Unlike in past years, New Japan have spread out the quarter-finals of this year’s Cup across multiple non-televised shows. Fortunately, the Cup matches have since been uploaded to New Japan World… Here’s our take on them!

New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: EVIL vs. Yuji Nagata
Coming to you from the Fukui Industrial Hall on March 13 – a venue so well lit and set-up that you can actually see the New Japan tour buses on the hard camera!

EVIL starts by kicking Nagata to the mat, before throwing him outside… only for the veteran to scoot back into the ring to prevent anything bad from happening just yet. In fact, it’s Nagata who goes all evil on EVIL, kicking him into the guardrails as he took the upper hand, following up with a big boot out of the corner, before running into a side slam.

Nagata’s then taken outside as EVIL goes through his playbook, whipping Nagata into the rails before making Yuji wear a chair as he’s thrown into the ring post. After beating the count, Nagata gets his eyes raked, then absorbs a back senton for another near-fall, before mounting a comeback by kicking away at EVIL in the corner.

An Exploder suplex gets Nagata a two-count, but EVIL came back with a neckbreaker, then a slam, before he was caught on the top rope as Nagata resisted some shots and held on to deliver an Exploder superplex! The pair exchange forearms for a while, before EVIL hit a Fireman’s carry into a sit-out spinebuster for a near-fall, only to get caught in a Nagata armbar. EVIL gets the ropes, but he ends up taking a backdrop suplex for another two count.

EVIL gets another headbutt in, then tries for the STO… but he’s slapped away and given a spinning heel kick for good measure. In the end though, he decks Nagata with a pair of lariats before connecting with the STO for the win. Decent enough, but if the intention was to spotlight EVIL, he took way too much in the early going. ***¼

New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: Bad Luck Fale vs. Toru Yano
This was from March 14 at Shiga’s Prefectural Bunka Industry Exchange Hall. Please be short… The ring announcer finally learned to jump from the ring before announcing Fale’s name. It took him long enough!

Yano immediately goes for the turnbuckle padding, and doesn’t get it off in time. He sidesteps a Fale charge to complete the job, and of course, Fale runs into the corner then gets rolled up for a near-fall. Wash, rinse, repeat. Fale goes after Yano with forearms before he chokes him in the corner, and now we get Yano’s “break” gimmick, which is just a cover for Fale to berate the referee and get rolled up once more.

Fale drags Yano to the outside, where he’s whipped into the guard railings, then taken into the crowd, because we needed that on a fixed-camera show! Yano makes it back into the ring, but he just gets stood on, then sent into the corner he’d exposed earlier.

Yano tries to slam Fale, and fails, before he sidesteps as Fale again rushes into the corner. Eventually Yano slammed Fale, then ducks a clothesline, before he calls for a brainbuster. It doesn’t go well… but hey, at least Yano managed to turn things around again to take Fale to the outside, as he taped him to the guard railings.

Fale was forced to pull back the guard railings in order to break the count as he finally pulled himself free. That was a freaky display. Speaking of freaky, Yano mule kicked him low for a near-fall, before running into a spear, then a big splash,before the Grenade booked Fale’s place in the semis. Good lord. This did NOT need to be as long as it was, and predictably, it was bad. Yano cannot do long singles matches, and this just underscored that. ½*

New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: Juice Robinson vs. Katsuyori Shibata
We’re at the Regional Park Gymnasium in Matsumoto for this one, from March 15. Sadly, the hard camera shows a completely empty upper deck, yet this was the best attended of the three quarter-finals thus far!

Robinson backs away as Shibata tried to grab his wrist early on, before Juice gets caught in a waistlock. He works free of that and eventually gets a hammerlock, but I’m just left wondering when Shibata’s going to kick his head. Instead, Shibata clings onto a headlock, before a takedown leads him to have to fight out of some headscissors as we get a clean break.

Shibata swings and misses with a PK attempt after he snapmared Robinson down, before Juice was rolled down with a wristlock and had his elbow stamped on. Another armbar gets turned into a cross armbreaker as Shibata tried to force a submission, but ultimately Juice scrambled into the ropes for a break. Juice rushes back in with an avalanche splash in the corner, but his momentum was quickly cut off with a running boot and a diving dropkick from Shibata.

A floatover underhook suplex gets Shibata a near-fall, as he then followed up with an Octopus hold attempt, only for Juice to work free and lay into Shibata with some Dusty punches. More stomps wear down Robinson, who fired back after some face-washing boots, landing a leg lariat for a near-fall.

Robinson hits a Diamond Dust out of the corner on Shibata, then rushed back in with a cannonball, but he was able to grab the ropes and kick out just in time. Another back senton gets a two-count for Juice, so he tries for the Pulp Friction… but Shibata headbutts his way free and grabs another Octopus hold that quickly ends in the ropes.

Immediately, Shibata dumps Juice on his head with a back suplex, but Robinson pops back to his feet and punches Shibata… who then countered a suplex into a rear naked choke. That left Juice loose for a PK, and that was it for his Cup run. Technically fine, but this felt really lacking – perhaps if this had been on a bigger show it’d have more oomph, but the opening stretch felt rather pedestrian at times. ***¼

How about some non-tournament matches? We’ll go back to Monday at the Industrial Hall in Fukui for this…

Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
Kitamura is the well-built Young Lion who has a face-off with Billy Gun during the World Tag League last year. This was Kitamrua’s debut, and my word, he’s been thrown in at the deep end!

Kitamura starts out with Tama Tonga, and after they circle each other… he gets taken down with a dropkick as Tonga unloads with some stomps. A camel clutch is only broken so Tonga can club him some more, then land a big bodyslam… just so Kitamura can power out at the count of one!

Problem is, he’s quickly isolated as Tanga Loa tags in and clubs away some more, before Tonga comes in and delivers a Stinger splash. It may be my colour settings, but Kitamura’s skin is getting noticeably red now, whilst Oka’s left angrily slapping the turnbuckle pads as he can only watch his tag partner get choked on. A leaping headbutt gets Tama Tonga a couple of near-falls, but a slam and a missed legdrop finally allows Kitamura to tag into Oka.

Some shoulder charges barely move Tanga Loa, who runs into a delayed spinebuster, before retaliating with a back suplex. A standing frog splash from Tama Tonga gets a two-count, as did a Stinger splash, before Oka landed a big side suplex to Tanga Loa. In comes Kitamura again, as he goes toe-to-toe with Loa’s shoulder tackles, and actually took the upper hand, getting rid of Tama Tonga with a hiptoss.

Unfortunately though, Tanga Loa caught him with a running powerslam for a two-count, and with Oka knocked to the floor by Tonga, all that was left was for the Guerrillas to land a back suplex/neckbreaker combo for the win. Decent as an enhanced squash; Kitamura showed something, but I got very worried about his red skin by the end. **¼

New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii
We wrap up the quarter finals in Saitama on March 17, with perhaps the most eagerly anticipated of the lot.

After initially falling to a shoulder tackle, SANADA came back with some dropkicks and leapt out of camera view with a plancha as Ishii was sent to the outside. From there, Ishii was whipped into the guard rails, then strangled with a fan’s scarf as SANADA employed some more familiar tactics to edge ahead.

Ishii had to rely on his power to make a comeback, lifting up SANADA for a powerbomb attempt that was fought out of… so he decks SANADA with a forearm. The double-leapfrog dropkick takes Ishii back down, as a standing moonsault gets SANADA a near-fall, before landing a springboard moonsault. A DDT sees SANADA flip back up, before he does the same from a German suplex, only for Ishii to block a TKO and turn it into a reverse DDT.

Another powerbomb from Ishii earns him a near-fall, before SANADA wriggled free of a Skull End attempt and gave Ishii a brainbuster of his own. SANADA tried to lift up Ishii in a double chicken wing, but that just took the match back to a slugfest with back-and forth elbows, ending with a TKO for another near-fall.

Ishii sees SANADA flip out of another German suplex, before the Ingobernable locked on a Skull End, taking his opponent to the mat, eventually rolling him up for a near-fall. A top rope moonsault follows, barely grazing Ishii on the way down, as Ishii popped up and blasted SANADA with a rolling lariat. Another clothesline flips SANADA inside out for a two-count, but a sliding lariat is blocked and eventually turned into a series of pinning attempts from SANADA, all getting near-fall.

Ishii rolled through an O’Connor roll, but only found himself into a Skull End… but he rolled out of it and followed with the sliding lariat for another two-count. Eventually, SANADA managed to land the brainbuster, and that booked his semi-final place after what was easily the best of the four quarters. Its always fun when matches live up to their hype, and this was no different! ***½

So, with two New Japan Cup shows left, we’ll be getting the semi-finals on Sunday March 19 – Bad Luck Fale vs. EVIL and Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii; with the winners facing off on March 20.