Wednesday, January 24, 2024

NJPW New Beginning 2024 Preview & Predictions UPDATED

It's 2024 and New Japan has four, count them, FOUR New Beginning shows this year.  Seems a bit much but on the bright side there are more matches of consequence as a result.  

It's quite the hodge-podge of rematches, dream rematches, and guest stars on this tour.  And there are at least a couple names finishing out their NJPW deals.  Like I said before, New Japan needs a serious shakeup at the top of the card and there are numerous youngsters (yeah I said it) that to me seem fully ready to take up the mantle.  Hopefully starting with this year's New Japan Cup we'll see guys like Tsuji, Umino and Uemura positioned as this generation's Tanahashi, Okada and Naito.

But in the meantime....

Nagoya 1.20.24

KOPW Ring Fit Match: Taiji Ishimori vs. The Great O-Khan

This title is still stupid and this gimmick match sounds even worse.  As I understand it the Ring Fit match has a ten-minute time limit and whoever scored the final fall during that time is the champion.  Except ten minutes is awfully short to automatically expect even one fall, let alone numerous.  Plus every three minutes there's apparently a break for aerobic activity or some shit?  The thinking is O-Khan can't keep up with Ishimori's cardio?  Yeah, this is dumb.

Pick: Ishimori retains I guess?

Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Kenta & Chase Owens

Soo, these two teams are fighting twice on this tour, once for each set of belts.  Also kinda dumb.  Is this designed to split the titles up again, even though they were just unified a couple weeks ago?  I don't care for Chase Owens and I don't care for House of Torture's version of Kenta.

Pick: GoD retains

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga vs. Evil

Aaaand here's a third match I'm not interested in.  Why is HoT still a thing?  Tama Tonga is apparently done with the company around now because his family is in the US and he wants to be closer to them.  I can't see WWE signing him though, and AEW doesn't need any more midcard dudes.  Maybe TNA?  This match won't be good since House of Torture matches always suck.  But Evil's probably winning the title again.

Pick: Evil

Osaka 2.11.24

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

This was originally to be a trios match for the Six-Man Tag Championship but with the bombshell that Mr. Okada is leaving the company when his contract expires, they changed it to this "one last time" singles match against Okada's most legendary rival, Hiroshi Tanahashi.  This will be a bittersweet occasion indeed, and while undoubtedly nowhere near what these two were capable of during Tana's peak years, the emotion and drama here will be off the charts.  Gotta think Okada is doing the honors for the man who put him on the map all those years ago.

Pick: Tanahashi

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Kenta & Chase Owens

This match again.  GoD just won these belts at the Dome.  Keep 'em where they are.

Pick: GoD retains

Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Oh man, this is great.  These two delivered a technical classic at WrestleDream, with Danielson getting a pinfall but failing to tap out ZSJ.  I see this going the opposite way - Zack locks in an inescapable cradle of some sort for the pinfall, but Danielson can then say "You didn't submit me either, let's have a rubber match - what are you doing in August?"  

Pick: ZSJ

Steel Cage Match: United Empire vs. Bullet Club War Dogs

This should be epic as well, one of the few steel cage matches in New Japan history.  It's also Will Ospreay's swan song with the company and you know he'll go out with a bang.  The question is, what becomes of United Empire?  Do they get a new leader?  Does Jeff Cobb step up in that role?  Or do they disband?  I gotta think the BCWD get the win here to exert their dominance as the top heel faction.

Pick: Bullet Club

Sapporo 2.23.24

El Desperado vs. SHO

This is an odd one.  SHO challenged Despy to a Jr. Title match the other night but Despy refused, only agreeing to a non-title match.  Seems like a heel thing to do.  I assume this will set up a later title match and thus SHO wins here?

Pick: SHO

NEVER Openweight Championship: Evil vs. Shota Umino

Another match just added sees Shota Umino challenging new NEVER champ Evil.  Please, please, please put the title on Shota.  You can't sit on these new top stars any longer.

Pick: Shota

NJPW TV Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Matt Riddle

The first of two nights in Sapporo features the NJPW singles debut of Matt Riddle, who just got a tag team win at Battle in the Valley.  I could see this going either way, although I think if Riddle fails to win the title it's likely due to the time limit expiring.  Tana can stand to lose, Riddle probably shouldn't if this is to be the start of a long-term relationship with New Japan.  I think this will go the distance.

Pick: Tana retains (probably via draw)

IWGP Global Championship: David Finlay vs. Nic Nemeth

Speaking of NJPW debuts, the former Dolph Ziggler is aiming high in his first match with the company.  Nemeth will likely be wrestling for both New Japan and TNA for a while, so a Global Championship win could make sense for him.  But Finlay just won this title and is still building his rep as the company's top gaijin.  I think he keeps the title for now, probably through nefarious means.

Pick: Finlay retains

Sapporo 2.24.24

Yota Tsuji vs. Yuya Uemura

Alright, time to set this one right.  Tsuji and Uemura had a good match at the Dome but it was too short and for my money the wrong guy won.  Now it's time for Tsuji to set himself up as a top contender.  It's well overdue at this point.  Give these guys a good 20 minutes this time and give Yota the launchpad win.

Pick: Tsuji

Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi

This seems pretty random but I guess it's another LIJ vs. J5G match to fit in with the other two on this card.  Shingo has lost a couple high-profile matches in a row this year so he should probably win this one.  

Pick: Shingo

IWGP World Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs. Sanada

Let's hope these two can deliver at a higher level than their Dome main event.  The match on January 4th was a solid title match but well below what we've come to expect from the top bout at WrestleKingdom.  Seems odd they're running this one back so soon, and Jon Moxley is waiting in the wings for Naito.  I'll go with LIJ for the three-match sweep.

Pick: Naito retains

So it's an odd smorgasbord of matches spread across these four shows but at least some of them should be pretty great.  Danielson-ZSJ is obviously the one I'm most excited for, but the cage match, the Tsuji-Uemura rematch, Okada-Tana, and Finlay vs. Nemeth should be quite memorable.  See you on the other side!

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