New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2019 – Night 5
March 15, 2019
Okayama, Japan
ZIP Arena Okayama

Watch: NJPW World

New Japan Cup 2019
YOSHI-HASHI def. Chase Owens

There’s no question YOSHI-HASHI’s NJPW career has been off the rails as of late. From disappointing performances in big spots to opponents flat out refusing to take him seriously, it’s been an uphill battle for Mr. LOOSE EXPLOSION. Things were made worse last year when YOSHI-HASHI slipped and fell on his way to the ring where he was to be part of a major angle (Jay White and Gedo turning on Kazuchika Okada). Embarrassing in its own right, the matter was made worse when YOSHI-HASHI was seriously injured in the fall. Now back full-time, YOSHI-HASHI has had trouble finding his footing and this match was no exception. YOSHI-HASHI wasn’t a super worker before the injuries but now there is a clear lack of confidence and perhaps his body finally catching up to his surprisingly advanced age (36).

Owens building off YOSHI-HASHI’s less than stellar reputation treated him like a complete joke, stomping on his downed opponent and taking him lightly, to say the least. At one point Owens even ramped YOSHI-HASHI’s shoulder into the apron, slid into the ring and told English announcer Kevin Kelly “I just YOSHI-HASHI’d YOSHI-HASHI!” an obvious play on YOSHI-HASHI’s fall last year.

This poor guy.

YOSHI-HASHI eventually did get control himself and had the crowd rallied behind him but nothing felt like it clicked on anything more than a surface level. Owens was accompanied to the ring by Jado who attempted to interfere at multiple spots throughout the match. YOSHI-HASHI thwarted him at every turn which got the crowd invested but made for a somewhat mundane match. The finish saw Jado accidentally hit Owens giving YOSHI-HASHI the opening to hit Karma and pick up the win. I hated the finish and not because of the interference but rather the circumstances. Everything that happens in New Japan usually happens for a reason. Every pinfall, every loss, every matchup, all of it means something in the big picture. Owens defeated current IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson in the opening round. Presumably, Owens will get a shot at Juice’s title down the line. Great. Perfect. Now Owens loses… to YOSHI-HASHI of all people. It’s a blurring of NJPW’s usually stellar caste/hierarchy system. Owens just beat one of your champions. He cannot then lose in the next round to YOSHI freaking HASHI. He just can’t. Unless the plan is to give YOSHI-HASHI a title shot as well, I failed to see what this accomplished. Owens making a shocking run to the next round would’ve been great and built additional momentum for the inevitable match with Juice. YOSHI-HASHI’s run means… what exactly?

I thought Owens looked great in this match and the confidence he has now compared to when he first arrived in New Japan is night and day. This makes his loss and removal from the tournament all that much disheartening and confusing. The match itself was solid but the finish and the decision to go with YOSHI-HASHI for the next round has me scratching my head. ***

New Japan Cup 2019
Tomohiro Ishii def. Taichi

Tomohiro Ishii is the perfect opponent for someone like Taichi. A guy that can remove Taichi for his all-too-comfortable shitbag heel role and allow him to work to his tremendous skills. I’m a known Taichi “hater” if only because I believe he is capable of so much more but too often falls into the tropes of chickenshit heel who uses interference and weapons to win matches. There’s an element of that can be effective and work but I believe Taichi uses it far too often and in turn, he becomes a wrestler I actively dislike watching. There was SOME bullshit in this match, as there is in any Taichi match, but with Ishii, you have the perfect foil. A no non-sense ass-kicker that will see your cheating and raise you a headbutt to the chest.  To his credit, Taichi did work harder here and channeled a lot of his inner Kawada with stiff kicks, back suplexes and more. This was one of my favorite Taichi performances and slightly ahead of his output in the Tetsuya Naito match earlier this year. I’m a “hater” yes but I will admit that Taichi is having a great 2019 thus far and could be one beneficiary of an Omega/Cody-less New Japan roster.

There was your requisite Taichi bullshit including a shoved ref and a low blow but nothing too egregious and all the shenanigans did was inspire Ishii to kick more ass. Good for us, bad for Taichi. Ishii finished Taichi off with a devastating sliding lariat and a brainbuster for the win. I’m not as high on this match as some others are but a must-watch for those looking to cherry pick the best matches throughout the tournament. ****

Final Thoughts

Night 5 of New Japan Cup 2019 was a mixed bag. While I enjoyed both matches on some level, only Taichi vs. Ishii is essential viewing.