New Beginning in Osaka (February 11) Preview

Loaded lineup ends the New Beginning series


Hot vocal crowds have seen an explosive New Beginning tour over the past month. The series comes to an end on February 11 with a loaded card in Osaka’s EDION Arena seeing title matches and deeply personal grudge bouts.

Watch New Beginning in Osaka live in English on NJPW World!

Main event: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship- Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi

Singles record: 2-2

 The IWGP World Heavyweight Championship is on the line in our main event, as Kazuchika Okada looks to make the first defence of his second reign against Shingo Takagi. After Okada recaptured the IWGP World title from jay White at the Tokyo Dome on January 4, it didn’t take long for him to be confronted byTakagi. The Dragon would comment that it had been a long year since he lost the world championship to the Rainmaker on January 4 2022, and while he had put together a more than impressive resume with the KOPW title, it was the biggest prize that he wanted alongside his freshly accrued KOPW 2023 belt. 

2-2 against Takagi, Okada was more than ready to take on the challenge of Takagi, only requesting that this not be a double title encounter, and not be contested under any stipulation, stating in Nagoya to start the tour that IWGP World Heavyweight Championship encounters should be ’60 minutes, one on one, wrestling as it should be’. Indeed, the Rainmaker has seemed excited to contend with Shingo after a controversial continuation to his year in Yokohama Arena opposite Kaito Kiyomiya of NOAH, stating ‘finally we can get to actual professional wrestling’. 

It’s a hard ask for both men in the month of February. After this EDION meeting, the champion must face another title match against a contender to be determined, at Battle in the Valley on February 18. Yet both men will graciously accept the heavy workload. Indeed, Shingo has had his own tough mountain to climb already in 2023, going from winning KOPW 2023 and becoming the blue belt’s first holder of the year, to retaining gaainst Great-O-Khan in a martial arts match, and with a physical battle against Katsuhiko Nakajima in the interim. Yet winning is contagious, and Shingo, having beaten Okada twice when he was dealing with nagging injuries and the remnants of illness, wants to mainta8n his momentum to beat the Rianmaker while the champion is at 110% for the first time. Will the Dragon reign again, or will Okada get to V1?

7th Match: NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga vs El Phantasmo

The NEVBER Openweight Championship is on the line on February 11 when Tama Tonga defends against El Phantasmo. Just under one year ago, Tama Tonga’s expulsion from BULLET CLUB in Japan was sealed by an ELP Sudden Death, as Phantasmo ensured that his wagon remained firmly hitched to Switchblade Jay White. 11 months on, and either Jay White’s power as the Catalyst of Professional Wrestling will be stronger than ever, or ELP will be heading into this bout with the shape of BULLET CLUB permanently changed depending on how the last match went. Meanwhile the champion will have to put joy at younger brother Hikuleo’s success or concern for his future outside Japan to the back of his mind as he defends the NEVER gold. 

The NEVER Openweight Champion was Tama’s first singles championship of his NJPW career- a very long time in the making, but with a reign cut very short by Karl Anderson. After a long chase, Tonga was able to begin his second reign, but can he extend to V1 this time, or will Phantasmo ensure that this title run is yet another brief one? 

6th Match: Loser Leaves Japan- Jay White vs Hikuleo

Singles record:1-0 White


Jay White and Hikuleo will collide in a bout where the loser must never again compete in Japan. When Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa were expelled from BULLET CLUB in 2022, the rest of the faction was left with a choice to make. Their allegiances tested, it was only Jado who stayed with his G.o.D charges, with even Hikuleo staying with the Switchblade. Tensions still ran high, leading to a heated bout on NJPW STRONG, but White left their singles encounter feeling as if he had Hikuleo under his influence for a good long time to come.

That turned out not to be the case, as September saw Hikuleo refuse to join a White attack on Tama Tonga, instead serving up the then IWGP World Heavyweight Champion for a Gunstun. ‘You hurt me,’ would be the words from Jay White backstage after the encounter, and when the self proclaimed Catalyst of Professional Wrestling lost to Kazuchika Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 17, he blamed the young giant for being the first domino to fall in his empire.

Insisting that Hikuleo had cost him his ‘moment’ in the Tokyo Dome, Jay White promised to rob Hikuleo of all his future glories. Just as the big man had resumed his Japanese career after American and UK excursions, White has vowed to bring his Japanese career to an end. Hikuleo’s family legacy in Japan is rich, and much has been left undone, but is this too tough a mountain to climb for the young prospect? Or could the Switchblade’s rash and emotional challenge end up costing him everything?

5th Match: NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team Championships- Ren Narita, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado vs HOUSE OF TORTURE (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO)

One of the themes of the New Beginning tour has arisen from Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado’s play to recruit Ren Narita to their cause in a bid to take down HOUSE OF TORTURE. While Suzuki-Gun disbanded at the end of 2022, Suzuki himself and El Desperado have remained allies, and see huge potential in the Son of Strong Style. In particular, the King has made a specific appeal to mentor Narita, stating that he has all the essence of Strong Style that Narita seeks to represent. 

Being on the receiving end of a fair share of Suzuki beatings as a Young Lion, Narita debated whether to trust the veteran all on the backdrop of Suzuki suggesting the three challenge for the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag team Championships held by HOUSE OF TORTURE. While EVIL, SHO and Yujiro Takahashi insisted that the titles had been ‘retired’, they kept up their characteristically despicable in ring tactics, while Narita was unwilling to tag with his prospective new partners. 

That all changed on February 5 when Narita came to the aid of Suzuki, and shook hands with both the King and Desperado post match. Now officially on the same page, they again demanded a title shot, and despite H.O.T’s protestations, that’s exactly what they’ll get.

4th Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs KENTA

Singles record: 4-3 KENTA

Special singles match action sees Hiroshi Tanahashi go up against KENTA. This their eighth singles encounter, the two have been tied together since Tanahashi was KENTA’s first NJPW singles opponent in Japan during the 2019 G1 Climax. The frosty reaction KENTA received that night in Ota would set him on a path toward BULLET CLUB, and sparked an often violent rivalry between the two men. A 4-3 record for KENTA is underscored with a 2-0 record in the town of Osaka, but is belied by the fact their last meeting, in a Wrestle Kingdom 16 streetfight, put KENTA on the shelf with an absolute litany of injuries.

KENTA’s 2023 is looking up, as he is one week away from meeting Fred Rosser for the STRONG Openweight Championship at Battle in the Valley. A win tonight will set him up ‘strong’ for San Jose, but Tanahashi is looking to craft his own narrative for 2023, and scoring his first Osaka win over his rival could set up the Ace for big things down the line.

3rd Match: Master Wato vs Taiji Ishimori

Singles record: 2-1 Ishimori

With the All Star Jr. Festival fast approaching on March 1, competition in the junior heavyweight space is growing ever hotter. After Hiromu Takahashi and YOH’s championship clash on February 5 in Sapporo, this singles bout could well be key in determining the next challenger for the gold. Considerable pride is also on the line; Ishimori blames the fact that he is no longer IWGP junior champion on his loss to Wato in Ryogoku back in October, a loss that sparked a series of events that culminated in Hiromu’s four way victory back at Wrestle Kingdom. Yet Wato never got his one on one championship opportunity after that Ryogoku victory, and will be looking to earn himself that shot tonight.

 2nd Match: Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma & Shota Umino vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & SANADA)

A week after Shota Umino’s collision with Tetsuya Naito in Sapporo, he leads a team of four against LIJ in Osaka. What fallout will be in the air from the prior weekend’s singles battle? 

1st Match: Oskar Leube & Toru Yano vs United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare)

United Empire kick off against Oskar Leube and Toru Yano. Henare will be fresh off his battles in Sydney and Melbourne for NJPW TAMASHII, while O-Khan is looking to roar back from a KOPW 2023 loss that started this tour. Can Yano and Leube find an answer?