Saturday, March 5, 2016

NJPW New Japan Cup 2016 Night Two Review

New Japan Cup 2016 Night Two
March 4th, 2016 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

Round two of the New Japan Cup took place this morning. To fill out the card, a few trademark NJPW multi-man tags were thrown in.

Jay White def. David Finlay Jr. in 5:41
The show began with another in the long series of matches between the two Young Lions. Both guys always show tons of potential and have developed a great chemistry. As usual, they had a good back and forth but it wasn’t on the level of some of their better stuff. I do feel like it’s about time they move up from their current roles as both could be assets to the Junior Heavyweight division in my mind. Anyway, as always, the Boston Crab led to the finish as Finlay submitted. **½

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson def. Cody Hall and Yujiro Takahashi in 9:58
It’s so weird seeing Tanahashi so early in the card. To me, Cody Hall seems like what you would get if you took Scott Hall and removed everything cool about him. As one would expect, Tanahashi didn’t do too much here. It’s smart since he’s healing up on some injuries and that’s what these tag matches are for. Robinson took the heat behind the Bullet Club doing classic heel tactics. Tanahashi eventually got the relatively hot tag and the crowd seemed to enjoy him beating up on Takahashi. The BC members did show off some alright double team offense and Hall even hit an impressive splash. After Juice took out Takahashi with a dive, Tanahashi hit a dragon screw and made Hall tap out to a cloverleaf. Decent little tag but nothing to write home about. **¼

IWGP Tag Team Champions G.B.H, NEVER Openweight Champion Katsuyori Shibata, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA and Ryusuke Taguchi def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask and Yuji Nagata in 11:08
That was a lot to type. This came off as your typical super tag in New Japan. A lot of talented guys involved and they all got some time to get their stuff in. One of the highlights was the interaction between Nagata and Honma, which led to Honma taking the heat for a bit. It was an alright way to get a lot of guys on the card but this wasn’t as fun as a lot of the other multi-man tags that I see, especially involving some of these guys (namely Shibata and KUSHIDA). Shibata got the pin after hitting the PK on Nakanishi. I really wish this was more enjoyable. They seemed to be building towards Nagata getting a shot at Shibata’s NEVER Openweight Championship. **½

Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI def. BUSHI and EVIL in 9:09
Seeing Okada work with Los Ingobernables gives me the inkling that Naito will win the New Japan Cup and face Okada at Invasion Attack on April 10th. EVIL and BUSHI attack quickly but Okada manages to weather that storm. I enjoyed BUSHI’s work throughout this match. He’s really having a good start to 2016. I was surprised to see Okada take as much offense as he did. He started going into his offense on BUSHI, including the flying elbow before ending things with the Rainmaker. This was a solid effort from everyone involved and gave us some fresh matchups that we don’t usually get to enjoy. Fine match. **¾

New Japan Cup Second Round: Toru Yano def. Satoshi Kojima in 5:41
On night one Kojima beat Honma in a really good match, while Yano beat Takahashi in about a minute. Here, this fight went outside rather quickly, where Yano brought a chair into play. I always appreciate New Japan being lenient on disqualifications. That gave Yano the upper hand but Kojima came back with a flurry. Yano wisely rolled away from some top rope offense in a smart moment. There was a funny moment where Yano went for a low blow but Kojima turned around so the referee was in place and Yano backed away. Yano antics led the way as he rolled up Kojima to advance to the Semi-Finals. Standard Yano stuff mostly, with a hot crowd. **

New Japan Cup Second Round: Hirooki Goto def. Tama Tonga 9:24
Being Samoan with a bulletproof vest and face paint, Tonga looked like the lovechild of Roman Reigns and one of the Usos. I know that’s kind of a weird thought since they’re related, but still. Tonga tried a quick pin teasing more frustration for Goto but it wasn’t to be. They also teased a countout loss for Goto. It was a good idea to play into Goto always being the loser of big matches and that it could continue here. The biggest issue with this match was the finish. Goto hit a roundhouse kick and got the three, but it looked like Tonga’s shoulder was up. It seemed like a botched finish, especially considering it came from out of nowhere. After the match, Okada came out and offered Goto a spot in Chaos again. Goto again turned him down. **¾

New Japan Cup Second Round: Michael Elgin def. Bad Luck Fale in 10:10
Coming into this show, I felt this match could go one of two ways. Either it would be a great hoss battle or it would completely suck. They battled to see who the stronger man was early on. Fale nearly got a countout win but Elgin beat the count. Elgin got to make a comeback and show off some of his incredible power. It’s so strange and cool to see someone in NJPW be able to throw Fale around. The finish was less impressive. I was hoping to see Elgin hit a straight up powerbomb but they went with the safer route as he did do a powerbomb, but it came as a counter to Fale already being on the second turnbuckle. A good match and big win for Elgin. I’d like to see a rematch during the G1 later this year. ***

New Japan Cup Second Round: Tetsuya Naito def. Tomohiro Ishii in 16:21
In 2014, these two had an absolute classic for the NEVER Title that really was one of the early times we saw flashes of heel Naito. Naito pissed off Ishii from the start, refusing to lock up, causing Ishii to just beat his ass. He continued to antagonize him throughout, slapping away at Ishii’s giant head in a disrespectful manner. One of his slaps later on sounded like something you’d hear in a Shibata/Ishii match. Ishii powered up after some of Naito’s offense and picked up a few near falls. They did a great job in building drama down the stretch. The back and forth and near falls by both men had me on the edge of my seat. In the end, Naito countered a Brainbuster into Destino and advanced to the Semi-Finals. This was the best match of the tournament so far. ****¼

Overall: 6.5/10. Night two was not quite as good top to bottom as night one but it was still an enjoyable show. Most of the non-New Japan Cup matches were kind of just there. The final three matches ranged from pretty good to great. Ishii/Naito was, hands down, the best thing this tournament has produced so far. Easily worth checking out though the entire show.

NXT Cleveland Report

- The seating at the Agora Theater are first come, first serve. We got to the arena around 430 and kind of froze for a while but it was worth it to get front row seats.
- While waiting outside, a bus pulled in and the NXT roster came out. Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and Emma all waved at us. It was like a school trip. The teachers/coaches came out first (Sara Amato and Jason Albert), then the rest of the roster and the last people to come out were the cool kids (Finn, Sami, Bayley, etc.)
- Surprisingly, Gargano wasn't on the bus, instead walking in a few minutes later.

The show started with Asuka vs. Emma. I was sporting my Asuka shirt but popped for both women. It was a really good hard hitting match. Asuka won via knockout after a kick to Emma. Emma seemed to get legitimately hurt and her head hit the ropes while she was falling. It was my first time seeing Asuka live and she's pretty fun to watch. Everything she does looks legit and she seemed to fun out there.

Up next, we got the Vaudevillains. Their entrance started in the balcony right above us, which I got some good video of. They were pretty over but it was nothing compared to the reaction for American Alpha. They, especially Gable, were among the four or five most popular people on the card. Really strong tag match here. The Vaudevillains played their roles well, Gable did his thing and Jordan got the hot tag, which he's mastered as of late. American Alpha were in their Steiners like gear. They won with the assisted back suplex.

Another tag team match came next. Nia Jax and Eva Marie teamed up to take on Billie Kay and Mandy of Total Divas fame. This was the only bad match on the show. Billie was the best thing about it, but her and Mandy aren't quite ready to carry the beyond awful Eva Marie. Eva was terrible at everything she did. Literally. Nia was alright. Eva got massive heat including "fire Eva" chants. They won but it was Billie Kay who got chants from the crowd on her way out.

I don't know exactly what happened but the card changed. On the card poster it said Asuka vs. Alexa, Emma and Peyton Royce vs. Billie and Mandy, and Bayley vs. Nia Jax.

Tye Dillinger was out next and got a good pop. Sami Zayn was his opponent and he might have been the most popular person of the night. The last two times NXT visited Ohio, Sami couldn't wrestle due to injury so it was great to see him. Tye had his "10" sign taken away by the referee, so he pulled out a tiny piece of paper with a ten on it instead. Sami rolled him up and quickly won, which Tye protested. He wanted a restart and Sami, and the crowd, made him say please. He got on his knees to ask for it. It got restarted and was fun. Sami of course won.

After intermission, Bayley defended the NXT Women's Title against Alexa Bliss. Bayley's popularity is something to behold. It's amazing to watch everyone, from children to women to grown men lose their minds because they all love one person. She's something special. While my friend didn't get a hug during her entrance this time, he got one on her way out, while we got high fives. This was one of the better matches of the night. Alexa was pretty awful when I first went last year, looking lost in the ring with Bayley, Charlotte and Sasha. Here, she looked like she belonged and the improvement was clear. The champion retained with the Bayley to Belly.

The Tag Team Titles were on the line next. The Revival faced Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. Hometown boy Gargano was INSANELY over. Tons of "Johnny Wrestling" chants. This was another fun match. Gargano got the hot tag and did his thing, which the fans ate up. Hell, there was a point where I believed a title change was happening, even though I knew that was a crazy thought. The champions kept the gold after hitting Ciampa with the Shatter Machine. Ciampa was really shaken up after. It took a few minutes to get him up and out of the ring. He was right in front of us and looked way out of it.

The main event was a Fatal Four Way match. Finn Balor defended the NXT Title against Baron Corbin, Samoa Joe and Apollo Crews. Everyone here, except Corbin, was popular. Corbin and Joe were great heels throughout. Corbin even whipped his wet hair into the face of a fan. Everyone got a chance to shine though Crews spent a good chunk of the match hurt on the outside. Finn was right in front of us more than a few times during the match, which was really cool. He retained after Joe locked in the read naked choke on Corbin, Crews moonsaulted onto them and Finn came off the top with the Coup de Grace. Finn pinned Corbin. He shook hands with Crews afterwards. They high fived the fans, including us. Crews was super sweaty. Finn "too sweeted" all of us and I even told him to hug my girlfriend (a huge fan of his), which he did. He and Crews did Finn's signature pose on their way out.

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