Three championship matches in Hokkaido February 5
The second night of our double header in Hokkai Kita-Yell will see the NJPW World TV, IWGP Tag and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships on the line, with hot action coming to the frozen climes of Sapporo.
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Main event: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship- Hiromu Takahashi vs YOH
Singles record: 3-1 Hiromu
YOH challenges IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi in our main event. With YOH being a Dojo generation removed from Hiromu, the two are well familiar with one another, that familiarity highlighted by brutal chop fests in YOH’s immediate return from excursion alongside then partner SHO in tag action, and then in the longest Best of the Super Jr. final in history in December 2021.
Yet the YOH that stands opposite Hiromu is a different man to the one the champion has faced in the past. Transformed by his recent partnership with Lio Rush, YOH is finally wrestling with a confident aggression hitherto unseen, even when YOH did log his first singles victory over the Time Bomb during last year’s BOSJ tournament. That night, Hiromu was dealing with the effects of a hurt knee, and will be heading to Sapporo at 100%, but YOH knows he can beat Hiromu (he’s even had Ryusuke Taguchi’s ultimate strategy guide to hand of late to help him do it), and he’s helped by Hiromu’s hectic schedule.
Over less than a one month span, Hiromu will go from YOH, to battling GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion AMAKUSA at Keiji Muto’s retirement event in Tokyo Dome, to being a key figure in March 1’s All Star Jr. Festival 2023. With a lot weighing on the mind of the champion, the timing is arguably the best it could be for the CHAOS challenger- could he finally secure his first career singles gold?
7th Match: NJPW World TV Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii
Singles record: 3-3
The first defence of the new NJPW World Television Championship will see Tomohiro Ishii challenge the first champion Zack Sabre Jr. The NJPW World TV title sees matches play out with a 15 minute time limit, encouraging high speed and intense offence. Not to say that Ishii and ZSJ need the encouragement. The two first collided in the tournament to crown the first IWGP United States Champion back in 2017, and every single battle since has been impactful and full throttle in its approach. With wild brawls before, during and after the bell in their meetings on the road to Sapporo, this will be no different; but after finally having secured his first singles title in NJPW, can he extend his reign through its first defence?
6th Match: IWGP Tag Team Championships: Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls)
Tag record: 1-0 Bishamon
Bishamon picked up the double double at Wrestle Kingdom 17, converting their second straight World Tag League trophies into the IWGP Tag Team Championships. Now in their first defence of their second reign, they face Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls of TMDK. The Australian duo were the last obstacles for Bishamon en route to the World Tag League finals in December, and both the Haste and Nicholls combo and Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis of Aussie Open were chagrined at not having an all Australian WTL final match. Now Mad Mikey and Hysterical Shane have the chance to make good on national pride by instead being the first Australian IWGP Tag Team Champions.
5th Match: Ryusuke Tagucghi, Shota Umino, Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA & BUSHI)
A championship preview of Shingo Takagi vs Kazuchika Okada next week in Osaka sees eight man action in Sapporo. We will be less than 24 hours removed from Shota Umino and Tetsuya Naito’s night one collision to boot, making for a heated set of exchanges to come.
4th Match: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga, Hikuleo & Jado) vs BULLET CLUB (Jay White, El Phantasmo & Gedo)
A six man preview of February 11 in Osaka sees the Guerrillas of Destiny face Jay White, El Phantasmo and Gedo of BULLET CLUB. ELP finally gets his hands on NEVER Openweight Champion Tama Tonga this weekend and will be looking to state his championship case, while Hikuleo and Jay White are getting ready for their Loser Leaves Japan match next week. Adding to the tense atmosphere, long time partners and former friends Jado and Gedo have each tried to raise stakes when it comes to their charge’s matches; Gedo has demanded that Jado leave should Hikuleo lose on February 11, while Jado fired back that Gedo would be nowhere without Jay White and should also be packing his bags.
3rd Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Master Wato vs BULLET CLUB (KENTA & Taiji Ishimori)
With a wave of big championship action coming up in both Sapporo and Osaka in the coming days, there should also be attention paid to the non title special singles matches both on February 4 and February 11. With there still being time between New Beginning and New Japan Cup tours, there’s every chance that championship opportunity could come knocking for any winners of non title action, including Master Wato’s bout with Taiji Ishimori and KENTA versus Hiroshi Tanahashi on February 11. Don’t take your eyes off what could be a key preview tonight.
2nd Match: Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Ren Narita & Yuto Nakashima vs HOUSE OF TORTURE (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, SHO & Dick Togo)
Ren Narita might still be having trust issues with Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado, but things are much more clear when it comes to their opponents tonight. HOUSE OF TORTURE are never to be trusted, especially with the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag team Championships. SHO, Yujiro and EVIL are insisting that they’ve ‘retired’ the titles, almost certainly in a bid not to face the King, and his prospective new partners. Their hands may be forced tonight in our second bout.
1st Match: United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, TJP & Francesco Akira) vs Just Four Guys (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI & TAKA Michinoku)
Starting the night’s action, United Empire go up against just Four Guys. In this eight man match, sparks are sure to fly, after last night’s IWGP Jr. Tag Championship bout, and Taichi and Will Ospreay’s grudge match with Taichi- don’t miss a second!