Preview: NJPW New Beginning In Sapporo (2/2/19 – 2/3/19)

There will be two nights in Sapporo on the New Beginning tour from New Japan Pro Wrestling with three championships to be decided on night two. The faction wars are highlighted heavily as well as NJPW setting up young attractions as co-main eventers. EVIL, Zack Sabre Jr and SANADA all have big matches as wrestlers look to stake their claim as the wrestler of 2019. The power struggle at the top between Jay White and Hiroshi Tanahashi will continue until their big IWGP heavyweight championship match at NJPW New Beginning In Osaka on February 11. It’s the most interesting time period in the companies history with Young Lions, top Gaijins and established stars all on these two events. Let’s find out who will have the momentum heading into the New Japan Cup tournament and who will hold all the gold after the New Beginning tour. The first day of New Beginning In Sapporo takes place on February 2 and Day 2 takes place on February 3 live on NJPW World.

NJPW New Beginning In Sapporo, Night One: Saturday, February 2, 2019

Ren Narita vs Yuya Uemura

Ren Narita just joined the Young Lion ranks with a time-limit draw to Shota Umino at the Young Lions Project and a debut in the Young Lion Cup. Narita actually beat legendary JushinThunderLiger in a tag team match previously so the slow build of Young Lions is mixed with big victories. Yuya Uemura is very confident for being only twenty-four years of age and that’s exactly what NJPW needs for the future along with the improving in-ring talent. Uemura has been wrestling for one year with the Young Lion’s but Narita really seems to really have the edge in this bout.
Prediction: Ren Narita wins.

Manabu Nakanishi & Toa Henare vs Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida

Henare hasn’t been improving at the rapid speed that fans may want just yet but Henare has been getting better since teaming with Juice Robinson and Togi Makabe last year. Nakanishi has one of the most powerful Torture Racks in pro wrestling still at his age of fifty-two. Shota Umino did very well at the Lions Gate Project and twenty-six year old Ayato Yoshida just debuted for NJPW last year with the monicker “Next Generation Ace.” This young tag team has a lot to offer but they will probably have to wait to be in the limelight picking up wins in traditional NJPW fashion.
Prediction: Henare and Manabu Nakanishi win.

Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku) vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tiger Mask

Iizuka is retiring in 2019 so Suzuki-Gun tag team matches will be the Iizuka’s last ride in pro wrestling so expect the iron claw to come out. The wildman and the Junior Heavyweight don’t team too often but this is a special match where a Junior Heavyweight is teaming with a heavyweight on both teams. Hiroyoshi Tenzan still cobbers with the best of them in NJPW and Tiger Mask lV uses all of his years in wrestling every match. Tenzan is the only former IWGP Heavyweight champion in this match and that will make all the difference, perhaps Tiger Mask and Tenzan have a new tag team combination in mind to pick up the victory.
Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tiger Mask lV win.

Ryusuke Taguchi, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomoaki Honma, Toru Yano & Togi Makabe vs Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)

A ten-man tag team match pitting some of the most popular in the company against the Bullet Club faction. Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens re-joined Bullet Club after teaming with The Golden Elite for several months and that will make the rule-breakers all the more strong of a unit. Makabe will provide the brute force for his yeah and no one could put it past Taguchi to score an upset. YOSHI-HASHI has returned after making an appearance at New Year’s Dash, YOSHI-HASHI is the one in this match that could use some serious drive and momentum coming out of this tag team match. Taguchi is in line for a shot at Ishimori’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at New Beginning In Osaka so he could have Ishimori’s number before their title match.
Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomoaki Honma, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe win.

Minoru Suzuki vs SANADA

Photo: NJPW

SANADA may have Minoru Suzuki’s number as “Cold Skull” attempts to climb the ladder towards main events with superior athleticism and a mind for the chess match that is wrestling. Minoru Suzuki has such a mean streak that he pinned SANADA against a backstage wall with a barricade during recent altercations pitting Suzuki-Gun against Los Ingobernobles De Japon in tag team matches. There aren’t many that can perform at the high level that Suzuki does even at his age, Suzuki has just as spectacular of a dropkick as SANADA. If “Cold Skull” tries to go for the kill with the Skull End and Moonsault follow up then Suzuki will have to counter with submissions or fall to the student of The Great Muta.
Prediction: SANADA wins.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo & BUSHI) vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champions team up with the IWGP Intercontinental champion to make for an ultimate Los Ingobernobles De Japon trio. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championships longer than any team in the past decade so they will be coming with extra ferocity towards the champions. Taichi surprisingly pinned Tetsuya Naito at New Year’s Dash and the very same could happen here. The dirty tricks of Suzuki-Gun are sometimes too much for opponents but Naito and company have been around the block with this faction once or twice in the past to know when to turn the tables. Shingo Takagi is the best of the Junior Heavyweight division, it should be Shingo pinning Kanemaru after Made In Japan.
Prediction: Los Ingobernobles De Japon win.

EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr.

Photo: NJPW

Outside of the G1 Climax tournament, EVIL has not picked up many singles victories over the past several months so maybe EVIL’s time is due against “The Technical Wizard.” EVIL prefers a brawling style and Sabre wants to chain wrestle the entire match, there couldn’t be two more different styles. Sabre doesn’t have all of the advantage on the mat though, EVIL has a Banshee Muzzle submission and great success against smaller competitors. Chris Jericho tapped out EVIL to the Walls Of Jericho last year with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship on the line, EVIL will have counters in mind for Sabre’s torturous holds. A mad scramble to Everything Is EVIL would secure EVIL’s place on the upper mid-card, maybe even above Sabre in the future.
Prediction: EVIL wins.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs Bullet Club (“Switchblade” Jay White & Bad Luck Fale)

Photo; NJPW

Twenty-six year old Kiwi Jay White has showed not just the NJPW audience that he means business but the very top of the company have found that out first hand by losing to “Switchblade” in marquee matches. White silenced doubters even further by becoming the new Bullet Club leader and pinning Kazuchika Okada clean at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Hiroshi Tanahashi starts 2019 with a record setting eight reign as the IWGP heavyweight champion, Tanahashi could have his shortest reign to date or overcome the off like only “The Ace” can. Bad Luck Fale will be a deciding factor in this tag team explosion, Okada and Tanahashi have pinned the big man in the past but they always have lots of trouble adapting to the powerhouse. The fact that White pinned Okada clean on January 4 proves that White is more than ready for the biggest matches possible, even defeating the dream team of the former biggest rivals in NJPW history.
Prediction: Jay White and Bad Luck Fale win.

NJPW New Beginning In Sapporo, Night Two: Sunday, February 3, 2019

Toa Henare vs Yota Tsuji 

Henare has the weight advantage in this Young Lions match by thirty pounds and that should make it an uphill climb for Tsuji. The twenty-five year old debuted for NJPW in 2018. Henare has a bright future and the undercard won’t be in his future much longer if he keeps picking up singles wins.

Prediction: Toa Henare wins.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ren Narita vs Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku & Takashi Iizuka)

Great opportunity for Narita in this tag team encounter where Narita starts his NJPW career while Iizuka faces the end of his. Tenzan can contend with Iizuka but Narita will his hands full with a junior heavyweight that has over twenty-five years in pro wrestling. Iizuka will get a couple wins on his retirement tour and The Young Lion/former IWGP Heavyweight champion should be one casualty.

Prediction: TAKA and Iizuka win.

Tiger Mask & Manabu Nakanishi vs Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida

Tiger Mask and Nakanishi have an extreme edge as it pertains to in-ring experience here but that shouldn’t make it an easy match for the veterans. Shota Umino is one lf the most impressive Young Lion’s in the company, singles matches would help him a lot more but these tag team matches give Umino the chance to tangle with a former IWGP Heavyweight champion in Nakanishi. Tiger Mask will guide these two towards great matches in either division and Tiger Mask should go down to the pinfall.
Prediction: Shots Umino and Ayato Yoshida win.

Ryusuke Taguchi, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Toru Yano vs Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)

Ryusuke Taguchi always teams up with heavy hitters and great athletes in the Junior division but Toru Yano joins the fun for this eight-man tag team match. Lots of comedy is to be expected with The Guerillas Of Destiny looking to shut that down at every instance. The former IWGP Heavyweight tag team champions had a fantastic last couple of years in NJPW but big wins will be necessary to keep that momentum going. Taiji Ishimori is the only champion in this match as the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Ishimori will look to stop the challenge of Taguchi with the Bloody Cross but Taguchi has lots of backup. Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa will likely stop Great Bash Heel in the end though after all of the wars they have had in the past.
Prediction: Bullet Club wins.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI vs Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale)

Hiroshi Tanahashi is at the top of NJPW for a reason, he’s undeniably loyal to the company and it’s performers and those performers are loyal to Tanahashi in return. Okada and Tanahashi were once fierce rivals, main eventing Wrestle Kingdom 10 in what many thought was their final clash but they have traded wins since then until teaming up for the first time. Chase Owens and YOSHI-HASHI may begin a rivalry amongst all of the fast-paced action and it’s one feud YOSHI-HASHI needs to win. Bullet Club simply has Okada and Tanahashi’s number right now but it’s to be seen if White can capture the title from “The Ace.” Could YOSHI-HASHI turn on CHAOS and join Bullet Club?
Prediction: Bullet Club wins.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo & BUSHI) (c) vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Photo: NJPW

Suzuki-Gun against Los Ingobernobles De Japon with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships on the line. Shingo Takagi wasn’t even in NJPW one year ago and Shingo had never teamed with BUSHI before the 2018 Junior Tag League tournament but now Shingo holds a title alongside BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito, EVIL and SANADA in NJPW for his faction. Kanemaru and Desperado are such a well-oiled tag team with referee distractions and the ability to shift the pace in their favor. Desperado is the one to watch because his guitar or Stretch Muffler could result in the titles going back to El Desperado and Kanemaru but Shingo should power through the former champions and BUSHI’s MX should follow.
Prediction: Shingo and BUSHI retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championships.

IWGP Tag Team Championships: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (c) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.)

Photo: NJPW

Zack Sabre Jr and Minoru Suzuki are the reigning Rev Pro tag team champions in the UK going into another title match after beating such teams as Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis) and CCK (Chris Brookes and Kid Lykos.) The singles matches from the night before may wear these wrestlers down before this match, the submission game should weaken EVIL and SANADA immensely. All four of these wrestlers are arguably better singles wrestlers so this is a treat, EVIL and Suzuki will be the brawlers and Sabre will try to out-grapple “Cold Skull.” SANADA previously pinned Zack Sabre Jr in the G1 Climax 28 tournament, that advantage will play itself out as a mind game and the over-confident challengers could come up short in EVIL and SANADA’s first title defense.
Prediction: EVIL and SANADA retain the IWGP tag team championships.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Taichi

Photo: NJPW

Taichi is a former NEVER Openweight champion, showing he can hang with Heavyweights like Hirooki Goto. The past year Taichi left the Junior division behind for an inclusion in the New Japan Cup tournament and a near win against Hiroshi Tanahashi. During 2018, Taichi faced Tetsuya Naito in a grudge match at the NJPW 45th Anniversary where Naito got the last laugh by breaking Taichi’s microphone stand over his head and winning with Destino. It’s obvious Taichi never let that loss go and Tachi made sure to go after Naito at New Year’s Dash, this is Naito’s time to establish himself as the second top champion in NJPW without trading the title like what happened with Chris Jericho. Naito would love nothing more than to be the IWGP heavyweight champion instead, it’s that fact that makes fans adoration for Naito grow more with each event. Taichi will have another great effort but Naito may retain long before the time limit is reached.
Prediction: Tetsuya Naito retains the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.