[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. These two matches were the semi finals, which took place on Day 11.]
[Please note: there are full spoilers for the first two rounds of the tournament, which I reviewed spoiler-free beginning here.]
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. With only two matches to go, the semi finals of the tournament are set to determine who will head into day 12, and go one on one for a chance at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In the first contest, hard hitter Tomohiro Ishii will face CHAOS stablemate and historic former champion Kazuchika Okada, while in the main event, The Ace of the Universe, Hiroshi Tanahashi, will do battle with the Los Ingobernables de Japon member SANADA.
+ SANADA vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan Cup Semi Final): I’m well and truly off the Tanahashi train by now, and SANADA is only just on the cusp of holding my interest. That said, both of these men knew what the match was meant to be, and instead of following the incredible Okada/Ishii slugfest, they went the more technical, and patient route, which was a very good decision. SANADA should be doing bigger and better things, but for whatever reason NJOW has never pulled the trigger on him, and Tanahashi is clearly not the Ace he used to be, despite the catchy nickname. The winner here certainly was the better of the two in this match, but forgive me if I’m not thrilled at the way each man is positioned going forward
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Kazuchika Okada (New Japan Cup Semi Final): this was another phenomenal match from Ishii in this tournament, and Okada was on his A game. These two have great chemistry (though, truthfully, Okada could have a great match with a broom, and Ishii is god with every single other wrestler on the planet), but the few little twists on the classics each man goes to (such as a clean rope break or a short-arm headbutt) really made this into something special. I say it for every Ishii match so far, but that may have been the match of the tournament
Should you watch this event: Unsurprisingly, both of these matches were good (SANADA/Tanahashi) or great (Ishii/Okada). It is a strange thing, New Japan tournaments, because they seem to always save their big gun storylines and matches for the semi-finals (or at least slightly earlier than they should be), ie. Tanahashi/Sabre would have made more sense as a semi-final and this Ishii/Okada match was well and truly like a tournament final. That said, both of these matches are worth watching, and they set up an interesting, if somewhat predictable final.