NJPW New Japan Cup Night Eight review: Sanada vs. Zack Sabre Jr. in a New Japan Cup tournament semifinal match, Hiroshi Tanahashi and David Finlay vs. Kazuchika Okada and Chuckie T

By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Cup Night 8”
March 18, 2018 in Shizuoka, Japan at Act City Hamamatsu
Broadcast live on New Japan World

The English broadcast was hosted by Kevin Kelly. He said he would be joined by a special guest later in the show and would also have someone help him translate some of the promos…

1. Shoto Umino vs. Ren Narita. Kelly noted there were several trainees at the New Japan Dojo who had yet to debut on television. He added that some of those men would appear at ringside during the match. Umino targeted the back of Narita. Kelly said he was targeting the back because the Boston crab is the finishing move that the young lions are allowed to use. He also said they have to stick with the basic gear, as both men wore black boots and trunks. Kelly also said Umino’s father is referee Red Shoes, who goes by Uno as his last name because when he worked for All Japan, Giant Baba pronounced his last name as Uno and no one dared to correct him. Narita applied a Boston crab, but Umino reached the ropes to break it. Umino came back with a missile dropkick. Umino performed a top rope missile dropkick for a two count. He followed up with a Boston Crab. Narita powered his way toward the ropes, but Umino pulled him back. Narita made a second play for the ropes and nearly got there, but Umino pulled him back and Narita tapped….

Shoto Umino defeated Ren Narita.

Powell’s POV: A nice, solid opener. They were good enough with what they did that you probably wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know their moveset was restricted. As someone who mostly watched the Wrestle Kingdom events until this year, I enjoy the details that Kelly shares about how things work with the young lions. It might be repetitive for longtime fans, but it’s informative for newcomers.

2. Togi Makabe, Tomoyuki Oka, and Toa Henare vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tonga Loa, and Yujiro Takahashi. The Bullet Club members isolated Henare early on. He eventually tagged in Makabe, who knocked Fale and Takahashi off the apron and then worked over Loa. Makabe dropped a few F-bombs while working over Loa. Later, Makabe clotheslined Loa and Takahashi and left Takahashi for Ota. However, Takahashi hit a reverse DDT for a two count and then put him away with a low angle DDT for the win…

Bad Luck Fale, Tonga Loa, and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Togi Makabe, Tomoyuki Oka, and Toa Henare.

Powell’s POV: A solid six-man tag match that made Makabe look good despite his team losing the match.

3. Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano vs. Takashi Iizuka and Taichi. Late in the match, Taichi pulled Ishii off the apron and ran him into the guardrail. Iizuka pulled out a steel glove to use on Yano, who avoided it. Yano rolled up Iizuka and had him pinned, but Taichi kicked the referee for the DQ. After the match, Taichi struck his opponents with the mic stand that he carries as part of his entrance. He also held Ishii while Iizuka struck him with the steel glove to the neck. Taichi continued to torment the referee and dragged him to the back..

Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano defeated Takashi Iizuka and Taichi by DQ.

Powell’s POV: The live crowd enjoyed the Yano comedy. The steel glove looks pretty silly. I assume this was done to set up Ishii revenge at some point, but this match was forgettable.

4. Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson vs. Kota Ibushi and Chase Owens. Bad Luck Fale came out with Ibushi and Owens. He ended up sitting in on commentary with Kelly. Elgin performed a gorilla press into a powerslam on Ibushi early on. In the end, Robinson hit Pulp Friction on Owens and pinned him clean…

Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson vs. Kota Ibushi and Chase Owens

Powell’s POV: A good tag match with all four men contributing and Robinson wisely getting the nod after putting over Hiroshi Tanahashi in the New Japan Cup semifinal match on the previous show.

5. Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto vs. “The Killer Elite Squad” Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer. The usual water spitting by Archer before the match. Fale scolded them for wasting water. He also labeled them bullies. KES worked over Hashi, who had his right shoulder taped. There was an odd spot with Archer teasing a dive. He stopped inside the ring, then just climbed over the top rope and stepped onto the apron, where Hashi pulled him down to the floor. Hashi finally tagged in Goto, who worked over both KES members with clotheslines in opposite corners. Archer cut off Goto with a Full Nelson Bomb, but Hashi took him out. In the end, KES hit a Hart Attack clothesline on Hashi for a two count. They followed up with a Killer Bomb and Archer pinned Hashi. Taichi, who was on Japanese commentary, joined KES in working over a young lion after the match…

Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer defeated Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto.

Powell’s POV: A solid match. I keep waiting to see Smith and Archer shine. They have their moments during matches and I like their finisher, but I have yet to see a truly memorable match involving the duo since I’ve been covering these shows. That said, they haven’t really been put in a position to shine either, so hopefully this will change once they end up challenging Sanada and Evil for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles.

6. Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, and Bushi vs. Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Prior to the match, Suzuki glared at Naito, who knelt on one knee against the ropes and taunted him by not looking at him. They started the match and Suzuki threw leg kicks. Naito grabbed the ropes and smiled at him, then went to ringside. Suzuki chased him. Naito returned to the ring and laid down in typical Naito style. Suzuki threw a chair and returned to the ring, but Naito tagged in Bushi. A short time later, Suzuki dragged Naito into the crowd and threw him over some chairs and then tossed a piece of the barricade and chairs. Back at ringside, Suzuki worked over Naito with a chair and then wrapped the chair around the throat of Naito. Meanwhile, Desperado made an unsuccessful play for Bushi’s mask.

Naito and Suzuki checked back in and this time Naito got in some offense before Suzuki caught him in a kneebar. Naito reached the ropes. Suzuki taunted him with slaps, and Naito responded by spitting in his face and turning his back on him. Suzuki spun him around and slapped him again and threw more leg kicks. Suzuki tagged out and he and his partners took turns working over Naito until Takahashi and Bushi ran in to even things up. Suzuki put Naito in a sleeper, but Naito escaped and took out Suzuki with an enzuigiri. Moments later, Naito hit Destino on El Desperado and pinned him clean.

Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, and Bushi defeated Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru.

After the match, Suzuki grabbed a chair and tried to return to the ring, but the young lions stopped him. Suzuki eventually broke free and returned to the ring. Suzuki tried to kick Naito, who caught his leg and ended up dumping him to ringside. Naito ran the ropes and struck his pose in the ring. Suzuki tormented some young lions on his way to the back…

Powell’s POV: This match served the dual purpose of building toward Naito vs. Suzuki, and setting up whatever they intend to do with the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles since Roppongi 3k are also in the mix. The only problem is that the build to Naito and Suzuki is so compelling that the tag teams quickly became an afterthought.

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi and David Finlay vs. Kazuchika Okada and Chuckie T. Tanahashi and Okada started the match. Okada tied up Tanahashi in the ropes and teased taking a cheap shot, but instead patted him on the chest and backed off. Neither man gained a decisive advantage before they tagged their partners into the match. They ended up back in the ring together. Tanahashi performed a senton off the second rope for a two count. Okada came back with a running elbow to the face and followed up with a DDT for another two count.

Finlay and T checked in. Finlay powerbombed T and covered him. Tanahashi tried to break it up, but T moved and Tanahashi hit his own partner. T and Okada tossed Tanahashi to ringside and worked over Finlay together. Okada performed a neckbreaker and then T performed a double stomp for a two count. A short time later, Tanahashi avoided a dropkick and a Rainmaker clothesline, but ended up eating Okada’s second dropkick attempt. They went to ringside. Meanwhile, T went for his Awful Waffle finisher, but Finlay slipped away and performed a backslide on T for the win. Afterward, Tanahashi looked at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Okada held it up and smiled as he walked away…

Hiroshi Tanahashi and David Finlay defeated Kazuchika Okada and Chuckie T.

Powell’s POV: This match was all about the Tanahashi and Okada exchanges even though they didn’t factor into the finish. Finlay and T worked hard, but it’s hard to compete with one of pro wrestling’s greatest rivalries. Of course, the match was laid out in a way that spotlighted Tanahashi and Okada’s exchanges, so Finlay and T get credit for playing their complementary roles well. Kelly also did a nice job of putting over that it was rare for Okada’s teams to lose, particularly on this tour. That said, the finish seemed logical given that T was filling in for his injured partner Baretta on this tour whereas Finlay is the regular. Furthermore, it would have been strange to see Tanahashi’s team lose with him heading into the New Japan Cup final.

8. Sanada vs. Zack Sabre. Jr. (w/Taka Michinoku) in a New Japan Cup tournament semifinal match. Taka Michinoku took the mic prior to the match and continued to play the role of Sabre’s hype man. Sabre worked a submission hold early, which Sanada reversed. They continued to fight for position with Sanada holding on to a nice reaction, though Sabre eventually broke the hold. Sanada sent Sabre to ringside and teased following. Once he saw that Sabre had moved, Sanada flipped over the ropes onto the apron before flipping back into the ring. Red Shoes counted Sabre, who took his time in returning to the ring at 18.

Later, Sanada went for a Paradise Lock, but Sabre avoided it and countered into an armbar that Sanada rolled out of. Sanada came right back a Skull End attempt, but Sabre slipped away and wrenched on the arms of Sanada. Kelly noted that it would be tough for Sanada to apply Skull End if Sabre could take out his arm. Sabre continued to target the left arm and fingers of Sanada. A short time later, Sanda put Sabre in the Paradise Lock and then performed a running dropkick to his backside.

Later, Sanada went for a moonsault. Sabre avoided it and Sanada landed on his feet, but Sabre delivered a PK. Sanada ended up catching Sabre with a missile dropkick a short time later. Sanada went for a TKO, but Sabre countered into a kimura. Sanada countered into Skull End and spun him around in the air. Sabre slipped out and eventually countered into a pin for a two count. Once Sanada kicked out, he applied Skull End again. Sabre once again countered into a pin and bridged for a good near fall. Sanada stood up and dropped Sabre with an uppercut forearm.

Sanada ended up hitting the TKO for a two count. The crowd fired up as Sanada played to them. Sanada performed a tiger suplex for a two count. Sanada performed a backbreaker and then went up for a moonsault. Sabre put up his knees when Sanada performed the moonsault and then applied a triangle. Sabre countered that into another submission hold in which he hooked one of Sanada’s arms behind him using his leg. When Sanada reached out with his leg for the rope, Sabre hooked the leg. With Sanada out of options, he nodded to the referee to submit…

Zack Sabre. Jr. defeated Sanada to advance to the finals of the New Japan Cup.

After the match, Michinoku put over Sabre on the mic. Fale said he leans toward Hiroshi Tanahashi winning the New Japan Cup. Kelly said Sabre would bring a type of challenge that Kazuchika Okada has not faced as IWGP Heavyweight Champion if he wins the tournament and chooses to face him. Kelly closed out the English portion of the broadcast.

Sabre and Michinoku spoke with the press backstage. Sabre said he would beat Tanahashi to win the Cup and then the IWGP Heavyweight Championship will be his. After Michinoku spoke in Japanese, Sabre flipped off the camera and they walked away together…

Powell’s POV: A good main event. They never sold me on Sanada winning so that type of suspense was missing from the match, but it was still well worked and entertaining. It’s always a treat to watch Sabre work his magic. His submission based style makes him unique no matter where he works. I can’t help but think that no matter who wins the New Japan Cup tournament, we’re eventually going to see Okada vs. Sabre and the big Suzuki vs. Tanahashi rematch.

Overall, I enjoyed this show more than Friday’s event. The main event of Friday’s show was more suspenseful, but this show gets the nod because the undercard felt more meaningful with fun exchanges from Naito and Suzuki, and Okada and Tanahashi in their respective tag matches. If you are short on viewing time, I recommend watching the last three matches of the show.

The finals of the New Japan Cup will take place on Wednesday morning. I should have same day coverage of the event. I will be doing live coverage of next Sunday’s Strong Style Evolved show as it airs on AXS-TV. Dot Net Members will hear an audio review following the AXS broadcast on Sunday night.


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