It’s the last night of the second round and we have an encounter between the future of the company and a man who came in from the cold and is experiencing something of a career renaissance. We also have SANADA and Minoru Suzuki. Let’s find out what happened…
Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata & Yota Tsuji def. TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Yuya Uemura // Nagata tapped out Uemura with Nagata Lock II
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & HikuLeo) def. Main Unit (Juice Robinson, Mikey Nicholls & Ren Narita) // Owens pinned Narita with a Package Piledriver
Suzuki-Gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr, Lance Archer & Taichi) def. Main Unit (Michael Elgin, Toa Henare & Togi Makabe) // Taichi pinned or submitted Henare with Seiteijyujiryou. I don’t know, do you think I actually watch these tag matches?
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) def. Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh), Kota Ibushi & Shota Umino // EVIL pinned Umino off EVIL
Main Unit (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma) def. Suzuki-Gun (TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr) // Tanahashi tapped out Michinoku with a Texas Cloverleaf
Main Unit (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay) def. Main Unit (Kazuchika Okada, Ryusuke Taguchi & YOSHI-HASHI) // Goto pinned Taguchi off a GTR
NJ Cup Second Round Match: Colt Cabana vs Toru Yano
Anyone who knows me knows that this was something of a dream rematch for me. Back at War of the Worlds 2017, The Second City’s Second Saint took on the True Ace of Japan and it was an incredible encounter full of the kind of chemistry that many people search their entire careers for. This wasn’t quite up there with that encounter for me as it didn’t have the same lightning-in-a-bottle quality but there was enough comic invention to buoy the encounter.
Unsurprisingly, this being a Yano match, it was mostly about a variety of turnbuckle-based storytelling beats as both men tried to outwit the other with some classic 50/50 booking keeping both men on an even playing field. In comparison to some of the classics that Yano has had in recent years with SANADA, Minoru Suzuki, Kenny Omega & others, this one did suffer from the character work from both men fulfilling much the same role, coming off like the effect of a comedy duo with neither person willing to play the straight man. That said, the finish itself as Cabana hit a beautiful Superman Pin for the win. For once, this is a Cabana match that
Winner: Colt Cabana
NJ Cup Second Round Match: Minoru Suzuki vs SANADA
Suzuki and SANADA is a rivalry that has spanned the entirety of Seiya’ career, multiple companies and styles but one thing has always remained the same: Suzuki is always the torturing bastard. This was no different and I would have it no other way. Chris Charlton on commentary remarked that Suzuki’s “second favourite thing in the world is people beating him up, his favourite is beating people up”, this was what this match was, Suzuki goading SANADA into pushing himself and bringing out a rarely seen but potent babyface fire in LIJ’s most unfortunately haired member. SANADA has often been a man with all the right moves but lacking that spark of connection that really makes him work as more than just a cool guy good wrestler and it was here, for all the world to see.
Going nearly half an hour allowed Suzuki to play precisely the kind of match he knows how to: methodical, brutal and impeccably paced making both men seem like they’d just been through a final in the first round. If there was one thing that let this match down it was that it had almost too much of the big fight feel so any of the false finishes in the first fifteen minutes didn’t have the tension of feeling like legitimate endings. That said, a beautiful homestretch that saw SANADA continuing to avoid the Gotch-Style Piledriver and taking his opening to hit a Moonsault for the pin was beautifully orchestrated and easily Suzuki’s best work since his G1 match with Jay White last year. With SANADA going up against Cabana in the next round, let’s just say I won’t be surprised to see him in the semi-finals at least.
YOSHI-HASHI vs Tomohiro Ishii
Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr
Colt Cabana vs SANADA
All images courtesy of njpw1972.com