We’re up to the quarter-finals of the New Japan Cup, and Shizuoka played host to the first pair of matches as the tournament continued!
New Japan Cup 2018 – Quarter-Final: Juice Robinson vs. Michael Elgin
The first quarter-final is a battle between dodgy fashion choices, as “Booty Man” Juice Robinson takes on Michael Elgin’s absurdly-long jacket.
From the opening tie-up Elgin went straight for Juice’s wrist, but got taken down as the pair looked to keep things on the mat. It’s Elgin who tried to turn up the tempo, but his suplex is countered into a back suplex from Juice, who misses a charge into the corner before getting thrown into the ropes for a gamengiri and an impressive slingshot Blockbuster from the apron back inside from the Canadian.
A back elbow took Juice down once again, as Elgin started to go to town, throwing elbows and chops his way. Eventually Juice escapes and starts with the Dusty punches before getting in a chop of his own… only to see his crossbody caught and turned into a slam, which Elgin followed up with a slingshot splash that missed!
Elgin avoids an attempted receipt, but he rolled outside into the path of a plancha from Juice, before taking him back inside for an Electric Chair facebuster that earned a near-fall. Juice’s offence gets cut-off as his big boot is blocked and met with forearms, which Robinson blocks as his big boot finally connects, before he wriggled out of a gorilla press slam and countered with a gutbuster for a near-fall.
A death valley driver into the corner is Elgin’s response, before Juice was taken up for a superplex, sending him bouncing as Elgin picked up another near-fall. Robinson tried to block a powerbomb and instead ate an elbow to the face as Elgin called for a buckle bomb… instead turning it into a Tiger Driver as the surprise change of move only drew a two-count.
Elgin keeps up the surprises with a corkscrew senton which misses badly as he looked like he knew his usual game wasn’t going to get the job done. A version of the Sky High powerbomb put him back on track, but Juice had plenty left in the tank as he went back-and-forth with clotheslines, refusing to let the bully Elgin put him down. A release German suplex and a superkick left Juice laying, but Elgin didn’t go for a cover, and quickly ran into a desperation clothesline from Robinson.
Out of nowhere, Juice nails a falling powerbomb of his own for a two-count, only for Elgin to come right back with a swinging side slam. A right hand from Juice puts Elgin down again, but he can’t capitalise with a cover, and instead goes for Pulp Friction… only to see it turned into a half-nelson suplex, dumping Juice high on his back as both men were left down once more. Another big lariat decks Juice as Mike’s mean mug is on show, ahead of a second lariat and a buckle bomb… but Juice slips out of the Elgin bomb and cradles Mike for the surprise win! This took a while to get going, but never really kicked into a high gear – Elgin’s work as a bully allowed Juice to shine as the good guy… but the finishing stretch could have done with a bit more domination before the roll-up victory. ***½
New Japan Cup 2018 – Quarter-Final: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Fale’s back to bullying the ring announcer after going easy on him in the first round, and he started by trying to do the same to Tanahashi, charging him into the ropes as he looked to use his size to his advantage.
Tanahashi quickly reverses it and breaks cleanly, before he tried in vain to take down Fale with a drop toe hold. Surprisingly, Tanahashi’s able to grab an Octopus hold, but Fale easily hiptosses out of it, sending the former Intercontinental champion to the outside… suckering Fale out there as we get the barricade spots the previous match didn’t give us. Tanahashi leaps over the guard rails, and forces Fale to chase after him, only to get taken down with a leg sweep on the apron.
Fale takes it instantly back into the crowd so he can bury Tanahashi in chairs and barriers, but it’s not enough to get a count-out, so the big Tongan keeps up… with a big splash as Tanahashi was draped across the apron, as another count-out tease followed. Sitting on Tanahashi doesn’t get the job done, so Fale moves to a nerve hold, which is fought out of as Tanahashi looked to have little answer to the big lad.
Especially when he was getting peppered with crossface-like blows in the corner!
Eventually Tanahashi fires back with body blows that cornered Fale, who then had to shrug off some dropkicks as Tanahashi sent him into the ropes and rebounding for a body slam… only for Fale to instantly respond with a Samoan drop and a big splash for a couple of near-falls.
Another Tanahashi comeback’s cut-off with a clothesline as Fale kept racking up those two-counts, before Tanahashi somehow got him up for a German suplex! Slingblades followed, but Fale got up before a cover could be made, so Tanahashi just clotheslines him to the floor ahead of a crossbody-style High Fly Flow.
Ah, remember when Tanahashi said he was going to stop doing those to the floor to save his knees? Memories… Fale’s right back as he threatened to powerbomb Tanahashi into the crowd… but the referee’s counting as Tanahashi manages to push off the ringpost, somehow sending Fale crashing over the guardrail before sneaking back inside to beat the count. This was alright, but with his injuries, Tanahashi’s not able to turn on the pace like he once used to. As such, we had a match that was technically sound, but felt like it was played at one speed rather than the back-and-forth you’d usually get in a David vs. Goliath match. Afterwards, Fale tried to attack Tanahashi again… but he gets a Dragon Screw as Tanahashi stood tall. ***
The first round of quarter-finals was solid, if not spectacular… but the second half of the draw ought to be much better. Well, at least that Sabre/Ibushi match should!
We’re still playing catch-up for the New Japan Cup – with the winner getting a title shot of their choosing at Sakura Genesis on April 1!