NEW JAPAN CUP NIGHT 1
MARCH 8, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: NJPW World

2019 New Japan Cup
YOSHI-HASHI DEF. MANABU NAKANISHI

Once a year, Nakanishi puts on a pretty damn good performance. This was that performance. Unfortunately, YOSHI-HASHI didn’t bother to help much in this match. We got a lot of chops from him in this match and he didn’t show any fire at all save for a brief moment in the middle of the match and right at the end.
Nakanishi, even when he puts in an effort, still lumbers around and isn’t very fast but I loved him a lot in this match. He got in a lot of offense into this match including a Hercules Cutter, Spear, Superplex and a (sloppy as hell) pescado. The crowd loved it and they wanted him to win.

Nakanishi’s only negative in this match is that he stopped selling the leg work YOSHI-HASHI had done to him early on in the match about a little over halfway through the match. At one point Nakanishi was clutching his leg after every move he performed than all of a sudden he wasn’t. Perhaps I could buy a younger wrestler abandoning selling the leg as the match heats up because of adrenaline and working through the pain, but it’s a different story when you’re 52 years old.

Also despite all the leg work, the match ends with YOSHI-HASHI using a Butterfly Lock on Nakanishi to get the tap out.

The rating I’m giving this match is all Nakanishi. It was fun to see him work hard and he got the crowd solidly behind him. YOSHI-HASHI has been awful since his return. If almost anyone else in the roster was slotted into this match, it would easily get a higher rating. Frankly given how over Nakanishi was to this crowd when he busted out his moves, and YOSHI-HASHI’s performance, the wrong guy went over. ***

2019 New Japan Cup
TAICHI DEF. TOMOAKI HONMA

I can see this match as one that’s going to be divisive.

Honma worked hard throughout this match and came out of the gate swinging, getting Taichi on the floor early and beating him up to the crowd’s delight.

Back in the ring, a Kokeshi misses, and Taichi takes over for an extended period where he slowly works over Honma. This was the weakest part of the match as it was slow and boring. Once Taichi’s pants come off however, this match began to pick up.

From that point, we get a lot of back and forth action. Taichi used a lot of kicks on Honma head which made me cringe at points. But Honma valiantly fought back and managed to land his fair share of offence including a Fire Thunder Driver and a 2nd rope Kokeshi.

Honma then goes for a top rope Kokeshi, but Taichi pulls Red Shoes down towards him blocking Honma from going for the move.

This was the only real cheating Taichi did in this match and I thought the combination of lots of stiff kicks plus less outrageous cheating was a nice change of pace. I’d like to see Taichi’s character evolve to where his heel work is more subtle, especially if he’s going to move up the card.

I’m sure there will be people who thought this went too long at 17 minutes, but beyond some slow stuff early on, I really got into it and this without a doubt was Honma’s greatest performance since returning from injury. Unfortunately, and I think for his long term health, I doubt he can do many matches like this in a year. ***½





2019 New Japan Cup
CHASE OWENS DEF. JUICE ROBINSON

Our first upset of the tournament.

A tremendous performance from Chase. And unlike most upsets, especially in New Japan tournaments, Chase worked on top virtually this whole match. He had Juice scouted. He had an answer for most of Juice’s offense like managing to avoid the Left Hand of God after taking Juice’s right jab combo. He never let Juice control the match for more than a minute it seemed.

This match was a slow but steady burn. Juice absolutely destroyed Juice’s back on the outside with a Russian Leg Sweep into the barrier as well as a Suplex into the barrier later on in the match.

Even the spot where Chase slapped a Sleeper Hold on Juice was compelling. They just didn’t lie there and do nothing. They both struggled to keep on and escape from it. And it built to Juice hitting a backdrop to escape. A funny aside is that while Chase had the sleeper on he yelled “I’ll have your mom spray tan me better next time!” which is one of the more inexplicable insults I’ve ever heard in wrestling.

Of course, Juice isn’t in control long as then Chase baits him to charge into the corner and then throws him over the top rope in a nasty looking spot. Juice took a lot of big bumps in the match.

The ending was a ton of fun. They’re trading cradles and roll ups with each other and Chase uses the ropes for leverage in a couple of those attempts that Red Shoes catches. Between the brutalizing Juice on the outside and the use of the ropes during pin attempts, Chase, like Taichi was using the right level of heel work, which their respective factions don’t always manage to keep in check.

But Chase still wins pretty cleanly soon after with a Jewel Heist followed up by the Package Piledriver.

Easily Chase’s best performance in New Japan, especially given how he controlled most of this match. Juice once again played the valiant babyface that had the crowd solidly onside. My only critique is that there was perhaps one too many times Chase managed to goad Juice into running at him only to get thrown over the top or met with a strike. Given how Juice’s 2018 ended, the fact he’s been absent from New Japan for most of 2019 so far, he probably should’ve controlled more of this match to establish himself as a champion, but that doesn’t mean Chase’s performance wasn’t awesome.

If this is leading to a rematch for the U.S. Championship at MSG, they really have to give them at least the nearly 25 minutes they gave them here. ****1/4

2019 New Japan Cup
TOMOHIRO ISHII DEF. YUJI NAGATA

There’s no point in getting too detailed with a play-by-play of this match. In about 21 minutes, they pack in enough offense for a match twice that length. Though I will say the slap that Nagata gave Ishii very early on in the match and the shit eating grin on Nagata’s face right after made me mark out because I knew these guys were going to go all out in this match. And I got what I expected.

And it’s all there. The Suplexes, the Ishii chops, the Nagata kicks, the forearm battles, and a top-rope Exploder for good measure.

It is very much the two surly dudes throwing stiff strikes and bombs at each other you expected to be. Go and watch this match now. I won’t be offended if you don’t finish reading this review.

Nagata is going to be 51 in April, but after this performance, and how hot the crowd was for him in it, he’s still got another run in him, I think. Though it’s not New Japan’s booking style to give him something at this point.

For my money, this is the best match in New Japan in 2019 so far that didn’t take place at Wrestle Kingdom 13, and goes in my current Top 10 matches in any promotion this year so far. ****½

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good first night of tournament matches. The final two matches are must-see, but if you’re a hardcore New Japan and/or Taichi fan, I think you can find something to enjoy in the first two tournament matches of the show. It seems that everyone (except YOSH-HASHI) despite age or injury seems to have their working boots on for this tournament so I’m expecting some other spectacular stuff coming up. And Ishii is probably off to yet another tournament where he will at least be in the discussion as to who the MVP is.

VOW New Japan Cup 2019 Prediction Contest Standings

View full standings at challonge.com/vownjcup19/predictions