NJPW ROAD TO THE NEW BEGINNING RESULTS (1/23): Lansdell’s report on Desperado vs Kanemaru, LIJ vs. Just Five Guys, more

by Chris Lansdell, PWTorch contributor


January 23, 2024

Announcer: Walker Stewart

– Before the opening match, Master Wato came out on crutches. He was scheduled to face Sho in the semi-main event. He announced that he had torn his ACL, and would need surgery. He was attacked from behind by Sho (and his wrench) before he could finish his speech. Sho said he was so tough, he put the Best of the Super Juniors winner out of action. Just a knee-wrenching situation for poor Master Wato. El Desperado chased Sho off before he could do more damage.


We’ve seen these two Young Lions before, and they are both making good progress. They both looked solid in this match, showing the typical fire and mastery of the fundamentals. Murashima looked the more polished of the two. Taguchi picked up the win for his team, tapping out Kato with the ankle lock.

WINNERS: Taguchi & Murashima via submission in 9:00. (**)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Standard opener, the two young guys are early in their journey and so not much should be expected from them. They did not seem lost at all though.)

(2) UNITED EMPIRE (Callum Newman & Francesco Akira & Henare & Great-O-Khan & TJP) vs. BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (David Finlay & Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin & Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney)

We’re going to see various permutations of United Empire against Bullet Club until Feb. 11 when the cage match goes down. The hatred between the two groups meant this match would never be able to start with a tie-up in the middle of the ring, and indeed it did not. They continued the story of TJP wanting to step up into the leadership vacuum caused by Ospreay’s impending departure, and the crowd certainly seemed to be behind him.

This match was frenetic and you could feel the animosity. Callum Newman had a good showing, at times looking Ospreay-esque. The match came down to Catch-22 and Connors & Moloney, with Akira rolling up Moloney for the win.

WINNERS: United Empire via pinfall in 12:00. (***1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was a fun sprint. Well I suppose a 12-minute match does not really qualify as a sprint, but it did not feel that long. It was constant action, it felt seamless throughout, and it served as a great advertisement for the future of the company. Most of these guys are young and committed to NJPW. That cage match is going to be something else.)

(3) GUERILLAS OF DESTINY (Hikuleo & El Phantasmo & Jado) vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens & Kenta & Taiji Ishimori)

I continue to be confused about the matchmaking in this feud, with Owens & Kenta challenging for one of GoD’s titles and losing before challenging for the second later on.

Between entrances and El Phantasmo’s normal crowd work, it was almost nine minutes before the two teams touched. Once they did it was a very basic match with nothing noteworthy happening. I think mostly they were just trying to get Kenta back up to speed. Bullet Club got the win when Kenta rolled up Jado. Yes, I was shocked too.

WINNERS: Bullet Club via pinfall in 10:00. (*1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Nothing to see here. Move along.)

– Henare joined Walker Stewart on commentary.

(4) TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr. & Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste & Kosei Fujita) vs. KAZUCHIKA OKADA & TOMOHIRO ISHII & HIROSHI TANAHASHI & TOMOAKI HONMA

Okada looked extremely emotional coming to the ring, and the crowd got noticeably louder as soon as he came through the curtain. His last NJPW match is going to be one heck of a ride. Henare made some interesting comments on commentary, saying he didn’t know much about Matt Riddle’s exploits in other companies and calling into question the fact that the company president (Tanahashi) was also a double champion.

The coming-out party for Fujita continued in this match. Aside from taking every shot he could at Okada, he buckled Ishii’s knees with a loud chop, and he fought off the Money Clip for a good while. We don’t often get to see Okada against the next generation, but he made Fujita look like a real threat. It would still shock me to see Fujita pin Okada to win the six-man titles, but it’s a lot smaller of a shock than it would have been a month ago.

ZSJ got the win for TMDK by tapping out Honma with an armbar.

WINNERS: TMDK via submission in 14:00. (***)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Fujita is really making a push for that big upset win in the title match. He looks totally at ease against the biggest names in the company. It’s basically a given that TMDK will win that match, to me the only question is whether Okada takes the fall. This was good, Fujita was the star here for sure.)

(5) TAMA TONGA & TOGI MAKABE & SHOTA UMINO vs. HOUSE OF TORTURE (Evil & Yujiro Takahashi & Ren Narita)

Oh good, a House of Torture match. I could not possibly have guessed what would happen in this one. Tama was emotional for one of his last matches in Korauken. Henare has nothing good to say about House of Torture and specifically Evil, saying they look like they are doing a bad Elden Ring LARP. That one made me pause the video so I could laugh.

The Narita-Umino feud took its final step before their singles match, and honestly that build has been excellent. They have had progressively more contact one-on-one to build up to that contest, and hopefully it is a straight-up singles match when it happens. For this event we had to put up with your normal HoT nonsense, culminating in a push-up bar to the skull from Narita to Makabe.

WINNERS: House of Torture via pinfall in 10:00. (*1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Aside from Narita and Umino there was nothing here. I wondered if we might see the setup of a Makabe vs Evil match, but that did not materialise.)

(6) LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi & Yota Tsuji & Hiromu Tanahashi & Bushi) vs. JUST FIVE GUYS (Sanada & Taichi & Douki & Taka Michinoku & Yuya Uemura)

Somewhat surprisingly the match started with an all-out brawl. As has become the habit in the preview tag matches between these factions, the established pairs face each other often. We did get one funny spot where all five of Just Five Guys linked arms to kick Bushi in the face. Really, who doesn’t want to kick Bushi in the face? That led to four of the five guys doing springboard planchas to the outside, and Taichi hitting a superkick on poor Bushi for the win.

WINNERS: Just Five Guys via pinfall in 12:00 (**1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: We saw this match a few days ago, and we will see it again on the next show. It hasn’t changed much.)

(7) EL DESPERADO (c) vs. YOSHINOBU KANEMARU – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match

I was far from enthused about this match. Kanemaru can turn it up for the big occasions, but he’s starting from a pretty low spot (relatively speaking) so even turned up he’s not great. Desperado is growing on me but I have never been as big a fan as many seem to be.

That said, I saw plenty in this match to enjoy. Kanemaru draped Desperado over the barricade, set up a chair, and did a double-jump leg drop that looked amazing. The differences in pace and style between Kanemaru’s grinding, dirty-brawler offence and Desperado’s faster, higher-impact stuff told a good story that was easy to follow, even if you didn’t know the history between the two men.

Unfortunately, it was still a House of Torture match. The interference (from Sho and Ren Narita) was inevitable, but short-lived as Shota Umino ran out for the save. Hiroshi Tanahashi also came out, but looked like he had just spent 4 hours in the saddle. He never even made it to the ring before the House of Torture interlopers turned tail and fled. That intermission served as a match reset of sorts, with Kanemaru going to work on the knee of the champ. Desperado’s comeback was again cut off by more HoT interference, this time from Evil and Dick Togo, and again Desperado was saved by Hongtai, this time in the form of Tama Tonga.

The finishing sequence started with Desperado slapped the whisky out of Kanemaru’s mouth, and ended with a Numero Dos submission. There were exposed turnbuckles and finisher counters and some genuine tension that Kanemaru would pull it out.

WINNER: El Desperado via submission in 24:00 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship. (***½)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: I would have rated this higher had half the locker room not been involved. These two men have solid chemistry and really pulled out the stops to make this one entertaining. There’s no shortage of viable contenders for Desperado, but having his first defence against his old tag partner was a good call that paid off well. My only gripe is to ask why the locker room did not come out like this for Tama Tonga against Evil, or in countless other matches where the HoT interference was decisive.)

Final thoughts: I can’t remember the last time I heard Korauken so loud and raucous. The building looked full, a feat that NJPW has not been able to accomplish recently, and even if we allow that they were there to say goodbye to Okada it is still a positive sign for the direction of the promotion. Eyes on the product are a good thing, they might see something they love and decide to stay. The card was better than expected given the lineup, with two of the multi-man tags actually delivering the goods. Well worth watching as a free show.

You can contact me at lansdellicious@gmail.com or on Twitter @lansdellicious . Thanks for stopping by!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply