NJPW ROAD TO THE NEW BEGINNING REPORT (2/4): Lansdell’s recap of Catch 2-2 vs. War Dogs, Finlay vs. Newman, Henare vs. Kidd, and more

by Chris Lansdell, PWTorch contributor


February 4, 2024

Announcer: Chris Charlton

Prior to the show, Bullet Club War Dogs attacked Jeff Cobb. He had previously been pulled from the card as a precaution, but this attack could be a prelude to a longer absence and him missing the steel cage match next week.

Korakuen Hall was sold out again for this event.

(1) HOUSE OF TORTURE (Sho & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Yujiro Takahashi & Ren Narita & Evil) vs. BOLTIN OLEG & SHOTA UMINO & TOGI MAKABE & EL DESPERADO & YOSHI-HASHI

An unusual grouping to face House of Torture. Could this be the start of the dissolution of Chaos, with Yoshi-Hashi joining Hontai for this match and Hirooki Goto being MIA?

Chris Charlton mentioned Jack Perry during Umino’s entrance, clearly trying to keep the name in our minds for a possible reappaearance. Other than that Easter egg, this match existed to promote Desperado-Sho and Evil-Umino. Sho came out wearing the mask he stole from Desperado. I fully expect that the announced non-title match between the two will become a title match, but there’s some building to do first. Desperado had a different mask on, for what it’s worth.

We didn’t get much in the way of Evil-Umino interaction (or anything, for that matter), but Evil did get the pin on Makabe after some – you guessed it – typical HoT shenanigans.

WINNERS: House of Torture via pinfall in 10:00. (*3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: With the exception of some fun Oleg spots and a good hot tag for Umino, this was uneventful.)

After the match, Evil spray-painted the Never Openweight title black. Umino grabbed a table and chased off Evil with it.


It only took six minutes from entrances to the opening bell this time for these two teams. I am all for involving the fans, but I think GoD might just be taking it a little too far. It did however take eight minutes for the action to start.

They needn’t have bothered. With the exception of a fun spot where all three members of Bullet Club tried to hit their own Kokeshi (and failed) and then GoD and Honma hit a triple Kokeshi on Owens, there was nothing notable here. Honma ate the pin as you would expect.

WINNERS: Bullet Club via pinfall in 12:00. (*1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Way too long, with nothing happening, with a match we’ve seen many times before. I get that these cards are not put together with the expectation that people will watch every match, but at least try to make them feel different.)

(3) TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr & Mikey Haste & Shane Nicholls & Kosei Fujita) vs. YOH & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & TOMOHIRO ISHII & HIROSHI TANAHASHI

Despite the ongoing TMDK-Dream Team feud, Ishii and Tanahashi did not bring their six-man titles to the ring. Okada has vacated his belt, but it is not clear if Ishii and Tanahashi will replace Okada or if there will be a tournament of some sort.

In stark contrast to the previous match, this was quick and enjoyable. TMDK took turns hitting snap suplexes on Yoh, with ZSJ providing coaching from the apron. They also took turns attacking the buttocks of Taguchi, including a…let’s call it questionable strike by Shane Haste. I will see that one in my nightmares.

ZSJ tapped out Taguchi with a rear naked choke, countering Taguchi’s attempted Muta lock.

WINNERS: TMDK via submission at 13:00. (**3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was a lot of fun, and even if you aren’t a fan of the comedy aspect the wrestling was worth seeing. ZSJ continues to show versatility and Fujita continues to develop.)

El Phantasmo joined Chris Charlton on commentary.

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

Another installment in this rivalry. Much like GoD and Bullet Club we have seen these ten men face off multiple times recently, but there has at least been some story development woven in. The Tsuji-Uemura feud has heated up significantly as Narita and Umino completed their feud, and Taichi and Takagi have been pounding the daylights out of each other. We also had Souki snatch a pin on Hiromu, which was a real shock.

As a result of those developments, the animosity between the groups has increased tenfold. Tsuji and Uemura could not contain their dislike for each other and that spark led to an all-out brawl to lead us off. Things settled into the usual “feuding people facing off” pattern we have seen in all these preview tags.

The finish would be anything but usual, with Uemura hitting a frankensteiner on Tsuji and transitioning right into an armbar for the tapout win.

WINNERS: Just Five Guys via submission in 7:00. (**1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: I enjoyed the flash finish here. It makes every move feel more important when a match can just end out of nowhere. I hope it was planned and not caused by an injury. It also showed what I called for earlier: variety and story development.)


This was originally to be Jeff Cobb facing Coughlin, but he had been pulled from the match before the beatdown. Coughlin is not shaped like a normal human and it is disturbing to me. He also has the Dexter Lumis eyes going on.

O-Khan took control early with Mongolian chops and his “sit on your head in the corner” spot. Coughlin took exception to being used as a squat bench and yanked O-Khan off the top rope. He went to work on the leg of O-Khan, then transitioned into a modified bow and arrow hold. After a couple of headstands he rolled into the more traditional version. O-Khan made it to the ropes.

O-Khan reversed a suplex attempt and both men were down. O-Khan scored a few takedowns with various judo throws, and applied a head and arm choke. As Coughlin neared the ropes O-Khan launched him with an exploder suplex, then reapplied the hold. Coughlin once again tried to reach the ropes, this time successfully.

O-Khan lifted Coughlin for a Burning Hammer, but Coughlin escaped and hit a German suplex. Well, I am choosing to believe it would have been a burning hammer anyway. A fallaway slam got a near fall for Coughlin.

Coughlin tried a gutwrench suplex, but O-Khan countered with one of his own. Coughlin got right back up and tried again, this time successfully. O-Khan gritted his teeth and hit a belly-to-belly suplex, and Coughlin matched him with the same move. Then they exchanged back suplexes. Both men staggered to their feet, and O-Khan collapsed.

Coughlin slammed O-Khan with a fireman’s carry for a two-count at the ten-minute mark. Both men looked exhausted. Coughlin laboriously dragged O-Khan to his feet, only to eat a clothesline and a scoop slam piledriver for a very near fall. And you thought the Mongolian chops were the only things O-Khan took from Tenzan.

O-Khan went for the Eliminator but Coughlin starched him with a forearm. O-Khan slipped out the back of a jackhammer attempt and hit a sleeper suplex. Coughlin jumped right up and charged…into the Eliminator for the win.

WINNER: Great-O-Khan via pinfall in 12:00. (***)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was good. O-Khan is not scheduled to be in the cage match, but if Cobb really is injured then he’s the natural replacement. Coughlin has been less heralded than his partner Gabe Kidd, but he had a good showing here.)


These two men flat-out detest each other. I did not expect many waistlocks or intricate submissions going in. From the opening bell they just beat the snot out of each other, exchanging clotheslines in the corner and forearms in the middle of the ring. Kidd bit down on the forehead of Henare, but Henare leveled him with a tackle. Kidd came back with a chop and German suplex, Henare flattened him with a massive clothesline. Both men rolled to the floor.

On the outside the two men charged at each other and exchanged strikes and whips to the barricades. Henare won the exchange with a flying kick to the face.They continued brawling, with Kidd whipping Henare into the barricade and taking him into the crowd with a clothesline.

The walk and brawl was on, a mere five minutes into the match. On the landing between the upper and lower seats, Kidd laid in a series of loud chops and then spat on him. Henare buried a fist in his gut and measured a run-up for a tackle. He charged into a pump kick from Kidd, who climbed up into the seats and jumped off A High Place…right into a straight right hand.

Henare dragged Kidd down the stairs and back to ringside and into the ring. He charged at Kidd, who dodged and launched Henare over the corner and to the floor. Kidd followed him, whipped him to the barricade again, and rolled him back inside.

At the ten-minute mark Kidd took to the mic and said “Antonio Inoki, you’re welcome.” He laid in several stiff chops, then he made the mistake of inviting Henare to chop him. Henare decided to round kick him instead. They traded chop for kick in a very loud exchange that made me wince with each blow. Kidd went to his knees voluntarily and called for another kick..which Henare delivered with extra mustard.

The exchange got progressively more brutal as they moved to the corner to trade blows. I swear Henare was trying to kick THROUGH Kidd’s chest. Henare caught a charging Kidd with a back elbow and dropped him with a springboard spin kick. Kidd popped up and ran into a spinout blue thunder bomb.

Henare nailed a running knee lift in the corner, and followed with a Rampage for a near fall at 15 minutes. Kidd countered Streets of Rage and waffled Henare in the back of the head with a slap. A back suplex got a near fall for Kidd. He tried for a piledriver, Henare blocked it so Kidd slapped him on the back a few times. HUGE knee lift from Henare! Left-arm clothesline by Kidd! One-count only! Spinning back elbow by Henare! One-count only! Good grief.

Both men got to their feet and ran into each other. Kidd hit a series of strikes to the face but got dropped with a backfist. Kidd countered Streets of Rage into a brainbuster, he swiveled the hips but got caught with a Death Valley driver. Both men were once again down. The referee counted to nine, and Henare grabbed his hand to prevent the ten-count somehow?

Both men exchanged headbutts from their knees, then traded flurries of slaps. They collapsed into each other and tried to keep fighting. At the 20-minute mark Henare launched himself head-first into the jaw of Kidd, and both men were down again. The referee counted them both down for the double knockout.

WINNER: Double knockout in 20:00. (****¼)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Holy crap this match. I need to see it again, to a finish. This might have touched a full five with an actual clean win, but the result makes sense given the extreme physicality of what we saw. No blood, no chair or table shots, no scary head bumps…just good old-fashioned slugging it out. What a spectacle.)


In case you were in any doubt that Callum Newman was destined for greatness, he’s getting a semi-main event against the secondary champion in the promotion. Chris Charlton mentioned that Newman is so fresh to the scene, we hadn’t even heard his music before.

Newman charged Finlay before the bell and repeatedly charged into him in the corner. Finlay bailed to the floor and caught Newman with a shoulder, running him into the barricade. Finlay continued the beatdown on the floor, shoving poor Red Shoes out of the way. Finlay dumped Newman over the barricade and into the crowd, then brought him back to the ring.

Finlay dropped an elbow on Newman and kicked away at his leg. Finlay continued the beatdown while trash-talking and playing to the fans. He applied a Boston crab while continually saying it was too easy. Newman made it to the ropes, but Finlay was slow to break. Newman tried to fight back but got damn near snapped in half with a uranage backbreaker for a two-count.

The trash-talking and hubris continued from Finlay as he followed Newman to the floor. He whipped Newman to the barricade but Newman vaulted over it, then kicked it back into a charging Finlay. Newman springboarded off the barricade and over Finlay, and hit a shotgun dropkick to send Finlay into the barricade. Wow.

As we passed the five-minute mark, Newman brought Finlay back into the ring. He hit a very high dropkick in the corner, then a Spanish Fly for a near fall. Finlay blocked a tiger suplex and then turned the tide with a series of clotheslines in the corner. Newman countered a powerbomb attempt into a rollup for a near fall, then got the tiger suplex he tried earlier for another near fall. Newman went for the Os-cutter but Finlay nonchalantly sidestepped it and dunked Newman to the mat.

A clothesline got a near fall for Finlay. He taunted Newman and demanded he say that Finlay was the man. Newman spat on him. Finlay took exception to that (understandably) and pummeled Newman down. A powerbomb at ten minutes got a two-count, but Finlay pulled him up and hit Overkill for the win.

WINNER: David Finlay via pinfall in 10:00. (***1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was a nice progress check on Newman, and a test of Finlay as a top-tier guy who can put others over while winning. I would say both men came through it looking better than before. It was only ever going to be a question of how much offence Newman got, but they made it entertaining too.)

We got a recap of the way War Dogs have targeted Francesco Akira coming into this match, stabbing him with forks and making him question whether he wants to be part of this cage match. They also showed the start of some dissension in the champions, as TJP has stated he is a heavyweight hunter.

(9)CATCH 2-2 (TJP & Francesco Akira) © vs. BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Clark Connors and Drilla Moloney) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title match

Connors came to the ring with salt, presumably for Akira’s wounds? Ohhh it’s to protect against the Aswang. Neat. TJP blew the salt away before stepping right over it. Akira looked a little tentative before climbing the steps to the ring. That’s interesting.

Catch 2-2 hit stereo dropkicks on War Dogs right away, sending everyone to the outside. As expected with these teams, a brawl ensued. Connors planted a chair in the gut of TJP, then sat him on the chair and charged through him with a torpedo shoulder tackle. Moloney was carrying a table but Akira attacked from behind to make him drop it, then threw Connors into the barricade. TJP set the chair up and Catch 2-2 hit a 3D into the chair on Connors.

Back in the ring Akira and TJP hit a combination attack on Moloney. TJP went outside again and yelled at Akira to join him, but Akira looked reticent. TJP propped a table against the barricade, Akira held Moloney in place while TJP measured him. Connors recovered and War Dogs regained control. Moloney held Akira in place as Connors speared him through…sorry, into the table. It did not break. Ouch.

The commentators keep talking about Akira’s discomfort with this style of wrestling. Moloney threw salt into the eyes of TJP, while Connors whipped Akira through the table. Back in the ring, Moloney took it to a stumbling, blinded TJP. Connors joined in the attack, whipping TJP to the corner and over the top to the floor at the five-minute mark.

A snap suplex from Connors to TJP got a one-count. TJP fought out of a chinlock and applied a cobra twist, but Connors countered into a half-hatch suplex. Moloney tagged in and laid in chops and stomps in the corner. He tagged back to Connors, who knocked Akira off the apron. TJP countered a boot into a back suplex, and made the tag to Akira. Flying head scissors to Connors! He avoided a charging Moloney and hit running back elbows on each man in the corner. He sent both War Dogs to the floor, then hit a tope con hilo to them both on the outside. He rolled Connors in and connected with a top rope crossbody for a near fall.

Connors fought back with forearms and a pounce at the ten-minute mark, almost sending Akira to the floor again. TJP and Moloney both tagged in, and TJP hit a top-rope forearm to a charging Moloney. TJP connected with the facewash boots in the corner. He hung Moloney from the Tree of Joey Lawrence (WOAH), allowing Akira to nail a basement dropkick. TJP then came off the top with a double stomp for a two-count.

TJP connected with a superkick to Connors, and set up on all fours for Akira to leap off his back. Connors caught Akira and…oh dear Lord no. He was supposed to power slam Akira out of that move, but either he realised he was too close to the ropes or he just overbalanced from the impact. I think he narrowly avoided dropping Akira on his neck, which would have been a short trip to a long recovery.

Moloney caught TJP charging and dropped him with a spinebuster, then double-stomped his chest. Akira seemed to be OK, thank heavens. War Dogs measured Akira for Hit and Run, but TJP pushed him out of the way and ate the move instead. TJP was the legal man though! Akira broke up the cover at two.

Akira tried to fire up but got absolutely planted with the Drilla Killa. War Dogs set up for Full Clip…TJP misted Connors in mid-air, while being held upside-down in a suplex position! That was a great visual. Small package! 1…2…no! Moloney went for Drilla Killa, but TJP slipped out and shoved Moloney into the spear of a blinded Connors! A jumping heel kick sent Connors to the floor, leaving TJP and Moloney in the ring and down.

Catch 2-2 hit the Final Cut-Double Stomp combo on Moloney, then set for Two by Two. Moloney ducked it, then ducked the rebound attack from Akira…Hit and Run by Catch 2-2! 1…2…no! To add insult to injury they set up for Full Clip, but Connors took out TJP with a spear. Akira hit him with a missile dropkick before being leveled by a Moloney lariat at 15 minutes.

All four men were down, and I for one had no clue who the legal man was. Connors low-bridged Akira, then he and Moloney superkicked the heck out of TJP’s head multiple times. They set for Hit and Run…no, they set for Two by Two…connected! 1…2…still no! Full Clip attempt was once again countered, this time by a knee to the head. Akira took Connors off the top with a Frankensteiner! Tornado DDT by TKP to Moloney! Alley Oop facebuster by Catch 2-2 on Connors!

Catch 2-2 set for Two by Two again, but Akira saw Moloney coming with a fork and dropkicked him off the apron.Shining Wizard by TJP! It only got a near fall. Akira went to the top rope to set for a tandem move, but got scared by an advancing fork-wielding Moloney. No Chaser by Connors to TJP! Akira with a springboard…SPEARED by Connors! Good grief. Hit and Run to Akira, into the Full Clip! 1…2…3! New champs!

WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs via pinfall in 19:00 to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag titles. (***3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: I’m not sure why, but this match felt like it was missing something. It did seem a bit repetitive at times, with the same moves being used on a few occasions. It was a long, long way from bad but it just fell short of the top tier for me. I should give credit to Moloney, whose arm was heavily strapped and who seemed to be favouring it at times in the match. The fact that they won the titles here suggests the injury is not a major one, though. You know I loved the story here around Akira’s fear and tentativeness, and I’m intrigued to see how it plays out next week.)

After the match, David Finlay and Gedo came out with new title belts for Connors and Moloney. The plate design looked similar but the straps were white. The four men then beat down TJP and Akira. O-Khan and a limping Jeff Cobb tried to make the save, but were also taken out. Finlay nailed the knee of Cobb with the shillelagh, then waffled O-Khan in the head with it. After a standard promo by Finlay, he powerbombed Akira onto a stack of chairs. War Dogs celebrated in the ring over the fallen United Empire members to end the show.

Final thoughts: With one exception, this card managed to deliver on enough entertainment and story progression to keep me happy. It’s tough having to run back the same lineups time after time, but New Japan is in a bit of a state of flux right now with injuries and departures. I do think they will be OK but right now the focus is on faction warfare, and that greatly restricts who you can pair off. The big matches for Feb. 11 and 24 have been nicely positioned, and once all the emotion of Okada and Ospreay’s goodbyes has been processed I think we will see the elevation of some new young stars. The Henare-Kidd match is a must-see for sure, and although I rated the main event down a little it’s still worth watching. For Akira to be able to do so much to convey his feelings in two languages that are not his first, he’s got some pretty impressive talent.

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

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