NJPW New Japan Cup 2nd Round
Mar 13 2019
With the second round upon us New Japan have stretched the tournament even more. Now we get two, fucking TWO, matches per show. Which gives me an excellent opportunity to get caught up by skipping nonsense six-man tags that nobody gives a shit about.
Chase Owens vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Chase beating Juice puts him in a position here where I could totally see him winning. Well, this match anyway. Kevin Kelly calling the YOSHI-HASHI vs. Nakanishi match “far from an artistic success” is a fantastic shot.
Chase does a great job of showing YOSHI-HASHI how technically superior he is during the opening exchange. This feels like a very low tier tour show in a big building with lots of rural fans who are a struggle to get over with. Chase, super jerk, does a fine job of working heel. His “I just YOSHI-HASHIed YOSHI-HASHI” bit makes me cackle. I feel like YOSHI-HASHI struggles in every way to make his matches feel important. So that weight lays with Chase here. He does a good job. Attempting to kill YOSHI off with apron spots but not succeeding. Chase doesn’t have much else to work with. Tacos is slow into position and leaves Owens standing around watching him frequently. The match is also super dumb and Red Shoes not noticing the kendo stick shot is beyond stupid. I kinda hate it. It is a buzzkill. The only positive is they do near falls quite well and the contact on some of the strikes are neat. Karma finishes. I have no use for matches like this.
Final Rating: **
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi
He can’t even lip sync well.
Fuck him up Ishii! Taichi is a coward and Ishii is a tough nut so it’s a good idea. I love Ishii so any opponent is probably fine. He takes no prisoners here. Taichi uses a chair to take over and I feel like Taichi shouldn’t get the lion’s share here but it’s also necessary as they’re doing 20 minutes and it can’t be a squash. Taichi’s “Kawada Kicks” here are so bad that I’m surprised Kawada himself doesn’t come down here to beat the shit out of him. Or the wrestling police to show up and arrest him for doing a classic move so badly. Ishii chops him in the throat for it. They have an interesting match where Taichi tries to cheat a lot and Ishii just beats him up for it.
The match turns on Taichi’s decision to not attack with the mic stand and instead go head to head with Ishii. While this does allow the match to improve in quality, which Taichi’s approach being more traditionally acceptable and him bringing heart gets him more crowd support than he’s had in some time. Of course he punts Ishi in the groin but that’s besides the point. His change of tactic makes for a much better match. A little cheating is fine, especially if it’s concealed like this was. It’s all the bullshit that annoys me. Despite this being one of Taichi’s better singles matches the attempt to match Ishii exposes him at times. He thigh slaps are painfully obvious and he can’t take bumps to the standard this roster operates at. Brainbuster puts him away and I enjoyed this.
Final Rating: ***1/2
March 14 2019
Onto the next night then in Nara. Better set up here. No massive house lights and empty spaces. It looks like a proper arena.
Will Ospreay vs. Lance Archer
This is another test for Ospreay to see how he operates against a bigger opponent. The Fale match was tough but it’s all a learning curve for him. The really great wrestlers can work with anyone. AJ Styles was great at wrestling bigger guys in TNA and used that to have an outstanding match with Roman Reigns that put him on the WWE map. You need to have that versatility. This is much better than the Fale match with Ospreay flipping out of everything. Any time Archer tries to throw him he adjusts in mid-air. He’s like a cat. I also like that he gets caught the first time because he stops to apologise to a fan for nearly kicking them.
Ospreay has to show fire here and he does that. As a newly minted heavyweight he needs to stand up to other heavyweights, even if they’re bigger. But he doesn’t need to street away from his strengths. The flip over Archer on the pounce attempt is superb and they follow that by having Archer knock Will out of the air in mid Oscutter with an actual pounce, which is also fantastic. Ospreay makes a point of ragdolling some bumps. The chokeslam is sick. I do like Will trying to hit Stormbreaker despite Archer’s clear size difference preventing it. He’s a stubborn guy and if Oscutter doesn’t get it done he needs to switch it up. The finish is clever with Ospreay hitting the Hidden Blade on the top rope, sliding out and hitting Stormbreaker without having to lift Archer. Good stuff. Cracking match with loads of clever and innovative spots.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Kazuchika Okada vs. Mikey Nicholls
Nicholls, having been in WWE, feels like a small guy as he was lost in that NXT shuffle but he shapes up pretty evenly with Okada.
Nicolls grinds away at this match, which involves a lot of headlocks. It picks up when Mikey lays in a huge chop and the noise of it snaps me back into the match. As the match progresses it becomes abundantly clear that Nicholls isn’t operating on the same level as Okada but he’s perfectly competent. He does nothing wrong but does nothing to stand out either. Maybe his style is a little bland compared to the standard in NJPW but a lot of his ‘near misses’ feel poor. Especially when so many other guys in the tournament nail it. Rainmaker finishes and this was very by-the-numbers.
Final Rating: **3/4
March 16 2019
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tana, germaphobe, refuses to even bump fists with Taguchi and he’s right because it’s a trap. Tanahashi comes across as a bit of a bully here because Taguchi is just having a laugh and Tana doesn’t need to take his leg. They tell a good story of babyface underdog Taguchi trying to get the huge upset win. He is focused and uses the anklelock extensively. The antics feel like they might lead to an upset and yet there’s no point where I’m on the edge of my seat thinking Taguchi might get the fall. Maybe on the blocked sunset flip but it never feels possible. The important part is that the crowd bite on it and want the big upset. Tanahashi survives though and the dragon suplex finishes. I enjoyed this but, as mentioned, didn’t bite on the near falls like the crowd did. Good match though.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Ahhhh, he did the thing!
Zack Sabre Jr vs. Kota Ibushi
Kota is one of the tournament favourites. Sabre is the defending winner. Something has to give. It’s arguably the biggest match in R2. This starts excellently as Sabre goes for technical stuff and Ibushi is too quick to get caught. Then Zack takes a back seat and lets Kota come at him so he can counter himself.
Before too long all that zest is gone from Kota and Sabre is controlling the match. Even when Ibushi gets a sequence of moves together he soon finds himself shut down. It’s that kind of domineering match from Zack and Ibushi has to fight from underneath. It’s tonally weird because I’m convinced that Zack’s dominance is setting up Kota eventually winning. Get a measure of revenge for being eliminated last year and establish the companies support for a man who’s stated he’s hanging around. There’s a moment as they’re tussling where I realized WWE decided to put TJ Perkins over both of these guys. I know neither wanted to sign but fuck it, why not put this on if you had the chance?
The countering gets sick with Kota keen to prove he can hang with Zack on the mat and mostly succeeding before Sabre finds one final counter to dodge Kamigoye. Orienteering with Napalm Death puts Kota away and Zack wins again! After his win last year I figured they’d done all they were going to do with Sabre short term but here we are again! Another major win. Another shock early exit for Ibushi. I had Kota in the final but that’s gone here. Sabre vs. Tanahashi next!
Final Rating: ****1/4
March 17 2019
I’m watching this on the afternoon of the 17th so I’m caught up! Yay!
Colt Cabana vs. Toru Yano
This is a dream comedy match.
There are antics from the start. There’s wrist tape. Turnbuckle. Colt protesting and saying they should wrestle. “Present for you”.
Colt chucks it into the crowd and gets Yano gets rolled up! It was Yano’s curry that he does sponsorship deals with. I smirk and chuckle my way through this entire match. At one point Yano shouts “I don’t know what to do” as Colt outsmarts him by literally rolling across the ring. Colt taping up the turnbuckle pad is great. “What’s happened here?” The turnbuckle exchange has me in pieces. Colt picks up the win and while I would struggle to rate this on a standard scale I had a wonderful time here. My jaw hurts from laughing at Red Shoes trying to turn this stuff into a legitimate sporting contest.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Minoru Suzuki vs. SANADA
Look at this stupid beard. As you’d expect this is very technically solid. SANADA going after the Paradise Lock and getting countered into an armbar for his troubles. I do like the approach here as SANADA is like a young version of Suzuki. Into his shoot-style but also a respecter of pro-wrestling. You can see how much Suzuki likes him based on his selling, willingness to do slightly goofy spots and the trust on the faster paced spots. If you can trust your opponent to not fuck up, that’s half the battle to having a good match. They do a good job of trading on strikes and Suzuki bides his time to bring no selling and stiffness into proceedings. Suzuki’s forearms are a work of art. When SANADA forces the pace he often finds himself out-done by Suzuki. For a 50 year old it’s insane how fast he is. There’s an underlying story of SANADA having trouble with his knee, which is how Suzuki takes over at the end. SANADA taps out like three times but apparently doesn’t mean it because Red Shoes ignores it. Seriously though, he blatantly taps out at least two of those times. The moonsault into Skull End is some pure AJ Styles shit. I mean that in a good way. Then SANADA taps out a few more times. Chris Charlton finds it very hard to condone it, suggesting Red Shoes is giving him “leeway”. They do some great mat reversals in spite of SANADA being weird. Suzuki finding a way out of Skull End using his legs is brilliant. Then SANADA hits a moonsault and wins. Huh. That’s hmm. Maybe I was reading a little too heavily into the leg work that Suzuki did during this but that feels like a weird finish. Especially with the back and forth on the mat being given a lot of emphasis.
Final Rating: ***3/4
The second round was a mixed bag and nothing touched the quality of Naito vs. Ibushi. It was Ibushi who had the best match of the round against defending champion Zack Sabre Jr. That was a highlight. As was the Yano vs. Cabana comedy match, which was just different enough to give me a big old beaming smile during the rest of the show. Lots of solid wrestling in between and now we’re into the business end of the quarter finals.