New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2016 – Night 2
March 4, 2016
Tokyo, Japan

Keep up with our 2016 New Japan Cup Pick’Em contest at How’d you fare after Night 2?

I like the New Japan Cup. Not because it’s some big prestigious tournament or because it’s a sustained period of tremendous wrestling like the G1 Climax (though Night 1 was chock full of good to very good matches). But rather because—unlike the G1—it truly feels like anybody can win it.

During the G1 you’ll get your handful of upsets — the New Japan Cup is open season. Hiroshi Tanahashi can be knocked out in the first round. Hirooki Goto can be thrown a bone with a tournament win (or choke again on his way). Toru Yano can have a miracle run. That makes for an exciting tournament. And while it is not usually the most essential New Japan tournament, it is nearly always an interesting one.

Jay White def. David Finlay

These two cannot have a bad match. They are incapable of it. It feels like a cliché to say but they could have a good match in their sleep. It’s just a question of what the scope of each particular match they have is supposed to be. It almost feels unfair that they will have to spend the foreseeable future as young lions considering how polished they are already.  Both men made a case for who has the superior dropkick (I’d side with White), before Finlay hit an absolutely gorgeous belly to belly. White floated out of a fireman’s carry into a Boston Crab, which Finlay resisted until White kneeled on his head causing Finlay to submit. These two could have a really high end match if they were given the opportunity. As for this particular match – a rock solid opener. **1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson def. Cody Hall and Yujiro Takahashi

Tanahashi and Juice stole Moose’s fist pump to encourage the crowd to chant Juice instead. Horrible gimmick infringement right there. Watching Yujiro try to get the better of Tanahashi by pulling his hair and biting his hand was good fun. After winning a test of strength Cody Hall touted that he was “so big, so strong.” For much of Cody Hall’s early New Japan days he looked like a lot of big men do early in their career; he possessed all the physical attributes but didn’t really know what to do with them. Lately he’s really been settling into and owning the big man role in a way he didn’t before. He’s beginning to develop some presence. Yujiro worked over Juice before Tanahashi swanned back in like the hero that he is and ran wild. Cody Hall hit a neat sort of springboard splash, which was impressive considering his size. Hall, seemingly without much provocation, began to complain about how his groin hurt. Juice took out Yujiro with a splash before Tanahashi finished off Hall with a Texas Cloverleaf. It’s always nice to see secondary finishers established like that and these meaningless undercard tag matches are the perfect place to do that. Perfectly fine, competent tag match. **1/4

Ryusuke Taguchi, Katsuyori Shibata, Tomoaki Honma, KUSHIDA, and Togi Makabe def. Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Champions and friend vs. the old guard. I was going to talk about how KUSHIDA and Liger have really fun chemistry (and they do) but then it dawned on me that KUSHIDA has great chemistry with pretty much everybody. Isn’t KUSHIDA awesome? Taguchi and Tiger Mask had an exchange that ended with Tiger Mask stomping on Taguchi’s bum. I suppose targeting Taguchi’s main source of offence is a shrewd strategy. In matches like this Taguchi’s bum attacks (or attempted bum attacks) amuse me. Nagata and Nakanishi double teamed Honma before Nakanishi, seemingly in a foul mood, decided to knock most of the opposing team off the ring apron. Poor Honma in this match, everybody basically took turns beating him up. Shibata feigned kicking Nakanishi only to kick Nagata instead, which only served to anger Nagata and open the opportunity for Nakanishi to hit a German suplex. Everybody hit a big move before Shibata escaped a torture rack with a sleeper hold and finished off Nakanishi with a Penalty Kick. I expected one of the champions to eat a fall here to set up a title match but Nagata simply went face to face with Shibata after the match hinting at a future NEVER title match, possibly at Invasion Attack. I love subtle things like Shibata taking a potshot at Nagata earlier in the match only for that to serve as a tease for a future match down the line. Liger had eyes for KUSHIDA’s Jr. Heavyweight title too. There was nothing you haven’t seen before from this match but the work was fun as were the teases of future matches. ***

YOSHI-HASHI and Kazuchika Okada def. BUSHI and EVIL

Okada is the odd man out in that his name is not entirely capitalised. Both YOSHI-HASHI and EVIL are off the back of tremendous performances on Night 1. Seeing New Japan’s undercard guys step up this year has been really rewarding. Even if it was by necessity, New Japan had the depth ready for it and it’s given the whole company a renewed vigour. BUSHI did a missile dropkick and then did a spin-a-roonie to get back to his feet, which pleased the crowd. A fairly standard match which Okada won after beating BUSHI with the Rainmaker, highlighted by some fun little exchanges between Okada and BUSHI. **1/4

New Japan Cup – 2nd Round Match
Toru Yano def. Satoshi Kojima

This was your usual Yano match where Kojima sought to beat the hell out of Yano while Yano used every trick in his book to beat Kojima. Kojima went up top for his diving elbow and Yano rolled to the other side of the ring. Realistically wrestlers should so that way more often. Yano stole the win with an Akakiri Cradle. I’m not sure if I’d call that an upset, simply because it’s long since been established that Yano can beat anybody on any given night with his antics. In terms of a match, this was pretty much every Yano match you’ve ever seen. *1/2

New Japan Cup – 2nd Round Match
Hirooki Goto def. Tama Tonga

New Japan do countout teases way too often considering how few countouts actually occur. While I’m not for a moment suggesting an IWGP heavyweight title match end in countout any time soon, a few undercard matches doing so would help sell the idea that they can actually happen. They had an exchange of counters that ended in Tonga reversing the Ushigoroshi into a Gun Stun that was tremendous. The crowd ate it up and it would have made Karl Anderson proud. Goto won with a sort of Penalty Kick I suppose but it looked like Tonga’s shoulder was up. Not a great match or anything but elevated by one superb sequence. **1/2

It’s tough to see where Goto is going in this tournament. Naito is still favourite to win the whole thing but the New Japan Cup is the kind of thing New Japan usually throws to Goto so as to avoid him looking like a total loser altogether. Also it doesn’t appear as if Goto and Okada are finished with one another as Okada came out after the match and extended a handshake to Goto but Goto declined. Okada stared dejectedly at his hand after Goto declined, clearly bemused at the slight. Naito could win the tournament (with Goto choking yet again) and sit on his title match until the summer (as he has been teasing) allowing another Goto title match but that would be a strange way to get to another Goto/Okada match with Goto losing in the tournament final only to get the next shot anyway.

New Japan Cup – 2nd Round Match
Michael Elgin def. Bad Luck Fale

It’s really nice to see Elgin succeeding in New Japan considering how hard he’s worked and how much it means to him. He fits in perfectly with the roster. The match started painfully slowly with Fale in control but it sprang to life when it became two big lads trying to out-power each other. Elgin suplexed Fale which was impressive and teased a bucklebomb which would have been even more impressive. Elgin cut off Fale on the middle rope and hit him with a powerbomb to score the win. Elgin will face Goto in the semi-finals which should be great fun. This was a solid effort with Elgin getting a rub from beating the guy that beat Tanahashi with some eye catching power moves. **3/4

New Japan Cup – 2nd Round Match
Tetsuya Naito def. Tomohiro Ishii

These two had my favourite match of the year in 2014 at The New Beginning in Osaka so I was hyped for this one. Naito lured Ishii into exchanging strikes with him but the second Ishii reciprocated Naito dropped him with a flatliner. This took a little while to kick up a gear but it a joy to behold once it did. This was a war with each guy throwing everything they had at the other, layering the big moves and nearfalls masterfully toward a superb closing stretch. Ishii countering the Destino with an Emerald Flowsion was a particular highlight. Naito returned the favour and countered a brainbuster into the Destino to score the win. Naito is really beginning to find his stride in ring after a shaky start since his turn and Ishii may well be the most consistent wrestler on earth right now. BUSHI and EVIL in particular jumped Ishii after the bell. This was the best match of the tournament so far. Naito will face Toru Yano in the semi-finals. ****1/4

Final Thoughts: While Night 1 was an all-around better show, no match on that show was as good as Ishii vs. Naito on this. Everything else was an easy enjoyable watch. Elgin vs. Goto should be an excellent semi-final and Naito vs. Yano should be an interesting one, to say the least.

Keep up with our 2016 New Japan Cup Pick’Em contest at How’d you fare after Night 2?