Hello and welcome back to the New Japan Cup. Yesterday was another good day as Hiroshi Tanahashi broke his NJ Cup Round 1 losing streak by taking down Taichi (and I forgot to tell you all he pulled off a Kawada Driver, in tribute to his trainer, Toshiaki Kawada) and Bad Luck Fale had a big lad battle with Lance Archer. But, there’s no time like the present so let’s get into it and cover everything that happened on Day Three


Tomoyuki Oka & Yuji Nagata def. Ren Narita & Tetsuhiro Yagi

El Desperado def. Shota Umino

Bullet Club (Tanga Loa, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) def. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson & David Finlay), Toa Henare & Michael Elgin

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto) def. Suzuki-Gun (Davey Boy Smith jr., Lance Archer & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Suzuki-Gun (Taichi & Takashi Lizuka) def. Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi)

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Chuckie T) def. Los Ingobernables De Japon (SANADA & BUSHI)

New Japan Cup First Round Match: Kota Ibushi vs YOSHI-HASHI

Two shows ago I commented that I’d never seen the appeal of Yujiro Takahashi, seeing him as a villainous YOSHI-HASHI but then, his match with Juice Robinson really impressed me. Today, I also admit, I might have been wrong about YOSHI-HASHI. You could say that his game was raised by being in the ring with someone like Kota Ibushi but then I’ve seen him have matches with the best that New Japan has to offer, including previously with Ibushi at last year’s G1 Climax and it was good, he’s always been good, here, he was incredible. Now, this being an Ibushi match, of course the most gif-able moment involves a ridiculously perfect moonsault off a balcony because Ibushi has never seen a raised platform he hasn’t wanted to backflip off but this match really showed a strong physical grounding by both men as they went back-and-forth with HASHI subtly playing the desperate slide into heel tactics, possibly playing off the slow corruption of CHAOS by Jay White. The match was well laid out, allowing for a good build over the twenty minutes which, in comparison to the burnout of Ishii-Elgin really helped keep the audience’s attention. Ibushi managed to secure his place in round two with a double wristlock knee strike for the pin.

Winner: Kota Ibushi

New Japan Cup First Round Match: Tetsuya Naito vs Zack Sabre jr.

What’s great about wrestling when it’s at its best is that you can have two great matches that are great for completely different reasons yet no less, well, great. It’s of no surprise to anyone that with ZSJ in the ring, this was a technical masterclass, not just in submissions wrestling but also in how to generate heat without having to resort to the cheap heel tactics that often accompany Suzuki-Gun members. What’s incredible about the position of Naito in New Japan is he can be top heel or top babyface at will as he can not only run dirty tactics but also illicit incredible sympathy.  It worked well by keeping things simple as Sabre managed to work over the knees which made sense as the Destino twisting reverse DDT finish that Naito employs is very much precipitated on the lift-off.  The final stretch of this match was tense in a way few are with Sabre Jr working through his multitude of angles he can approach from, before locking in his Orienteering with Napalm Death choke submission, holding and adjusting it until Naito was forced to submit. This was the right decision as Naito can build back his reputation in a second but Sabre needed a good win like this to cement his place here, also his shadow cabinet version of Okada and Gedo that he has with Taka Michinoku feels like an exciting dynamic that I can’t wait to explore.

Winner: Zack Sabre jr.

Join us again tomorrow for more first round action as Toru Yano faces Davey Boy Smith jr. and SANADA takes on Chuck Taylor.