We’ve another pair of matches from the New Japan Cup as Tomohiro Ishii and SANADA headline in Okayama.

Quick Results
EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale submitted Yuya Uemura, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano in 9:23 (**)
Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay pinned Gabriel Kidd, Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima in 8:36 (**¾)
Toa Henare, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay pinned Gedo, Jay White, Chase Owens & KENTA in 11:43 (**¾)
Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada & SHO pinned BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito in 13:31 (***¼)
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: Yuji Nagata pinned Yota Tsuji in 13:42 (***½)
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: SANADA pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 25:19 (****¼)

We’re at the ZIP Arena in Okayama for this one, with the usual Japanese-only commentary on the live feed…

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL) vs. Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Yuya Uemura
Yano’s entrance gives me time to format this review in advance…

We’ve a jump start to get things going as the Bullet Club took things outside, while Yano renewed acquaintances with Bad Luck Fale. Yano escapes a splash in the corner and removes a turnbuckle pad, but Fale escapes as Yano tagged out to Uemura. Poor kid. A back elbow from Fale bounces Uemura to the mat, before a bodyslam from EVIL got him a series of two-counts. Yujiro’s next, but he kicks YOSHI-HASHI off the apron rather than go for a PK (since he faces YOSHI-HASHI tomorrow), then went for another bodyslam on Uemura, who was kicking out of the rather simple offence.

Fale’s back to hit some body blows in the corner, knocking back Uemura as he tried to respond. Boot choking forces the referee to make a separation. Yujiro returns and booted Uemura into the ropes, before the Young Lion returned with a big dropkick. In comes YOSHI-HASHI, who clears the apron before snapping Yujiro with a Head Hunter. YOSHI-HASHI pulls Yujiro down into a Butterfly Lock seconds later, before Fale chases Yano out of the ring. Yeah, Fale throws Yano into the guard rails as Yujiro and YOSHI-HASHI trade right hands, leading to a Fisherman suplex attempt from Yujiro that ends up as a reverse DDT.

EVIL tags in and throws YOSHI-HASHI into the exposed corner, but a leaping spin kick from YOSHI-HASHI gets himself free as Uemura begged to come back in. He gets the tag and goes for EVIL with forearms, eventually knocking him down as Yano and YOSHI-HASHI come in to help triple-team with charges into the corner. A back suplex from Uemura gets him a near-fall on EVIL, before he looked to wind up for a Kanuki suplex. EVIL just throws him into the exposed corner to break it up, then hit a clothesline before Uemura’s roll-ups ended with him getting folded him half with another clothesline. From there, EVIL rolls him into a Scorpion Deathlock, but Uemura couldn’t make any progress towards the ropes and ends up submitting. There wasn’t much to this one, but it at least ticked the boxes for building up tomorrow’s match, while keeping EVIL warm in lieu of his first round match. **

United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb) vs. Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma & Gabriel Kidd
We’re still re-running past matches as the United Empire prepare for their second round matches…

Honma and O-Khan start us off, but they instantly head into the ropes with O-Khan breaking cleanly… only for Cobb to grab Honma from behind for the cheapshot. Mongolian chops from O-Khan drop Honma and Kojima, before Kidd ran in and helped charge down O-Khan… only for Honma to miss a Kokeshi.

O-Khan picks up from there by charging Honma to the corner to have a seat, before Cobb came in and draped Honma against the top rope for a flying stomp from Ospreay. Honma fights out of the corner and catches Ospreay with a Kokeshi before Kojima came in and lit up Ospreay with some Machine Gun chops. Ospreay’s back up to avoid the top rope elbow drop, before Kojima cut him off with a DDT.

Mongolian chops from O-Khan stop Kojima’s momentum briefly, only to get cut-off with another one as Ospreay’s springboard forearm restored order. Cobb’s in, but he couldn’t restrain Kojima, who tags out to Kidd… Gabe’s all afire with forearms to Cobb, then a double chop, before a slam was stopped by interference from Ospreay.

Kidd misses a dropkick, but manages to suplex Ospreay as Cobb ends up getting triple-teamed, ahead of a slam from Kidd. Honma finally gets his Kokeshi, before a back senton from Kidd gets him a near-fall. My feed drops out as Cobb regained the upper hand, and recovers just in time for Kidd to get dropped with a Tour of the Islands. Fix your player, NJPW World. What I saw amid the buffering was fine, as the United Empire keep building momentum. **¾

Bullet Club (Jay White, KENTA, Chase Owens & Gedo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Toa Henare
We’re building up to two matches tomorrow – but Jay White’s perturbed by the bell going early, so he just tags out to Gedo.

Of course it’s a ploy as White attacks Henare from behind when Gedo’s decked, but the Kiwi’s quickly taken outside. Tanahashi wrings Gedo’s arm as Finlay – complete in new gear that resembles Juice Robinson’s current get up – dropped a double sledge. Juice comes in too, but the pair pulling on him gets neutralised as the lads go after Gedo’s beard.

Tanahashi stays on Gedo despite distractions, but gets tripped in the ropes by White, who pulls him out and charges him into the rails. That leads to a long period of offence on Tanahashi, as the Bullet Club work over his perennially injured knee, with a toe hold from White keeping Tanahashi down for some eye rakes from Gedo. Owens gets a near-fall on Tanahashi before he’s met with a Dragon screw, allowing Tanahashi to tag in Finlay for that preview. A diving uppercut knocks Chase down before Juice comes into help with a double facebuster on KENTA. A backbreaker/elbow drop gets Finlay a two-count on Chase, before tags get us back to Henare and White.

Henare ducks right hands and hits a leaping shoulder tackle, then a suplex as he left White laying. White elbows out of a uranage, but can’t avoid a running Samoan drop as Henare picks up a two-count, before a DDT stopped Henare’s momentum in a hurry. Gedo’s back in to pick up the pieces with a chinbreaker, then a superkick for a near-fall, before he went to his pocket for the brass knuckles. Okay?

Chase Owens tries a belt shot as the ref was distracted, sparking a Parade of Moves with Juice’s Dusty punches laying out KENTA as we buffer. It’s brief though, as Gedo comes back… but White’s interference leads to a Slingblade from Tanahashi as we finish off with a death valley driver from Henare on Gedo for the win. **¾

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & SHO
Our final undercard tag is building up to Shingo vs. Goto on Saturday…

It’s Goto and Shingo who get us going, starting with shoulder tackles, but it’s Shingo who edges ahead in those early exchanges before he tagged out to Naito. An inverted cravat has Goto on the defensive, but he manages to get to the corner to bring in SHO for a shoulder tackle and kicks before an armbreaker from SHO led to Naito fighting back with a Manhattan drop.

BUSHI runs in with headscissors to SHO as LIJ cleared the apron, leading to Shingo posting Goto. Naito begins to work over SHO’s arm, trapping the arm as BUSHI tagged in to wrap the arm around the top rope. The one-way traffic remains as BUSHI leaps in with a double sledge off the top to SHO for a two-count, before SHO’s attempt to fight back saw him break free of an arm wringer.

BUSHI tries a cheapshot, but he’s knocked down as Naito’s swinging DDT gets countered into a suplex. SHO makes the tag to Okada, who nails a DDT out of the corner for a two-count on Naito, who replies with a neckbreaker to leave things even. Shingo returns to go for a noshigami, but Okada blocks it and returned with a big boot. Goto’s back for another go around with Shingo, crashing in with a spinning heel kick into the corner and a bulldog out of it for a two-count. A clothesline from Shingo puts Goto back in the corner ahead of a suplex, before they trade clotheslines. Neither man initially budges, until Shingo’s elbow and jab rocked Goto briefly… before two more clotheslines left both men down.

BUSHI tags in to try and get the unlikely (for him) win, landing an overhead kick in the corner before a missile dropkick left Goto down. Naito’s in to help with a low dropkick from BUSHI’s see-saw sunset flip… but Goto kicks out at two before he avoided Terrible, with SHO coming in to spark a Parade of Moves. That comes to an end with Goto’s clothesline on Shingo, before he dropped BUSHI with an ushigoroshi… then a GTR for the win. Pretty good for the spot, with Goto vs. Shingo being a very tantalisting second round match – even if it wasn’t Goto’s first choice of opponent! ***¼

New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: Yota Tsuji vs. Yuji Nagata
After Gabriel Kidd came unstuck on Sunday, can Yota Tsuji pick up a shock win and make it through to the second round?

Tsuji looks to take down Nagata early on, but there’s a switcharound on the mat as the veteran came back with a wristlock before pushing away Tsuji’s reversal. Right hands from Tsuji take Nagata into the corner for some elbows, where elbows leave Nagata in a heap as a cravat then took Nagata down for a chinlock. Nagata gets free and comes back with some kicks, then arm breakers as he pulled Tsuji down into a Fujiwara armbar. Tsuji gets free, but an arm breaker has him back down again before Tsuji was forced to absorb a series of mid kicks as he eventually took down Nagata with a dropkick.

A slam from Tsuji drops Nagata ahead of a flip senton and the Mount Tsuji splash for a near-fall. Nagata elbows back and hits a butterfly suplex on Tsuji for a two-count, but he struggles to lock in the Nagata Lock II as Tsuji resisted the grip, before an attempt to drag himself to the ropes ended with Nagata rolling him away. Tsuji resorts to dirty tactics to bite his way free, before Nagata’s crucifix pin led to a two-count, with Tsuji’s kick-out almost getting him the win… but Tsuji’s left in a heap, which turned out to he a ploy as he busts out some lucha roll-ups to get two-counts, before a spear caught Nagata for a near-fall.

A Boston crab traps Nagata in the middle of the ring, threatening to get the unlikely win… but Nagata’s able to hand-walk to the ropes for the break. Tsuji tries to follow up, but a kitchen sink knee to the gut spins him down. Elbows from both men go back and forth, but an Exploder from Nagata takes Tsuji into the corner, before he countered out of a backdrop hold and nearly win with a roll-up. Slaps leave Nagata on jelly legs, but a spinning heel kick drops Tsuji… with a Backdrop Hold then booking Nagata’s spot in the second round. The result was never in question, as this was more about the journey – and Tsuji looked good in defeat here, as you do have to wonder how long he’ll be left in the Young Lion ranks for. ***½

New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Winner faces Nagata on Sunday in the second round – and all three of this pair’s prior matches have come in tournaments, with Ishii winning the last two (in 2018’s G1 and 2017’s New Japan Cup).

The bell rings. AND WE BUFFER. I only miss wristlocks and hammerlocks though as Ishii takes SANADA to the mat, only for SANADA to cartwheel his way free of a wristlock as he countered back with a side headlock. Ishii breaks free, then countered out of a Paradise Lock attempt, cradling SANADA before they broke down into an exchange of elbows.

A shoulder tackle off the ropes charges down SANADA, before they offered each other up for chops. Ishii again wins out as he backs SANADA into the corner. Elbows from SANADA see him try to force Ishii back, but a single shot knocks SANADA down. SANADA gets back to his feet and throws some more elbows, but Ishii just slaps him back before a low dropkick took down the Stone Pitbull. Buffering takes us to the SANADA plancha on the outside, before SANADA finally got the Paradise Lock back on in the ring, tying up Ishii for a dropkick to the arse. Which woke him up in an even more surly mood than usual, as Ishii responded with chops and forearms to take SANADA into the corner.

Elbows and headbutts knock SANADA down, but SANADA’s back up to trade more elbows and uppercuts as he has Ishii on the back foot. Shoving the ref aside, SANADA lays into Ishii in the corner, before Ishii popped up from a backdrop suplex and delivered one of his own. SANADA’s back up and takes a second one, then hot a dropkick to take Ishii down as the pace suddenly dialled up.

Taking SANADA into the corner, Ishii hits a German suplex into the buckles, then lifts SANADA up top for a stalling superplex. More buffering sees me miss a bit as we return to Ishii dropping SANADA with a rolling elbow, before a powerbomb led to a near-fall. Oh, and more buffering. A clothesline from SANADA leads to a Skull End attempt, but Ishii fights free, only for SANADA to backflip into the Skull End, this time scissoring Ishii’s body to keep him down.

Ishii manages to break the bodyscissors, but he’s still pinned back in the Skull End… almost for too long as the referee was about to wave off the match before Ishii got to the ropes. SANADA keeps the pressure up with a Magic Screw for a two-count, then a Tiger suplex… but Ishii’s still got something left in the tank and kicks out at two.

SANADA heads up top and hits a moonsault to the back… then rolled Ishii over so he could land a second one, but Ishii rolls away… only for SANADA to backflip off the top rope into another Skull End. This time though, Ishii backflips out, only to miss a sliding lariat as he finally connects with a leaping enziguiri. A sliding lariat connects for a near-fall as Ishii teases a sheer drop brainbuster… they doe-see-doe around finishers, until an O’Connor roll from SANADA almost got the win!

Ishii’s back up with another lariat, then elbows, but SANADA fires back in kind before a headbutt left both men down. SANADA ‘ranas away from Ishii, then lands a pop-up cutter to turn it back around, before the moonsault gets SANADA the win and a ticket to Yuji Nagata in the second round. This was a great match – at least, what I saw of it. While I may be the low man on this, but I’m not about to spend the best part of half an hour rewatching to “add a quarter star” or whatever. It’s good enough to make “the notebook” and that should be good enough to make it to your lists too! ****¼

The tour continues tomorrow in Kyoto with more first-round action, giving us the rough with the smooth: David Finlay vs. Chase Owens… and finally Henare vs. Jay White.

My viewing was massively hampered by one thing, so let me call it out again. Fix your goddamn player, NJPW World. Unless there’s a sudden surge of people watching these shows live, I don’t get how (say) Castle Attack works fine, yet the under-the-radar day four of the New Japan Cup buffers in almost every single match? The annoying thing is, this isn’t limited to the live streams, with VODs throwing a fit if you dare skip ahead. If you’re able to watch this without buffering and what have you, the top two matches are more than worth your time, assuming the technology hasn’t chased you away!