AXS TV’s coverage of the 2018 New Japan Cup continues! Juice Robinson will take on Hiroshi Tanahashi while Zack Sabre Jr. takes on Sanada. Will The Ace of NJPW continue his triumphant return from injury over the Flamboyant up and comer? Will it be the Cold Skull or the Technical Wizard who will #JustTapOut?
This review of The New Japan Cup 2018 will be as broadcast by AXS TV.
Therefore, all images are courtesy of AXS TV.
- Juice Robinson VS Hiroshi Tanahashi; Tanahashi wins and advances to the finals.
- Zack Sabre Jr. VS Sanada; ZSJ wins and advances to the finals.
PLAY BY PLAY
AXS TV and NJPW review the action to this point.
Juice Robinson upsets Unbreakable Big Mike while the Once in a Century Talent survives Bullet Club’s Underboss. Meanwhile, Sanada silenced the Sublime Master Thief, and ZJS did as Taka Michinoku said: he made Kota Ibushi #JustTapOut. They are the final four, who will overcome who in order to fight for THE New Japan Cup’s title shot opportunity?
Juice Robinson VS Hiroshi Tanahashi!
It’s Taguchi Japan VS Taguchi Japan as young and old battle to take that last step to the finals. Will The Flamboyant or the Ace be the first to qualify for the coveted title opportunity?
We cut to both Juice and Tanahashi down on the ground outside the ring. Juice drags himself up to his feet with the help of barriers. He rallies the fans while he goes over to Tanahashi. Juice puts Tanahashi in the ring at the count of 9, then fires up before climbing to the top rope. Juice takes aim, but Tanahashi hits the ropes to trip him up! Tanahashi catches his breath under the bottom rope while Juice tumbles down to the mat. Now Tanahashi climbs, but Juice returns the favor, barreling into Red Shoes and the ropes to trip Tanahashi up! Tanahashi tumbles down now, and fans rally while they recover from crotch damage. They stir while Red Shoes checks on them. Tanahashi stands, followed by Juice.
Tanahashi throws a forearm, but Juice shakes it off to give one back. They trade more forearms, each daring the other to hit harder. The pace quickens as they continue back and forth. Tanahashi adds a European Uppercut, but Juice gives a chop! Tanahashi teeters so Juice chops him again. Juice gives a third, then fireman’s carry, but Tanahashi blocks the gutbuster to go after the leg! Grounded dragon screw! Fans rally for Tanahashi as he goes after the legs again. Juice crawls to ropes and gets the break. Tanahashi lets go, but then stomps the legs. He drags Juice up and whips, but Juice reverses. Tanahashi blocks the leg lariat to hit another dragon screw! Tanahashi goes back to the legs, and turns Juice over for the Texas Cloverleaf!
Juice endures the bending and pulling, and reaches for ropes. Tanahashi looses a bit of his grip, and Juice gets the ropebreak! Fans applaud Juice’s heart, but Tanahashi is still in control. He stomps the legs more, then dares Juice to stand. Juice starts, Tanahashi runs, but Juice gets Tanahashi with the full nelson slam! Cover, TWO! Juice has evened the playing field while we go to break.
NJPW on AXS returns as Juice stands and fires up. He runs, and clotheslines Tanahashi down! Cover, TWO! Juice keeps his cool but the fans are on Tanahashi’s side. Tanahashi stirs but Juice is up again. Juice waits for Tanahashi, then prepares the chicken wings. He turns Tanahashi but Tanahashi shoves Juice, then dodges a clothesline to hit a slingblade! Cover, TWO, but so close! Tanahashi keeps going, climbing up top again. Juice stands and rocks Tanahashi with a left hook! Tanahashi teeters on top while Juice catches his breath. Juice slowly climbs up to join Tanahashi, and prepares the superplex, but Tanahashi resists. Tanahashi hits back and headbutts Juice down.
Tanahashi fires up while Juice stands back up, flying crossbody! But a roll through from Juice, TWO!! Juice can’t believe how close he was. Both men are down, tired from this no-time-limit match. They crawl to each other, Juice gets the facelock. He lifts Tanahashi in the suplex, but Tanahashi comes down and hits a swinging neckbreaker! Tanahashi doesn’t end it there, he brings Juice back up for a second! Then a– No, Juice blocks the third neckbreaker by hitting a suplex gutbuster!
Cover, TWO!! Even closer, but still not enough. Fans duel now between Juice and Tanahashi. Juice thinks on what to do, and he goes to a corner. He slowly makes his way up while Tanahashi stands, Juice hits a flying crossbody of his own! Juice is all fired up as he goes back to the corner and up again. Juice hits a frog splash! Cover, TWO!? But how?! Juice argues with Red Shoes, that couldn’t have been two! Fans are thunderous for Tanahashi while Juice grows frustrated.
Juice drags Tanahashi up, chicken wings, and the turn, but Tanahashi uses all his strength and turns it back around! But then Juice turns it further around! Tanahashi slips his arms out to go for a full nelson, but Juice breaks free. Juice elbows Tanahashi, but Tanahashi catches him with a left hand. Juice gives a left hand back, but Tanahashi gives another. Tanahashi grabs Juice in the full nelson, for the Dragon Suplex!
Tanahashi climbs up top again. He hits High Fly Flow to Juice’s back!
But that’s not all, Tanahashi goes back up again! High Fly Flow to Juice’s front! Cover, Tanahashi wins!
Winner: Tanahashi, by pinfall
The Ace stays alive in the tournament! Juice gave it his all, but it wasn’t enough to stop this Once in a Century Talent. Who will meet Tanahashi in the finals?
Zack Sabre Jr. w/ Taka Michinoku VS Sanada!
One of NJPW’s best submission wrestlers, if not already THE best, has an arsenal of holds with which he can torture his opponents. However, the Cold Skull of Los Ingobernables de Japon only needs one. Who will make who #JustTapOut to then meet The Ace in the New Japan Cup Finals?
Taka Michinoku again speaks before the match. “The New Japan Cup Tournament 2018 semifinals…” Zack Sabre Jr. VS Sanada, who wins? Fans cheer “Zack!” And who wins it all? “Zack!” Who takes the New Japan Cup? The man who can finish anyone with any lock anywhere. The man with unlimited submission holds. And the man who already beat Naito and Ibushi, the Submission Master, ZSJ, Zack Sabre Jr! And anyone who gets in his way, will give up and #JustTapOut! Let’s begin this semifinal match. Sanada, “C’mon over here!”
The bell rings, and we begin this no-time-limit match. Sanada and ZSJ circle, feeling each other out. They tie up, but ZSJ gets away from Sanada’s grip. They go again, and ZSJ gets the armlock takedown. He wrenches the wrist but Sanada stands up. ZSJ spins around to keep that wrist control, and brings Sanada back down. He shifts to a headlock and wants the armlock but Sanada reaches with his legs to get the ropebreak. ZSJ lets go and Sanada stands back up. They circle again, tie up, but now Sanada gets wrist control. Sanada wrenches ZSJ but ZSJ rolls, only to be brought down. Sanada shifts to a keylock but ZSJ rolls around to stand up. ZSJ grabs Sanada’s head but Sanada brings ZSJ back down to the mat.
ZSJ rolls around and stands up while grinding a forearm into Sanada’s face. He rolls and bends to reverse the wristlock back onto Sanada. Sanada rolls and spins and even cartwheels to then throw ZSJ with an arm-wringer. Fans applaud this impressive exchange while both men go to corners. Both Sanada and ZSJ work to get feeling back into their arms as they circle again. Sanada calls for a test of strength and ZSJ accepts. Sanada brings ZSJ to his knees with the knuckle lock, but ZSJ turns it around on him. ZSJ brings Sanada to his knees but Sanada turns it back. It becomes a double knuckle lock, but ZSJ uses that to stand back up. He and Sanada go shoulder to shoulder, both trying to find a point of leverage.
Sanada brings ZSJ down to the mat and it’s a cover, TWO as ZSJ bridges. ZSJ moves around and pries himself out of the knuckle locks to then trap one of Sanada’s arms and wrench the other. ZSJ shifts that into a double armlock, and even uses his chin to keep the top arm back.
Sanada endures but ZSJ rolls him over to a cover, TWO as Sanada manages to sit back up. ZSJ again shifts around for a seated motorcycle stretch, and digs his forehead between Sanada’s shoulders. Sanada works to stand up but ZSJ holds on. Sanada uses his power to turn the hold onto ZSJ! ZSJ endures the stretch and stands up, but he doesn’t have the pure strength to turn Sanada. Sanada adds a boot into it and pulls back on ZSJ. ZSJ stands to try the rotation again, but Sanada still powers him down. ZSJ works at it a third time, and manages the turn, only for Sanada to turn it all the way back. With power not working, ZSJ uses agility as he flips and kicks Sanada off the hold. Sanada kip-ups, then throws ZSJ out of the ring.
Sanada builds speed, but tumbles to the apron when ZSJ gets clear. Now Sanada shows off his agility as he tumbles back into the ring. ZSJ grows frustrated, and even threatens a young lion at ringside. Michinoku calms ZSJ down while we go to break.
NJPW on AXS returns, and ZSJ takes a good part of the 20-count to compose himself. He gets back in at 18, and circles with Sanada again. ZSJ won’t tie up with Sanada yet, he needs a few more seconds. When they do tie up, Sanada uses another double knuckle lock to bring ZSJ to his knees. Sanada even brings ZSJ down to his elbows. ZSJ rolls back and reverses the knuckle locks, then wraps Sanada up in a straitjacket. ZSJ brings Sanada down to his knees, but Sanada reverses the hold with a double arm-drag. Sanada bends ZSJ back with the straitjacket, but ZSJ stands up. He reverses the hold but Sanada uses another arm-drag to reverse it back. ZSJ uses a foot to pry out of the straitjacket, but Sanada pulls ZSJ right back into it.
ZSJ ducks under and uses the arms in a pumphandle flip and he puts Sanada back, but Sanada still flips the hold back onto ZSJ! Michinoku coaches ZSJ, ZSJ stands and bends back to spin and put Sanada back, but Sanada uses yet another arm-drag to put ZSJ back in it. Fans applaud this back and forth while ZSJ stands. ZSJ shimmies the arms down, thereby slipping out of the straitjacket entirely. He then hits Sanada with a EuroUpper, but runs into Sanada’s headscissors! ZSJ gets out of the ring, but Sanada slingshots onto him!
They both go down with the slingshot dive, but Sanada is up first. He checks his wrists while ZSJ rests against the barriers. Sanada fetches ZSJ and puts him in the ring. Fans applaud while Sanada enters from the other side. He goes back to ZSJ and rocks him with a right forearm. He stands ZSJ up for another, and waits while ZSJ checks his face. ZSJ stands up and hits back with a EuroUpper and a kick, but Sanada blocks to then go for the Paradise Lock. ZSJ resists at every turn, and brings Sanada down into an armbar! Sanada rolls it and goes for the dragon sleeper! ZSJ scrambles out of that to then Pele kick Sanada’s arm, then Pele kick the other arm! Sanada gets to a corner for safety, but ZSJ walks over. ZSJ simply stands on Sanada’s shoulders and face to toy with him.
Red Shoes has ZSJ back off, and Sanada slips out of the ring. Sanada takes time to recover his arms. He returns at 10, but ZSJ is on him and those arms in a seated hammerlock. ZSJ goes after the free arm and bends it from fingers to wrist. He shifts it to a crucifix cover, TWO, but ZSJ maintains the almost Rings of Saturn style hold. Sanada endures as ZSJ rolls him around more, into a cradle-like cover, but Sanada gets the ropebreak thanks to his legs. ZSJ is annoyed, but he backs off while Sanada rests in the corner. Fans rally while Sanada stands. Sanada chops ZSJ over and over, but ZSJ kicks the arm. ZSJ runs, Sanada jumps, but ZSJ catches his leg and brings him down a la flapjack. ZSJ then slips right into a grapevine leg and arm lock.
Now ZSJ shifts to a Disarmer, and bends the fingers and wrist before standing up for a hammerlock twist. Sanada writhes while ZSJ walks around. Red Shoes determines Sanada is okay to continue, so ZSJ goes right after the arms again. He twists the wrist and even the elbow. Fans rally while Sanada resists, and Sanada gives ZSJ a forearm. ZSJ wrenches the arm but Sanada hits him again. Sanada keeps hitting ZSJ then whips corner to corner, but ZSJ ducks the boot. ZSJ headbutts the stomach and gives another EuroUpper before running again. Sanada jumps over a couple times then dropkicks ZSJ down! Sanada puts the dazed ZSJ into the Paradise Lock! ZSJ protests being humiliated, but that doesn’t stop Sanada from dropkicking him out of Paradise!
Sanada stands again while ZSJ clutches his bottom. ZSJ resists the saido suplex, and gets the arm before giving another EuroUpper. Sanada staggers, but still lifts ZSJ in the fireman’s carry, only for ZSJ to bring him down with an armbar. ZSJ keeps going, but Sanada gets the ropebreak. This submission showcase continues after we go to break.
NJPW on AXS returns one more time as ZSJ stands back up. He walks around while fans rally for Sanada. ZSJ kicks Sanada’s arms, and even toys with him, but Sanada makes him pay with big forearm shots. Sanada whips but ZSJ blocks the hip toss, right into the abdominal stretch! Sanada endures while the fans rally for him, and he reverses the hold onto ZSJ! ZSJ pries his way out to then put the hold back on to Sanada. Sanada turns it back, but ZSJ turns it back again, and they go around and around until Sanada shoves ZSJ away. Sanada then grabs ZSJ for a big back suplex! Cover, TWO! Sanada hurries to a corner, MOONSAULT, but he lands on his feet as ZSJ evades. They run at each other, but ZSJ knocks Sanada over with the EuroUpper.
ZSJ runs again, Penalty Kick! Both men are down from exhaustion, but ZSJ gets himself moving again. ZSJ doesn’t cover, he bends Sanada’s arm back for the hammerlock stomp! Sanada clutches that arm, but ZSJ goes after the other for another hammerlock stomp. ZSJ catches his breath while Sanada writhes in pain. ZSJ toys with Sanada as he kicks the shoulders. He goes after one arm in another Disarmer, then gives it another hammerlock stomp. Sanada gets to a corner, but ZSJ dares him to fight. Sanada throws a forearm, then another, but ZSJ gives back EuroUppers. ZSJ whips but Sanada tumbles to the apron to then springboard for a missile dropkick!
Both men are down again. Michinoku coaches ZSJ up while fans rally for Sanada. Both men get to opposite corners. They run at each other again, ZSJ gives another EuroUpper. Sanada lifts ZSJ in a fireman’s carry, but ZSJ slips into a guillotine! Then the hoverboard armlock! But Sanada uses more power to work out of the hold, and spins ZSJ to the dragon sleeper! He swings ZSJ around, but ZSJ spins back around to give Sanada the arm snap! ZSJ stands, then runs, but into the roll-up and the dragon sleeper. Sanada lifts with the inverted suplex, but ZSJ slips out and under for the double leg takedown. ZSJ hops forward for the chicken wing roll and bridge back! TWO, into Skull End!
Michinoku shouts for ZSJ to resists. Sanada goes to completely lock it in, but ZSJ slips out and around to get that bridge again! TWO!! ZSJ can’t believe he didn’t get it. Sanada gets him with a EuroUpper of his own! Fans rally again while ZSJ is reeling. Sanada brings him up, fireman’s carry, but ZSJ slips to a backpack sleeper, then climbs around to the front, for a triangle hold! He brings Sanada down to the mat, and grabs the free arm for an armbar. Sanada endures, but he’s fading. He uses a last gas to deadlift ZSJ up, powerbomb position to fireman’s carry to the TKO!
Cover, TWO!! Sanada grows frustrated with ZSJ but the fans are thunderous. Sanada stands and feeds off the crowd. ZSJ stands but Sanada has the double chicken wing, and hits tiger suplex! TWO, but he keeps going. Sanada hits ZSJ with a backbreaker, then hurries to a corner, for the MOONSAULT! But into ZSJ’s knees! Then the triangle! ZSJ drives his elbows into Sanada’s head then adds a keylock to the triangle. Sanada reaches but fades. He tries once more to deadlift, but ZSJ just shifts things to the coil lock. ZSJ wants the Rings but Sanada reaches. Sanada can’t, and ZSJ puts him in a hold very much like what he used on Kota Ibushi!
Sanada endures, reaches with his legs, but now ZSJ grabs those for a Bow ‘n’ Arrow modification. ZSJ headbutts Sanada’s ribs, then pulls back. Sanada verbally quits, ZSJ wins!
Winner: ZSJ, by submission
The only reason Sanada didn’t tap out was because the Technical Wizard had both arms trapped. And again, Michinoku asks, “Zack Sabre Jr. VS Sanada, who won?” And he knows everyone knows who ZSJ’s opponent in the finals will be. It may be Hiroshi Tanahashi, but it doesn’t matter who it would be. You step to ZSJ, “Just Tap Out!” So who will win between Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Jr? Who will win the New Japan Cup 2018? You’re already looking at the 2018 New Japan Cup Champion, the man who can finish anyone with any lock, anytime, anywhere. The man who knows unlimited holds. And the man who defeated Naito, Ibushi and now Sanada, the Submission Master, ZSJ: Zack Sabre Jr! Will Michinoku’s predictions come true again in the final round?
ZSJ admits Sanada’s Skull End is a “good submission”, but not against the Submission Master’s 7822 different submissions. By ZSJ’s count, he only used about five or six in that match. And for Tanahashi, a living legend, ZSJ makes sure he knows “all legends must die.” Tanahashi is held together by hair spray and athletic tape. ZSJ wants to put the Ace out of his misery. The cup will be ZSJ’s, as will Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight title. Confident as ever, will the Technical Wizard force Tanahashi to #JustTapOut?
Another great pair of matches. I thought there’d be more of Juice VS Tanahashi, but since both matches went pretty long, there probably wasn’t a way to fit them both into one hour, with commercials. What we did see of Juice VS Tanahashi was still really good, and Juice is slowly making gains in the heavyweight division. But as Juice is not there yet, Tanahashi goes over to be one of this year’s finalists.
Then ZSJ VS Sanada, from start to finish, was so great with the submission holds as the way to tell the story. ZSJ is touted as the Submission Master, the best of all submission users, but Sanada gave him quite the challenge. But because Sanada played ZSJ’s game, he ends up losing. ZSJ builds a lot of momentum defeating Ibushi and two members of LIJ on the way to the finals, and we get a great story going into the finals: Tanahashi has a grudge against Suzuki-Gun, especially Minoru Suzuki, and now tries to get to Minoru through his protege.
My Score: 8/10