We’ve had a few days to rest and digest since NJPW took the New Japan Cup to picturesque Nara, where we saw would-be heavyweight Will Ospreay take down man-mountain Lance Archer, and Kazuchika Okada clinch an utterly unsurprising victory over Mikey Nicholls. But Saturday’s show promised a truly exciting spectacle in the form of Funky Weapon Ryusuke Taguchi versus Hiroshi Tanahashi, the Ace of New Japan. And that’s not all: the Handsome Battle between Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr had pulses racing. Let’s see which chiselled hunk was tougher on the night.

Results

Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan def. Yota Tsuji, Ren Narita, Shota Umino and Tomoaki Honma // Yota Tsuji taps out to Tenzan’s Anaconda Vice

Mikey Nicholls, Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson def. HIKULEO, Chase Owens and Bad Luck Fale // Pinfall after Mikey Nicholls hit HIKULEO with the Mikey Bomb

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith & Lance Archer) def. Toa Henare and Togi Makabe // Pinfall after Lance Archer hit Toa Henare with the Killer Bomb

Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito def. YOH and Hirooki Goto // Pinfall after Shingo hit YOH with Last of the Dragon

Bushi, EVIL and SANADA def. TAKA Michinoku, Taichi and Minoru Suzuki // Bushi pinned TAKA with the Bushi Roll

Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay def. Colt Cabana, YOSHI-HASHI and Kazuchika Okada // Toru Yano pinned Colt Cabana with the Schoolboy roll-up

New Japan Cup Second Round Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Ryusuke Taguchi

Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Ryusuke Taguchi // Pinfall following Dragon Suplex

New Japan Cup Second Round Match: Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr

Zack Sabre Jr def. Kota Ibushi // Kota Ibushi taps out to Orienteering with Napalm Death

There was the usual scattering of decent-to-good tag matches to whet the appetite, but the New Japan Cup matches were the stars of the show. We’re at the point of the tournament where, for the most part, the wheat has been separated from the proverbial chaff, which means that the Cup matches should be solid from here on out.

– Okada’s chest is looking like raw meat. He’s taken a hell of a lot of punishment in this tournament so far. Will he be back on top form in time for the third round…?

– YOH once again eats the pin against Shingo Takagi. Surely SHO will avenge him? The rivalry between the Big Strong Juniors is low-key one of my favourite background storyline in NJPW right now. Shout-out to the Roppongi 3K fan screaming herself hoarse in support of YOH – you’re the true MVP, ma’am.

– YOSHI-HASHI was there.

– Colt Cabana and Toru Yano are a match made in heaven, and again, a clever taster from NJPW for tomorrow’s singles match between the two kings of comedy wrestling.

– Team Dad vs the Young Lions (and Honma) was good fun. Shota Umino is surely the dark horse of this tournament – he may be out of the cup, but he’s fast making a name for himself. Definitely the stand-out of this current batch of Young Lions.

– Taguchi is still the Coach of my heart. Tanahashi’s vicious streak was on full display here, and though Taguchi took the brunt of the offence he still managed to look valiant in defeat, and for a moment it looked as though he actually might do it. The outcome here was only ever going to be in Tana’s favour, but it was fun to believe, just for a minute.

– Let’s be real here: you thought Ibushi would win, didn’t you? Zack Sabre Jr is here to mess with everyone’s brackets and dislocate some limbs on the way. This somehow managed to be both silky smooth and vicious as hell, trading hold for hold and blow for blow. ZSJ is brittle compared to Ibushi, who looks as though he’s packed on some extra muscle lately. But in the end, his dogged perseverance saw him through. Ibushi vs Naito for the IC Championship looks like a dead cert at this point.

This was one of the better nights of action so far, with both Cup matches delivering, and some enjoyable action on the undercard. Night 8 brings us the gift of Yano vs Cabana, which will inevitably be brilliant. Plus Minoru Suzuki takes on the Walking Beard SANADA, who has been looking very good indeed throughout the competition so far. Will the true Ace of New Japan triumph over Cabana? Will Shota Umino get ideas above his station? Will Toa Henare do anything of substance? Check in for more New Japan Cup coverage.