The New Japan Cup slips into the quarter-finals, and the first half of the bracket is an all CHAOS affair. First up is Ishii who has been tasked with getting something out of YOSHI-HASHI after The Loose Explosion fluked his way past Nakanishi and Owens. Thankfully, the main event is to be a more even affair as Okada tries to shoot down Ospreay’s rising star. How fun.
Tomohiro Ishii defeated YOSHI-HASHI in the New Japan Cup Quarter Final
Ever since I knew what a YOSHI-HASHI was, I’ve wanted him to discover the fire that he is so clearly lacking. He’s a good wrestler – every G1 produces a handful of impressive matches – but he’s impossible to believe in, and it’s that which him hard to love.
On the flipside, you have Tomohiro Ishii. A man so consumed by his passion that he’d headbutt his way through a wall to put on a fantastic match. Everything YOSHI-HASHI is not, Tomohiro Ishii is, and if anyone was going to inspire that same desire in wee YOSHI’s heart, it was him.
And, you know what? He got closer to doing it than most. While this was far from perfect, when YOSHI was stood in the centre of the ring, eating Ishii chops and staggering back only to come charging forward once more, I saw something in him I’d never seen before. He became a wrestler who could get the fans behind him for reasons that weren’t generated by sympathy. Collapsing under Ishii’s thunderous strikes would have been the most natural thing in the world, but he kept fighting. He kept asking for more, and that is the YOSHI-HASHI I’ve wanted (although for the love of Misawa can someone tell him to ditch that shitty Butterfly Lock which ground the action to a halt).
Of course, he lost. Because that’s what YOSHI-HASHI does, it was staggering he got this far because YOSHI’s entire thing is losing. However, unlike the Chase and Nakanishi matches where he was about as important as a crash test dummy, YOSHI-HASHI at least managed to share a bit of Ishii’s spotlight. He showed something he’s been missing and whether that was a one-off or not (it must be simpler when you’re in the ring with one of the best bell to bell wrestlers on the planet), it was proof he can do it. There is life in him yet.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay in the New Japan Cup Quarter Final
Will Ospreay sees Kazuchika Okada as a mentor figure. It was Okada who brought him into New Japan and accepted him as part of his stable. On top of that, Will has positioned him as the yardstick. If he is ever to see himself as the greatest wrestler on the planet, it will be after he beats the boss.
That mission has so far been unsuccessful. However, Will has been able to cling to the fact that between their previous two meetings, there was a clear progression. First time around, Captain Kazu was dominant. The second time, Okada had to work a bit harder.
Which brings us nicely to their third meeting, a match that Will came into on fire. Not only did he win the NEVER Title at the Dome, but his run to the quarter-final of the New Japan Cup has seen him eliminate two super heavyweights. In the back of his mind, he must have been thinking that this was his chance.
And, after watching it, you could perhaps argue that he was right. It was a chance, but he failed to take it. While this match went roughly five minutes less than their last one, it was not because Okada had an easy day. There were points where Will rocked him, particularly with a series of vicious kicks. However, on the two occasions where he went for Stormbreaker, Okada proved equal to it. He was able to slip out and keep going, proving that no matter how far Will has come, at the key moments, The Rainmaker is still better than him.
All of which adds up to be the latest chapter in a potentially incredible story. Because now Okada and Ospreay can do this for as long as New Japan wants, with Will getting closer each time. They had a great match, but it was nowhere near the best these two can do. You still get the feeling they’re holding back as they started slow and finished suddenly. We have got to assume they’ve done that with the assumption there will be a moment in the future where the stage will be bigger.
That’s a match that is going to happen too. The very fact Ospreay, a Junior, made it this far into the tournament to have a back and forth bout with Okada is proof of that. No-one else is getting that treatment. Even Taguchi, a New Japan stalwart, was only given a fluke win over Tenzan before being quickly dispatched by Tanahashi. One day the bricks they laid on this day will build the moment that Ospreay pins Kazuchika Okada. When that comes around, you can bet they won’t be leaving anything at home.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
The nature of wrestling says that some people will complain about that main event because it wasn’t a five-star classic. However, it’s still an exceptional piece of wrestling, and I love the fact they are holding off for a brighter future. Sometimes, the long-term story has to take precedence over immediate gratification. Combine that with Ishii dragging something out of YOSHI-HASHI, and this was a good show.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/