New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2017
March 20, 2017
Nagaoka, Niigata, Japan
Aore Nagaoka (Attendance: 4,079)

Watch: NJPW World

Hirai Kawato vs. Tomoyuki Oka (10 Minute Time Limit Draw)

I’ve really come to enjoy both of these guys over the past few shows. Oka obviously has a long way to go and will always be made to look good because of how much the company likes him, but he’s clearly getting better and is quickly catching up to Kawato, who may still have a slight edge on him in the ring since he’s been wrestling for a year longer. I suspect their matches will get progressively better as time moves on and they develop more chemistry together. Fun opener for what it was. **3/4

Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV & David Finlay Jr. Def. El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku & Takashi Iizuka

New Japan has clearly moved TAKA Michinoku to the bottom of the Suzuki-gun rankings as he continues to take the fall in these matches. He’s essentially become what El Desperado was for years, and given his current working ability, I can’t say it’s not for the best. Desperado is too good to be the designated pin-eater for a mid-card unit that no one gives a shit about at this point. He should be doing something more as is, but you take what you can get. Aside from that, this was your standard multi-man prelim. Not good, not bad, it was just there. **1/2

Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan Def. Yuji Nagata & Katsuya Kitamura

I said in my review of the previous show that we’re in the midst of the development of someone special in Katsuya Kitamura, and if this didn’t reassure that, I don’t know what will. He wasn’t presented as a young lion in this match. He wasn’t presented like Kawato or Henare or Kanemitsu would be presented. Kitamura went toe-to-toe with Tenzan and Kojima and didn’t look out of place. He didn’t look like he couldn’t take them. New Japan knows what they have with this guy, and I don’t suspect they’ll keep him in the position he’s in for all that much longer. It’d be irresponsible of them. He hasn’t even had a dozen matches under his belt and he’s already bursting at the seams with potential. Don’t skip this, get on board with Kitamura and watch as he develops. It’s going to be a fun ride. ***

Gedo, Jado & Hirooki Goto Def. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

It’s almost impossible to care about these Suzuki-gun multi-mans at this point even when their decent although this was one of the better ones as of late, granted the bar’s so low you can trip over it. Goto had some cool interactions with Suzuki as he gets ready to face Suzuki-gun member Zack Sabre Jr. at Sakura Genesis, while Gedo and Jado get ready to challenge Taichi and Kanemaru for their junior tag titles, a match I am not looking forward to in the slightest. I don’t ever need to see Jado in a big match again. He isn’t good, he hasn’t been in a long time, he’s tried a little harder lately to his credit, but he’s still a well below average pro wrestler, as is Taichi. Regardless, this was a good match that could have been a lot worse. ***

Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA Def. Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Ryusuke Taguchi

I don’t have a lot to say about the actual match since it’s the same exact one we’ve been seeing for what feels like a year now, so let me talk about Hiroshi Tanahashi’s theme song. “Go Ace” sucks. It’s terrible. I thought it’d catch on eventually but it hasn’t. I cringe more and more every time I hear it. If that’s what their going for, then job well done, but you know what, I’m not sure that. I want the old theme song back. I want cool guy air guitar Tanahashi back. “Go Ace” can get lost. It shouldn’t make me as angry as it does. Sometimes I question why I let this crap bother me as much as I do.

I can’t necessarily recommend skipping this because it was a genuinely good match, there’s just not a whole lot to say about it that hasn’t been said a million times over. Elgin, KUSHIDA, Hiromu and SANADA continue to be highlights while the other are along for the ride until they get the chance to do their big moves at the end. BUSHI didn’t take the fall in this one, so at least that’s different. ***1/2

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI Def. Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi

New Japan has done a nice job keeping Okada and Omega away from each other in these multi-mans as they never interact for more than a few seconds. It’s obvious their feud isn’t over and that they’re going to wrestle again at some point, whether it be this year, next year or whenever, it’s going to happen and having them not interact in these matches until they’re ready to do it is probably for the better. Save it up. What good is it if their constantly running through their spots in meaningless prelims? Everyone worked harder than they did the night before here and looked like they actually cared. Tama Tonga was easily the most notable participant as he did the most while Omega again didn’t do much of anything. Ishii certainly helped the quality of it as well since the guy never takes nights off and always busts his ass even when he doesn’t need to. He could have easily sat it out after him and Shibata killed themselves, but he didn’t. He never does. Another thoroughly entertaining match. ***1/2

New Japan Cup Finals
Katsuyori Shibata Def. Bad Luck Fale

I really loved the story they told here with Shibata knowing that he couldn’t take his time and pick apart Fale like he sometimes does with his other opponents, knowing that he had to be smarter and faster than Fale in order to beat him. He wasn’t going to grab a hold  like he did with Suzuki on the 12th and trade blows like he did with Ishii the night before. Fale is one of the few men on the roster who are a serious threat to Shibata, and Shibata recognized that. He attacked him at the bell and sent him to the outside in attempt to get ahead, no wasted time. Speed and force was key. Fale looked like an absolute monster as he threw Shibata around once he countered his attack and worked over his arm for several minutes before Shibata got him back on the outside where he sent him into the guardrail and choked him with his own shirt. He kept pressing through and doing his best to chop down the tree by using that speed and that force, and although Fale did get the better of him at times, Shibata eventually did enough damage to put him away. A very good match to close out a decent tournament.

Shibata got on the mic and challenged Okada to a title match, which he’ll get on April 9th in Sumo Hall. ****

Final Thoughts:

Much better than the previous show from top to bottom, despite none of the matches being as good as that show’s main event. Just about everything was good, the undercard wasn’t a chore to get through, and that’s all you can really ask for.