NJPW New Japan Cup
March 9 2019
Hey, hey, more catch up here. Not sure this show is at all worth seeing but I feel like I’ve gotten into a tournament groove already. How has 6 days passed already?
Toa Henare vs. Lance Archer
Oh god, what have I done. I have a sneaky feeling I could just watch the main event on this show and get on with my life but here we are. Lance is the good one from KES and I never realized this until Davey starting deteriorating and now it’s painfully obvious.
Archer looks great kicking out on the near falls here and smashing his way through Henare on offence. Toa needs to up his game in order to be competitive and I don’t really feel like he does. The one big spot is the powerbomb off the ropes where Lance puts himself in danger with his own arrogance. Archer just bowls Henare over with a shoulderblock at one point and it’s really quite beautiful. Oh shit, I have turned the corner on Big Lance in a Big Way. Either that or he’s just gotten better since dumping the baggage. Archer has too much for Henare and he progresses. I’m actually happy about this turn of events.
Final Rating: **1/2
Mikey Nicholls vs. HIKULEO
HIKULEO used to be Leo Tonga. He’s 6’8”.
He makes Mikey look like a tiny man. Nicholls is a weird one because when he left NOAH with Shane Thorne they looked on the verge of being one of the best tag teams in the business. Fast forward three years and the WWE run was a flop. Shane got injured and Mikey is back in the wild. He needs to start proving himself here because New Japan has a lot of talent and they don’t need to do anything with him. HIKULEO has a lot of trouble with movement because he’s so big. Nicholls wins clean here, which is a little strange because of Leo’s sheer size but based on in-ring ability the right man won.
Final Rating: *1/2
Will Ospreay vs. Bad Luck Fale
If this isn’t testing the waters to see what Will can do with super heavyweights then I don’t know what it is. They’re clearly intent on pushing him now with Omega out of the picture and it is 100% the right thing to do.
That NEVER strap always seems to be on someone who’s going places in the heavyweight division. Will has a few issues with vocalizing, or rather over-vocalising his pain when he’s selling and unfortunately that’s most of this match. I feel like screaming in pain should be reserved for extremes of selling. Not a chinlock. The whole match structure is Ospreay trying for sympathy, fighting from underneath. It’s not bad but the ref bump takes me out of the match. Especially as Jado gets in there too and the heels still can’t get the job done. The finish is an abomination with Ospreay countering the Bad Luck Fall into a rana and trying desperately to hook a leg while Fale flails around with his shoulders clearly off the mat.
Final Rating: *3/4
Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin
Short pants Okada looks like he means business. Elgin is one of those guys. I was discussing this over Carat weekend and there are some wrestlers where there’s a gap between how much I like their work and how much I dislike them as a person. Elgin might have the biggest gap in that respect of anyone currently working. This match is solid and operates at a higher level than anything else on the show, with the work being constant and both guys clearly intent at not resting. However there’s a bit of a disconnect on the build. It’s all very tidy and well done but without emotion.
Elgin has a thread throughout of going after the neck to set up his Crossface. It’s an old finisher of his but one he’s proficient with. It’s an added option for Elgin in New Japan after having built up a reputation on smashmouth offence. Bludgeoning forearms, big power moves and charging into spots. The crossface implies a more thoughtful approach. I like how Okada takes Elgin for granted, which gets him into trouble first with the crossface and then again when the Rainmaker is countered. He just assumes he’ll face a bunch of power moves and can deal with that but the variety of Elgin’s offence is what creates near falls. Where Okada outwits Elgin is by stealing Elgin’s moves. This becomes a genuinely thoughtful match up. They lose it somewhat with Elgin’s whole ‘wrist control’ bit because it doesn’t go anywhere. Great visual, no follow through. As with the rest of the match the counters down the stretch are very pretty but again I feel like there’s not a lot of emotion there. Okada can be quite cold as a worker and Elgin is even worse. That said the execution was 95% excellent so we’ll call this four flakes.
Final Rating: ****
I enjoyed this show but preferred night one, which had a match that out-performed expectations in Chase/Juice and a main event that was loaded with fiery offence and passion. This show was a step below that. Okada/Elgin is good but not a match of the month contender or anything.