[Please note: due to moving house and having no internet, I am incredibly behind. To save time, I will review only the tournament matches themselves, and split them into as big a chunk as I can. So here is the second half of the first round, which took place over days 3 and 4.]
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual openweight tournament the New Japan Cup is upon us, and for the first time 32 men will fill out the tournament brackets, with the winner receiving a IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against current champion, Jay White, at the Madison Square Garden joint-show with Ring Of Honor. Entrants on the second two days, days 3 and 4, include the former champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, record holding three-time winner Hirooki Goto, and two tournament favourites, Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito, going head to head in the first round.
+ SANADA vs Hirooki Goto (New Japan Cup Round 1): as much as I enjoy SANADA as an athlete, his ‘always the bridesmaid’ career is starting to make me turn on him a bit. I want him to propel himself into greatness, but win, lose or draw in this match, nothing ever really changes. I know it is his gimmick, but I’d still like a flash of urgency from him. Goto, on the other hand, should be on the same pedestal as Ishii, and that is how I see him. Goto deserves more, but I know in my heart he will never rise above the occasional Intercontinental Championship win
+ Minoru Suzuki vs Satoshi Kojima (New Japan Cup Round 1): this was absolutely fantastic. Suzuki is always phenomenal, but Kojima was so dang impressive in this match. These two have a long history, and the back and forth action was another exciting chapter in that story. I loved this match, almost as much as Nagata/Ishii from night one
+ Colt Cabana vs Togi Makabe (New Japan Cup Round 1): it was risky to have Colt follow Yano, as both use similar comedy stylings, but I think it really paid off. Makabe was clearly the fan favourite when their respective music hit, but Colt got the crowd on his side so quickly this soon turned into a 50-50 match up. And while i can’t say I saw the ending coming the way it did, I really enjoyed this match
+ Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito (New Japan Cup Round 1): whenever Ibushi wrestles, it is a matter of when, not if, he will die on my screen. Frankly, it might be time to add Naito to that same category. And when they face each other, then it will be sooner than later. This was crazy, full of huge number of big moves, incredibly quick counters and direction changes, with even more strikes and throws, and dammit, it was fantastic
+ Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ TAKA Michinoku) vs EVIL (New Japan Cup Round 1): I’ve really enjoyed the mini-feud these two have had over the past year, and this was another great showing from both men. The callbacks to their previous matches, and the counter-to-counter wrestling from each of the competitors was a joy to watch, and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end
+ Shota Umino vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan Cup Round 1): none of the David vs Goliath matchups in the tournament so far have been nearly as one sided as this was – on paper. This more than likely went the way you were expecting, but win, lose or draw, Umino was always going to come out better than when he went in. This was a really good match, with lots of good surprises
– Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs Yano Toru (New Japan Cup Round 1): Yano did comedy and Smith attempted big guy action, this was not good
– Rusuke Taguchi vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan (New Japan Cup Round 1): much like YOSHI-HASHI/Nakaniski on day 1, this was a pretty good wrestlers versus a used-to-be pretty good wrestler, thought it felt like the whole thing was moving in slow motion, whenever Tenzan was on attack. I don’t discount the impact Tenzan has had in NJPW, but he just can’t go any more, especially against someone smaller like Taguchi
Should you watch this event: These two days were significantly more enjoyable than the first, thanks in part to the incredible matches between Ibushi/Naito, Kojima/Suzuki, SANADA/Goto and even Cabana/Makabe. Definitely try to see Tanahashi/Umino for the spectacle it was, and the greatest near-pinfall you’ll ever see.