NJPW announced the cards for their New Beginning in USA house show tour on the evening on January 23, and they feature LA Dojo trainees, a championship match, and a lot of talent from Ring of Honor. About ten hours later, the company responded to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the cards, including on Twitter and in the comments on their website, with a statement that said “that due to the ongoing 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, we were unable to obtain visas for our Japanese talent who were looking forward to seeing our US fans at the New Beginning in USA.”
The tour was first announced in December 2018 as a tour to “give an opportunity for more fans in the US to come see the New Japan matches in person” because the company believes “that New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s draw is in the ring.” Two dates, January 30 in Los Angeles and February 1 in Charlotte, North Carolina, were initially announced, with a third in Nashville, Tenessee announced after the first two shows had already sold out. The initial announcement clarified that the New Beginning in USA tour would overlap with the New Beginning in Sapporo shows on February 2–3, and “wrestlers who are not part of the Japan matches will be heading out to the US matches.” Tickets to each of the three shows cost between $30 and $100.
Though many big name NJPW wrestlers were already booked on the New Beginning shows in Japan at the same time as the New Beginning in USA tour, there was Japanese talent not yet on the NJPW schedule on these dates. Specifically, the ongoing Hirooki Goto-Jeff Cobb and Tomohiro Ishii-Yuji Nagata feuds and the fact that none of these men were already on the New Beginning tour led to some fans expecting to see these matches and/or wrestlers between January 30-February 2 in the U.S. However, the announcement of the cards revealed that the only wrestler from Japan on these shows is the Great-O-Kharn (fka Tomoyuki Oka, who has been on excursion in RevPro in the UK.) An NJPW source told UPROXX that performers from Japan getting their visas blocked led to last-minute changes to the card, but not confirm why this had happened.
Response to the cards, which ended up heavily featuring wrestlers from Ring of Honor not known for work associated with NJPW, included fans calling them as ROH shows rather than New Japan shows and pointing out the lack of talent from Japan involved. The morning of January 24, a statement released by NJPW addressed the backlash to the lineups. The company’s full statement is below:
It is with great disappointment that we must announce that due to the ongoing 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, we were unable to obtain visas for our Japanese talent who were looking forward to seeing our US fans at the New Beginning in USA.
We are excited to still be able to share a great line-up with our US fans, regardless of visa issues. The IWGP US Champion, Juice Robinson, is defending his title against Barretta and The Great O-Kharn, who is flying in from England, will be debuting in New Japan! What’s more, this show will highlight the talent and potential of our Young Lions, who have been working hard in the NJPW LA dojo. We are looking forward to being able to celebrate the abilities of the exciting new generation of young NJPW wrestlers.
The latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, using information obtained hours before the card announcement or the company’s statement, reports, in an excerpt you can read here, that the reason the cards were announced so close to the dates of the New Beginning in USA shows is because NJPW has a policy “where they want the advertised lineup to take place exactly.” WON reports that wrestlers including Ishii, Nagata, and Goto were supposed to be on this tour, but “a number of visas were applied for in November with the idea they’d be taken care of by December and the cards could be announced after [New Year Dash!! on January 5.]” The United States government shutdown, which began on December 22, is also cited as the cause of the visa issues.
The first night of the tour in Los Angeles currently consists of the following seven matches:
- an opener between LA Dojo trainees Alex Coughlin and Clark Connors
- ROH and independent star Jonathan Greshman vs. Tyler Bateman (who also wrestled at the opening of the LA Dojo)
- Colt Cabana vs. Shane Taylor
- Villian Enterprises (Brody King and Marty Scurll) vs. Killer Elite Squad
- Jeff Cobb vs. LA Dojo trainee Karl Fredericks
- David Finlay vs. Chuckie T
- Tracy Williams vs. Juice Robinson (stablemates in ROH’s new Lifeblood) vs. the reunited Roppongi Vice (Beretta and Rocky Romero)
The Charlotte show card includes a title match that’s been set up on NJPW and ROH programming as its main event, with a full card of:
- Karl Fredericks vs. Clark Connors, both LA dojo trainees
- John Skyler and Colt Cabana vs. Shane Taylor and Lance Archer
- Tracer X vs. Great-O-Kharn
- Jonathan Gresham and Jeff Cobb vs. Brody King and Marty Scurll
- Alex Coughlin vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.
- Tracy Williams and David Finlay vs. Rocky Romero and Jeff Cobb
- IWGP United States Championship match: Juice Robinson (c) vs. Beretta
The Nashville show closes out the tour with:
- Karl Fredericks vs. Alex Coughlin
- Jonathan Gresham and Colt Cabana vs. Shane Taylor and Lance Archer
- Harlem Bravado (of the Bravado Brothers) vs. Great-O-Kharn
- Clark Connors vs. Marty Scurll
- Jeff Cobb vs. Brody King
- Tracy Williams, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson vs. Beretta, Chuckie T, and Rocky Romero in a Chaos vs. Lifeblood Elimination match