Day three of the New Japan Cup and on paper, tonight’s matches look like the most exciting so far. Even the one that has YOSHI-HASHI in it has a certain Kota Ibushi to make up for his lack of charisma. Throw in Zack Sabre Jr’s war against Naito’s hat, and we’re onto a winner. Let’s dish out some stars.
Yuji Nagata and Tomoyuki Oka defeated Tetsuhiro Yagi and Ren Narita
Yagi was brave enough to get in the ring with Nagata today, and while he received a bit of a kicking, he actually brought the fight to his teacher. That’s a little thing called progress.
If you’ve read any of my NJPW reviews before, you’ll know I love a Young Lion run-out. Watching these young men develop is a constant source of pleasure, particularly when they’re as talented as this group. Narita and Yagi are at the point where they’re beginning to find their personalities, and I’m intrigued as to where they both go.
It’s a stage that Oka has faltered at. In between the ropes, he’s as reliable as anyone and having dropped a lot of weight in the last few months he looks less like a budget Nakanishi. However, there is yet to be a connection with the fans. Hopefully, the aggressive way that he locked in the Crab to finish off the match is the start of him finding that spark.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
El Desperado defeated Shota Umino
Poor Shota, being sacrificed to satisfy Despy’s need for pain can’t be fun.
Umino is at the head of this pack of cubs as he’s been granted the right to grow a bad haircut and wear a knee pad. Lucky wee bugger. He’s also proven himself competent in the ring, as he starts to develop a fun Junior style move-set.
A move-set that Desperado didn’t want to see. He was much more interested in ripping up the poor lad’s knee. Umino might have regretted his knee pad as Desperado viewed it as a target.
When Umino got on the attack, he used his minutes well. He took flight with a missile dropkick from the second rope and even locked in an armbar, forcing El Desperado into a rope break. Sadly for him, he wasn’t able to do the same thing when Despy got him in the Stretch Muffler.
If like me, you enjoy a Young Lion match then this is unmissable. In ten years, when Shota is an established star, we’ll be looking back on it and smiling at the young talent that he was.
Verdict: Three Stars
The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, Tonga Loa and Chase Owens) defeated Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Toa Henare and a piece of shit
How do you put me off a match involving four of my favourite undercard wrestlers? Well, you put them in there with a piece of shit.
I adore Chase, Juice, Henare and Finlay. I hate Elgin. This time, hate wins.
Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto and Toru Yano) defeated Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Archer’s entrance seems to simultaneously delight and terrify the Japanese fans.
We got a lot of underdog Tomohiro Ishii here. It shouldn’t be possible for a man who looks like a bowling ball and hits like a sledgehammer to play the babyface in peril that effectively. Yet, he’s one of the very best at it. Audiences buy into his plight and roar in delight when he fights out.
Apart from that, it was a pretty uneventful showing. Archer and Smith do nothing for me. I’m kind of dreading Davey Boy vs Yano. It has the potential to be a proper stinker.
Verdict: Two Stars
Suzuki-gun (Taichi and Takashi Iizuka) defeated Rysuke Taguchi and Hiroshi Tanahashi
Oh look, Iizuka is biting Taguchi on the arse. While I don’t kink-shame, the spot wasn’t funny the first time they did it, and that feels like a long time ago.
I know some people involved weren’t Iizuka, but between that and his giant paper mache claw being used in the finish, I found it hard to care. He’s not fun to watch.
Verdict: One And A Half Stars
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Chuck Taylor) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi and Sanada)
Between his urge to kiss Sanada and his excitement at teaming up with Little Kazu, it was a big day for Chuckie T. He should injure Greg more often.
Despite all that, it was a pretty uneventful outing. Chuck took the heat section, before Okada came in and cleaned house, eventually tapping Bushi out with the Cobra Clutch. Taylor and Sanada did have a couple of decent interactions, but there wasn’t enough to get a feel for their chemistry.
It was a good tag match, certainly better than the two that came before, and I still get a kick out of seeing Taylor in the NJPW ring. However, if you’re in a rush, you can skip on by.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Kota Ibushi defeated YOSHI-HASHI
Talking about being happy to see people. The day I’m not delighted to see Kota Ibushi is the day I dig my grave.
These two kicked things off quite slowly. YOSHI had his shoulder strapped up which gave Kota a target to aim for. Working on it when they hit the mat and kicking it whenever he got a chance.
It was only when Kota flipped out of a Headhunter attempt that we really took off, though. After an awkward suplex on the apron, they vanished into the crowd. Well, right up until Ibushi found something to moonsault off. Then it became clear where they were.
As they made their way back to the ring, someone must have said something nasty because things suddenly got personal. The two of them proceeded to slap and kick the shit out of each other, each blow harder than the last.
Perhaps Ibushi slapped YOSHI-HASHI a bit too hard. Because he suddenly came alive. Out of nowhere, he started ramping through his move-set, coming up with a variety of inventive ways to try and floor the Golden Star. There was a Canadian Destroyer, multiple suplexes and a Running Powerbomb. Yet, it didn’t matter what he did, Ibushi wouldn’t quit. Whether it was the roar of the fans or his pigheadedness, something kept him alive. As HASHI battled to hit Karma, Ibushi was able to dig deep and find the strength to escape. That set off a fantastic final sequence of counters which ended with the Straitjacket Suplex into the Kamagaya (which is a beautiful combination).
I give YOSHI-HASHI a lot of stick, and the truth is that I’m often harsh on him. On the big stage, he always delivers. He went out there and threw everything he had at Kota Ibushi, convincing the fans that he had a chance to win it. He’s had a lot of high-profile singles encounters recently, and this was the best one yet.
As for Ibushi, what more needs to be said? He’s magical. The world is too cruel a place for him and how he ended up being someone who gets dropped on his head for a living is perplexing. Let’s just be thankful he did.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Zack Sabre Jr defeated Tetsuya Naito
Over the course of the tour, Zack and the other members of Suzuki-gun have been focusing on the shoulder of Naito. It should be no surprise then to know that the early story of the match was Zack doing what he does best. Grinding and tearing away at that same shoulder, doing everything he could to cause Naito horrible amounts of pain.
Unluckily for Naito, he achieved that goal. Every time it looked like he was going to build up a head of steam, Zack was there to cut him off. He was able to grab an arm or a leg and get back to twisting it. The leader of LIJ is one of the best in the world and Sabre’s unique offence was enough to take him off his game.
As they progressed, Zack even swapped focus. That shoulder was banged up, and Naito began to protect it, so Zack moved onto the leg, moving closer and closer to getting that submission. Naito tried his bloody best but when he went for Destino Zack was able to slip out and lock in the horrific looking stretch that he calls Orienteering With Napalm Death. There was no escape, Naito had to tap.
The first big upset of the tournament and, in hindsight, the second Ibushi won his match it was an obvious move. New Japan wouldn’t waste Ibushi vs Naito in the second round of the New Japan Cup. Plus, the beauty of Sabre is that there is never any shame in losing to him. He picks on injuries and makes it ten times worse. If he’s softened you up, tapping out to his variety of holds is almost inevitable.
Hopefully, this is the start of a push for Zack in New Japan. He rarely performs at a level below great, and he’s well deserving of a decent spot on that roster.
Verdict: Four Stars
Two fantastic New Japan Cup matches mean that this show will be looked at fondly. In truth, the undercard was underwhelming, but that doesn’t really matter. The Cup is the main thing, and it continues to deliver.