March 4th, 18:30 from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Yesterday’s Round One show was good from top to bottom, with several big announcements made as well. Aside from a should-be-good Naito vs. Ishii bout, today’s Cup matches aren’t so promising on paper, with the route to the final appearing clear. But, who knows, we might get an upset or two.
Here we go…
Jay White vs. David Finlay
We begin with a continuation of this ongoing Young Lions battle. They worked a very solid back-and-forth match with Jay White getting the win at 6 minutes with a Liontamer. It’s enjoyable to watch these two wrestle, knowing the restrictions they have regarding moveset, and watching them improve little by little with every match. **
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall
Some strong exchanges between Juice and Cody here, with Hall Jr. the monster to Robinson’s fiery babyface. The Bullet Club representatives used some dirty tactics, naturally, but Juice eventually got the tag to Tanahashi. At some point, Hall injured his groin. I know this because he shouted “Argh, my groin!” and was clearly in pain for the remainder of the match. Juice took out Yujiro, then Tanahashi locked the Cloverleaf on Hall for the tap-out. This was going along fine, but sort of fell apart when Hall got injured. *1/2
Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs. KUSHIDA, Katsuyori Shibata, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe
That list of competitor may be longer than this review of the match. Kushida and Liger start off, and I wouldn’t be adverse to a singles match between those two. We then got pairings of Tiger/Taguchi and Nagata/Honma, before Honma took a beatdown from all and sundry. Eventually, the Kokeshi connected on Tenzan and Makabe ran wild. Shibata then came in to a big reaction and the match broke down, with everyone getting their moment to shine. Soon enough, Nakanishi fell to a Sleeper and Penalty Kick from Shibata. Fun match, with Shibata looking a bigger star with each passing show. **1/2
Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI vs. BUSHI & EVIL
Evil once again used a chair to good effect, wrapping one around Yoshi-Hashi’s neck then running him in to the ringpost. Makes you wonder what’s required for a disqualification, however. Back inside, Bushi took control and Yoshi-Hashi took a beating. Evil, after yesterday’s match against Ishii, already looks a different proposition; a more serious threat. Bushi got a surprising amount of offence in against Okada, but Yoshi-Hashi made the save and Okada went on a run, hitting The Dropkick, diving elbow drop and Rainmaker for the win. Solid match. **1/4
Satoshi Kojima vs. Toru Yano
Yano took an extended rope “BREAK!” until Kojima got bored and slapped him out of the ring. Yano then proved better at cheating and used a chair to get back on top and, back in, whipped Kojima into an exposed turnbuckle. Soon, however, Yano was hoist by his own petard, and Kojima laid in the machine gun chops. Kojima went up top, but Yano casually rolled to the other side of the ring. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Koji Cutter connected, as did a low blow from Yano with the referee’s back turned, and the Sublime Master Thief’s run continued as he rolled up Kojima with the Akakiri Cradle for the three-count. **
Tama Tonga vs. Hirooki Goto
Tama has joined the Roman/D’Lo chest protecter club. The crowd seemed unsure how to react to Goto, with Tama getting most of the discernible chants. He showed a good deal of aggression by going after Goto right from the bell, but quickly seemed to run out of ideas, his lack of singles matches evident. Goto started up a comeback, but Tama hit a spear to stem the tide. The best part of the match was an intricate rope-running sequence that ended when Tama countered the Ushigorishi into the Gun Stun for a near fall. Not long after, Goto kicked Tama in the chest and… that was it. Looked like Goto held him down for the three-count. Aside from that one sequence this was not good at all and a bit of a disastrous outing for Tama Tonga. *
Post-match, Okada once more invites Goto to join CHAOS by shaking his hand. Goto declines.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Michael Elgin
This was sound enough, but didn’t exactly set the pulse racing. Big Man vs. Strong Man, with Fale controlling the majority. Elgin impressed the crowd with a suplex, drawing a near-fall, but couldn’t lift Fale for the Buckle Bomb. Fale hit a spear and the Choke Lariat Slam for a two-count then headed up top. Elgin stopped him and threatened a back superplex, which never came, but a powerbomb from the second rope did connect and that was good for the win. Elgin continues to be over, but he’s not one to do a carry job. *1/2
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito
Naito spat in Ishii’s face and slapped his head, which seemed a bad idea, but as Ishii charged at him Naito hit a reverse STO and stayed on top with a chinlock (Ishii: Why don’t you cinch it in tighter? *Naito does so* Ishii: Argh!). Ishii eventually got some offence by clotheslining Naito on the apron and dropping him back in the ring with a delayed suplex. He then hit a beautiful delayed superplex, but Naito replied with his rope-assisted Tornado DDT and top-rope dropkick, before a huge German Suplex got a near-fall. Top-rope Frankensteiner for another two-count, then Ishii countered as Naito went for Gloria and dumped him with a German Suplex of his own. Big slap from Naito, huge lariat from Ishii! Powerbomb – two-count only. Chants of “Naito!” from the crowd. Another lariat from Ishii, another near-fall. Sliding lariat ducked, enziguri from Naito, both men down. The Main Event Elbow Battle lead to a Koppu kick from Naito, then Gloria connected for two. Dragon suplex, also two. Naito tried to hit Destino, but Ishii spiked him with Emerald Flowsion – holy shit! The sliding lariat from Ishii drew another near-fall, then the Brainbuster was countered mid-air into Destino! One, two, three. Naito through to the semi-finals. A slow start that built to a very strong finish, with both men digging out moves from the back catalogue. Most enjoyable. ****1/4
Evil attacked Ishii after the match, hitting a lariat and an STO. In his post-match promo Naito said that when he wins the New Japan Cup he won’t be using the title shot in April…
- Michael Elgin vs. Hirooki Goto
- Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito
Final thoughts: The main event was by far the Match of the Night, with the other Cup matches not even reaching their potential, let alone exceeding. All the matches in the first half were enjoyable, albeit inessential, so overall we’re looking at a thumbs in the middle show. Do check out Ishii vs. Naito though, it’s definitely worth your time.
I’ll be back for the Finals, although the review will likely be up a couple of days after. See you then.