NJPW NEW JAPAN CUP 2019 [First Round Review]: Yakuza Se7en!

“Monsignor” Travis Omega

The New Japan Cup is back, and the winner this year faces IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White on April 6th in Madison Square Garden. WrestleMania weekend. New York City. Yup, stakes is high. For the next three weeks I’ll be doing my best between Devil May Cry 5 play sessions (and work, the gym, and 19 other geek hobbies, etc.) to review every Cup match for the nerd-clergy. That said, there won’t be any reviews for the undercards/build-up mixed tags moving forward.

**NIGHT 4**

Toru Yano v Davey Boy Smith Jr – A 5-minute nothing match. Yano with the ultra-predictable upset. This was way worse than anything from last night’s Fastlane. – 0.75/5

Colt Cabana v Togi Makabe – And.. this was almost worse than everything from last night’s Fastlane. It wasn’t horrific, but more like a doable, light on stuff 7-minute match you’d see on a house show. Again we have, with Cabana pinning Makabe via the Superman Spread, another “upset”. – 2/5

Minoru Suzuki v Satoshi Kojima – A pretty solid match-up on paper that wound up.. well.. pretty good. It was the usual two gritty vets exchanging big clotheslines, heavy forearms, stinging chops, with brawling to the outside. We’d see a signature hanging armbar from Suzuki early and, later, a pair of neat reversals from Kojima on Minoru’s sleeper and initial Gotch attempt. Suzuki wouldn’t miss on the second try. – 3/5

SANADA v Hirooki Goto – While this main event took a while to get going, it got going and was by far the best thing all night. It would have fit in with Night 3 as yet another very good to nearly great match . While this crowd slowly warmed up to them, they got real hot once SANADA hit his sig springboard plancha to the outside. They’d trade ushigoroshi attempts, with SANADA nailing one before going Skull End. Goto would escape from the submission twice, before nailng his own ushigoroshi (modified shoulder breaker; see AJ Styles). Following several counter exchanges — swirling around both the GTR and Skull End — SANADA would kiss Goto goodnight with a Muta Moonsault. The Cold Skull moves onto the second round. Minus the first 5 or 6-minutes, this was great and saved Night 4 from being the year’s worst big time wrestling event. – 3.75/5

Overall = 2.25-2.5/5 Bibles

**NIGHT 3**

Ryusuke Taguchi v Hiroyoshi Tenzan – This went sort of how you’d expect. We got a little more of the “serious” Taguchi against the old grizzled vet, who, despite his immense strength, couldn’t keep up the pace. Overall, it was just a match, and Taguchi-San picks up the small package victory. – 2.5/5

Hiroshi Tanahashi v Shota Umino – This was wild! At first glance, your average New Japan fan would hardly put this at the top of their first round must-see list. But the story of the match, full of intense in-ring psychology, is the story itself: Umino, the ferocious young lion, was out to make a name for himself against  the Ace. It worked. Umino was relentless! He punished Tanahashi with an array of strikes, even breaking ref counts, no matter how many times it appeared Tana would take control. Then, Umino fought like a valiant baby– wincing for his life when locked inside Tanahashi’s high crab. After a huge slap heard ’round the world, a side-suplex, and big dropkick from the top, Umino attempted a crab of his own. The two exchange cloverleafs, but it was the young lion who ultimately tapped. Worth watching for the great false finishes alone. – 3.75/5

Zack Sabre Jr v EVIL – This was yet another superb match between the two and well-timed, but I’m kinda/sorta over this rivalry. It’s what prevented the still **** Okada/Elgin match from the other night from being even greater. That said, I did love EVIL’s early momentum, almost as if we’d see a quick surprise squash. He avoided a Sabre PK and hit Darkness Falls not even halfway through the match! The closing stretch was extra great, too, with a series of riveting finisher reversals. In the end, EVIL once again would tap to a Sabre stretch.  – 3.75-4/5

Kota Ibushi v Tetsuya Naito – This was everything you’d ever want from these two and more. Many had the winner of this match going all the way to MSG. Although Naito is one of my favorites, the thought of an Ibushi/White match-up excites me more than anything, although a big Okada championship win in the U.S. seems to be the plan. Kota did sign with New Japan instead of joining his Golden Lover in AEW, so there’s that… As for last night, Ibushi/Naito is an instant MOTY candidate. The L-I-J leader used a number of apron spots to gain the advantage; early, Naito would hit a slingshot dropkick there before smashing Ibushi with a vicious neckbreaker onto the “hardest part of the ring.” Naito would continue to work the neck.

Ibushi fought back, and both competitors would trade slaps then crouching rights from the mat. Then it was Ibushi who would take Naito to the apron, but.. bad move! Tetsuya counters a german suplex apron spot into a tombstone! Holy shit is right. In the ring, Naito would hit all his signatures but the Destino on a pesky Ibushi, who’d counter the finisher into a dudebuster, signature lariat, and high arching kick. They’d false finish with a Destino and Bom-Ba-Ye before Ibushi nails a driller and Kamigoye to seal it. Innnncredible. – 4.75/5

Overall = 3.75/5 Bibles

**NIGHT 2**

Lance Archer v Toa Henare – This was the best possible match for these two guys. Henare — who I’ve never really given a shit about, truthfully — came out like a ball of fire, powerbombing the big man right from the get! He continued to be aggressive, with a roaring crowd behind him, until caught by the inevitable boot. Lance, of course, pressed the heat on Toa for the next few minutes before a firey comeback fell short. Archer gets his first cup win via chokeslam and Blackout. Solid opener. – 3.25/5

– Mikey Nicholls v HIKULEO – “Mad” Mikey Nicholls is here!!!! (Said no one ever.) However, the former Nick Miller does look super jacked, resembled and even worked like the New Japan Karl Anderson. Maybe that will eventually be his role. For now, Mikey didn’t look as fluid as you know he wanted, perhaps understandably anxious, while the young Tongan HIKULEO had his best effort. This was alright. – 2.5/5

– Will Ospreay v Bad Luck Fale – Leave it to Ospreay to save one of those usual ref bump-slash-BC interference fests. He’s simply.. uhmazing. Who needs Kenny Omega when you have a younger, arguably more prolific gaijin here? (I say that as the biggest Omega mark in the land). Despite Jado’s foolish shenanigans, Os and Fale worked fine and had great heat. Despite Red Shoes’ 3-count, Os never fully got the pin, though, as Fale couldn’t even raise a leg or keep his shoulders down during the RANA reversal. Doh. – 3/5

– Kazuchika Okada v Michael Elgin – I don’t want to explain the match because I want you to see it! In short, this had its share of outstanding rainmaker reversals from Elgin and well-timed dropkicks from Okada to alter the momentum. Everything the two CHAOS members worked toward went to the finish. Despite Okada’s fourth consecutive win over Big Mike, they still had a great match. – 4/5

Night 2 Overall = 3.25/5 Bibles

**NIGHT 1**

YOSHI–HASHI v Manabu Nakanishi – There’s no hiding this: I want YOSHI-HASHI to leave New Japan. I know, I know. Every year he outdoes himself and has great matches at the G1 Climax (when, in fact, he shouldn’t even ever be there at all). Despite being a respectable in-ring worker, he just does nothing for me.. and I take it Gedo loves to book him because they always need a guy in CHAOS to take the fall. Well, in this match, Nakanishi does his best “PCO” with some crazy placha attempts. It was the story of the night: the old man goes the extra mile. Despite Nakanishi’s best efforts, he submits to a butterfly. An entertaining bad match. – 2/5

Taichi v Tomoaki Honma – This looked like absolute trash on paper, but — despite going 6-7 minutes too long — was a little better than I thought. Honma worked really hard in one of his most high profile single matches since coming back from that dreadful life-threatening injury. In the match he hit a sit-up piledriver and absolute wild sunset bomb. Even with a hobbled Honma and the motherfucking Taichi, it had its moments. The Suzuki-Goon won via Holy Emperor’s Crucifix Tomb (stretch plum). – 2.25/5

Chase Owens v Juice Robinson – Not gonna lie, I was incredibly shocked by this outcome! That said, Chase — in his usual spot of mixed tags with the Bullet Club — has been getting rather than taking the fall all year. It was well-designed, but could have used about 5-6 minutes from the front-end shaved off with Owens stalling against the IWGP U.S. champ. Good booking here to give Owens the rub (without any Bullet Club interference, mind you), which likely puts him in a future big title match against Juice, maybe even at MSG. – 3.25/5

Tomohiro Ishii v Yuji Nagata – Twenty-one minutes of strong style at its best. Both guys fought like monsters instead of wrestlers. Nagata is such a gem in New Japan; and, despite his age, I’d have him in much higher spots like this all the time. Hard chops, stiff kicks, heavy lariats. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll love this. Better, the 50-year old Nagata hit a super exploder from he top, which sandwiched an impressive running Justice Knee and brainbuster. Ishii would take even more punishment via Yuji saito and german, before eventually hitting a lariato and brainbuster of his own for the 3-count. Now I’m fucking sad I didn’t get to see this match live about 5-weeks back at The Globe Theater in downtown LA. #thankstrump – 4.25/5

Night 1 Overall = 3/5 Bibles

-Travis Moody

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