Sunday, March 19, 2017
NJPW New Japan Cup Semi-Finals Review
The Quarterfinals of the New Japan Cup took place over the week. Only the tournament matches were shown on NJPW World, so I couldn’t do full reviews. This is what I rated those matches though.
EVIL def. Yuji Nagata -
Bad Luck Fale def. Toru Yano –
Katsuyori Shibata def. Juice Robinson -
Tomohiro Ishii def. SANADA -
It’s my first look at Kitamura. He looks to be in the best shape of any young lion. It was great watching him and Oka go head to head. Juice and Finlay got some work in on Kawato, who brought fire as always. Nagata got the hot tag and it was time for BLUE JUSTICE! Like their singles match a while back, I enjoyed Nagata going at it with Oka. The crowd popped for Nagata slapping the armbar on Juice but with the young lions around, you just knew that wasn’t the finish. Nagata’s team put on triple Boston crabs but it wasn’t the end either. It came down to Juice and Kitamura, with Juice planting him with Pulp Friction. Standard fare for a New Japan opener. The young lions brought energy and everyone got a little shine.
On paper, this is a nightmare. This CHAOS/Suzuki-Gun feud has been mostly terrible. There was some early stalling but once the action got going, they might as well have still been stalling. Gedo took the heat segment, which was better than Jado doing it since he’s better at it. Unfortunately, that left the hot tag spot to Jado. He came in lukewarm at best. Jado might be the blandest guy in NJPW. He’s such a scrub that he still got in trouble after the tag and was in a TAKA submission until Gedo saved him. Jado then hit a DDT on TAKA for the win. This sucked on almost every level. It was sloppy, never flowed and felt like a big waste of time. The bookers are headed towards an IWGP Jr. Tag Title match that will almost certainly suck too.
NEW JAPAN DADS! Just what I need to push shitty Jado from my head. Though Iizuka and Taichi are here too. It’s a Suzuki-Gun match, so within the first few minutes, they all brawled outside. With no commentary, we could clearly hear the ring announcer shout as they did so. It’s so annoying. Once things calmed down, Liger took a lot of the work from Suzuki-Gun. The hot tag came to Kojima before TenKoji did their thing. The crowd ate that up as always. Things brown down again late and poor Tiger Mask was left alone with Suzuki. He got hit with the Gotch style piledriver and that was all. Like most Suzuki-Gun matches since their return, this didn’t do much for me. It got better near the end but most of the early stuff was kind of just there.
I do enjoy these tags but man, we’ve seen a TON of them. Tanahashi and Naito kicked things off to a pop and it led to Naito getting hit with a barrage of offense from everyone on the opposing side. As the match progressed, we were treated to great interactions between SANADA and Elgin. I’d be all for a G1 Climax match involving them this year. There was also another preview of the impending Takahashi/KUSHIDA match (which I assume comes at Sakura Genesis). Those two are great together. I appreciated how a hot tag went to Taguchi, which is different. ASS ATTACKS FOR EVERYONE! It got turned around quickly and he ate four dropkicks at once. BUSHI countered an ass attack into a backslide, but Taguchi turned that into la magistral for the win. Another fine tag involving these guys. It did what it needed to but there are only so many things this combinations of guys can do.
I would normally be upset at more Bullet Club vs. CHAOS stuff since their feud has never been interesting but it beats Suzuki-Gun vs. CHAOS at this point. Back to t-shirt and colorful tights Kenny. They did the “Yano is scared of Tama Tonga” stuff early. This followed the typical formula we get in the tags involving these teams. Kenny and Okada took the night off, the Guerillas were their usual selves, Goto looked bored, Yano was Yano and Yujiro sucked. YOSHI took the heat for a while before Goto came in to save the day. There was some Okada/Omega interaction, giving fans a reminder of their Dave “I found things wrong with the match but still gave it six stars to get a reaction online” Meltzer approved WK main event. A bored Okada hit the Rainmaker on Yujiro to end it. Ho-hum stuff here. Nobody brought anything of note to the table and it lacked something to make it a multi-man tag worth viewing.
These two brawled to the outside instantly. I liked how EVIL went for his signature steel chair spot, only for Fale to block it. EVIL’s not used to wrestling guys this big. Fale beat him up in the crowd, slamming him into a wall and throwing a guardrail on him. EVIL beat the count but continued to take a beat down until clotheslining Fale outside. EVIL got the chair spot to work this time before getting two on a flying clothesline. The Bullet Club and LIDJ got involved, with BUSHI misting Fale before Tama Tonga fought him to the back. Left alone again, Fale hit the Grenade and then the Bad Luck Fall to advance to the finals. I’d much rather Gedo have used this to send EVIL to the finals. Still, this was a solid brawl and about the best you could ask for from these two.
By the way, after rewatching Omega/Ishii, I bumped it down from ****¾ to ****½. Still fantastic, but not an all-time classic. I did the same bump down for Takahashi/Lee at New Beginning.
I’ve said it before but for my money, this is the best rivalry in wrestling. Yes, even over Okada/Tanahashi. I’ve never given a match between these guys less than ****¼. This got off to a more tentative start than usual, but it made sense. They know each other well and didn’t want to be the first to make a mistake. Don’t worry though, within three or so minutes, the hard strikes came rushing in. The camera zoomed in on a particular forearm exchange that just looked brutal. Ishii got a busted nose from it, but put Shibata on his ass. Like their New Beginning match last year, Shibata looked for a few submissions. He had control and kicked away at Ishii’s head like a dick. Ishii avoided a kick and hit a German, setting up a rally that saw him get two on a powerbomb. Shibata refused to stay down on lariats until about the fifth one. These bad motherfuckers eventually reached a point where they sat across from each other and slapped the shit out of one another. Ishii blocked the PK and locked in an armbar, which we don’t see often from him. Shibata made the ropes, so Ishii lit him up with kicks. The final few minutes just saw them go to war. Shibata hit the PK and instead of covering, went back to the sleeper. Ishii fought but passed out and the referee called for the bell. In a great moment, after it was over, Ishii woke up ready to fight more, not realizing it was over. It’s what we’ve seen from these two in the past and I’m totally fine with that. Ishii was the MVP of another tournament, while Shibata brought his A game too. This felt like an important fight between two bad dudes. The finals can’t live up to that. It’s like when the Kings/Lakers played before the Nets/Lakers finals. You knew which was the real finals. Ishii continues to amaze and is right behind AJ Styles as the best wrestler in the world in my eyes. This wasn’t quite as good as their WK10 or G1 Climax 23 matches, but on par with the New Beginning one last year.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Katsuyori Shibata will be the finals tomorrow. I’ve given their past matches ***½ and **½. This could be a double-edged sword though. If Fale wins, we get another shitty and dull Okada/Fale match. If Shibata wins, he’ll most likely job to Okada, which I would hate since I love Shibata and dislike Okada. I know they could challenge for the IC or NEVER Title but I don’t see it happening here.
Overall: This show when the way I expected. The focus was on the two semi-final matches, with the rest of the card playing out like a “Road to” show. Fale/EVIL was solid but the main event is honestly all you truly need to see from this show. The rest of the show is an easy skip though.