[Please note: to try and save some time, I’m only reviewing the tournament matches themselves for rounds 1 and 2. I previously reviewed the first half of the first round here.]
New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) annual tournament continues, with Days 2 and 3 finishing off the first round of matches of the New Japan Cup. Three tournament matches take place in the second night of action, including an old rivalry renewed in the main event when BUSHI and Will Ospreay meet once more. Two young lions will also be making their New Japan Cup debuts on day 2, as Ytuo Nakashima faces The United Empire’s Aron Henare, while Ryohei Oiwa has the unenviable task of getting in the ring with Zack Sabre Jr. Originally scheduled to face Kota Ibushi on night 3, Great-O-Khan will instead receive a bye into the second round due to an injury to Ibushi.
The third day of the New Japan Cup will see four tournament matches decided, featuring two absolute bangers of co-main events: the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, “The Dragon” Shingo Takagi versus “The Stone Pitbull” Tomohiro Ishii in the final match, while Hiromu Takahashi faces SHO of the House of Torture in the semi-main. Meanwhile, Rysuke Taguchi will face the House of Torture’s leader, EVIL, in tournament action, and the Bullet Club implosion looms large as two members of the faction, Chase Owens and Jado, go head to head.
+ Shingo Takagi vs Tomohiro Ishii (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): it’s an underrated positive, but there was some fantastic lore commentary from Chris Charlton regarding how Ishii fares in the NJC over the years. Unsurprisingly, this was a really, really good match but I don’t think it topped Okada/Desperado from the first night. I may have spoiled this for myself by watching it after the AEW Revolution show, but I can say for certain that I want both of these men versus Danielson as soon as humanly possible, especially Ishii. The final stretch of this was some of the most exciting wrestling you’ll see, even making the crowd break their mandatory silence to gasp or scream
+ Hiromu Takahashi vs SHO (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): Minoru Suzuki awaits the winner here, and that meant that it was win/win for the viewers, because Suzuki versus either man would be great. The same HoT bullshit was apparent, but Hiromu has that intense underdog aura that made him overcoming (or attempting to overcome) the garbage that much sweeter. SHO is great, and in that regard it was sad that only one man would be able to advance. This was still good
+ BUSHI vs Will Ospreay (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): this was pretty good, with some of the best unintentional comedy you’ll see. El Phantasmo awaits the winner, so this could either be two of my favourites facing off (if BUSHI won) or an absolute dickhead fight (if Ospreay won). I thoroughly enjoyed the wrestling here, but I think it almost suffered from the same problem that the Young Lions matches did, in that there was surely no way BUSHI was ever going to defeat Ospreay
+ Zack Sabre Jr. vs Ryohei Oiwa (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): I love Sabre, and Oiwa is so fantastic for his level of skill. It’s not a wild thought to say that all of the Young Lions are so incredible because they are trained to be; compare any Young Lion to the up and comers on NXT 2.0 and it’s like comparing apples and orange painted plastic. Both men made this watchable, though I admit I never had any doubts as to who would win – whether that was correct or not you’ll have to see, but DOUKI will surely be just as good an opponent for the winner
– Rysuke Taguchi vs EVIL (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): Taguchi did his damnedest to make this fun, but the same House of Torture garbage ruined what was certainly on its way to being a good match. I’m not implying that the winner is as obvious as you might think, but Just giving Taguchi and EVIL the time to wrestle without the bullshit might have been something really worth watching. Tama Tonga awaits the winner, so the idea of Taguchi running through two Bullet Club members was interesting, as was the idea of the Bullet Club implosion continuing were EVIL to win
– Chase Owens vs Jado (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): this entire thing did nothing for me, the crowd was dead, and I never once bought any of the stuff either man was trying. The winner will face Tiger Mask, but whatever
– Aron Henare vs Yuto Nakashima (New Japan Cup 2022 First Round Match): Nakashima looked really impressive, but that may be partly because of how bland Henare is. It was hard to get into this because of that reason, and the fact that SANADA awaits the winner
Should you watch this event: The tournament matches from Day 2 were really hampered by the inclusion of the young lions, just because they removed all doubt (or, attempted to?) as to who the winners might be. Day 3 did not have that exact issue, but when various Bullet Club shenanigans are seemingly take centre stage over the tournament, something needs to be done. Ospreay/BUSHI and Ishii/Shingo are absolute must sees, and there was some good stuff in Hiromu/SHO. Don’t bother with the rest.