Four Title Matches, special singles clashes in Sapporo 2/4 & 5

Hot fights in frozen Sapporo to kick off February 


February sees the snow pile up in Sapporo, but the action will be hotter than ever. A traditional scene of shocking events and incredible matches, Hokkai Kita Yell sees two nights of the New Beginning the weekend of February 4 and 5, with some massive matchups.

Watch New Beginning LIVE in English on NJPW World!

February 4: Umino vs Naito, Taichi vs Ospreay, IWGP Jr.Tag!

The main event on February 4 will see Shota Umino go head to head with Tetsuya Naito. Once upon a time, Umino was inspired by Naito to get into the wrestling business, but since his return from excursion, Shooter has gotten short shrift from Naito. Umino pledged to open El Ingobernable’s eyes, and did so to an extent at the Tokyo Dome on January 4, picking up the victory over BUSHI in Keiji Muto’s last NJPW match. 

The next night, Umino would be aggressive in pursuing Naito, the two men brawling around ringside after their bout. This issue between the two men would only be resolved with a singles bout; with Naito seeking a spot in the Wrestle Kingdom 18 main event, a win over Umino would be a good start to that campaign, but Umino could instantly catapult himself to the top flight with a victory over Naito.

WIll Ospreay will face hometown boy Taichi in the semi main event on February 4. When this match goes down, it will be one month to the day since an emotional rollercoaster of a bout with Kenny Omega for Will Ospreay. In the aftermath, a broken former champion questioned his motivations, and set himself and NJPW an ultimatum; one year to get where he needs to be. 

The next night though, it was very clear that Omega had gotten into Ospreay’s head. An unstable Ospreay took to Taichi’s ‘Just Four Guys’ faction, and singled out Holy Emperor Taichi for brutal punishment. The furious Ospreay brawled violently with Taichi during and after the match, with this singles conflict now made as a result. Certainly a win over Taichi would be a good first step to get Ospreay back on track, but with Taichi having the home crowd advantage, and a more measured temprament than the hot headed Ospreay, that’s easier said than done.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Catch 2/2 will put their belts on the line as they seek a fourth defence against DOUKI and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Both during the Super Junior Tag League and at new Year Dash, DOUKI has secured victory for he and Kanemaru over the IWGP Jr. Tag Champions, and now a long deserved title match is official. In the hotly contested junior heavyweight tag division, TJP and Francesco Akira could, with a fourth defence tonight, match the memorable reign five years ago for El Desperado and Kanemaru himself. Catch 2/2 are ushering in a modern boom period for junior tag wrestling, and want that to continue in Sapporo.

February 5: Three Championship bouts!

Headlining on night two in Sapporo will be the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship when YOH faces Hiromu Takahashi. 2022 had been a rough period for YOH as he struggled to find himself as a singles competitor. A key part of that journey was a Best of the Super Junior victory over Hiromu, albeit a Hiromu in a weakened state with a bad knee. The win would see YOH turn a corner of sorts, but it was teaming with Lio Rush in the Super Jr. Tag League that saw him really hit his stride. 

Although YOH and Rush would come up just short of converting their Super Jr. Tag victory into the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships, and Rush’s injury at the Tokyo Dome has put paid to that combination for now, YOH was still riding a wave of momentum as he faced and pinned Hiromu during New Year Dash. Now the title is on the line, can he make the most of this opportunity?

The NJPW World TV Championship will be defended for the first time in Sapporo as the first champion Zack Sabre Jr. faces an old enemy in Tomohiro Ishii. Ishii and ZSJ have battled over the British heavyweight Championship in the past, but will now be on the clock as they fight for the TV title. Every NJPW World TV Championship match has a 15 minute time limit, but that shouldn’t be an issue for Ishii, who charged into his British opposition at the highest possible rate of knots when they met at New Year Dash. Yet ishii’s impetuousness could carry a submission price if he makes the slightest error against Sabre in Sapporo.

Looking to make a big weekend for TMDK, Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls will battle Bishamon for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. World Tag League this year almost boiled down to an all Australian affair, but it was Bishamon who defeated haste and Nicholls to instead face Aussie Open in the tournament final; a final which they won and then converted to title success on January 4. Yet the next night, a Tankbuster would see Bishamon beaten in Ota, with TMDK staking a claim for the titles. Last year also saw Bishamon victorious in both World Tag League and the Tokyo Dome, but a brief title reign saw them drop the tag gold after only reaching V1. Can they set the standard for a longer reign in 2023?