New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) heads into the third round of the annual tournament, the New Japan Cup, where the winner will receive an IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match at Sakura Genesis. Across two nights of action, the first four of eight matches will take place, including Kazuchika Okada and Taichi facing off in the main event of night 8. Oakda is the reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, but if there is any man who could capitalise on the momentum of the past year, it is Taichi. Also on night 8, former three time New Japan Cup winner Hirooki Goto faces the dark horse of the tournament, the world travelled CIMA. On night 9, long time opponents renew their classic rivalry, as Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi face off in the main event, and finally the pre-tournament favourite, Jeff Cobb, will face the unlikely cult favourite of the NJPW crowd, YOSHI-HASHI.
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): I don’t think it’s controversial to say that both of these men’s best years are behind them, but even a sliver of their once greatness will give you a match like this. It was not their best, be that against each other or anyone else, but Tanahashi gets the crowd behind him like few others in history, and Naito is the beloved asshole that the crowd can’t help but cheer for. I really enjoyed this
+ YOSHI-HASHI vs Jeff Cobb (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): hot damn this was a banger. I think YOSHI-HASHI knew that this sort of singles match is not necessarily something he’ll get a lot, so he made the most of it against the monster, powerhouse Cobb. Cobb looked fantastic, even as he played mostly defence to YOSHI-HASHI’s varied offence. YOSHI-HASHI still has a pre-match stigma in my mind about not being good, but in reality he is more than capable of handling himself in these sort of matches
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): Okada is at his best when he it he underdog, because I want to see him ‘earn something’, be that a grudge match win or a new title to hold. When he has the title, or is the clear favourite that his opponent has to overcome, I just can’t stand him. Taichi has that low-key breakout babyface star power that some of the best just don’t have, and I was so behind him for the most of this match. And can we all just agree that the Money Clip is a garbage submission move, and the crowd hates it, and it drags Okada’s matches to a drawl every time he uses it, whether it’s the finish or not? Yes we can
– CIMA vs Hirooki Goto (New Japan Cup 2022 Third Round Match): I liked this, but once again (after CIMA/Kanemaru) I felt underwhelmed. I remember previously thinking that CIMA overused the meteora in his matches and that stands true here. Goto was fine, as Goto always is, but this was just not quite what I was expecting or hoping for
> Kevin Kelly did the English commentary alone for the majority of these matches, and I think it’s about time we give him the respect he deserve for being so damned good.
> I am also foregoing images in these reviews, just because I am already so far behind.
Should you watch this event: This tournament matches were good. Even CIMA/Goto had some bright spots, and overall it just show the immense talent NJPW has at the top of their cards, once the tournament rabble has been weeded out.