SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
RADICAN’S NJPW “THE NEW BEGINNING IN SAPPARO: NIGHT 2” BIG MATCH SPOTLIGHT
IWGP U.S. CHAMPION KENNY OMEGA vs. JAY WHITE
JAN. 28, 2018
AIRED LIVE ON NJPWWORLD.COM
IWGP U.S. CHAMPION KENNY OMEGA vs. JAY WHITE
Kenny Omega had been surrounded by distractions for the last several months. Bullet Club was on the verge of imploding with Omega and Cody Rhodes constantly at odds, but making up. Even when things seemed to be good between them, there was tension boiling under the surface. Omega resented Cody for attempting to throw in the throw in the white towel at “Dominion” last June when he got his Tokyo Dome rematch against IWGP Hvt. Champion Kazuchika Okada. Okada was putting a beating on Omega and the tension between Omega and Rhodes began when Cody tried to throw in the white towel on that day to save Omega from a beating at the hands of Okada. The script was flipped several weeks later when Cody challenged Okada for the IWGP Hvt. Championship at the first night of G1 Special In The U.S.
On that night, it was Omega coming down to ringside and attempting to throw in the white towel for Cody. They pushed their tension to the background, but then it began again at Wrestle Kingdom and New Year Dash earlier this month. Cody told Ibushi during their match at Wrestle Kingdom that nobody, not even Kenny, loves him like he does. Things escalated when Omega made the save for Ibushi when Cody tried to attack him with a chair at New Year Dash. It was clear there was tension between Omega and Rhodes again after Omega saved his longtime tag team partner.
With the specter of The Golden Lovers reuniting after going their separate ways when Omega joined Bullet Club and adopted The Cleaner persona in November of 2014, Omega took on the challenge of Jay White. White had laid Omega out with the blade runner and spurned an offer to join Bullet Club in favor of joining CHAOS.
The expectations for this match going in were that Omega would win and White would have the chance to work against another top-tier talent in NJPW after having lost his match to Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom earlier in the month with Tanahashi’s IWGP IC Championship on the line. The main focus of the match was going to be whether or not White would be able to grow into his new “Switchblade” character after not showing much charisma after cast as a dark and brooding character clad in black with the exception to the ref slash marks on his tights.
Omega took a lot of the match and White could never get on track both from a storyline or character standpoint. White is fantastic in the ring at this stage of his career, but he seems more suited as a babyface than a dark and brooding heel. White had one great moment during the match when he took a V Trigger from Omega and began laughing maniacally. That was a great moment for his character, but other than that, it was a flat performance for him from a character standpoint.
Omega was dominant and began spamming his V trigger knees on White. The last 10 minutes of the match were fantastic. White hit a blade runner late in the match, but Omega managed to get his shoulder up at the last second. A short time later after some back and forth action, Omega hit a huge V trigger and went for the one-winged angel, but White slipped out and hit the blade runner for the win.
White’s win was completely overshadowed by the shocking post-match angle. Hangman Page came down to the ring and grabbed the U.S. title to set himself up as White’s first challenger. Omega grabbed the title from Page and shoved him aside. He then pushed the title into White’s chest. It was a big surprise that White won, but that was forgotten as the post-match angle continued to play out.
Rhodes ran down to the ring. He told Omega not to take Page’s moment. He told Omega that it is his moment. Marty Scurll ran down to the ring. White was shown celebrating in the aisle. Cody told Omega he’s not acting like a leader. Both men began shoving each other. Matt Jackson came into the ring and Omega shoved him over and then acted like he didn’t mean to do it. Omega apologized and try to shake Matt’s hand, but he bailed to the floor and Nick left with him. Scurll tried to play peacemaker and told Cody and Omega to sort it out. They told Page it was alright to leave. Cody told Omega he’s sorry he lost. They shook hands and banged fists. The fans applauded. Cody held the ropes for Omega, but then grabbed him and hit cross Rhodes. Scurll came back into the ring and asked him what he’s doing. Page also got back into the ring. Callis said it was the implosion of Bullet Club. Cody went to Kevin Kelly, who gave him a chair. Page held Omega and Cody had a chair.
The moment fans had been anticipating for years occured. Kota Ibushi, Omega’s Golden Lovers partner, came out to make the save. At first it had appeared that Omega wanted to wrestle his former close friend telling Ibushi during the build to G1 that he hoped to see him in the final as they were on opposite blocks. It was Ibushi who came to his former partners side when Omega lost to Tetsuya Naito in the G1 Final last August. You could tell by their embrace that their bond went beyond the ring.
It was Omega who distracted Ibushi when he challenged A.J. Style for the IWGP Hvt. Championship at Invasion Attack in April of 2015. It seemed like Omega was reluctant to distract his former partner at the time. Fast forward to Jan. 28, 2017 and Ibushi was saving Omega from being kicked out of Bullet Club.
Ibushi offered his hand to Omega to help him up, but he refused it. Both men showed great emotion on their faces. Ibushi turned his back to Omega. He then turned around and grabbed Omega to turn him around and hugged him. Both men appeared emotional as they embraced and the fans went crazy. On back to back nights, NJPW Gedo had taken fans on two very different emotional journeys. The previous night, the hero of NJPW, Hiroshi Tanahashi, had fallen. On this night, Omega and Ibushi, The Golden Lovers, had finally reunited after over three years as they were showered with red confetti.
Winner: Jay White to become the new IWGP U.S. Champion
Star rating: (***3/4)
On back-to-back nights, NJPW Gedo shocked NJPW viewers in different ways. At “The New Beginning In Sappro: Night 2,” Omega lost the IWGP U.S. Championship to White after dominating him for most of the match. Usually, NJPW doesn’t deliver shocking angles and storyline developments this early in the year after Wrestle Kingdom. Tanahashi being obliterated by Suzuki on the previous night and White winning the title on this show would have been the most dynamic storyline progression NJPW had done in the modern era, but Gedo didn’t stop there. He gave fans the reunification of Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega, The Golden Lovers, whose bond is so deep that it extends beyond the ring.
One drawback to The Golden Lovers reuniting was that it overshadowed a huge moment for White, who is having difficulties flushing out his new heel character which he revealed after finishing his excursion in ROH late in 2017. Perhaps White being pushed to the background can be used to fuel his character, which is often the genius of Gedo’s booking at the top of the card where everything matters and fits together in a logical and satisfying manner.
The split between Cody and Kenny could be seen coming a mile away, but Gedo did such a good job of teasing things and pulling back when it came to how the relationship between Ibushi and Omega was portrayed since Omega joined Bullet Club that it was totally unexpected when Ibushi ran out to make the save just as Cody was about to decimate Omega and take his seat on the throne of Bullet Club.
Both men displayed what I believe to be real emotion playing into storyline. You just don’t see emotion like Ibushi and Omega showed before they finally hugged after Ibushi made the save. The scene with them hugging as red confetti fell around them was one of the most emotional scenes I’ve seen in pro wrestling.
Gedo had tugged on the emotions of the NJPW audience perfectly. He split Ibushi and Omega apart. Then he made us want to see them wrestle each other. After G1, it seemed like there was still a conflict between Ibushi and Omega even after Ibushi was there to console him in an emotional embrace after Omega lost the G1 final.
This was incredible booking. It sets up Omega and Ibushi to be top flight babyfaces that the fans will love. It seemed like Ibushi vs. Cody at Wrestle Kingdom was a throwaway match, but instead it lead to both Ibushi and Omega having a common enemy in Rhodes. The beauty of the whole thing is that it’s a bit of a mystery of what the long-term vision is for Omega and Ibushi, but for now they will likely turn their attention to Bullet Club with Rhodes, who improves his heel character by the day and month, as the perfect heel foil.