NJPW NEW BEGINNING IN SAPPORO RESULTS (2/23): Lansdell’s report on Nemeth vs. Finlay, Riddle vs. Tanahashi, and Desperado vs. Sho

by Chris Lansdell, PWTorch contributor


February 23, 2024

Announcers: Walker Stewart and Chris Charlton


This was billed as a Frontier Zone match. Tomoya is an independent scene wrestler in northern Japan, getting a chance to show what he can do in New Japan. He and Yano were accompanied to the ring by Tomu Kun the mascot, and Yano of course is the tourism ambassador of Hokkaido.

Chris Charlton told us that Tomoya is 50, so perhaps he isn’t here for a showcase. He’s apparently a member of the local government. He picked up the submission win with a unique submission I have never seen before.

WINNERS: Yano & Tomoya via submission in 7:00. (*1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was a little hard to watch. Only Kato created any sort of movement, and there was only a stalling suplex from Tomoya that bears talking about. It was almost entirely about getting the mascot out there for the fans.)


Operation Get Zack Some Wins continued here with a seemingly random match against Nagata. Charlton told us that this was their first match since the 2017 G1.

ZSJ is the perfect opponent for people like Nagata who still have plenty to offer but cannot move like they used to. ZSJ would pick up the expected win with a cross armbreaker, but not without having to work for it and escape multiple submissions by Nagata.

WINNER: Zack Sabre Jr via pinfall in 8:00. (***1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was a very entertaining display of mat wrestling with some suplexes thrown in. ZSJ is on a roll right now with quality matches against a variety of opponents, and I expect him to challenge for the title after tomorrow’s main event.)

(3) BOLTIN OLEG & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & TOGI MAKABE vs. HOUSE OF TORTURE (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Yujiro Takahashi & Ren Narita)

You’ll never believe this, but House of Torture started this one before the bell, jumping their opponents. I know, I was shocked.

This was pretty much exactly what you would expect. Makabe and Taguchi both took beatings due to shenanigans, but were able to recover when the playing field was level. Then the ref got distracted, whiskey ended up in Makabe’s eyes, and a Double Cross ended things.

WINNERS: House of Torture via pinfall in 7:00. (*1/0)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Literally the only good thing in this match was Boltin Oleg’s feat of strength at the start of the match. That kid is going to get opportunities just based on what he can physically pull off. He also seems to be getting protected, not taking the fall even when his team loses. Worth keeping your eyes on that.)

(4) CHAOS (Yoh & Yoshi-Hashi & Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada) vs. UNITED EMPIRE (Callum Newman & Francesco Akira & Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb)

Henare was meant to be in this match, but he suffered a ruptured artery in the cage match two weeks ago and is not cleared to compete. This was one of Okada’s two last matches in NJPW, and he got the colour-changing robe entrance from WrestleKingdom. All of Chaos came out with him, despite Goto and Yano sitting this one out. A very loud Okada chant took place before the bell rang.

An interesting note here was that the commentators have stopped talking about Okada’s last matches and have started saying his last matches “for the time being.”

Okada started the match with O-Khan, who has made it clear that he wanted to take it to Okada in this match. He locked in the claw sleeper early but Okada escaped and dropped O-Khan with a flapjack. Yoshi-Hashi tagged in and they hit some tandem offence. Yoshi-Hashi got a two-count on O-Khan and tagged in Yoh, who hit a running back elbow in the corner.

O-Khan countered an attempted whip into an arm throw, then tagged in Akira. The speed went up several notches as Akira hit a top-rope crossbody for a near fall at the five-minute mark. Yoh sidestepped an attack and after a series of reversals connected with a Falcon Arrow. Cobb and Ishii made the tag and it was Meat Time.

Ishii ran right through Cobb, then O-Khan, then Newman. Cobb escaped out the back of a suplex, slammed Ishii, and hit a standing moonsault. He tossed Ishii overhead with a belly to belly suplex, but Ishii came back with a vertical suplex of his own. Ishii tagged in Okada, who went for the gutwrench tombstone. Cobb blocked it and took Okada off his feet with a dropkick.

Cobb tagged in Newman, who ducked under several strikes and hit a running boot. A stalling clothesline and a PK got a near fall for Newman. This man is not quick, he is instant. He hit a round kick to the head and an Os-Cutter for a two-count. Okada ducked under a spinning kick, and chaos (not the stable) ensued.

When the dust cleared, Newman was alone in the ring with all four Chaos members. They played pinball with him, Okada hit a dropkick and the Rainmaker, and that was that.

WINNERS: Chaos via pinfall in 11:00. (**½)
(Lansdell’s analysis: This was fine, exactly what you expected with a few people getting a chance to shine against Okada before he picked up the win. With both these factions having lost their leader, I am curious if we get any hint of the future for both squads tomorrow.)

After the match, Chaos posed in the ring. O-Khan stood on the ramp with his title in the air, and Okada completely ignored him as he walked past him and up the ramp. Interesting.

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

A fresh, novel matchup we have definitely not seen 177 times before. The entrances alone took almost 11 minutes. I don’t mean to sound cynical, and I am looking forward to the one-on-one matches, but we had had enough of the full-faction tags about eight shows ago.

As we have come to expect, the match unfolded with feuding pairs squaring off throughout. One new development was that people seemed to be learning the movesets of their rival, and we saw more counters, blocks, and escapes than is typical. Notably, Uemura jumped over a Tsuji spear and somehow turned it into a Boston crab.

The finish came when Shingo ended up in the ring with Taka, which was only ever going to end one way. A pumping bomber sealed the victory for LIJ.

WINNERS: Los Ingobernables de Japón via pinfall in 11:00. (**1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Slightly better than what we’ve seen so many times in what seems like the last six months. Still nothing special and no real reason to watch.)

(6) MAYU IWATANI (c) vs. MINA SHIRAKAWA – IWGP Women’s Championship match

They started with a series of ducks and dodges, with Shirakawa taking control by dropkicking the knee of Iwatani. She lifted Iwatani up and dropped her knees-first to the mat, then continued her attack on the legs of the champion.Shirakawa charged Iwatani in the corner, Iwatani dodged and hit a low dropkick to regain the upper hand. A second low dropkick, in the ropes this time, and a bridging northern lights suplex got a two-count.

Iwatani went to the second rope where she was intercepted by a slap and a dragon screw from Shirakawa. Shirakawa locked in a figure four, but Iwatani made the ropes. A green killer got another two-count for Shirakawa. She lifted Iwatani for an electric chair drop, which was countered by a poison rana.

The two women exchanged forearms, which degenerated into wild swings and then straight slaps. Iwatani caught Shirakawa charging with an elbow, a snap mare and a spine kick at the five-minute mark. A gorgeous dragon suplex followed up, then a superkick. Iwatani went to the top rope and hit a crisp frog splash for a near fall.

Iwatani went back to the top but her moonsault missed. Shirakawa hit a running head kick and again lifted Iwatani for an electric chair…oh ouch, she spun out her opponent and dropped her face-first. In the middle of the ring Shirakawa applied the figure four again. Shirakawa kept rolling Iwatani away from the ropes, but eventually the champion would get that rope break.

Shirakawa hit a rolling forearm and a backfist, followed by an implant DDT for another near fall. She went for an inverted brainbuster…countered into a tombstone by Iwatani! After a head kick, Iwatani went to the top…missile dropkick connected! Iwatani went to the opposite corner and hit a double stomp, then back to the top for a moonsault. 1…2…no! It was not the prettiest of moonsaults and likely should not have got the win.

Iwatani tried another dragon suplex but Shirakawa countered into a modified crucifix rollup for a very near fall. Superkick by Iwatani! Dragon suplex! 1…2…no! Iwatani kicked Shirakawa in the head several times, then hit the two-step dragon suplex to pick up the win.

WINNER: Mayu Iwatani via pinfall in 12:00 to retain the IWGP Women’s Championship. (***1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: A very fun, high-paced match that showed off some of the best women’s wrestling on the planet. Shirakawa had a really strong showing here, but Iwatani is on another level.)

(7) EL DESPERADO (C) vs. SHO – IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship match

As Sho’s music was playing, Desperado emerged from the entryway dragging Sho down the ramp. Turnabout is fair play! He bounced Sho’s head off the apron (that’s The Hardest Part of the Ring) and rolled him in, whereupon the bell rang. A back suplex got a two-count, and Desperado then locked in Numero Dos. Sho made the ropes for a break. Sho bailed to the outside and tried to hide under the ring. Naturally, Desperado chased him.

Sho grabbed the timekeeper’s hammer, pushed the referee away and then waffled Desperado with the title belt that was also on the timekeeper’s table. Desperado crawled back into the ring at the count of 16, and was leveled by a clothesline. Sho applied his Snakebite triangle choke, Depserado’s arm dropped twice before he was able to make the ropes.A powerbomb lungblower by Sho got a near fall.

At the five-minute mark, Sho attempted Shock Arrow but his leg gave out. Desperado was selling the effects of the Snakebite, but managed to hit a dropkick to the knee to buy some time. He tried a kneebreaker but collapsed out of it. Sho pounced and went for Shock Arrow again, Desperado found the strength to escape it and hit a high-angle spinebuster.

Again Desperado tried a kneebreaker, Sho went to the eye to block it, but Desperado held on and tried again…and hit it. Desperado followed up with a dragon screw on the mat, and locked in Numero Dos…and the lights went out. Yes, it was time for House of Torture Shenanigans (™). The lights came on and Kanemaru was in the ring beating down Desperado. The ref was nowhere to be seen.

Kanemaru threw Desperado to the outside and continued the assault, and Sho retrieved his trademark wrench. Taguchi to the rescue! Butt-butt for Kanemaru! Another one for Sho! He choked Kanemaru with the wrench, dragging him away from ringside. I guess he put a wrench in House of Torture’s plans.

I am not sorry.

At the ten-minute call, Desperado took Sho’s knee to the corner post on the outside. He rolled Sho back inside, and continued the assault on Sho’s knee. He applied Numero Dos again, but Sho was able to power out and attempted a piledriver. Desperado countered that into a Strong Zero for a near fall. Desperado went for Pinche Loco, Sho blocked it and shoved Desperado into the referee. Low blow! And again Sho pushed Desperado into the ref! Gee, I wonder what could possibly happen next.

Sho went to the outside and grabbed the title belt again, but his attempt to use it was foiled by a straight right hand. Sho grabbed hold of a chair under the ring, and Desperado didn’t see it! Desperado charged for a tope to the floor…OH YIKES the chair shot hit him FLUSH on the head as he flew through the ropes. Sho sat Desperado in a chair and cracked him over the head with a second one. He turned the chair sideways and was going to hit him again, but the ref intervened. Sho shoved the ref away and again threatened to hit Desperado with the edge of the chair, but Desperado punted him in the groin.

Desperado bounced Sho’s head off the seat of the erected chair, then took an almighty home run swing and sent Sho’s head 13 rows back back back back gone. With both men down on the floor, the referee started to count. Desperado got to his feet at nine and rolled under the ropes at 13. At 17, Ren Narita came from under the ring and dragged Desperado out, then clamped on a rear naked choke! The ref continued to count! Sho made it back into the ring, and Narita dragged Desperado under the ring! The ref counted 20, and in New Japan that means a new champion!

WINNER: Sho via countout in 16:00 to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. (***)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: I am torn on this. The finish was somewhat different, and the match itself was pretty darn good. At the end of the day though it’s another HoT cheating extravaganza, this time resulting in a title win. I suppose, if Akira is in line for a title shot, it makes sense to do it against Sho and bring the factions into it. But poor Despy gets the short end of the stick on that.)

(8) EVIL (C) vs. SHOTA UMINO – Never Openweight Championship match

I think Shota had a haircut? It definitely looks like it, and now he looks less like Tanahashi and more like Okada.

Evil spray-painted the belt some more before the bell, leading to Shota charging him and knocking him down. A face-first body slam and basement dropkick sent Evil to the floor. A Dick Togo distraction allowed Evil to clean Shota’s clock with a clothesline, and back to the outside they went. Evil ran Shota into the barricade, wiping out the timekeeper in the process. Evil got on the mic and talked trash, then played to the crowd while Shota rolled back in.

Evil continued to lay a beating on Shota, whipping him into an exposed corner and getting a quartet of two-counts with a series of covers. Evil toyed with Shota, and it cost him as Shota hit a succession of forearms. Evil gouged the eyes and whipped Shota in, but Shota hit a sliding dropkick to Togo on the floor and a traditional one to Evil. A fisherman’s suplex got a near fall. Evil blocked a charge with a boot, then pretended to call for help. Shota turned around to cut off the shenanigans, and got leveled from behind. OK, that was smart.

Evil landed a fisherman’s suplex for a two-count. Shota blocked a fireman’s carry, then caught a charging Evil with a boot. Oh that’s grand, he used Evil’s open “made you look” trick against him and followed up with his slingshot apron DDT. On the outside, Shota stood on Evil’s face as Togo stalked him. He rolled Evil back in and hit a missile basement dropkick (what a weird combination of words), followed by an alarm clock and Ignition for a near fall. Immediately Shota locked in the STFand…the bell rang? Oh of course, it was Yujiro. Evil shoved a distracted Shota into the ref and…you know what time it was. HoT Shenanigans!

Togo and Yujiro beat down Shota, then Evil and Yujiro held him in place for the literal crotch chop. Suddenly a referee came running out, but it was only enough for a two count. Evil remonstrated with the ref while Yujiro came into the ring and hit Pimp Juice. 1…2…no! Evil set for Everything is Evil, but Shota countered into Cross Rhodes!

Both men struggled to their feet. Shota hit a shotgun dropkick, but again Evil pulled the referee into the line of fire. HoT Shenanigans, part three! Togo choked Shota with the garotte, but Shota countered Magic Killer with a mule kick to Togo! Tornado DDT to Evil! Enzuigiri to Yujiro! Popup European uppercut to Togo! Exploder to Yujiro! Half-and-half suplex to Evil! There’s no ref! One comes running but only counts to two.

Evil ducked Blaze Blade, and after a series of blocks and escapes Shota hit Gun Stun for a near fall. Blaze Blade…connected! Death Rider…Evil blocked it and shoved Shota into the exposed corner! HUGE clothesline by Evil at the 15-minute mark. Darkness Falls! 1…2…no! Everything…is…Evil! 1…2…3!

WINNER: Evil via pinfall in 16:00 to retain the Never Openweight Championship. (**3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Another otherwise-good match ruined by ridiculous overbooking. I’m running out of ways to say that House of Torture takes the “you need a villain” concept way too far, and it is frustrating to watch. I guess we have to wait a little longer for one of the Reiwa Musketeers to win singles gold.)

(9) HIROSHI TANAHASHI (C) vs. MATT RIDDLE – NJPW World TV Championship match

This should be interesting. Tanahashi looked to be moving gingerly during his entrance.

Early on both wrestlers backed their opponents to the ropes and gave clean breaks. They each grabbed a handful of hair, and Tanahashi got the upper hand briefly by catching a charging Riddle with a back elbow. Tanahashi went to the middle rope for a crossbody but Riddle rolled through and tried to lock in a cross armbreaker. Tanahashi quickly rolled to the floor for a break.

Tanahashi played some mind games, leading to a slingshot plancha over the top to the floor. He rolled Riddle back inside, slammed him, and went for the middle rope senton. Riddle moved and hit a running flash knee for a near fall. Riddle laid in a series of chops, then took a charging Tanahashi over the top and to the floor with a headscissors in the ropes. Running PK by Riddle! Oh my, a gorgeous corkscrew plancha from the middle rope to the outside by Riddle as we pass five minutes.

Back inside, Riddle hit a running senton and went to the top rope for a corkscrew senton…knees up from Tanahashi! A series of reversals led to Twist and Shout, and a Slingblade follow-up got a two-count. Tanahashi went up top but was intercepted by Riddle who knocked him to the apron. Riddle locked in a waistlock, attempting to bring Tanahashi back in with a German suplex. Tanahashi escaped and wrenched Riddle’s leg with a dragon screw in the ropes.

Again Tanahashi went to the top, and again it backfired as Riddle dropkicked him in the shoulder. Riddle tried for BroStone but Tanahashi countered and they exchanged two-counts from rollups. Both men got to their feet and exchanged strikes, an exchange won by Riddle with a running kick. BroStone…he nailed it! 1…2…3! Wow!!

WINNER: Matt Riddle via pinfall in 9:00 to win the NJPW World TV Championship. (***)
(Lansdell’s analysis: I did not see that finish coming. I didn’t even think this would be the result. I guess Riddle is sticking around, the TV championship is defended regularly. The match was pretty good, nothing spectacular, but non-WWE Riddle certainly seems more entertaining. I’m intrigued to see where this goes.)

(10) DAVID FINLAY (C) vs. NIC NEMETH – IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship match

After Nemeth’s entrance, Gedo came down the ramp alone. We all know what that meant, but apparently Nemeth didn’t and he was blindsided by Finlay. He threw Nemeth to the floor and beat him down, whipping him into the barricade twice. Red Shoes is Not Impressed. Back in the ring, Finlay handed off the title belt to the ref and ran into a superkick for a near fall. On the outside it was Nemeth’s turn to take Finlay to the barricades. He rammed Finlay’s head into the cornerpost, but his follow-up whip was reversed and Nemeth ran into the barricade. Finlay speared him through the gate and then threw him back into the ring.

Finlay covered for a two-count. He whipped Nemeth chest-first into the corner and got only a one-count. Charlton puts over Finlay big time, saying the last images of Jay White and Will Ospreay in NJPW were both laying at the feet of David Finlay. A snap suplex got another one-count for Finlay, who then clamped down with a headlock.

Nemeth battled out of the headlock but ran into a sleeper…which was then turned into a back suplex by Nemeth at the five-minute mark. Nemeth hit a clothesline, a corner splash and a neckbreaker, then dropped a series of elbows ending with a leaping elbow drop for a two-count. That looked very impressive. A running Cactus Jack clothesline took both men over the top to the floor in front of Gedo.

Nemeth aimed a superkick at Finlay, who moved, but Nemeth at least had the satisfaction of kicking the smarmy grin off Gedo’s face. Nemeth superkicked Finlay off the apron, and he landed directly in the groinal region of a most displeased and discomfited Gedo. While the ref tended to Gedo, Finlay waffled the leg of Nemeth with the shillelagh and got a near fall. Finlay went right to work on the knee of Nemeth.

Finlay scooped Nemeth up and slammed him so his leg landed on the bottom rope. Nemeth escaped out the back of a kneebreaker for a rollup for two, then a crucifix for two. Angle Slam by Nemeth! He hit a corner splash, and charged for a second one but Finlay dodged and took the corner pad with him. Nemeth went head-first into the exposed buckle, then Finlay ran him into the post. Irish Curse backbreaker got a two-count for Finlay.

Nemeth countered a powerbomb with a backdrop, but his DDT attempt was blocked and Finlay launched him over the top to the floor. Nemeth landed on his knees, which could not have been a fun time. Nemeth rolled back inside af 19.5 but got no respite as Finlay broke him in half with a spear for a near fall. He followed up with a running Dominator for another near fall, damn near dropping Nemeth on his neck in the process. Finlay applied a figure four, Nemeth eventually managed to roll it over but Finlay rolled it right back again. Nemeth made the ropes as we passed 15 minutes.

Finlay trash-talked Nemeth, who responded by spitting on him. Finlay retaliated with a roaring elbow, and reapplied the figure…small package! 1…2…no! Finlay stemmed the momentary tide with a clothesline. Nemeth escaped a powerbomb and used a pair of boots to repel a charging Finlay. Nemeth tried a superkick but his leg gave out and Finlay capitalised with a powerbomb for a near fall. Finlay laid in some crossface forearms, much to the glee of a recovered Gedo. Finlay went for Into Oblivion, Nemeth escaped out the back and dodged a charging Finlay, who ran into the exposed buckles.

Nemeth took Finlay’s head repeatedly to the exposed buckles, then ran him into the corner. Satellite DDT by Nemeth! Fameasser! 1…2…no! We have had 20 minutes of this match, and both men were struggling to get to their feet. Nemeth tried a powerbomb but Finlay pushed him away. Nemeth looked for the Zig Zag, now called the Danger Zone, but Nemeth held the ropes to block. Into Oblivion out of nowhere! 1…2…no!!! I thought that was it. Both men exchanged strikes from their knees. They battled to their feet, still trading shots. Finlay kicked out the knee of Nemeth and set for Into Oblivion…Nemeth blocked it! Headbutt by Nemeth! Another by Finlay! Superkick by Nemeth! Danger Zone connected! 1…2…3!!! Wow AGAIN!

WINNER: Nick Nemeth via pinfall in 23:00 to win the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship. (***1/2)
(Lansdell’s analysis: Is this 2010 TNA? We’re just putting all the titles on ex-WWE guys on their debuts now? Nemeth did look good and not at all out of place in an NJPW ring, but Finlay was on a roll and for him to lose here makes no sense to me. ZSJ is the likely next challenger for the world title, so where does Finlay go? The match was good, not what we have come to expect from a New Japan main event, but far from bad.)

After the match, Nemeth said that the fans may not know him but they are going to. He said he would defend the title anywhere, any time.

Final thoughts: I don’t get it. At all. Two title changes, neither of which made a lot of sense. I can at least understand Riddle winning, getting the title of Tanahashi so he can focus on being the president of the company. He’s essentially Teflon and can absorb infinite losses. Finlay though? He was riding a wave of massive wins and then loses to a debuting WWE midcard guy. I understand there might be a plan here, but the immediate reaction is one of incredulity. The card needed the last few matches to really deliver, and sadly they were not that memorable. This felt like a card built around two debuting Americans winning titles, and neither won got the response they likely wanted. I have to say I am disappointed here.

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

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