New Japan Cup Day 11 Report (Semi-Finals) | Aired 3/23/19

New Japan Pro Wrestling

NEW JAPAN CUP 2019
TOURNAMENT COVERAGE

Day 11 – Aired 3/23/19
Ao-re Nagaoka, Niigata

Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Excalibur (!!!) on commentary.

Semifinal Match
TOMOHIRO ISHII vs KAZUCHIKA OKADA

We get the bell, big chants for Okada at the start. They size each other up and take their time, then finally lock up. No one budges in the tie up until Okada is able to get Ishii against the ropes, where he usually does his chest pat spot, but its Ishii, so Okada throws an elbow instead and Ishii steps right to him and snaps one off as well. They trade, headlock by Okada, whip to the ropes and Okada gets staggered but not floored with two tackles, they run the ropes and Okada gets Ishii down with a third tackle. Okada teases the single leg dropkick after the snapmare, but stops short and love-taps Ishii with his boot instead, provoking Ishii. And it looks like its working.

Ishii fires up with elbows and headbutts, Okada tries to fire back but Ishii absorbs all of it and asks for more, Okada hits the ropes for a tackle but Ishii doesnt budge and Okada goes down instead! Ishii now returns the mocking kicks to Okada’s head, they trade shots and Okada dumps Ishii, Ishii reverses a whip and then gets Okada with his throwing powerslam on the floor outside! Okada is rolled back inside as Ishii lays in chops, one after the other, and each time Okada collapses Ishii picks him up and lays in some more. Ishii talks at Okada while stepping on his face, provoking Okada back.

Okada stands up and absorbs more chops from Ishii, trying to show Ishii he can take it, Okada fires off some elbows but Ishii takes Okada down with one more chop. Suplex attempt is blocked by Okada, who is able to snatch Ishii and hit a DDT, and both are down. Kip up by Okada who runs through Ishii, who rolls outside. Pescado by Okada connects wiping out Ishii. Okada tosses Ishii back in and looks for the flying elbow, Ishii cuts it off but Okada hits a corner elbow, and lays in elbow strikes in the corner, but Ishii spits at Okada! Ishii starts waking up and absorbing the elbows and WALKS RIGHT INTO THEM, and BACKS UP OKADA.

Ishii hits a BIG elbow of his own that rocks Okada back into the corner, and Ishii lays in shots. Okada asks for more, and starts walking into Ishii’s elbows just like Ishii did! They trade, Ishii evades the dropkick and blocks a German, misses the enziguri but Okada misses the senton, Okada evades the sliding lariat and gets Ishii up in the Air Raid Neckbreaker. Ishii clutches at his neck. Slam by Okada and he climbs again, comes off the top and lands a great diving elbow drop and gives us the Rainmaker pose, Ishii pops up but Okada is ready and plants him with a flapjack.

Okada climbs again and fires off a HUGE missile front dropkick, covers but Ishii is out at 2. Tombstone is blocked by Ishii, who hits the folding powerbomb for a cover but only gets 2. Ishii hits the ropes, Okada cuts him off but Ishii hits a great release German, hits the ropes and lands a great lariat and a cover but gets 2 again. Sliding lariat is cut off as Okada hits that huge dropkick to take down Ishii, Okada looks for the tombstone again but Ishii reverses, they each struggle to lift the other and Okada finally hits it, picks up Ishii and looks for Rainmaker but ISHII CUTS IT OFF WITH A HEADBUTT AND HITS A HARD SHORT-ARM LARIAT. DANG.

Ishii crushes Okada in the corner and hoists him in the corner, they go all the way to the top and Ishii gets a big top rope superplex, covers Okada but still only gets 2! Sliding lariat connects, another cover by Ishii but Okada out at 2 again. The crowd is starting to explode. Ishii looks for the Brainbuster, Okada fights out with a knee but Ishii hits an elbow before Okada lands his textbook dropkick. Backslide by Okada is rolled through into a short-arm lariat by Okada who maintains wrist control, walks Ishii up and hits another short lariat but Ishii is UNMOVED. Ishii hits a headbutt to stagger Okada before Okada is able to get behind and hit a crazy German suplex, looks for Rainmaker again but ISHII REVERSES IT INTO AN ARMBAR AND HE HAS FULL EXTENSION!

Okada tries to stack Ishii into a pin but Ishii powers him back down until Okada is able to get the ropes for a break. Chants for Ishii and Okada. Okada tries for the discus lariat but misses, Ishii hits an enziguri but Okada gets a dropkick to the back, Ishii is right back up (FIGHTING SPIRIT!) and Okada hits a John Woo dropkick to put him back down. Lariat by Ishii cuts off Okada, cover but only 1 so Ishii hits another lariat and covers but still only gets 2. Ishii looks for the Brainbuster, Okada escapes and lands another great dropkick, looks for Rainmaker but Ishii evades again and hits a lariat of his own, they trade strikes, Ishii looks for the Brainbuster but Okada hits a spinning tombstone and finally hits Rainmaker, cover and thats the 3 count and the WIN!

Kazuchika Okada defeats Tomohiro Ishii by pinfall after the Rainmaker to advance to the Finals
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5

This was an outstanding match, and I LOVED Okada showing that he can go blow for blow with the Stone Pitbull. Ishii was INCREDIBLE here (surprising no one), and part of me is definitely bummed to see him not take it this year. Ishii is a true unsung MVP of the entire company. But Okada EARNED this one with his performance here, bringing it to Ishii in Ishii’s own style, and doing it damn well to boot. The ending sequences in particular were pretty brilliant, and they turned out an exhilirating match that fed a hot crowd who were with it 150%. Great work all around.

After the match, Okada bows and shows respect to Ishii, and helps him up.

Semifinals Match
SANADA vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI

We get the bell, and the crowd is strongly behind SANADA (who is in his hometown area of Japan). Tana notices that the crowd is more behind SANADA than himself, and Tana even gets some boos when posing for the crowd. SANADA soaks in cheers and chants. Lockup, they make the ropes and we get a clean break. They lockup again, they trade holds early, SANADA tries to roll out of it but Tana snatchs a headscissors to ground SANADA. Escape by SANADA into a death lock on Tana who fights out and into a headlock. Tana looks for a snapmare but SANADA kips out of it and they evade shots and both throw dropkicks, and we get a stand off. Chants are still STRONGLY on the side of SANADA.

SANADA looks for the Paradise Lock, Tana gets a cradle for 2 and goes to work over the ankle and knee, grounding SANADA. Open hand chops by SANADA hit Tana but he keeps butterflying the legs until SANADA is finally able to get to the ropes. Tana lays in boots and shots as he plays the heel, SANADA gets the leapfrogs and lands the dropkick, Tana heads to ringside and SANADA follows with a pescado. SANADA rolls Tana back inside, but Tana snags the leg on the way in and hits a dragon screw over the ropes. BOOS FOR TANA. Middle rope rolling senton connects, cover by Tana for 2. Tana poses again but the crowd explodes for SANADA. Sling Blade is evaded but Tana gets a dragon screw instead, but then SANADA gets a dragon screw of his own! SANADA chants.

Tana reverses a whip but SANADA is able to line up a springboard dropkick, but Tana evades and hits a grounded dragon screw. Cloverleaf is attempted, but SANADA is able to maneuver himself to the ropes as Tana lays in boots. SANADA looks for a rana but Tana holds on and applies the Cloverleaf, sitting down and back hard, SANADA fights for the ropes and finally gets the break. Tana brings SANADA up but SANADA fires back with shots, Tana teases a dragon screw but then does a fake out and dropkicks the other knee. They trade shots, Tana looks for a dragon suplex, SANADA fights out and gets Skull End but is standing, Tana reverses it and hits a series of Twist and Shouts, SANADA however is able to hoist Tana instead and drape him for an Anarchist Suplex.

Chants for SANADA. Tiger suplex from SANADA connects, SANADA bridges but Tana is out at 2. SANADA looks for Skull End again and is able to drop down with it as he wrenches back. Tana looks like he’s fading. SANADA releases Skull End with Tana face down and his a moonsault to the back, looks to follow with one to Tana’s front but Tana gets the knees up and snatches a cradle for 2! Some growing Tana chants. SANADA looks for a moonsault into Skull End but Tana gets another rollup for a CLOSE 2. Tana lines up Sling Blade, SANADA reverses for a TKO but Tana gets Skull End before being reversed back into Skull End by SANADA.

SANADA and Tana trade pin attempts for 2 counts. Tana looks for the dragon suplex but SANADA blocks, escapes and locks in Skull End again. SANADA with the giant swing with the Skull End, but Tana reverses and hits a variation of Nightmare on Helms Street, then lands Sling Blade and covers but only gets 2! Dragon suplex attempt again but SANADA lands on his feet, SANADA looks for a rollup but Tana reverses into an attempt at Fujinami’s Ankle Clutch Prawn Hold but SANADA counters that into Skull End! SANADA applies the body scissors and has it in tight. The crowd is fired up. Tana struggles as SANADA wrenches and Tana TAPS OUT! SANADA GETS THE WIN AND IS GOING TO THE FINALS!

SANADA defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi by submission after Skull End to advance to the Finals
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5

Well damn, I did not call that one, but thats awesome! Especially considering that this was another outstanding tournament match and a great semi-final, with both pulling out some really great performances in front of an electric crowd to bring us home. SANADA was able to tap into the next gear here tonight, and I hope he can bring it and up the ante at the finals, because its pretty incredible to see when he can tap into it. Okada should be able to bring it out of him. Tana also looked great, and played a great foil to SANADA in front of SANADA’s home crowd, and looked strong in defeat as I cant imagine his story with Jay White is quite done yet. (Then again, he left the ring rather quickly after the loss… so the loss does feel that much more loaded, if thats the right word? Regardless, a great match by great talents to take us to the finals.

JAY’S THOUGHTS:

This was a great pairing of matches, and I recommend catching both of them. Ishii’s loss was disappointing (I just want him to finally win some bigger gold), and SANADA’s win a bit of a surprise as I dont feel like he’s really been focused on a singles career push lately and so I thought they would invest in Tana recently losing the title to White. Instead, Okada’s story of White’s betrayal of CHAOS is at the fore here (along with the IWGP Title), alongside SANADA. SANADA has the potential to fully and irrevocably break out here if he delivers strongly against Okada, which isnt a guarantee but which I am nonetheless hopeful for… but he also has the least story driving him toward White at the moment, in my opinion. And that is now making me lean Okada taking the tournament, and going on to MSG to get his title back from someone who stabbed him in the back. We will see if thats how it pans out. Make some time for these two – really great work here.

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