NJPW New Japan Cup N3
March 10 2019
I heard about this show being good in a press conference in Oberhausen, just before asking WALTER questions about his career. I briefly glanced at the snowflakes from Larry Csonka and got a bit fired up. I almost skipped nights one and two to get to this.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
This is certainly an interesting match up. I don’t recall them ever having a singles match before and expanding the New Japan Cup does allow for some unique bouts.
This match has one purpose; having Taguchi focus in on Tenzan’s ankle and try to submit the big man. Taking away Tenzan’s base and having him fight from underneath is tactically interesting but it also makes the usually goofy Taguchi a genuine threat. I mean, he still does that dumb upside down Nakamura stuff but he also uses his speed to keep Tenzan unbalanced. Then Taguchi flukes a roll up and progresses. The match was tonally a bit odd but we got to the right winner, I think. Especially as it suggests New Japan are open to shattering their weight division bias. Maybe KUSHIDA left at the wrong time.
Final Rating: ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shota Umino
Hello! Holy shit. Black trunks rookie against promotion’s ace. Umino’s dad is the referee so he must be filled with pride in watching his son grapple against the best in the business. The slap on the ropes on the first break is incredible.
Umino is good at showing fire in matches, as most young lions are, but that’s amplified by facing Tanahashi. I love that he steals Tanahashi’s cloverleaf after having been put in the hold. Then he hammers Tana with a series of forearms that gets me all revved up. They need to put the likes of Tanahashi in with young lions in singles match more often. He’s probably learned more here in ten minutes than six months of dojo work. The near fall off the roll up is amazing. I love the look on Tanahashi’s face too. Tana eventually overcomes Umino with the very same cloverleaf but Umino had a fantastic showing here. The prospect of the upset didn’t feel real until that fluke pin after the wear down of the cloverleaf. I loved this.
Final Rating: ***1/2
EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr
Zack won NJ Cup last year and devastated opponents in every round, downing just about the entire top tier of New Japan talent in the process.
It’s noticeable that Sabre doesn’t get his own way here and EVIL looks to have scouted him. A lot of what is Zack’s bread and butter doesn’t even get the chance to kick in. EVIL just overpowers him and bullies him. Even on the mat where Zack normally dismantles everyone EVIL just overpowers him. Sabre bides his time and ends up picking off EVIL when he gets overconfident. The great thing about Sabre is that a submission could come out of nowhere in a microsecond. Quite often when his opponent feels they’ve won. EVIL is persistent in delivering big and the bullying does continue in spite of the occasional reversal. The counters back and forth as EVIL looks to finish are wonderful. They have me twice thinking Everything is Evil is hitting only for a counter to come out of nowhere. The second one leads to Zack tying him in knots and getting the tap out. Oh, this was good. This whole show has been good.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
This could easily be the final of the New Japan Cup.
Naito is the IC champion, which would normally mean he wasn’t in the New Japan Cup but this year the winner simply faces the IWGP champion in New York. There’s a real effort to make this normally ok tournament mean something more.
Which includes this fucking match. This is definitely a G1 quality bout as Ibushi is a lunatic who refuses to back down and Naito is the Man. The match is fast paced but also intense and hard-hitting. Kota, as per usual, takes sickening bumps. The neckbreaker on the apron is nasty.
He follows this with a Tombstone on the apron and the usual crack New Japan cameramen miss it. This leads into both guys leathering each other. I’m not overly keen on Naito’s stutter into a lariat where he’s clearly waiting for Kota to get into position but Rocky does a good job of suggesting he was waiting for the right angle to get Destino. Outside of that they deliver. Big bombs and slick counters and it’s all very dangerous looking as they both live life on the edge. The Ibushi Driller that kills Naito dead ahead of Kamigoye is terrifying. Holy shit. Vertical drop right on the neck. You couldn’t pay me to take that fucking bump lads. Jesus. I’d rather be poor and able to move my neck. Anyway, Ibushi wins in an insane match with crazy spots but it was a little rough around the edges so it’s not MOTY imo.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Best show of the tournament so far. It operated at a very high level. Especially the main event but everything was better than comparative matches in the same spots in previous shows.