The New Japan Cup is over for another year and while there were some questionable booking decisions – the inclusion of Guerrillas of Destiny being one of them – it got past its shaky start and ended on a high. It’s set New Japan up nicely for Sakura Genesis and given us a title match that you won’t want to miss. With all that in mind, here are five things we picked up on during the tournament.
Stars Taking The Fall
The first round of the New Japan Cup didn’t quite go to plan. Omega going out to Ishii was arguably the biggest upset, but it wasn’t alone. The Ace Tanahashi continued his uninspiring start to the year with a defeat to Evil, and Bad Luck Fale proved that New Japan wasn’t booking for match quality when he took out Elgin. It was a shocking start to proceedings and left many people wondering where they were going to go from there.
Ishii may have dropped out of the Cup at the semi-finals, but he still made the biggest impact. The three matches he had can make a strong case for being the three best of the tournament, and he showed exactly how wasted he has been in his oddball tag-team with Yano. It may take two to tango – and Ishii had great dance partners in Omega, Sanada and Shibata – but he was the common link, and we can only hope this run sees his 2017 begin to pick up steam.
Omega On A Slump?
Omega’s first round defeat to Ishii was a shocking moment. It seemed almost universally accepted that he would be winning this tournament and using it to claim the rematch with Okada that we are all desperate to watch. It meant him dropping out at the first hurdle was the last thing we expected. However, it potentially opens up an interesting story. For all his brilliance, Omega is now 0-2 in singles matches for New Japan this year and has failed time after time to hit the One Winged Angel. I can only assume this is something New Japan intends to play off of and I can’t wait to discover what they have planned for The Cleaner next.
Shibata Gets His Shot
Katsuyori Shibata rarely puts a foot wrong in a wrestling ring. The man’s matches are routinely excellent, and his stiff style is a joy to watch. And yet, he’s never held the big one in New Japan. In fact, he’s rarely been in the conversation. Until now. Shibata winning the New Japan Cup is an interesting choice. There is little doubt that he and Okada will go out there and tear the house down but the question has to be asked; is there any chance he’ll win? Whatever happens, this victory showed that Shibata is seen as one of New Japan’s top guys and it’s a role he’s earned.
Los Igobernables De Japon may not have had a representative in the final of the New Japan Cup, but they stood out all the same. Both Evil and Sanada had impressive runs that saw them make a statement even in defeat. Evil’s win over Tanahashi has to go down as the biggest of his career. His match against Nagata won’t live long in the memory but his antics ridden encounter with Fale was good fun. Meanwhile, Sanada started solidly against Yoshi-Hashi but came alive in the second round during a fantastic battle with Ishii. It’s clear LIJ are a huge part of New Japan’s plans going forward, and these matches showed that Evil and Sanada are ready to step up and be the guys behind Naito in that run.