New Japan Pro Wrestling
NEW JAPAN CUP 2019
Day 3 – 3/10/19
Amagasaki Memorial Park Gymnasium
Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero on commentary.
First Round Match
RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs HIROYOSHI TENZAN
Taguchi has fun with some Tenzan-isms (the pre-Mongolian chop arm move in particular, with the crowd making the sound to boot) and looks for the fist bump, Tenzan goes to bump but Taguchi cheap shots him with a kick to boos from the crowd (but dont worry, he then bows in apology to make up for it). Taguchi Mongolian-arm’s into a headlock, Tenzan whips him off and they throw tackles, no one budges and Tenzan gets a headlock of his own. Tenzan whipped and takes down Taguchi with a tackle and mimics Taguchi’s hip swivel to a nice pop. They trade shots, and Tenzan gets the Mongolian chops to drop Taguchi.
Tenzan with a Taguchi-style hip attack. I LOVE that Tenzan and Taguchi are going this route, a nice mix of humor and real action! Headbutts by Tenzan who keeps Taguchi slowed down, Taguchi looks for the flying hip attack but Tenzan moves out of the way so Taguchi wipes out. Tenzan with headbutts to Taguchi’s butt (yup), and then hits a Mongolian chop to the glutes as well! Chinlock by Tenzan grounds Taguchi. Tenzan whips Taguchi to the corner but Taguchi fires back with a flying hip attack to take Tenzan down. The crowd gets behind Taguchi and hits repeated hip attacks to Tenzan against the bottom rope.
Nice springboard dropkick from Taguchi puts down Tenzan for 2, and Taguchi follows immediately with the ankle lock but Tenzan gets the ropes. Taguchi looks for 3 Amigos, Tenzan blocks the 3rd and hits a suplex of his own instead. Cover, but only 2. Shots traded, Tenzan hits a Mountain Bomb, cover but only 2. Tenzan locks in the Anaconda Vice but Taguchi reaches the ropes. Taguchi gets a rollup for 2, Tenzan follows with a Side Effect for 2 and locks in the Anaconda Vice again in the center of the ring. Chants for Taguchi. Taguchi rolls Tenzan over into a pin for 2, hits a big enziguri and Tenzan drops.
Taguchi channels Nakamura and gets the Bummer Ye, a cover for 2 and goes back to the ankle lock in the center of the ring, Tenzan fights but Taguchi pulls him back, drops an elbow on the ankle and locks it up again, commentary talks about Tenzan’s history of ankle issues but Tenzan rolls through and kicks Taguchi off! Taguchi with Mongolian chops, hits a running dropkick, sets up for Bummer Ye again with full Nakamur-isms but Tenzan hits a wheel kick, covers but only 2. Tenzan looks to climb, hits the diving headbutt, covers for 2 and calls for the Tenzan Driver but Taguchi gets a cradle for the surprise 3 count and the WIN! TAGUCHI JAPAN!!!
Ryusuke Taguchi defeats Hiroyoshi Tenzan by pinfall with a rollup to advance
JAY’S RATING: 3.5 out of 5
I dont know about you but I enjoyed the SHIT out of this match. I have been a Taguchi fan since my first exposure to NJPW, and Ten-Koji was my first favorite tag team around then as well, so I have a soft spot for both of these dudes, and this only deepened it for me. Tenzan is slowing down but still knows how to drop into a match and connect moves together, so he was able to keep up with a Taguchi style pace very well. The urgency was there, a real sense of wanting the win, but they also allowed some great comic moments of trying to take each others moves (and in the case of Tenzan, also attacking the weaponized bum of Taguchi), which just added and extra layer to the way the match story played out. I just loved it. Is it an overall great wrestling match? No. But it was DAMNED entertaining. Good stuff.
After the match, respect shown between Tenzan and Taguchi.
First Round Match
SHOTA UMINO vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI
This is going to be interesting, because I’m going to go so far as to say I DO NOT see Umino taking this one, especially with the current storylines with Jay White surrounding the IWGP strap. Commentary talks about how Umino eventually wants to be the next Ace, and someone who sees Tana as a mentor. Lockup to start, they go the ropes and break, but Umino gets a hard shot in on Tana. Umino keeps coming at Tana, gets a headlock and holds on when Tana tries to whip. Tana escapes and takes Umino over and they stand off. Umino is looking GREAT.
Tana grounds Umino, who comes back at Tana with a headscissors, Tana escapes back into a headlock, they keep working on the mat beautifully and Tana finally goes for a whip and hits a backdrop on Umino. Slam by Tana, leaping elbow and a cover but only 2. Tana grounds Umino again by tying up the legs, but Umino gets the ropes to break. Shots traded and Tana drops Umino but Umino pops right back up, Tana drops him again but he keeps coming, GREAT spot by Umino struggling to rise. Tana hits the ropes but Umino catches him coming back with a ncie dropkick. Chants for Umino!
Umino with some running elbows and drops Tana. Tana blocks a slam attempt, absorbs elbows from Umino who finally is able to get Tana over in the slam, and Umino looks for the Boston Crab, kicking at Tana to finally turn him over but Tana gets out quickly. Dragon screw from Tana, who then looks for a Liontamer-style crab of his own. Umino looks to power out to get to the ropes, Tana wrenches and pulls Umino back and sits down ugly on it! GREAT chants for Umino who finally gets the rope break. AWESOME work from this Young Lion.
Slam by Tana followed by the somersault senton off the middle rope, cover but only 2. Shots by Umino, slap by Tana but Umino fires right back! Sling Blade is blocked with strikes, Tana keeps eating them but gets an elbow, but EATS a right hand from Umino that drops Tana! GREAT suplex from Umino! Umino looks to climb, hits a missile dropkick and covers but Tana is out at 2. Umino looks for the Crab again and gets Tana over, but Tana makes the ropes. Umino looks for Tana’s own Cloverleaf submission, and LOCKS IT IN! Nice pop. Umino sits down well on it but Tana powers up and gets the ropes.
Shots traded again, Umino gets fired up and lays into Tana, and Tana starts to break down from a non-stop flurry! GREAT, that should be a signature for him now. Umino looks for a fisherman, but Tana reverses into Twist and Shout and looks for the Cloverleaf, Umino with a rollup and a CLOSE 2 count! Tana is shocked. Grounded dragon screw by Tana and he locks in the Cloverleaf, the crowd chants for Umino which is AWESOME, Tana sits back and Umino finally taps out to give Tana the WIN!
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats Shota Umino by submission with the Cloverleaf to advance
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
Soooooo Shota Umino just made himself a star. And he fucking earned it. This was an OUTSTANDING match by any standard, and while I was right in my feeling that in the end Tana would advance, Umino BEYOND overcame the hard task of making it believable that he could steal the win. The crowd was cheering for him HARD over the Ace, and for good reason! His strike game is showing a ton of promise, he’s got some speed and agility, a good submission game story-wise… I mean, if he wants to model himself off the Ace, he’s shown that he really has studied what that means, absorbed it and is working to make it his own. Tana looked awesome as well both offensively and selling for Umino – you can tell that Tana is very much behind this Young Lion, and thats an incredible kind of mentorship to see here. And I dont want to take anything away from Tana or his win here. But I cant help but want to talk about Umino more after this match. Im blown away – he’s the Eli Isom of NJPW now for me, just showing unlimited potential that I CAN. NOT. WAIT. to see develop. GREAT STUFF. Dont miss this one.
First Round Match
ZACK SABRE, JR. (w/ TAKA Michinoku) vs EVIL
ZSJ (who won this tournament last year) is out with his RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship belt. This should be good. EVIL gets a headlock to start and holds on to counter the whip attempt, taking over ZSJ early. Great escape by ZSJ but EVIL gets back into a headscissor. Interesting that EVIL is going grounded with a mat technician like ZSJ, who gets a great escape again and hits the ropes but eats a tackle from EVIL. ZSJ takes a breather with TAKA. They go for a test of strength with the advantage traded, though EVIL shows a touch more power overall.
ZSJ with a roll through to work the arm, they trade counters for a hammerlock, they evade strikes and ZSJ counters a senton into an armbar attempt, EVIL tries to shift for a pin but ZSJ out of it so EVIL gets the ropes to break. Arm work and a kick by ZSJ who takes control now and grounds EVIL with an Indian Deathlock and Fujiwara while working the fingers, transitions for a cover for 2. ZSJ paintbrushes EVIL, EVIL fires back with a gut kick. EVIL with a nice spinning side slam, follows with a deadlift vertical suplex and a cover for 2. EVIL looks for Darkness Falls but ZSJ goes for the arm to counter, gets a full nelson which EVIL breaks and follows with a hard knee.
Bulldog by EVIL is countered, they jockey and EVIL gets the abdominal stretch. ZSJ escapes and kicks the arm, running corner Euro connects but EVIL fires back and hits a BIG lariat for 2. Darkness Falls connects into a cover but ZSJ is out at 2 again. Everything is Evil is countered but EVIL gets his own cover for 2, ZSJ looks for a backslide but EVIL gets one instead for 2, but ZSJ follows up with a nice PK. ZSJ keeps on the arm, throws nice Euros, BIG chop from EVIL takes ZSJ down, they trade arm shots and strikes but ZSJ catches EVIL off the ropes in a GREAT octopus variation, takes EVIL to the ground and wrenching back on the right arm! EVIL struggles and barely gets the ropes.
More arm work from ZSJ, another PK, and ZSJ is showing his signature style in the best way. EVIL uses the ref to block ZSJ and get control, and uses the ref to hit Magic Killer! YES! That’s awesome. Corner clotheline connects and EVIL is fired up, he sits ZSJ up top and hits a great top rope superplex, covers but only gets 2. EVIL a bit slow to follow up but calls for the end, ZSJ counters and looks for the Zack Driver, EVIL escapes, ZSJ looks for a rollup but EVIL counters and looks for a suplex, sort of getting ZSJ over. ZSJ fires back but eats a lariat, cover by EVIL for 2. Everything is EVIL is countered again into a rollup but EVIL gets out of it, looks for the finish again but ZSJ escapes again and gets Orienteering for Napalm Death in the middle of the ring, and EVIL has to tap and give ZSJ the WIN!
Zack Sabre Jr defeats EVIL by submission with Orienteering for Napalm Death to advance
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
Another great match on this show. Goddammit both of these dudes are fucking awesome in the ring, and just great storytellers within their respective styles and gimmicks. EVIL was sharp as ever, and when he gets fired up its beautiful. He also went counter for counter with ZSJ which was such a great motor for this match. And ZSJ is a ring-genius, the way he connects moves together and moves so quickly and just breaks his opponents down with such focus and ferocity. Its truly artistic. While part of me had EVIL on a short list of possible winners, I dig ZSJ continuing his NJCup success and overall historic tournament dominance. I dont know if I see him repeating, but love him advancing, and he did so with style and a GREAT finish. Awesome work here.
First Round Match
KOTA IBUSHI vs TETSUYA NAITO
Naito takes his time to take off his entrance gear, we get the bell and the crowd is already INSANE and split. UGH THIS CROWD ENERGY YES. They lock up, headlock by Naito, Ibushi out of it and gets one of his own. Naito gets the hair to break, they run the ropes, nice quick counters, Naito armdrag, Ibushi headscissors and Naito TRANQUILO for a standoff. GREAT. Naito rolls outside as Ibushi approaches to keep control of the pace. Ibushi heads outside so Naito heads inside. Ibushi comes inside and Naito jumps him in the ropes, Naito gets Ibushi on the apron, sweeps the legs and gets his Combo Cabron dropkick over the top to Ibushi sitting on the apron! Nice spot.
Naito whips Ibushi hard to the barricade. He takes Ibushi into the announce table area and slams Ibushi into the table, and rolls back inside and lays back as the ref begins the count. Ibushi back in by 10, Naito follows up and floors Ibushi, follows with the running dropkick to the back of the neck. Cravate by Naito, then a neckbreaker and a cover for 2. Shots traded, Naito gets elbows to Ibushi’s head and neck and works over that area given Ibushi’s recent issues following his Will Ospreay match. They run the ropes and Ibushi snaps off an INCREDIBLE dropkick, and both are down.
Flurry from Ibushi, Naito counters but eats a thudding chest kick and a standing moonsault for 2. German from Ibushi is blocked, Naito fires back but gets taken over with a snap rana by Ibushi and Naito heads outside. The crowd fires up behind Ibushi who looks for Golden Triangle, Naito counters it and ties up Ibushi in the corner, and then hits a SICK neckbreaker onto the apron! GREAT spot. They both roll back inside and Naito hits a shotgun single leg dropkick out of the corner, puts Ibushi in the corner and hits a neckbreaker off the middle rope for 2. Ibushi blocks Gloria and lands on his feet out of a German attempt, Naito lands an enziguri but gets dumped with a snap German suplex and both are down again.
The crowd chants hard for both competitors. They get to their knees and trade blows. Ibushi gets to his feet, Naito follows and they keep trading. Elbows are landing hard. They’re getting PISSED, throwing slaps and palm strikes but Naito snatches a spinebuster, sits Ibushi in the corner backward again, Ibushi blocks and clips Naito’s leg to take him down, then kicks Naito HARD in the back. There’s some real aggression being shown here. Ibushi on the middle rope looks for the deadlift German, Naito counters with strikes, gets Ibushi over his shoulder on the apron, SMILES, AND HITS A SITOUT TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER ON THE APRON! HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT.
Naito throws Ibushi right back inside and plants Ibushi with Gloria, covers, but somehow Ibushi is out at 2! Naito signals for the end, looks for Destino but Ibushi counters, and drops Naito with a reverse Dudebuster, covers but only gets 2! Both are down again. They are finally up and Ibushi gets a kick but Naito follows with the tornado DDT, looks for a run-up for Destino and Ibushi gets a lariat, then plants Naito with a sitout Last Ride and covers but only gets 2! Ibushi looks for Kamigoye, Naito counters and gets an awkward but still impactful version of Destino and covers but Ibushi kicks out at 2! Naito looks to follow up quick, the crowd is deafening, Destino is blocked and Ibushi kicks Naito in the head! Ibushi lines up Naito and hits Boma Ye! Cover by Ibushi, but Naito is out at 2! Ibushi looks to follow up quick as well, gets a Ganzo Tiger Driver, follows with Kamigoye with the exposed knee and covers for the 3 count and the WIN!
Kota Ibushi defeats Tetsuya Naito by pinfall after Kamigoye to advance
JAY’S RATING: 4.5 out of 5
This was an UTTERLY EXCEPTIONAL match between two people who had some real high hopes behind them heading into this one. Naito’s early work in this was in particular was off-the-charts good storytelling and tension-building, and his chemistry with Ibushi when they really kicked into the next gear of aggression is some of the best you will see in the business. Ibushi was also ridiculous in this one, with one of his strongest strike showings to date (and thats saying a LOT), and really starting to feel like a hardcore main event talent in his execution. I love Ibushi going over here, but I also find that to be the most significant thing to note about this match, which I will go into more in a moment below. But as far as the match itself, this is a must-see, and definitely the best match of the tournament so far and we’ve got TIME yet. Outstanding work here, and I cant wait for more.
So first and foremost, Day 3 was the strongest tournament day yet, with every match delivering great action and storytelling in different ways that contributed to a fantastic and entertaining day of wrestling tourney-wise. Taguchi going over is wonderful, Tana and Umino delivered INSANELY and Umino just wrote his ticket if you ask me, ZSJ and EVIL went spot for spot as ZSJ looks to repeat, and then the main event was just a fucking roof-raiser with a crowd that was with them with every single beat. So yeah, FUCKING SUCCESSFUL. The most interesting piece to me is Ibushi going over Naito. Part of me was thinking that the NJCup this year might have been a way to get Naito back in the IWGP title picture given his stated goal of being a double champ. However, now that Ibushi is moving on, I have to agree that it is actually the far more interesting choice to make, for 2 particular reasons: 1) it means that Ibushi now goes against ZSJ, which feels like a match that could genuinely go either way in terms of New Japan’s belief and investment in each of those talents and so it adds even more drama to round 2 there, and 2) Ibushi just pinned the IWGP Intercontinental Champ and as such has earned himself a title opportunity in the future, which also might be how they seek to level Ibushi up soon and move Naito back into the IWGP Title picture. There are more layers to play with given an Ibushi win, so its a great decision booking-wise backed by an simply remarkable execution in the match itself. BRING ON MORE NJCUP!