Night two of the New Japan Cup tour moved to Aichi – here’s a look at the first-round action!

New Japan Cup 2018 – First Round: Lance Archer vs. Bad Luck Fale
Archer’s current look has him sorta-resembling a trucker who really doesn’t like water. Maybe it’s the baseball hat?

It’s a first-time singles match between these two rotters, and Fale is so focused, he doesn’t go to beat up the ring announcer. Perhaps its because he’s in there with someone bigger than him?

We start with a twist on the big lads opening – they go for chokeslams before Archer shoves off and lays into Fale in the corner! They quickly headed outside, where Fale and Archer ambled into the crowd for a spot of brawling, with the latter getting whipped into some chairs, which I’m sure felt great with a surgically repaired back! Crowd barriers and more chairs get piled onto Archer… who got back up to bully a fan as Fale made him pay by throwing him back into the crowd.


Archer narrowly beats the count-out, but Fale keeps clubbing away on him before landing a Samoan drop… only to miss with a splash off the ropes. Lance tries to capitalise with shoulder blocks, finally knocking the (not so) big man down for a two-count, before going for a spot of rope walking, finishing off Old School for another near-fall.

Fale tries to slip in a Back Luck Fall after catching Archer on the top rope… but he can’t hit it, nor a teased big splash as Archer gets back up and continues the teases, as Fale finally slips out of an inverted Razor’s Edge, only to eat a chokeslam for another two-count. Archer sets up for the finish, but he ends up running into a Grenade, then another big splash for more near-falls, before one more Grenade does the job. Pretty decent stuff between the two big lads – a more “retro” style perhaps compared to the balls to the wall strikes and flips you get out of some big buys these days, but enjoyable nevertheless. **

New Japan Cup 2018 – First Round: Taichi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Another first-time match-up, and a debut in the New Japan Cup for the newly-heavyweight Taichi. It’s also the first singles match for Tanahashi since he lost the Intercontinental championship to Minoru Suzuki…

Taichi’s valet, Miho Abe, tried to flirt with Tanahashi before the match… but he wasn’t playing along. Perhaps he saw what happened to the last guy that happened to? I wonder if Taguchi’s fractured ass is healed…

Speaking of healed, there was a lot of focus on Tanahashi’s knee beforehand, while Taichi was more than happy to do a Toru Yano by going into the ropes and generally stalling to wind up his opponent. Tanahashi wasn’t going for it, and just stood in the ring while Taichi looked an idiot, trying to bait him into the crowd.

Eventually, Tanahashi bit, and followed Taichi in the game of cat and mouse, which ended with Taichi stomping down on the former champion as he rolled back in. Tanahashi quickly turns the tables and has to deal with more stalling, but an attempt to nail a High Fly Flow’s stopped when Taichi uses his valet as a human shield, leading to more distraction and a shot with the mic stand.

I thought Naito wrecked that thing earlier in the week?

Taichi finally gets his wish as they headed into the crowd, where he’s able to use the crowd barrier as a weapon, before grabbing a mouthful of water from Yuji Nagata on commentary,,, but not to spray on anyone. There’s more attempts to wear down Tanahashi, with a kick to the chest knocking him on the mat, before a rear spin kick and kept things in the Suzuki-gun member’s favour.

Finally Tanahashi begins the fight-back, slapping Taichi silly before a flip senton off the middle rope earned him a near-fall. Somehow we’re passing the ten minute mark, and it feels like precious little of note has happened… and that seems to be the point where Taichi clicks into something resembling a gear, landing a gamengiri to knock Tanahashi to the floor as he was skinning the cat.

They head away from the ring again, with Taichi trying for a piledriver in the aisle, before a powerbomb was rana’d out of by Tanahashi, who walked back to the ring to try and collect a count-out win… but of course Taichi beats the count… only to get brought back into the ring (sort-of) with a Dragon screw, a tactic that Tanahashi keeps up on as he spams the move before rolling Taichi into a cloverleaf.

After grabbing the ref’s shirt, Taichi eventually makes it to the ropes, where Miho Abe ruffled his hair like the scamp that he is. A backdrop driver follows as Taichi shocked us all… showing us that he too can hit the same move several times in a row. Off come the rip-away trousers, and Taichi’s measuring up for a superkick, but Tanahashi ducks… and ends up eating a headkick anyway as Taichi nearly pulled off the seismic upset.

Tanahashi tries to fight out of a powerbomb, but instead eats a Ganso Bomb… so now Gabriel Kidd’s gotta pull something new out of the bag to avoid any Taichi comparisons. Sorry Gabe, them’s the breaks!

Taichi keeps up, nailing an overhead kick, but all of a sudden Tanahashi’s had enough and throws himself back with a Slingblade before heading up for a High Fly Flow… landing it as a crossbody, and seemingly jarring his knee again in the process. It almost led to the end as Taichi distracted the ref and lands a low blow into a Gedo clutch for a near-fall, before he followed up with an axe bomber lariat, an enziguiri and a Last Ride powerbomb for another near-fall!

Man, Taichi is getting a LOT on Tanahashi here… but then again, he needs to establish himself as being someone who isn’t in the heavyweight division to just be a warm body.

Out of nowhere, Tanahashi fires back with a hattrick of rolling neckbreakers to give himself a breather, but out comes Yoshinobu Kanemaru to provide another distraction. That one doesn’t work as Taichi swings and misses with the mic stand, but Tanahashi throws it away before catching a superkick as a series of Slingblades get him a near-fall. All that’s left is to leap up top for a High Fly Flow, and Tanahashi’s into the second round! This started out really slowly, but once they got past the stalling, this turned into a pretty good match. Taichi’s heavyweight career hasn’t been as bad as folks feared, but he has been in there with some of the better heavyweights… ***¾

A nice pair of matches here, and with night three featuring Zack Sabre Jr, Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi, I have a feeling we’ll be having a ball with this first round. Just don’t look at night four’s line-up…

We’ll not be covering the finals live (least of all because of the wacky 6am start time in the UK), but we should have the cup reviews up show-by-show before Sakura Genesis on April 1!