The day has finally arrived! After months of build-up, including that surprise appearance on AEW Dynamite, we finally get KENTA taking on Jon Moxley for the IWGP United States Championship. The time for talk is over, but one thing’s for certain: this is going to be brutal!
Let’s get to the ring.
The DKC, Kevin Knight, Clark Connors & TJP vs. Brody King, ACH, Sterling Riegel & Logan RiegelLogan Riegel
Brody King and Boys came ready for action, all arriving at the ring in bad-ass balaclavas. It wasn’t enough to frighten Clark Connors and company, though, as they ran straight to the ring and got in their opponent’s faces. Can’t say the ref appreciated having a balaclava put on his head, though!
There was a nice little story running through the match involving The DKC and Kevin Knight and how, as Young Lions, their lack of experience as compared to their opponents led to a position where they lost the match.
It started with King’s team isolating DKC at first and overwhelming him. As Brody King tagged in, Kevin Knight demanded to be tagged in so he could face off against this monster of a man. Now, this was either bravery or hubris depending on your point of view, but in any case, Knight couldn’t knock King off his feet, while a single strike from King sent Knight straight down to the canvas. Knight was then subjected to a precise dismantling by his opponents, suggesting he had been rash to went to get in and face off with Brody King.
Eventually, Knight made the hot tag to Clark Connors, who erupted with his typical intensity. I do love Connors, and his spear on ACH, setting up a TJP frog splash, was a thing of beauty. King ran in to break up the pin and Knight finally got his moment of redemption, dropkicking King off his feet and out of the ring. This led to DKC being left alone in the ring with ACH. DKC countered one brainbuster attempt with a roll-up, but ACH proved he knew how to counter more effectively, holding on to the ropes to avoid a dropkick, then following up with a superkick and finally the brain buster for the win. Experience triumphs.
A really good opener with a great little story to tell. Check it out!
Ren Narita vs. Chris Dickinson
This was a war, plain and simple. Anytime you’ve got Chris Dickinson in the ring, you’re guaranteed intensity. Check out his Bloodsport fights for example. But Ren Narita brought the heat too, matching Dickinson forearm for forearm and palm strike for palm strike. And believe me, they were throwing those strikes HARD! Not only that, the pair worked expertly on the mat, tying each other up in human knots that were painful to watch (I can only begin to imagine how they felt!)
While on paper you might have expected Dickinson to win, Narita was not in the mood to be denied leading to what can only be described as a massive upset. Narita would not break when he was striking Dickinson silly in the corner, pushing the ref away in a display of hostile attitude. After surviving a Dickinson death valley driver, Narita was able to mount Dickinson and launched a series of vile palm strikes to the Deadly Daddy’s skull before locking in a nasty Texas Cloverleaf for the shock submission victory!
Narita continued to stare daggers through the downed Dickinson afterward, refusing to let the ref raise his hand. This guy is not messing around. Meanwhile, Dickinson sold the loss brilliantly, staggering away from the ring and looking like he was completely shellshocked.
If, for whatever reason, you have been dismissive of New Japan Strong, watch this match. It will change your mind.
IWGP U.S. Champion Jon Moxley vs. KENTA
No turning back, gentlemen: this is IT! And it did ultimately have the big fight feel you’d hope for as the ref held the US title aloft, each man staring the other out. I often find an unmotivated KENTA is a slow one, dragging himself through his matches a little bit. There was none of that here, as the challenger roared straight out the blocks to attack Moxley and kept up a fast, determined pace throughout, selling the importance of the match and the title at stake.
Moxley tried to take it to the outside, which backfired on him at first; KENTA was able to counter a suplex to the floor with one of his own (as Moxley yelled in pain, I did think for a moment, ‘How are you going to deal with exploding barbed wire??). Moments later, a DDT to the champ onto KENTA’s red briefcase did a wealth of damage.
Frustratingly for KENTA, he couldn’t nail Go To Sleep, and on the second attempt, Mox escaped and sent the challenger to the outside, following up with a big tope suicida and a jumping knee from the entrance stage. Mox’s inclination to violence, however, backfired when he was thrown onto a table he had pulled out from under the ring and smashed through it with a big elbow drop.
Back in the ring, KENTA immediately kept the pressure on the champ, using his speed to nail some big running kicks on Mox in the corner. A Game Over submission attempt was countered into a bulldog choke, but KENTA was able to counter once more back into the Game Over, and only Mox reaching the ropes prevented the title change many were anticipating.
That title change was not forthcoming, however. Mox made a comeback with a big lariat and was able to land a DDT for a two count. In response, KENTA gave Mox two middle fingers, which only infuriated Mox more. A quick Death Rider later and the champ retained! Surprising? To a number of fans, certainly. I did suspect Mox might retain. How better to cement further relations between AEW and New Japan than keeping Moxley as the champion?
In any case, this was a tight, constantly entertaining encounter. Did it live up to the hype? No, but then it possibly never could. The match actually reminded me of an Attitude-era style main event to a point, but modern—no bad thing indeed. If it had taken place in front of a live audience on pay-per-view, it might have been different. What we got, however, was completely compelling and did justice to the talents of the competitors involved. That will do for me.
The New Beginning USA was a consistent and completely entertaining hour of a wrestling TV special. The tag team opener was entertaining and told a good story; Dickinson and Rinata slapped each other silly in a Strong-Style fight that saw a shock win and possibly a new star made, and Moxley and KENTA finally met in the ring and put on a fun, high-stakes brawl that saw the question of whether KENTA would overcome and take the title finally answered.