[Please note: This review concludes the entire New Japan Cup 2022, 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, the quarter finals here, and the semi finals here.]
A field of 48 has been whittled down to just two, as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual tournament concludes, and a winner will be crowned in the New Japan Cup 2022. In the main event, a winner determined as Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. face off, each looking for their second New Japan Cup win, though the road for both has been nothing short of hellacious: Naito has had to defeat Yujiro Takahashi and then Gedo of the Bullet Club, long time rival Hiroshi Tanahashi, the powerhouse pre-tournament favourite, Jeff Cobb, and then the reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada; Sabre’s path to the finals includes a surprisingly tough bout against young lion Ryohei Oiwa, the unconventional DOUKI, Great-O-Khan and Will Ospreay of the United Empire, and then the Dragon of Los Ingobernables de Japon (and Naito’s stablemate) Shingo Takagi. One thing is for certain, whoever wins this tournament will have more than earned it. Various tag team contests round out the card, as all title holders look to cement themselves in their positions, and any and all challengers can lay a claim to the gold by defeating the champions.
+ Tetsuya Naito vs Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan Cup 2022 Final Match): despite my thoughts that this was the least likely match (see below), it did make sense, coming off the injury to Naito in the G1. I don’t think that ever played directly into the story, but it was something fun to keep in the back of your mind. The crowd was evenly split, surprisingly, which made a lot of the more standard stuff come across really important in the context of the match itself, all the way up to a fantastic ending sequence. I’ve said throughout the whole tournament that both these guys are best playing defence, and that is still true, but they were on offence against each other just as much, and that made for some really smooth and entertaining stuff
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Satoshi Kojima & Tiger Mask vs STRONGHEARTS (CIMA, El Lindaman & T-Hawk) & Tatsumi Fujinami (w/ Issei Onitsuka): despite the higher tier competition, I’d say this was my least favourite of the STRONGHEARTS tags so far. It was fun to see Fujinami against the likes of Tanahashi and Okada, but I am still really impressed with T-Hawk, and I fully expect to see him in either the BOSJ or G1, depending on where he best fits. I’m a big Kojima fan, and he had some fun interactions with the three STRONGHEARTS boys as well, which overall made for a unique and good match, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see
+ Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) & Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs United Empire (Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay): I think this is the first time I’ve seen all four United Empire heavyweights together in one match, and they do compliment each other in solid ways; I dare say I’d consider myself a fan of the group overall, even if Henare is clearly on a level below the rest both in story and in real life. This wasn’t a ground breaking match by any means, but it accomplished its purpose, and there was one simple but very real moment from Kevin Kelly on commentary that I enjoyed
+ CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOH) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru): anything involving Suzuki and Ishii is obviously going to get my seal of approval. The Taichi/Yano shenanigans were actually kind of fun here, and it all led to a fantastic post-match which set up several things. Even YOH/Kanemaro, who are both find in their roles, seemed better than usual
– Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Shingo Takagi) vs House Of Torture (Dick Togo & EVIL): you know the deal. I won’t bother going into it. As wrestlers, EVIL and Togo are fine but this constant cheating stuff just makes me not want to give NJPW my money anymore. To me, that seems like the wrong reaction to spur in a customer
– Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs House Of Torture (SHO & Yujiro Takahashi): this was more of a story point than a match, but I really like it when the crowd can’t help themselves but to yell out loud despite the COVID restrictions. SHO is something special, and his split away from YOH was a great idea – not so much immediately aligning him with the House of Torture
– Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Six Or Nine (Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi) & Jado vs BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo): I didn’t care for this. The GoD split from House of Torture/Bullet Club in general should be leading to run ins in every HoT match, or specifically targeting EVIL etc. I don’t buy Tama/Tanga/Jado just joining the other side of the tag team matches like it’s nothing. I know that is the story being told, but it is still just a waste of could be exciting moments
– BUSHI vs Kosei Fujita: I don’t entirely mean this as a negative, but this was a completely stock standard. I liked how commentary put over Tom Lawlor from New Japan Strong, but overall this was nothing special
> Now that it’s over, I can safely say that Naito/Sabre was the least likely final, to me. I assumed Naito/Shingo was most likely, considering that was the G1 final night match that never happened; then Okada/Shingo, or Okada/Sabre lead to either Okada winning as champion to celebrate the 50th anniversary, or his opponent defeating him before their title match. Naito/Sabre was an unexpected surprise
Should you watch this event: This was essentially a one match show, and that one match delivered in spades. The semi-main tag team match, and the storyline stuff set up in various other matches was all inoffensive at worse, so you won’t go wrong with watching this show. Seek out the main event, if nothing else.