NOTE: Since the format of the NJCup Finals event was basically the same kind of overall multi-man matches from the course of the tournament, I will still be focusing my coverage. This time, I will focus on the IWGP United States Title match with Juice Robinson defending against Bullet Club’s Chase Owens, and the NJCup Finals featuring Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
NEW JAPAN CUP 2019
FINALS – Aired 3/24/19
Ao-re Nagaoka, Niigata
Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Excalibur (!!!) on commentary.
IWGP United States Championship
CHASE OWENS vs JUICE ROBINSON (c)
Juice is all business as he makes his entrance, takes off his stuff, ties his hair back, drops his belt and sprints down to the ring! Chase meets him coming and a brawl breaks out at the bell. They arent wrestling, they are beating each other up. Juice gets the jabs but Chase bails to evade the Left Hand of God and also evades a pescado by Juice. Chase calls for time out and bails again, Juice hits the ropes to dive but Jado grabs his foot. Juice pursues Jado which allows Chase to hide and spring with a superkick to Juice’s face before sending Juice into the barricade. Chase wraps Juice’s body around the ringpost and bow-and-arrows him back-first against the post, then heads back inside with Juice and PUNTS Juice in the ribs. Ouch.
Big knees from Chase as he focuses the attack on the ribs, and maintains control. Chase sits Juice on top in the corner, gets him in a firemans on the middle rope but Juice fights out, knocks Chase off the ropes but Chase sweeps Juice’s legs out so he crashes on the top turnbuckle. The Nakamura-style running knee to the ribs rollows, and Chase grounds Juice with a body scissors and keeps working the ribs. Kitchen-sink knees connect in sequence, and Chase keeps the pace methodical. Chase hits boots to Juice’s face, and Juice gets fired up. Juice catches the next kick and they trade shots, Chase staggers and Juice hits a series of elbows, looks for the Left Hand of God but Chase cuts it off with a flurry before eating a Harlem Sidekick to take control.
BIG chop by Juice, who goes to hit the ropes but Chase distracts the ref so Jado can hit a kendo stick shot to the back and ribs of Juice, and Chase follows by just dropping Juice across the top rope and hitting a running boot that sends Juice rib-first into the barricade. Chase follows outside and looks to do the same move onto the barricade but Juice reverses into a snap suplex into the barricade. Juice sends Chase hard into the barricade but clutches his ribs before sending Chase to the barricade another two times. Chase is hoisted by Juice and driven back-first into the corner ringpost, and then rolls Chase back inside.
Backbreaker by Juice connects, and then hits a big jumping senton to the hurt back of Chase (but this hurts Juice’s ribs as well). Juice looks for another senton to Chase’s front but Chase gets the knees up and Juice hits hard. Chase hits a twisting Nightmare on Helms Street and aa SHARP knee strike to the face, he calls for Juice to get up and Chase hits another BIG knee strike, and follows with Jewel Heist and covers but only gets 2! Nice sequence by Chase. Chants for Juice. Chase looks for the Package Piledriver but Juice backdrops Chase to get out of it, hits a drop toe hold that sends Chase into the turnbuckle face first and Juice follows with a cannonball to Chase’s back!
Juice sits Chase up top in the corner and looks for a superplex, climbs all the way to the top and hits it hard, AND Juice hangs on and hits a Jackhammer! Cover, but Chase is out at 2. Juice fires up and looks for Pulp Friction, Chase escapes and looks for the Piledriver but Juice counters into an over the top Boston Crab! Chase looks for the ropes but Juice pulls Chase to center and sits down. Jado distracts the ref as Chase taps, and Juice releases the hold and realizes the ref didnt see it as he chases Jado away. Chase shoves Juice into the ref, who tumbles to ringside.
Chase tries to turn Juice around but Juice KO’s him hard, and then beeats Chase down in the corner. Jado is in the ring and hits a kendo stick shot to the back, but Juice gets fired up and catches the cane and gets a boot in to Jado. Jado looks for the cane but Juice steps on it, so Jado begs forgiveness, then looks for a cheap shot but Juice hits a jab and a cane shot across Jado’s back, and another across the chest. Juice then breaks the stick across his neck and throws it away. The ref is still out as Chase gets back in the ring and throws powder in the eyes of Juice, and Chase hits a low blow as well! Chase gets the ref back inside and hits a double knee gutbuster, covers but Juice BARELY kicks out at 2! Nice pop.
Chase looks for the Package Piledriver, but Chase’s back gives out and he cant lift Juice. He tries for it again, gets Juice up but Juice escapes, Chase hits a back elbow but Juice lands the Left Hand of God! Falling powerbomb by Juice connects, he stacks Chase up but Jado pulls the ref out at 2! Bad Luck Fale now hits the ring and spears Juice out of his boots. Kevin Kelly says this is about Bullet Club seizing power in gold. Chase gets the US belt and Fale holds Juice but Juice evades and Chase strikes Fale. Juice is able to dump Fale and Chase turns around into another Left Hand of God, Juice lands one on Jado as well, then hits Pulp Friction on Chase! Cover, the ref is back and counts the 3 giving Juice the WIN!
Juice Robinson defeats Chase Owens by pinfall after Pulp Friction to retain the IWGP US Heavyweight Title
JAY’S RATING: 3.8 out of 5
This was a very good title match and a strong defense for Juice, while Chase also came off looking FANTASTIC as he continues to be another less-sung-than-he-should-be hero for both NJPW and Bullet Club. I actually didnt mind the interference so much because it made sense in the story arc of the match and what led up to it. If anything, its just that I think the interference could have had more urgency behind it – it felt a little sluggish at times, and I’m not sure the ribs story helped as in order to have it play, it slowed down both Juice and Chase at times where it could have been snapping more. But nonetheless this was a really well done match, Juice continues to establish his reign which is good, and Chase comes off still looking like a threat wherever he goes – I just hope he gets some gold here soon. He deserves it.
After the match, Fale jumps Juice from behind and looks for the Bad Luck Fall, but Mikey Nicholls interrupts and Fale bails.
Before the entrances for the New Japan Cup finals, KATSUYORI SHIBATA IS HERE! And in a suit and tie. The crowd pops and he waves. Shibataa joins commentary. The crowd is going nuts for him.
New Japan Cup 2019 FINALS
SANADA vs KAZUCHIKA OKADA
We get the bell, and the crowd is STRONGLY behind SANADA. SANADA has never defeated Okada in a singles match. They feel each other out to begin. Lock up, they trade and jockey for holds, starting slow with mat work, the pick up the pace a bit and find a standoff. The crowd is LOUD. Even if he doesnt win, this crowd and the timing might mean a lot for and upcoming SANADA break out… They go back to the mat and counterwrestle, Okada grounds SANADA but SANADA looks for a bow and arrow that Okada drops out of into a cover but barely gets a count and we get some evasions and another standoff. The crowd pops for SANADA again.
They look to grapple again, keeping things focused and methodical against each other, and going back to a mat wrestling and counterwrestling game. SANADA fights back but Okada floors him with a tackle, SANADA takes Okada down and gets the Paradise Lock early! The dropkick connects and the crowd is loving it. Okada evades the leapfrogs from SANADA and dumps SANADA, before wiping him out at ringside with a pescado. That trophy for the Cup winner is intense. Okada sends SANADA back inside. Elbows by Okada in the corner, followed by a neckbreaker and a cover but only 1.
The single-leg dropkick connects and Okada keeps SANADA grounded with a chinlock. SANADA tries to escape but Okada is able to snatch a sleeper to get him back down and reapplies the chinlock. The crowd rallies for SANADA. SANADA fights up and gets a dropkick to Okada’s knee that stops the momentum. They are both up and SANADA gets a series of elbows, Okada evades a standing moonsault but SANADA lands on his feet and hits a low dropkick. SANADA gets the leapfrogs and dropkick, looks for the pescado but Okada evades inside, SANADA dumps Okada again and looks for a dive, Okada moves but SANADA flips to the apron and hits an apron cannonball to wipe out Okada instead!
SANADA rolls Okada back in and covers but only gets 2. Backdrop attempt is blocked by Okada, who runs the ropes and takes SANADA down with a running elbow. Corner back elbow and DDT combo connects, Okada covers but only 2. Okada looks for the Air Raid Neckbreaker but SANADA escapes but Okada is able to get back into it and hits it, covers SANADA for 2. SANADA favors his neck, Okada hits a body slam and climbs and hits the diving elbow drop, and we get Rainmaker pose! He looks for it but SANADA counters and reverses a whip into a springboard missile dropkick, and both are down as the crowd chants for SANADA. That trophy is… really something.
They trade shots, Okada staggers SANADA but SANADA fires right back with a Euro, SANADA looks for a TKO but Okada gets behind but eats a back elbow to break, SANADA charges but Okada sits him on top in the corner and hits the high dropkick to send SANADA outside. Okada follows outside and sends SANADA into the barricade, then hits a boot sending him over the barricade. Draping DDT off of the barricade onto the floor connects and SANADA clutches his neck in pain, as Okada walks away smiling. Okada back inside and the ref starts to count, the crowd starts to come alive for SANADA as Okada watches with confidence. SANADA gets back in at 18 and Okada climbs again and hits a missile front dropkick that turns SANADA inside out, cover but SANADA is able to get out at 2.
Okada looks for a tombstone but SANADA tries to reverse it into Skull End, Okada gets it back to a tombstone attempt but SANADA turns Okada over into a tombstone of his own and drops Okada hard on his head! Big backdrop suplex drops Okada hard, SANADA covers but only gets 2. Chants for SANADA as he looks for Skull End again, Okada fights and tries to kick the rope but SANADA adjusts it into a tiger suplex and bridges for a close 2 count. Backbreaker by SANADA and he climbs, he flies with the moonsault but Okada gets the knees up and SANADA is down. Backslide into a short-arm lariat by Okada, and the crowd explodes. Okada walks SANADA up, SANADA ducks the lariat but eats a dropkick and a tombstone piledriver.
Okada picks SANADA up and looks for Rainmaker but SANADA gets a Shiranui into a Skull End, goes to drop down but Okada rolls over and tries Rainmaker again, SANADA ducks and looks for Rainmaker himself, Okada ducks and locks in Skull End! Okada drops it down but SANADA rolls it through into his own Skull End, spins him around from the hold and drops down with the body scissors! The crowd is going nuts. Okada breaks free and stacks up SANADA for a quick 2 count but SANADA kicks out and immediately reapplies Skull End! Okada is fighting, the crowd is screaming, SANADA is wrenching and Okada fades, SANADA releases and goes for the pinfall instead but Okada is out at 2! SANADA climbs to the top rope and looks for the moonsault but Okada is able to move out of the way and SANADA wipes out!
The crowd is absolutely crazy right now and rallying behind SANADA. Both are slow to rise. SANADA charges at Okada in the corner but Okada gets the boot up, evades another charge and hits a John Woo dropkick but SANADA is right back up (FIGHTING SPIRIT!), Okada looks for the discus lariat but SANADA hits a roaring elbow, hoists Okada and plants him with the TKO! Cover, but Okada kicks out at 2! Another backbreaker from SANADA and he moves to the corner but Okada grabs the ankle to halt SANADA. SANADA boots Okada to break free but Okada cuts him off in the corner, SANADA pushes him off and hits a middle rope moonsault into Skull End, but Okada is able to counter into a spinning tombstone!
Okada picks SANADA up and looks for Rainmaker, SANADA stuffs it with a boot to the face but Okada holds onto the wrist, both are staggered, SANADA with more boots but Okada wakes up, SANADA blocks the shot and looks for Shiranui but Okada pushes SANADA off and hits the discus lariat, picks up SANADA and cuts him back down with the Rainmaker, covers and thats the 3 count and the WIN as Okada takes the tournament!
Kazuchika Okada defeats SANADA by pinfall after the Rainmaker to WIN the 2019 New Japan Cup
JAY’S RATING: 4.5 out of 5
This was an absolutely EXCEPTIONAL match, totally earning its place as the finals of what was an overall top notch New Japan Cup tournament on the whole. And while the writing was a little bit on the wall to me that they were gonna headline Madison Square Garden with Okada/White, this was another stellar performance by SANADA, fed by a crowd that wanted him to pull the upset SO BADLY, and showing that he can absolutely hang with the best of them in the main event scene. This may be the turning point for SANADA in the long-term, showing during this tournament that he can pull it out at his most consistent than ever before. He showed incredible resilience, adaptability and fire, but in the end the big-match experience of Okada (along with neck issues) spelled the end. Okada also delivered big time here and showed why he is where he is in this company/industry. He really is one of the all-time best, and there is little question that even as young as he still is that he is a future HOFer for sure. This Cup win only adds to an already sparkling legacy, and this particular accolade is well deserved. Brilliant work all around.
Ok, so to begin with, the US title match was a great showing by two people who have been overlooked for so long, and while many will mark it even harsher than I due to the outside shenanigans, I dont mind it once in a while as long as it feels justified. It did here for me, and it didnt hurt that Chase Owens also is just electric in the ring. Juice is coming into his own more and more and its really beautiful to see really, and I think he has bigger and brighter things ahead of him and not too far down the road at that. But the real story is the main event as Okada takes home the 2019 Cup, and goes on to meet Jay White at MSG. The story here is pretty strong, with Gedo and White turning on Okada in leaving CHAOS, so its befitting of a main event at the Garden for sure as much as one might want to see them start pulling some triggers on SANADA. But the dominoes make sense, and SANADA made sure to leave us wanting more and more. This was a top-tier way to cap off a top-tier tournament with tons to offer on many fronts (shout out to Chicago’s own Colt Cabana making it to the Quarters!!!), and New Japan further establishes its place as not only the top company in Japan, but one of the top in the world, period…