[Please note: due to moving house and having no internet, I am incredibly behind. This is the final day of the tournament, so there are spoilers for every other match here, by reference to who is in the final.]
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual openweight tournament the New Japan Cup is at its conclusion, where either SANADA or Kazuchika Okada will win the tournament, and go on to face IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White at the Madison Square Garden show in just one week (at time of writing). Okada has had arguably the easier path through his side of the bracket, having to defeat Mike Elgin, Mikey Nicholls and Will Ospreay before going to war with Tomohiro Ishii to reach this spot, whilst SANADA has had to overcome pre-tournament favourite Hirooki Goto, Minoru Suzuki, the unconventional Colt Cabana and then New Japan’s Ace of the Universe, HIroshi Tanahashi, to gain entry to the final. NO matter who wins, a match with Jay White is not something to be overlooked, so each man will be looking to give it their all. Also on the show, Juice Robinson will defend the IWGP United States against the man who upset him in the tournament’s first round, Chase Owens.
+ Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA (New Japan Cup 2019 Final): I wasn’t thrilled on this match from the very beginning, because Ishii wasn’t in it. But dammit if they didn’t get me into it by the end. Just because I wanted Ishii doesn’t mean that Okada isn’t the best wrestler on Earth right now, and SANADA has all the athleticism to keep up with Okada and match his perfect timing. These two went back adn forth for much of the match, and the winner was deserving, and leads to a really good MSG main event
+ Juice Robinson (c) vs Chase Owens w/ Jado) (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship): this was good, especially because of just how much the crowd loves Juice. Owens was pretty good as the bad guy, though he didn’t really feel like a threat for the majority of this match, which I guess makes sense considering some of the shenanigans throughout. This was pretty standard, as far as title matches go, but I still enjoyed it
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi & Will Ospreay vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.): what a world we live in where Taichi is no longer the worst wrestler in his matches. Following the absolute banger with Ishii in the New Japan Cup’s third round, Taichi has reached a new level in his career. Ospreay and Sabre know each other veyr well, which allows for some good counters and callbacks, and Tanahashi has the fan support, if nothing else. This was a good match, and sets up some good things in the future
+ Kota Ibushi, Ren Narita, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tomohiro Ishii vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito): the fourth match deep on this card, and this really turned things around. Ishii, EVIL, Takagi and Umino were all at each other in huge ways (and the idea of any future Ishii/EVIL match has my loins stiring already). Ibushi and Naito mostly stuck to their own devices, and truthfully, I don’t even remember Taguchi or my boy BUSHI doing anything at all. But for those main four guys in various combinations, this was fantastic
– CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Mikey Nicholls & YOSHI-HASHI) vs Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, HIKULEO & Jay White) (w/ Gedo): this match was the real test for YOSHI-HASHI, after his significantly better than anticipated tournament matches. Nicholls had the Okada match to keep himself up high, and Goto is a perennial favourite, but both are very skilled in between the ropes. Switchbalde was flanked by two of the Bullet Club’s biggest members, which I’m sure has some symbolism behind it all, but I just don’t care enough to analyse it. In the end, the match was good, but not particularly important, since Jay White’s next challenger is the one to be determined later
– Toru Yano & Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer & Minoru Suzuki): this one didn’t really do anything for me, and frankly I think the guys in the match were only really going at about 70 per cent anyway. Not necessarily because they didn’t want to or couldn’t go at full, but because they were in a relatively short, no storyline match on the undercard of the tournament final. Makabe and Suzuki had a good strike exchange, but that was about it
– Shota Umino & Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) vs Colt Cabana, Michael Elgin & Toa Henare: Umino is so damn good for where he is at, but otherwise this was as standard as it gets
– Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura: Nagata is still really good, but none of the other three are good, for differing reasons. This was nothing special at all
> Katsuyori Shibata came out for commentary at the Japanese desk for the main event. I miss Shibata 😦
Should you watch this event: Although the first few matches were the standard filler, once the bigger stars came out (by which I mean once Ishii and EVIL started beating the crap out of each other) this show turned the corner. Whilst none of the matches are ones you’ll remember in six months time, except maybe the Okada/SANADA final, this was overall a really good show.