Hello friends, this month’s selection of matches is rather New Japan focused thanks to the New Japan Cup. That had the dual effect of New Japan putting on a lot of shows with the potential for greatness and me not having a lot of time to check out other wrestling because I was reviewing it all. Anyway, here’s some fantastic graps.
10. Sanada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, New Japan Cup (23/3/19), NJPW
I’ve long stood up for Sanada, standing doggedly by my belief that he has what it takes to be a star. After this match, I’m no longer sure I should have to. As Sanada tapped out Hiroshi Tanahashi, he looked like a bonafide New Japan main eventer. He went out there with The Ace and put on a fantastic wrestling match in the purest sense of the word, dancing between holds and telling the story that the slightest mistake could be either man’s downfall. In the end, Tana was the one who slipped up, and in my mind, Sanada no longer needs help convincing the world he belongs.
9. Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr, New Japan Cup (16/3/19), NJPW
Ibushi vs Sabre is a guaranteed classic at this point. They have that magical chemistry which means you are always going to get something special, whether that be them trading holds on the ground or slapping the spit out of each other’s mouths. Their New Japan Cup showdown was no exception as Sabre bamboozled Ibushi and tapped him out of the tournament for the second year in a row just as the world thought Kota’s run into the New Japan Cup later stages was inevitable. You’ll get the scrawny English prick next time, Kota.
8. Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi, New Japan Cup (13/3/19), NJPW
I can’t quite believe that I’m saying this, but a Taichi match was one of my favourites this month. Is that shame I feel? I think it might be. Credit where it’s due, though, Taichi went out and wrestled Ishii’s match, working his arse off and joining the Stone Pitbull in leaning into those strikes. It was a Singing Ballbag that I could get on board with, and if he can give more of that in the future, I might have to apologise for all the mean things I’ve said.
7. Sanada vs Kazuchika Okada, New Japan Cup (23/3/19), NJPW
Argh, Sanada came so close! I love Okada, but with the live crowd screaming Sanda’s name, it was hard not to get caught up in the emotion of him gunning for the New Japan Cup. In the end, it was the smallest of margins that separated The Rainmaker and The Cold Skull. A grabbed foot as Sanada prepared for the Moonsault making all the difference. However, Sanada stood up and at times proved a rejuvenated Okada’s equal. One suspects we’ll see him back there soon.
6. Violent Giants (Shuji Ishikawa and Suwama) vs Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi), Dream Power Series (19/3/19), AJPW
For the second time this year, Strong BJ (I will never not giggle at that name) went to war with Violent Giants, and they only went and topped the first one. Do you like watching big motherfuckers beat the shit out of each other? Then I don’t need to say another word, seek out this match.
5. Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii, New Japan Cup (23/3/19), NJPW
The faithful warrior took on his general in a chance to prove he deserves to stand alongside him as an equal. Tomohiro Ishii gave everything to this match, throwing himself at Okada again and again, desperate to prove that he is just as good if not better than The Rainmaker. He turned this into a fight, and the always adaptable Okada went with him, battling it out in the only way that Ishii can. Of course, he lost because that’s what Ishii does. But, after the bell, Okada helped him to his feet before Ishii raised his CHAOS brethren’s hand. It was a rare moment of respect from The Stone Pitbull, and it spoke volumes about what he thinks of Kazuchika Okada.
4. Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi, New Japan Cup (10/3/19), NJPW
In just a few days Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi are going to face off at MSG for the Intercontinental Title and having watched this match, I’m a bit worried about them. Because if these two go out and try to break each other’s necks in the opening round of the New Japan Cup, what the fuck are they going to do on that stage? Ibushi and Naito have insane chemistry and always push each other to their limits. You really shouldn’t need me to say anything else, watch this.
3. Kento Miyahara vs Naoya Nomura, Dream Power Series (19/3/19), AJPW
The cocky champ taking on the first time challenger is an established wrestling trope. However, rarely is it done as well as this. Miyahara and Nomura were perfect in this match, with Miyahara brilliantly capturing the panic of realising this kid wasn’t going down without a fight. Nomura was always going to lose, but that kid showed all the fire, battling on when anyone else would have given up. It continued right to the end when he burst out of the Arm Trap German only for Miyahara to hit it a second later. It was one act of defiance too far, but Nomura made himself a star all the same.
2. Momo Watanabe vs Jungle Kyona, Stardom World in Nagoya (3/3/19), Stardom
At the start of the month, two of Stardom’s best faced off in a match that their own Twitter earmarked as perhaps the best in the company’s history. You can see why too, it was a masterclass in pacing as they started simple and built on it, finally hitting a crescendo that had everyone in the arena on their feet. By the end, these two were delivering big move after big move as Jungle Kyona battled to win the title in her hometown. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but she put on one hell of a performance in defeat.
1. Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii, New Japan Cup (8/3/19), NJPW
A browse around the internet suggests I was a lot higher on this match than most. However, if I could build two wrestlers and unleash them on each other, they would look a lot of like Tomohiro Ishii and Yuji Nagata. After digging at each other since New Year Dash, Ishii and Nagata were finally let loose in the first round of the New Japan Cup, and it was a war. They just beat the shit out of each. If you like your wrestling to look like it hurts, you might love this match as much as I do.
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