The 2020 New Japan Cup – Day 3


Tonight looks to be the best show of the 1st round, as on tap for matches we’ve got:

Ryuske Taguchi vs SANADA
SHO vs Shingo Takagi
Zack Sabre Jr vs Kota Ibushi
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Taichi

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Day One is right here:
Day Two is right here:

Behold the almighty…..Bracket! 

Yugi Nagata, Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji, & Gabriel Kidd vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI)

8-man tag goodness to start us off, instead of being in the middle of the show. Interesting. The Murder Dads lead their squads to the ring, and Suzuki has most of Suzuki-Gun with him (outside of Taichi and Sabre, who are of course working tonight); Nagata has 3 Young Lions with him. Yikes. I don’t think highly of Nagata’s chances for a win in this one. 

For once, the Lions actually stand face-to-face with Suzuki-Gun to prevent the sneak attack….so Suzuki just attacks Nagata instead. You know, I would 100% get into a feud, an actual by-God FEUD between Suzuki and the Lions who are tired of his bullshit abuse. I mean, Suzuki would end up killing them all, but what a way to go! 

Anyway, everyone fights on the floor for a bit as Kidd mixes it up with DOUKI in the ring. I kind of hate DOUKI, to be honest. I didn’t dig him in the BOSJ that he was in and nothing since has convinced me he’s anything to write home about. Kidd controls, even getting two off a body slam, before going to Uemura. Yuya charges and gets sent to the floor, and here comes Suzuki-Gun. DOUKI chokes away with his stick on Yuya as Suzuki wraps a cable around Nagata’s neck.

Back in now and Kanemaru beats on Uemura for awhile, then over to Desperado. DOUKI back in now with a backbreaker for two, and here comes Minoru. Yuya tries to fire up to face the King, but Suzuki absolutely ETHERS him with a forearm for two. He apparently had one left over from the Nagata match, because he swung for the fences. I’m amazed Uemura isn’t legally deceased after that. Suzuki-Gun traps him in their corner and continue to beat on him unmercifully. 

Uemura finally reverses a Kanemaru suplex and it’s hot tag to Nagata, who comes in to fire away at Suzuki. Exploder is blocked into a Penalty Kick from Suzuki. They slug it out and while not quite to the level of the previous night, they still just thunder away at each other. Suzuki blocks a suplex and grabs a front facelock, bringing him to the heel corner. Nagata fights everyone off, including a big belly-to-belly to Desperado. Tsuji and Kidd in to double-team Desperado, but DOUKI saves. Tsuji gets a spear on Despy and goes for the crab, Kanemaru breaks that up. Everyone pairs off and fights on the floor, leaving Tsuji alone with Desperado. Tsuji does his best, but Despy drops him with a big right and Pinche Loco finishes. (Suzuki-Gun over Yugi Nagata, Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura, and Gabriel Kidd, pinfall, 10:31)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. A perfectly fine 8-man tag. Nothing to set the world on fire, although I will say that this current crop of Young Lions is just outstanding. Uemura is going to be something, and both Tsuji and Kidd have all the potential in the world. Whatever they’re putting in the water at the Dojo, it’s working. 

Ryuske Taguchi vs SANADA – Round 1 

There is just something missing with SANADA, but I can’t place it. We’ll see if we get ‘working boots’ Taguchi or comedy Taguchi instead tonight. Taguchi controls with a wristlock to start, then a snapmare into a chinlock. Back up quickly from SANADA, so Taguchi puts on a side headlock. They work off that and we end up with a standoff. Taguchi offers the fist bump of respect, then goes for the cheap shot with a kick. SANADA lets that one slide, then offers the fist bump which Taguchi accepts….and they both go for the cheap shot. 

Taguchi wins that one and goes for his version of the Paradise Lock, which of course doesn’t work, whilst SANADA shows him how it’s done. Atomic drop from SANADA and Taguchi has definitely been studying the Rick Rude Twitter account. I am, as usual, confused about the science of Taguchi’s ass. Sometimes, it’s made of steel and cannot be defeated, and other times, it’s clearly a source of great distress when put in peril. A 2nd atomic drop is followed by an attempt at a 3rd (are you trying to KILL this man, SANADA? JEEZ.), but Taguchi goes over the top. SANADA off the ropes and Taguchi goes for the hip attack, but SANADA just casually steps out of the way and Taguchi goes crashing to the mat. 

SANADA beats on him some more, but Taguchi catches him with a boot on a blind charge, then a seated dropkick. 3 straight hip attacks get two for Taguchi. 3 Amigos attempt, SANADA turns the 3rd into a dragon sleeper, Taguchi reverses that and finishes the suplexes. Full Nakamura from Taguchi, SANADA dropkicks the knee in response. They head outside and Taguchi regains the advantage, diving onto SANADA off the buckles. Back in and Taguchi goes to the knee, then an anklelock. SANADA reverses, Taguchi reverses back into it. Taguchi avoids all attempts at reversal and even drops an elbow on the knee. Will SANADA tap? 

No! He reverses into a Dragon Sleeper (ignoring the ankle entirely, even widening his base to distribute weight), Taguchi throws forearms to escape, then a small package gets two. La Magistral gets two. Cradle gets two. Another try is reversed by SANADA into one of his own to get the pin. (SANADA over Ryuske Taguchi, pinfall, 15:50)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. The finishing sequence was pretty good and the rest of the match was rock-solid, but there’s only so high a ceiling you’re going to get here. SANADA no-selling the ankle after being trapped in the anklelock for an extended period was pretty egregious to me, to be honest. Both are capable of better. 

SHO vs Shingo Takagi – Round 1

YES! This is a long-awaited 1v1 rematch from the Best of the Super Juniors, which was a ****1/2 bout of awesome. I see no reason that this will be any different. Both guys mouth off at each other, then back into their corners and amp up to charge as soon as the bell rings, because they just want to destroy each other that badly. Oh, that’s so great. Ding! And SHO RACES across the ring to clobber Shingo and this shit is ON. And they tear into each other with forearms, lariats, shoulders, the like. These guys really give off the palpable sense that they want to WIN THIS FUCKING MATCH. And, you know, tear the other guy apart. 

SHO gets the first advantage by dropping Shingo with a lariat, then an armbar, Shingo makes the ropes to break. SHO chokes him against the bottom rope, then a snapmare into a kick to the back. More kicks from SHO and Takagi is pissed now. Back to their feet and they slug it out, then we get this neato sequence where SHO hits a dropkick on Shingo coming off the ropes, which Shingo uses as fuel to bounce back off the ropes and send SHO to the floor with a lariat, then he runs SHO into the barricade. And I mean he RUNS him into it. Shingo with a DDT on the floor, then tosses SHO back in. Jumping knee from Shingo as he just beats on SHO. 

SHO tries to fight back, so Shingo offers him a free shot, then chops him into a corner. SHO tries a spear, which Takagi catches with ease, but SHO manages to reverse to a brainbuster. SHO fires up, Shingo tries a pumping bomber, SHO goes under and hits a spear for two. SHO goes to work on the arm, but Shingo just clobbers SHO with a lariat to buy time. SHO tries for the armbar again now, but Takagi powerbombs out. Shingo goes for a Gory Bomb and they have a CRAZY battle over that. SHO wins it and drops Shingo with kicks and now it’s SHO in control. 

Off the ropes, they clothesline each other, nobody moves. Again, nobody moves. Takagi hits a snap Saito suplex on SHO, who pops right up and starts firing off rolling Germans on Shingo! Normally, I hate no-selling like that, but done at the right time, it totally works, and it for sure was the right time here. SHO comes off the ropes with high knee and now he wants a big lariat, but Shingo comes off the other side and hits a GIANT Pumping Bomber, followed by a sliding lariat! Gory bomb by Shingo! 1, 2, NO! 

Lariat in the corner by Shingo and he puts SHO on the top, then goes up, SHO fights him off with headbutts and goes underneath, big lungblower from SHO. SHO off the ropes, Pumping Bomber of his own! SHINGO KICKS OUT AT ONE! SHO goes for a deadlift German, bridge, gets two! Shock Arrow attempt by SHO, Shingo backdrops out, they exchange lariats, then they slug it out, SHO wins! He throws forearms…..right hand out of nowhere staggers SHO! Big headbutt from Shingo! Shingo hoists SHO up, Last of the Dragon! 1, 2….NO!!!

Shingo signals he’s about to finish this shit, Pumping Bomber hits! 1, 2, NOOOO!!!! This match RULES. Shingo goes for another Last of the Dragon, but SHO escapes into the wristlock, then turns it into a straightjacket piledriver!! SHO gets him into position….SHOCK ARROW hits!!! 1, 2, 3!!! SHO WINS! (SHO over Shingo Takagi, pinfall, 17:08)

THOUGHTS: ****1/2. Look, I’ve got nothing against Yoh at all, but can SHO just put him through the goddamned barbershop window of Japan already? Jesus CHRIST, this match was SO fucking great on almost every level, and the best part was that it was almost the complete opposite of Suzuki and Nagata – this was all big moves, strong style kickouts, and the modern stuff in NJPW that people love. SHO and Shingo have crazy chemistry together, as this is the second one-on-one match they’ve had and both have shattered 4 stars, and at this point I really do want them to fight forever. We could be getting SHO against Hiromu Takahashi instead of him defending meaningless junior tag belts! Does anyone understand this?? GEDO, come on!!

This win, however, does very much put SHO into the NEVER Openweight title picture, so I suspect that we’re going to get a trilogy out of this with the 3rd match at Dominion or at the Cup Final, and I am SO ready for it. This was absolutely fantastic.

Intermission. Way. Grandmaster. You know the drill.

Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr – Round 1

Fun fact: Kota Ibushi has never lost to ZSJ one on one….except in the New Japan Cup, where he’s 0-2 to the UK’s favorite son. They circle each other and Sabre takes the back, then a front facelock into a bodyscissors. Kota escapes and we’re back to standing. Ibushi throws a kick and they head to the mat again, with Sabre tying him up once more. Sabre stays on Ibushi, countering every attempt to escape, until Ibushi has enough momentum to roll into the ropes. 

Back up to the their feet again, and now Kota is going to try something new. He throws kicks at Sabre, keeping away from the tie-up. He kicks ZSJ down, then puts on a chinlock until Sabre makes the ropes. ZSJ offers to give Ibushi a free kick and Ibushi takes it, landing a second one as well. The third one is caught by ZSJ, who takes Ibushi back to the mat. Sabre wraps up both legs in a cloverleaf position, looking for A Cup of Tea Served In The Irradiated Nuclear Wasteland, but Ibushi grabs the bottom rope to escape, so….

….oh, alright. That isn’t a real move name. But c’mon, if you’ve ever dealt with ZSJ and his finishers, you thought there was a CHANCE it was real, didn’t you?

Back to the mat and ZSJ ties the legs up again, allowing him to be the best of ZSJ, aka being a total dick, as he rubs his elbow into the small of Kota’s back before twisting the ankle of each leg. I love this man. Ibushi makes the ropes and Sabre charges in the corner, but Ibushi goes over the top and drops ZSJ with a kick, then moonsaults him for two. Ibushi fires forearms at Sabre now, shrugging off an uppercut from Zack. An Ibushi ‘rana sends Sabre to the floor, then a kick sends him back when ZSJ tries to re-enter the ring. Sabre reaches in and grabs the leg of Ibushi for a kneebar to bring him out, as Kota left it open. 

Kota rolls back in, but immediately gets caught in another kneebar, with ZSJ cranking backwards on it using the ropes for leverage, holding it until the ref forces the break. More punishment from ZSJ with some face kicks, then a legsweep when Ibushi gets up. Running uppercut in the corner from Zack. ZSJ continues to pick Kota apart with kicks to the arms now, but Kota get a desperation lariat to put both guys down. Powerbomb attempt from Ibushi reversed to guillotine and then a kneebar again from ZSJ. Ibushi escapes that into a full nelson, but ZSJ immediately escapes that by snapping the arm on the mat, then kicking the other arm and hooking the Octopus. I know that I do a lot more move transcription when Sabre is in the ring, but it’s a joy to watch him work and I love the narrative of his matches. 

Ibushi tries to escape, but Sabre maneuvers that into a half-crab. Everything Ibushi does to get out, Sabre counters to keep him in a hold. Ibushi makes the ropes again and now Sabre is getting frustrated. He throws kicks at Kota’s leg, then Kota’s chest. Kota tries to get up, but ZSJ takes him back down into a crucifix for two, then a triangle. Ibushi powerbombs out of that and hits a Pele to drop Zack. Last Ride attempt is escaped by Zack, who gets a Penalty Kick. He looks to finish with the Driver, but Ibushi slips out and Sabre runs right into a knee from Ibushi. Ibushi wastes zero time and immediately destroys Zack with a Kamigoye for the pin. (Kota Ibushi over Zack Sabre Jr, pinfall, 15:16)

THOUGHTS: ***3/4. I don’t think that these two are capable of having a bad match, it’s just that they’ve most assuredly had better ones. As usual, ZSJ matches always involve some nice storytelling – in this one, he dominated Ibushi every time they went to the mat, to the point where Ibushi had to hit his move and try to win as quickly as he could when he saw the minor opening he got from Sabre. I like this because it puts both guys over – ZSJ got most of the match and looked like the best technical wrestler on the planet, but Ibushi gets the badass finisher that killed Zack dead when he got a moment’s opening. ZSJ can very realistically win their next encounter while Ibushi still gets to move on in the tournament, so ZSJ isn’t hurt by the loss and Ibushi is energized by the win. Overall, I think this was one of their lesser efforts, but that’s still better than a good chunk of wrestlers on the planet are capable of.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Taichi – Round 1

Look, I’ll just get this out of the way up front – I don’t like Taichi. I’ve never liked Taichi. I don’t see all this supposed improvement he’s had over the last few years, I just see a guy that they want to push and by god, they’re gonna push him. I see a Japanese Jerry Lawler wannabe without the talent. All that having been said, he’s shown that he can work up to the level of the guy he’s in there with, and he’s in there with Tanahashi, so I expect something decent here.

And we get off to rocking start as Tanahashi is posing on the top buckle, Taichi comes up to him from behind and powerbombs him down to the mat before the match begins! So Tana sells it like nuts, lying on the mat like he hit his head as Taichi gets to sneer at him and beat up the Young Lions who come in to help Hiroshi. All Taichi needed was a handlebar mustache to twirl. 

Eventually, Tana convinces Red Shoes he’s okay to wrestle, and off we go. Taichi immediately kicks Tana in the head before the latter can even get his gear off, sending Tana to the floor. Taichi takes the ref and DOUKI comes in to attack. He sends Tana to the barricade and Red Shoes catches him, so he goes over to throw DOUKI out, allowing Taichi to choke Tana out with cable on the floor with the ref busy. Back in and Taichi goes to the mouth of Tana, then chokes him on the mat, then on the second rope. What dazzling technical skill being displayed. 

Taichi tosses Tana out, but Hiroshi mounts a comeback and tosses Taichi to the barricade. DOUKI distracts Tana and Taichi gets back the advantage, tossing Tana to the barricade, then taking him over the bleachers and running him into those, then hitting him with a chair. Back to ringside where he rams Tana to the post. Back in and Tana tries to stand up in the face of kicks, telling Taichi to bring it on….so Taichi hits him with a kick that puts him back down. I love it when that happens, because it’ll make the later babyface comeback all the better. 

Tana does fire up now, firing away with forearms and hitting a somersault senton for two. Taichi gets a kick after Tana misses a splash in the corner and the advantage seesaws for a bit. Taichi with a Saito suplex after Tana misses a wild shot. Powerbomb attempt by Taichi is blocked, so he goes to the Kawada kicks. Spinning Bossman slam by Tanahashi to get some space. Tanahashi’s selling is just off-the-charts good. I know that it’s popular wisdom that Okada is the best in NJPW and he’s a wonderful professional wrestler, but I’ll take Tanahashi every day of the week and twice on Sunday. 

Another Saito attempt is reversed to a Sling blade from Tanahashi. Twist and Shout sets up another one for two. Tanahashi goes up for the High Fly Flow and hits the first one on a standing Taichi, now looks for another, but DOUKI is back on the apron. Joy. Tana slaps him to the floor, allowing Taichi to hit a low blow and use the Gedo Clutch for two. Taichi with the Last Ride for two. Tana manages to find an opening and drop Taichi with a right, but Taichi hits a second Saito suplex on Tana. 

Sickle by Taichi, then a jumping kick and off come the pants! He measures Tana and hits a superkick, then follows with Black Mephisto for the clean in the middle pin. (Taichi over Hiroshi Tanahashi, pinfall, 21:51)

THOUGHTS: ***. Tanahashi carried this thing on his back, although I’ll give Taichi credit for keeping up, I suppose. But this was the Hiroshi Tanahashi sells show, as Tana fired up at exactly the right times in the match to give hope he would make the full-on comeback and win, while still putting over all of Taichi’s offense. And that included taking the clean pin in the middle. Overall, it’s clearly one of Taichi’s best matches ever, and proves that Tana is always one to bet on. 

Post-match, Taichi and DOUKI attack Tanahashi, with Taichi putting him in the Stretch Plum until Ibushi comes down for the save. Ibushi and Taichi go nose to nose, so now DOUKI attacks Ibushi and they both beat up Kota, before destroying Tana with a belt shot and stacking Ibushi on top of him. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Two excellent matches make this one well worth your time. SHO and Shingo really put something special on tonight, and I get the feeling that I may be saying that again very soon.

Up next, the last of our Round 1 matches!

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter