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NJPW New Japan Cup 2018 Night 7 (March 16) Results & Review

NJPW New Japan Cup 2018 Night 7 (March 16) Results & Review

NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
NEW JAPAN CUP 2018: NIGHT 7
MARCH 16, 2018
TOKYO
KORAKUEN HALL

Watch: NJPW World

YUJIRO TAKAHASHI/TANGA LOA DEF. TETSUHIRO YAGI/TOMOYUKI OKA

It’s possible to correctly predict the outcome of most of these undercard matches just by knowing a little bit about the NJPW wrestler hierarchy. Yagi lands some great dropkicks and Oka gets in some good power spots.

Yujiro wins with the Pimp Juice on Oka in a fun opener. **¾

LANCE ARCHER/DAVEY BOY SMITH JR./TAICHI DEF. DAVID FINLAY/MICHAEL ELGIN/SHOTA UMINO

Yet again, Umino gets to play with the big boys, so is clearly top of the class in this current crop of Young Lions and has real star potential. There’s a funny moment when Archer menaces a little boy in the crowd and makes him cry, which is straight out of my playbook as an elementary school teacher. I’ll have to try the water spraying next time.

I have such fun watching Archer, you really don’t see many old-school heels like him around these days. They’ve done a good job in this tour mixing things up each night so that we don’t get saturated with the same pairings. It’s led to interesting little self-contained feuds. Umino is getting a great reaction from the crowd, who are thrilled by the near-falls.

Taichi pins him after a Tensho Jujihou superkick in another decent match. **¾

TOMOHIRO ISHII/TORU YANO DEF. TOGI MAKABE/TOA HENARE

I still can’t get over Ishii no-selling death after getting dropped on his head on Night 1. I’ve said before that Henare has really good chemistry with Ishii, and fits beautifully into the unofficial strong-style category with the Gotos, Makabes and Ishiis of the roster. Ishii beats the piss out of Henare, but you almost feel that Henare is enjoying it. I’d love to see him get a NEVER shot this year. I wouldn’t even be opposed to him getting a G1 spot, although that seems highly unlikely. I also like the teacher/mentor dynamic between Makabe and Henare.

Ishii then drops Henare RIGHT ON HIS HEAD in a scary moment when attempting a powerbomb. He seems okay, but it was a nasty-looking botch. Can we please stop dropping people on their heads, guys? Ishii wins with the Brainbuster in a good match where Henare really stood out. ***

BAD LUCK FALE/CHASE OWENS/KOTA IBUSHI DEF. YOSHI-HASHI/HIROOKI GOTO/CHUCKIE T

We finally learn the story behind Fale attacking all ring announcers from David Finlay, who joins Kevin Kelly on commentary. Apparently a ring announcer (possibly Abe) called him Tama by mistake, once upon a time. Ibushi looks on disapprovingly at Bullet Club’s bullying antics. Chuckie looks like he’s having such fun teaming with CHAOS and doing their goofy restaurant advert pose.

There’s a funny moment with Fale coaching Chase, refusing to tag in until he slams Tacos with the correct technique. All of Chuckie T’s comedy attempts are met with a bemused silence from the Japanese crowds. Kota spends half of this match pleading with his team to be better people, which is tremendously entertaining. Goto pins Owens after a GTR in another good match. These undercards are great! ***¼

MINORU SUZUKI/TAKASHI IIZUKA DEF. KAZUCHIKA OKADA/GEDO

The Korakuen crowd are firmly pro-Suzuki here. It’s a bad match, with a lot of crowd-brawling, Gedo beard nonsense and Iizuka biting. There are some interesting moments between Suzuki and Okada but they can’t save this ugly match.

Suzuki wins after a Gotch-style piledriver on Gedo. After the match, Okada and Suzuki have a face-off, perhaps hinting at a champion vs. champion match. The only real moment of drama comes after that, when Suzuki stops right by Kelly and Finlay on his way to the back and you can almost hear Finlay poo himself.

TETSUYA NAITO/HIROMU TAKAHASHI/SANADA/BUSHI DEF. ZACK SABRE JR./EL DESPERADO/YOSHINOBU KANEMARU/TAKA MICHINOKU

It’s a shame we don’t get to hear TAKA’s Yamato Suite Pt. 4, but we do find out that one of the new Young Lion’s nickname is Thumbhead, according to Finlay.

SANADA and ZSJ give us a preview of their semi-final on Sunday, and I’m anticipating the Paradise Lock to figure prominently. I’ll bet Zack has a sweet counter up his sleeve for it. There is a lot of crowd brawling, much to the chagrin of one Chris Charlton and his Nintendo Switch.

BUSHI gets the pin over TAKA after the Insurgentes.

After the match, Despy and Nobu attack BUSHI and Hiromu, and then SHO and YOH join in the fun. I guess we’re getting another bloody triple-threat. ***

NEW JAPAN CUP 2018 SEMI FINAL
HIROSHI TANAHASHI DEF. JUICE ROBINSON

This tournament has been a real tour de force for Juice Robinson, who has shown that he’s not only a great babyface but a serious wrestler who can lead a match like he did against Yujiro, or bump and sell for a big guy like he did against Elgin. That kind of versatility, as well as his popularity with the crowd, is going to be very valuable in the future. This feels like the biggest match of his career. He’s promised not to go after Tanahashi’s knee or arm, but he had a similar dilemma against Omega last year and couldn’t resist the temptation of attacking Kenny’s bad knee. So we may yet see Juice facing that same question: does he want to be the good guy, or does he want to win, a situation that Tanahashi has faced many times throughout his career. Last night, Tanahashi said backstage that he didn’t want to shake Juice’s hand as it would feel like salt on top of a sweet cake, and he does indeed refuse the handshake tonight.

Finlay provides some rare insight on commentary that Juice has his hair tied up for big matches. Juice is so good at telling a story in a match by conveying his emotions through his facial expressions (SANADA, take note) and they speak volumes tonight, as we see his frustration when Tanahashi takes control or busts out the air guitar, or his conflicted emotions when faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not to do something heelish.

Tanahashi is playing the role of savvy veteran tonight, using his experience to get the edge over Juice’s physical superiority and targeting his knee. Juice becomes increasingly desperate, taking bigger risks and bending the rules to keep up with Tanahashi, even stealing his moves.

The crowd seem to be behind Juice. It’s a story-heavy match, and takes a while to get going, but the final stretch is gripping and really feels like there’s a lot at stake for both wrestlers.

Kevin Kelly does a great job selling the drama as Juice comes agonisingly close, doing everything he can but ultimately coming up short as Tanahashi wins with a pair of High Fly Flows. Juice did his best, resisting the temptation to attack Tanahashi’s injuries and earning his respect in the process.

Juice inexplicably continues to improve each time I think he’s starting to reach his ceiling. When he finally wins a singles title, it’s going to be huge. Tanahashi deserves credit too, as he was great and looks ready for another IWGP title challenge, but Juice comes out looking strong in defeat in his best match in NJPW thus far. Tanahashi is through to Wednesday’s final, and will face the winner of Sunday’s Zack Sabre Jr. vs. SANADA semi-final. ****½

FINAL THOUGHTS

The undercard was an easy watch and the main event was a belter, on par with the very top matches so far in this outstanding New Japan Cup. Juice put on his best performance to date and shone even in defeat, whilst Tanahashi rolled back the years and shows no signs of decline in physicality or match quality. David Finlay had a better night on commentary and provided some good backstage insight at times. We appear to be heading towards an Okada v Tanahashi rematch at Sakura Genesis, although ZSJ remains a dark horse who should not be overlooked.


About The Author

Joel Abraham

Joel Abraham is the only wrestling fan in Xiamen. Please be his wrestling friend at https://www.thesmarkcast.com/

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