By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Cup – Night Two”
March 6, 2022 in Fukushima, Japan at Big Palette Fukushima
Streamed live on New Japan World
This is the second night of the month-long New Japan Cup tournament, with three tournament matches. It should have been four matches, but Kota Ibushi is still suffering from a shoulder injury suffered during last fall’s G1 Climax tournament finale, so he forfeited his match against Great-O-Khan. That was slated for the main event, and the show suffered by not having that match.
I covered some of this a few days ago: This year was slated to be a 48-man tournament, with 16 wrestlers “randomly drawn” to get a first-round bye. The notable first-round byes are Sanada, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and El Phantasmo. Along with Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tenzan also is injured and also has forfeited. Also worth noting is that New Japan is acknowledging Jay White and Bullet Club turned on Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa at a recent Impact Wrestling event, and storylines are in motion here because of that betrayal.
Kevin Kelly was alone on commentary for the entire 2.5-hour show. He did a good job holding his own without any help. That said, I wish someone like El Phantasmo had joined him at some point in the show, as he has been a fun heel commentator in the past.
1. Yuji Nagata defeats Kosei Fujita at 7:34. A basic Nagata vs. young lion matchup. Nagata won with his armbar.
2. El Phantasmo, Gedo, and Chase Owens defeated Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe, and Tiger Mask at 9:03. So when Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga do the “too sweet” hand motion, they always sweep low, by their ankles. Gedo insisted to Phantasmo and Owens that they do the hand signals above their heads. Owens looked perplexed by this decision, planting the seeds here where I can only assume Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens join Loa and Tonga in the war against the remaining Bullet Club. A forgettable match otherwise.
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Ryusuke Taguchi, and Master Wato defeated Evil, Sho, Yujiro Takahashi at 10:04. Tanahashi scored the pin over Yujiro in another basic, skippable match.
4. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Shingo Takagi, and Hiromu Takahashi defeated Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Yoh, and Toru Yano at 13:27. Good match here, particularly with the war of forearms and chops between Shingo Takagi and Tomohiro Ishii, who will headline the main event of the final first-round show on Monday. Sanada got Yoh to tap out for the win.
5. Bad Luck Fale and Taiji Ishimori defeated Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan at 11:19. A weird match, as this was heel vs. heel and the crowd was just silent. Unfortunately, Cobb and Fale barely touched, because everyone wants to see the big men go at it. Ishimori hit some low blows and Fale pinned Great-O-Khan for the win. As in the earlier match, the Bullet Club members weren’t sure if they were doing the “too sweet” hand move high or low, but they settled on a low sweep.
6. Aaron Henare defeated Yuto Nakashima at 8:40 in a first-round tournament match. Henare is vastly improved, and I really like the size and overall look of the young lion Nakashima. That said, his offense is still very basic and the winner was never in doubt. Henare bruised him with stiff shots and got the pin out of nowhere.
7. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ryohei Oiwa at 10:35 in a first-round tournament match. It was o great to see ZSJ back in New Japan for the first time in two months. Sabre tied Oiwa in knots. Like Nakashima, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen so far from Oiwa in size and overall skill. Again, though, no one thought a young lion was going to beat one of the top ten New Japan wrestlers. Zack applied a front ankle lock with Oiwa on his back, and Oiwa tapped out.
8. Will Ospreay defeated Bushi at 12:44 in a first-round tournament match. Ospreay was finally back after a two-month absence. Kevin Kelly told us that Bushi had a pinfall victory over Ospreay just a couple years ago. However, Ospreay is so much bigger and thicker than Bushi now.
There was a fun exchange where Ospreay went for a move, but Bushi pulled the referee in front, so the first ref was hit and went down. Bushi went on offense, but Ospreay pushed the second referee in the way, so that ref went down. Bushi wound up accidentally spraying mist at the third ref, and Ospreay accidentally kicked him, so we got a fourth ref. This was actually pretty fun. Ospreay nailed his Hidden Blade/forearm to back of head for the clean pin.
After the match, Ospreay gets on the mic and declares he is back and going to win the tournament. Backstage, Ospreay talks about not just New Japan, but mentions that Blake Christian is coming after him in Chicago-based Warrior Wrestling, as well as an upcoming Rev Pro match he has in England. Busy man.
Final Thoughts: The main event and the eight-man tag match are worth checking out. The young lions looked good in tournament matches, and they were kept to a short, appropriate length for each of their skill sets at this point. Once again, no first-round upsets, which is fine, because we’ll start seeing some really good matches soon, especially with Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Hiromu Takahashi vs. Sho as the top matches on Monday to close out the first round.
I am looking forward to Tonga and Loa returning to the roster on Saturday and seeing how this Bullet Club feud moves forward. That said, there were more skippable matches here than on a typical New Japan show.