New Japan Pro Wrestling
NEW JAPAN CUP 2019
Day 8 – aired 3/17/19
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton on commentary.
Second Round Match
COLT CABANA vs TORU YANO
Ok, fair warning, this is sort of a dream match for me. So I’m just fully and openly owning my bias at the outset here. (And as a proud Chicago-an, I cant help but pull for Colt here.) Colt very carefully folds his jacket before tossing it away, we get the bell and they circle each other. Lock up, Colt gets a waist lock and Colt finds a roll of tape hidden in his tights! He complains to the ref about it, who checks Yano further, and he finds another one! Colt throws the tape into the crowd and Yano gets a rollup for 2 and Colt is upset. Yano says its a joke. Colt says NO JOKE. Yano says, small joke. LOVE IT. Yano extends his hand but then takes it away and goes to the corner to take off the pad. Colt tells him to wrestle, Yano agrees but then goes to the opposite corner instead so Colt pulls him away again.
Yano apologizes and gets a present for Colt: a package of curry! He gets the crowd chanting “Present!” Colt accepts it, but then throws it into the crowd! Oh no! Yano is upset and Colt uses the distraction to get a rollup but only gets 2! Yano then bails and goes to look for his curry! Colt follows into the crowd but Yano kicks him and brings him back inside, but Colt rolls right back out the other side! Yano follos Colt outside and rolls him back in but Colt rolls out again! Yano rolls Colt in one more time and then tries to cut Colt off by running to the other side, but Colt sees it coming so reverses his roll, so Yano runs the other way, and they play with each other with this for a minute. Yano finally comes in and tries stomps and an elbow drop but Colt KEEPS ROLLING to get out of the way, then rolls onto Yano to get a cover for 2!
They trade shots, evade each other with some misdirection, and then they go for the SAME MISDIRECTION AT THE SAME TIME by hitting and holding on to the ropes, and just bounce next to each other! Colt seems to start to realize something isnt quite right. Yano catches up next. Then they both go for the turnbuckle pads, then trade shots and Colt gets a GREAT flying headscissors that sends Yano outside. Colt looks to dive but Yano walks away, Colt follows and Yano throws him into the barricade. Yano goes under the ring, and pulls out MORE TAPE! Colt takes it away and puts it in his singlet, then whips Yano into the barricade.
Colt then takes the tape… and starts tying up the red corner pad with tape so Yano cant remove it! Yano back in now, but Yano goes for the blue corner pad! Colt almost runs into it as Yano runs across to the red corner, but finds it all taped up! Yano tries to undo it, but is pissed to find that he cannot, and now Colt has the blue pad! He swings and misses, but Yano puts the ref on him as he takes a white pad off! The ref chastizes Yano, who says “but he did it!”, the ref insists so Yano tosses the pad to Colt. Colt tosses it back to Yano, and they go back and forth playing catch as the crowd chants, before giving to the ref, Yano gets a rollup for 2!
Yano looks for the low blow, Colt blocks and hits jabs, misses Flip Flop and Fly and Yano hits an atomic drop, grabs the pad and swings but Colt moves and it bounces off the top rope back into Yano’s face, Colt drops down so Yano tumbles back over him and Colt gets the Superman Pin! The ref counts and thats the 3 count and the WIN! Colt Cabana is going to the Quarterfinals!!!
Colt Cabana defeats Toru Yano by pinfall after the Superman Pin to advance to the Quarterfinals
JAY’S RATING: 3.8 out of 5
This was exactly what I wanted it to be and more. You know, for me, I can totally get behind this kind of wrestling as a legitimate part of the storytelling levels of a wrestling organization, and investing in people like Yano like NJPW has continued to do over the years! Because at the end of the day, there is one element that is necessary that this style must have in order to work (and much of it does not, which is why I think this style also frustrates many people). And that element is URGENCY. It still needs to feel like everyone WANTS TO WIN. Otherwise, whats the fucking point and why are you asking us to watch it in the form of a scripted contest? And this is why this particular match was so successful to me: Yano and Colt are masters of this element. They are both looking to win at all times, and that is actually the foundation upon which their in-ring comedy is based. And so this match to me ends up feeling like a masterclass by two artists who are exceptional at their craft, and they delivered an entertaining outing that the audience fed and were fed by. It was infectious. And so I know a LOT of people will disagree with my rating and how high it is, but thats my context for it. It was an engaging, entertaining match with urgency to win that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time – if that doesnt sound like a Great match, then I dont understand. AND HOLY SHIT COLT CABANA IS IN THE QUARTER-FINALS OF THE NEW JAPAN CUP! BOOM BOOM! Hell yeah dude!
After the match, Yano gives Colt the curry again as a show of respect. The crowd is going NUTS for Cabana, who on his way out goes up to Kevin Kelly who has a mic and Colt just is taking it all in as everyone chants for him and says “WHAT IS GOING ON?!” That moment felt SUPER REAL to me, like it wasnt just about advancing, its about being a hit with NJPW in one of the company’s most storied venues. Ugh I’m tearing up. Congrats Colt, one Chicago storyteller to another. You fucking deserve this.
Second Round Match
MINORU SUZUKI vs SANADA
Commentary runs down the history between Suzuki and SANADA dating back to All Japan, with SANADA not being able to put down Suzuki in the past one on one except once in the past 10 years. We get the bell, chants for both right at the start. They feel each other out, Suzuki backs SANADA into the corner, SANADA tries to escape but Suzuki catches him in a headlock. Suzuki able to go behind and get a choke that brings SANADA down, SANADA counters, they trade takedowns and stand off. That was a slow kind of mat work, but SO ENGAGED, and so the crowd pops and chants for SANADA on the break.
Lock up again, SANADA uses some quickness but Suzuki tries to stay ahead. Headlock by SANADA, Suzuki gets a headscissors and SANADA tries to kip out of it but Suzuki holds on and wrenches. SANADA finally escapes and we have another standoff. Shots traded. Paradise Lock attempted early but SANADA looks to turn it into an armbreaker, SANADA counters back into it and TAKA pops up on the apron for a distraction, which prevents SANADA from fully locking it in and Suzuki strikes fast, grabs the leg and applies a hanging achilles hold off the apron, then wraps SANADA’s knee around the corner ringpost and wrenches.
Suzuki keeps working over SANADA at ringside, twisting his leg into the barricade and kicking it, then taking SANADA into the crowd and attacking the leg with the chair. The ref tells Suzuki to get back to the ring, which he does after yelling at the ref, and we get the 20 count to start. SANADA makes it back in time but Suzuki dumps SANADA again and keeps working over the knee, then takes out a Young Lion just because he can. The ref starts to count both out so Suzuki rolls SANADA back in and works more on the leg. Chants for SANADA, who tries to fire back but Suzuki absorbs each shot with a smile and keeps picking apart SANADA. Suzuki wrenches the knee HARD but SANADA finally gets the ropes.
SANADA fights back, Suzuki lands a hard elbow but SANADA dropkicks the knee and gets a dragon screw. Loud chants for SANADA. Whip and leapfrogs from SANADA as the big dropkick connects sending Suzuki out, and SANADA wipes him out with a pescado. SANADA sends Suzuki back in but misses the springboard, Suzuki hits a boot in the corner and a thudding PK for 2. Suzuki looks sadistic and it is great. SANADA fires back and they trade again, and Suzuki gets staggered for a moment and gets that CRAZY FUCKING LOOK, grabs SANADA’s hair and lays one in HARD. And another. And a THUDDING one. WILL THIS MAN EVER GET A RUN WITH THE IWGP BELT?!
Suzuki yells at SANADA, who is a crumped heap. He slowly rises, another elbow fires SANADA up and he fires back HARD. They run the ropes, Suzuki looks for the choke but SANADA reverses into a Skull End attempt that Suzuki rolls through into a rear naked choke. They are right in the middle, SANADA fights back to his feet but Suzuki drops down with him again and SANADA fights to not pass out. Chants for SANADA. Cover by Suzuki out of the choke but only 2. THUDDING knee strikes by Suzuki and he looks for the Gotch Piledriver, SANADA tries to block it and finally is able to dump Suzuki overhead.
SANADA looks for a TKO but Suzuki looks for the choke again but SANADA rolls it through this time into Skull End, then drops Suzuki and looks for a moonsault but Suzuki moves, SANADA lands on his feet but the knee buckles and Suzuki smells blood, SANADA tries to get a spring but Suzuki catches him and snatches the leg in a PERFECT heel hook! The crowd is going nuts for SANADA. SANADA looks for the ropes so Suzuki pulls him to the center an locks in the kneebar, just torquing the ankle and heel brilliantly. Suzuki is a submission genius when it comes to application.
SANADA is able to get a clutch pin for 2 but Suzuki goes right back to the choke and SANADA starts to fade. Suzuki releases and hits a strike flurry, SANADA is out on his feet and Suzuki gets the choke again. SANADA drops to sitting, chants for SANADA who tries to fight back and is able to hoist Suzuki and put him down with a TKO, but cant hit it for full impact. Both are down. Chants for SANADA. SANADA up first and lays in shots, Suzuki goes back to the knee, they trade, but SANADA hits a roaring elbow and Saito Suplex for 2!
Backbreaker by SANADA a la Mutoh to set up the moonsault but Suzuki cuts it off, SANADA able to back Suzuki off and hits a middle rope moonsault into Skull End, and drops down with Suzuki for full application! Chants for SANADA, Suzuki tries to fight his way out of it and twists SANADA’s knee with a toe hold to escape. Suzuki just WRENCHES at the leg but SANADA sits up and is able to reapply Skull End from that position, Suzuki is able to get the knee again to escape the hold but SANADA gets Skull End again.
Knee again by Suzuki, and this time SANADA uses the right arm to apply it which makes it more difficult to twist the knee… SO SUZUKI USES HIS LEGS TO APPLY A KNEE SUBMISSION INSTEAD! SANADA with Skull End one more and it looks like Suzuki might be fading as the crowd chants for SANADA. SANADA releases and goes for a cover, but Suzuki is out at 2, prompting a moment of a really strong Suzuki chant that then get drowned out by SANADA chants! SANADA lines Suzuki up but has trouble climbing the corner, fights his way up and hits the moonsault! Cover, the 3 count and the WIN as SANADA finally defeats Suzuki one on one!
SANADA defeats Minoru Suzuki by pinfall after a moonsault to advance to the Quarterfinals
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
I found this to be a GREAT and hyper competitive match, and one of the most dropped in performances I’ve seen from SANADA in a bit, which I think was aided by both a GREAT crowd at Korakuen and a great amount of history to draw from coming into this match. It kept that feeling of it being personal very present throughout the match. And the perfect extra element in such a showdown is Suzuki, who is just a MAD GENIUS in his role, a psychopath with surgical precision in his work, and he plays it to the hilt every time. Give him that “personal feud” energy as well, and its just explosive, and we saw that here. They brought out some incredible stuff with each other (I could see this being a LEGENDARY IWGP Title match down the road… just saying…), and the story of SANADA finally getting one up on Suzuki was told extremely well and with a ton of heart and guts, which the audience fed off of as well. SANADA brought that extra spark here that he needs to be more consistent with, and its no surprise that the crowd inhales it. Its electric when he turns it on. Great work all around here.
This was a GREAT day of tournament action, with a masterclass in the comic wrestling style leading to my LOCAL HERO Colt Cabana moving on to the Quarterfinals of the 2019 New Japan Cup (and going on to face SANADA?!?! I have ZERO idea what to expect here and I love it!) followed by a focused and powerful main event that took advantage of a ton of history and a raucous crowd to deliver an outstanding showing from two of the company’s best. Check out both these matches – they are worth your time for EXTREMELY different reasons (and I admit the comedy match will not be for everyone, but if you dig the storytelling and theatre aspects of this industry, I recommend it for its brilliant execution). We are now looking at the following Quarterfinals:
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Colt Cabana vs. SANADA
With the losses of Naito and Ibushi, I’m most interested in where SANADA, ZSJ and Ishii go here… but I’m worried that with Jay White as champ, they are gonna go back to Okada or Tanahashi now, which I just dont know if the New Japan Cup needs that. You can ALWAYS find a reason to go back to Okada and Tana. But who knows? The work of this tournament has been VERY solid, so I’m curious to see where we go from here. Check back for Quarterfinals coverage!
A SIDE NOTE: I also just want to say, I think part of what I love about Suzuki is that, he’s a legitimate badass in combat sports. Like, if he wanted to he could probably seriously take out the entire roster. But he’s not in MMA. He’s in wrestling. He tells stories for a living, using this format to do so. Which means he has chosen this medium for his combat expression out of love for it. He LOVES playing this character. And I think that’s what I cant get enough of with Suzuki – its not just the sadism, its how much FUN I can feel that he is having playing this part. From a theatre perspective, its the key to great acting, on full display there. The passion and the love is insane and it makes him the best, most engaging, most vicious monster in the entire business, in my opinion.