We’re into the round of 16 as the New Japan Cup continued into Okayama, with a pair of decent-ish matches.

The ZIP Arena is the base for this round of the tour, with Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero still on the English call.

New Japan Cup 2019 – Second Round: Chase Owens vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Chase pulled the biggest upset of the first round when he disposed of Juice Robinson – can he continue the run against the perenially-meh YOSHI-HASHI?

An early exchange of strikes led to the pair teasing their finishers, but it’s YOSHI-HASHI who enjoyed a brief advantage, only to get taken outside and hurled into the crowd barriers as Owens tried to re-use the game plan that worked so well in the first round. They have a call-back to that accident from last year, when Owens threw YOSHI-HASHI into the ring apron – fortunately shoulder-first as Chase “YOSHI-HASHI’d YOSHI-HASHI”. Owens keeps up as he distracted the ref with a phantom hair pull, as a neckbreaker dumped YOSHI-HASHI for a two-count, ahead of an attempted elbow off the middle rope that Chase had to abort in mid-air. Instead, he missed an elbow drop from the mat, as the match continued at it’s slow pace. YOSHI-HASHI returned with a dropkick as Owens was hung in the ropes, but it only gets a one-count, so he takes the fight to the top rope as he looked for a superplex.

Except Owens blocks it and hung YOSHI-HASHI in a Tree of Woe ahead of a Del Rio double stomp for a near-fall as the match swung right back around. A Sharpshooter’s next from Chase as his package piledriver was frustrated, before an attempt at the package piledriver on the apron was countered with a back body drop. A Blockbuster from YOSHI-HASHI finds its mark for a two-count back in the ring, but Chase is right back in with a bicycle knee for a near-fall, only for his Jewel Heist clothesline to get blocked by YOSHI-HASHI’s Western Lariat. Karma’s next, but Chase tries to push it off… only to get sent into a Kendo Stick shot from Jado as YOSHI-HASHI rolled away, leaving Chase open for a running Meteora for a near-fall… then a Butterfly Lock as Chase tried to stay in the race.

Somehow, Owens get free before another Western Lariat dropped him on the deck as Karma put him away. That’s the Chase run over, as YOSHI-HASHI quietly continues to gain steam in a match that was solid, but again lacked a lot of urgency. ***

New Japan Cup 2019 – Second Round: Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Oh my, this could get a bit murderous if Taichi tries to dog it…

Or indeed, if he tries to use the old Iron Fingers from Hell.

Taichi grinds the pace to a halt before we even get going as he headed outside for a drink before he engaged in a rather unwise eye rake on Ishii… who just returned the favour as Taichi powders outside again, teasing a count-out… but unfortunately, we’ve a long way to go. Ishii charges into Taichi as the match again headed outside, this time with Taichi getting hurled into the guard rails so hard that the ring announcer nearly lost his seat. Speaking of seats, Taichi grabbed one as he drove it into Ishii on the outside, before he just stood on Ishii by the ropes as we maintained the torturous pace. A snapmare and a kick’s just shrugged off as Ishii demanded more action (didn’t we all…), before he got to his feet and… had his eyes raked.

Taichi misses an axe bomber as Ishii responds with a brainbuster instead, before some chops dumped Taichi in the corner. The Suzuki-gun crooner’s back with a gamengiri, then another, before a big boot dropped Ishii to the mat. Ishii damn near laughs off the Kawada kicks, and just chops Taichi in the throat repeatedly. Some headbutts take Taichi back to the mat, before some Kawada-style kicks of his own prompted Taichi into actually connecting with a rear hook kick. A backdrop driver from Taichi sends Ishii flying… off come the trousers, as Taichi seemed to enter another gear, clocking Ishii with a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall. The Stretch Plum’s next, but rather than hold on for a stoppage, Taichi lets go and tries to pin Ishii… getting himself a two-count from it, before he rather unwisely went for a Last Ride powerbomb.

Ishii escaped and dropped Taichi with a German suplex to buy himself some time… and that he did as some left-right elbows batter Taichi, before a big lariat off the ropes got Ishii back in the match with a near-fall. Heck, Ishii follows up with a Last Ride for a two-count as he almost put Taichi away with his own move, before Taichi used the ref as a human shield… producing the inevitable results. A leaping back brain kick puts Ishii down as we’re still sans official, meaning that Taichi was able to crawl to the corner… where he teases using Iizuka’s old pouch, before he just picked up his mic stand. Ishii invites the shot, but Taichii just throws aside the weapon as they go back to kicks and chops, with Taichi targeting Ishii’s wounded arm before another enziguiri put Ishii down.

An Axe Bomber from Taichi keeps the momentum going, before a Last Ride forced Ishii to kick out at the last possible second. Ishii squirms out of an Air Raid Crash and instead drops Taichi with a piledriver… but he’s back up like it was nothing, following in with a Buzzsaw kick. They keep trading strikes and fighting spirit no-sells until Ishii spun Taichi to the mat with a clothesline, only for Taicho to unsight the referee and nearly steal things with a low blow and a Gedo clutch. Fortunately, Ishii kicked out at two, and after catching a superkick, he fired back with an enziguiri, then a sliding lariat… but it’s still not enough to condemn Taichi to a loss, as he instead had to pull out a sheer drop brainbuster to pick up the win. A lot better than most of Taichi’s singles matches, but in the end even the Suzuki-gun shenanigans weren’t enough as Ishii powered into the quarter-finals. ***¾

When it came to the tournament matches, this was a decent pair of bouts – nothing overly special, but nothing insulting either. Some of the undercard was worth a background watch too, as they teased a lot more of the second round, including the Cabana/Yano almost-surely-a-comedy match.