What happens when two of the fastest in NJPW get in a ring together?…

Night three of the New Japan Cup is upon us and it saw some of the best matches of the tournament so far. This was the most anticipated night of the tournament and featured some of the most hotly contested bouts so far. This would be the night where the fates of Zack Sabre Jr, Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi would be decided. Let’s get into it.

Tenzan gives Taguchi a taste of his own medicine

Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku defeated Satoshi Kojima & Yota Tsuji via Just Face Lock on Tsuji

Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, YOSHI-HASHI & Juice Robinson defeated Taiji Ishimori, HIKULEO, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens via Pulp Friction on HIKULEO

SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi defeated Tomoaki Honma, Hirooki Goto & Ren Narita via Pumping Bomber on Narita

Taichi, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr defeated Tomohiro Ishii, Will Ospreay & Toru Yano via Killer Bomb on Yano

Michael Elgin, Colt Cabana & Mikey Nicholls defeated Togi Makabe, Kazuchika Okada & Toa Henare via Mikey Bomb on Henare

Shota Umino uses Tanahashi's own submission against him

Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan via Kido Clutch

There’s something quite surreal about seeing a veteran like Tenzan attacking a wrestler’s arse. When you have a Taguchi match it’s always fun to find out who is willing to play along with the comedy and who isn’t. Turns out Tenzan was game as within the opening minutes of the match he’d head butted and delivered Mongolian Chops to Taguchi’s “funky weapon.” From that it’s a case of seeing Taguchi make a comeback, launch off some Hip Attacks and apply Oh My and Garankle. There were two extended submission segments involving the Ankle Lock from Taguchi and the Anaconda Vice. Both men failed to submit the other though and despite a serious of big moves including Bumer Ye’s, Diving Headbutts and Mountain Bombs, it was a simple sneaky pin attempt that won the match.

There was a show of respect afterwards and Tenzan obliged a fist bump with Taguchi. This was an oddly fun match from quite an unlikely pairing. It wasn’t all goofball comedy like some Taguchi matches and Tenzan is still incredibly nimble despite his age. Overall it was a solid first round match with a shock win for Taguchi. Hell you even got a bit of dancing after the match as a happy Taguchi celebrated not wasting his surprise opportunity after the injury to David Finlay.

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Shota Umino via Texas Cloverleaf

Talk about drawing the short straw. Shota Umino must have been on top of the world when he found out he was going to be in the NJ Cup then instantly started crying when he realised his opponent would be none other than the Ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi. That being said Shota gave it his absolute all here. Tanahashi refused to go easy on him, making the Young Lion work for everything. This just made it all the more satisfying to watch when Umino finally got into the match, going strike for strike with Tanahashi. Umino even used Tanahashi’s own submission the Cloverleaf against him and nearly tapped him out. It seemed that whatever Tanahashi did it would never be enough to keep the Young Lion down for the count. He showed heart and fighting spirit as he took the hits and the holds and kept coming back for more.

The damage done to him was just too much and Tanahashi made him tap with the Cloverleaf. Even then Umino had tried to catch him with a roll up. What could easily have been the most one sided match of the tournament turned into a balanced fight that saw a Young Lion make the most of the opportunity he had been given and tried to gain an upset over one of his mentors. The crowd were torn the whole match as business Tanahashi focused more on putting his opponent through the ringer than obliging the crowd. Once the match was over he checked on Umino and started interacting with the crowd again. if that is the reaction that Young Lions are going to get when they are placed in this tournament than it may be time to start adding them more often. With the right opponents they could easily shine and receive much better attention than any opening contest could provide them.

A referee assisted Magic Killer

Zack Sabre Jr defeated EVIL via Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better the Last; The Inexorable March For Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness

Zack Sabre Jr maintains his undefeated NJ Cup streak by putting EVIL away with the longest named finishing move ever. This could be best described as a war between strength and technicality as these two are masters of both. EVIL and ZSJ have clashed multiple times in recent months with their last singles encounter seeing EVIL finally get a win. Unfortunately that would not be repeated as Zack was just too slippery to be kept down. He would counter out of moves, kick out of devastating power moves and even survive a referee assisted Magic Killer. On the flip side EVIL had to once again demonstrate what he had learned from their previous encounters by applying his own technical moves and escaping from the many knots ZSJ loved to tie him in.

In the end, EVIL just couldn’t escape the Huzzah! It had been applied to him after a long sequence of move reversals as he attempted to finish ZSJ off with Everything is EVIL. This was much more intense than the previous fights as the back and forth nature of the two competitor’s feud meant it could go either way. Every power move could spell the end for Zack and every submission hold could have been the one to make EVIL tap. These two will nearly always put something special on and it’s always fun to watch how different opponents handle ZSJ’s offense and the lengths they will go to to avoid being tied up and broken.

Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito via Kamigoye

Night 3 ended with the most anticipated match of the whole tournament, a match between two of the fastest members of the NJPW roster and two men who seem to have a complete disregard for their necks. This started slow with Naito bullying Ibushi but ended with some of the most vicious looking neck spots in recent months. These included a hangman’s Neckbreaker on the apron, a turnbuckle assisted Hangman’s Neckbreaker, a Tombstone on the apron and an Inverted DudeBuster. There were also some homages from Ibushi as he pulled off a Bombaye Knee Strike and his own spin on the Jay Driller, the Ibushi Driller. Throw in some stiff strikes, brutal counters and a pinch of tranquillo and you have the recipe for the match.

It was vicious, unflinching and sometimes bordering on pure insanity but oh boy was it also the best match from the tournament so far. Naito had control of so much of the match that he turned the crowd against him, he dictated the pace early on and forced Ibushi to fight his match. Ibushi made himself the ultimate underdog and it felt good to see him comeback and overcome a fierce opponent, even if he did risk severe neck damage in the process. It’s been a strong night for NJ Cup action but this stands tall as the must watch match of the show.

A devastating piledriver from Ibushi

So there you have it, night 3 of the NJ Cup in a nutshell. This was the strongest night of the tournament so far and offered a variety of match types. There was a bit of comedy, a lot of drama and a lot of suspense. The main event blew the roof off the building and has set the bar for all other matches to follow. Some of the major tournament players have been set now as we know Tanahashi, ZSJ and Ibushi will be moving on to round two. It’s going to be exciting to see people top that.

Round Two Matches

Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Ryusuke Taguchi

Kazuchika Okada vs Mickey Nicholls

Will Ospreay vs Lance Archer

Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi

YOSHI-HASHI vs Chase Owens

(All images courtesy of njpw1972.com)

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