In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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NJPW “NJPW CUP 2018: NIGHT 8” RESULTS
MARCH 16, 2018
BY SEAN RADICAN, TORCH COLUMNIST
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
(1) Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Tanga Loa) beat Tomoyuki Oka & Tetsuhiro Yagi.
(2) Suzuki-Gun (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Taichi beat Shota Umino & David Finlay & Michael Elgin.
(2) CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) beat Togi Makabe & Toa Henare.
(3) CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Chuckie T & Hirooki Goto) beat Kota Ibushi & Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale).
(4) Suzuki Gun (NEVER Openweight Champion Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) beat CHAOS (IWGP Hvt. Champion Kazuchika Okada & Gedo).
(4) L.IJ. (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) beat Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado).
NJPW CUP 2018 SEMI-FINAL ROUND MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. JUICE ROBINSON
Tanahashi blew off a handshake before they went at it. The bell rang and Tanahashi chants rang out in Korakuen Hall. Tanahashi is wearing really nice silver and black gear with a matching arm sleeve. I’m guessing he’s wearing that now to cover up the bicep tear in his right arm. Robinson offered a clean break in the corner during the early going, but Tanahashi turned him around and hit a punch to the gut. Tanahashi went for a springboard splash out of the corner, but Robinson got out of the way and got a pinning combination for a near fall. The two continued to play mind games during the early going. Tanahashi got the better of Robinson during the early going, but after this sequence, it was Robinson playing air guitar after getting the near fall. Robinson took exception to Tanahashi grabbing his hair in the corner. He fired up with a big forearm, but Tanahashi yelled at him and nailed him with a series of punches to the gut. A short time later, Tanahashi grabbed Robinson and dragged his legs around the ringpost. He then slammed Robinson’s leg around the ringpost several times. On commentary, Kevin Kelly mentioned Robinson had promised not to go after Tanahashi’s injured knee or leg much like he did when he wrestled Kenny Omega in G1 when his leg was injured. Kelly mentioned that Robinson did go after Omega’s leg when he faced him in the G1 last year. Tanahashi is definitely towing the line in this match in terms of breaking the rules and being a babyface. Kelly mentioned on commentary that Tanahashi is here to win.
Tanahashi continued to go after Robinson’s leg to set up the cloverleaf hold. Tanahashi finally missed a big charge into the corner. They went back and forth and Robinson caught Tanahashi with a big spinebuster and the fans fired up. Robinson went for a big left hand, but Tanahashi caught him with a kick to his leg. Robinson fired back with a big clothesline off the ropes and the fans fired up again. Robinson went for a cannonball, but missed. They ended up going at it on the floor. Robinson countered a whip and sent Tanahashi into the barricade. Robinson got a running start and hit a cannonball against the barricade! Robinson went up top, but Tanahashi sprung to his feet and crotched him. Tanahashi then went up top, but Robinson pushed Red Shoes into the ropes. Kelly questioned whether or not he was going for the ropes and Red Shoes happened to be in the way. They went back and forth exchanging blows. Tanahashi told Robinson to bring. Tanahashi hit a huge uppercut that rocked Juice. Robinson fired back with three huge chops to stagger Tanahashi. Robinson went for a gut buster, but Tanahashi blocked it by catching his left leg and then he hit a dragon screw. Tanahashi went for a cloverleaf, but Robinson managed to get to the ropes. Tanahashi stomped his gut for good measure before backing off. Tanahashi blocked a leg lariat and hit another dragon screw. Tanahashi went for the cloverleaf and he got it! The fans fired up and Robinson struggled for a bit, but managed to get to the ropes to break the cloverleaf.
Robinson fired back and hit a full nelson bomb. He followed up with a HUGE western lariat for a 2 count. Robinson went for pulp friction, but Tanahashi pushed him off and eventually hit a sling blade for a near fall! Tanahashi went up top, but Robinson got to his feet and NAILED Tanahashi with his signature left hand punch. Robinson went for a superplex, but Tanahashi sent him to the mat with a headbutt. He then hit a standing high fly flow, but Robinson rolled through for a nearfall! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!! Tanahashi blocked a suplex and hit twist and shout. He hung on and hit another twist and shout. Robinson then countered Tanahashi and lifted him up into a suplex position before dropping him down over his knee into a gutbuster for a near fall. WOW! WOW! WOW! The fans fired up with chants as Robinson sold disbelief. Robinson slowly went up top and hit a standing high fly flow off the top! He then went back up top mocking Tanahashi’s high fly flow sequence. He connected, but Tanahashi kicked out at the last second! The fans lost their minds chanting for Tanahashi. WOW! Robinson set up for pulp friction, but Tanahashi powered out of it! Robinson got him back in it, but Tanahashi got out of it. They traded blows in the middle of the ring once again. Tanahashi hit a dragon suplex!
The fans fired up and Tanahashi went right up top! He hit a high fly flow to Robinson’s back. The fans fired up and Tanahashi fired up once again and went to the top. He hit a standard high fly flow and it was good for the win! WHAT A MATCH!
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi to advance to the 2018 NJPW Cup Finals
Star rating: (****½)
Kelly said Tanahashi and Robinson are drinking buddies. Both men embraced after the match and Tanahashi clapped as the fans chanted for Juice. Kelly said Tanahashi’s time is coming. Robinson smiled and left the ring. Tanahashi teased his guitar solo. Robinson went under the ring and got the guitar. He said he was too hurt to throw it and he gave the air guitar to a Young Lion to throw to Tanahashi. The fans chanted “go ace” over and over and Tanahashi cut a show closing promo/air guitar session in front of a rabid audience. When Tanahashi finished, he went around ringside hugging crying women and babies. THIS MAN IS INCREDIBLE!
The 2018 NJPW Cup has been Tanahashi’s redemption story after he was left for dead when Suzuki beat him for the IWGP IC Championship. Tanahashi wrestled with a new edge against his friend Juice Robinson. He wrestled with an edge and towed the line when it came to wrestling as an admirable hero, especially when he took some cheap shots at Robinson’s mid-section after Robinson had offered a clean break.
It seemed like Tanahashi might be down and out for a long time after losing to Suzuki, but here, it felt like NJPW was presenting a brand new version of Tanahashi. He wrestled with a purpose to set up Robinson for the cloverleaf by working over his midsection and leg. He slammed Robinson’s leg across the ringpost, he blocked kicks from Robinson and hit dragon screw, and he did everything he could to inflict damage on Robinson’s leg during the match. Tanahashi was presented with an edge that hasn’t been seen in recent memory.
On the flip side, Robinson is just so good. He mounted comebacks that put Tanahashi in danger. The crowd badly wanted to see Tanahashi win and Robinson made them believe Tanahashi was in danger. They put together some awesome sequences down the stretch for nearfalls. The best sequence was Robinson blocking a standing high fly flow attempt and hitting Tanahashi’s signature standing high fly flow and then a traditional high fly flow for a great near fall.
Tanahashi won in the end with a high fly flow to the back and then another to the front for the win. This was a remarkable match on two fronts. Tanahashi is now getting back to being the ace once again, but he’s reinvented himself during this tournament. On the other hand, Robinson was great here and they told a story that made it clear that he’s close to being on the level where he can consistently beat the top talent in NJPW. His selling, facial expressions, and ability to connect with the NJPW audience is tremendous. I got chills watching Tanahashi put Robinson over after the match.
That was a great moment and an incredible show of respect between two athletes. This was a great example of the sporting aspect that differentiates NJPW from other wrestling promotion and makes them unique. NJPW booker Gedo does such great character work. What he’s done building Tanahashi back up while at the same time strapping a rocket to Robinson’s back is quite remarkable.