New Beginning in Nagoya Report: Shingo Takagi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Photo courtesy: NJPW

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s The New Beginning in Nagoya. The event took place in Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya.

  1. Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL – Low on time, high on antics and interference
  2. Master Wato, SHO, Tomoaki Honma & Kota Ibushi vs BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA – An okay build up tag match where Sho and Hiromu showed fire but Honma’s unsteadiness stood out.
  3. Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Great-O-Khan – A good heel vs face match with the broken-down veteran trying to show he has still got it.
  4. No DQ – Satoshi Kojima vs Will Ospreay – A good plunder match with a fired-up Kojima and some memorable big moments –
  5. NEVER Openweight Championship – Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – An incredible match between two of the best from their generation with a frantic and engaging finale –  WATCH IT!

Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL

Okada and EVIL are opposite each other on most of this New Beginning tour. Dick Togo interfered repeatedly as the Bullet Club team isolated Okada. Toru Yano as a hot tag went exactly how you would expect it to and soon there was only one corner pad left. Okada never tagged back in and had little time on offense. In the end, Togo interfered one too many times and Yano used it to his advantage, pinning Yujiro Takahashi with a roll-up.

 Toru Yano pinned Yujiro Takahashi (7:40) 

This felt very interference heavy due to the short length. While the schadenfreude of the finish was fun, all in all, this was a nothing match. There was no chance to glimpse any chemistry between Okada and EVIL as their only clashes were EVIL working over Okada or holding each other back on the outside.

Master Wato, SHO, Tomoaki Honma & Kota Ibushi vs BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA

This match built-up 3 matches for the 2 New Beginning in Hiroshima shows. It also included the Tetsuya Naito vs Tomoaki Honma story, as Honma eliminated Naito in an Elimination match on January 23rd. After starting against Master Wato, BUSHI worked over Honma. Naito tagged in and Honma looked slow and unsteady at times before tagging in Kota Ibushi. The sequences between Ibushi and SANADA were action-packed and full of counters.

SHO and Hiromu Takahashi would tag in and they provided contrast, exchanging forearms and strikes before SHO hit a big spear. The match broke down, starting with Honma hitting a lumbering clothesline. When the dust settled it was SHO vs BUSHI, which was quickly won by SHO after he used the Shock Arrow.

 SHO pinned BUSHI (11:32)

LIJ rated this 2 out of 4 (wearing) T-shirts. A better match than the opener, with good showings to tease the Ibushi vs SANADA and Hiromu vs Sho matches. The match itself was nothing special and Honma continued to look very broken down. While Naito did a decent job of hiding it, it became painfully obvious when Honma was on offense. It is sad to say, as I was a big fan of his preinjury, but it may be time to start planning for Honma’s retirement.

Loser must stop using the Mongolian Chop:  Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Great-O-Khan

Tenzan has been using the Mongolian chops for over 20 years so if O-Khan wins then he will tell the signature ssssss chants to shush. O-Khan tried to jump Tenzan as he came down the ramp, but it backfired. Tenzan is probably the only babyface who regularly keeps choking his opponent on the mat. There were lots of Mongolian Chops early on before O-Khan wore down Tenzan using holds that worked over the neck. I appreciated the fact that O-Khan sitting on Tenzan in the corner played into O-Khan’s strategy. Tenzan’s come back was in the form of a well-timed Spinning Wheel kick and more Mongolian Chops.

Tenzan had a strong control sequence, slow but passionate and full of signature offense. Somehow, he hit a good-looking Calf Branding, which is usually bowling shoe ugly (to steal a phrase from Jim Ross). The match devolved into a Mongolian Chop-off and honestly, it was a shame that this was in front of COVID crowds as I think this match would have gotten a big reaction. Tenzan applied the Anaconda Vice, and an Anaconda Buster earned a 2 count. A big Moonsault by Tenzan missed but he soon fought back with a headbutt. O-Khan hit a bad looking TTD (a move that makes it very obvious how far your head is from the mat) and then won the match with the Eliminator.

Great O-Khan pinned Hiroyoshi Tenzan (12:45)

This was a good, fun match that centered around the popular Tenzan fighting from underneath. An engaging heel vs face battle that was a good choice for the undercard and got some heat on O-Khan. This was never going to be a high-quality match, but it was a good, passionate story. Sadly, it is a little telling that the broken down Tenzan’s execution often outshone O-Khans. He should really avoid using the TTD again and focus more on his Suplexes. The layout was good, and the story was great. While the crispness of the action sometimes lacked it was a great way to remind you of what Tenzan brings to the table. This was a passing of the torch to O-Khan, who still needs time to tweak his act.

No DQ – Satoshi Kojima vs Will Ospreay

By the time that Will Ospreay was born, Satoshi Kojima had already wrestled over 150 matches. I loved the start where Kojima dodged an attempted Ospreay dive, shrugged off his jacket, and then they just started going at it with forearms. This had lots of aggression early on, including Kojima attempting a Plancha. Ospreay used a ladder on the outside to get an advantage.

Kojima fought back with forearms and machine gun chops before hitting a chair assisted elbow drop.

Ospreay would soon fight back, setting up a table and discovering a guitar. A missed guitar shot let Kojima hit a DDT and the veteran waffled Ospreay in the head with the guitar. They traded big moves back and forth before an awkward Ospreay counter led to him powerbombing Kojima through a table in the corner. New Japan should avoid setting those tables up in the corner again as that made it incredibly obvious that the table was filled with corrugated cardboard.

That powerbomb was followed up by an Oscutter for a 2 count. Ospreay set up something involving chairs, but Kojima countered by Lariating Ospreay off the top rope and through a ladder on the outside. Kojima followed up with a Brainbuster onto chairs for a near fall. Ospreay fought off the Lariat by kicking the arm. Another Oscutter attempt was countered by a Lariat to the back of the head as Ospreay was in midair. The finish came when Ospreay used a chair assisted Hidden Blade and a second Hidden Blade to let him hit the Stormbreaker to win the match. 

 Will Ospreay pinned Satoshi Kojima (16:57)

At times this was a typical plunder match where Ospreay would stop to gather goodies for the next spot or to set things up. That said, this was a good plunder match, something that you rarely get in New Japan. Kojima showed a lot of fire and both wrestlers made each other look good. The Ladder bump and the Guitar shots were great moments, although the table spot did expose the table as being full of cardboard. 

This match had a good pace and some incredibly satisfying moments. The Lariats in particular were fantastic. Kojima looked strong while putting Ospreay over. This was a match that helped both competitors and a lot of people will come out of this hoping that Kojima gets more chances this year. Again, it is not going to be high on your lists towards the end of the year, but it was memorable and will stand out from a lot of New Japan’s output in 2021.    

NEVER Openweight Championship – Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

Not only was this the first singles match between these two, but it was also the first time that Tanahashi has challenged for the NEVER Openweight title. Tanahashi tried to control Takagi early with a headlock and we already got the groundwork for this being about Takagi’s power vs Tanahashi’s technique. After Takagi gained an advantage with his punches, Tanahashi quickly targeted the leg. The work from both men here was great, especially Takagi’s mannerisms and selling.  A desperate Lariat sent Tanahashi over the top rope, letting Takagi turn things around.

Takagi pulled out all the stops on the floor while clearly limping DDT’ing Tanahashi on the floor. In a rare move for him, Takagi used holds on the mat to recover before hitting a perfect Genichiro Tenryu style Elbow drop. Takagi’s confidence clearly grew but this made the panic before the eventual Dragon screw even sweeter. A flurry of Dragon Screws let Tanahashi get back into the match.

Takagi tried for a DVD on the apron, but his leg betrayed him, letting Tanahashi dropkick the knee to set up a High Fly Flow to the outside. Takagi did his best to overcome the injured leg, using a mix of guts, power, and intelligence. I loved that Takagi used Tanahashi’s own Twist and Shout to surprise Tanahashi. Takagi quickly went from vulnerable to cocky, which backfired when Tanahashi again dropkicked the knee. Takagi had enough of this, hitting a Sliding D to the knee and attacking Tanahashi’s leg. He mocked Tanahashi by using the leg as a guitar while going for a Figure Four leg lock. Takagi would then hit a powerbomb into a single leg crab after Tanahashi tried to avoid the Figure Four.

Tanahashi would fight back with an opportunistic Dragon Screw but Takagi quickly grabbed the ropes to avoid the Texas Cloverhold. Takagi tried to escape but got caught with another Dragon Screw. Tanahashi finally managed to apply the Texas Cloverhold and Takagi appeared to be out before scrabbling and grabbing the referee. Tanahashi decided to release the hold and hit the High Fly Flow to the back. The follow-up High Fly Flow missed when Takagi rolled out of the way. Takagi’s desperation saw him hit a wheelbarrow German suplex into the corner before crumpling to the mat.

The counter sequences soon started, although they were clear, logical, and easy to follow. The knee came into play to Takagi’s detriment, yet he still managed to hit a nasty Made in Japan that dropped Tanahashi on his head. Tanahashi countered a Last of the Dragon with a trio of Twist and Shouts before getting a 2 count with the Daruma style German Suplex. Takagi had enough strength left to catch a Tanahashi High Fly Flow and hoist him up for a DVD. The knee damage constantly gave Tanahashi opportunities, but Takagi still managed to fight back. There was a great, logical sequence that ended with Takagi using a rope-assisted GTR. The following Pumping Bomber got a big near fall. Tanahashi tried to fight off the Last of the Dragon but got flattened by a short-range Lariat. Takagi could not help but mock Tanahashi and the Ace fired back. There was an incredible strike exchange that Tanahashi won due to a desperate headbutt.

This was followed by a series of 1 count kick-outs in a frantic flurry of big moves from both wrestlers at an unbelievable pace. Tanahashi used a desperate Lariat and somehow countered the Last of the Dragon with a Sling Blade. Tanahashi hit a High Fly Flow and a Dragon Suplex for a crazy near fall. Tanahashi followed up with another High Fly Flow to become the NEVER Openweight Champion.

Takagi and Tanahashi faced off after the match, promising another match. Tanahashi had his usual air guitar celebration before Great O-Khan attacked Tanahashi.

 Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Shingo Takagi (35:40)

People who have read my New Japan reports before will have seen my complaints about the New Japan main event house style. This match had many of those tropes; It was over 30 minutes; it had a crazy finishing stretch and there were a lot of reversals. My main problem with this style is that it does not suit everyone, and people are forced to work outside of their comfort zones. The other problem is that the length is achieved by filling the 1st half of the match with bland, lackluster, or aimless work to kill time and pad it out. Despite my issues with the style, this was fantastic and my favorite match from 2021 so far.

Tanahashi and Takagi are 2 of the best workers of their generation. They are complete packages in terms of technique, execution, fire, character work, storytelling, and crowd engagement. This was just 2 greats just going out there and having incredible chemistry.

The match structure was something that we have seen plenty of times: Tanahashi works the legs, Takagi fights back using power, it ends with a hot finishing stretch containing reversals. This match was great because of the quality of the connective tissue that tied everything together.

Takagi was incredibly compelling throughout. His facial expressions and mannerisms are perfect at communicating his emotional journey. He goes from confident to worried to cocky to vulnerable to angry throughout this match. This helped me invest completely in his story as his confidence ebbed and flowed constantly. The leg selling from Takagi was incredibly well balanced, making it a constant factor while still letting him get in his main offense. After each flurry, he was back to selling the leg. In the later stretches, it was a factor as it repeatedly slowed him down just enough to stop him from following up or to give Tanahashi a chance to react or counter.

Tanahashi himself is an expressive wrestler and they perfectly complemented each other. Tanahashi had to constantly dig deep and fight through the pain. Sometimes he was so deep in the hole that he had to rely on uncharacteristic moves like headbutts or a Lariat to stay in the match.

The story was Tanahashi constantly going back to the leg when he was in trouble while Takagi kept finding ways to fight back. Sometimes Takagi was forced to resort to unexpected strategies, like using the Twist and Shout or attacking Tanahashi’s leg. While the leg work on Tanahashi was abandoned it worked because it was a desperate idea born out of Takagi’s frustration, designed in part to let him recover and regain control.

The finishing stretch was full of incredible action, big moves, and counters. The only misstep was Tanahashi landing on his head during the Made in Japan. The counters worked because the pace was slowed down just enough that you could see the wrestlers outthink each other. It was punctuated by the mannerisms and reactions and by the time the match ended it was going at a breakneck pace.

You can pick out flaws here and there. Things like the Made in Japan, Tanahashi dropping the leg selling, the 1 counts and some other no selling. I can understand people not loving this as much as I did but, to me, this is exactly what I want from New Japan; Two incredible wrestlers making me care enough to shout and scream and punch the air while I am watching at home.

Show Summary

This was a very well-paced show. The 1st 2 matches were the usual undercard tag team fare, adding intrigue for future shows and they did not take too long. Tenzan vs O-Khan was a good match, especially for longer-term fans fond of Tenzan, with a good heel vs face story of the aging veteran trying to prove he has still got it. Kojima vs Ospreay was a rare New Japan plunder match that, despite the flaws of the pacing, structure, and some spot choices, was refreshing and had some great memorable spots.

The main event is personally my favorite New Japan match from 2021. It stood out from anything on the 2 nights of Wrestle Kingdom. Simply put it was 2 fantastic wrestlers having a fantastic match.

This show is well worth watching due to the last 3 matches and honestly, if New Japan keeps running events like this then they need to borrow this show structure and use more compelling mid-card singles matches.

About Mark Buckeldee 61 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.