NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo Review: Kazuchika Okada’s Farewell Match

NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo 
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell, in Hokkai, Japan

El Desperado, Shota Umino, Togi Makabe, Oleg Boltin & YOH vs. House of Torture (EVIL, Ren Narita, SHO, Yujiro Takahashi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) 

The match began with a brawl between both teams. Makabe and YOH rocked SOH and Kanemura with corner strikes. Boltin planted Narita with a gut wrench suplex for a two count. Narita grabbed hold onto the referee. This led to EVIL nailing Boltin with a low blow. There was groaning boos from the crowd. Takahashi rammed Boltin into the exposed turnbuckle for a two count. Boltin responded planting Kanemura and Takahashi with a double suplex. Umino ran wild rocking Takahashi with a Woo Dropkick. Umino planted Kanemura with a Fisherman’s Suplex for a two count. HoT took back control. This led to Dick Togo delivering a flying punch to Umino’s balls. The babyface team made a comeback as Desperado delivered a Cannonball Tope to Narita on the floor. Kanemaru caught Umino with a series of pinning combination for near fall. Umino made a comeback rocking Kanemaru with a running lariat. Umino delivered the Death Rider to Kanemaru for the win. 

WINNERS: Shota Umino, El Desperado, Togi Makabe, Oleg Boltin & YOH

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was a fine opening match to start the show. The only positive was they kept the House of Torture stuff to the bare minimum. Good to see Umino get the win for his team as NJPW right now needs to focus on their younger stars. (**1/4)

  • YOH was standing on the entrance ramp with SHO’s newly won IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title. SHO chased YOH to the back. The lights went out. A Jack Perry highlight package aired of him targeting Umino. He’s calling himself “Scapegoat.” 

(Amin’s Thoughts) — An effective video package to set up Jack Perry’s first NJPW match against Umino.

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano) vs. United Kingdom (Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, Francesco Akira & Callum Newman) & Matt Riddle 

Kazuchika Okada came out to a huge reaction. Huge Okada chants from the crowd. NJPW President Hiroshi Tanahashi was on commentary watching. Tanahashi was scheduled for the match but rolled his ankle in the match the night before. Okada and Riddle exchanged strikes. Okada called for a Rainmaker but Riddle ducked. Riddle went for a roundhouse kick but Okada ducked. Akira and Goto tagged in. Goto tossed YOSHI onto O-Khan. Okada planted Newman with a DDT. CHAOS team hammered away at Akira. Cobb sent Ishii flying with an overhead belly-to-bely suplex. Riddle got some shine hitting a series of knee strikes. Ishii sent Riddle flying with a German Suplex. Cobb caught Ishii with a Spin Cycle. Cobb connected with a standing moonsault for a near fall. Ishii battled back planting Cobb with a suplex. O-Khan rocked YOSHI with a strikes. YOSHI responded catching O-Khan with a Dragon Suplex. The crowd went wild as Okada tagged in. All members of UE rocked Okada with corner strikes. Newman rocked Okada with a running boot but Yano made the save. Newman planted Okada with a Butterfly Suplex but Yano made the save. Okada made a comeback rocking Cobb and O-Khan with a standing dropkicks. Okada nailed Newman with a standing dropkick. Okada planted Newman with a Landslide. Okada played the hits delivering a signature InSane Elbow. The crowd cheered as Okada did his Rainmaker pose. Okada nailed Newman with a Rainmaker for the win. 

WINNERS: Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was a really fun match as everyone worked very hard. The crowd loved Okada as they treated him like the biggest star on the show. The crowd just wanted to see Okada play the hits and it was great to see. (***1/2)

  • Okada hugged all his teammates after the match. Huge Okada chants from the crowd. Okada delivered a promo thanking the crowd for the past 17 years. Okada promised they would see more of him. 

(Amin’s Thoughts) — Okada will definitely missed in NJPW. Okada is my favourite wrestler. I’m hoping and really want to see Okada sign with WWE. It would be so awesome seeing Okada wrestle in WWE.

Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa vs. Hikuleo & El Phantasmo 

Jado was the special guest referee for the match. Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa came out in original G.O.D. theme and their old face paint. Both teams bumped fists before the match. Hikuleo and Tonga began with a feeling out process. Loa and Phantasmo exchanged rollups. This led to both teams entering the ring. Jado said he wanted a clean match. Phantasmo connected with a flying elbow to Tonga. Hikuelo planted Loa with a powerslam. Phantasmo followed with a Springboard Moonsault for a near fall. Loa responded catching Phantasmo with a missile dropkick. Tonga ran wild sending Phantasmo flying with an Exploder Suplex for two. Phantasmo responded catching Tonga with a UFO Neck Breaker for a two count. Phantasmo rocked Loa with a Superkick. Hikuleo planted Loa with a Chokeslam. Phantasmo went for a Rocket Launcher but Tonga caught him with a Gun Stun which looked awesome. Hikuelo called for Godsend. Loa made the save rocking Hikuelo with a Spear. Loa and Tonga delivered a Magic Killer to Hikuleo. Loa delivered a flying head butt. Tonga followed hitting a Super Splash but Hikuleo kicked out at two. Tonga and Loa went for a Super Powerbomb but Hikuelo broke free. Hikuelo caught Loa with a snap powerslam. Tonga called for Gun Stun but Hikuleo blocked. Hikuleo planted Tonga with a popup cutter. Hikuelo delivered a running lariat but Tonga kicked out at one. Hikuleo delivered a Last Ride Powerbomb but Tonga kicked out at two. Hikuelo delivered Godsend for the win. 

WINNERS: Hikuleo & El Phantasmo

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was a very good action packed tag team match. Hikuleo and Phantasmo are quickly becoming a really fun team to watch as they mesh great together with power and speed. Tama Tonga was great as he worked really hard wanting to give the fans a strong showing in his last NJPW match. (***1/2)

  • Tonga got to his own feet after the match. A teary-eyed Tonga shared a hug with Loa, Hikueo, Phantasmo and Jado after the match.

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was a great send-off for Tonga as you can see how much NJPW meant to him. It will be interesting to see where Tonga goes next.

Nic Nemeth & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Bullet Club (David Finlay & Gedo) 

Nemeth was spotting a shiner underneath his eye. Finlay and Nemeth began with some nice mat wrestling. Nemeth and Taguchi rocked Finlay with stereo hip attacks. Nemeth and Taguchi rocked Gedo with a stereo hip attack. Taguchi went for a jumping hip attack but Finlay moved out of the way. Finlay batted back rocking Taguchi with running uppercuts. Finlay distracted the referee. This led to Gedo attacking Taguchi with a hammer. Taguchi battled back catching Finlay with the Funky Weapon. Nemeth ran wild delivering a series of elbow drop and then followed by jumping elbow to Gedo but Finlay made the save. Nemeth nailed Finlay with a Superkick. Taguchi caught Finlay with a flying Funky Weapon. Nemeth connected with a Stinger Splash to Gedo. Nemeth delivered the ZigZag (now called Danger Zone) for the win. 

WINNERS: Nic Nemeth & Ryusuke Taguchi

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This just a basic tag team match. You can see NJPW is really trying hard to push Nemeth as a top star. NJPW has been shoving Finlay down our throats pushing him as the top heel in the promotion. Finlay winning the New Japan Cup has to be the reason for him losing the IWGP Global Heavyweight Title so quickly. (**1/4)

  • Nemeth delivered a promo after the match. Nemeth spoke about having a request to team with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Nemeth offered Tanahashi a IWGP Global Title match. Tanahashi stood up from commentary. Tanahashi accepted the match. They didn’t announce the date. 

(Amin’s Thoughts) — Nemeth and Tanahashi should have a good match when it happens. I could see it happening on the NJPW Windy City Riot show in Chicago.

TAKA Michinoku vs. BUSHI 

TAKA shined early catching BUSHI with a basement dropkick. TAKA went for a Just Facelock but BUSHI placed his foot on the ropes. TAKA applied a seated head scissors but BUSHI placed his foot on the ropes. TAKA rocked BUSHI with a PK for a near fall. TAKA applied Just Facelock but BUSHI grabbed the ropes. BUSHI made a comeback catching TAKA with a missile dropkick. BUSHI connected with a tope to TAKA on the floor. BUSHI connected with a twisting neck breaker for a two count. BUSHI went for a Hurricanrana but TAKA countered into Just Facelock. BUSHI grabbed the ropes to force a break. BUSHI battled back catching TAKA with a Michinoku Driver for a two count. BUSHI called for MX but TAKA caught him with a superkick. BUSHI responded catching TAKA with a basement dropkick. BUSHI delivered a missile dropkick to TAKA’s leg. BUSHI applied a leg lock for the submission win. 

WINNER: BUSHI (LIJ leads 1-0)

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was the perfect example of two established wrestlers in BUSHI and TAKA who could have a perfectly fine passable match without going all out. (**1/2)

DOUKI vs. Hiromu Takahashi 

DOUKI caught Takahashi with a tope as he was taking his sweet time making his entrance. Takahashi caught DOUKI going for a dive. Takahashi took the quick lead sending DOUKI crashing into the barricade. Takahashi connected with a Falcon Arrow for two. DOUKI responded catching Takahashi with a dropkick coming off the ropes. DOUKI battled back nailing Takahashi with a handspring elbow. DOUKI connected with a springboard Moonsault to Takahashi on the floor. DOUKI applied the DOUKI-CHOKEY but Takahashi placed his foot on the ropes. DOUKI connected with a Gory Bomb for a two count. Takahashi responded nailing DOUKI with a superkick. Takahashi connected with a Sunset Bomb sending DOUKI crashing to the mats on the floor. There was a good counter exchange as DOUKI and Takahashi went for their signature move. Takahashi rocked DOUKI with a running clothesline just past the 10-minute mark. Takahashi connected with a Dynamite Plunger for a two count. There was another DOUKI chant from the crowd. Takahashi rocked DOUKI with a pair of running clotheslines. Takahashi connected with a Northern Lights Bomb for a two count. Takahashi called for the Dynamite Plunger. DOUKI countered into the DOUKI-CHOKEY but Takahashi broke free. Takahashi called for Victory Royal but DOUKI countered into a Bloody Sunday DDT for a close two count. DOUKI connected with Suplex De Lu Nana for the win. 

WINNER: DOUKI (LIJ and Just 5 Guys are tied 1-1)

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was a really good action packed match as both DOUKI and Takahashi worked great together. Chris Charlton was great on commentary as he really made DOUKI’s win feel like a big deal after hitting Suplex De La Luna. A really big win DOUKI and hopefully it leads to him getting a strong run in the upcoming Best of Super Juniors Tournament. (****)

Kazuchika Okada joined the Japanese commentary team for the final matches on the show. 

Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi 

Shingo and Taichi began the match exchanging strikes. Taichi got an early lead nailing Shingo with a reverse kick. Shingo quickly stopped Taichi’s lead hitting a Dragon Screw. Shingo rocked Taichi with a jab/lariat combo. Taichi battled back catching Shingo with an Air Raid Crash. The crowd popped as Taichi removed his pants. Taichi went for a Powerbomb but Shingo countered into a Hurricanrana. Taichi responded right back catching Shingo with a DDT. Shingo and Taichi exchanged head butts on the ropes. Shingo caught Taichi with a Super Rolling Death Valley Driver. Taichi no-sold it as he hobbled to his feet. Taichi caught Shingo with a backdrop suplex. Shingo responded right back planting Taichi with a backdrop suplex. Taichi responded right back launching Shingo with a backdrop suplex. Shingo and Taichi grabbed each other’s wrists as they exchanged clotheslines. Shingo and Taichi connected with a double clothesline as they both fell to the mat. Shingo and Taichi got back up and exchanged more clotheslines which got repetitive at this point. Shingo rocked Taichi with a sliding forearm. Taichi responded with a hook kick. Shingo nailed Taichi with a Pumping Bomber. Taichi no-sold it nailing Shingo with an Axe Bomber for a double down just past the 15-minute mark. Taichi nailied Shingo with a leaping enzuigiri. Taichi went for a second leaping enzuigiri but Shingo swatted him down to the mat. Shingo called for a Pumping Bomber but Taichi caught him with a dropkick. Taichi delivered a Dangerous Backdrop Suplex for the win. 

WINNER: Taichi (Just 5 Guys leads LIJ 2-1)

(Amin’s Thoughts) — This was a really good hard hitting match. A really strong showing from both Shingo and Taichi as they worked the match wanting to challenge and bring the best out of each other. (***1/2)

Hair vs. Hair Match 
Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji 

The match began with some very basic mat wrestling. Tsuji and Uemura exchanged rollups for quick near falls. Tsuji rolled out of the ring. Uemura caught Tsuji with a hip toss for a two count just passing the 5-minute mark. Tsuji responded rocking Uemura with a shoulder tackle. Tsuji took control connecting with a somersault senton. Tsuji delivered a running splash for a two count. Tsuji applied a Boston Crab but Uemura grabbed the ropes. Tsuji connected with a baseball slide sending Uemura to the floor. Tsuji went for a dive but Uemura moved out of the way just passing the 10-minute mark. Uemura responded catching Tsuji with a standing dropkick to reset the match. Uemura took back the lead hitting a backdrop suplex for a two count. Uemura applied a wrist lock. Uemura transitioned into a Cross-Arm Breaker but Tsuji placed his foot on the ropes. Uemura called for the Dead Bolt Suplex but Tsuji countered into a Boston Crab. Tsuji transitioned into a Half Crab to a Liontamer but released the hold from the pain in his arm. Tsuji delivered a Giant Swing. Uemura responded catching Tsuji with an arm breaker. Uemura rocked Tsuji with corner strikes. Tsuji went back to some mat wrestling catching Uemura with a rollup for a near fall. Uemura responded catching Tsuji with a backside for a two count. Uemura caught Tsuji with a Crucifix for a two count. Tsuji caught Uemura with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker coming off the ropes. Uemura responded catching Tsuji with a Butterfly Suplex for a two count. Tsuji stopped Uemura from climbing the ropes. Tsuji connected with an Avalanche Spanish Fly but Uemura kicked out at two. Uemura responded launching Tsuji with a Dead Bolt Suplex. Tsuji and Uemura connected with stereo forearm smashes as both men were down. The crowd was completely quiet just past the 25-minute mark. Tsuji delivered a pair of scoop slams. Uemura responded catching Tsuji with a backdrop. Uemura went for a flying crossbody but Tsuji moved out of the way. Tsuji connected with a Curb Stomp. Tsuji delivered an overhead spinning slam for a two count. Tsuji called for a Gene Blaster but Uemura countered with a Cutter. Uemura sent Tsuji with a German Suplex. Uemura turned around as Tsuji delivered a Gene Blaster for the win. 

WINNER: Yota Tsuji (LIJ and Just 5 Guys are tied 2-2)

(Amin’s Thoughts) — I’m really not sure what to make of this match. The wrestling between Tsuji and Uemura was fundamentally sound. The problem was this wasn’t the kind of match you wanted to see. I wanted to see Tsuji and Uemura work a showcase match that would get the crowd buzzing. Instead, Tsuji and Uemura worked a semi-main event match with no sense of urgency. The closing few minutes were good. That doesn’t make up for the rest of the match which was just long and boring. (**1/2)

  • They placed a chair into the ring. Uemura sat on the chair. Tsuji grabbed a pair of scissors and cut Uemura’s hair. Tsuji grabbed a shaver. Tsuji shaved some of Uemura’s hair. Uemura stopped Tsuji from using the shaver. Uemura shaved some of his hair. The crowd remained quiet as Uemura left the ring. Tsuji left the ring holding Uemura’s hair. Tsuji saw Okada sitting on commentary. Tsuji spoke to Okada in Japanese. Chris Charlton translated. Tsuji said to Okada  “Are you satisfied leaving NJPW the way you did? I’m disappointed in you!” Tsuji walked away. 

(Amin’s Thoughts) —They tired hard to make the visual Uemura sitting on chair and having Tsuji cut his hair feel impactful. The post-match interaction was interesting as they wanted to make it look like Tsuji was really upset with how Okada is leaving NJPW.

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match
Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. SANADA 

Naito came out to a great reaction. The crowd cheered as the bell rang. The match began with a very basic feeling out process. SANADA took the early lead placing Naito in the Paradise Lock. SANADA freed Naito delivering a basement dropkick to the bum. SANADA went for a dive but Naito caught him with a leg sweep. The crowd cheered as Naito posed in the middle of the ring. Naito took the lead planting SANADA with a Hangman DDT on the floor. Naito planted SANADA with a hip toss backbreaker. SANADA rolled to the floor. Naito placed SANADA in a seated Figure-4-Head Scissors on the floor. SANADA started to battle back delivering a basement dropkick to Naito’s knees just past the 10-minute mark. SANADA connected with a slingshot plancha to the floor. There was a light SANADA chant from the crowd. Naito stopped SANADA’s lead catching him with a draping neck breaker. Naito took back control planting SANADA with a hip toss backbreaker. Naito was looking for a Super Hurricanrana but SANADA escaped. SANADA delivered a dropkick as Naito went crashing onto the ring post. SANADA took back the lead hitting a Super Dragging Neck Breaker. SANADA connected with a Magic Screw for a two count. SANADA placed Naito in Skull End. The crowd was chanting for Naito. SANADA went back to the usual releasing Naito from Skull End. SANADA went for a Flying Moonsault but Naito got his knees up. This was a fitting spot with Okada on commentary. We’ve seen SANADA do that exact same sequence plenty of times in his matches with Okada. Chris Charlton tried to cover the spot saying SANADA wanted to win the fans over by doing something flash after the crowd was chanting Naito’s name. Naito took the lead sending SANADA flying with a Super Hurricanrana. SANADA caught Naito on his shoulders. Naito broke free catching SANADA with a modified Destino. Naito called for Destino but SANADA blocked. SANADA went for a Shining Wizard but Naito ducked. SANADA responded catching Naito with a Popup Cutter just past the 20-minute mark. SANADA connected with a Moonsault Press for a two count. SANADA delivered a second Flying Moonsault. SANADA called for Deadfall DDT. Naito countered into a modified Destino. Naito went for a Destino as SANADA just feel to the mat on a really bad spot. SANADA nailed Naito with a running Shining Wizard. SANADA called for Deadfall DDT. Naito went to counter into a Tornado DDT but they both just fell to the mat in an awkward spot. Naito tried to save the spot catching SANADA in a Guillotine Hold. Naito went for Deadfall DDT but SANADA no-sold it. SANADA rocked Naito with a pair of Shining Wizards. SANADA called for Deadfall DDT. Naito countered catching SANADA with a Tornado DDT into an inside cradle combo for the win to retain the title.  

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito retained the IWGP World Heavyweight Title

(Amin’s Thoughts) — The first three quarters of the match was good. The closing stretch was really rough as it looked like Naito and SANADA were both on completely different pages. It was a great moment seeing Naito winning the title against SANADA his former LIJ stablemate at Wrestle Kingdom. I wasn’t really interested in seeing the rematch. SANADA just hasn’t clicked a top guy and his run as champion did him no favours. Naito retaining the title was the right move to make. Naito’s star power wasn’t enough to save the main event which was a big disappointment. (**1/2)

The crowd chanted for Naito after the match. Naito delivered a post-match promo thanking the crowd for attending the show. Naito said there’s someone in this arena won’t be around in NJPW anymore. The camera cut to Okada on commentary. Naito said this person faced him for the first time in NJPW. Okada nodded on commentary. Naito said it wouldn’t be right if he didn’t address this person. The crowd chanted for Okada. Naito said this was a main event title match and he won. Naito asked the crowd if they were ready for a roll call. Naito did his LIJ roll call. There was a confetti celebration. Naito’s music played. The crowd chanted Naito’s name. Naito offered Okada to enter the ring. Okada took off his headset. The crowd chanted Okada’s name. Okada entered the ring. The crowd cheered as Naito offered Okada the LIJ fist. Okada went for a LIJ fist bump. Naito instead spat in Okada’s face. Okada and Naito had a fun back and forth interaction. Okada teased a Rainmaker but Naito ducked. Naito posed in the middle of the ring. Okada smiled. Okada smiled and left the ring. Naito did his LIJ fist bump as Okada walked away. Okada turned around. Okada smile and did LIJ fist bump. Okada walked away. Naito stood in the ring as his music played. 

(Amin’s Thoughts) — The moment between Okada and Naito was heartwarming and the highlight of the whole show. 


I really don’t understand the thinking behind the Kazuchika Okada farewell matches. I was really surprised NJPW didn’t really have either Tsuji, Umino or Uemura wrestle Okada in one of his farewell matches. I’m not sure what to make of this show. There were some good wrestling matches. The main event and co-main event were both disappointing in different ways. The SANADA experiment as a top level star just didn’t work. NJPW is in a really rough spot after losing Okada. I’m not sure if pushing former mid-card WWE stars like Nic Nemeth and Matt Riddle into key spots is going to help. NJPW just feels like they are in a creative mess.