On paper, this show bears more of a resemblance to night two than night three. Still, there is always the potential for paper to be chucked out the window as Suzuki vs Kojima and Goto vs Sanada are a level above anything involving Fale or Hikuleo.
Toru Yano defeated Davey Boy Smith Jr in the New Japan Cup First Round
Davey Boy’s teeth are as white as his skin is orange. I spent an unnaturally long time staring at his mouth during this match. How did he get them so bright? New Japan could have saved on electrical bills by having Smith stand in the rafters smiling.
Anyway, this was garbage. Smith had a fantastic performance against Ospreay in a tag recently, but he sucked here. He was back to his boring self. Yano, meanwhile, didn’t even get the chance to amuse as he rolled Smith up before we got deep into the match. Skip it; it’s not worth the effort.
Verdict: One Star
Colt Cabana defeated Togi Makabe in the New Japan Cup First Round
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Togi Makabe look quite as baffled as he did in the first few minutes of this match. Colt was showing off some of that World of Sport inspired wrestling that he loves so much, and Togi had no answer to it.
Which set the tone for the bout as it’s not often you see Makabe struggle to gain a foothold, but that was the case in this one. Cabana seemed to have his number, continually finding a way to outwit the Unchained Gorilla and eventually pinning him with the Superman Pin (I’m assuming that’s what it’s called, he shouted Superman while leaping into it).
Nothing about Cabana vs Makabe is going to blow your mind. It was a strange clash of styles that didn’t quite work while Togi isn’t exactly known for working hard in these spots. Still, it’s lovely to see someone like Cabana get his chance, and anything he does with Yano is a shitload of fun.
Verdict: Three Stars
Minoru Suzuki defeated Satoshi Kojima in the New Japan Cup First Round
These two have been wrestling for a long time and, according to Cagematch, have been in the ring together 114 times with this being their tenth one on one meeting. Coming into this match, Kojima had the slight advantage with five wins to Suzuki’s four. He no longer has that.
This match was at its best when it was two hardened old bastards smacking each other. Kojima and Suzuki have been doing this long enough that I suspect their bodies have more in common with oak than flesh and watching those stiff strikes go back and forth between the two was mesmerising. If the whole match had been them standing in the centre of the ring trading blows until one fell, I’d have probably enjoyed it a lot more.
Unfortunately, when they moved away from that, it lost its way a bit. I’m bored of watching MiSu drag people into the crowd and throw chairs at them. If he saved it for heated encounters, I’d buy it, but he does it on every show. It doesn’t add anything because we know he’d do the same if he were in there with YOSHI-HASHI.
The finish was slightly out of nowhere too. Suzuki ducked a Lariat, slipped into a Sleeper for half a second and then dropped Kojima on his head. It all felt a bit rushed and was an unsatisfying conclusion to a fight between two legends.
Verdict: Three Stars
Hirooki Goto defeated Sanada in the New Japan Cup First Round
Poor Goto. When he stood in the ring with Tanahashi, Okada, Ibushi and Ospreay at the end of the Anniversary Show, most people saw it as a sign that his excellent form in the New Japan Cup was set to continue. Sadly for him, it appears that was a red herring as Gedo’s had him crash out in the first round.
If it’s of any consolation to him, he did so by having one of Sanada’s better matches in recent times. It was one of those occasions where the LIJ man reminds you why he has long had the future star tag on him. He was electric here, fighting it out with Goto here while employing those bursts of athleticism at all the right times.
It all built to an astonishing final stretch where they danced between their signature moves, both desperately striving for the moment that would be the other’s undoing. One second Goto would look like he was setting up for the GTR only to find himself in the Dragon Sleeper out of nowhere before battling out to hit a Ushigoroshi. It was a question of who was going to blink first.
And, it was Goto. Eventually, that Dragon Sleeper wore him down, and while he didn’t tap, he was left in place for Sanada to take flight. A Moonsault later and LIJ has at least one man marching into the second round. Great stuff.
Verdict: Four Stars
A mediocre show until the main event which saw Sanada and Goto raise the bar. It’s nice to see Sanada win a main event as a lot of people seem to have lost faith in his ability to reach that next level. I still believe in you mate, keep going!
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/