New Japan Pro Wrestling
NEW JAPAN CUP 2019
Day 1 – 3/8/19
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Kevin Kelly and Don Callis on commentary.
NOTE: I will be focusing on just New Japan Cup Tournament matches for the Cup Event coverage, so as to focus these upcoming reports squarely on the Cup. Enjoy!
First Round Match
YOSHI-HASHI vs MANABU NAKANISHI
Commentary talks about how HASHI has yet to win a NJCup match. Lockup goes to the ropes for a break. HASHI ups the aggression, tries to tackle Nakanishi but cant budge him and Nakanishi puts HASHI down instead and hits a running splash, cover but only 2. HASHI rolls outside but Nakanishi puts him right back in, HASHI catches the leg as Nakanishi comes back in and hits a dragon screw over the middle rope. Leg work by HASHI grounds Nakanishi. HASHI with strikes and chops but Nakanishi fires back, they trade chops but Nakanishi is able to drop HASHI with the power advantage. Nakanishi is favoring the knee.
Knee drop by Nakanishi misses, and HASHI keeps on the knee. HASHI stays on him but Nakanishi gets an overhead throw. Nakanishi gets chops in the corner and corner clotheslines and calls for the big lariat, HASHI blocks it and looks for a German but cant lift Nakanishi. HASHI goes back to the knee and hits the Headhunter for a 2 count, then climbs but Nakanishi cuts off the Swanton. Superplex by Nakanishi connects, HASHI goes outside and Nakanishi… hits?… a plancha over the top (sort of stepping on the apron first and then diving). HASHI sent back in, Nakanishi climbs all the way to the top and HITS A CROSSBODY! Cover, but only 2. Okay, watching Nakanishi pull that off was pretty great.
Nakanishi looks to finish with the torture rack, HASHI grabs the ref and pushes him away as Nakanishi drops HASHI and covers him, but the ref doesnt see it so Nakanishi gets in the refs face. HASHI back up and shots are traded, Nakanishi gets a hard one and looks to throw HASHI but HASHI holds the ropes to block and is able to drop Nakanishi with a lariat, covers but not even a 1 count. More lariats by HASHI but Nakanishi gets a spear and a cover for 2. Nakanishi calls for the rack again but HASHI looks for the Butterfly Lock and gets it hooked, Nakanishi powers HASHI off but eats a kick and running double knees for 2. Butterfly Lock is reapplied, and Nakanishi submits to give HASHI is first NJCup WIN.
YOSHI-HASHI defeats Manabu Nakanishi by submission with the Butterfly Lock to advance
JAY’S RATING: 2.25 out of 5
This was almost a 2, but goddammit if Nakanishi going for moves I would NEVER predict him to go for did prove SUPER entertaining in and of themselves. But beyond that, this felt like a step back for HASHI, who has been showing some more fire lately, but Nakanishi is slow overall – we know this going in – and HASHI really couldnt figure out how to create chemistry with that. And so the whole thing, while having moment to moment execution, just felt SLUGGISH. HASHI has some redeeming to do, because baseed on this, I would have given it to Nakanishi more just for his sheer boldness at his age and list of nagging injuries.
First Round Match
TAICHI vs TOMOAKI HONMA
Taichi has Iizuka’s iron glove. Honma is out with a super weird mask for no apparent reason. Honma starts off with strikes, Taichi bails to ringside and Honma follows and whips Taichi to the railing and clotheslines him into the crowd. Back inside and Honma stays on Taichi. Slam to Taichi but Honma misses the followup Kokeshi, and Taichi drops him with a buzzsaw kick. Honma isnt moving. Taichi covers, and Honma barely lifts a shoulder to escape. Honma rolls to the apron and is moving very slowly, before rolling to the floor. Taichi grabs a chair, shoves the ref and drives the chair into Honma before choking Honma with it. Taichi back in the ring and the ref starts to count, and Honma makes it back in just in time.
Taichi tries to whip Honma but Honma cant even run, and just collapses to the mat so Taichi works him over on the ground. Honma tries to fire back but has trouble putting fire behind them, starts to fire up but Taichi cuts him down with kicks. Honma fires up BIG, catches a kick and smacks the shit out of Taichi. Right in the mouth. Honma slow to follow up though, finally getting chops in the corner on Taichi. Bulldog out of the corner connects and Honma lands a falling Kokeshi to a nice pop. Suplex by Honma connects for 2. Taichi counters Honma and lands a nice hooking kick to drop Honma and take control.
Gamengiri stuns Honma followed by a Taichi boot, and the pants go flying. Honma evades the superkick but Taichi connects with a jumping kick. Taichi looks for the Last Ride, Honma counters and backdrops Taichi. Both throw thudding lariats with Taichi getting the advantage but Honma follows with a nice headbutt and huge lariat. Honma with a GREAT Rikishi Driver, covers but only gets 2. Honma climbs and connects with Kokeshi off the middle rope, covers but again gets 2. Honma climbs all the way to the top but Taichi cuts him off, looks for Mephisto from the top rope but Honma reverses and gets a great sunset powerbomb, covers but Taichi kicks out at 2. Honma with a seated diving Kokeshi but still only gets 2.
Taichi fights back, they trade shots and both are down again. Northern Lariat by Taichi but Honma gets a great rollup for 2, Taichi follows with a nice clothesline and covers for 2. Stretch Plum by Taichi, Honma fades, chants for Honma and Honma finally makes the bottom rope. Honma blocks a Backdrop Driver but Taichi drills it on the second attempt, cover but still only 2. Stretch Plum applied again, Taichi twists it brutally and Honma finally taps out to give Taichi the WIN.
Taichi defeats Tomoaki Honma by submission after the Stretch Plum to advance
JAY’S RATING: 3 out of 5
This was an enjoyable outing and a really great demonstration of why Honma, win or lose, is so beloved. He just brings a constant charisma and storytelling to his work and its engaging and entertaining as hell, he knows how to gain sympathy through playing up his injury history and selling pain, and he went toe to toe with Taichi to the point where I thought he might take it. Taichi has looked better but nonetheless delivered well and told the story of the match well, as his rise up the NJPW continues. So I’m walking away pretty satisfied from that outing.
First Round Match
CHASE OWENS vs JUICE ROBINSON
Crowd firmly behind Juice at the start, as Owens rolls to the outside. Owens plays evasion mind-games with Juice, stalling the momentum of the match. Juice catches a kick and gets a headlock takeover to ground Owens, transition by Owens but Juice gets a grounded headscissors instead. Nice mat work from both with Juice landing a nice dropkick that sends Owens outside again. Owens keeps slowing the action down, evades a Juice dive, misses an elbow though and gets dropped by a Juice tackle. Owens pops up again and again as Juice pushes him down each time, and Owens spits at Juice. Juice with a flurry on the ground until Owens takes out the knee.
Juice gets dumped outside by Owens and ducks a Juice kick and gets a Russian Legsweep into the barricade. Owens whips Juice repeatedly into the barricade and looks for the countout victory, but Juice makes it back at 14. Owens keeps the pressure on Juice, gets a suplex and a cover for 2. Juice tries to fight back but Owens takes him down and keeps things slow. Big chop from Juice lands but Owens snatches a sleeper and grounds Juice again. Chants for Juice, but Owens keeps control of the pace. Juice tries to get the crowd back in it, escapes and hits a back suplex.
Shots traded as both get to their feet, nice elbow from Owens staggers Juice but Juice fires right back. Flurry from Owens but Juice gets a facebuster and vertical leap senton for 2. Owens immediately rolls to the apron again and drops Juice across the top rope but gets caught in a flapjack and eats a running clothesline from Juice. Cannonball attempt is block as Owens dumps Juice over the top to the floor, but Juice is able to get Owens into the barricades. Juice gets distance and builds momentum but runs into a superkick from Owens before getting suplexed into the barricade hard!
Owens rolls Juice back in and hits that sharp knee strike, covers but only gets 2. Firemans attempt fails by Owens as his back is hurting after the barricade shots outside, Owens tries again and looks for the double knee gutbuster but Juice counters and hits a Harlem Sidekick, but cant follow up. Juice looks to get the crowd support going and hits the jabs but Owens interrupts the Left Hand of God, kicks from Owens, Juice answers, Chase gets an interesting backbreaker, gourdbuster and kneeling superkick and both are down. Finally a cover by Owens, but only 2.
Owens is on the apron and Juice SLUGS him with the Left Hand of God, and Owens is out on the floor! Juice hits a dive over the top, but both are still moving slowly until Juice is able to climb the apron and hit a diving standing cannonball that wipes out Owens, but then as Juice looks to follow up Owens just throws him face first into the barricade. Owens exposes the floor at ringside and looks for the Package Piledriver but Juice gets a backdrop instead. The ref starts the double countout, and both roll in at 18.
Juice is able to get the cannonball back in the ring and looks to climb and flies for the crossbody but Owens moves, and follows with the double knee gutbuster and covers but only gets 2! Owens looks for the Package again, Juice reverses again into a rollup for 2. Small package by Owens for 2. Backslide by Juice for 2. Owens ducks the Left Hand and eats a chop, but gets a rollup with the ropes but the ref sees it in time.
Juice gets behind and looks for Pulp Friction, Owens reverses into a pin with the ropes and the ref sees it again and breaks it up allowing Juice to get a rollup for 2. Pulp Friction attempt again but Owens counters and flattens Juice, and follows up with a nice knee strike, lands Jewel Heist and covers but Juice is out at 2. Owens is right back up and hits the Package Piledriver, LANDS IT, covers Juice and gets the 3 count and a HUGE win over the IWGP US Champion to advance in the tournament!
Chase Owens defeats Juice Robinson by pinfall after a Package Piledriver to advance
JAY’S RATING: 3.25 out of 5
This was a very good match and a GREAT upset for the first round. Some may think that Juice, given some of his momentum issues in NJPW, needed this win. But Juice is also the US champ, and while this likely gets Owens a title shot I expect Juice to win that, so I dont think he is under too much threat from this loss. Additionally, Owens is KILLING IT lately, and while this isnt my favorite effort from him (I think the slow pace dragged on just a couple beats too long and drained more energy than was helpful), he really is just a fucking GREAT WRESTLER, always present and dropped in, crisp and sharp, aggressive, connected with character and all in all just fun to watch in the ring. So I cant complain about him going over here, because Owens has a lot more to offer NJPW in the next couple of years, so having him make the 2nd round here and get more eyes on what he can do is only a good thing. Nice work.
First Round Match
TOMOHIRO ISHII vs YUJI NAGATA
They lock up hard right away, no one really getting the advantage. Nagata gets the arm, Ishii reverses and they get to the ropes for a break, but Nagata sneaks in a hard slap and grins at Ishii which is AWESOME. Forearms by Nagata, Ishii fires back, they trade big hits, nice evasions from both and we get a stand off. Nagata still has it. Oh does he have it. Lockup again with Nagata grounding Ishii, gets a nice kick to the back but Ishii pops up after it and they face off. Ishii answers forearms with some thudding headbutts that take Nagata down for more punishment.
Nagata eats chops from Ishii and wont go down, but Ishii is relentless. Chop after chop after chop by Ishii but Nagata fires back and lays into Ishii as well. They trade combos in the corner and Ishii yells in Nagata’s face, daring him to get up. Nagata comes back with a knee to the gut and Ishii is back down. BIG kick from Nagata leads to more on Ishii in the corner, a running boot to the face but Ishii blocks an Exploder before getting caught in a throwing belly to belly from Nagata. The crowd is split. Suplex by Nagata is blocked, but Nagata looks for the Fujiwara before Ishii escapes and paintbrushes Nagata.
They go chest to chest and trade shots, and they JUST KEEP THROWING! The crowd gets behind the exchange and Ishii is rocked but Nagata hits the ropes and Ishii catches him coming with a throw. Nagata back up but Ishii tackles him back down. Ishii now looks for some Nagata style kicks to the chest, Nagata fires back and they are back to trading strikes. Neither wrestler will go down, and a kick from Nagata wakes Ishii up and he absorbs more and fires up before rocking Nagata with a thudding forearm. Nagata lands a GREAT twisting suplex to stop Ishii’s momentum.
Nagata sits Ishii up top for a Super Exploder, Ishii fights out of it and looks for a sunset bomb but Nagata holds on, Ishii gets him out of the corner and plants Nagata down and the action has slowed again for a moment. Ishii with a running corner clothesline, and tells Nagata to stand up. Ishii looks for a superplex and almost STALLS with him on the middle rope before taking Nagata over hard, covers but only gets 2. Nagata ducks a lariat but Ishii gets one from behind, but Nagata catches the next one and gets the Fujiwara Armbar as his eyes roll back in his head to a pop. Nagata is bloodied at the mouth and keeps wrenching back, but Ishii is able to roll Nagata into the ropes for the break.
Kicks by Nagata to the chest and arm land hard, and he hits the Blue Justice Knee in the corner and perches Ishii on top again, and lands the Avalanche Exploder, covers but only gets 2. Nagata follows up with a brainbuster and covers but still only gets 2. Nagata looks for the Backdrop Driver but Ishii fights out and hits Nagata with a lariat and release German suplex, Nagata is right back up and hits an Exploder but ISHII is back up, Nagata lands a rolling heel kick but then eats a lariat before Ishii collapses in a heap.
Both are back up now and they trade slaps and shots, Nagata just absorbs one after another and fires back and Ishii starts wobbling. Elbows from Ishii but Nagata hits a HUGE one and drops Ishii before dropping to his knees himself. Crowd still split. Ishii catches a kick and lands a headbutt to put Nagata back down, then takes off the elbow pad he had on, Nagata evades one lariat but eats a left arm one, then another full one and Ishii covers for 2. Brainbuster is attempted but Nagata gets out and lands the Backdrop but couldnt bridge! Gets a loose cover and only gets 2.
Nagata looks for a 2nd Backdrop Driver, Ishii escapes but gets caught in a nice release German from Nagata, then gets dropped with a huge chest kick but Nagata only gets 2 off the cover. Wrist Clutch Exploder from Nagata is blocked, Nagata lands a good knee to the face and takes down the knee pad but eats a big lariat, covers but only gets a 1 count as Nagata is right back up (FIGHTING SPIRIT!) Before an enziguri puts Nagata back down, Ishii follows with the sliding clothesline for a 2 count. Ishii stays on Nagata and hoists him up just to drop him down with the Vertical Drop Brainbuster, covers and thats the 3 count and the WIN!
Tomohiro Ishii defeats Yuji Nagata by pinfall after a Vertical Drop Brainbuster
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
This was a great hard-hitting match, just as everyone was hoping for between these two. Nagata hasnt lost a step as he’s gotten older, and Ishii is just INSANE and why they arent pulling the trigger more on him is beyond me, because you can hear how the crowd loves him. Can you imagine the response if he took home the IC strap, let alone the IWGP one? Maybe this is his year. But as far as this match goes, this was a fight between 2 big strong boys, as it were, and it was a slugfest in the best way. I have seen better builds from each of them, but that doesnt take away from this being a great way to cap off Day 1 of the tournament. Well done.
This was an overall enjoyable first day of tournament action. The only real weak link for me was the YOSHI-HASHI/Nakanishi matchup, which just DRAGGED ON in spite of Nakanishi pulling out some – at least for Nakanishi – big spot moves! HASHI needs to figure something out soon, because I dont know how much longer we can wait for him to find that extra spark… Beyond that the event crescendoed nicely, Taichi and Honma as well as Owens/Juice felt like solid first round matches, and the Owens upset over Juice is SUPER interesting. Cap it off with two heavy hitters and exceptional strikers doing what they do best and just being BEASTS, and you have a satisfied customer. Looking forward to Day 2!