The First night of quarter finals action featured a Chaos faction war. The show came to Shizouka and saw the commentary return of Excalibur. The undercard provided some young lions in higher places and some more grudge matches between superstars. The tournament matches saw the ultimate underdog, YOSHI-HASHI against the Stone Pitbull, Tomohiro Ishii and a rematch between Will Ospreay and his faction leader Kazuchika Okada. Oh and Taguchi got the Kancho treatment from a Kendo stick! Let’s get into the action.
Yuya Uemura, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yota Tsuji via Nagata Lock II on Tsuji
Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson & Mickey Nicholls defeated Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & HIKULEO via Mickey Bomb on HIKULEO
Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr & Taichi defeated Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Michael Elgin & Tomoaki Honma via Taichi Style Gedo Clutch
Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi defeated Kota Ibushi, Hirooki Goto & Ren Narita via Pumping Bomber on Narita
SANADA & EVIL defeated Colt Cabana & Toa Henare via Magic Killer on Henare
TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino via Huzzah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March Of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness on Umino
Tomohiro Ishii defeated YOSHI-HASHI via Vertical Drop Brainbuster
No one personifies fighting spirit quite like Yoshi-Hashi. He is one of the few people who truly earns an underdog reputation. He gets knocked down a lot, knocked out a lot but never seems to give up. This match here just proved that further. The two started off by outwitting each other thanks to their long-standing Chaos allegiance but the match broke down quickly as both men just pummelled away at the other. Often times Yoshi-Hashi is forgotten when it comes to striking prowess so to see his strike flooring someone as hardened as Ishii was a very invigorated sight.
The two had a series of prolonged chop and forearm exchanges where both men seemed to be on equal footing. Every time Ishii would come back into the match, Yoshi-Hashi seemed to have an answer or an ability to withstand it. There were counters; Powerbombs, strike exchanges and an elongated Butterfly Lock sequence that saw Ishii have to scramble to the ropes. The momentum in this match swung like a pendulum. Both men could have been credible winners a lot of the time.
Karma was reversed into a DDT, the Bunker Buster was reversed and Yoshi-Hashi was able to trap Ishii in multiple rollup attempts. The crowd was behind Yoshi-Hashi and Ishii seemed to brutally encourage him to keep stepping up. Unfortunately, he got too ambitious and allowed Ishii back into the match. In the end, a Vertical Drop Brainbuster took the fire out of Hashi and cost him the match.
Wow, what a match. Yoshi-Hashi has always had the potential to be a sleeper hit in NJPW. He has the move-set, the underdog persona and the crowd support to go all the way. In this match, he had a renewed confidence and a somewhat aggressive nature towards dealing with his stablemate. It was a match of obvious disrespect or tough love as both Ishii and Yoshi Hashi were openly hostile towards one another. At one point Yoshi-Hashi even spat in the face of Ishii. Ishii always brings the best out of his opponents so this could just be him trying to fire up his Chaos stablemate and make him a better competitor. If that was the case it worked. Much like his match with Taichi he took someone who is underappreciated and thrust them into the spotlight.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay via Rainmaker
The CHAOS warfare continued as next was the match between mentor and mentee. Will Ospreay has come a long way since these two last clashed in singles competition. He has bulked up, gotten more aggressive and increased his arsenal in the months that have passed. It’s safe to say he was definitely trying to take a win back and impress his faction leader. They started the match slowly, trying to feel each other out and play to strength advantages. From here on, they threw everything they had at one another to try and get an advantage. The finish came as Okada managed to transition an Oscutter into a German and Ospreay reversed the Rainmaker into a Spanish Fly. He went for a Shooting Star Press twice and tried to finish up with an Oscutter but was reversed again and hit with a Tombstone. Ospreay got out of the Rainmaker and tried Storm Breaker but is once again reversed, hit with a Spinning Tombstone and ended with the Rainmaker. A dramatic end to a dramatic match.
Okada is one hell of a talent. He always manages to wrestle his match against any type of opponent. He is the most adaptable superstar on the NJPW roster and nearly always makes his opponent shine. He obviously has a lot of love for Will and was more than happy to help put him over despite the loss. He took him way more seriously than their last match and it showed. Both men put on a clinic of technical and athletic mastery. There was a lot to break down but rather than just slug it out, the two chose to show off their grappling repertoire.
So there you have it. The first night of the quarterfinals is over. It featured two exceptional tournament matches and a slew of fun undercard matches that gave us some more fun match ideas. Would anyone have thought about a singles match between Shingo and Goto if we had not seen it today? The next two matches will see SANADA take on Colt Cabana and Hiroshi Tanahashi take on ZSJ. There’s still plenty to look forward to since we now know the first semi-final match is Ishii vs Okada. Oh my.
(All images courtesy of njpw1972.com)