The 2020 New Japan Cup – Day 8



Last show before the Final! Tonight, our semi-final matches include:

Kazuchika Okada vs Hiromu Takahashi

Who will meet in the Finals of the New Japan Cup? Only one way to find out…..

…..let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Where we’ve been: 

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

Let’s get this party started!

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata, & Gabriel Kidd vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi, El Desperado)

Neat little moment as Tanahashi poses on the buckles, but makes sure to glance down at Taichi keep him back after what happened in their first round match. Suzuki-Gun….does not jump the babyfaces before the bell? What fresh hell world is this? Tana and Taichi start, ZSJ tries to ambush Tana but that doesn’t go as planned, as Sabre gets tossed and the prettiest tag team in all the world double-teams Taichi for two. Taichi comes back with, and you can sing along with me in the back there, choking! This time, it’s a rope around the neck of Tana as the match breaks down with everyone fighting. ZSJ gets his dragon-screw on Tanahashi while Taichi holds him, and I really love that move a lot. It just looks vicious. Everyone heads to the floor, where Taichi chokes Tana with the barricade. 

Back in the ring now, and we get a tag to Suzuki, who just annihilates Tanahashi’s knee. Glorious. Desperado in with a half-crab, but Kidd breaks that up. We’re clearly looking at Suzuki-Gun trying to just destroy Tanahashi before the inevitable tag title match at Dominion here. Sabre comes in for even more punishment as Tanahashi’s knee is decimated, while Taichi brings the tag belts into the ring because reasons. Ibushi comes in to try to stop Taichi, but never fear, the master of the Greco-Roman choke drops Ibushi to the mat was Suzuki comes in to help Sabre make Tanahashi scream in agony. Yeah, real nice, NJPW – remind me that in a perfect world, it would be Suzuki and ZSJ challenging for the tag belts. I mean, seriously – Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr and Minoru Suzuki? I’d watch that match until the earth fell into the sun. 

Tana finally makes his comeback and tags in Ibushi, who leaps in and runs wild. ‘Rana and kicks for ZSJ, but Ibushi goes for a standing moonsault and gets trapped in a triangle as a result. Kidd runs in to break that up, so Taichi comes in and rakes him in the eyes. Ibushi and Sabre do a dandy little match together that ends with Ibushi hitting a high kick to put both guys down. Tags on both sides and here come the Murder Dads. Suzuki and Nagata throw down like they never stopped after their first-round match. Dear God, Minoru Suzuki laughing in the face of Nagata as Yuji just throws forearms is the most terrifying thing in any wrestling company. Bray Wyatt can eat a dick. Gotch-style piledriver is blocked into an Exploder, and Nagata tags in Kidd. 

So Kidd comes in and just throws forearm after forearm after forearm at Suzuki, who basically ignores it all, backs Kidd into a corner, and BITCHSLAPS HIM OFF HIS FEET. That was AWESOME, and Kidd sold it like he had just been shot in the head, legs crumpling beneath him, the whole 9. Tag to Desperado and Kidd makes a comeback. Good one too, with a couple of dropkicks and a Boston Crab. Taichi breaks that up and the match breaks down again, with Tana and Ibushi hitting stereo dives onto Taichi and ZSJ, respectively. That leaves Kidd and Desperado alone, Kidd tries to press the advantage, but Desperado catches him with a nasty right and follows that with Pinche Loco to end a very entertaining tag. (Suzuki-Gun over Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata, & Gabriel Kidd, pinfall, 12:14)

THOUGHTS: ***1/2. This had a bit of everything for me, in that we got a really fun Suzuki/Nagata segment, we furthered the road to the tag title match, and Kidd got a bit of shine before getting pinned. Yes, Taichi was in the match, but a little rain must fall, you know? Overall, I thought this was tremendously fun and did exactly the job it needed to do. 

Post-match, Sabre puts Ibushi into a kneebar while Taichi and Tana have words on the floor. It gets broken up and Taichi tosses the tag belts at Tana and Ibushi, and Kota has to be held back by the Lions and Nagata from going after Suzuki-Gun. 

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, SHO) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, Shingo Takagi)

SHO and Shingo start us off. I heartily approve. As usual, they just beat the crap out of each other to my delight. Tag to Ishii, who slugs it out with Shingo. Takagi goes after SHO on the apron and Ishii shoulders him down. LIJ comes in and everyone pairs off, with Shingo DDT’ing SHO on the floor. I’m dead serious when I say that SHO and Shingo could end up fighting each other many, many times over the next few years, and all of them will be glorious. 

Back in the ring, tag to Naito, stomps to Ishii, tag to BUSHI. He chokes Ishii with his shirt as usual, so Ishii turns the table and chokes BUSHI, thus necessitating Naito to come in to put a stop to that chicanery. Naito drops Ishii’s head onto his knee for two. He charges Ishii, who turns that into a powerslam, and it’s a tag to Goto. I’m starting to wonder if they’re heating Goto up a bit – he’s been in the ring with Naito a lot in these tags. Clothesline in the corner and a Saito suplex by Goto gets two. Tetsuya turns it around with a back elbow and a seated dropkick to Goto. Goto comes back, but BUSHI comes in to cut that off and both guys are down. 

Tags on both sides and here comes SHO and Shingo again. Just a great sequence ensues with Shingo getting a suplex, missing a sliding lariat, SHO goes for a spear, Shingo blocks it and tries a DDT, SHO blocks with body shots and gets a suplex of his own. There were callbacks to all of their matches and various counters in that sequence alone, showcasing them learning about each other and becoming smarter in the feud. I cannot praise these two enough. Rolling Germans by SHO, but Shingo blocks the last one and wipes him out with a lariat coming off the ropes. 

Tag to BUSHI, who comes in with a DDT on SHO. Ishii comes in and BUSHI goes for a…..dropkick? Don’t know what happened there, but he just kind of fell over. Ishii fires away, but BUSHI recovers enough to toss him. SHO misses a blind charge and now LIJ with the triple-team, lungblower from BUSHI for two. Goto breaks that up and the match breaks down, as is wont to do. BUSHI hits the rewind kick but gets destroyed with a SHO lariat. SHO with the double knees, then he looks Shingo right in the eyes before hitting the Shock Arrow on BUSHI to get the pin. (CHAOS over LIJ, pinfall, 13:17)

THOUGHTS: ***1/4. Fun match where the main focus was to set up SHO/Shingo, and they did a good job with that, as all of their sequences were the best in the match. There’s a Goto/Naito vibe I’m getting as well, but SHO and Shingo were absolutely center-stage in this one, as they should have been. I don’t think that SHO is winning the title, even with YOH injured right now, but more killer matches between him and Shingo is going to be hard to turn down. 

Post-match, Shingo and SHO go face-to-face and have a tug of war over the NEVER Openweight singles belt. Shingo kicks him and goes for a belt shot, but SHO ducks it and spears Shingo down, then poses with the belt. I’m AMPED for this.

Way to the Grandmaster video….wait a second, this is a different one! The Grandmaster is revealed….it’s Hirai Kawato!! He’s got blue hair now and his new name is Master Wato! Uh, okay. And after the video….he’s here! 

Oh, boy. I’m a bit skeptical that this one is going to work, frankly. He looks like a walking Yu-Gi-Oh card. But I really loved Kawato as a Young Lion, and even though his excursion apparently didn’t go well, I’m willing to give it a shot. Hell, Okada’s excursion wasn’t exactly gangbusters, and that seemed to work out okay, didn’t it? He says a few words on the mic, then poses…..and DOUKI attacks from behind with his steel pipe, laying out Master Wato! DOUKI poses, stepping on Wato’s head before leaving. 

I’m not sure that getting laid out by a Suzuki-Gun C-Lister is how I would debut ANYONE, but…..we’ll see. 

Intermission, ring cleaning. 

EVIL vs SANADA – Semi-Final #1

LIJ explodes! SANADA needs to go back to his giant hair. I think that’s what’s missing for him. SANADA offers the handshake, seemingly accepted by EVIL…..who then goes for Everything is Evil, reversed by SANADA into Skull End, standoff. Shoulder by EVIL, SANADA counters with an armdrag to send him to the floor. EVIL stalls for a bit, then gets back in and clotheslines SANADA to the floor, following that up by sending him to the barricades. He wraps a chair around SANADA’s neck and sends him to the post after tossing the ref, so if you still harbored any thoughts about this being a sporting contest between stablemates, allow me to dispel them. 

SANADA rolls back in and EVIL immediately goes to work, grinding his elbow into SANADA’s eyes one by one, furthering his training to challenge the winner of Rollins/Mysterio next week. Chinlock by EVIL. SANADA escapes and dropkicks the knee of EVIL, then does it again before ‘ranaing him to the floor and hitting a plancha. Back in and SANADA gets two. EVIL goes to the eyes and kicks SANADA down. EVIL goes for a Fisherman’s Buster, but SANADA turns that into a slingshot neckbreaker for two. EVIL shoves the ref in the way of SANADA, then uses him as the second guy to hit a Magic Killer. 

They slug it out from their knees, then from their feet. EVIL hits a lariat and Darkness Falls for two. Everything is Evil is blocked and they trade reversals until SANADA gets a Tiger suplex for two. Skull End is escaped by EVIL, who hits a big lariat for two on SANADA. Everything is Evil is reversed into Sliced Bread #2, but Sanada under-rotates and lands right on his HEAD, which looked terrifying. He rolls over on the mat looking loopy, but is seemingly okay to keep going. I dunno, I might have gone home here, but I understand that not only is this the semifinal, but that they were also on Japanese TV and didn’t want to do that. Still, that looked rough. 

Skull End and SANADA gets the full bodyscissors with it now. He releases and goes up for the moonsault, but that hits the knees of EVIL. SANADA charges, but EVIL avoids it and SANADA takes out the ref, further amplified by EVIL just blatantly throwing SANADA into the ref in the corner right after. With the ref down, EVIL just abandons any pretense and clocks SANADA in the nuts. EVIL gets two chairs from under the ring, wraps one around SANADA’s head, then uses the other to swing for the fences, so to speak. EVIL’s not done, as he just flat-out stomps SANADA in the balls, then revives the ref and hits Everything is Evil for the pin. (EVIL over SANADA, pinfall, 20:13)

THOUGHTS: ***. This was technically fine (the BEST kind of fine!), but there was a lot of laying around selling in this one, and the storyline finish didn’t do much for me. Yes, we get it, EVIL is….well, he’s evil. But the match felt too long to me and lacked an energy to it, so I was kind of cool towards it. The right guy won, as EVIL continues his “I’ll go through anyone to win the Cup” story here, so there’s that. Overall, I think this one just kind of missed me.

Hiromu Takahashi vs Kazuchika Okada – Semi-Final #2

Hiromu uses speed to start, taking Okada over with a ‘rana. He misses a dropkick and Okada gets the Cobra, Hiromu makes the ropes and bails out. Okada follows him out and hits a neckbreaker on the floor. Okada nails Hiromu coming back in and hits a slingshot senton, gets one. Swinging neckbreaker by Okada. Hiromu mounts a brief comeback with a seated dropkick, then a shotgun dropkick to send Okada to the floor. 

Hiromu to the apron, another shotgun dropkick from the apron to the floor. Back in and they fight over a suplex, blocked twice by Okada, but Hiromu gets a superkick instead to set up a Falcon Arrow for two. Okada with a Flapjack to get some space. Okada gets an uppercut on a charging Hiromu, but Takahashi grabs him for a snap German suplex in a really cool spot. See, now I’m into this match despite the leisurely pace, because Takahashi’s fast offense meshes well with Okada’s deliberate work. They slug it out, won by Okada, and he hits a shotgun dropkick to send Hiromu to the pads in the corner. I’m pretty sure that Okada would be getting booed like nuts here if we had fans.

Okada puts Hiromu on the top, then dropkicks him to the floor. He tosses Hiromu to the barricade, then boots him over the top of it. He hangs Takahashi on top of the barricade, draping DDT onto the floor by Okada! Back in and Okada hits a beautiful missile dropkick onto Hiromu for two. Takahashi avoids another dropkick and hits a shotgun of his own to drop Okada. He puts Okada on the top and they fight it out, Takahashi hits a dropkick to send Okada to the floor! Hiromu waits for Okada to get to the apron and charges, sunset bomb to the floor by Hiromu! 

Back in, Hiromu hits the Dynamite Plunger! 1, 2, no! Corner DVD by Hiromu is blocked, and Okada hits the dropkick to put both guys down. Tombstone by Okada into the Cobra Clutch, because BY GOD we are gonna get that move over. Takahashi escapes and now we get the DVD to the corner pads. Time Bomb is blocked and Okada hits a shotgun dropkick, but Hiromu pops up and hits a clothesline, then hits a RAINMAKER on Okada! 1, 2, NO! That was awesome! Time Bomb….hits for Hiromu! 1, 2, NO! Okada tries to block a tombstone attempt, so Hiromu grabs a triangle, Okada tries to powerbomb out of that, Hiromu hangs on and rolls forward for two! 

Wheelbarrow into a Bulldog for Hiromu. He comes off the ropes, dropkick by Okada! Okada fires up…..Hiromu comes out of the corner and levels him with a lariat to cut it off! Okada blocks Hiromu and hits the jumping tombstone now, and we’re back to the Cobra in the middle of the ring. Hiromu tries to escape again, but Okada adapts this time and spins into a Rainmaker! Back to the Clutch! He lets the Clutch go but keeps the wrist, Rainmaker by Okada! Another Rainmaker by Okada! Cobra is back on! Red Shoes checks Hiromu….he stops it! (Kazuchika Okada over Hiromu Takahashi, ref stoppage, 27:01)

THOUGHTS: ****. They took awhile to get cooking, but DAMN, those last five minutes were pretty much as good as wrestling is gonna get right now. Okada learning within the match how Hiromu escaped the Clutch the first time and countering it the second time, Hiromu hitting the Rainmaker into the Time Bomb, Okada needing to hit 2 Rainmakers before using the Clutch to be absolutely sure that the plucky Takahashi was done for…..they packed a lot into this match and it worked. Would it have been a slightly better match at 20 minutes? Yeah, probably. There was a lot of build that could be interpreted as bloat in the middle of the match, but I also can’t deny that the last 5 minutes worked because of how well they were set up from the opening ten minutes or so, so I’m not totally sure. But the match itself was cracking. Really good stuff.

Post-match, Okada stares at Hiromu down on the mat, knowing how close it truly was, then cuts the victor’s promo and we’re done. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: So, EVIL has to win now, right? We’ve spent the entire tournament with his entire story being that he’ll do anything to win, that he’s burning down relationships with tag partner, that most of the intrigue is going to be what lengths he’ll go to against another stablemate in Naito to win this thing. There’s no intrigue to Okada winning, whereas there’s plenty with EVIL – what if he wins and cheats like crazy against Naito, but Naito wins? Where will his place be in LIJ after that? Will he even be forgiven for what he did to SANADA tonight? Whereas if Okada wins, it’s a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom in front of a third of the house. Now, I get that GEDO books a year or so in advance according to scuttlebutt, so if Okada was always the plan for Dominion, maybe he doesn’t want to rock that boat. But I still think that it’s gotta be EVIL. 

The Final is this weekend, as is Dominion. I’ll see you all then!

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter