Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay headline the latest night of the New Japan Cup tour, with a quarter-final spot up for grabs.
Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano pinned Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura & David Finlay in 10:58 (***)
Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale & KENTA pinned DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki & Taichi in 7:25 (**¾)
SHO, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto pinned BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi in 10:02 (**¾)
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toa Henare & Juice Robinson pinned Yujiro Takahashi, Jay White & EVIL in 13:44 (***)
New Japan Cup 2021 – Second Round: SANADA pinned Yuji Nagata in 18:17 (***½)
New Japan Cup 2021 – Second Round: Will Ospreay pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 21:22 (****¾)
The tour moves to the Amagasaki Memorial Park Gymnasium in Hyogo for today’s round…
YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. David Finlay, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura
We’re building up YOSHI-HASHI vs. Finlay tomorrow – and there’s no obvious mention of Finlay’s recent successes in Impact wrestling here.
We start out with a quick headlock takedown/headscissor escape before a shoulder block from YOSHI-HASHI took down Finlay. Roll-ups go back-and-forth before Finlay’s attempted Prima Nocta was pushed away, only for Finlay to return with a dropkick as Yuya Uemura tagged in. Toru Yano’s in too, but he’s taken down with a leaping forearm as Uemura tried to antagonise Ishii. Yano pulls Uemura down, then went for the turnbuckle pad… then bopped the Young Lion on the head. That draws in Tsuji, but he runs into a Manhattan drop before he got thrown into the exposed corner.
Ishii tags in and knocks down Uemura with an elbow, before taking him to the corner for a violence party of chops and forearms. YOSHI-HASHI returns to claim a two-count as Uemura tried in vain to fight back… but eventually buys time with a dropkick as tags bring us back to Finlay and YOSHI-HASHI. Uppercuts from Finlay knock YOSHI-HASHI down, as did one off the middle rope, but YOSHI-HASHI clotheslined his way back in as the pair go back-and-forth on elbows. A uranage backbreaker stops YOSHI-HASHI though, as tags bring us to Ishii and Tsuji, who trade shoulder blocks.
Tsuji pulls ahead, suplexing Ishii for a two-count, before the Mount Tsuji splash led to a near-fall. A Boston crab leaves Ishii in need of help, which he gets from YOSHI-HASHI as the ring fills and emptied, before Tsuji got caught with a back suplex from Ishii. That gets him a near-fall, before Tsuji missed a dropkick… he still goes for flash pins with an inside cradle and a big slam… but taking a kitchen sink knee to the gut and a lariat proves to be too much as Ishii shuts the door on the Young Lion. A solid opener, with the usual “Young Lion inches close to a victory that’s not forthcoming” deal. ***
Bullet Club (KENTA, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, DOUKI & Taichi)
KENTA seems pissed that only Chase Owens gets the gunshot SFX. I’d be too.
We’ve a jump start as Suzuki’s got anger leftover from yesterday. Either that or he’s mad KENTA forgot the papers today. Things settle down as Fale stomps away on Taichi in the ring, before things broke down in a choking battle. DOUKI leaps onto Fale’s back to help out, as Taichi runs back in… and this time it’s Chase Owens who makes the save. Oh, and gets choked out too. KENTA gets throttled next, before Taichi went for the referee. That distraction costs him as Fale squishes him in the corner before my feed dies. It’s back as we return to Suzuki and KENTA elbowing each other, leading to a Suzuki PK for just a one-count. KENTA returns with a kick in the corner, but Suzuki fires in with elbows before a second front kick from KENTA turned the tables again.
Suzuki tries to roar through a barrage of elbows, but his rear naked choke attempt is escaped as we move onto the elbows. KENTA eventually stops those with a DDT, before Chase Owens came in. DOUKI also tags in, hitting a clotheslines and an enziguiri to drop Owens before Taichi ran in to knock fale off the apron. Double-teaming targets chase ahead of the Daybreak DDT, which leads to a pin attempt and the DOUKI CHOKIE! Fale drops an elbow on DOUKI to break it up, before Chase quickly put DOUKI away with a package piledriver. Short and inoffensive, but those KENTA/Suzuki exchanges had me fired up more than yesterday. **¾
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada & SHO
We’re running back more build as we wait for Shingo vs. KENTA next week…
Shingo and Goto get us underway as they instantly go to the elbow exchanges before Goto charged down Shingo. Okada and SHO come in for the war drums, but LIJ flood the ring to help turn things around. Naito tags in and restrains Goto with a cravat, before BUSHI came in for a chinlock. Shingo’s back to punch out Goto, while Okada and SHO accidentally distract the referee as they try to flag up some choking from Naito in the corner. A suplex from Shingo gets a two-count, before Goto’s clothesline bought him time as Naito and Okada tag in. Okada lais in some elbows, including a back elbow off the ropes before he shoved BUSHI to the floor.
Another back elbow takes Naito into the corner for a DDT, but Naito’s back with an over-the-knee neckbreaker and a low dropkick as things remained pretty even. Naito comes back with Combinacion Cabron in the corner, as BUSHI then came in with a missile dropkick off the top. Okada stops BUSHI with a flapjack as SHO tags in and targets BUSHI with a litany of kicks for a near-fall. A suplex came to nought as SHO ends up spearing BUSHI for a two-count, only for Naito and Shingo to hit the ring to help out as a back cracker from BUSHI nearly put SHO away. The ring fills and empties to break that up, as BUSHI then looked for a Codebreaker, but SHO catches it before a backslide and a Magistral Cradle gets countered, with SHO nearly snatching victory there.
From there, a deadlift German gets a near-fall for SHO, as did a lariat, but in the end it’s Shock Arrow that led to the finish, with BUSHI getting planted for the three-count. Another decent undercard tag, but with this running back an old match, it was tough to really invest in. **¾
Bullet Club (Jay White, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & Toa Henare
We’ve White vs. Tanahashi tomorrow, but first… posing.
When we get going, Tanahashi and White lock up into the ropes, grabbing each other by the hair as their embrace ended with White hitting a knee to the gut. A crossbody out of the corner has Tanahashi ahead, before back elbows with Henare brought us back to the all-Kiwi battle.
EVIL trips Henare in the ropes, allowing White to pull Henare down by the hair as the Bullet Club flood the outside for the usual stuff. Eye rakes, guard rail spots, and the like. Back inside, Henare’s choked under some boots as my feed dropped out. It’s back as EVIL rakes Henare’s nose, before a Fisherman buster came to nought, with Henare reversing it into a suplex. Juice Robinson tags in and hits a bunch of back sentons to Jay White, then dropped Yujiro with a facecrusher. Dusty punches await for EVIL, who uses the ref as a human shield ahead of a Fisherman buster on Juice. Tanahashi and White tag back in, with the latter falling to a leaping forearm before a slam and a grounded Dragon screw saw Tanahashi change things up a little.
A Cloverleaf quickly ends in the ropes as Tanahashi finally turned White over, before White returned with a Dragon screw. White keeps going with a Blade Buster for a two-count, before stomps targeted the knees of Tanahashi some more. Tanahashi blocks a uranage and returns with a Dragon screw, before Yujiro came in and hit a front kick by the ropes. Tanahashi fights back as the ring began to fill for the Parade of Moves, but Yujiro helps clear the decks with a reverse DDT before a clothesline had Tanahashi down. Yujiro’s Fisherman buster lands for a near-fall, before Gedo trips Tanahashi in the ropes… then created an opening as Dick Togo slides in Yujiro’s pimp cane. Tanahashi ducks a shot and hits a Slingblade before a High Fly Flow gets the win. A perfectly cromulent tag match that ticked the boxes ahead of tomorrow’s Korakuen cup match. ***
New Japan Cup 2021 – Second Round: SANADA vs. Yuji Nagata
These two met a matter of weeks ago, when SANADA had that weird run of Korakuen singles matches while Tetsuya Naito was nursing a knee injury.
Nagata starts off with a wristlock before he pushed away SANADA’s attempt at a counter. They switch to a knucklelock, which Nagata countered around into a cravat, but SANADA floats free of the snapmare before a side headlock from Nagata led to him being pushed off, but he’s back with a shoulder block before a PK’s avoided.
We head outside as SANADA throws Nagata into the rails, before a piledriver laid out Nagata on the floor. The count’s beaten, but SANADA drops Nagata with a back suplex for a one-count, then restrained Nagata with a chinlock that ends in the ropes. Kicks from Nagata have SANADA reeling, but the Exploder goes nowhere as SANADA came back with a ‘rana and a dropkick, taking Nagata outside for the plancha. Back inside, Nagata tries to get back in it, but ends up taking a missile dropkick before he landed that Exploder. A TKO from SANADA is next for a near-fall, before a Dragon sleeper led to Nagata getting caught with a Magic Screw as he looked to escape. SANADA heads up top from there, but misses the moonsault, as Nagata tries to capitalise with a superplex.
SANADA fights free on the top rope though, before he got caught with an avalanche Exploder. Kicks from Nagata get him a two-count before he went for a Backdrop Hold, but SANADA dead weights… and tries for a Japanese leg clutch pin. Nagata kicks out and goes for the Nagata Lock II crossface, only for it to be broken in the ropes… so Nagata throws in a Magic Screw of his own for a near-fall. SANADA replies with a Skull End, but Nagata breaks the grip as he adjusted SANADA’s grip to make him need a rope break more. Smart. The pair get back to their feet and trade elbows, before an enziguiri and a spinning heel kick from Nagata looked to set him on his way. A backflip out of the corner from SANADA looks to overshoot, but he still puts on the Dragon sleeper, before dragging Nagata into a Skull End. The referee’s about to call it, but SANADA lets go and heads up top for the moonsault… and luckily for him it lands flush as SANADA gets the win. A slight step up from their Korakuen match last month, with this feeling important because of the tournament – but sadly it wasn’t to be for Nagata today. ***½
New Japan Cup 2021 – Second Round: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay
Ah. Thirteen months ago, I saw this match live at York Hall – right before the world went to hell. A lot’s happened since then, some of which has meant that a match that would have been hyped up a lot among some corners of the European fan base has ended up barely getting any chatter.
Ospreay shoots out of the blocks, dropkicking Sabre to the outside for a plancha.. Then returning inside for a springboard forearm as he tried to win this in quick time. An OsCutter’s caught and turned into a Euro clutch for a near-fall too, ending a frantic first 30-seconds as they changed the pace. Sabre catches a kick and rolls Ospreay to the mat, then looked to work the arm. Ospreay floats free, then cartwheeled out of a takedown attempt before Sabre spun from a backslide into a Cobra Twist. Ospreay hiptosses free and returned with a dropkick, taking Sabre outside for… a baseball slide and a forearm to the head. A chop from Ospreay stung both men, as Sabre’s chucked into the guard rails.
They trade right hands as Ospreay proceeds to elbow Sabre on the apron ahead of a knee drop to the back of the head. Sabre beats the count, but gets kicked down back inside the ring as a knee drop from Ospreay lands for a two-count. Ospreay again shoves Sabre to the outside, but ZSJ beats the count as Ospreay stays on him with more chops. A toe hold from Ospreay is escapes as Sabre looked to find an opening, which he did by going after Ospreay’s taped-up arm, forcing it back as he stomps on the elbow. Twisting the arm between his legs only exacerbated things, before an exchange led to a grounded Octopus that Ospreay hurriedly broke in the ropes. Ospreay tries for a handspring enziguiri, and eventually lands it, before he went back to the chops.
Taking Sabre to the corner, Ospreay’s chops get him in trouble… only to escape with a reverse Bloody Sunday for a near-fall. Sabre still can’t really get into it though as Ospreay keeps him down with forearms, before Kawada-style kicks led to Sabre leaping up for an Octopus hold… which Ospreay thought he’d escaped free of, only for Sabre to blast back with a PK. Ospreay blocks a Zack Driver and came back with a superkick, but Zack kicks out Ospreay’s legs and ragdolled him into a rear naked choke… only for Ospreay to get to his feet and pop Sabre up and free, taking him to the corner for the Cheeky Nando’s. An OsCutter followed for a near-fall, before Sabre tries to nick it with another Euro clutch, only for Ospreay to kick out and deck him with a rolling elbow.
Sabre fights back with a guillotine, before a Mistica planted Ospreay for a double armbar… but Ospreay rolls free and ends up getting spiked with a Zack Driver for a near-fall. A triangle armbar has Sabre ahead – and shows off how Ospreay splatted his nose on that Mistica, as he’s showered Sabre’s leg with blood. The crimson continues to trail as they head up top, with Sabre pulling Ospreay down into a cross armbar, transitioning it into a grounded version of Sabre’s old Young Boy Killer that ended in the ropes.
Zack’s back, but his PK is caught… so he slaps and boots away Ospreay, before he leapt into a backslide. Ospreay counters eventually into almost K-Kwik’s old Hat Rack Crack for a near-fall, before Sabre countered a backslide into a bridging backslide. Near-fall. Kicks. A springboard OsCutter off the top’s caught, but Ospreay hits a rolling elbow before the Storm Breaker gets the win. This is going to be divisive, but purely on a “separate the art from the artists” level, I absolutely loved this main event. The frantic start had me worried that they were perhaps going to get cute, but this simmered away and hit the peak at exactly the right moment – with perhaps the errant blood adding where the “who are we meant to be cheering for?” thing likely would drag it down for some. ****¾
The tour returns to Korakuen Hall on Monday for the first of two nights – with Monday’s show wrapping up the second round with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White in the main event. That main event today though… Sabre and Ospreay rarely fail to deliver, and it was no exception here today. This was a really solid show from top to bottom, but that main event made me look at those brackets… and there seems to be a real good shot of an Ospreay/Shingo final next weekend. Anyone else up for a BOSJ rematch?