The 2020 New Japan Cup – Day 7


We’re down to eight! Tonight, we set up the semifinals with:

Tomohiro Ishii vs Hiromu Takahashi – left bracket
Kazuchika Okada vs Taiji Ishimori – left bracket
SANADA vs Taichi – right bracket
EVIL vs YOSHI-HASHI – right bracket

We draw ever closer to the Finals to see who will get the shot at Naito at Dominion!

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

The road so far:

Day One:
Day Two:
Day Three:
Day Four:
Day Five:
Day Six:

With only eight wrestlers left, the time has come… retire the bracket. I beg all of you to support each other during this time. Pour one out for our fallen hero.

Let’s get this thing started.

Aw man, Taichi/SANADA is main-eventing tonight? 

Tomohiro Ishii vs Hiromu Takahashi – Quarterfinals, left bracket

This should be off the hook, as I understand all the hip teenagers to be saying down at the soda shop these days. Hiromu charges Ishii with shoulderblocks and is pretty successful at first before Ishii drops him for his insolence. Takahashi keeps trying to up the pace, but Ishii puts him back down and clobbers him in the corner with chops. They go nose to nose and have a GREAT chop battle in the middle, where you can just see that Hiromu is trying to prove that he can hang with Ishii and failing, as he tries to stand up in the onslaught and finally wilts. I always love little things that build the match towards where the inevitable climax will end up, and this was one of those sequences. Hiromu gets in his face to try to fire up and Ishii knocks him back down again. This is much more riveting than it sounds, as Hiromu is really selling that he’s willing to play Ishii’s game and win or die trying. 

Hiromu fires back, but Ishii ignores it and destroys him with a headbutt that sends him crashing to the floor. Back in and Ishii puts the badmouth on Takahashi, then no-sells his shots and chops him down in the corner. Finally, a blind charge from Ishii meets the boot of Hiromu and Takahashi gets a seated dropkick. Headscissors by Hiromu and they battle over a suplex, won by Ishii. He sends Hiromu to the corner, but Takahashi comes out with a shoulder and a Falcon Arrow for two. Shotgun dropkick to Ishii, who pops up like a crazy linebacker and drills Hiromu with a Pounce into the buckles, putting both guys down. 

Back up and they do a crazy reversal sequence with ducked clotheslines, go-behinds and other various escapes, and finally Ishii gets a Saito suplex. Powerbomb attempt by Ishii is countered into a ‘rana from Hiromu, who rolls through into a triangle. He keeps it on for a long time, but Ishii muscles up and powerbombs him into the buckle to break. Huge clothesline makes a mighty ‘THWACK!’ sound, and Ishii puts Hiromu on the top, Hiromu tries to fight him off, Avalanche brainbuster by Ishii! 1, 2, NO! Huge lariat by Ishii, but Hiromu screams in defiance after being turned inside-out. He fires up and gets in Ishii’s face, firing forearms…..and Ishii just absolutely ETHERS him with one of his own as Hiromu goes down in a heap! 

Sliding lariat by Ishii gets two. Brainbuster is countered into a small package for two, Hiromu goes for the triangle again, Ishii tries to powerbomb out, Hiromu rolls forward for two. THIS RULES. Hiromu charges Ishii and gets DESTROYED with another lariat that turns him on his head. Jesus CHRIST. Brainbuster is countered into a superkick by Takahashi, who puts Ishii on his shoulders and drops him with a Dynamite Plunger! 1, 2, NO!! Two clotheslines and a superkick put Ishii down as Hiromu is finally starting to dent the monster now. 

Death Valley Driver into the corner by Hiromu. Time Bomb is countered, Takahashi goes for the Poison ‘rana, but Ishii gets a release German instead. Now they BOTH fire up at each other and fire headbutts, and Hiromu WINS that as Ishii goes down and the announcers are going ballistic. So am I. Hiromu off the ropes, now HE hits the lariat to drop Ishii! Time Bomb! 1, 2, ISHII KICKS OUT!! Back up and Ishii tries for the brainbuster, but Takahashi counters that into an inverted one of his own that looked nasty as hell. He hoists Ishii up in more of a driver position, hitting what looks like a modified 2nd Time Bomb!! 1, 2, 3!!! FAB-U-LOUS. (Hiromu Takahashi over Tomohiro Ishii, pinfall, 19:31)

THOUGHTS: ****1/2. Sweet merciful LORD, this was a fantastic match. You want Sting/Vader? This match followed it to a t, with Ishii just clobbering Takahashi in the beginning of the match and Hiromu building and building and building to his comebacks and hope spots at exactly the right moments to amp up the drama as high as possible. And, instead of making it a fluke win on a rollup or something like that, they had Ishii kick out of Hiromu’s finisher and force him to hit a modified, ‘super’ version of it to pick up the duke. They made Takahashi look like a star out there while still keeping Ishii looking like the motherfucking ENDBOSS to end all. In short, this match was spectacular and if you think it should be 1/4 a star higher to tie it with Nagata/Suzuki for match of the tournament so far, I hold no quarrel with your opinion on the matter. Outside of the minor quibble that I think that Ishii was in the triangle in the middle of the match for a bit too long, I have nothing else to really criticize. I LOVED THIS. 

Both guys sell the beating after the match, just lying down in the ring. Tremendous.

YOSHI-HASHI vs EVIL – Quarterfinals, right bracket

YOSHI is apparently working with an injured knee tonight – not sure if it’s kayfabe or legit. Either way, it doesn’t really matter as EVIL destroys his knee with a chair before the match even starts. He wraps a chair around the knee and Pillmanizes it, and I’m not saying that this is, you know, RIGHT or anything, but the screams of YOSHI-HASHI sustain my lifeforce. After all that, the ref still rings the bell to start the match, thus proving my theory that everyone in NJPW, including the refs, hate YOSHI. EVIL kicks him in the knee a bunch of times after ignoring YOSHI’s pathetic attempt at strikes, then puts him a Scorpion Deathlock and sits on it. YOSHI won’t give up because he’s dumb, so the ref finally just stops it. (EVIL over YOSHI-HASHI, ref stoppage, 2:01)

THOUGHTS: *. This wasn’t a match. It was an angle to continue establishing that EVIL is a bastard who will do anything to win this tournament. As usual, they got through the ropes and no one got hurt, so they get *. Not making me sit through another 15+ minute YOSHI-HASHI match? That’s *****. 

In all seriousness, this is the point in the show where I figured out who was winning the main event, and it filled me with even more joy. They’ve got something here with EVIL being out for himself and no one else, and I hope they go all the way with it. 

YOSHI actually tries to TRASH TALK EVIL after the match is over, so EVIL stomps on his knee a bunch more times. 

Hirooki Goto, SHO, & Yuya Uemura vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, & Shingo Takagi)

Naito taunts Uemura before we start, and Uemura takes it personally enough to charge at Shingo to get us going. I’m really enjoying Uemura as the Young Lion that isn’t afraid of any of the more established wrestlers in the company, honestly. They’ve actually done a really good job recently at giving the Lions a personality – Shota Umino’s work with Moxley is probably the prime example of a guy who potentially didn’t need to go on excursion, instead just building off the character he had started to create. Anyway, Uemura does pretty well for himself, getting an armdrag, dropkick, and shoulderblock to drop Takagi. SHO comes in and he and Shingo do their usual, i.e. great, match with each other for a bit. 

Tag to Naito from Shingo, and talk about a match I want to see, as Naito sizes up SHO. He puts the boots to him and hits a neckbreaker, then a stepover crossface is slapped on SHO. Goto saves, tag to BUSHI. He chokes SHO with the shirt and hits a neckbreaker, back to Shingo as SHO is taking a whuppin’. They do a killer sequence where SHO tries a spear and Shingo catches him and turns it into a DDT, then Shingo goes for the sliding lariat and SHO avoids it and pops up with a spear to get some time. Tags on both sides to Naito and Goto, respectively. 

Just as I was about to type that Naito had clearly used the time off to heal up and wasn’t taking any crazy chances in these matches, Goto turns him inside-out with a clothesline and Naito lands on his head. Saito suplex from Goto gets two. Naito comes back with the enzuigiri and tornado DDT, then a tag to BUSHI. Missile dropkick by BUSHI, but Goto blocks the Fisherman’s neckbreaker and tags in Uemura. Yuya comes in and hits a nice dropkick, then SHO comes in for the double-team on BUSHI after knocking Shingo to the floor.

Uemura suplexes BUSHI for two. Naito comes in to stop the double-overhook suplex, Goto takes out Naito and hits an Ushigoroshi, then gets walloped by Shingo, who in turn gets nailed by SHO as it’s breaking loose in Korakuen Hall, baby! Everyone ends up outside except BUSHI and Uemura, coincidentally the two legal men (funny how that works, isn’t it?), and BUSHI hits the Fisherman’s neckbreaker this time for two. Fireman’s carry Codebreaker finishes for BUSHI. (LIJ over Hirooki Goto, SHO, & Yuya Uemura, pinfall, 9:35)

THOUGHTS: ***1/4. This was a sprint of a 6-man tag with no resting and I enjoyed it immensely. SHO and Shingo are going to have a rivalry for the ages if they keep it going, because every time they get in the ring with each other, it feels like magic is going to happen. Overall, this was a pretty strong six-man that they kept under ten minutes, which made sure it was constantly moving. I liked this one.

Intermission. The Grandmaster is coming soon, everyone!

Taiji Ishimori vs Kazuchika Okada – Quarterfinal, left bracket

They circle each other, Okada tries to intimidate Ishimori by standing over him….so Taiji rakes him in the eyes. Attaboy. He’s gotta cheat a lot here, or it’s just a big guy beating up a little guy with the face/heel alignments completely reversed from normal. Okada no-likey and he drops Taiji, then gets a slam and a slingshot senton, seated dropkick sends Ishimori to the floor. GEDO comes out to distract Okada, allowing Taiji to drop him from behind and send him to the floor, then the barricade. Ishimori takes the ref so GEDO can whack Okada with a wrench, and while I don’t mind this, they shouldn’t play it too much like the GEDO/Okada match, because Ishimori is a better wrestler than GEDO is. Finding the correct cheating balance here is gonna be tricky, because like I said, Ishimori needs to cheat; he can’t be the little guy fighting up against the bigger guy here. 

Ishimori rolls him back in for one, then a chinlock. Legdrop by Taiji gets two. Okada tries to put the boots up on a blind charge, but Ishimori catches them and hangs him in the ropes, then snaps off his sliding suplex for two. Chinlock again. Back up and Okada gets a flapjack to turn the tide, elbows and a DDT get two for Okada. Okada with a rollup, but Ishimori kicks out into the crossface, Okada makes the ropes. He turns it around with a neckbreaker on Taiji, slam and he goes up. GEDO gets up on the apron and Okada comes down to give chase, allowing Ishimori to send him to the floor with a handspring kick, then a moonsault. 

Back in and a shotgun dropkick by Taiji sends Okada to the buckles. Double knees by Ishimori gets two. Okada sends him off the ropes, Ishimori spins it into the crossface. He clamps it on good and deep, but Okada makes the ropes on his last gasp. Ishimori comes off the ropes, dropkick by Okada! He goes for the Tombstone, Ishimori reverses into the double knees! 1, 2, no! Bloody Cross attempt is blocked by Okada, spinning Tombstone by the Rainmaker! He slaps on the Cobra Clutch, GEDO jumps on the apron, Okada breaks the hold. 

He warns GEDO off and puts the Clutch back on, Ishimori grabs the ref while reaching for the ropes and tosses him. GEDO runs in while the ref is out to break the hold and puts on the knucks, but it’s a swing and miss by GEDO. Okada kicks him out of the ring, then hits a dropkick on Ishimori and puts the Clutch back on to head to the semifinals. (Kazuchika Okada over Taiji Ishimori, submission, 16:54)

THOUGHTS: ***. I just never bought that Ishimori had a chance to win this, sorry. Even with all the Bullet Club antics, the truth is that I felt like Okada was going to win the whole way and that we were just marking time until he did. Both guys are great wrestlers, but this is another in the long line of matches where Okada really doesn’t need to go 15+ minutes; fact is, they could have done this as a ten-minute match to play better for Ishimori’s style and the match would probably have been stronger as a result. The work was fine, don’t get me wrong, but it was drama-free to me. 

SANADA vs Taichi – Quarterfinal, right side

I…..I don’t know about this. These two don’t seem like their styles are going to mesh all that well. But I’ll give them a fair shot. 

And we start with a full MINUTE AND A HALF before any contact. Oh, boy!

Armbar by SANADA and Taichi goes to the ropes to break. More stalling, SANADA puts on a hammerlock and Taichi goes to the ropes to break, grabbing a piece of rope while he’s over there. SANADA with a kick, so Taichi chokes him with the rope. What a talent. To the floor and Taichi sends SANADA to the barricade, then more choking over the barricade. Then he puts the barricade across SANADA’s throat….to choke him. Back in, and Taichi chokes him on the mat. I mean, I’m not making this up. This has been the entire first 5 minutes of this match. Two armbars and a lot of choking. 

SANADA fires a forearm, so Taichi goes to the eyes. SANADA misses a standing moonsault, but lands on his feet and dropkicks Taichi in the back of his stupid head. Yeah, I’m done with the whole giving him a chance thing. 5+ minutes of choking and eye rakes will do that to a reviewer. SANADA with a dropkick to the knee of Taichi, sending him to the floor, then a plancha onto Taichi. He ties Taichi up in the Paradise Lock using the bottom rope, getting a thumbs up from Milano at ringside as Taichi screams for help. Dropkick by SANADA gets one. 

SANADA charges Taichi in the corner, allowing Taichi to avoid and hit his one good move, a kick. They meet in the center of the ring and for a few minutes, a good match breaks out as they trade forearms and kicks. Jumping kick by Taichi puts SANADA down, off come the pants. Taichi’s kick is blocked and SANADA gets the Skull End, Taichi escapes that with a kick and gets the Saito suplex. Taichi goes for Black Mephisto, but SANADA blocks both attempts. Slingshot brainbuster by SANADA, 

Blind charge by Taichi meets and elbow and SANADA gets the Skull End again, and here comes Kanemaru from commentary. He takes the ref as Taichi is loudly tapping the entire time. SANADA breaks the hold and goes to see what’s up, allowing Taichi to recover and hit another Saito suplex, then he puts SANADA in the Stretch Plum. SANADA fights it and makes the ropes right before Red Shoes stops it. Last Ride attempt, SANADA backdrops out of it, Taichi nails him in the back of the head with a lariat and a jumping kick.

Bridging belly-to-back suplex gets two for Taichi. Axe Bomber attempt is blocked by a ‘rana from SANADA into a rollup for two, then a TKO, back to Skull End. He releases and goes up for the moonsault, but Taichi grabs the ref and distracts him to allow Kanemaru to get on the apron. Kanemaru rakes the eyes as Taichi tosses the ref away, low blow by Taichi! Gedo Clutch attempt, but SANADA rolls through it to send Taichi into Kanemaru, then grab Taichi into an O’Connor roll to mercifully end Taichi’s New Japan Cup. (SANADA over Taichi, pinfall, 22:50)

THOUGHTS: **1/4. This was so boring. I mean that sincerely. I don’t really like either guy, but SANADA can be carried with a good worker and I generally don’t mind him. 20+ minute Taichi matches, on the other hand, can slowly and agonizingly die in a fire. Seriously, this was a very slow, cerebral worker in there with a guy who stalls like crazy and uses every piece of cheap bullshit he can to get heat doing a match in front of NO FANS. So all of Taichi’s nonsense produced absolutely zero reaction, thus making it all the more boring, although kudos to the commentary for doing their level best to try to make this into an epic which it surely was not. I do not endorse this product and/or service. 

SANADA gives the victor’s speech and we’re done. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: We’ve got a few good semis set up here, as they’ve put EVIL over the entire tournament as a heel, thus ensuring that there will at least be somewhat of an issue when he faces off against his stablemate SANADA in the right semifinal, while Hiromu vs Okada just feels like it can’t be bad. Hiromu/Ishii stole the show tonight and may in fact have been the best match of the tournament so far, depending on your mileage. Overall, this was a pretty good show, if a not a great one, with one absolutely fantastic match. 

Up next, the Semis! I’ll have it done before the Finals this weekend.

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter