Monday, February 15, 2016

NJPW The New Beginning, or The Arrival of Kenny Omega

Just got finished watching the Niigata half of NJPW The New Beginning, and wanted to throw in my two cents about this double PPV.  While neither show was necessarily an amazing PPV as a whole, both nights delivered some absolute instant classics and quelled some doubts about the future of NJPW, post-WWE talent raid.

The Osaka portion opened with a really wonderful little Young Lions bout, as Jay White and David Finlay brought some excellent European grappling to the proceeding.  I'd seen both these guys in tag matches before but I'm really impressed with their singles skills, particularly Mr. White's.  Jay has a fantastic look and is already mastering the same intricate mat style that Bryan Danielson pioneered a decade ago.  After enduring one of the most heartbreaking weeks in my time as a wrestling fan this match served as a reassuring reminder that life goes on and there's always exciting, fresh talent waiting to step up and fill the void left by our fallen heroes (Once again, #ThankYouDanielBryan).  I can't wait to see White and Finlay grow into full-fledged members of the New Japan roster.

Another peak was the Jr. Heavyweight Tag match pitting The Young Bucks against reDRagon and Sydal/Ricochet.  This was everything the WK10 opener was and more.  Having one fewer team meant this could be less of a spotfest and tell more of a clear story, and yet this still had almost non-stop offense.  Just an incredible display of Cruiserweight wrestling and I'm thrilled Sydal & Ricochet are the new champs.  Can't wait to see them defend in traditional tag bouts.

The showstopper in Osaka though was the NEVER Openweight match, as Shibata and Ishii built on last month's encounter and somehow managed to top the vicious brutality of that classic.  Instead of trading kicks to the back, this time it was traded suplexes.  Instead of uncomfortable, clunking headbutts (though there were a couple of those too), this time it was traded headbutts to the chest (Which is safer but actually looks more painful).  And of course there was that moment where Shibata swung a backfist that sounded like it shattered Ishii's eye socket.  These two just beat the absolute crap out of each other and set a new bar for the NEVER Openweight division.  Easily a ****1/2 match, and possibly the best NEVER match I've seen.

The main event was a bit underwhelming, as Kazuchika Okada defended against Hirooki Goto (sporting some pretty cool silver body paint covered with Japanese characters reminiscent of Hakushi).  There wasn't anything wrong with this match but it was nowhere near the level of the Openweight bout, and Goto doesn't quite have the chemistry with Okada that he and Nakamura had.  Okada obviously retained the Title and will presumably move on to a new challenger.

The Niigata card had some fun filler tag matches, including Naito & Evil vs. Michael Elgin and Jay White, and a return Six-Man Title match from Osaka (The Bullet Club won the first match and the Titles but lost the rematch in Niigata), but it was the final three bouts that made this show.

Jr. Heavyweight Champ Kushida defended against Bushi in a freaking fantastic match full of crazy highspots but tempered enough to make every move meaningful.  Naito and Evil repeatedly interfered and Bushi TWICE sprayed mist in Kushida's face, but Kushida eventually finished Bushi off with the Kimura.  Kushida is becoming one of the best things about New Japan and it'd be great to see him move into the Heavyweight division after a lengthy run with this belt.  I kinda liked this match better than the Jr. match at WK10.

Another match that seemingly upstaged its WrestleKingdom counterpart was the Heavyweight Tag rematch.  Anderson & Gallows finished their lucrative New Japan run on a high note, with possibly the best match I've seen from them.  Tag Champs Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma wrestled like they were ready to be the company's go-to team, and all four worked hard to make this a fitting sendoff for the former champs.

But the main event...sweet, merciful Christ that main event.  Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the vacant I-C Title was a damn-near perfect match.  Omega, sporting new gear and carrying himself like a true main event star, targeted Tanahashi's injured shoulder early and made it the match's main story thread.  After early interference by Cody Hall and Takahashi, Omega banished them from ringside, apparently determined to win clean.  The match then settled into five-star mode, with Omega pulling out new high-risk moves and even stealing the Styles Clash.  Tanahashi on the other hand aped a couple of Nakamura's mannerisms, and worked Omega's leg.  The leg vs. shoulder battle added a fascinating layer and both guys sold like masters.  Late in the match though, The Young Bucks emerged from under the ring to wreak havoc, and Cody even showed up again to distract the official.  But none of the shenanigans got the job done (which I appreciated), especially after Michael Elgin ran in to even the odds, eventually carrying both Young Bucks back to the locker room.  Omega then attempted to finish Tanahashi with multiple Boma Ye knees but Tanahashi simply wouldn't stay down.  Eventually though Omega hit the One-Winged Angel for the win and the Championship.  This match was fucking incredible.

It's hard to pick between the NEVER match and the I-C.  They were totally different but both ****1/2 classics.  Suffice it to say though, both Titles are in very capable hands.  The underlying theme of these two PPVs was that, despite the loss of four members of the roster, New Japan can still deliver the goods.  Kenny Omega has arrived as the company's new top heel, Shibata and Kushida are both good enough to become Heavyweight Title contenders, and Jay White and David Finlay are two shining examples of the company's bright future.  Things are gonna be just fine.

No comments:

Post a Comment