By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Cup – Night Eleven”
March 18, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
Heading into this event, the quarterfinals were set to feature Kazuchika Okada vs. Cima, Jeff Cobb vs. Tetusya Naito, and Will Ospreay vs. Zach Sabre Jr. It looks a good crowd here at Korukuen Hall; midway through the show, they announced this was the largest crowd here since the pandemic began… Kevin Kelly was back on commentary, and Chris Charlton rejoined him for this show…
I wrote Thursday that the Sanada vs. Ospreay match seemed to end early, and wondered if Sanada was injured. Well, he was. He suffered a broken orbital bone and is out of action. Also, at the conclusion of Thursday’s show, Ospreay gave a backstage interview, where he not only talked about the challengers he could face for his Warrior Wrestling title April 23 in Indiana, he essentially issued a challenge to Jon Moxley. I am hopeful this means Moxley vs. Ospreay on April 16 in Chicago, when I am present.
1. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Master Wato defeated Yoh, Tomoaki Honma, and Togi Makabe at 9:29. Kelly noted this was a face-face matchup. Tanahashi applied a sharpshooter, and Honma tapped out. Decent action.
2. Sho and Yujiro Takahashi defeated El Desperado and Douki at 10:00. The storyline here is that Sho attacked Desperado a week ago to kick off their feud. Too much Yujiro here. Sho and Desperado finally got in the ring at 5:00 to speed up the action and give us a short tease of what is to come. Yujiro pinned Douki after a spinning face plant. Just so-so action; based on the quality of the competitors, this should have been a bit better.
3. Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, and Bad Luck Fale (w/Gedo) defeated Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and Jado at 8:42. The Guerrillas of Destiny once again attacked the heels to kickstart the match, and everyone brawled. The G.O.D. got Gedo alone in the ring and were going to beat him up. However, Phantasmo was able to get in, hit a low blow and a superkick on Jado for the pin. After the match, Taguchi and Master Wato hit the ring and brawled with Ishimori and Phantasmo, continuing that feud. Loa and Tonga shook hands with Taguchi and Wato after the brawl, signifying they are now aligned.
4. Yoshi-Hoshi, Hirooki Goto, and Tomohiro Ishii defeated Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Taka Michinoku at 9:17. They talked about the tournament so far, and Charlton disagreed with Kelly, saying that Cima’s victory over Goto wasn’t an upset. (I agree). So good to see Ishii back, who hasn’t wrestled since he lost on night one. Ishii and Suzuki immediately traded stiff blows, too. Charlton and Kelly talked about how all the “top seeds” have advanced in the tournament, with no real “Cinderella stories” in this year’s field. Taka worked over Yoshi-Hoshi. However, Goto and Yoshi-Hoshi hit their team slam move on Taka for the pin. Really good action.
5. Jeff Cobb and Will Ospreay defeated Tetsuya Naito and Bushi at 9:05. This was supposed to be a six-man tag, but Sanada’s injury turned this into a regular tag team match. LIJ worked over Cobb early and stayed focused on his knee. The announcers talked quite a bit about Sanada’s injury and if the ref should have stopped the match earlier. Ospreay finally got in and hit a backbreaker over his knee on Bushi at 7:30.
Naito escaped Cobb’s Tour of the Islands, but Cobb wound up hitting a Spin Cycle/spinning sideslam. Ospreay nailed the Hidden Blade/running forearm to the back of Bushi’s head and scored the pin. Good stuff. After the match, Cobb ran the ropes and did Naito’s “Tranquillo” pose on the mat. Kelly speculated that Ospreay could face Cobb in the finals.
6. Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi defeated Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano at 9:05. Like Ishii, Yano has been absent since his first-round loss. (I haven’t missed him as much as I’ve missed Ishii!) Taichi and Okada opened with some really good offense. Sabre tied up Yano on the mat. Okada and Sabre squared off, and Kelly speculated this also could be a matchup in the Cup finale. Taichi hit a roaring forearm to Yano’s chin for the pin. Good match; Yano’s shenanigans were kept to a minimum here.
7. Shingo Takagi defeated Chase Owens (w/Bad Luck Fale) in a third-round match at 16:42. At the show Thursday, Owens nailed a package piledriver on Takagi on a chair, and Kelly was speculating that Shingo might be too injured to compete. Owens told Kelly as he walked by that he was going to win in under five minutes. Owens jumped Shingo, and Takagi was immediately selling his sore neck. Chase dominated the action.
Shingo hit a short-arm clothesline at 6:00 but sold the neck injury, and Chase was quickly back in control. The crowd rallied for Shingo. Chase tried to do a package piledriver on the ring apron, but Shingo escaped at 10:00. Shingo then got Chase up and hit a Death Valley Driver on the floor, and the crowd was hot. Back in the ring, Shingo hit a top-rope superplex, and both men were down. They traded stiff forearms in the middle of the ring. Shingo hit the Made in Japan sitdown bomb, but Chase escaped.
Fale hopped on the ring apron for a distraction; Owens got two rollups for nearfalls, then the C-Trigger. Owens hit a piledriver for a believable nearfall at 15:30. The crowd is really fired up now. Owens hit a running knee and went for another piledriver, but Shingo escaped and hit a cltohesline, then a Last of the Dragon sitdown slam for the pin. Very good action. While I didn’t think Owens would win, I held my breath for a second after that Owens piledriver.
8. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Evil (w/Dick Togo) in a third-round match at 16:03. Hiromu attacked EVIL on the floor before the match began. However, EVIL regained control in the ring. Hiromu hit a two-legged dropkick at 7:30, sending EVIL flying into the corner. Hiromu tried to give Evil a powerbomb to the floor, but Togo interfered to stop it.
Evil hit a sitdown powerbomb for a nearfall at 11:30. Hiromu hit a Time Bomb/modified Death Valley Driver for a nearfall at 13:00. The ref got bumped, and Togo hopped in the ring to attack Hiromu. Evil and Togo hit the Magic Killer/team faceplant for a believable nearfall, and the crowd was fired up. EVIL hit a hard clothesline for another believable nearfall.
Hiromu got a rollup for a visual pin, but Togo was distracting the ref. Hiromu pushed EVIL into Togo to send him to the floor; Hiromu followed it up with an Everything is Evil/rockbottom on Evil to score the clean pin. The crowd cheered loudly for the win.
Hiromu got on the mic, and he taunted Evil for losing to a junior heavyweight. He thanked the crowd for the large turnout. He also indicated to Desperado (who was sitting on Japanese commentary) that he might challenge him if he wins the New Japan Cup. It was so great to have Charlton on commentary to provide the instant Japanese translation.
Final Thoughts: Shingo Takagi vs. Hiromu Takahashi will be a fun, fresh matchup of LIJ teammates. As good as Kelly has been carrying most of this tournament as a one-man announce team, it was just so refreshing to have Charlton rejoin him and provide good conversations while they called the action.
Once again, the undercard was above-average here, and it helped to have Ishii back. This has been a fun tournament. It is worth noting that of the 16 wrestlers who got a bye into the second round, none of them advanced to the quarterfinals. The action resumes Sunday.