Monday, March 20, 2017
NJPW New Japan Cup Finals Review
It’s the finals of the New Japan Cup! The finals aren’t exactly a match that excites me (Shibata vs. Fale) and there were other, more interesting options (Ishii vs. EVIL, Shibata vs. EVIL or a mixture of combinations involving Shibata, Ishii, EVIL, Omega, Tanahashi or Elgin). Still, this is a relatively big event as it sets up something for an even bigger show on April 9th (Sakura Genesis, replacing Invasion Attack).
After guys like Jay White, Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka and David Finlay, I know some were worried about the quality of the young lions dipping. Kawato and Oka have been very impressive so far though. Oka is kind of a brute, while Kawato is a wild man who takes some big bumps. Kawato went after the knee to cut down Oka, while Kawato’s taped shoulder was targeted. They traded blows, with Oka just destroying his smaller opponent at times. Kawato brought fire, using it to help combat his size disadvantage. He kept kicking out of Oka’s offense, including a backdrop suplex. As the time winded down, Kawato began pulling out flash pins but it wasn’t enough. Time expired on a small package attempt for the draw. Best NJPW opener in quite some time. They told a great story of Oka being the more physically gifted, only for Kawato to never quit. I never felt like they were going for a draw as I got engulfed in the story. I look forward to more from both, just like I used to during the White/Finlay series.
Guess who this began? Suzuki-Gun jumped the babyfaces before the bell. Liger and Desperado did the in-ring stuff while others battled outside. Iizuka was his crazy self. Liger took a beating in the corner as the ring was cut in half. Liger finally got free and tagged Tiger Mask. He came in with his bland offense before tagging in Finlay. The crowd was surprisingly subdued for them, though they were hot for Liger. Finlay took a chair shot but managed to kick out. TAKA then got left alone to take offense from all three opponents, capped by a stunner from Finlay. Not bad but it lacked intensity and the fans surprisingly sat on their hands for it. The only guys in Suzuki-Gun that interest me at all are Suzuki himself and KES.
Man, Kitamura is JACKED. Nagata started with Tenzan and when the crowd chanted for Tenzan, Nagata stepped outside like “where’s the love for me?” After they went at it for a bit, we got Kojima against Kitamura. Kitamura ended up getting worked over with double team offense from the champions. Nagata got the tag and took control, so the tables were turned and now Tenzan needed to make the tag. That led to some fun stuff between Kojima and Nagata. Kitamura came back in and applied the Boston crab but Tenzan broke it up with the Mongolian chop. Kitamura showed off some impressive stuff before falling to Kojima’s lariat. This was fun. Kitamura, like the other young lions, shows raw talent and the New Japan Dads are almost always great.
I can place a safe bet that Taichi and Kanemaru vs. Gedo and Jado will be the worst match on whatever card it ends up on. Oh look, another Suzuki-Gun match where they jumped their opponents before the bell. That of course gave us the brawl around the ring that we’re accustomed to. Taichi used his trusty ring bell hammer and Gedo got worked over for the heat segment. I loved Suzuki putting Gedo in an armbar and then no selling Goto kicking him before pulling him into a knee bar. The battle between Goto and Suzuki was easily the highlight of this contest. Goto got the best of their exchange with USHIGOROSHI! There were a bunch of underhanded tactics from both teams in the end, before Jado made Taichi tap to a crossface. If you could clip the match and only watch Suzuki and Goto, you’ve got a winner. Unfortunately, the other two teams did nothing for me.
Tanahashi and lads against LIDJ. We’ve seen it a ton, yet it’s always fun. After teasing Naito/Tanahashi, we got EVIL/Tanahashi to start. After that, they lifted the spot from yesterday where Taguchi Japan worked tandem offense on Naito, instead doing it to BUSHI and ending with him getting whipped into Taguchi’s ass. LIDJ turned it around and took things outside, highlighted by Naito slamming Juice on the aisle. Almost every opening for Taguchi Japan saw LIDJ find a way to cut it off until Tanahashi started reeling off dragon screws. That led to the hot tag to BIG MIKE! He and SANADA went at it again before KUSHIDA came in rather hot. We got another preview of Takahashi/KUSHIDA before more stuff between Juice and Naito. That led to a big barrage of everyone getting some offense in before it came down to Naito and Juice again. Juice had Pulp Friction ready but Naito countered, hit a low blow and Destino for the win. I noted these tags have been done a lot, but they saved some of their best stuff for this show. Nonstop action with lots of build for potential future matches.
For the third time tonight, a heel faction jumped their opponents before the bell. That gave us the brawl around the ring stuff that’s been done to death on this show so far. They did some of the usual spots like Yano fearing the Guerillas. That set up Yano as the guy taking a small heat until Yujiro got tagged and messed things up for his guys. Okada got a hot tag, kicking Yujiro’s ass until GOD tried to save him, only for Okada to beat up all three guys. It took all four of them to finally take down Okada. Shortly after, Okada hit Omega with a flapjack and was left with Roa. He began with the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM but it was cut off. Roa countered the Rainmaker into a spear but eventually fell to one anyway. Another fine multi-man tag. I like how they’re keeping the Okada/Omega interactions mostly minimal.
I don’t think anyone picked this as the finals. I rarely do it but I want to commend Kevin Kelly (I wasn’t expecting to watch with English commentary but clicked the link for it by mistake and left it) as he noted Shibata has wrestled almost twice as long as Fale in the tournament thus far. Shibata attacked instantly and they fought to the floor with great intensity. Fale did the guardrail spot from the EVIL match and Shibata barely beat the countout. Fale took control and as usual, his heat segment wasn’t great. He did my least favorite move in wrestling, the dreaded NERVE HOLD! I did like how he focused on the shoulder and ripped the tape off. Back outside, Shibata got an opening by sending Fale into the guardrail, but inside, he was cut in half with a spear. Shibata struggled with an armbar due to the sheer size of Fale. Fale came back with a splash and then the Grenade for a near fall that everyone bit on. That started “SHIBATA” chants. Shibata countered the Bad Luck Fall into a sleeper hold but Fale countered that to a side slam. Shibata fired up instantly, hit some brutal strikes and went back to the sleeper. The PK ended it, giving Shibata the big win. Best Fale match to ever go past fifteen minutes. They played him up as an stoppable monster very well, the crowd was massively into this and I thought the final few minutes ruled.
After the match, Shibata made it clear he was coming for Kazuchika Okada and the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Their last (and I believe only) singles match came during the G1 Climax in 2013, where Okada won in about nine minutes. I’m PRAYING Shibata just murders Okada. If that happens, I’ll love it. I expect Okada to retain as usual though, which would suck for me.
Overall: A better show than the Semi-Finals. It was consistently strong up and down, with Suzuki-Gun/CHAOS being the only thing that was an easy skip. The LIDJ/Tanahashi and lads tag was a blast and the finals proved to be better than expected, with possibly the best Fale performance of his career. It was an easy watch at about two and a half hours. Also, I’d like to give a special nod to the three young lions for putting some serious work on this card.