Roll up, roll up for your handy roundup of all the action from Night 2 of the annual New Japan Cup, coming to you from the unassuming Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Night 1 saw Minoru Suzuki menacing Don Callis, resident Big Boy Juniors Shingo and SHO going at it once again, and Tomohiro Ishii and Yuji Nagata tearing down the house. Night 2 promised to up the ante with the likes of Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada and HIKULEO in action, as well as everyone’s hero Toru Yano in top tag team form. Let’s take a look at what went down.
Taiji Ishimori and Chase Owens def. Tomoaki Honma and YOSHI-HASHI // Pinfall after Chase Owens hit Honma with a Package Piledriver
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and Satoshi Kojima def. Taichi, Davey Boy Smith and Minoru Suzuki // Pinfall after Yano reverses Smith’s powerbomb into a pin
Shingo Takagi and EVIL def. Taka Michinoku and Zack Sabre Jr. // Pinfall after Shingo hit Taka with the Pumping Bomber
Juice Robinson, Hirooki Goto and Kota Ibushi def. Bushi, SANADA and Tetsuya Naito // Pinfall after Juice Robinson hit Pulp Friction on Bushi
Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Togi Makabe and Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Colt Cabana and Shota Umino // Pinfall after Makabe hit Nakanishi with the King Kong Knee Drop
New Japan Cup 1st Round Match: Lance Archer def. Toa Henare // Pinfall following Black Out
New Japan Cup 1st Round Match: Mikey Nicholls def. HIKULEO // Pinfall following the Mikey Bomb
New Japan Cup 1st Round Match: Will Ospreay def. Bad Luck Fale // Pinfall following a Hurricanrana
New Japan Cup 1st Round Match: Kazuchika Okada def. Michael Elgin // Pinfall following Rainmaker
The tag matches prefacing the tournament proper were universally enjoyable this time around. Some highlights include:
– The Shota Umino/Hiroshi Tanahashi drama intensified in the lead-up to what will almost certainly be an absolute banger of a match. The Young Lion vs Veteran Ace dynamic is a classic, but it works extra well with Shota and Tana at the helm.
– Speaking of fun dynamics, the vitriol between longtime rivals Minoru Suzuki and Satoshi Kojima was enormous fun, with the crowd fully invested. A short but sweet showcase between these two immensely talented veterans.
– Shingo Takagi continues to shine, and it’s notable that LIJ’s most recent recruit is still yet to eat a pin. NJPW are clearly building Shingo up as a Big Deal, and it feels inevitable that he’ll be leaving the Junior division behind sooner rather than later – expect Hiromu Takahashi’s return to the fold to be the catalyst for a big push.
– YOSHI-HASHI was there.
– NJPW shows booking smarts when they utilise these tag openers to offer teaser glimpses of their big matches. It’s not hard to get swept up in anticipation after seeing flashes of how fantastic Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito is going to be. And smarter still in that NJPW give you just enough to get excited, but not so much that there’s nothing left to look forward to.
– As for the Cup matches themselves – it didn’t quite live up to the bar set by the first night of action. Ospreay vs Fale in particular felt quite lacklustre – a noticeable mismatch in terms of speed and agility made for several clumsy-looking spots, and the finish in particular was badly done. Osprey’s penchant for over-selling grated a little after a while.
– Mikey Nicholls vs HIKULEO was let down somewhat by HIKULEO’s obvious greenness. The big guy shows promise, and his imposing stature makes him stand out on the New Japan roster, but he needs more time and more polish before he’s ready to make a real impact. Nicholls, meanwhile – recently seen wrestling under the name Nick Miller as part of NXT’s Aussie duo The Mighty – seems well-suited to the NJPW ring, and I look forward to seeing how he gets on in the tournament.
– Lance Archer taking out Toa Henare felt both inevitable and slightly surprising. It feels like Henare has been floating around in the NJPW ether for a while now, and while Archer’s physical charisma makes him an excellent candidate to progress in the tournament, I can’t help but wonder when Henare is going to do anything of value.
– Okada’s redemption arc starts here. Mark my words.
Night 3 promises some truly explosive clashes as Tanahashi and Umino square off one on one. Meanwhile everyone’s favourite hard-as-nails goth EVIL takes on the Long Mover, Zack Sabre Jr., and Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito could be the sleeper hit of the entire tournament. Most importantly, though, we’ll see if fan favourite Ryusuke Taguchi can make it though to the next round. And there’ll be all the usual multi-man tag shenanigans to keep the b-stories ticking along – Suzuki and Kojima will face off again, while Shingo continues to cut a swathe through the New Japan tag division. It’s gonna be a good night.
All images are courtesy of njpw1972.com