Eagle-eyed readers will notice this instalment of our New Japan Cup coverage is a tad on the late side. This is because your intrepid reporter is still really cross that SHO was robbed of his rightful win. But Roppongi 3K crashing out of the tournament aside, what else went down on Day 6 of the New Japan Cup? You might be surprised….
YOSHI-HASHI vs BUSHI
If you ever needed proof that BUSHI can’t buy a win from NJPW these days, look no further than this match. Admittedly I can be harsh on YOSHI-HASHI but right up until his unfortunate injury (watch him tweak his leg awkwardly midway through the match) he’d actually been pulling out some genuinely solid performances. You’re always going to need guys like YOSHI-HASHI: the ones who turn up every night and do what needs to be done. And while it means he rarely gets to shine, it also means it’s hard to begrudge him any victory he might scrape. You get the sense that he’s earned it.
Brutal chops were exchanged, and a few high spots lent excitement to proceedings, but mostly this was a perfectly adequate match and I suppose that’s all it really needed to be. Hands up who had ‘YOSHI-HASHI wins the NJ cup’ on their 2020 bingo card….?
SANADA vs SHO
While it wasn’t on the level of SHO vs Shingo Takagi, this was still a very solid match from two men known for their consistency in the ring. SHO is by far the more exciting of the two – a junior heavyweight with everything to prove, he showed considerable fire against SANADA. SANADA, on the other hand, mostly just turned up.
Here’s the problem I had with this match. We established against Shingo that SHO is an absolute powerhouse; that his offense is crushing and his spirit is indomitable. It’s a great story and SHO tells it with every fibre of his being. But that all falls apart when you unleash the same offense against SANADA, and the latter just…absorbs it. This match was 80% SHO, 20% SANADA, and most of that 20% was the Skull End. This should have been SHO’s match, and when SANADA took the win, it felt barely earned.
Still. The former Cold Skull soldiers on, and SHO slopes off to lick his wounds. Hiromu remains the last, best hope of the Junior Heavyweight division.
Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito def. Yota Tsuji, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii
Taichi vs Kota Ibushi
Even the most staunch of Taichi unbelievers must surely be eating their words after this absolute banger of a match. And I say this completely unironically: this was brilliant. First, we learned that Zack Sabre Jr is a better Miho Abe than Miho Abe is. Second, we got to see Ibushi deliver a brutal Bastard Driver onto the Holy Emperor, and there is nothing quite like seeing Taichi’s bandy little legs waggling ineffectually in midair. Third, and most important: Taichi is going all the way, baby*.
Jokes aside, this was an incredibly entertaining match. A perfect blend of shenanigans and two mean beating the tar out of one another, The Holy Emperor showed he’s still got it, and Kota Ibushi proved that he’d never lost it. The villainy of Suzuki-Gun is their most entertaining quality, and so when both ZSJ and Takashi Iizuka conspired to gift Taichi the win, it’s hard to begrudge any of it. Worry not: the Golden Star doesn’t need the New Japan Cup to prove his worth.
*this did not age well
EVIL vs Hirooki Goto
EVIL might just be the breakout LIJ star that everyone thought SANADA would be. Showcasing a ruthlessness Minoru Suzuki would be proud of, EVIL absolutely dismantled Goto here. Chairs, low blows; nothing was too nefarious a tactic for EVIL, who also managed to throw in some pretty good wrestling to boot. Goto, meanwhile, was Goto: dogged, determined, full of heart. Goto always shows up, and Goto always gives his all.
A beautiful ushigoroshi and a reverse GTR almost took EVIL down, but it seemed as though Goto was on the back foot from the very start. When EVIL picked up the pace at the three quarter mark, Goto just couldn’t match him. A vicious headbutt into Darkness Falls put EVIL on top, and when it looked as though Goto might finally have clawed back the advantage, EVIL lived up to his moniker. A convenient clash with the referee led to the low blow which sealed EVIL’s victory. Everything is indeed EVIL.
A solid night of action with no glaring low points. Ibushi vs Taichi narrowly scrapes MOTN, and while SHO vs SANADA wasn’t all it could have been, it’s still worth a watch. Will this be YOSHI-HASHI’s year? Will Taichi finally get the acclaim he deserves? Will SANADA ever ditch the frankly terrible Disney prince look? Stay tuned to find out.
All images courtesy of NJPW.