It’s March, and New Japan are ready to serve up a good old-fashioned tournament. As usual, I shan’t be bothering with the undercard because life is too short, but I will mention that El Phantasmo was introduced (via a video) as a new member of Bullet Club during this show. That’s an incredible opportunity for him, and I have no doubt he’ll smash it.
YOSHI-HASHI defeated Manabu Nakanishi in the New Japan Cup First Round
I would love to hear YOSHI-HASHI talk about wrestling. Does he enjoy it? He never looks particularly happy to be in the ring.
And this might have been the most YOSHI-HASHI performance of all time. Sure, The Headhunter won the match, but he handed the moral victory over to his opponent. The ageing and broken down Nakanishi was out there grabbing the day while the (relative) youngster was the one making him look good. Christ, Nakanishi even got a visual pinfall that was only missed because YOSHI grabbed hold of Red Shoes while up in the Torture Rack.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Nakanishi bringing it. Watching him throw himself over the top rope (big fan of him going over the rope onto the apron and then jumping on his opponent) and hit Crossbodies is a whole load of fun. It’s just that Nakanishi isn’t the wrestler in this match who needed a performance, that was YOSHI, and he looked second best in the ring with a man whose best days are long behind him. YOSHI-HASHI may have got the win, but everyone is talking about Nakanishi.
Verdict: Three Stars
Taichi defeated Tomoaki Honma in the New Japan Cup First Round
What sick bastard put this match together? A broken down Honma with a bucket on his head (seriously, what the fuck was he wearing during his entrance?) against the singing ballbag? Did Korakuen piss Gedo off? Someone apologise to him!
It has to be said that Honma tries. He tries really fucking hard, but he doesn’t have it anymore. They played into his neck injury which was a great way to have the bulk of the match be slow, dull and packed with a combination of Taichi’s antics and periods where he wandered around while Honma lay on the floor.
Perhaps they could have been saved it if Honma’s fiery comeback had been hot enough to set Korakuen ablaze, but it wasn’t to be. He got a decent pop for the Second Rope Kokeshi and hit an impressive Sunset Flip, but there wasn’t enough to it. This match went over seventeen minutes (I mean, what the fuck?) and a couple of good ones, don’t make up for all the bad.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Chase Owens defeated Juice Robinson New Japan Cup First Round
That’s my boy Chase winning the big one! Fuck yea. Although, is there some elaborate rib going on involving Juice Robinson? He seems to be the one champion New Japan have no desire to protect.
Meanwhile, Owens has been taking lessons from his new boss. He took control of this with a Side Russian Leg Sweep into the barricade before following up by tossing Juice into every bit of those barriers, weakening his back and neck to take a beating. It was reminiscent of Jay White’s war with Robinson and seemed to be doing the job.
Sadly, it also slowed the action down. Back in the ring, Chase went to work as for a period this came mightily close to shuddering to a halt. I realise that not everything can be wrestled at a hundred miles an hour, but like Honma vs Taichi, it got boring.
Unlike Honma vs Taichi, it at least woke up in style. It started with Chase elevating Juice Robinson over the turnbuckle and down to the floor. He’d follow that up by Suplexing him into the barricade as these two started throwing everything at each other and moved into an awesome sequence where they were taking all the risks. You had Juice flying off the apron and being driven face first into those pesky barriers. This match might have lacked sustained action, but the stuff it did give us looked brutal.
The final minutes saw the two of them bouncing back and forth, pulling out all their tricks in an attempt to get the win. Twice Red Shoes would catch Chase holding the ropes in hopes of sneaking a three, but it turned out he didn’t need to cheat. A Jewel Heist and a Package Piledriver later Chase Owens had picked up one of the biggest wins of his career.
They started slow, but by the end, they had me and FUCKING CHASE OWENS WON! That’s my boy! Now push him to the stars New Japan.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Tomohiro Ishii defeated Yuji Nagata in the New Japan Cup First Round
As these two locked up, the question became who would throw the first strike. The answer was Yuji Nagata who delivered a slap coming out of a break to wake Ishii up. The violence had commenced.
You don’t need me to describe this match, it was exactly what you think it was. These two went out there and beat the fuck out of each other. It was two hardass motherfuckers delivering blow after blow, daring the other one to keep coming back.
What’s insane is that they have a combined age that goes into the 90s. These aren’t young men, but they were leaving it all in the ring and when they upped the pace the years drifted off them. It became two very different pros who were definitively proving that age means fuck all.
I mention they are different because the contrasts between the two were played upon perfectly. Yuji Nagata was the definition of calm as he outwrestled Ishii, kicking him across the ring. Ishii, meanwhile, is fiery passion. While he was taking the bulk of the damage, he was also the one firing up and snarling in defiance. It became a battle of passion vs technique.
That passion was essential towards the end of the match. Nagata looked to have this in the bag, dropping Ishii with Suplex after Suplex. Yet, somehow, Ishii kept getting up. Every time Nagata lashed out, it only served to fire the Stone Pitbull up. As they stood in the centre of the ring slapping each other senseless, it became apparent that the winner of this was going to have to murder their opponent.
Which is pretty much what Ishii did. He somehow managed to get Nagata up for a Brainbuster and for what felt like an eternity he held him there, poised in midair before dropping him on his head to bring this war to an end. If I were in charge of wrestling, every match would look like this one.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
I’m not overstating it when I say that final match is a genuine Match of the Year contender for me. I loved every second of it as those two crazy bastards beat each other to a pulp. Outside of that, this was a decent show, with Nakanishi strapping on his boots and Chase getting a huge win. It’s better to forget Taichi vs Honma, but my expectations were low enough that even that wasn’t awful.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/