A rematch of last year’s final was on tap as the semi-finals of the New Japan Cup were set!

Kevin Kelly’s joined by Excalibur and Rocky Romero on commentary in Act city Hamamatsu, Shizuoka for the last of the quarter-finals.

New Japan Cup 2019 – Quarter-Final: SANADA vs. Colt Cabana
Colt’s all shocked at having made it to the quarters – and he started by trying to shoehorn his European style into the match, looking to ground SANADA in the early going.

They go back and forth, with SANADA and Cabana trading headlock takedowns and escapes, with Colt using some headscissors to ground SANADA, keeping the LIJ member there for a little while before he flipped his way free. SANADA blocks a monkey flip and looked to put Colt in a Paradise lock, only for Cabana to push it away and try for his own version… but instead he just went for a body press to try and pin his opponent. SANADA kicked out of the “mini Superman”, then decided to go for the Paradise Lock again, only to get caught into a double leg nelson cover as Colt outsmarted him once more.

Cabana goes back to the WOS techniques, but eventually gets caught out of nowhere in that Paradise Lock. The low dropkick frees Colt, sending him outside for respite… prompting SANADA to hold the ropes open to let Cabana back in… but he doesn’t trust him and heads in through another side of the ring.

A double leapfrog/dropkick sent Colt back outside as a plancha from SANADA quickly followed, as Colt was doing his best to put some distance between himself and SANADA… even if it was at the expense of the match’s pace. Eventually SANADA rolls Cabana for a pin, but can’t get a one-count as Colt looked spent… although he had enough to clock SANADA with an elbow after he took a ‘rana.

The Bionic elbow from Colt put him ahead, as he manages a double-jump splash for a near-fall, before catching SANADA’s leapfrog… only for SANADA to try and slip out into a Skull End. Cabana counters that by tripping SANADA and rolling him into the Billy Goat’s Curse inverted Boston crab. A rope break frees SANADA, who has to roll through a top rope ‘rana before he turned an O’Connor roll into a Skull End… then countered the counter into a rope hanging neckbreaker, like a single-man Magic Killer.

From there, SANADA heads up for a moonsault, landing in Colt’s knees as Cabana cradled him for a near-fall… but with Colt already on the back foot, it was only a matter of time as SANADA pulled him into another Skull End for the submission. While not full of flashy moves, this was an entertaining match as Cabana forced SANADA to wrestle his style of match… and ended up being out-wrestled. A hell of a run for Colt, but it’s SANADA getting into the final four. ***½

New Japan Cup 2019 – Quarter-Final: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
A rematch of last year’s finals, Sabre was looking to keep his perfect streak alive – while Tanahashi was looking to get a rematch for the IWGP title he lost last month. Apparently Tanahashi’s parents were here, which in WWE would mean he’s losing for sure…

Sabre – designer stubble and all – looked to ground Tanahashi early, but the Ace was even to it in those opening exchanges as they ended in a stalemate. Second time looked to be the charm as Sabre goes for a cross armbar, only to change tack as he ended up in a knuckle lock with Tanahashi, who powered him down in the Test of Strength. Sabre manages to reverse the knuckle lock eventually, and started to wear over Tanahashi’s arm. An overhead kick to the arm’s caught, but Sabre’s able to pull him down into an armbar before he just stomped on the elbow. Another armbar trapped Tanahashi on the mat, as he was rolled into a cover for a two-count, as Sabre looked to pick his spots.

Uppercuts pin Tanahashi into the corner, but the tables turn as Tanahashi hits some uppercuts before a running elbow sent the cup holder down. Tanahashi continued to build momentum, slamming Sabre ahead of a flip senton for a near-fall, only for Sabre to come right back with a Cobra twist. The hold’s reversed, as Tanahashi switches it into a pumphandle slam… only to get his arm trapped between Sabre’s legs as Zack truly struck back with a PK that left Tanahashi laying. In the ropes, Sabre traps Tanahashi with an Octopus hold, but after letting go he’s caught with a Dragon screw as Tanahashi made the most of a bad situation. A cloverleaf’s attempted next, but Sabre pulls him down into an arm triangle instead, almost eking out the win right there before Tanahashi managed to regain his arm and apply the cloverleaf to send Sabre scurrying into the ropes.

The momentum continues to swing as Sabre leaps into Tanahashi with a mounted Kimura, only for Tanahashi to get free and land a Twist and Shout neckbreaker. Another two of those follow, before a Slingblade dropped Zack for a near-fall. The pair switch around some more, as Sabre found his way back into an Octopus stretch, but again Tanahashi fought out… only to miss with a Dragon screw as Sabre almost won with a Euro clutch. Another PK from Sabre draws a two-count, before Tanahashi rolled out of a Zack Driver and almost beat Sabre with an O’Connor roll. Straight from the kick-out, Sabre maneuvered himself into Orienteering with Napalm Death, but somehow Tanahashi gets out and Dragon screwed Zack’s leg into the mat.

Zack tried to sneak another with with another Euro clutch, but Tanahashi kicks out once again before the pair battled over a backslide. European uppercuts follow before a reverse Slingblade from Tanahashi dropped Sabre to the mat, before a double-leg clutch pin proved to be enough for the Ace beat Sabre at his own game! Some excellent counter-wrestling on display here, as Tanahashi was able to slay the demon of last year and put himself one step closer to a title rematch… ****¼

Your semi-finals for Saturday, then: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kazuchika Okada and SANADA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – and that’s sure as hell pointing to another Okada/Tanahashi final, eh?

Night ten of the New Japan Cup continued the trend of the entire tournament, with some excellent in-ring work, as we seem to be heading to an explosive finale in Niigata this weekend.