By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Cup”
March 21, 2023 in Niigata, Japan at Ao-re Nagaoka
Streamed on New Japan World
Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided commentary. Kelly immediately told us this was a sellout. This is a small arena (recent shows have been gyms), and my guess is the attendance was in the 3,000 range.
1. Taichi and Douki defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yuto Nakashima at 10:02. Taichi and Douki extensively worked over Yuto early on. Hiroshi made the hot tag at 5:00 and hit some punches on Douki and was fired up. He hit a second-rope summersault senton on Douki for a nearfall. Yuto demanded to be tagged back in, so Hiroshi hesitantly tagged out at 7:00. However, Taichi hit a Saito Suplex to pin Yuto. Solid opener.
2. Shota Umino and Ryohei Oiwa defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Zack Sabre Jr. and Kosei Fujita at 9:43. Again, Umino pinned Sabre earlier in the tournament and now wants a TV title shot. The Young Lions opened against each other. Umino and Sabre finally tagged in at 4:30 and traded nice reversals. Umino hit a dropkick on Fujita, then the Death Rider double-arm DDT on Fujita for the pin. Sabre and Umino continued to glare at each other after the match ended.
3. “The Bullet Club” Kenta, Chase Owens, and El Phantasmo defeated Tama Tonga, Tomohiro Ishii, and Tomoaki Honma at 8:24. The Bullet Club attacked at the bell. Chase and Ishii squared off; they have battled in recent days, making me think we’re headed toward a singles match. The BC took turns working over Ishii. Tama Tonga finally made the hot tag at 4:30, ripped off his vest, and hit a Stinger Splash for a nearfall. ELP and Honma entered, with Honma missing his Kokeshi falling headbutt.
Ishii and Chase traded more offense, with Ishii hitting a German Suplex at 7:00. Honma hit the Kokeshi on Phantasmo for a nearfall. ELP fired back with a superkick to the jaw, then the CR2/modified Styles Clash for the pin. Decent match. Ishii and Chase continued to brawl after the bell.
4. “The House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, Yujiro Takahashi, and Dick Togo defeated Ren Narita, El Desperado, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Toru Yano at 3:41. The HoT charged up the ramp and attacked their opponents on the floor. In the ring, the HoT immediately began working over Taguchi. Taguchi hit the Pimp Juice jumping DDT to pin Taguchi. I don’t think anyone else actually were legally in the match; this match didn’t need to be any longer than this, though. The HoT ripped off Narita’s shirt and spray-painted “HOT” on his chest.
* EVIL got on the mic and talked about the six-man title belts. EVIL said the belts belong to the House of Torture again, because they have them. (They stole them on Sunday.)
5. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito defeated “United Empire” Great-O-Khan and Aaron Henare at 12:43. Henare pinned Shingo in the tournament, so he now wants a shot at Shingo’s KOPW title, and they opened against each other and traded stiff forearm shots. The UW worked over Naito. Henare hit a Samoan Drop on Shingo for a nearfall at 7:30, and he set up for a Full Nelson, but Shingo fought it off. Naito and O-Khan re-entered, with Naito hitting a basement dropkick to the back and a second-rope Blockbuster.
O-Khan applied the Sheepkiller submisson hold on Naito and got a nearfall, but Shingo made the save at 11:30. O-Khan hit a Mafia Kick on Naito. Naito fired back with an enzuigiri, and he went for a Destino, but O-Khan caught him and hit a tombstone piledriver! O-Khan set up for the Sheepkiller, but Naito rolled him up for the fluke pin. Really good closing sequence. Shingo and Henare continued to brawl after the match.
6. Jeff Cobb and “Aussie Open” Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis defeated Kazuchika Okada and “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi at 11:12. Again, Aussie Open are pushing for a tag title shot against Aussie Open. Everyone brawled on the floor. In the ring, Cobb hit his standing moonsault for a nearfall on Goto at 3:30, and they continued to work over Goto. Okada finally entered at 6:30 and traded offense with Cobb, putting him in the Money Clip sleeper hold. Okada came off the top rope, but Cobb caught him and hit a bodyslam.
Davis entered at 8:30 and worked over Okada. Okada hit a neckbreaker over his knee, and they were both down. Yoshi-Hashi entered and hit a Dragon Suplex on Davis for a nearfall. AO hit front-and-back clotheslines on Yoshi-Hashi, then the Koryallis swinging slam to pin Yoshi-Hashi. Good match.
7. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Lio Rush (w/Yoh) to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at 21:26. Hiromu is wearing his rope that can only be described as a ‘space octopus.’ Lio has the right side of his face painted (think Thunder Rosa.) They immediately traded forearm shots. Lio hit a snap suplex for a nearfall at 2:30. They went to the floor, where Hiromu powerbombed him on the ring apron, then hit a Death Valley Driver into the guardrail at 4:00. In the ring, Hiromu was in control, applying a leglock around Lio’s head. They went back to the floor, where Hiromu hit a snap suplex at 6:30.
In the ring, they traded slaps to the face, but Lio is selling a lower back injury. Rush hit a flying clothesline, then a dive through the ropes, barreling onto Hiromu, then a second-rope twisting Asai moonsault, and they were both down on the floor at 9:30. Back in the ring, Lio hit a stunner and was fired up. Hiromu hit a pop-up powerbomb. Lio hit an impressive Poison Rana, then the Rush Hour stunner out of the ropes for a nearfall, and they were both down at 13:00.
Lio nailed a top-rope frogsplash onto Hiromu’s back; he went for another one, but this time Hiromu got his knees up to block it. Hiromu nailed the Time Bomb side slam for a believable nearfall, and they were both down at 15:00. Hiromu nailed him with a superkick. They hit simultaneous clotheslines and were both down. Lio hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a nearfall. This crowd was HOT for this action. Lio hit his fisherman’s Michinoku Driver for a believable nearfall at 17:00. Kelly and Charlton are literally yelling to be heard over this crowd.
Hiromu hit a release belly-to-belly suplex, tossing Lio into the turnbuckles. Hiromu hit a side slam for a believable nearfall at 19:00. Lio caught him with a superkick. Lio nailed a double-arm brainbuster (Yoh’s finisher!), but he missed a top-rope frogsplash. “What do you mean twenty minutes!?” Kelly shouted at the time announcement. Hiromu nailed a “Dynamite Plunger” sideslam off his shoulders for a nearfall. He then nailed a clothesline and the Time Bomb 2 sideslam for the clean pin. Fantastic juniors matchup.
* Zack Sabre Jr. came to ringside. He said the “newest member” of TMDK woulld be Hiromu’s next challenger. On the video screen, the camera slowly scrolls up to reveal it is Robbie Eagles. He wasn’t wearing his scarfs or bandanas, so I literally didn’t recognize him, even though I just saw him wrestle TJP last week on the Australia WSW shows. Intriguing. Sabre left; Hiromu got on the mic and said he thought Sabre was going to challenge him, and he joked that anyone who can get a video to a producer can apparently get a title shot. However, Hiromu said he accepted the challenge.
8. Sanada defeated David Finlay to win the New Japan Cup tournament at 20:09. “This might be your first look at the new face of Sanada,” Kelly said; Sanada got a haircut and dyed his hair black after leaving LIJ on Friday. An intense lockup to begin. Sanada hit a dropkick that sent Finlay to the floor at 2:30. Finlay hit the Forward Finlay Roll on the thin mat on the floor, and he took control in the ring, applying a Cobra Clutch on the mat. Sanada hit a back suplex at 6:30, and they were both down. Sanada hit another dropkick that again sent Finlay to the floor, so Sanada hit a plancha on him.
Finlay slammed Sanada’s back into the guardrail, and he was back in charge. In the ring, he stood behind Sanada and hit some crossface blows at 10:00. Sanada nailed a TKO stunner, and they were both down. They traded European Uppercuts. Sanada applied the Skull End dragon sleeper and sat down on the mat at 12:30. Sanada went for the top-rope moonsault, but Finlay got his knees up. Finlay hit a uranage over his knee for a nearfall, then the Dominator faceplant for a nearfall at 14:30.
Sanada hit a pop-up stunner, then a butterfly suplex for a nearfall. He hit a top-rope moonsault for a nearfall. “This crowd is begging for a positive result for Sanada,” Kelly said. Finlay hit a sit-down stunner at 17:00 for a nearfall. Finlay hit a Blue Thunder Bomb, then a spear for a nearfall. Finlay set up for Trash Panda, but Sanada escaped and again applied Skull End. Sanada set up for the Jay White Blade Runner, but Finlay escaped. Finlay hit a roaring elbow. Their heads collided. Finlay again set up for the Trash Panda, but Sanada blocked it, and Sanada nailed the Blade Runner swinging DDT for the pin. Very good match.
* Sanada was presented the trophy. Charlton said he has 17 days to get ready to face Kazuchika Okada. Sanada, who has never been a man of many words, got on the mic, saying, “I won my first New Japan Cup right here in my hometown.” He called out Okada. Okada came to the ring and congratulated him, but he added that changing his hair style wouldn’t help him win. Okada left; Sanada vowed to win the title. The confetti cannon went off to cover Sanada in streamers to end the show.
Final Thoughts: After Sanada beat Taichi on the first night of the tournament, Kevin Kelly spun a story of how Sanada was on a redemption tour and was trying to turn his career around. I immediately noted that Sanada was now a top favorite to win the tournament, especially after Will Ospreay bowed out of the field. It was a very good main event. I admittedly wanted to see Tama Tonga in that finale instead of Finlay, so I was really glad Sanada won.
Lio and Hiromu had an absolutely fantastic match. It really felt like a non-stop sprint, but yet, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had gone even longer.
New Japan now takes more than a week off before their joint show with Impact Wrestling in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 30.
Be the first to comment