With Tanahashi having already booked his spot in the final, Sunday was about figuring out who would face him. Was he going to have to worry about the chilly calm of Sanada or the Tory hating twisting of Zack Sabre Jr? Either way, finding out is going to be a lot of fun. Let’s dish out some stars.
Shota Umino defeated Ren Narita
Narita apparently got a bit cocky after his tag team victory the other day and started trash talking his fellow rookie. You only have to look at what they’ve been doing with Finlay and Jay White recently to see that two Young Lions feuding can play into long-term development. It will be interesting to see if these two facing off becomes a recurring theme.
There were some issues with the structure of the match. It felt a bit like they were taking turns to be in control and it lacked flow. However, that’s the kind of natural ring psychology that comes with time, so I don’t think it’s a worry. More importantly, when it comes to attacking and selling both men looked good. They’re beginning to add to their move-sets. Umino with his dropkicks and Narita with his suplexes.
All that fanciness aside, it was built around the Young Lion special. Both men went after the back, looking to weaken it for the Boston Crab. On this occasion, it was Umino who was victorious.
Verdict: Three Stars
The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Tanga Loa) defeated Togi Makabe, Toa Henare and Tomoyuki Oka
Henare was dumb enough/brave enough to demand to kick things off against Fale. He managed to get the big man off his feet at one point, an achievement that he paid for later.
Elsewhere, Yujiro continues to impress me. Fuck knows what’s happening, but he seems fired up, perhaps inspired by his impressive first-round performance with Juice. It’s like he decided he was going to give a shit for a while and I hope it continues as he picked up the win over Oka.
That aside, it was a match. Not too bad, not too good. Makabe was blessed with two people to bump for him so could go missing for even longer than usual while Tanga Loa always looks a bit lost without his brother. If you skip it, you won’t miss much.
Verdict: Two Stars
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) defeated Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka and Taichi) by DQ
If you skipped the last one do yourself a favour and keep going. It was the definition of Suzuki-gun crap.
Verdict: Half A Star
Juice Robinson and a piece of shit defeated Kota Ibushi and Chase Owens
Ugh, fuck off you prick. So many people who I love yet it’s all ruined by the piece of shit. Get rid of him NJPW.
Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin
Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr) defeated CHAOS (Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI)
Fale has joined Kevin Kelly on commentary. He is surprisingly soft-spoken and described Smith and Archer as having faces that he wants to punch.
Despite that fault, I think I’m starting to turn a corner on Lance Archer. His particular brand of insanity is entertaining. He’s not some incredible worker, but he does what he does well.
And he and Archer keep picking up wins. They have been on a roll since returning, and I assume we’re heading straight to a rematch with LIJ. My enjoyment of Archer doesn’t mean I want to see that again. I still find KES matches a bit of a chore with this being the perfect example of why. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with it, it just left me cold. They’re meant to be these chaotic brawls, yet they lack the edge to be successful. We end up with the same thing we get every time Suzuki-gun hit the ring.
Verdict: Two Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi) defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Naito is winding up Murder Grandpa by pretending he doesn’t exist. That strikes me as a stupid plan. He’s going to murder you, Tetsuya, stop it.
We got a similar structure to the last Naito and Suzuki meeting. Suzuki spent most of his time trying to hurt Naito. He wasn’t that bothered about things like legal men or rules. Pain was at the top of his priority list.
In the ring, the Juniors continued their feud too. They’re a good pairing, and it would be nice if Gedo would let them do their thing before setting SHO and YOH up against the winner. That might be a wish too far; we know what he’s like.
Sadly, on this occasion, it was overshadowed by Suzuki vs Naito. It’s an unusual dynamic with the champ chasing the challenger, but it works. Naito annoys Suzuki, so he wants to murder him. He’s not worried about losing his belt, he’s Minoru Suzuki. I doubt he’s concerned about anything. If he is, he probably slaps it.
After Naito got the win, Suzuki got a chair and charged back towards the chief Ingobernable before he was blocked by the Young Lions. The poor cubs must have known what was going to happen next and it did. Barriers for everyone,
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi and David Finlay defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Chuckie T)
Okada vs Tanahashi equals excitement. New Japan is so good at that. They keep their big stars apart unless they’re feuding so when they find their way to each other, it’s always fresh.
It also equals fantastic wrestling. When you put wrestlers this talented together, it doesn’t matter if they’re not running at 100%. They can breeze through a better match than 90% of people in their sleep. I’m not just talking about Tana and Kazu either. Finlay and Chuckie T more than held up their end of the bargain.
Chuck seems to be developing a bit of chemistry with Okada too. They’re becoming a more coherent team, and that can only mean good things for Taylor’s future in New Japan. Injure your best friend, take his place and replace him with the Ace. Dustin is nailing the politics.
He didn’t nail the victory sadly. Finlay slipped out of an Awful Waffle and stole a win via backslide. That’s a big moment for Young David. Getting the win in a New Japan semi-main means something. Let’s hope they’re finally working out some plans for the lad.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Zack Sabre Jr defeated Sanada
In a nice twist on the formula, it took Sabre a bit of time to get down to twisting. Sanada was about to compete on the mat with Zack, even taking control at times. Sabre did a fantastic job of selling his frustration as Sanada used his power to overcome any technical advantage that Sabre might have.
Zack is where he is for a reason, though. It might have taken him a bit of time, but eventually, he was going to find the key to unlock Sanada’s limbs. It was like he was learning Sanada’s defences and eventually he slipped through them, unleashing his unique brand of torture.
Yet, things still weren’t going all his way. Sanada was fired up and using that incredible athleticism to his advantage. He’s bigger and stronger than Zack while also being just as quick. Sabre is used to controlling the tempo and Sanada wouldn’t let him. Every time it looked like Sabre was going to work, Sanada cut him off. Creating distance and with him it opportunities for himself.
Until he couldn’t anymore. The problem with wrestling Sabre is that he chips away at you. Even if you’re in control, he’s always dishing out kicks or grabbing your arm and tweaking it. He’s setting you up for the moment when he will lock you uptight, and there will be no escape.
Zack Sabre Jr is on another level right now. I perhaps preferred his first two matches, and yet it was still a comfortable four stars. It feels like New Japan have decided that it’s his time to shine, and while I expect Tana to beat him in the final, victories over Naito, Sanada and Ibushi are nothing to be sneered at. Plus, he hates the Tories. You’ve got to push that man.
Verdict: Four Stars
Our penultimate show continued the theme of the New Japan Cup. There was a decent undercard with a lot of it being enjoyable while at the same time skippable. Then it was topped off with a fantastic main event. It’s been a great tournament with Zack vs Tanahashi being unlikely to be the match to ruin that.