New Japan Cup rolls on and we’re looking at the second round tournament matches this time, folks. (If you missed the first round, you can check out my recommendations right here.)
As always, I’ve got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that’s worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.
Mind you, these are not star ratings. They’re not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you’re best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
Night Five (March 13)
Chase Owens vs. YOSHI-HASHI (2): Owens trying to humiliate Tacos with mat grappling in the opening but the Chaos man’s had enough and just slugs him in the face. Action fast and furious, Chase slows it down during a trip to the floor and presses the attack back inside, but eventually YOSHI-HASHI rallies. Back and forth, a bit of interference on our way to the finish and this is… this is fine.
Not particularly good, not particularly bad. Watch according to your fandom and excitement levels towards either man, my friends.
Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (4): Taichi stalling early, and finally Ishii’s had enough and takes the fight to him on the floor! Tossing the Suzuki-gun man into everything he can throw him at, Taichi gets his back with a chair while referee Red Shoes Unno is otherwise occupied and the tone of the match is set. Hard-charging Tom against shortcuts and skulduggery from the SZKG man.
This runs a tad long for what it is but they get a lot of drama out of a simple formula and aside from one or two excessive moments (looking at you, Taichi popping up out of a piledriver to land a buzzsaw roundhouse kick), it’s quite good. Not quite a must-watch, but very good indeed.
Night Six (March 14)
Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay (5): Ospreay trying to rush Archer with his speed early but the big American is able to think just about fast enough to keep up and starts slinging Young Will around on the floor. Back inside, the story established, this is just a really fun, dynamic David and Goliath story as an increasingly fired-up Ospreay finds opening after opening.
Some really cool counters, some incredibly executed exchanges, I’m as shocked as anybody but this match rules and you need to watch it, folks.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Mikey Nicholls (3): Mat grappling early, Nicholls takes control (and tears Okada’s chest up with chops in the process), Okada comes back, we get the traditional tight exchanges and reversals late, and all in all this is a really standard main event style match from the Rainmaker. Mikey does fine, but he really doesn’t bring anything that elevates this match past the baseline. It’s good, but not a match with a lot of personality or drama to it, and as such I can’t give it a strong recommendation.
Night Seven (March 16)
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (4): Tanahashi serious from the jump, going right to trying to grind Taguchi down and fending off his attempts to bait the 1/100 Ace into playing his game. Going hard after the ankle, Annoying Butt Man finds himself on the back foot but is able to rally and just absolutely hammer Hiroshi with his Funky Weapon. The playing field leveled, Taguchi fired up, it’s a question of whether he can put the Ace of the Universe away before he gets caught with something too hard.
This isn’t the most dramatic match of all time, there’s not a whole lot of doubt as to who’s winning here, but it’s really good, with an abrupt-but-satisfying ending. One for the pile!
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (5): Pace heats up out of the introductory grappling, fast-paced and tight, and Sabre slows things right back down, going after Ibushi’s neck and legs. Kota leans into his strengths as he gets an opening, flying and striking, but as ever ZSJ is ready with counters. Ibushi and his unbreakable knees are able to grit through and counter the counters, but as the match wears on every rally costs him more and more.
This is a great, great match, fueled by Zack’s always-excellent grappling and Ibushi’s sheer versatility. I want to make special mention of Kota’s facials here, which really go a long way to sell his vigor and frustration. Watch it!
Night Eight (March 17)
Colt Cabana vs. Toru Yano (5): Folks, there’s no way I can do this one justice. Unless you really, truly hate comedy wrestling, you owe it to yourselves to get eyes on this. It’s got a little bit of everything– hidden tape, language issues, presents, barrel rolls, more tape, turnbuckle pads, the ol’ Eddie Guerrero special in hot potato form… Watch this match!
Minoru Suzuki vs. SANADA (3): Grappling early, Suzuki trying to suffocate SANADA but Cold Skull keeps up with him so they shift into the striking. Minoru goes in hard on SANADA’s leg on the floor, and that sets the tone as an overmatched Cold Skull keeps fighting from underneath against the veteran grappler, scraping and clawing for every bit of offense he gets in, the crowd thoroughly at his back.
The crowd is hot and this escalates nicely, but I dunno, something about this just failed to captivate me. A good match, and one worth forming your own opinion on, but not one I can really recommend.
There you have it, folks
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.