The New Japan Cup – Day 5


Tonight, it’s the beginning of the 2nd round! On tap, our action for tonight includes:

Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Taiji Ishimori
Tomohiro Ishii vs Togi Makabe
Toru Yano vs Hiromu Takahashi
Kazuchika Okada vs Yuji Nagata

Who will move on to the final eight?

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Previously, on the New Japan Cup – 

Day One:
Day Two:
Day Three:
Day Four:

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the UPDATED BRACKET! (They only drew blue lines on it with Paint, but still…’s updated!)

Time to go from 8 to 4 on the left side!


Taiji Ishimori vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru – Round 2

Heel vs heel, both Juniors, will kick us off tonight. And Kanemaru aims to be the bigger heel, as he attacks Ishimori on the stage with the whiskey bottle during Taiji’s entrance. Fun fact – Ishimori has never beaten Kanemaru, either in NJPW or in NOAH. They go after each other on the floor from barricade to barricade, and we finally head into the ring to start proper. Ishimori dominates to start until Kanemaru dropkicks the leg to catch a breather and take over. Kanemaru destroys the knee and puts on a figure-four, wrong leg as per the usual.

Ishimori makes the ropes to break, but Kanemaru keeps on the leg, going out to the floor to drop it on the barricade. Taiji tries to fire back, but Kanemaru kicks the knee. Irish whip, Ishimori comes off the ropes with a handspring into a kick to buy some time. Double knees in the corner by Ishimori, which, you know. Whatever. We’ll chalk it up to adrenaline of the moment. He misses a kick and gets rolled up by Kanemaru for two, then Kanemaru tries the figure-four again and Ishimori packages him for two. 

Off the ropes and the ref gets tossed away, allowing Kanemaru to pop up Ishimori into double knees… the groin. To the whiskey for Kanemaru, but he goes for to spray it and Ishimori slaps his hand over Kanemaru’s mouth to put a stop to that. That gets two. Scorpion Deathdrop from Kanemaru gets two. He goes up for Deep Impact but Ishimori catches him. Ishimori goes for the knees….I dunno. Psychology here is all over the place. Kanemaru blocks that and sits on him for two. Jumping knee from Ishimori into double knees gets two. Bloody Cross finishes for Taiji. (Taiji Ishimori over Yoshinobu Kanemaru, pinfall, 9:23)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. I dunno, I wasn’t feeling this one. I actually like both guys, especially Ishimori, but they were all over the place with the story of the match. Kanemaru went after the knee and I thought it would really pay into the finish, but that’s just not what happened – Ishimori sold it for the mid-portion of the match, then just kind of stopped and ignored it. If they hadn’t made such a big deal of it, I wouldn’t be as critical, but cutting off Ishimori’s speed and mobility certainly should have affected him being able to speed off the ropes as the match went on, much less him hitting multiple knee-related moves to win. Overall, this was a bit disappointing. 

Togi Makabe vs Tomohiro Ishii – Round 2 

Okay, this should be fun. I expect that no one will sell a goddamn thing and it will be manly. MANLY, I SAY. 

In all seriousness, Ishii is one of the best sellers in all of wrestling, and Makabe…..well, he’s Makabe. Opening bell and they rush each other. The first 30 seconds are just the two of them coming off the ropes with shoulderblocks and it’s glorious. Makabe gets the early advantage, but Ishii comes back and powerslams Togi. Ishii pounds away, but Makabe stands up and catches Tomohiro with a powerslam of his own. Northern Lights suplex gets two for Makabe. Ishii tries to slug it out, but Makabe staggers him with a forearm. He tries a clothesline in the corner, but Ishii ducks it and hits a german suplex into the buckles. 

Ishii presses Makabe face-first into the buckle and starts hitting him in the back of the head with elbows. I adore this man. Saito suplex gets two for Ishii. Makabe comes back with a lariat after Ishii blocks two of them. They trade clotheslines and Makabe once again wins the battle, then hits a powerbomb for two. Makabe puts Ishii on the top and goes for a top rope German, but Ishii stops that. Headbutt by Ishii, but Makabe fires back, hooking his legs through the middle ropes….belly-to-belly suplex off the top! Ishii pops up! He runs across the ring to clobber Makabe on the top, but immediately falls to the mat as soon as he does! 

Ishii manages to get to his feet and go up, avalanche superplex by Ishii! Makabe pops up and rushes Ishii, Ishii DROPS him with a lariat for two! Sliding lariat by Ishii is blocked by Makabe, german suplex by Togi gets two! This is pretty much the best Makabe match I’ve seen in years. Makabe goes up, King Kong kneedrop misses! Makabe tries to fire up, but he’s got nothing left and Ishii absolutely destroys him with headbutts. One more comeback from Makabe with chops, but Ishii cuts it off with an enzuigiri, a lariat, and the brainbuster to get the pin. Fabulous. (Tomohiro Ishii over Togi Makabe, pinfall, 13:29)

THOUGHTS: ***1/2. I really, really liked this match. There’s a more than credible case to be made that Tomohiro Ishii is the best worker in the world, but who knew that Togi Makabe had this one in him? Normally I just see him teaming with Kojima, but both of his matches in this tournament were quite good. They were just telling the story here of two guys throwing bombs at each other, with Makabe just not quite having enough to beat Ishii, but still giving him a run, and it worked to perfection. Ishii knew exactly when to sell and when to be on the offense, and the match built around that pacing. The sequence of two top rope suplexes into two completely different pop-up sequences was really a fun piece of business especially. Overall, this was a ton of fun. 

Ryuske Taguchi, Kota Ibushi, & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi, & DOUKI)

No time wasted here as Ibushi charges the ring and goes after Taichi! Good for you, Kota! Way to trick me into not hating Taichi as much, New Japan, by putting DOUKI into the match. You think my hate can’t encompass both equally? YOU’RE WRONG. Ibushi finally finishes beating the sweet merciful f--- out of Taichi on the floor by kicking him into the barricade, then nonchalantly removes his tag title belt, which was awesome. 

Speaking of awesome, we’ve got Sabre and Tanahashi in the ring. Tana controls for a bit, but Suzuki-Gun regroup and storm the ring, clearing out the babyfaces. Taichi puts Tanahashi in the full-nelson and Sabre just starts hitting dragon screws on him, one after the other. I like this very, very much. Taichi rolls out to beat on Ibushi on the floor with the ringbell hammer, while Sabre continues torturing the knee of Hiroshi in the ring. 

DOUKI in and he continues to work Tanahashi’s knee, back to Sabre. Zack tosses Tana to the floor and takes the ref, allowing Taichi and DOUKI to destroy Tana against the barricade. Tana barely beats the count back in….right into the waiting arms of Sabre, as Suzuki-Gun just beats on him even more. Tanahashi is the greatest face-in-peril in pro wrestling today. I accept no arguments otherwise. I want to start clapping in my living room to rally him, but my wife is asleep and so is my kid and oh yeah, he’s in f------ Japan and I’m in Nebraska. Still, I’m always into his matches. What the hell happened to Taguchi, by the way? Is he just dead somewhere? DOUKI puts Tanahashi in a modified figure-four, Tana makes the ropes. 

Sabre in and he tries for an octopus, but Tana escapes it and hits a modified dragon screw to buy time….hot tag Ibushi! Ibushi in and he trades kicks with Taichi, They engage in a epic battle of kicks, finally won by Ibushi with a kick across the chest to top Taichi, standing moonsault from Kota gets two. Blind charge is avoided by Taichi, who hits a kick to drop Kota now. Saito suplex by Taichi drops Ibushi on his goddamn head. Good lord. Ibushi blocks a powerbomb into a ‘rana, then hits a head kick to drop Taichi. Ibushi rolls over and it turns out that Taguchi is indeed alive, as he’s there for the tag. 

Tag by Taichi to DOUKI, and he’s in with some decent stuff on Taguchi. Gory stretch drop down by DOUKI, but Ibushi and Tana dive in to break up the pin, and it’s breaking loose in Korakuen hall, baby! Taguchi goes for the hip attack, blocked by DOUKI into an atomic drop, but now Tana is in with a sling blade on DOUKI, gourdbuster into seated hip attack by Taguchi, 1, 2, Sabre and Taichi break it up! Ibushi and Tana toss them and hit crossbodies to the floor, and now Taguchi hits a jumping enzuigiri into the Dodon for the pin. (Ryuske Taguchi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, & Kota Ibushi over Suzuki-Gun, pinfall, 13:56)

THOUGHTS: ***. The usual NJPW 6-man tag here, but I also think that we’re going somewhere with the whole ‘Suzuki-Gun tortures Hiroshi Tanahashi’ deal. I’m not going to be surprised if Ibushi and Tana drop the tag belts at this point, to be honest. They’ve definitely been harping on Tana getting beat up in this tournament, and if NJPW holds form, all that leg work is going to pay off when we get to the inevitable tag title match. 

Post-bell, Suzuki-Gun attacks, but Taguchi saves Tana and Ibushi from a belt shot. 

Intermission. Way to the Grandmaster. I’m hoping it’s Kawato.

Toru Yano vs Hiromu Takahashi – Round 2

YES! Okay, so there is a backstory here. When Yano was a dickhead back in the day and Takahashi was a lowly Young Lion, Yano beat up on him and shaved off part of his hair. Fast forward to this week, where Yano came out with scissors in the tag the other night, after posting pictures on his twitter of the ‘haircut’ he gave Hiromu. Check ’em out:

So instead of Hiromu’s customary swagger, he’s been absolutely terrified of getting his hair cut again. His music hits and he peeks out through the curtain, then comes out…..wearing a safety helmet. Oh, this is gonna be tremendous. By the way, while I totally understand and sometimes listen to the Japanese commentary myself, Kevin Kelly’s English commentary on this match is super fun, as he shamelessly makes excuses for Yano the entire time. Yano does his usual entrance and Hiromu demands that the ref pat Yano down to ensure there’s no barber-related items on his person. Yano pleads ignorance, as expected. 

The bell rings…..and Yano pulls out an electric razor. Kelly is shocked that a Young Lion would give Yano a set of clippers! Takahashi bails and Yano won’t give up the clippers, so Hiromu hides under the ring. Kelly deadpans that Yano beat JADO “in a technical masterpiece” in the first round as Yano goes after Hiromu as the ref starts counting. But Yano left the clippers behind and Hiromu comes out the other side, and now Hiromu has the clippers! He takes off his helmet with a big ol’ s----eating grin on his face. He goes to shave Yano’s head, but there’s no batteries in the clippers! Takahashi tosses them away…..and Yano pulls another pair of clippers out of his tights. Advantage Yano.

They pretend to do some wrestling for a minute or so, and it’s really not bad. Hiromu ‘ranas Yano to the floor, then sends him to the barricade. He checks all of Yano’s stuff for more clippers to be sure, then tries another whip that gets reversed, sending Takahashi to the barricade. Yano tries to get his electric clippers from the ring announcer now, but Hiromu stops that and sends Yano to the bleachers. Yano reaches into the bleachers…..and comes up with a pair of scissors. Wonder how those ended up there? Hiromu kicks them away and gets back in the ring. 

Yano unties the buckle, but Hiromu avoids running into it and drops Yano with a superkick. Yano ends up on the apron and Hiromu goes for a sunset bomb to the floor, which Yano blocks by reaching into his tights, causing Hiromu to run away in terror. 

Yep, that was a sentence I just wrote. 

But Yano comes up with nothing from his pants! 

Man, I’m on a roll.

Hiromu grabs Yano and sends him to the stage, next to the New Japan Cup…..and Yano reaches in and finds a pair of scissors IN the Cup! Kevin can’t figure out how all of these scissors ended up all over the Hall! “Thank God Yano is here to keep us safe!” Yano reaches under the stage and gets a roll of tape, and now Tsuji tries to stop him from taping Hiromu’s legs together. But Yano is a true student of the game and remembers how he beat Moxley in the G-1, when he taped Moxley’s legs together with Shota Umino’s legs to win by countout. The levels of this match run deep! 

So Yano tapes Takahashi and Tsuji’s legs together, then clips off a chunk of Hiromu’s hair! He even got some of the pink highlights! That son of a bitch. He shows it off for the camera, allowing Hiromu and Tsuji to hop to their feet and clobber Yano from behind after they pick up a roll of tape for themselves. They head out to the hallway near the elevator, and Yano gets nailed from behind again. Hey, this is 2 on 1! So what if it happens to be Yano’s fault, I demand justice for Yano! They tape Yano’s hands together and put tape over his eyes, then toss him in the elevator. They press down on the elevator and Yano is done for, but the count has started! They hobble back towards the ring, diving under the bottom rope at the count of 19, and the ref finishes counting Yano out. And the last shot we see after Hiromu is declared the winner is the elevator floor number reading ‘1’. Pure. Poetry. (Hiromu Takahashi over Toru Yano, countout, 9:09)

THOUGHTS: ????. I mean, how do I rate this? It was one of the funniest matches I’ve seen in years, and there were reasons for that:

  1. It went less than 10 minutes, which was exactly as long as it needed to be and not a second longer.
  2. It had a single comic narrative that never strayed from the path, ensuring that it would remain effective across the entire match.
  3. The right guy won and the right guy lost, which meant the match wasn’t a waste.

As I said during the match against JADO, Yano really needs the right guy to play off of, and he had him here, as Takahashi played along without wavering. It’s weird to try to rate something like this as a match, because it comes down to whether or not you think that a wrestling match rating scale needs to be able to encompass all styles, or whether or not it…..

…..oh, f--- it. ****.

Takahashi hugs Tsuji after the match. 

Main event time!

Kazuchika Okada vs Yuji Nagata – Round 2

Nagata upset Minoru Suzuki in the first round in what has been, so far, the match of the tournament. Let’s see if he’s got another one in him. Wrestling sequence as they trade off, with Yuji cranking on a headlock. Okada presses him against the ropes and gives a clean break, and they start throwing kicks. Nagata wipes Okada out with a big boot and Okada bails to the floor. He recovers there as Nagata holds the ropes open to invite him back to the ring. Back in and Nagata goes for the arm, but Okada takes him out with a seated dropkick. He tosses Nagata to the floor and sends him to the railing several times, as Okada looks to kind of be playing heel here. 

Back in and Okada hits a neckbreaker, then his own version of the ARROGANT COVER~!, but Red Shoes won’t count it. Elbows in the corner by Okada, who then sneers at the commentary table. There’s no kind-of about it here. Nagata catches Okada coming off the ropes with a knee to the gut, then it’s kicks from Nagata. Exploder gets two for Nagata. Okada back with an elbow off the ropes, then a DDT for two. They slug it out mid-ring, and Nagata hits a big belly-to-belly on Okada. They slug it out again and this time, Nagata beats him like a bitch. There’s the guy who went toe-to-toe with Suzuki. Big kick sends Okada to the corner, but Okada comes out with a dropkick to buy time. 

Neckbreaker from Okada gets two. Okada goes up, Nagata meets him at the top. Okada tries to slug him down, but Nagata won’t budge. He stands up to Okada’s best shots, then hooks an Exploder off the top! 1, 2, no! More kicks from Nagata as Okada collapses. Okada is doing a world-class sell job. He shoves Okada off and hits a dropkick, then a tombstone. He goes for the Cobra clutch, but Nagata slips out and puts on the crossface. Okada makes the ropes. Nagata with a knee to the face and he tries an exploder, Okada blocks and goes for the clutch again.

Nagata blocks it and hits the exploder. Irish whip is reversed, but Nagata puts on the brakes and Okada misses the dropkick. Nagata goes for the penalty kick, but Okada catches it and fires away. Nagata no-sells it and destroys Okada with strikes, Okada misses a Rainmaker and Nagata hits a Saito suplex for two. He tries for another one and has to settle for an enzuigiri, then sets up again; but this time, Okada rolls through into the Cobra clutch. Nagata tries to hang on (with some fantastic facial expressions), but Okada rolls him over to cut off the ropes and Nagata has nowhere to go. (Kazuchika Okada over Yuji Nagata, submission, 20:14)

THOUGHTS: ***3/4. This was really good, with some wonderful selling on both sides. This told a completely different story from the Suzuki match, as Okada played the cocky young wrestler who figures out midway through the match that he’s in a real dogfight against grizzled veteran Nagata. They didn’t come close to the Suzuki match and there was no realistic way that they would, and the match itself really only needed 15 minutes max. That’s something that they really need to work on with Okada matches, because while he’s a great, great professional wrestler, he absolutely does NOT need to be going 20+ minutes in every match. 

Okada cuts a promo after the match and we’re done. 

So that leaves us with these two matches of the final four on the left bracket:

Taiji Ishimori vs Kazuchika Okada
Tomohiro Ishii vs Hiromu Takahashi

Yeah, I think I can live with that. 

Right bracket 2nd round coming this week!

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter