NJPW “2018 NJPW CUP FINALS” REPORT
MARCH 21, 2018
BY SEAN RADICAN, TORCH COLUMNIST
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
Announcers: Kevin Kelly and Don Callis
(1) Shota Umino vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi. They had a big chop battle during the early going. They then began exchanging forearms in the corner. Umino eventually hit a big slap to Yahi’s face. This is a battle of Young Lions. Umino hit some big overhand chops to Yagi’s chest in the corner. Yagi finally cut him off with a dropkick. Yagi got a Boston crab. Umino struggled and on the third try after getting dragged back to the middle of the ring twice, he got to the ropes to break the hold. Umino hit a missile dropkick for a nearfall. He applied a Boston crab on Yagi. He tried to get to the ropes, but he tapped out.
Winner: Shota Umino
Star rating: (**½) – This was pretty darn good for a Young Lions match. Both guys showed a lot of fire and put on a good match.
(2) Tomoyuki Oka vs. Taichi. Oka is a Young Lion. Taichi stalled forever, but Oka finally got his hands on him and sent him down with a shoulder tackle. Taichi fired back and got a high angle single leg crab. Oka struggled, but managed to get to the ropes. At first Oka had nothing behind his strikes, but he finally caught Taichi with a belly-to-belly to regain the upper hand. Taichi caught Oka with a kick to the head and snapped off his pants. Oka blocked another kick attempt and hit a spinebuster for a 2 count. Oka stumbled to his feet and took a big superkick from Taichi a short time later that was good for the win.
Star rating: (*½) – This was fine for what it was. Ota showed some good fire before falling short here.
(3) Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Tanga Roa vs. Michael Elgin & Henare & Togi Makabe. This was fine for what it was. Roa hit a powerslam on Henare, but he kicked out at 2 later in the match. Makabe finally got the hot tag and ran wild. Henare and Roa tagged into the match at the same time. Roa ended up taking a 3 on 1 beating. He hit Roa with a flying shoulder tackle off the rop, but it got broken up. Roa eventually hit ape s–t on Henare for the win.
Winners: Tanga Roa & Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi
Star rating: (*¾) – This was fine
After the match, BC tried to put the boots to Henare. Makabe and Elgin got in their faces and pointed at the NEVER Openweight Six Man Titles.
(4) KES (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii). Archer came down to the ring spitting water. Kevin Kelly got an umbrella out, but still got covered in water by Archer. This match was used to set up Smith and Archer as the next challengers to EVIL and SANADA for the IWGP Hvt. Tag Team Championship. Ishii ended up getting thrown into the barricade late in the match. KES eventually hit the killer bomb on Yano for the win.
Winners: Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer
Star rating: (**¾) – Good tag match to set up Archer and Smith as the top contenders in the heavyweight tag division.
After the match, Archer grabbed one of the Young Lions and choke slammed him. Archer got on the mic and called out EVIL and SANADA for a shot at the tag titles.
(5) NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay. Robinson looks like a mix of HBK and Riff Raff. Juice got isolated, but he managed to block the ushigiroshi hit the big left handed punch and pulp friction for the surprise win.
Robinson indicated he wanted a shot at Goto’s NEVER Openweight Championship
Winners: Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Star rating: (**) – The action was basic, but it did a good job of setting up Robinson as the next NEVER Openweight challenger. They sold it as a surprising win, but is it ever a surprise when Goto loses?
(6) L.I.J. (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi & IWGP Hvt. Tag Team Champion SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Suzuki Gun (IWGP IC CHampion Minoru Suzuki & IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag TEam Champions El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Takashi Ilzuka). Naito turned away from Suzuki. Suzuki got up right next to him, but Naito wouldn’t look at him. BUSHI & Takahashi are currently in a feud with Kanemaru & Desperado for the Jr. tag titles. This match saw those teams interact, but it was mainly designed to build up Suzuki vs. Naito for the IC title. The action broke down early and both teams brawled on the floor. Suzuki went right after Naito on the entrance ramp. Suzuki hit Naito with a PK on the entrance ramp. Takahashi ended up getting worked over inside the ring for several minutes. Ilzuka bit the inside of Takahashi’s arm several times. Later in the match, Suzuki caught Naito with a knee bar. Suzuki turned it into a combination submission and went after his arm and heel as well. Naito fired back with an eye rake and spit in Suzuki’s face. Suzuki fired back with a knee lift and both men tagged out. SANADA and Ilzuka went at it. The action broke down and Suzuki tossed Naito into the barricade. He then dragged Naito into the crowd. Ilzuka got the iron fingers but BUSHI made the save. SANADA cleared the ring and got the skull end on Ilzuka, who tapped out.
WInners: Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI & SANADA
Star rating: (**3/4) – This was enjoyable, but short.
After the match, Suzuki continued to attack Naito in the back of the arena. He choked him with a chair before finally walking away.
BUSHI & Kanemaru held their Jr. tag titles up in the faces of BUSHI & Takahashi. Both teams began brawling. Roppongi 3K came out and hit 3K on BUSHI. They took out Kanemaru as well. Kelly said L.I.J. wanted a one-on-one shot, but it seems 3K are still going to be in the mix. Sho cut a promo after the match and Callis said that he said they had fired Rocky Romero, which was funny.
(7) IWGP Hvt. Champion Kazuchika Okada & Chucky T vs. Kota Ibushi & Chase Owens. Kelly hyped The Young Bucks vs. Golden Lovers match at Strong Style Evolved on March 25. Callis called himself The Golden Commentator. Owens told Kelly he was going to package piledriver Okada tonight. Ibushi and Okada had a fantastic exchange early and came to a stalemate. Taylor moonsaulted off the top and landed on his feet before hitting a dropkick on Owens. Owens fired back and knocked Okada off the apron. He then went to work on T with Ibushi. Ibushi and Owens hit a combination of moves on T capped by an Ibushi moonsault for a 2 count. Okada got the tag from Taylor and went to town on Ibushi. Okada wiped out Ibushi and Owens with a slingshot splash to the outside a short time later. Okada wanted a strike exchange, but Ibushi lit him up and eventually decked him with a backflip kick. Owens ducked a rainmaker and Ibushi nailed him with a dropkick a split second later.
The action broke down and Taylor wiped out Ibushi with a flip dive. Owens hit the jewel heist on Okada for a 2 count. Owens went for the package piledriver, but Okada fought out of it. Owens fired back and got a rollup with a handful of tights for a 2 count. Okada got the cobra clutch on Owens and Taylor held Ibushi on the floor. Owens tried to fight out of it, but tapped out.
Winners; Kazuchika Okada & Chucky T
Star rating: (**¾) – Some fun stuff with Okada and Ibushi having some good exchanges, but otherwise nothing outstanding here.
Juice Robinson joined Callis and Kelly on commentary.
(8) Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi in the 2018 NJPW Cup Finals. Taka Michinoku introduced Sabre. He asked the fans who was going to win and they shouted Tanahashi. Michinoku listed all the wrestlers that had submitted to Sabre in the tournament. Sabre flipped his collar and flipped off the fans at the same time as he was being introduced. Michinoku concluded by saying just tap out before telling Tanahashi to get down to the ring. Sabre and Tanahashi are tied 1-1 in their previous singles matches in NJPW. The announcers talked about how Sabre would challenge Okada at Genesis if he wins, but they weren’t sure who Tanahashi would challenge if he wins the match. Sabre went after Tanahashi’s arm during the early going. They came to a stalemate and went at it again. Sabre worked over Tanahashi’s arm and then went after his leg when Tanahashi tried to get his foot on the bottom rope. He began to tie Tanahashi up, but both men rolled into the ropes. Tanahashi really worked a side headlock on Sabre. Sabre tried to escape and Tanahashi eventually hit a modified side Russian leg sweep. Sabre feigned pain and grabbed an arm submission out of nowhere on Tanahashi’s bad arm. Tanahashi managed to get to the ropes. Sabre went after Tanahashi’s arm and leg, but he couldn’t keep him away from the ropes and he showed frustration. Sabre got Tanahashi down and really began cranking on Tanahashi’s arm. He then tied up both of Tanahashi’s arms, but he managed to get his foot on the bottom rope. That looked PAINFUL! WOW!
Sabre worked over Tanahashi’s wrist, but he fired back with several punches to the gut to free himself. Tanahashi finally caught Sabre with a forearm off the ropes and both men were down with the fans chanting for Tanahashi. Sabre got his boot up in the corner and Tanahashi caught it. Sabre then got the octopus hold suddenly and the fans gasped. Tanahashi continued to hold Sabre’s leg and eventually he dragon screwed his way out of the hold. WOW! They went back and forth countering each other in the abdominal stretch. Tanahashi finally got a pump-handle and dumped Sabre down to the mat. Sabre floated around Tanahashi a short time later and got a triangle. Tanahashi stood up while still in the triangle. He stomped on Sabre’s head and began going for the cloverleaf. Tanahashi escaped the triangle and got the cloverleaf! Sabre screamed and almost got to eth ropes, but Tanahashi dragged him back to the middle. Sabre managed to counter him and went for a cross-arm breaker. Sabre went after one of Tanahashi’s fingers, which is illegal, so Sabre had to let go of it. Tanahashi suddenly got out of it and hit a short dragon screw and the fans fired up with a big Tanahashi chant. Tanahashi went up top and hit a standing high fly flow to the floor! WOW! Sabre sent Tanahashi over the ropes. He tried to skin the cat and Sabre just waited before grabbing a leg submission.
Sabre began taunting Tanahashi with some light kicks. Tanahashi got upset. He blocked a kick, but Sabre jumped onto him. Tanahashi dumped him off and hit three twist and shouts for a near fall! WOW! Tanahashi went up top slowly and sold his leg. He went for a standing high fly flow, but Sabre caught his leg and grabbed a heel hook. Tanahashi struggled, but managed to get to the ropes. Sabre went for a PK, but Tanahashi caught his leg. Sabre slipped out of a dragon screw and floated over into a bridging pinning combination for a near fall. A short time later, Sabre got his double wrist clutch pinning combination for a near fall. Tanahashi kicked out and Sabre went right into a PK for a near fall! WOW! Sabre blocked a dragon suplex attempt and went to run off the ropes, but Tanahashi caught him with a sling blade for a 2 count. He went for a dragon suplex and connected with a bridge for another near fall. He hobbled going up top, but he hit a high fly flow to the back! WOW! Tanahashi favored his leg and went up top again! He came off the top, but Sabre got out of the way! ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Tanahashi landed on his knee and grabbed it right away. Tanahashi blocked an Okana roll and got a bridining pin for a near fall. Sabre kicked out and immediately went after Tanahashi’s legs. Sabre dragged Tanahashi to the middle of the ring while maintaining the hold and got orienteering with napalm death, which is a double leg submission with Sabre stretching one leg around his shoulders while pushing the other leg the opposite way with his legs. Tanahashi ended up tapping out. WOW!
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr. to win the 2018 NJPW Cup
Star rating: (****¾)
Sabre has now beaten Naito, Ibushi, SANADA, and Tanahashi to win the tournament. Sabre won every single match without interference from Suzuki-Gun.
After the match, Michinoku got on the mic and talked up Sabre as the NJPW Cup winner. He asked Sabre what he wants next. Sabre pondered the question in a mocking manner. He said, “I want Okada.” The fans applauded. Michinoku told Okada to come over here. Okada came out with Gedo and walked down to the ring. A big Okada chant rang out in the building. Kelly said they would meet in April at Sumo Hall. Michinoku was going to tell Okada to just tap out, but Gedo took the mic from him. He said they would meet at Sakura Genesis. Michinoku cut of Gedo from hitting his signature line. Okada held up the IWGP Hvt. Championship and walked away. Sabre told Okada he would tap out in 2 weeks. Michinoku told Okada just to tap out. He then told him to take a walk. Sabre stood next to the NJPW Cup with his RPW belts over his shoulder. Michinoku concluded by saying, “He is Zack Sabre Jr.!” Confetti came down from the rafters as Sabre stood in the ring.
Overall score: (7.5) – This was a good show overall with a lot of storyline progression. The bulk of the score is for the excellent Sabre-Tanahashi main event. Most of the undercard is skippable and if you’re pressed for time, you can catch up by reading the results.