The quarter-finals of the New Japan Cup are on-tap today, with two very tasty junior vs. heavyweight clashes as we get Okada vs. Ishimori and Hiromu vs. Ishii!
We’ve only got Japanese commentary for those of us watching live. Kevin Kelly will be around to backfill with English commentary in the coming days. We’re still in Korakuen Hall for this… I really miss those pre-show videos. Police Liger and Sensei Taguchi hopefully will be coming back soon.
I can only repeat what I’ve been saying at the start of my last few reviews. Believe. Support. Learn. Change. Love those who have fought for this change.
New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: Hiromu Takahashi pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 19:30 (****½)
New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: EVIL beat YOSHI-HASHI via referee stoppage in 2:00 (NR)
BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi pinned Yuya Uemura, Hirooki Goto & SHO in 9:30 (***¼)
New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: Kazuchika Okada submitted Taiji Ishimori in 16:50 (***½)
New Japan Cup – Quarter-Final: SANADA pinned Taichi in 22:50 (***¼)
New Japan Cup 2020 – Quarter-Final: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
A weird choice of opener, but I’ll take it!
Hiromu charges out of the blocks over the man he had a slight height advantage on, landing a shoulder tackle before Ishii bounced back. Hiromu keeps going, but the brick outhouse that is Ishii charged him down yet again. Chops from Ishii keep Hiromu in the corner, before Ishii looked to aim a little higher, going for Hiromu’s throat as the junior champion chopped back.
The blistering sounds of Hiromu’s chops sounded good in the empty Korakuen Hall, as did Ishii’s retorts, but Hiromu’s chops seemed to get less effective as a headbutt from Ishii knocked him to the outside. Ishii have him no respite as he threw Hiromu straight back in, just so he could knock him into the corner… where Hiromu fought back as he whipped Ishii into the buckles for a clothesline, following up with a low dropkick for good measure.
The pair scramble over a suplex, but Ishii gets his off before he peppered Hiromu with a series of headbutts. A shoulder tackle from Hiromu actually takes down Ishii before he did a deal with a Falcon arrow… but Ishii kicks out at two. A shoulder tackle from Ishii pounces Hiromu into the corner, before some switcharoos led Hiromu into a backdrop suplex as Ishii began to push on. Hiromu needs to compose himself after that landing, but Ishii gave him little time… as Hiromu had to counter a powerbomb by ‘ranaing out as he gave Ishii the D! I feel like we’ve not had that in ages… but Ishii has had enough of Hiromu’s D and ends up hauling him up for a buckle bomb to free himself.
Ishii’s back up to splat Hiromu in the corner with a lariat, before lifting him up top for an avalanche brainbuster… which lands flush for a delayed near-fall on Hiromu. An enziguiri from Ishii takes Hiromy back down, as did a lariat, with Hiromu spinning to the mat… and that seemed to wake him up as he sensed his tournament being flushed down the drain.
Hiromu gets back up and trades strikes with Ishii. Bad idea. He’s knocked down with a single forearm before a sliding lariat almost put him away. A sheer drop brainbuster looks to follow, but Hiromu counters with a small package for a near-fall, before another D was countered… only for Hiromu to hang on from the powerbomb as he almost pinned Ishii. Another lariat spins Hiromu nastily to the mat, but he’s back up as he surprises Ishii with a Dynamite Plunger for a near-fall!
Hiromu gets back up and tries to clothesline Ishii away, but a barrage of lariats only staggers Ishii before a superkick took him to his knees. A running death valley driver takes Ishii into the corner, before the Time Bomb was countered… Ishii gets back in with a German suplex, that Hiromu popped up from as we’re back to strikes.
A headbutt from Hiromu gives Ishii a taste of his own medicine, before he measured up for a lariat… and finally spun Ishii down to the mat! From there, the Time Bomb followed, but Ishii somehow kicked out! My God, Hiromu’s having to dig deep… and after he got caught out with another headbutt, Hiromu found a way through with a brainbuster/Flatliner combo that made me scream… before busting out Time Bomb 2 for the win! A hot crowd would have pushed this even higher, but this was one of the matches of the tournament for my money. ****½
New Japan Cup 2020 – Quarter-Final: EVIL vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Good luck following that one, lads… and EVIL getting his cloak stuck on the stage steps may be an omen!
YOSHI-HASHI is noticeably limping on his way to the ring, having tweaked his knee yesterday against BUSHI. This ought to be short.Especially because EVIL whacked him from behind with some chairs as YOSHI-HASHI didn’t learn a damn thing from BUSHI doing that to him yesterday.
EVIL Pillman-izes YOSHI-HASHI’s knee… but YOSHI-HASHI gets up and insists on fighting. EVIL kicks the knee out after the bell, and despite YOSHI-HASHI’s efforts, EVIL sweeps the leg, kicks the knee and rolls him over for the Darkness Scorpion. YOSHI-HASHI pushes up, but EVIL just sits down on him, then drags him away from the ropes before the referee stopped the match. It went two minutes, it was one-sided… and I’m guessing YOSHI’s knee is in worse shape than we guessed after yesterday’s match. At least the stoppage protects him somewhat in a tournament that he was doing pretty well in until now…
Post-match, EVIL stomps on the knee some more as Gabriel Kidd and Yota Tsuji separated him. An easy night’s work for the King of Darkness, who could be facing SANADA in the semi-finals.
Hirooki Goto, SHO & Yuya Uemura vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi)
Our obligatory pre-interval tag now, and it’s another outing for a “champion team” in LIJ. I did have to laugh at BUSHI holding two of the NEVER trios titles (his and EVIL’s) so that everyone had two belts…
SHO’s got his right hamstring heavily taped-up, and we start with Uemura of all people charging at Shingo at the bell. Oh, that poor boy. He manages to counter Shingo with an armdrag and a shoulder tackle as he ducked clotheslines, before putting the boots to the NEVER champion. A front facelock helps Uemura take Shingo into the corner, as SHO comes in to work over the arm before landing a suplex for a two-count.
The pair trade back-and-forth forearms until Shingo caught out SHO with a jab… but the follow up punch led to Shingo going on the defensive as SHO wrestled him down into a cross armbar. A hold that Shingo slipped out of before busting out a neat wheelbarrow German suplex as LIJ rushed the ring to clear the apron.
Shingo takes things outside as he hurls SHO into the guard rails, then brought it back to the ring as Naito tagged in to keep laying it in. An over-the-knee neckbreaker takes SHO down as Naito busted out a Rings of Saturn-like crossface, almost like the sorta stuff you saw Stu Hart stretching kids with in the Dungeon back in the day. The ring fills to break it up, as BUSHI came in to choke SHO with a shirt… following that up with a shirt-assisted neckbreaker that referee Marty Asami refused to count a pin on.
Shingo’s back in next, headbutting SHO… who tried to respond with a spear, only for it to get caught and countered into a DDT. Somehow SHO avoids a sliding lariat as he hits the spear instead, before Goto and Naito tagged in to have a scrap. Goto counters a hiptoss with one of his own, before dumping Naito with a lariat. A spinning heel kick follows into the corner, as a back suplex took Naito out of the buckles for a near-fall, with Goto then pushing ahead with an attempted ushigoroshi that Naito slipped out of, returning with an atomic drop, an enziguiri and a tornado DDT.
BUSHI’s back in with a missile dropkick to Goto, before running double knees led to a Fisherman neckbreaker that Goto countered out of with a lariat. Uemura’s back in to whale away on BUSHI with forearms, following up with a dropkick that caught the masked man by surprise… as did a brainbuster as Uemura almost got his Big Win™.
A Parade of Moves breaks out as Naito eats an ushigoroshi from Goto, before Shingo finally dispatched of SHO with a lariat… Uemura tries his luck again with a sunset flip before trading slaps with BUSHI. An enziguiri stops those as BUSHI comes back with a swinging Fisherman neckbreaker for a near-fall, before BUSHI swiftly put Uemura away with an F5 into a Codebreaker. Not as clean as you’d hope, but a hell of a fun sprint as the LIJ lads build up steam today! ***¼
Post-match, Shingo mouthed off at SHO. Do you think a rematch between those two is in the cards any time soon?
New Japan Cup 2020 – Quarter-Final: Taiji Ishimori vs. Kazuchika Okada
On paper, this should be quite interesting – even if Okada’s flattered to deceive with his outings so far in the Cup. He comes through the crowd for this one, so he can show off his fluorescent ring jacket for a while longer… and looked thrilled to be given permission to use the secret entrance.
Of course, it’s a measured start as Okada and Ishimori circle the wagons to start, but it’s Ishimori who struck first with an eye rake before he ran into a big boot from Okada. An elbow to the back of the neck followed from Okada, as did a slam and a slingshot senton, before he snuffed out Ishimori’s attempts to fight back with a low dropkick that sent the Bone Soldier to the outside.
A wild Gedo appears at ringside as I start to curse. The distraction allows Ishimori to attack Okada from behind, knocking him outside before whipping the former champion into the guard rails. Gedo’s got a spanner, which he attacks Okada with behind the referee’s back. Yes, it looks like it’s going to be one of those matches, folks. Ishimori puts the boots to Okada before throwing him back inside… getting only a one-count from a cover, before he wrenched back with a chinlock. A cravat with knees keeps Okada on the back foot, before Ishimori set up Okada in the corner for the baseball slide German suplex – which earned applause from Gedo at ringside… and a two-count from the referee.
It’s back to the chinlock, but Okada fought free and quickly took down Ishimori with a flapjack as both men were left laying. Okada builds up momentum with a sliding back elbow off the ropes, then another one in the corner before a snap DDT stood Ishimori on his head briefly for a near-fall. Ishimori escapes a tombstone attempt and hits the ropes for a handspring enziguiri as the match remained finely balanced… but Ishimori going for a Yes Lock was a case of “wrong place, wrong time” as Okada quickly got to the ropes.
Kicks to the midsection take Okada into the corner, but he recovers and catches Ishimori with a neckbreaker slam after the Bone Soldier tried to charge him. Okada keeps going with a slam, but he gets stopped on his climb to the top rope as Gedo popped onto the apron for a distraction – allowing Ishimori to hit a handspring kick to knock Okada to the outside ahead of a Golden Triangle moonsault that met Okada on the floor.
Back inside, Ishimori charges into Okada with a shotgun dropkick, then with running double knees for a near-fall, before he hit a La Mistica to take Okada into the Yes Lock once again! Okada’s beached in the middle of the ring, but he’s able to drag his way towards the ropes for a break. Ishimori looks for a Bloody Cross, but Okada pushes free and comes right back with a dropkick before Ishimori countered a tombstone into a tombstone gutbuster for a near-fall. Another Bloody Cross is countered as Okada hits a spinning tombstone, before transitioning Ishimori into the cobra clutch… Gedo distracts to delay it, but Okada reapplies it, only for Ishimori to pull down the referee as Okada rolled Ishimori into the middle of the ring.
Cue Gedo. Cue brass knuckles. Cue more Keystone Cops stuff, as Gedo misses a shot, only to get dropkicked into the corner as Okada went back to Ishimori with a dropkick, before the modified cobra clutch forced the tap. Decent enough until the Gedo stuff – and I fear that’s going to be a pattern for Okada for the medium term. Gedo to cost Okada in the semis, is it? ***½
New Japan Cup 2020 – Quarter-Final: Taichi vs. SANADA
A win for SANADA sets up a semi-final with his regular tag partner EVIL – and given the shenanigans around the tag team titles, I wouldn’t be too shocked if we saw a LOT of interference here. Particularly since Yoshinobu Kanemaru joined the commentary team…
The pair circle each other at the bell, and the slow start sees Taichi walk to the ropes the very second SANADA applied a wristlock. Wash, rinse and repeat from a hammerlock, before SANADA grabbed a side headlock and saw Taichi escape by just goozling him into the corner with some rope. The choke took SANADA down to the mat before referee Red Shoes Unno noticed the indiscretion, which came straight out of the Iizuka playbook.
They head outside, with SANADA getting thrown into the guard rails, before Taichi took SANADA into the bleachers. One of his favourite things on this mini-tour, eh? A choke against a guard rail that was being used to advertise Fire Pro Wrestling World followed… and of course, Red Shoes refuses to count a pin when they make it back to the ring. So Taichi just chokes away some more…
Taichi throws a derisory kick at SANADA, who responded with some forearms before he had his eyes raked. A back elbow and a standing moonsault… then a low dropkick puts SANADA ahead, as did a second low dropkick as Taichi rolled outside for respite. SANADA followed him outside with a plancha, before he rolled Taichi back into the ring. Taichi log rolls to the outside, before he sprang on SANADA at the second attempt, only to see his attempt at tying him up in the ropes backfire as SANADA trapped Taichi with a Paradise Lock. A low dropkick frees Taichi.
SANADA went for a quick cover, but Taichi grabbed the rope at one, before recovering with a gamengiri kick in the corner as we crossed the ten minute mark. Taichi starts aiming for SANADA’s legs, throwing kicks to the hamstring as he looked to give SANADA a dead leg, but uppercuts and big boots from SANADA bought him time before a rear spin kick had SANADA on his knees. An enziguiri from Taichi takes SANADA down again, before the trousers get whipped off… but SANADA blocks a Buzzsaw kick and flipped Taichi into a Skull End. Taichi rolls out and hits a savate kick, then a Dangerous backdrop driver to free himself. The Black Memphisto’s escaped as SANADA ends up getting cracked with a forearm before he eventually found a way back in with a one-man Magic Killer.
SANADA tries to pull Taichi back up, but ends up having to finesse his way into a springboard sunset flip for a near-fall, before meeting Taichi with a moonsault into a Skull End. Yoshinobu Kanemaru leaves commentary and hits the ring for a distraction as Taichi tapped… but of course, the referee didn’t see it. SANADA lets go to deal with Kanemaru, and gets caught with a Dangerous backdrop driver as Taichi popped right back up to his feet.
From there, Taichi uses a Stretch Plum to drag SANADA to the mat… but SANADA eventually wriggled his way to the ropes for a much-needed break. Taichi lets SANADA get back to his knees, before he caught him with an Axe Bomber to the back of the head and a leaping enziguiri to put him right back down. Taichi mocks the Naito fist pose before busting out almost a Backdrop Hold for a near-fall, as another Axe Bomber gets countered with a ‘rana for a near-fall.
SANADA’s second wind appears as he hits a TKO… but he can’t make a cover quickly enough, and instead picks up Taichi for another Skull End. He swings Taichi around before placing him by the corner. Cue more Kanemaru to distract, as he attacks SANADA with an eye rake behind the ref’s back, before a low blow from Taichi looked to set him up for the win. Instead, SANADA switched out of the Gedo Clutch and shoves Taichi into the ropes before getting the win with an O’Connor roll. Yeah, this had plenty of shenanigans, but this wasn’t as overboard as, say, yesterday’s match. That all-LIJ semi-final is intriguing, if only to see where New Japan slots EVIL and SANADA… ***¼
Tomorrow is semi-final day – Okada vs. Hiromu and SANADA vs. EVIL. There’ll be two non-tournament matches added to that show, and then we’ve a week off before the final two days of this “tour”, with the New Japan Cup final next Saturday in Osaka, before Dominion the next night, also at Osaka-Jo Hall.
When you open up a show with such a cracker as Ishii/Hiromu, you know you’re in for a fun time. They kept this show to the usual two-hour format, which again flew over. Of course, the rest of the card couldn’t quite match the opener, but with a five-match card of this quality, you can’t complain.