It all comes down to this. Zack Sabre Jr, the submission master who has torn through Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and SANADA versus Hiroshi Tanahashi, the Ace of New Japan, who has beaten Taichi, BadLuck Fale and Juice Robinson. The winner will earn not only the title of winner of the 2018 New Japan Cup, but also a title shot of their choosing against the IWGP Intercontinental Champion Minoru Suzuki, the NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto or the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. Multiple tag team matches and young lion exhibitions line the undercard, as always, on this final day of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) 2018 New Japan Cup.
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan Cup 2018 Final Match): I can’t say I was a fan of Tana out-“wrestling” Sabre, but the submission transitions between the two were awe-inspiring. The crowd bought into every single submission, and every come back, and every near pin and it made for an electric atmosphere, even as the crowd was hugely behind Tanahashi. This was incredible. I can’t even think what else to say, except that the winner’s choice is even better
+ Chase Owens & Kota Ibushi vs CHAOS (Chuckie T & Kazuchika Okada): this was all based around Owens wanting to defeat Okada, but you could really tell that everyone was having a lot of fun in this match. Ibushi is just so, so good. This was a really nice, less serious match before the huge main event
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito vs Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki): even in the scripted world of pro wrestling, why would you ever antagonise Minoru Suzuki; I value my life too much. All four juniors (BUSHI, Desperado, Kanemaru and Hiromu) were great, and SANADA, Naito and Suzuki himself were absolutely on fire, and I really did feel bad for BUSHI and Hiromu getting slaughtered by Suzuki. As expected, only Iizuka was a bit out of place in the line-up. If and when it happens, Suzuki/Naito is going to be amazing
+ Taguchi Japan (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) vs CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto): I’m always a fan of the Juice/Finlay team. This was a relatively standard back adn forth match, although I admit the ending did catch me offguard. This was nothing new, but it was a very well worked tag team match
+ CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs K.E.S. (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.): I get the feeling that Ishii could run literally forever if he had to. Yano’s once again did Yano things, but they had no effect on Archer and baby Bulldog. Archer had more fun taunting the crowd, but this only got into final gear towards the end. However, it left me wanting more, which I guess is a good thing
– Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi) vs Togi Makabe, Toa Henare & Michael Elgin): good lord Yujiro had Pieter with him. Makabe/Henare had some great chemistry over the last few shows, and this continued here with the power game of Elgin only adding to the match. The Bullet Club got to play more bad guys in this match than of late, but looking at the line up meant there was only one real way this was going to go. Overall, this was just an average match on a pretty stacked card
– Tomoyuki Oka vs Taichi: Taichi is such a sleaze, and he really was laying some kicks into Oka. This was a really quick match, and mostly served to be a display of Oka’s progress. The crowd did buy into some of Oka’s bigger offensive moments, but for the most part this went exactly as you’d expect
– Shota Umino vs Tetsuhiro Yagi: these two just took turns slapping the piss out of each other, to almost no reaction from the crowd. I think they did deserve at least a little bit of a response, and they did get it by the end of the match, but still, this was a pretty weak match
> Maybe the performers are burned out at this point of the New Japan Cup tour, or maybe I am just getting jaded after 9 days of straight action, but it felt like everybody was on auto-pilot.
> Keeping the streak alive, Kevin Kelly (and Don Callis) had a guest on commentary, and this time it was Juice Robinson. Juice was hugely behind his friend in Taguchi Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and it added to the match in a really great way.
Should you watch this event: Despite the early matches feeling a bit too rote, business picked up, as they say, until this became a can’t miss show. The final three matches may be the best of the whole tour, but Tanahashi/Sabre was easily the highlight, as all main events should be. Not to mention, the New Japan Cup winner gets to choose a champion to challenge, and dammit, we have our answer.