Saturday, March 12, 2016
Today was the finals of the 2016 New Japan Cup. It also featured the Semi-Finals and many other matches. Right off the bat, I’d like to point out that I thought the arena setup was pretty cool.
The never-ending rivalry lives on. Sometimes it’s really good and sometimes it’s missing something. With the other Young Lions off in CMLL, it does kind of leave them alone to face each other for the foreseeable future. Considering the amount of times they’ve wrestled, their chemistry has become very easy going and they can do things seamlessly. Both men brought a little extra tonight and it showed. There were some hard hitting strikes and multiple close calls on things like a Finlay roll and the Boston Crab. That move seems to end all of their matches and did here as well. After surviving one from Finlay, Jay White applied a half crab that he turned into a full crab. He then put the knee in the back like it was a Lion Tamer and made Finlay submit. Solid start to the show. I enjoyed this more than some of their other matches.
Coming into this, I fully expected Captain New Japan to take the loss because, duh. He chose to start the match and went at it with Liger for a while. Side note, I don’t understand why Robinson wears a belt with his trunks. Are they not tight enough already? Anyway, Captain New Japan surprisingly handled most of the load for his team. Of course, that meant that he took a pretty good beating. He nearly rolled up Robinson for a rare win but it wasn’t to be. My obvious prediction came true when the Captain submitted to a modified camel clutch/cobra clutch from Robinson. It was certainly an interesting hold. Outside of some shine for Juice and build for another potential Liger/Tiger Mask match, this felt like filler.
So many capital letters in this match. Ishii and EVIL had a damn good match in the first round of the tournament for those that don’t remember. This continued the blossoming rivalry between Los Ingobernables and Chaos. EVIL and BUSHI attacked before the bell as usual. Their strategy was to isolate YOSHI-HASHI and keep Ishii out of the ring as much as possible. When Ishii finally did get involved, he went toe to toe with EVIL once again. After some great back and forth by them, EVIL took the referee away from the action. That allowed BUSHI to slide in and spit the mist at Ishii. He dove out onto YOSHI-HAHSI and EVIL nailed Ishii with the STO, pinning the ROH TV Champion. After the match, he took the title and posed with it while doing the throat cut signal on Ishii. It look like EVIL is coming for the title he failed to take from Jay Lethal when he was Watanabe. This was a fun tag match, made better by the EVIL/Ishii stuff. Give them a match at Invasion Attack please.
Naito has been a favorite throughout the tournament, while Yano has stolen wins in the first two rounds. In an effort to steal a third straight, Yano ran to the ring and attacked Naito with a chair before the bell. The early rollup attempts while Naito still has most of his dress clothes on are completely eaten up by the crowd. They buy Yano winning with rollups more than when he hits actual moves. The referee got hit during a rollup, opening the door for Naito to give Yano a taste of his own medicine. He kicked Yano low and rolled him up to advance. It’s hard to rate something so short fairly but I’ll at least give it more than a star because it made perfect sense considering Yano’s history and it allows Naito to play the rested heel in the finals.
Michael Elgin is likely to be the next major gaijin, while Goto is in the midst of an angle where he struggles in big matches. He beat Naito at WK10, won at the ROH PPV and has won his first two matches in the tournament but you always feel like he could lose his next match as these get more important. These guys are no strangers to each other, having really good matches last year in the G1 and at ROH’s Field of Honor. This was their usual hard hitting affair. Elgin was again given ample opportunity to showcase his insane power. Seeing him dead lift superplex Goto from the apron was sick. From out of nowhere, Goto scored on a rollup, making the finals. While I don’t know if I agree with another rollup finish, it kept Elgin strong. He sold the disappointment perfectly. Hopefully, they have one more match in the G1, where Elgin can finally beat Goto. Like their other matches, this was good but never reached great territory.
Oh look, NJPW paired up one of my favorites (Shibata) with one of my least favorites (Taguchi). Taguchi seems to have officially adopted Nakamura’s ring announcement taunt, doing it again here. Shibata started with Kojima and it was a pretty heated exchange. Tencozy took turns beating on Taguchi for a bit, which I appreciated. Shortly after, it went back to Kojima and Shibata going at it. In classic Shibata fashion, they were hitting each other hard and holding nothing back. Taguchi hit his ass attack and paid tribute to Nakamura again before running into a lariat from Kojima that put him down for the count. Post-match, Kojima got on the microphone and called out Shibata. Instead of waiting to hear what he had to say, Shibata just kicked him in the mouth. Kojima laid him out and seemed to challenge him for the NEVER Title. I guess we won’t be seeing Nagata/Shibata after all. The match was fine.
I certainly didn’t expect this match on the card. Nobody here is really feuding or anything like that so it was kind of just here. I was glad to see Okada and Nagata start as they had an awesome match during the G1 Climax last year. They played the angry old man against the cocky youngster angle again. When it was Sakuraba and Nagata, it was just two guys going to war on each other. Everyone got to do their signature stuff but something about this never clicked for me. Okada pinned Nakanishi after the Rainmaker in a match that just never really got going.
Like pretty much all New Japan heels, the Bullet Club attacked before the bell during introductions. As Tama Tonga beat up Togi Makabe outside, he took a cameraman’s camera and starting taking photos. It was a cool little thing to add to the match. As is the case with most multi-man tags in New Japan, this furthered ongoing angles and gave guys a chance to get their stuff in. Tanahashi nearly got revenge on Fale for eliminating him from the New Japan Cup but Takahashi prevented him from hitting High Fly Flow. A string of Kokeshi headbutts looked like it would lead to victory but in typical Honma fashion, the top rope Kokeshi failed. Tonga jumped and caught him with a big Gun Stun before finishing him off with Veleno. The Bullet Club laid out their opponents after the match. Tonga also announced that his brother, former WWE performer Camacho, would be his tag team partner against Great Bash Heel down the line. Solid tag match here.
It’s a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 10. No suit for Naito this time around. Goto has mostly owned this tournament in history, being a three time winner. BUSHI was sure to make his presence felt, interfering early and often. When he wasn’t getting involved, Goto and Naito had some really great back and forth. Goto seemed a step ahead but every now and then, Naito would pull out something that put him back in the driver’s seat. He tried Destino a few times but Goto always had a counter ready. Things really picked up in the final few minutes, with Goto even hitting Shouten Kai only for Naito to kick out. He tried a second but EVIL interfered. Just like at WK10, Goto took EVIL and BUSHI out but Naito countered Shouten Kai into Destino. He couldn’t pin instantly there as he was hurt, but a few minutes later he hit a second Destino and won the Cup. This was much better than their forgettable disappointment at WK10.
After the bell, it seemed like Naito challenged Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Los Ingobernables put the boots to Goto until Okada made the save. Okada and Goto shook hands, as it seems like Goto accepted his offer to join Chaos.
Overall: Similar to the rest of the tournament, I’d consider this a good show, but not a great one. Outside of one or two multi-man tags, everything moves swiftly and the show doesn’t feel like it takes three hours. They did a good job of advancing some angles. Shibata’s war with the veterans continued, Naito moved into the title picture and the Goto stuff is certainly intriguing. One thing about NJPW in 2016 is that I’m interested in the booking decisions since Gedo was forced to do something differently with key guys leaving. This show was an example of that.