After a Day 1 that exceeded expectations, with tons of matchups going south of peoples original predictions, it’s now time for the fallout from the show, and the continuation of the 2016 New Japan Cup. With me being half-sick still, typing this review, still recovering from hearing the news of Hayabusa’s death late last night; I’d like to dedicate this review in memoriam of Eiji Ezaki. The Phoenix will forever fly. Long live puroresu. Let’s get to the show.
This is a typical show-starter that can turn show-stopper at a blink of an eye. I will never complain about these two opening a show. Fantastic opener between the two. They get better time-in time-out on every show I watch, and the explosiveness and strength-offense mix-match between both guys assensuates every battle. The counters were unique, and we got trademark offense from each guy, but when the time came for the finish; it was the first and only time a Crab was brought out during the match. That differs from other matches White and Finlay have had where it was built around the Crab. A captivating finishing sequence saw White go for a roll-up but pick Finlay up out of it anyways, and at this point he was in the Styles Clash which the crowd buzzed for. However, White transitioned the Clash position to a Crab in which Finlay tried to fight out of. He was dragged back and Jay put one knee over Finlay’s head whilst still in the Crab. That got him the victory. Jay White is up in their televised match series 3-1.
Hiroshi Tanahashi main evented Day 1 with Bad Luck Fale, in a losing effort, and is now in the second match of Day 2. This was uneventful as you’d expect it’d be on paper, although there is one major redeeming quality about the match. Cody Hall literally selling his dick. There were portions where Juice was worked over, where Tanahashi was worked over, and times where the two would execute well-versed team work, but, the major takeaway coming out of the match was Hall’s successful attempt at mixing comedy and big guy work in the same match. I had no problems with him here, and although his act was cartoon-y, that’s how it should be in front of a Japanese crowd. As he went to put Tanahashi on his back, I assume he found that it was the right time to break into “ow, my dick hurts” mode and start screaming ‘groin’ and such whilst limping around. After a double flapjack to Cody, as well as Juice taking out Yujiro on the outside, Tanahashi executed a dragon screw/Texas Cloverleaf combo on Cody for the win as Cody tapped out right next to the ropes. After the match, the crowd exchanged “Juice! and Ace!” during both’s top-rope Moose taunts, which they also used during the match.
These are the out-of-the-box tag team matches that, when booked, I know I am going to enjoy and that future feuds will launch out of, or even in-match feuds that are always entertaining to see go down. A good solid tag. Everybody got their spots in, and this was an extra special undercard dynamic because of the older generation trying to further the storyline of being able to rebel against the new stars of New Japan. Honma, Shibata, Liger, Nakanishi & Nagata were bright spots with everyone else being OK as well. The main takeaway from this one is the fact that we know who Shibata’s next NEVER Openweight challenger is. It is none other than Yuji Nagata! They built slight tension throughout the match, where Shibata would willingly attack Nagata, which in turn fired Nagata up. The finish was awesome — Shibata was put in the Torture Rack by Nakanishi but he slipped out and kept Nakanishi in the sleeper, which also allowed for Honma to Kokeshi Nakanishi in the position. Shibata brought Nakanishi down and gave him the Penalty Kick to get Team Mostly Champs + Taguchi the win. After the match, Shibata held up his title to Nagata’s face, Tenzan more specifically, but presumably on behalf of the generation…in general, stared down the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles, and KUSHIDA/Liger had a taunt battle in which happened earlier in the match, which could end up being a thing — but really, only if Ospreay doesn’t win the title and that’s completely unlikely.
You gotta have Okada somewhere on the card, plus it furthers the YOSHI-HASHI vs. Ingobernables story, and pits a cool combination of BUSHI & EVIL against CHAOS. A passable match in which I’m ingnorant on when it comes to critquing. It did its job, and that’s about it. I got to see one of the coolest (hopefully long-lasting) spots in wrestling which is EVIL’s chair baseball carnage on the outside in which he either swings at the chair that’s on your head or smashes you onto something with the chair on your head as your painful bull horns. YOSHI and Okada brought out some solid double team moves such as the slingshot DDT that took EVIL out of the equation. BUSHI was hit with the dropkick, elbow drop, Rainmaker combo as CHAOS pick up the short-lived match victory.
Short and to the point Yano troll job. Not much is to be said about this match other than the fact that the troll continues to survive! The guys brawled outside for a lot of the time, exchanging irish whips and keeping the crowd in the palm of their hands. Kojima never got to hit the lariat, but Yano did get to hit…his dick. Ironically more dick selling pops up this show, with Yano managing to get the sneaky low-blow in behind the ref’s back. However, instead of the first round match ending, Kojima fired right back, but eventually, after limping and sprinting at Yano, was pulled down by his hair into a roll-up that allows Yano to advance in the tournament and face the winner of Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito.
New Japan are definitely going somewhere with the now two fluke Goto wins that have occurred in the first two rounds. The match itself was moving along at a solid pace, but turned hot when the two danced around for a sequence in which the Gun Stun was teased, then eventually hit out of the Ushigoroshi. The crowd picked up, but all of a sudden, the match was over as we got a ref halt which caused a bridge that Goto crossed to get to his cheap win. Tama went for another superman punch but Goto headbutted him out of it and simply used a kick to the chest as the final move of the match. Tama looks like a geek in that sense, but we’ll see where they go with Goto as this could all make sense and be for the greater when it pays off. It’s funny seeing Goto go from face in peril to coward all within the span of a few minutes.
After the match, Okada came out and offered a handshake to Goto which was declined. More fluky behavior from Goto.
It’s safe to say that this was one of Elgin’s weaker matches in Japan, but that is no tear into him as this still was at least passable. The crowd was behind Elgin, albeit not shocking once again, every step of the way, but to a viewer like myself, there wasn’t much substance or investment to be had. Elgin evaded Fale in the early going as they tried to continue that story, and through his power, showcased tons of times, Fale was eventually put away. The finish popped the crowd loud and probably some watching, as Elgin slipped under Fale to powerbomb him off the second rope for the win. There were some nice near falls which kept the action going at some parts, but for a 10 minute match, and Fale involved, it was pretty much what you’d expect. Elgin moves into the semi-finals where he will take on Goto.
Tomohiro Ishii finds himself back in the main event of Korakuen Hall, as the CHAOS vs. Ingobernables dynamic continues in what is the most exciting looking New Japan Cup match booked of them all this year. I have nothing but good things to say about this match. Dustin Spencer likes to place the ‘salesman’ plague of Ishii’s workhorse desk, and that claim is accurate when it comes to this match more than ever. This match accomplished what Roderick Strong vs. Tomohiro Ishii didn’t, and that’s a compelling styles clash that lives up to the hype. The match was interlaced with tracks of both men’s arsenal of footsteps, but also included uniqueness in which we haven’t seen from Ishii or Naito’s matches. The fact that this was a plotted-out, but sometimes on the fly war, with choices being made from each guy that would end up affecting each and every move in this chess match was nothing short of elite caliber professional wrestling. Ishii sold like a mad man, firing back up for certain spots such as his apron lariat to Naito instead of taking the out-in dropkick in the corner, and taking a hateful Naito slap but coming back to lariat the hell out of him anyways. Naito on offense when he wasn’t overpowered was arguably the best dynamic of the match. He managed to keep things refreshing, with moves such as a dropkick to the head or working over Ishii’s hurt shoulder and front-flip kicking the shoulder because he’s damn-well fired up. Ishii still fought back every single time, but a Hayabusa-inspired Full Nelson suplex got an insane reaction for a near fall, and then Ishii fought back harder than ever before. After Sliding D and the like kickouts, Ishii went for the brainbuster, BUT NAITO COUNTERED IT INTO DESTINO all in one fluid motion. This match was fantastic, and one of the better, smarter, worked matches I’ve seen in these three months. Highly recommended as you will see an entirely new take on the two clashing. The best stereo selling in a match this year, with Ishii more on the physical side of things, and Naito, at times with his eyes bulging — I loved this Korakuen Hall war, as that’s the only one-word description capable of explanation for what I’ve just watched.
After the match, Ingobernables jumped into the ring and added fuel to the CHAOS fire, with EVIL stomping out Ishii to the floor. That does it for the show.
Day 2 wasn’t nearly as good as Day 1, but had a better match than anything on that show, and a better main event (same match I’m talking about). Kojima/Yano, Goto/Tonga, and Elgin/Fale all had a purpose and a dynamic to them, but failed to live up to a NJPW quality wrestling stature, however advanced the tournament forward to interesting places. I’d tell you to watch the opener if you’d like, the 10 man tag as a reccomendation, and the main event as a must-watch. The rest is skippable. I look forward to see what’s to come, as New Japan is starting to pick up even more steam. Your semi-final matchups in the 2016 New Japan Cup are: Michael Elgin vs. Hirooki Goto and Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito. Until next time.