Thursday, February 2, 2023

NJPW The New Beginning 2023 Preview & Predictions

This weekend is the start of the proper NJPW The New Beginning shows (I skipped the Nagoya show in my predictions because there was little of interest), and there are some big bouts on tap, with numerous titles at stake.

It's a busy month for NJPW, between the two Sapporo shows this weekend, the Osaka show next weekend, and the huge Battle in the Valley card the following weekend.  For the first time since before the pandemic it feels like NJPW's schedule is back to normal and they're offering consistent shows that aren't skippable.  Last month's WrestleKingdom was something of a return to form and it looks like the rest of the year will follow suit.  Good to have you back guys.

As I usually do with these multi-night shows that only feature a few matches of consequence, I'll just be picking winners in said matches of consequence.  

Sapporo Night 1

IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship: Catch 2/2 vs. Douki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Not much to this one - Douki and Kanemaru are there to give Catch 2/2 a successful title defense and that's about it.  I don't see this being any kind of epic tag match, but it should be fine.

Pick: Catch 2/2 retains

Will Ospreay vs. Taichi

This is an odd pairing, as far as I know these two aren't really feuding.  Maybe I missed the inciting incident that led to this?  Anyway, Ospreay is coming off one of the best matches of his career, but a tough loss at that.  Time to regroup, rack up some wins, and challenge Kenny Omega at Forbidden Door II for the IWGP US Title he lost.

Pick: Ospreay

Shota Umino vs. Tetsuya Naito

This one will be interesting.  Umino scored the pinfall over Naito's stablemate Bushi at the Dome to help establish him as an up and coming star.  This kid is so very close to finding his groove and a match like this should help him get there.  I think Naito probably ekes out a win but Umino comes off like a budding star in the process.

Pick: Naito

Sapporo Night 2

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Bishamon vs. TMDK

Zack Sabre and his pals TMDK have gotten the ol' band back together and this match should help establish them as a new heel stable.  I know Goto and Yoshi just won these titles back at the Dome but I could easily see TMDK capturing them here, and I think that's the right move.

Pick: TMDK

NJPW World TV Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Welp, this could steal the show.  ZSJ is the inaugural TV Champion and his first defense is against the companys perennial unsung hero.  Fantastic way to kick off this championship in style.  These two always work well together and this will be no exception.  ZSJ obviously retains and likely will for several months to make this title mean something.

Pick: ZSJ retains

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoh

Another new champion defending his title for the first time, Takahashi should be given a good lengthy reign to build this title back up after a couple years of hot-potatoing.  Yoh will give him a helluva fight but Hiromu will obviously hold onto the belt.

Pick: Takahashi retains


Master Wato vs. Taiji Ishimori

Okay, here's the real New Beginning show, with five big matches after the initial warmup bouts.  Master Wato had a fine showing at the Dome and I think he's finally coming into his own.  Ishimori needs a regrouping win after dropping the Jr. Title.  This should be fun.

Pick: Ishimori

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenta

These two are no strangers and generally have good showings together.  As long as there isn't a ton of Bullet Club nonsense this match should be solid.  Kenta could use a big win I reckon.

Pick: Kenta

Loser Leaves Japan Match: Jay White vs. Hikuleo

So I'm not sure who to pick here, I know Jay White's contract is up and he isn't expected to stay in NJPW, but Hikuleo is also being courted by WWE from what I understand.  Either guy or even both guys could be done with the company for all we know.  If White does indeed leave I hope AEW is his next stop, as I don't trust WWE to use any imported talent right (though Cody's off to a fine start).

Pick: I guess Hikuleo?

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga vs. El Phantasmo

This one should be interesting, I'd love to see ELP have a NEVER Title run, though I don't think it's his time yet as Tonga just won this belt back.  But this mixture of styles should be pretty fascinating.  Tonga retains after a fast-paced battle.

Pick: Tonga

IWGP World Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Shingo Takagi

We've seen this one a bunch of times but it's always great.  Shingo challenged Okada after his Dome win and the winner of this match is supposed to defend against someone at Battle in the Valley (no word yet on who the challenger is - Jay White since the show isn't in Japan?).  Anyway sit back and watch the fireworks these two always deliver.

Pick: Okada is obviously retaining for the foreseeable future.

There's your New Beginning highlights.  Once BITV is over we have the New Japan Cup, Sakura Genesis, Dontaku, Dominion, and the G1.  Just like the classic days of yore.  Enjoy!

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