After the excitement of Wrestle Kingdom 15, New Japan Pro Wrestling returned with its New Beginning tour.
With a mixture of title, special singles and elimination matches, New Japan gave fans a bit of everything over the three weeks of action. There were also some surprises on the way. This kept fans excited throughout both the ‘Road to’ and main event shows.
Here is a look at the top five moments from this year’s NJPW New Beginning Tour.
7. Preliminary Match Time-Limit Draws
One of the unique aspects of New Japan is the strict match time limits. Title matches are 60 minutes. Undercard bouts vary between 10-30 minutes depending on the card position. During this tour, two preliminary matches went to a time-limit draw between the Los Ingobernables de Japon and CHAOS/Hontai teams on January 25 and February 8.
As Kevin Kelly stated, this was the first time-limit draw in just over two years. However, that was a singles match. These two bouts have been the first preliminary tag matches to go to a time-limit draw since a Road to Tokyo Dome show in 2013.
Not only did they break the mould and beat the timer, but they were sublime matches considering that there were no titles on the line. Each bout was full of action. The match built up to the NEVER, IWGP Jr and Heavyweight title matches each participant was involved in.
The reasons why this happened were down to the participants taking part. In both of the matches, there were no weak links. With SHO, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Kota Ibushi, Shingo Takagi and Hiroshi Tanahashi, it had the best New Japan has to offer.
6. Taichi, Tama Tonga & The Iron Finger
In the past, New Japan has constantly been criticised for its heavyweight tag team division. Yet, after TAICHI and Zack Sabre Jr won the titles last year, the division seems to be heading in the right direction. When the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) won the title at Wrestle Kingdom, many were worried that this progress would be reversed. However, going into the rematch at the New Beginning tour, the storylines and build-up were some of the best the tag team division has seen.
It dated back to G.O.D beating Dangerous Tekkers at Wrestle Kingdom 15. Tama Tonga’s used the iron finger he stole from TAICHI to help win the titles. After losing his beloved weapon, TAICHI had been on a journey of revenge to get back what belonged to him. It sometimes felt more important than the tag titles themselves.
Throughout the warm-up matches, this quest to retrieve back the iron fingers was pivotal to the storyline. Tama would mock TAICHI by pretending to bring bags to the ring that he claimed contained the iron fingers. However, as none of them ever did, this just angered the Holy Emperor each show.
It continued into their title match on the first night of the New Beginning Hiroshima. Tama brought a bag. Although it only took up the first ten minutes, it was a vital part of the bout and contributed to the result. After. After taking the iron gloves off Tama, something took over TAICHI and led him to a disqualification. It culminated one of the most interesting tag-team storylines New Japan has had in a long time.
5. Satoshi Kojima v Will Ospreay – No DQ Special Singles Match (January 30)
Many were sceptical when New Japan announced a No Disqualification match between Will Ospreay and Satoshi Kojima. Why did Ospreay have to prove his worth against Kojima who is a ‘NJPW dad’?
Luckily, anyone with any doubts was quickly proved wrong from the second both men made their way to the ring. From the get-go, weapons were used whether it was chairs, tables, bins and even a guitar. Yet, the match’s stipulation did not take over succumbing it to just a brawl with weapons. It intertwined nicely with some wrestling from both men.
Of course, there were some brutal moments with the weapons like Kojima smashing Ospreay’s head with a guitar, Ospreay power-bombing Kojima through a table and Kojima sending Ospreay through a ladder bridge. There were some pure wrestling moments from Kojima’s blistering lariats and Ospreay’s patented OsCutter. It felt like both men threw caution and safety to the wind.
In the end, it took two Hidden Blades, one including a chair, and a StormBreaker for Ospreay to get the win. With this victory, Ospreay maintained his desire to dominate New Japan. However, nobody could deny the heart, talent and guts Kojima had to participate in this match and come out on the other side. It was also evidence of how the company not only pushes their future stars but respects veterans.