The opening night of this year’s NJ Cup had the latest step of one of the greatest and most violent stories in our fair sport. Night two had Okada in action and the NJPW singles debut of Mikey Nicholls. Night three had Ibushi vs Naito. But here on Night 4, we had the true aces of NJPW and ROH, Toru Yano and Colt Cabana. Let’s find out what happened.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, HikuLeo & Taiji Ishimori) def. Main Unit (Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, Ryusuke Taguchi, Yuya Uemura) // Ishimori tapped Uemura with a Crossface
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi, Ren Narita Yuji Nagata // BUSHI tapped out Narita with a Boston Crab
Kota Ibushi & Tomoaki Honma def. Suzuki Gun (TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr) // Ibushi pinned Michinoku off a Kamigoye
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay) def. Suzuki Gun (Lance Archer & Taichi) // Opreay pinned Archer with a Clutch Hold
Mikey Nicholls, Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & Shota Umino // Nicholls pinned Umino off a Mikey Bomb
NJ Cup First Round Match: Toru Yano vs Davey Boy Smith Jr
This was exactly what it needed to be, Yano got in, rolled about and and rolled-up DBS for the pin. This wasn’t exactly a stellar match beyond the opening Benny Hill tribute of Yano being chased through the crowd but as a vehicle to quickly get Yano through to the dream rematch against Cabana, it worked superbly. That said, DBS and Archer have both put on relatively lackadaisical performances so far which some more fatalist than I might predict doesn’t bode well for the Killer Elites going forward.
Winner: Toru Yano
NJ Cup First Round Match: Togi Makabe vs Colt Cabana
Another solid if unspectacular outing as Chicago’s greatest wrestling podcaster manages to put away a former IWGP Heavyweight champion. The match was mostly a standard affair of Makabe challenging Cabana to bring out his serious side, arguably less successfully than say, Jay Lethal did. But Cabana, working his first proper singles work in New Japan (discounting split bill ROH shows) managed to impress and get the crowd behind his antics especially wowing with his pitch-perfect moonsault. The finish came as Makabe missed a King Kong Knee Drop and Cabana took the opportunity to hit the Superman pin. Another slight but entertaining encounter and if it means more Cabana v Yano, it was worth it.
Winner: Colt Cabana
NJ Cup First Round Match: Minoru Suzuki vs Satoshi Kojima
Suzuki and Kojima are long-term rivals competing in 115 matches with each other but over that time, this was only their tenth singles encounter with both men being 4:4 and one Time Limit Draw going into the match. This was a very good match with both men going hell-for-leather and delivering an impressively pacey match considering the combined age of competitors is 98. The only real issue here is that coming just days after Ishii v Nagata, this felt like a similar but less fully-fleshed version of that encounter, even if the heel-face dynamics were clearer. If taken completely in a vacuum, this was still a very enjoyable little brawl and one that makes me hopeful for TenCozy still being a potential threat in the tag division. Suzuki won with the Gotch-Style Piledriver.
Winner: Minoru Suzuki
NJ Cup First Round Match: Hirooki Goto vs SANADA
This is what Heavyweight wrestling should be: fast, clean and Beefy AF. In their fourth singles encounter, Los Ingobernables’ hunkiest member took on CHAOS’ equivalent to Dhalsim (man with Buddhist prayer beads who will murder you) and they didn’t disappoint. They started slow as both men looked to work over the other’s neck to set up for their respective finishes. The true heartbreak of this match for me was remembering that Goto taking the loss here isn’t setting up SANADA for a NEVER Openweight title shot. The sooner that belt is back on its luscious-haired king and off that boy from Essex, the better in my opinion.
This looked to be a really great G1 sprint-style match at about 15 minutes and if I had to critique it, the fantastic slowburn start did give way to a hint of main event excess as it felt like two or three false finishes too many. It did wonders to make the battle feel hard-fought but that’s not to say that occasionally, knowing to quit when the battle is at its peak might have pushed this up from very good into the near-instant classic status that people are already prescribing to last night’s main. After kicking out each other’s stuff for twenty or so minutes, SANADA finally picked up the W after applying the Skull End dragon sleeper before hitting the Moonsault practically as good as his mentor Keiji Mutoh ever did to send him through to round two and back against Suzuki, a man he’s never beat one-on-one in New Japan.
While there were no truly outstanding matches, this was another good day of action in New Japan with everyone bringing something to the table and two very good second round encounters set up in SANADA v Suzuki & Yano v Cabana. Let’s see if they can deliver the goods.
Second Round Matches:
Taichi v Tomohiro Ishii
YOSHI-HASHI v Chase Owens
Hiroshi Tanahashi v Ryusuke Taguchi
Mikey Nicholls v Kazuchika Okada
Will Ospreay v Lance Archer
Kota Ibushi v Zack Sabre Jr
Toru Yano v Colt Cabana
SANADA v Minoru Suzuki
All photos are courtesy of njpw1972.com