By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Cup”
March 12, 2023 in Shiga, Japan at Shiga Cultural Industry Community House Event Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
The New Japan Cup is a 24-man tournament, so we have eight first-round matches with eight byes. So, no show has more than two tournament matches. This is show six of the tournament and it features two second-round matches. On Saturday, Tetsuya Naito and Sanada became the first wrestlers to advance to the quarterfinals.
Kevin Kelly provided live commentary. The lights were down low so it was hard to see the size of the crowd.
1. Ryohei Oiwa and Ren Narita defeated Tomoaki Honma and Oskar Leube at 10:30. Basic Young Lions match. Honma hit his Kokeshi falling headbutt on Oiwa, and he worked over Ryohei. Leube entered at 7:00 and bodyslammed Narita. Ren applied a half crab on Leube, but Honma made the save. Narita applied a Figure Four leglock, and Leube tapped out. This felt really long.
2. Shota Umino and Yuto Nakashima defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Zack Sabre Jr. and Kosei Fujita at 10:05. Second-round opponents Sabre and Shota opened with standing switches. At 1:00, the Young Lions tagged in. Sabre pulled Yuto to the floor and worked over his left arm. In the ring, TMDK worked over Yuto. Shota tagged back in and traded more reversals with Sabre. Umino hit a dropkick on Fujita at 7:30. Umino applied a Boston Crab on Kosei, but Sabre made the save. Umino switched to an STF and Fujita tapped out; I really like how Sabre was scrambling to try and make the save but Yuto held him at bey.
3. “The Bullet Club” David Finlay, El Phantasmo, Chase Owens, and Kenta (w/Gedo) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taka Michinoku, Douki, and Taichi at 7:21. Again, NJPW is telling a story that Phantasmo and Finlay aren’t on the same page. All eight brawled at the bell, and the BC worked over Douki in their corner. Taichi entered and hit a stiff kick to Chase’s back. Taichi and ELP traded good offense. Taka entered and cranked back on Phantasmo’s head. This time, it was Finlay in the ring, mockingly ‘cheering’ for ELP to break the hold, but not helping either. Phantasmo superkicked and pinned Taka. Decent; they told the story they wanted to tell. All five BC members did the “Too Sweet” hand gesture after the match.
4. “The United Empire” Jeff Cobb, Mark Davis, Great-O-Khan, and Will Ospreay defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, Yujiro Takahashi, and Dick Togo at 9:26. Ospreay and teammate Davis will meet in the second round. The HoT attacked before the bell. Ospreay worked over Yujiro; he reached for a tag to Davis, but Mark indicated he had something in his eye and refused. Funny. The HoT worked over Ospreay in their corner. EVIL choked him with a shirt. Ospreay hit a handspring-back-spin kick on EVIL and he tagged in Cobb at 4:00.
Cobb hit a back suplex on both Yujiro and Sho. Cobb squared off with second-round opponent EVIL, and he hit a standing moonsault for a nearfall. Togo got in and hit some punches to the gut, but Cobb no-sold them. O-Khan entered at 7:00 and he applied a Claw on Togo’s skull, then hit some Mongolian Chops. Ospreay hit a top-rope flying clothesline. Davis and Ospreay accidentally hit heads. However, they hit the Koryalis swinging faceplant on Sho, so they quickly got back on the same page. Great-O-Khan applied the Sheepkiller submission hold on Togo, who quickly tapped out. Good job of previewing two second-round matches here.
5. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Shingo Takagi, Bushi, and Hiromu Takahashi defeated Toru Yano, Lio Rush, Yoh, Yoshi-Hashi, and Tomohiro Ishii at 8:34. Ishii and Shingo opened and traded shoulder tackles. Sanada and Yoshi-Hashi squared off at 1:30. Hiromu entered and hit some chops on Yoh. Yoh hit a dragon screw leg whip. Lio tagged in at 5:00 and hit some forearms on Hiromu and a spin kick to the head, then a dive to the floor. In the ring, Hiromu hit a clothesline on Lio, and they were both down.
Yano and Naito entered at 7:00, and Yano immediately removed a corner pad. Everyone briefly fought in the ring, with Sanada and Bushi hitting planchas, and suddenly it is just Yano and Naito again. Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber clothesline on Yano, and Naito immediately got a jackknife cover for the pin. Fun and fast-paced. (How was this match actually shorter than the never-ending opener?)
* Jeff Cobb joined Kevin Kelly on commentary for the final two matches.
6. Tama Tonga (w/Jado) defeated Aaron Henare (w/Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan) in a second-round New Japan Cup tournament match at 16:37. Henare had a huge first-round win over Shingo Takagi to advance to face Tama, who had a bye. Kelly said this was a first-time-ever singles meeting. Henare attacked at the bell. They brawled on the floor, where Henare slammed him spine-first into the ring post. Cobb pointed out that if Henare wins, he would earn a title shot at Tama’s NEVER Openweight Title. In the ring, Henare hit a senton for a nearfall at 3:30. Tama fired back with a Stinger Splash.
Henare hit a spin kick at 6:00 and they were both down. Cobb is cheerleader for his teammate Henare. Henare hit a running kick to the chest for a nearfall. Tama hit the Tongan Twist swinging faceplant, and they were both down at 8:30. They traded forearm shots while on their knees, then while standing. Tama hit his rolling Death Valley Driver, then a top-rope frogsplash for a believable nearfall. Tama went for Gun Stun, but Henare turned it into a Berzerker Bomb, and they were both down again.
Henare hit a kneebreaker move and began kicking at the left knee, with Tama shrieking in pain. Henare set up for the Rampage football tackle, but Tama avoided it, and he hit a dragon screw leg whip. Tama hit a brainbuster for a nearfall at 13:00. He set up for the Gun Stun, but Henare turned it into a Samoan Drop. Henare went for the Rampage, but Tama hit a knee strike to block it. Henare hit the Rampage for a believable nearfall! “That was three, ref!” Cobb shouted.
Henare set up for the Full Nelson, but Tama fought free. Tama went for the Gun Stun again, but Henare caught him and applied the Full Nelson! Tama scrambled for the ropes, but Henare dragged him to the center of the ring. Henare let go of the move but he hit a headbutt. However, Tama hit a pair of Gun Stun stunners for the pin. That was fantastic, and Henare has had his best ever singles matches this week.
7. Hirooki Goto (w/Yoshi-Hashi) defeated Kyle Fletcher (w/Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan) in a second-round New Japan Cup tournament match at 20:42. Fletcher beat Goto’s partner, Yoshi-Hashi, in the first round to advance to face Goto, who had a bye. (This all sets up the future Bishamon-Aussie Open tag title match.) They charged at each other and hit shoulder tackles. They fought to the floor in the first minute, with Fletcher whipping Goto into the guardrail. Goto dove back into the ring before being counted out at 4:00. Fletcher remained in control of the offense. Goto hit a clothesline and they were both down at 7:00.
Goto hit a spin kick in the corner and a back suplex for a nearfall. They fought some more on the floor, where Fletcher dropped him back-first on the ring apron at 10:00. Fletcher hit an impressive top-rope moonsault to the floor, and they were both down. (Fletcher is billed as 6’4″ and that is a big man to do that move!) In the ring, Fletcher hit a brainbuster for a nearfall. Goto hit his neckbreaker over the knee at 12:30. Fletcher hit a short-arm clothesline and they were both down.
Fletcher hit a spinning tombstone piledriver for a believable nearfall at 14:30. Goto hit a second-rope sunset flip for a believable nearfall at 17:30. They traded forearm shots while on their knees, then while standing. Fletcher hit a superkick. Goto hit a Yes Kick to the chest and another neckbreaker over his knee, then a swinging slam over his knee for the pin. Good match; I expected Fletcher was winning this one.
* Goto spoke on the mic. Cobb mockingly provided “translation,” saying “I can’t believe I won.”
Final Thoughts: I’ll go with Tama Tonga vs. Aaron Henare for the best match. While I didn’t fill out a bracket, I liked Tama Tonga and Will Ospreay to reach the finals; until someone takes Ospreay out, he has to be seen as the favorite. I really thought Henare had done enough to win that match. I admittedly am not a big fan of Goto and preferred a Fletcher win, but Goto brought his A game here, and they earned the main event slot.
No rest for the wicked, as the tournament continues Monday with EVIL vs. Jeff Cobb and Will Ospreay facing teammate Mark Davis.
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