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Andrew’s 1st Round New Japan Cup 2019 Ratings & Analysis

Andrew’s bringing all of the first Round of the New Japan Cup! That’s what the people want, right?

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Andrew’s bringing all of the first Round of the New Japan Cup! That’s what the people want, right?

Well now look at how fancy the New Japan Cup is feeling this year. Allowing other champions to participate and extending the field to 32, since this tournament feeds into the main event slot of G1 Supercard against Jay White.

A few new faces, a few under utilized veterans, New Japan Cup debuts and just a regular smorgasbord of NJPW talent. Sadly for David Finlay, an injury at Honor Rising forced him out of the tournament. So what could’ve been a break out moment for him, instead goes to the master of the Funky Weapon, Ryusuke Taguchi!

Let’s see how the first round panned out!

Ratings:

  • YOSHI-HASHI vs Manabu Nakanishi: Yoshi wins via Butterfly Lock @12:25 – *** 1/4
  • Taichi vs Tomoaki Honma: Taichi wins via Dragon Sleeper @17:55 – ** 3/4
  • Juice Robinson vs Chase Owens: Owens wins via Package Piledriver @24:40  – *** 1/2
  • Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii: Ishii wins via Vertical Drop Brainbuster @21:40 – **** 1/2
  • Lance Archer vs Toa Henare: Archer wins via Blackout @11:15 – ** 1/4
  • Hikuleo vs Mikey Ncholls: Nicholls wins via Mikey Bomb @9:00 – * 3/4
  • Bad Luck Fale vs Will Ospreay: Ospreay wins via Hurricanrana @11:40 – ***
  • Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Rainmaker @24:10 – **** 1/4
  • Ryusuke Taguchi vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Taguchi wins via Cradle @12:10 – ** 1/2
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shota Umino: Tanahashi wins via Texas Cloverleaf @14:45 – *** 3/4
  • EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr: ZSJ wins via Ground Octopus Stretch @15:40 – ****
  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye @20:40 – **** 3/4
  • Toru Yano vs Davey Boy Smith Jr: Yano wins via Roll-up @7:25 – * 1/2
  • Colt Cabana vs Togi Makabe: Cabana wins via Superman Cradle @5:30 – ** 1/4
  • Satoshi Kojima vs Minoru Suzuki: Suzuki wins via Gotch Style Piledriver @13:45 – *** 3/4
  • SANADA vs Hirooki Goto: SANADA wins via Moonsault @20:45 – **** 1/4

 

Analysis:

So now as many know, YOSHI-HASHI is a rolling ball of disappointment, but going against the veteran Nakanishi…he’s got a shot. Nakanishi will be known to some by the name of Kurosawa in WCW. However, he looks much different now and this match was interesting. Nakanishi really fought hard and even dominated a good bit of the match, but YOSHI-HASHI managed to show some resiliency. A match that by most accounts should’ve been a snack break, was a solid venture. Nakanishi tried a Slingshot Plancha to the outside (it sortuv worked) and YOSHI tried to utilize his speed and youth to generate an advantage. Granted, the Butterfly Lock is a very unimpressive maneuver, so that made the finish look a little goofy, but the match was still a solid start to the tournament.

Taichi not only is holding on to Iizuka’s Iron Fingers, but he also did a through the crowd entrance. Honma is still trying to build himself back up after his neck injury, so this is a bigger match for Honma than Taichi. Even though Taichi has established a bad reputation for being lazy, dismissive and generally a heel that Japanese fans can’t tolerate – he’s reduced the irritating aspects of his persona since becoming a heavyweight. Another match that ended up being a little better than expected, with Taichi winning without use of the Iron Fingers and in a different way than usual.

Juice versus Chase was definitely a big surprise. Not just because Chase ended up winning, but the amount of time and how much of a back and forth battle it truly was. My assumption is this was done to set up a US title defense for Juice since it’s fallen into obscurity a little. Damn good match.

Ishii is always good for an old school Strong Style match. Nagata also proved that even at 50, the man can still put on a hell of a match. Ishii busted Nagata’s mouth open in the earlier parts of the match, but this was extremely good. The match remained close and even though most had to assume Ishii was going to win, Nagata made him earn it.

We get an interesting match here. Archer is the obvious favorite, but he’s also never advanced past the first round in all of his previous NJC attempts. So the young Toa Henare had a puncher’s chance at pulling out the upset. Henare caught Archer by surprise with his power on numerous occasions, but Archer was eventually too much. Nothing special, but building more on the Henare character is what this was for.

Mikey Nicholls aka Nick Miller the recently released one half of The Mighty, returns to New Japan against Hikuleo. No offense to Mikey, but Leo is young, pretty green and coming off of injury…so this was the low point of the first round.

Ospreay and Fale put on a decent match. Ospreay worked from underneath because of his rib injury, size difference and Jado interfering. So the way the match was framed was alright, but the Hurricanrana finish was sloppy along with the obvious camera angle showing Fale’s shoulder up…that took the wind right out of the ‘surprise win’.

Another wrestler returning from injury is Michael Elgin. Most of his efforts against Okada are usually stand out matches, and this isn’t any different. Both men also prove their familiarity by stealing moves. Okada does a Buckle Bomb and Elgin Bomb, where Elgin pulls off the Rainmaker. Still unable to overcome the current Ace of New Japan, Elgin falls to a flush Rainmaker. Very good match.

Taguchi, Taguchi, Taguchi. He finds a way to add a unique quirk to all his matches, and this one was Mongolian everything. Tenzan showed a bit of annoyance by copying the way Taguchi throws grounded hip attacks, but it was still amusing. Taguchi kept the match entertaining, especially when he landed a Bumaye. The finish was a cheeky cradle variation where Tenzan kicked out right as the 3 came down.

If you want to see the definition of a star making match, Shota vs Tanahashi is the perfect example. Shota came out firing and really took things to The Ace. Shota even attempted a Cloverleaf Hold to make a point to Tanahashi. The outcome was mathematical, but Tanahashi showed concern during the match, and the crowd bought into near falls, Umino made him earn the win. Shota will be something special.

ZACK SAYBAH TIME! Since EVIL got over the hump by beating Sabre prior to the tag title defense earlier this year, ZSJ wasn’t a lock to win this. EVIL showed great familiarity, the ability to counter a lot of what Zack threw and just maintained the power edge most of the match. EVIL proved he was on a similar level to the submission God, but ZSJ still managed to land and Octopus Hold, bring EVIL to the ground and just stretch him until he tapped. So far this 3rd day is really shaping up to be the best one.

Kota and Naito…well damn. We all had this penciled as the match of Round 1, and it really held up. A few twists on moves (like the Combinación Cabrón on the apron). Words won’t really do it justice. There was a ton of strikes, nice near falls for both wrestlers and that finish…Ibushi basically doing a Tiger Driver ’91 into the Bombaye was just sick. Damn impressive match.

Yano has a tendency to always get a round 1 victory…somehow. He beat Davey Boy last year by count out shenanigans and Suzuki himself doesn’t have a great record against him. So in not a great match, but an entertaining/amusing exchange, Yano edges out DBS with a roll-up.

We got more of a mixed wrestling and comedy match. Not bad for what it was, but it wasn’t a barn burner, more just cute and a little surprising since it sets up a Round 2 match between Yano and Cabana.

Two old rivals, going at it like two people with no love loss. This was a hard hitting affair, with just enough outside Suzuki-Gun stuff to remind you it was a Minoru Suzuki match. Great stuff here, very entertaining and just generally a nice watch. Not quite as balls to the wall Strong Style as Nagata/Ishii, but still damn good.

They did a great job at showcasing how even SANADA and Goto really were. Both had amazing flurries of offense and counters for one another’s signature moves. I really enjoyed the fan survey in the middle of the ring to start with, to see who was more favored.  Fans seemed to sway a little towards SANADA, but both got really good reactions.

 

Round 1 Overall Score: 6.5/10

The matches with the unproven players really did prove the talent gap between the top and bottom. So this wasn’t a bad first round of a tournament since each day’s main event made it all worth it. Day 3 was easily the best day of Round 1.

Let’s remember that this is a further expanded field than usual, so some of these guys were basically given the test drive to larger stages. I’d say everyone performed fairly well, and honestly Hikuleo’s match was the worst, but he’s also the most green of all the participants. So I’d say everyone met their expectations or exceeded them (Nakanishi, Umino and Chase Owens come to mind).

Round 2 Match Ups:

  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi
  • Chase Owens vs YOSHI-HASHI
  • Mikey Nicholls vs Kazuchika Okada
  • Will Ospreay vs Lance Archer
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Ryusuke Taguchi
  • Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr
  • Colt Cabana vs Toru Yano
  • Minoru Suzuki vs SANADA

 


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Andrew’s New Japan Cup 2019 Final Day Ratings & Analysis

New Japan Cup comes to an end! SANADA versus OKADA! Who goes to MSG? How was the rest of the show?

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New Japan Cup comes to an end! SANADA versus OKADA! Who goes to MSG? How was the rest of the show?

Okada was the favorite going into this Cup since he’s…well…Okada. Many close calls and rough matches brought up the question of who would meet him in the Finals. SANADA overcame Minoru Suzuki, Hirooki Goto, Colt Cabana and Hiroshi Tanahashi to get here. Even though Okada is the favorite, SANADA has done a lot to establish himself in this tournament.

That’s enough typing, let’s see how the show went.

Ratings:

  • Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura: Nagata wins via Nagata Lock 2 @6:30 – **
  • Michael Elgin, Toa Henare & Colt Cabana vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Shota Umino: Elgin wins via Elgin Bomb @8:20 – ** 1/4
  • Minoru Suzuki & Killer Elite Squad vs Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Toru Yano: Suzuki-Gun wins via Killer Bomb @7:30 – ** 1/2
  • Tomohiro Ishii, Ren Narita, Ryusuke Taguchi & Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, EVIL & Shingo Takagi: Shingo wins via Pumping Bomber @11:40 – *** 1/4
  • Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi & Will Ospreay: Taichi wins via Gedo Clutch @10:20 – ***
  • Mikey Nicholls, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto vs Hikuleo, Bad Luck Fale & Jay White: White wins via Blade Runner @9:45 – *** 
  • IWGP US Title Match: Juice Robinson (c) vs Chase Owens: Juice retains via Pulp Friction @22:10 – ***
  • NJ Cup Finals: Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA: Okada wins via Rainmaker @33:05 – *****

 

Analysis:

We get the usual veterans versus Young Lion match. You could tell the length of the New Japan tour wore on the veterans a little since early on the moves were slow and a little sloppy. But once the Young Lions turned up the aggression, the Veterans put them in their place well enough.

Solid 6 man action. TenCozy worked with Colt and Henare mainly, then when Elgin and Umino got tagged in, there was an almost obvious sense of “oh okay, the finish will be soon”. Shota keeps showing great fire and resilience, he must be slated to go on an excursion soon. He’s the most elevated Young Lion at the moment, and the fans really do seem to appreciate him.

Suzuki-Gun pick up the win in a rather one sided affair. Makabe had a small flurry, but the usual outside of the ring shenanigans and overpowering the opponents put the match away pretty easily for Suzuki-Gun. With a win over two-thirds of the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag champions, the MSG could schedule Taguchi Japan vs Suzuki-Gun. However, it seems Lance Archer wants to murder Rocky Romero in a cage…so I’m not sure if that’s foreshadowing.

Well now, we get a few nice wrinkles here. Ibushi and Naito are headed for an Intercontinental Championship match, and there’s a lot of good tension there. Ishii didn’t really want to participate with Taguchi’s bullshit, but once EVIL hit him on the apron there was a fire started in Ishii, aimed directly at EVIL’s head. Ren Narita even got some good offense in for a Young Lion against Shingo. However, after a big pile up in the ring, Shingo ducks under a lariat from Ren Narita and lands Pumping Bomber with authority. Good match, and a lot of tension to build towards matches.

Zack and Tanahashi have heat from the fact Tanahashi beat him in the New Japan Cup. Taichi apparently wants a shot at Ospreay for the NEVER, but Ospreay told him Jeff Cobb comes first, then we’ll see. So after a solid match and Taichi spinning the ref around, he connects with a low blow on Ospreay and then applies the Gedo Clutch for the pinfall victory. So Taichi should be in line for a future shot.

This was a fine match. Not a lot of weight beyond Goto being perceived as a possible threat for White. YOSHI-HASHI continued to show some of the aggression he found in the New Japan Cup, Mikey Nicholls looked…like he’s still getting used to Chaos/New Japan. Early tandem moves looked awkward like he was a step behind or in the wrong spot. It’ll get better with time of course, but he was noticeably out of place. Goto had a nice false hope moment went YOSHI bailed him out with an Axe Bomber on Jay, Goto hit the Ushigoroshi and went for GTR, but Jay countered it into a Blade Runner for the 1-2-3. So in typical Goto fashion, close, but no cigar.

We got to see a rare side of Juice Robinson with this match. He slid in and immediately starting throwing bombs with Chase. Juice doesn’t often lose his cool, but the matches are usually interesting when he’s not as goofy and aloof. Chase had some great moments where he swept Juice’s legs on the top rope and hung him over the turnbuckles for a nice Running Kneelift. But this turned into one of those heavy interference matches.  Jado was annoying very early on, Red Shoes was distracted or bumped constantly and even Bad Luck Fale came in and hit a Spear on Juice. Malfunction at the junction though when Chase tried to hit Juice with title and missed, hitting Fale (which was just a bad looking spot anyway). So Juice overcame the odds, but the excessive interference made me go from invested, to not caring pretty quickly. Also Mikey Nicholls making the save for Juice is…odd…since Mikey is Chaos and Juice is not. This whole match went from being pretty solid, to benefiting from a good beginning but the end was marred in garbage.

WOW! This was a fantastic match that felt like it told the story of their perception. SANADA was on the receiving end of Okada’s offense for the first about third of the match. SANADA hit a few desperation moves, Dropkicks, Misawa Feint into Cannonball off the apron, even a big Rolling Forearm to stop the Rolling Rainmaker at one point. Hell SANADA even pulled out the Tiger Suplex, so there was a lot of Misawa nods from SANADA’s offense, and I’m not sure if there’s a deeper story. SANADA and Okada took turns trying one another’s moves, but never successfully pulling off either. The crowd was solidly behind SANADA for most of the match, and it seemed to play well for Okada to pull out a few more arrogant moves, like a Draping DDT from the barrier. This was great, and SANADA wasn’t as desperate to throw Moonsaults at Okada, but he still wasn’t able to land one. SANADA did attempt a Shiranui (most likely to get in position for Skull End), but Okada stopped it, hit a Jumping Tombstone, and Okada lands the Rolling Rainmaker and classic Rainmaker to win the Cup! What I meant by a story of their perception, is that Okada was easily on top early in the match, and then SANADA proved himself over and over to be more of an equal than many probably assumed.

 

Overall Score: 7.25/10

The New Japan Cup Final match was tremendous, and there were a few wrinkles in other matches that seem to be leading to something, but overall the show was as to be expected. Decent undercard, great main event, but the US Title match was painfully underwhelming. Now in the last few years, the runner up does tend to get title shots if the winner is unsuccessful (which they are more often than not, I believe Cup winners are only 4-13 in title matches). So this tournament could’ve easily solidified SANADA as an up and coming main eventer.

Also, since a little bit of prediction never hurt anyone, I’m think Jay White retains at MSG. Coming off of a 2 year reign Jay White is the only new challenge to appear, and Okada has a tendency to have long programs overcoming Bullet Club leaders when they get the best of him early (look at the AJ Styles feud). Jay could hold it for a while, if G.o.D. win the Title vs Title match, that could play well into them helping Jay White win. That way Okada and Tanahashi could challenge G.o.D. for both belts, which keeps them both heavily involved in the Bullet Club angle, but removes them from the IWGP Heavyweight championship.

So even though the Finals were fantastic, and Okada is still the best wrestler in the business currently, Jay White should win at MSG.

 

 

 


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Andrew’s Quarterfinals & Semifinals New Japan Cup 2019 Ratings & Analysis

Andrew’s combines the New Japan Cup Quarters and Semis out of necessity. Who made the finals? How were the matches leading up?

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Andrew’s combines the New Japan Cup Quarters and Semis out of necessity. Who made the finals? How were the matches leading up?

Due to personal plans, I figured it would be best to group these two and cover the Finals show in full on Sunday. So this way no article looks awkwardly short.

Now after an interesting first 2 rounds, we saw some upsets and some favorites pushed harder than expected.

Many of the usual suspects made the Quarters, so let’s see who gets out alive!

Quarterfinals Ratings:

  • Tomohiro Ishii vs YOSHI-HASHI: Ishii wins via Vertical Drop Brainbuster @20:25 – ****
  • Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay: Okada wins via Rainmaker @20:10 – *** 3/4
  • Colt Cabana vs SANADA: SANADA wins via Skull End @14:55 – ** 1/4
  • Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Leg Clutch @21:10 – *** 1/2

 

Quarterfinals Analysis:

YOSHI had something to prove, and being that he and Ishii are stablemates, it felt almost personal. YOSHI came out with more fire and resiliency than we’re accustomed to expect from him and had a few nice near falls. Never really being able to hit Karma, and trying to go toe to toe with Ishii on strikes was his undoing. You don’t trying to go blow for blow with the Stone Pitbull.

Okada and Ospreay are great together. As much as I was previously against Ospreay, after his neck injury he seems to actually be doing more than just a plethora of pointless flips. Ospreay has started to become more calculated and Okada keeps getting pushed harder and harder each time these two get together. Though I feel their 46th Anniversary was better, this was still a damn good match. New Ospreay is best Ospreay.

Colt and SANADA. What can I really say. Colt tried to outsmart SANADA on multiple occasions but seemingly gassed himself out being quirky. He overshot the Superman Pin once allowing SANADA to roll out of it and then he just missed, leaving himself wide open for the Skull End. Hopefully we see SANADA get over the hump in the semis, but he’s in some pretty elite company.

Sabre and Tanahashi was a deliberately paced match with Tanahashi trying to keep Zack away from his legs. I’m surprised that Zack didn’t immediately go after the legs when we all know Tanahshi has two bad wheels. So something about Zack seemed to not be nearly as sharp and calculated as usual, so Tanahashi was able to land an Inverted Slingblade and squeak out the pinfall with a Leg Clutch, much to Zack’s chagrin.

 

Quarterfinals Overall Score: 6.75/10

After a first day of two great matches, the second was bound to not live up to the bar that was set because of well, Colt Cabana. No knock on Colt because he is a well rounded wrestler, but because he was basically Gaijin Yano in this tour, he wasn’t going to put on  a classic. Honestly, even Tanahashi and Sabre was a little underwhelming. When YOSHI-HASHI is a participant in the best match of this section, some soul searching might be in order.

 

Semifinals Ratings:

  • Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii: Okada wins via Rainmaker @21:10 – **** 1/4
  • SANADA vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: SANADA wins via Skull End @24:10 – ****

 

Semifinals Analysis:

Okada and Ishii was a hell of a slobber knocker. Ishii does have a G1 victory over Okada, so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Okada was going to win, and there were plenty of callbacks to the match where Ishii won. Okada saved the match for himself a few times with desperation Dropkicks, as Ishii just kept coming at him and avoiding the Rainmaker attempts for the most part. A multitude of headbutts and attempted Tombstones is where the match swayed to Okada. Ishii kept trying to hit the Tombstone to weaken the neck for the Vertical Drop Brainbuster, but Okada was wise to it and hit a Jumping Tombstone of his own, to set up the Rainmaker finish. Solid match, with the type of aggression you’d expect from two men who really wanted the chance to beat the hell out of Jay White.

Tanahashi and SANADA is interesting. They have similar teachers and harken back to both for their distinctive style. Tanahashi has been referencing Fujinami a lot to avoid knee damage and SANADA loves himself some Mutoh. We saw this match be a little more of a mat based chess game, with both finding ways to work over the other. Tanahashi went through the litany of the moves he used in the tournament thus far, only to have SANADA either break out, or outright counter. Tanahashi tried to use the Leg Clutch he used against Zack Sabre, but SANADA blocked it and sunk in the Skull End. Which marked the end for Tanahashi.

 

Semifinals Overall Score: 7.5/10

These matches were great and lead to a rematch between Okada and SANADA. In what was one of Okada’s better title defenses last year, SANADA is a year older and hopefully with a new trick. The excessive attempts at the Moonsault, are what spelled SANADA’s doom last year.

See you tomorrow for the New Japan Cup Finals! Does SANADA or Okada face Jay White in MSG?


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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