stomped at the leg. When he tried to pull Okada to his feet there wasn’t any pressure he could put on the leg. Okada crumpled to the mat when Suzuki went for a whip into the ropes.
Suzuki locked in the figure four leglock center of the ring. Okada was briefly able to lift one of Suzuki’s legs off the mat to take off the pressure. Suzuki fully cinched in the hold and Gedo was back on the apron with his towel. He reconsidered when Okada showed signs of life and he nearly made it to the bottom rope; Suzuki changed direction on him and they were back in the center.
Okada finally got to the ropes. Suzuki stalked Okada, nudging him in the face with his boot. Suzuki landed knee strikes but Okada blocked a kick. Okada lifted Suzuki up and hit Heavy Rain. Okada threw forearms that initially seemed to do damage but Suzuki was merely toying with him.
Undaunted Okada landed several more and an uppercut. Okada went for a Tombstone but a combination of the bad leg and Suzuki going dead weight prevented it. Okada landed a double sledge to the back and then hit the ropes.
Suzuki pulled Red Shoes directly in front of him which halted Okada’s offense. The two collided and Taichi jumped Okada from behind. He was soon joined by KES and the three of them commenced in beating on Okada. Finally Ishii and Yano ran down and cleared the ring.
Okada fought off Taichi and caught Suzuki with a boot to the face. Taichi was sent to the floor while Suzuki was sent into the ropes for an Okada dropkick. Gedo grabbed Taichi and took him to the back evening out the playing field.
Okada went for a cradle Tombstone but Suzuki slid down into a knee bar. Sensing Okada was close to escaping, Suzuki stood up and transitioned into a modified hook with Okada on his back. Okada came really close to finally tapping out but instead made a mad dash for the ropes. Suzuki maintained control and pulled him back to the center.
Okada barely fought the urge to tap as Suzuki stood up twice and fell back, really cranking on the leg. In a panic Okada kept kicking Suzuki in chest and face but the SZG leader wouldn’t relinquish his grip; he cranked back harder and harder on the leg.
Suzuki put Okada in further peril by wrapping up both legs and pulling back on them. Amazingly, Okada once more got to the ropes to force a break. Suzuki kicked Okada int the chest and back, then landed a knee to the side of the head. Suzuki made a rare cover for a two count.
Suzuki took to slapping Okada but now it was the champion who was fired up. Okada landed two hard slaps and Suzuki fired back. They exchanged slaps, Suzuki’s having more force behind them. Okada rocked Suzuki with two more hard slaps and hit the ropes.
Suzuki criss-crossed Okada and trapped him in his rear naked choke. Okada countered the Gotch Piledriver with a modified White Noise, dropping Suzuki across his knee. Suzuki caught Okada coming off the ropes with a dropkick. He went to town on Okada with alternating slaps and body shots.
He sunk in the choke and brought Okada into a sitting position on the mat. Okada fought back up but soon started to fade. Suzuki spun him around and went for the Gotch Piledriver. Okada kicked his legs to block it but Suzuki muscled him back up.
Okada countered with a backdrop. Suzuki tried a sunset flip but Okada grabbed ana rm and pulled him up for the Rainmaker. Okada couldn’t follow up due to all the damage he’d taken. He still maintained wrist control and brought Suzuki back up to his feet, Suzuki coming alive with rapid slaps.
Suzuki threw a knee and landed a headbutt only for Okada to floor him with a second Rainmaker. Again Okada collapsed, unable to make a cover. Suzuki ducked a third Rainmaker and went for the choke. Okada blocked it and went for Rainmaker but Suzuki spun back into him and tried to pick the leg for a knee bar.
Okada blocked it and dumped Suzuki on his head with a German Suplex. He held onto the waist and rolled to his feet to deliver The Rainmaker. This time he made the cover and got the pinfall.
Okada cut a promo saying Suzuki gave him a fight for the ages but there was no doubt he’d walk out still the champion.
At the post-show press conference, Okada spoke of his next challenger coming from the winner of the upcoming New Japan Cup, specifically mentioning he hopes Tiger Mask W is part of it and goes far.
How one feels about this PPV will depend on personal perspective.You’ll either feel they told the story of Suzuki-Gun throwing everything they had at CHAOS but CHAOS showed true grit and handed them defeat. Or you’ll feel Suzuki-Gun looked hapless as they broke every rule imaginable yet came up short in all their big matches.
I implore you to watch the show and judge for yourself.
Strapped For Time: I highly recommend watching Goto vs. Robinson, The Triple Threat Tag Title match, and Okada vs. Suzuki.
Main Photo: NJPW World