[Please note: This review is of the semi finals, and therefore spoils all previous rounds. By the time you read this, the tournament will be over and a winner crowned, but I have no idea who that is. I have reviewed the first round here and here, the second round here and here, the third round here and here and the quarter finals here. It has been a long two weeks.]
After two full weeks of action, only four men remain in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual tournament, the New Japan Cup 2022. Heading into the two semi final matches are two certain match of the year candidates, including the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion and former NJC winner, Kazuchika Okada, against the ungovernable Tetsuya Naito. Naito teammate in Los Ingobernables de Japon, Shingo Takagi, will also be in action as he faces another former tournament winner in Zack Sabre Jr. The two winners of the matches will go on to face each other in the final, where the winner will receive a championship match against Okada — or, if Okada wins, he will get to pick his own opponent. Various tag team matches round out the card, as competitors look to score victories over current champions for a future title shot of their own.
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito (New Japan Cup 2022 Semi Final Match): this was good, but I stand by every single one of my Okada issues so far. Both guys are fantastic wrestlers, and Naito works best as the counter worker, so Okada being the big bad champion (but actually a big good champion) trying to stop Naito from achieving his dreams made a lot of sense for this match. I don’t have a huge amount to say here; I expected it to be good, and it was
+ Shingo Takagi vs Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan Cup 2022 Semi Final Match): these two are very easily two of the best in the company, if not the wrestling word right now, and that meant this was always going to be good. It’s a huge plus when the wrestlers can get the crowd, who are meant to be silent aside from clapping, to gasp and groan and nearly scream, which is exactly what this duo did. The match built perfectly, and was easily one of the best of the tournament
+ CHAOS (YOH & YOSHI-HASHI) vs United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb): I still can’t quite come to terms with the fact that… I think YOSHI-HASHI and Jeff Cobb are just great opponents for each other. YOH was really out of place here, but with Goto against STRONGHEARTS in the prior match I guess it made some sense. I think the team of Cobb and Khan are definitely in line for a few tag title reigns in the very near future. This was fine
+ Hirooki Goto, Tiger Mask & Tomoaki Honma vs STRONGHEARTS (CIMA, El Lindaman & T-Hawk) (w/ Issei Onitsuka): T-Hawk is really good, CIMA is clearly sore but good and Goto can still bring it when he wants to; combinations of those three were good, and I admit there was one fun spot between Lindaman and Honma of all people (their similar tanning routines notwithstanding). This was interesting and good
+ CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) & Togi Makabe vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru): some fantastic Ishii/Suzuki segments, and a really satisfying if overly common ending were all this really needed. Yano is best when he is only part of the story, and he was certainly only part of this story. This was fun
– Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs United Empire (Aaron Henare & Will Ospreay): this was a perfectly serviceable match, but it felt like the whole thing was just an excuse for a pre-match Ospreay promo. I was left confused and disappointed here
– Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs House Of Torture (EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi) (w/ Dick Togo): as frustrated as I get with the HoT shenanigans, those boys have some incredible nicknames: “The Tokyo Pimp” Yujiro Takahashi, “The King of Darkness” EVIL, and “Murder Machine” SHO. DOUKI is underrated, and my boy Despy is fantastic, so any time either of them were in there with SHO or EVIL (sans the expected interference garbage) was really good but otherwise I could take or leave it
– BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo) vs Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Six Or Nine (Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi) & Hiroshi Tanahashi (w/ Jado): this wasn’t much of a match if I’m being honest, and was more about the story between the GoD and the Bullet Club. I’m sure I can see where it’s going, and I don’t care for it very much
> Going into this, I thought I had both of the semi-finals spoiled for me, and spent the while time going, “Well, this must be the finish. No? Okay. Well this submission is about to end it. No? Huh.” It really did make things more exciting not simply not knowing the outcome, but being wrong on the outcome.
Should you watch this event: Despite feeling like I knew the outcomes of the tournament matches (which I certainly didn’t) this was a good show. It was a two-match show, yes, but both tournament matches were good ad there was enough excitement in the tag matches to be well worth the watch.