Wrestle Kingdom 12 was a big success with 34,995 in attendance for eight championship matches on the biggest card of the year. Rivalries were settled between rivals Hirooki Goto and Minoru Suzuki while Tetsuya Naito while further his chase for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Now, three big shows take place with The New Beginning In Sapporo on January 27 and 28 and The New Beginning In Osaka on February 10. Day 1 of The New Beginning In Sapporo has a great lineup of fresh matches and Championship bouts. Tag team matches are very prevalent in New Japan Pro Wrestling and they are showcased here to fit the big roster onto the card but it still makes for interesting showdowns like Okada taking on Los Ingobernables De Japon before Okada’s title defense against SANADA. These shows will be telling to New Japan World‘s subscription numbers considering NJPW banked on Wrestle Kingdom 12 on only the online service and hoping numbers would spike. With Chris Jericho facing Tetsuya Naito at an upcoming event, perhaps in Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid on March 25 at Strong Style Evolved, along with the bigger coverage and acclaim NJPW is receiving this should be the biggest year in NJPW’s history.
Kitamura 7 Match Trial Series match #2: Kitamura Vs. Michael Elgin
Kitamura is starting a proving ground series of 7 matches to test himself against a variety of the top stars in NJPW. First up was “Switchblade” Jay White at New Year’s Dash and even though he lost to White it was a short and sweet match. This is an opportunity the 32 year old needs to take and run with because great matches and improvement in the ring will mean much more than his chiseled physique. After being a Young Lion for 2 years, he’s been training with the best like “The Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi but it’s time to win some Marquee matches but Michael Elgin is not any easy win by any means. Elgin is the same stature as Kitamura so this will be a battle of the bulls but Elgin puts it away with a Revolution Powerbomb in our prediction. Don’t expect the Young Lion’s Cup winner to come out on the losing side of this entire series.
KUSHIDA, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask lV, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan Vs. Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, Taichi, TAKA, Kanemaru and Iizuka)
Suzuki-Gun has been a force in all of the divisions in NJPW since returning from Pro Wrestling NOAH one year ago and now they mix it up with the Junior Heavyweight’s and TenCozy in a multi-man tag. El Desperado is the one to watch in a lot of Suzuki-Gun matches, he’s gotten better over the last couple years and tends to do more ring work compared to nefarious tactics like his crew. Jushin “Thunder” Liger is a legend stepping into the undercard in appreciation of the top stars in NJPW so he shouldn’t take the pinfall. KUSHIDA is no longer the top attraction in the Junior division but it wouldn’t be wise to derail his momentum completely. A lariat from Kojima should end any one of the opposing factions night.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) Vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi)
Bullet Club clashes with the classic comedy and smash mouth duo of Ishii and Yano in a match where “The Stone Pitbull” is the favorite. “The Crown Jewel” of Bullet Club, Chase Owens picks up a few victories with his Package Piledriver but he would be the man to take a Brainbuster here. “The Tokyo Pimp” and Toru Yano will provide some hilarious moments to change the hard-hitting pace of the match and overall show. Tomohiro Ishii has earned the right to big singles matches but this allows him to slow it down a little from his usual massive epics.
CHAOS (Will Ospreay and Yoshi-Hashi) Vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito)
Will Ospreay and Yoshi-Hashi are both members of CHAOS but they don’t team very often so this should be a fun pairing and provide Yoshi-Hashi with bright spots amongst the high-risk action. “The Aerial Assassin” Vs. “The Ticking Time Bomb” goes down on February 10 for Ospreay’s IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship. This will set that up nicely and Hiromu Takahashi may even pin the IWGP Jr Heavyweight champion, whether he has to cheat or not. Takahashi has developed into one of the most dynamic performers in NJPW and his wild move-set could surprise Ospreay. Naito is in limbo at the moment, still high on the card and waiting on a Chris Jericho confrontation but his time isn’t now but rather the New Japan Cup tournament in early March.
Bullet Club (Cody Rhodes, “The Villain” Marty Scurll and “Hangman” Page) Vs. “The Golden Star” Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson and David Finlay Jr.
Cody, Marty Scurll and Adam Page are the new breed of Bullet Club, representing America and the United Kingdom. David Finlay Jr, Kota Ibushi and Juice Robinson are a makeshift team of young stars looking to make a serious mark in the immediate future. “The Golden Star” pinned “The American Nightmare” at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4 in a match that really exceeded expectations. The rivalry continues and Juice Robinson Vs. Marty Scurll will also be a great meeting to possibly lead to a singles match in the United States, considering Juice isn’t in the Junior Heavyweight division. Ibushi should win again to set up bigger things in the future.
The Elite (Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks) Vs. CHAOS (“Switchblade” Jay White and Roppongi 3K)
This will be a 6-Man tag that will have fans talking because it’s a very fresh multi-man tag team match and Omega Vs. White is getting into high-gear. The Young Bucks and Roppongi 3K are at war over the IWGP Junior tag team championships and even The Young Bucks have adopted a new ground game to win matches. What will be eye-opening is how Sho and Yoh interact with Kenny Omega as they were Young Lions recently and Omega enjoys locking up with the future. “Switchblade” just joined CHAOS to go battle Bullet Club but the alliance is a shaky one. White is going to have to keep up a fast pace and think smarter than ever if he wants to pursue huge wins against The Elite early in his career.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Jado and Hirooki Goto) Vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, EVIL and BUSHI)
Kazuchika Okada is on top of the world as IWGP Heavyweight champion for 19 months and counting. We are seeing a wrestler at the absolute pinnacle of in-ring performance that can excel in almost all facets of the game but he has been running into Los Ingobernables De Japon for a couple years now. Naito failed to capture the title that eludes him and SANADA is the next to challenge the throne after a terrific losing effort to Okada in the G1 Climax tournament last August. EVIL and SANADA promised they would not leave singles action behind now that they are IWGP Heavyweight tag team champions and they earn themselves title matches. Hirooki Goto and EVIL were made to brawl each other and they both have the ability to make opponents look better than before. Goto falls to an STO is our prediction.
NEVER 6-Man Tag Team championships: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and The Guerrillas Of Destiny) Vs. Togi Makabe, Henare and Ryusuke Taguchi
The first of two Championship matches on this first night of Sapporo will see brand new challengers, a three-man team with Togi Makabe in charge. “The Unchained Gorilla” still fights with the best of them but Fale has the size to match that intensity. The G.O.D.O.G’s are the right team to hold the NEVER 6 Man tag team championships and they think Taguchi is a fun distraction for them but they may get too full of themselves. Taguchi can get it done when it’s the final stretch but he is going to be overpowered. Young Lion Henare gets the chance to show what he can do. An upset can happen any time with the revolving door of title reign on these belts but The Guerrillas Of Destiny and Bad Luck Fale are looking to establish a long title reign in 2018.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Minoru Suzuki
Minoru Suzuki has been the villain to watch for the past 2 decades as he has aged like fine wine. This recent run in NJPW has been one of his best despite a lackluster NEVER Openweight championship reign that just ended to Hirooki Goto and Suzuki shaved his own head as a result of the stipulation. Suzuki refused to be humiliated and did it his way at Wrestle Kingdom and now he wants more gold. “The Ace” could have a great performance even if he was dealing with an injury, lately that has been the case for Tanahashi and he is now dealing with knee problems. That’s not good when you look at Suzuki’s track record. Somehow Kazuchika Okada never submitted to a Kneebar from Suzuki when the IWGP Heavyweight Championship was on the line in 2017 but can the veteran Tanahashi do the same? There are only so many times Tanahashi can hit a Sling-Blade and go up for the High Flyer Flow, Suzuki will take advantage and use the most devastating Finisher in pro wrestling, The Gotch Piledriver or maybe even tap out Tanahashi to put another title on his mantle piece.