The second semi-final of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual single-elimination tournament, the New Japan Cup, is ready to go, with the Los Ingobernables de Japon team’s super-athlete SANADA read to go against the submission master Zack Sabre Jr. The winner has a date with Hiroshi Tanahashi, fresh off Tanahashi’s defeat of Juice Robinson on Day 7, and the winner of that match-up will earn a title shot of their choosing. As always, various tag team matches line the rest of the card, as well as a special young lions match, when Ren Narita faces off against Shota Umino.
Please note: I am behind, so both semi-finals have already happened at time of writing. I have no idea who wins, so I might make a few silly comments for those that know the outcomes.
+ SANADA vs Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan Cup 2018 Semifinal Match): holy shit this was great. SANADA is always fantastic, but this may well be the run of Sabre’s life right now. The story of the match was Sabre trying every submission hold he could, with SANADA having the power advantage to counter them at every turn. Eventually this dymaic flipped, with SANADA going for power moves and Sabre countering them to submissions, but it was such a natural transition it is hard to pinpoint who played their role better. This was simply a phenomenal match
+ Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay) vs CHAOS (Chuckie T & Kazuchika Okada): Okada and Chuckie T looked to be having a lot of fun, with Finlay playing the perfect underdog, and Tanahashi the veteran on the outside. I forget just how young Okada and Finlay are (30 and 24, respectively), and I could see both men being big players in pro wrestling for many years to come. Chuckie does still feel a bit out of place, but just seeing Tanahashi/Okada face to face again gives me goosebumps: I want more
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado): as both teams cheated every chance they got, this was chaotic from start to finish. The Naito/Suzuki segments were fantastic to watch, but you should all know by now that I am a sucker for anything BUSHI/Desperado do together, and there was some surprising stuff here. Both BUSHI and Hiromu were absolutely on fire, and even Kanemaru did some great stuff. This was a really good match. Suzuki is a terrifying man
+ CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto) vs K.E.S. (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.): it’s funny that sometimes I really enjoy the KES, and other times I can’t stand them (out of charcater, that is, I’m sure they’re both lovely). Goto is fantastic, and HASHI is always just sort of ‘there’, but this was still an above average match, especially as the crowd was happy to scream for Archer one way or another
+ Juice Robinson & Michael Elgin vs Kota Ibushi & Chase Owens: Ibushi is so damn good. In fact, all four of these guys are fantastic, for their own reasons. The crowd loves Juice, Owens is a surprisingly good babyface, Elgin is an absolute monster and Ibushi may well be the best in-ring guy in wrestling right now. This was great
+ CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka & Taichi): the bulk of this match was Suzuki-gun cheating the whole time, but damn if it didn’t make for some good action. It also led to a finish I don’t think I’ve seen in a very long time. I liked this match
+ Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Tanga Loa) vs Togi Makabe, Toa Henare & Tomoyuki Oka: Makabe and Loa trading strikes almost as much as they traded some F-bombs is probably the standout here. Without Owens, there was no Fale comedy, and Oka and Henare’s fire was not quite enough to get this a positive rating, though I did enjoy them being on the same team. After the last few shows, this should have been Oka/Henare vs Ishii/Goto
– Ren Narita vs Shota Umino: this was a match between two good rookies. If that doesn’t sum it up, I can’t think what else to say
> After Chuckie T and David Finlay joined Kevin Kelly on commentary over the past few shows, today it was Bad Luck Fale. Fale didn’t speak a huge amount, certainly not to the extent of the other two, but his insight was great when he did, not to mention just how funny he was a few times (though I think some of that was unintentional)
Should you watch this event: The incredible New Japan Cup match was the icing on the cake of this show, with every tag match sitting where between good and great. the LIJ/Suzuki-gun six-man was fantastic, and even the KES entertained me with Goto and YOSHI-HASHI, and of course the continuation of the Tanahashi/Okada story was amazing. This was a really good show, from start to finish.