Welcome to this month’s installment of BRM’s Monthly “This Day In Wrestling History” Review Series. This month, we tackle the final major non-Lucha promotion that we haven’t yet tackled: New Japan Pro Wrestling. And what better way to begin watching New Japan than with the beginning of the Okada era at the appropriately-named The New Beginning 2012?
KING FALE & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Yujiro Takahashi) - 5.25/10
Holy sh*t is Fale small here! And oh my G-d he’s is doing mat-work. Equally shockingly, Yujiro is wearing a Tokyo Pimps t-shirt. How long has he been doing this gimmick for? I don’t remember it starting until he joined Bullet Club.
They did their stuff. Yujiro pinned Fale with a roll-up after a low blow.
JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER, CAPTAIN NEW JAPAN, & TAMA TONGA vs. CHAOS (Takashi Iizuka, Toru Yano, & Tomohiro Ishii) - 3.5/10
That silver Liger outfit is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It looks like something John Pertwee would have to deal with on Dr. Who.
Suzuki-Gun jumped he bell on their opponents. People fought in the crowd and used weapons and the referee did nothing. Ishii went for Liger’s mask because cheap heat. This was… less bad than I was expecting, considering who was involved (Yano, Iizuka, CNJ, pre-Gun Stun Tama Tonga) and its place on the card, but that’s not saying much. CNJ accidentally splashed Tama Tonga, allowing Yano to pin Tama Tonga after a powerbomb.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Apollo 55 (c) vs. No Remorse Corps. (Davey Richards & Rocky Romero) - 8.75/10
How have I never seen this match before? This started out with solid back-and-forth stuff, and built beautifully into about five fantastic minutes of nearfalls at the end. This match was an absolute treat. Pre-heel turn Devitt, pre-clown Taguchi, Davey Richards before he went all… Davey Richards? I might well seek out all of the other matches from this feud.
10-MAN ELIMINATION TAG TEAM MATCH: KUSHIDA, TIGER MASK IV, TOGI MAKABE, & SEIGIGUN (Yuji Nagata & Wataru Inoue) vs. YOSHIHIRO TAKAYAMA & SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, TAKA Michinoku, & Taichi) - 6.5/10
The story of this match is that Lance Archer is a beastly monster, getting the first three eliminations. Makabe got things almost back to being tied up, but then Nagata was eliminated by Suzuki after a long battle, leaving Makabe alone against Suzuki, Archer, and Takayama. They triple-teamed him and Suzuki eventually pinned him after a Gotch Piledriver.
IWGP TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Ten-Koji(c) vs. Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson) - 8/10
Bad Intentions obliterated poor Tenzan’s chest with those elbow drops and knee drops. That looked awesome. Then Anderson himself singlehandedly ruined Kojima’s knee with knee-drops. Where did this Karl Anderson go? He’s much better than the goof we’ve seen over the past five years in ROH, WWE, and TNA.
This match was awesome because these two teams are really awesome. This was a hard-hitting match with an excellent pace. Not too fast, and not too slow. Just right.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Masato Tanaka(c) vs. Hirooki Goto - 8 /10
Yujiro attacked Goto in front of the referee and there was no DQ. This happened several times over the course of the match, and Red Shoes didn’t even do so much as eject him. Most of the heat stemmed from Yujiro interfering. The comeback started with the usual “the heel takes the babyface lightly and the babyface fires up.” The last five minutes or so were incredible, but so much of what came before felt painfully wrote. It might not have been at the time, but watching this now in 2021, I’ve seen WAY too many New Japan matches with that pattern (and that disregard for the rules).
Yujiro challenged Goto after the match.
SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. TETSUYA NAITO - 8/10
The story here is best described as Naito deciding that he wasn’t going to take any of Nakamura’s bullsh*t, and Nakamura not liking that, so he kept upping the viciousness of his bullsh*t, going from little paint-brushes to full-force kicks to the face by the end, but always with the dickhead Shinsuke flair to them. Naito was an excellent babyface here, and I don’t understand why the fans didn’t take him later in the year. The last few minutes were particularly great, and Naito finally Nakamura felt like a big deal for him.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Hiroshi Tanahashi(c) vs. Kazuchika Okada (w/Gedo) - 8.5/10
This half-purple, half-blond thing Okada has going on is terrible. Just as terrible as the way the count-out rule was abused in this match. That out of the way, this was an interesting match to watch. Obviously it’s a huge moment in New Japan history and the shock at the title change is one of the closest things we’ll probably ever see in the modern era to Bruno losing the title to Koloff, but seeing the standard Tanahashi pattern blended with an opponent who was actually trying to be a heel, but not in an over the top Suzuki-Gun or Bullet Club all cheating, all the time way) was a good reminder of why the Tanahashi formula actually worked. In one of those happy accidents of wrestling Okada kicking Tanahashi’s teeth out gave the match an air of viciousness that helped elevate it to the next level.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Naito wants a title shot. The youth movement appears to be in full swing.
This was an awesome show from New Japan, and a major one in their history. Okada and Naito’s rises both took major steps here, making this arguably the beginning of the modern era of New Japan. There are certainly counter-arguments to that as well, (Naito not reaching the form in which he fully got over, CHAOS still being heels, the lack of Bullet Club, guys like Giant Bernard and Davey Richards still being around), but at the very least, this was a big moment of transition towards that era.
Next month is our anniversary and I like to stick to that theme when possible. I have, however, also been inspired by this show’s “new beginning” to do something we’ve never done before in this column. Tune in next month to find out what that is.