NJPW New Japan Cup 2017: 2nd Round

The exits of Tanahashi, Elgin, Suzuki and Omega in the 1st Round busted many a bracket and, more importantly, blew the tournament wide open. The 2nd Round took place over four days this week and here’s how it went down…

March 13th, 18:30 from Fukui Prefecture Industrial Hall

Yuji Nagata vs. EVIL

Nagata started strongly, kicking Evil from the apron and stiffing him with an elbow, but was caught with a sidewalk slam off a charge. One of these days Evil will get disqualified for using a chair, but this was not that day. A standing senton earned two, before Nagata found some respite with a big boot and a series of high kicks, and landed the Exploder at the second time of asking for a two-count. Evil used referee Red Shoes to facilitate a comeback (seriously, how much are Los Ingobernables paying the guy?), although it was short-lived, with Nagata blocking him on the top-rope to deliver a Super Exploder for a near-fall. Nice. A German suplex from Evil put both men down. Nagata cracked a few more elbows, but Evil fired up to land a fisherman buster, then connected with Darkness Falls! Two-count only. Nagata countered into the Shirome armbar, transitioning to a cross armbreaker before Evil made the ropes, then nailed the Justice Knee in the corner and a high-angle backdrop for two. Evil with a headbutt, Nagata with a spin kick, huge lariat from Evil for another near-fall! STO (aka Evil) from Evil! One, two, three. They really cranked through the gears here and found their groove nicely as the match progressed. Everything from the top-rope Exploder onwards was damn good. ***1/2

March 14th, 18:30 from Shiga Prefectural Cultural Industry Community House

Toru Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale

Naturally, Yano removed a turnbuckle pad as soon as possible then attempted several unsuccessful rollups before Fale took the fight into the crowd. Yano was hoist with his own petard and whipped hard into the exposed turnbuckle three times, but avoided a fourth to foolishly try and slam the big man. Then somehow he did it! Impressive. The low blow was blocked, Fale landed a suplex, but the splash missed and he was sent outside. Yano taped Fale’s arm to the barrier, so Fale dragged that section of guardrail up to the apron in order to break the count! Low blow and a backslide from Yano for two. Fale with a splash for two, then the Grenade connected to put him through to the semi-finals. Mildly amusing with a couple of fun spots, which was more than I had expected. **

March 15th, 18:30 from Matsumotodaira Regional Park Gymnasium, Nagano

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Juice Robinson 

Juice largely kept up with Shibata in a respectful initial exchange, then the pair traded full nelson escapes, Juice using power, Shibata using skill. Shibata found an opening to work the arm, wrenching a short-arm scissors and twice forcing Juice back into the hold and to the ropes. Shibata upped the aggression with stomps, Juice replied in kind, but Shibata came back at him with a corner dropkick and hatch suplex for two. Deep abdominal stretch and a ducked PK attempt, before Juice retaliated with chops and right hands. He fired up, nailing the crescent kick for two, and scored Diamond Dust out of the corner followed by the cannonball for a near-fall. Fireman carry gutbuster, standing senton, two-count only. The Pulp Friction was beautifully countered into the Octopus Hold, then Juice brushed off a backdrop, but Shibata countered a suplex right into the Sleeper and the Penalty Kick gave him the win moments later. Really solid work here and an instant chemistry which I feel could produce something special down the line. Juice continues to endear himself to the Japanese crowds, Shibata showed off a couple of sweet counters and this was good effort all round. ***1/4

March 17th, 19:00 from Tokorozawa Citizen Gymnasium Sub-Arena, Saitama

Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA

A slick sequence of counters culminated in Sanada dropkicking Ishii from the ring, hitting a plancha and whipping him into the barrier. Back in, Ishii blocked a second dropkick and dumped Sanada with a suplex, then the latter’s elbow strikes got nowhere, but the leapfrog dropkick and a standing moonsault connected for two. Ishii brushed off more strikes and whipped Sanada to the corner where the Los Ingobernables man quickly executed the springboard dropkick, and both men took a moment to get to their feet. Sanada kipped up out of a DDT, fired up after a German, but Ishii blocked the TKO to land a reverse DDT! Nicely done. Headbutt, lariat, two-count only. Last Ride! Two-count again. Sanada blocked the brainbuster for a suplex of his own, then flew in with a low springboard dropkick followed by a backdrop for two. They traded elbows and this time the TKO from Sanada connected for the near-fall!

Sanada flipped out of Ishii’s attempted Dragon suplex, then tilt-a-whirled into the Skull End dragon sleeper, waiting for Ishii to fade and attempting the pin, but Ishii kicked out and now the t-shirt came off. Up top for the moonsault… which missed. Ishii blocked a charge, ducked Sanada’s flip and landed a left-handed discus lariat! Running lariat! One, two, no! A sequence of pinning reversals from Sanada earned a couple of near-falls, but Ishii rolled-through the Skull End to nail the sliding lariat for two! Strikes back-and-forth and a big time enzuigiri from Ishii. Brainbuster! One, two, three. Great match, especially considering the house show setting, and a couple of slightly awkward moments didn’t detract from what was a very fun watch. Ishii tapped out to Sanada in the G1 last year, which gave the Stone Pitbull added impetus to claim the win here, and win he did. ****

Semi-finals

  • EVIL vs. Bad Luck Fale
  • Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii

I’ll be back on Sunday for the semi-finals. See you then.