NJPW CUP SECOND ROUND RECAP: Lansdell’s recap and analysis on all the second-round matches in this year’s NJPW Cup, and a preview of the quarter-finals!




Night Five, Item Ehime

TORU YANO vs. JACK PERRY (w/ Yujiro Takahashi)

Watching Jack Perry’s face during Yano’s interminable introduction was comedic gold. Perry of course jumped Yano before the intro was complete, beating him down. Yanomanaged to spray his disinfectant in the eyes of Perry and got a pair of quick rollups for two-counts. Yano went to the corner and untied the corner pad, ducked a Perry clothesline and tossed the corner pad to him. His facials were on point again as the referee admonished him (at Yano’s prompting) for intending to use the pad, which of course led to another schoolboy and another two-count. Perry got a knee lift and a dropkick to end the horseplay.

Perry tossed Yano to the floor and distracted the ref to allow Yujiro to stomp on Yano. Perry went to the floor and ran Yano into the barricade. He rolled Yano back in and covered for a two-count. He whipped Yano to the exposed corner and hit a basement dropkick to the spine for a near fall. Yano blocked an Irish whip by holding the ropes but then ran right into a drop toehold and the Snare Trap. Yano eventually made it to the ropes.

Perry took Yano to the outside, and Yano reversed a whip sending Perry to the barricade at the five minute mark. The referee checked on Perry, allowing Yujiro to attack Yano. He produced a set of handcuffs but that wily old Yano was able to turn the tables and handcuff Yujiro to the barricade. Gotta love the callback to Yano’s first-round win over Yujiro.

Yano rolled Perry back inside, Perry raked his eyes but Yano was still able to connect with a belly to belly suplex. Perry charged Yano in the exposed corner, Yano sidestepped and rolled Perry up for a quick two-count. He tripped Perry and covered again for a two-count. Perry thrust-kicked Yano in the chest, then ran into an inverted atomic drop. Yano catapulted Perry head-first into the exposed corner! Chop block by Yano! Another rollup got a near fall.

Kanemaru came to ringside, and Perry used the distraction to attack Yano from behind and knock him into the ref. Yes, it was indeed time for House of Torture Shenanigans (™). Yano ducked a northern lariat and shoved Perry into Kanemaru, hitting a low blow on both men. Yano covered Perry, but Yujiro had freed himself from the cuffs and yanked the referee to the floor and into the barricade. Why should that be a DQ? Assaulting referees is fine, right? Good grief. Yujiro dangled the key in front of Yano, which I suppose is a logical thing to happen. He brought the cuffs out after all.

Thanks to the distraction, Perry low-blowed Yano and hit a northern lariat to a kneeling Yano. He measured Yano for the running knee lift…and connected. The referee had recovered enough to count the fall, and Perry was on his way to the quarterfinals.

WINNER: Jack Perry via pinfall in 8:00. (*)
(Lansdell’s analysis: Perry is actually fitting in well in HoT, much as it pains me to say that. Of course HoT is still largely unwatchable and Yano is a comedy act so this was never going to be anything remotely good. I’m still waiting for the “some point” that wrestling pundits have been saying will herald New Japan bookers growing tired of this stuff. The thing is, the fans in the arenas still seem to like it. Perry was always the likely winner here, and I’m very curious who he ends up against in the quarters.)


Sanada had new music and a new red and gold robe for this match. Well, it’s a remix of his most recent theme but it fits him a little better.

They exchanged takedowns and hammerlocks in the opening minutes, neither man getting a distinct advantage. Sanada tried for the paradise lock but Yoshi-Hashi fought it off. Sanada rolled through a sunset flip and this time successfully applied the paradise lock. He very kindly freed Yoshi-Hashi from said predicament with a dropkick to the booty. Sanada went to work on Yoshi-Hashi’s neck with a pair of elbows, following up with a suplex for a two-count. He applied a rear chinlock, then released it to drop an elbow. He whipped Yoshi-Hashi to the corner, but Yoshi-Hashi came out with a low dropkick to the shins.

Yoshi-Hashi went to work on the leg at the five-minute mark, applying a leg lace. He transitioned to a snap mare and rear chinlock. Sanada got to the ropes. The commentators mention that the winner of this match would face Jack Perry in the quarters, and if it were to be Sanada it would be a rematch from Forbidden Door 2023. They also point out that that match was the only time the IWGP World title was defended outside the main event, and could well have been what started Perry’s descent into his current persona.

Yoshi-Hashi maintained control with some chops, and the pace became plodding at this point. Walker Stewart said that Yoshi-Hashi is hearing the clock ticking at 41 years old and…what? He’s actually that old? He draped Sanada over the top rope and hit a running dropkick to the back for a two-count. Sorry I am still shocked at Yoahi-Hashi’s age. Google confirms it. The chop assault continued, Yoshi-Hashi whipped Sanada to the corner but Sanada countered into a Russian leg sweep. That was pretty. Sanada followed up with a dropkick, and Yoshi-Hashi rolled to the floor. Sanada came over the top with a slingshot crossbody, then rolled Yoshi-Hashi back inside.

At the ten-minute mark, Yoshi-Hashi escaped a TKO attempt and tried a powerbomb, which Sanada countered into a huracanrana. Yoshi-Hashi ran the ropes, ducked a clothesline, and hit Headhunter leaving both men down. Yoshi-Hashi hit a charging clothesline and a big powerbomb for a near fall. He locked in the butterfly lock, Sanada escaped but only as far as a front chancery. Sanada battled free and countered a short-arm clothesline into a TKO. Again both men were down.

Sanada went for Skull End, Yoshi Hashi escaped with an arm drag but then ran into a boot. Sanada tried again but a sunset flip got a near fall for Sanada. A third attempt was again reversed and Yoshi-Hashi hit a low kick to the back. He went for a dragon suplex but Sanada escaped and this time successfully clamped on Skull End. Yoshi-Hashi struggled towards the ropes, but Sanada repositioned to the middle of the ring.

At the 15-minute mark Sanada released the hold and went for a moonsault…into the knees of Yoshi-Hashi! Small package! 1…2…no! Interesting that Sanada is now doing the old Suzuki bit of releasing the submission to use the finish of his mentor. Both men crawled to the middle of the ring and exchanged forearms. Yoshi-Hashi got the better of the exchange, then went for Karma. Sanada escaped and hit a draping spinning neckbreaker to take control. Shining Wizard by Sanada! Deadfall…Yoshi-Hashi escaped and hit a double-knee Codebreaker! Sanada hit another Shining Wizard! From the top…moonsault connected! 1…2…no!

At the 20-minute mark Sanada went for Deadfall again, but again Yoshi-Hashi escaped. Dragon suplex by Yoshi-Hashi! He followed up with a lariat, but could not cover as both men collapsed to the mat. Again. Yoshi-Hashi recovered first and hit the ropes for a lariat…Sanada blocked! Superkick! Enzuigiri! Yoshi-Hashi tried a lariat, Sanada ducked it for a rollup! 1…2…no! Yoshi-Hashi ducked another Shining Wizard and hit a meteora for a dramatic near fall. He called to the crowd for support and hit a big lariat. He followed up with a fisherman’s suplex for another very near fall.

Yoshi-Hashi went for Karma, Sanada reversed it into a Skull End, but Yoshi-Hashi escaped and hit a superkick. He went for Karma again…Sanada escaped! Deadfall, and that’s all.

WINNER: Sanada via pinfall in 24:00. (***)
(Lansdell’s analysis: As Todd Martin would say, decent match no drama. Yoshi-Hashi is just not entertaining as a singles guy. He has exciting moments, but overall he’s just too plain and plodding to hold the attention. Sanada on the other hand WAS entertaining, but got rid of everything that made him different and now has nothing to really make him stand out. There were fun moments in the match, but there were too many occasions where both men just stood in opposite corners breathing hard and looking at each other. Pacing is an art form in these longer matches, but these two erred on the wrong side of it tonight. Sanada and Perry revisiting their match from Forbidden Door would be intriguing if not for the specter of HoT looming large. It is far more interesting than the alternative though. The lack of star power in this year’s cup is evident with this match being a main event, but it will get worse…)

Night Six, Uwajima City Overall Gymnasium


Tanga Loa came out first, then went out to the entrance area and jumped Finlay the second he came through the curtain. Turnabout is fair play, right? Loa brought Finlay back to ringside and they brawled on the outside. Loa rammed Finlay into the barricade, then they went into the crowd. He threw Finlay into some empty chairs, and the brawl continued. Eventually Loa rolled Finlay into the ring and buried some shoulders into the midsection. He took Finlay for a tour of the corners, laying in a chop in each one. Loa hit a Tongan drop, but spent too long mouthing off to Gedo. Finlay hit a clothesline to take both men over the top to the floor at the five-minute mark.

On the outside, Finlay slammed Loa on the mat and then ran him into the barricade. They went back into the crowd and this time it was Loa who got thrown into the empty chairs. Finlay went back to the ring, leaving Loa laying on the outside. Loa easily made it back to the ring before the 20-count, but got stomped on repeatedly. Snap suplex from Finlay got a two-count. He clamped on a cobra clutch, which Loa escaped with right hands to the gut. A back suplex from Loa reset things with both men down.

Loa ran into a Finlay boot in the corner. Finlay went to the top but Loa pushed him off and to the outside. Loa whipped Finlay repeatedly into the barricade as the referee began his count. Loa dropped Finlay back-first on the apron, then got back in the ring at the ten-minute call. A corner clothesline and top-rope crossbody got a near fall. Loa…oh dear. He went for a 619 but lost his grip on the ropes and ended up doing nothing. That was not good. He body slammed Finlay, and this time was able to execute the 619. From the apron he went for a slingshot senton…into the knees.

Finlay pounced on the opportunity and dropped Loa with a DDT. It was time for the mid-match strike exchange. Finlay ducked a haymaker from Loa and got the Irish Curse backbreaker for a two-count. He measured Loa then charged into the corner with a series of short clotheslines. Loa refused to go down. Finlay ran the ropes, Loa picked him up and ran him into the corner. He returned the favour with repeated short clotheslines, then hit a lariat to drop Finlay. A spinout uranage from Loa got a two-count. A series of reversals led to a release powerbomb by Loa for a near fall as we passed 15 minutes.

Loa tried for the kamigoye but Finlay caught the knee and hit Into Oblivion for a near fall. Loa escaped a powerbomb attempt and nailed the Eat Shit for a very near fall. He went for kamigoye again but Finlay countered with a rising headbutt to the jaw. Powerbomb by Finlay! 1…2…no! Finlay called for the end…Overkill! 1…2…3!

WINNER: David Finlay via pinfall in 11:00. (**¾)
(Lansdell’s analysis: It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t great. Finlay is getting better each time out, but Loa just looks off the pace somewhat. That he even got this far was a confusing choice. The match felt much longer than the 11 minutes it lasted, also not a good sign. New Japan is in rebuild mode and I get that, but longevity does not equate to drawing power and Tanga Loa is not an upper card singles guy. It’s that simple. Finlay is, so at least the right guy went over.)


Speaking of people who are not upper card singles guys, I present to you the main event between two tag-team guys. Goto was at one point in his career a main-event-calibre talent, but that time has gone. Owens is rocking a dad bod these days and doesn’t feel like a legitimate threat.

Goto started off on fire, running Owens into two corners and stomping him down to the mat. A hip toss and a shoulder tackle sent Owens to the floor, but Goto made the mistake of following him and got caught coming into the ring. Owens blocked another hip toss and took Goto down with a lariat. Goto rolled to the floor and Owens followed, beating down on Goto and leaving him to get counted out. Goto rolled in at 14 and was taken down with a shoulder tackle. Goto blocked a suplex attempt, so Owens just pulled him down to the mat by the hair.

As the five-minute call rang out, Owens applied a chinlock. Goto elbowed free but got whipped into the corner and ate a loud slap. Owens played to the crowd, who remained silent. He toyed with Goto, who fought back and was able to hit a lariat to reset and leave both men down. Goto was first up and hit a whip to the corner, a running heel kick in the corner, and then a back suplex for a two-count. His ushigoroshi attempt was blocked, but his stiff forearm was not and Owens went down like a lead balloon. Goto charged Owens in the corner, but ran into a flatliner into the turnbuckle and an STO.

Owens hit a short-arm clothesline for a two-count. He lifted Goto with a fireman’s carry but Goto fought out. They ran the ropes crossing each other, hitting a pair of double lariats. They went for a third but Owens got the better of that one, dropping Goto hard. Owens missed the running knee and this time Goto connected with ushigoroshi at the ten-minute call.

Mid-match forearm exchange time as both men gritted their teeth and fired back at each other until Goto locked on a sleeper. Owens started to fade, so Goto released the hold and hit a running PK and the GTW for a near fall. Owens slipped out of the GTR attempt and got a rollup for his own near fall, then countered the reapplication of the sleeper by throwing Goto outside. He hit a wrecking ball dropkick to the floor and a swinging neckbreaker on the outside. He started to roll Goto back inside, then thought better of it and went for the package piledriver on the apron. Fortunately for Goto’s life he was able to block it and roll back into the ring.

Owens pulled Goto back to the floor and whipped him to the barricade. As we passed 15 minutes Owens peeled back the thin mats on the floor. He tried the package piledriver again, and once again Goto saved his own life with a counter into a back body drop. Goto tried to clothesline Owens against the post, but Owens ducked and Goto clotheslined the post instead. Ouch.

Goto made it back into the ring at 16 and was immediately put down with a neckbreaker for a two-count. He hit the draping DDT (VINTAGE) for a near fall. He tried the package piledriver again, inside the ring this time, but Goto blocked it. Owens sold the damage to his back from the body drop on the floor. Goto ran Owens into the corner, but ran into a boot. Owens went to the middle rope, Goto yanked him off and Owens landed neck-first on the turnbuckle. Ouch again. Goto hit a one-man Shoto using the ropes for another near fall.

Goto went for GTR again, Owens raked the eyes and snapmared him over to counter. Owens hit a flurry of strikes and an enzuigiri, followed by a high knee and the C-Trigger. Package piledriver…Goto fought it off again. STIFF headbutt from Goto, and another to drop Owens. He kicked a hole through Owens’ chest, then connected with GTR for the win.

WINNER: Hirooki Goto via pinfall in 22:00. (***¼)
(Lansdell’s analysis:With Yoshi-Hashi beating Owens’ partner Kenta in the first round, it seemed clear that Goto would win here to set up the tag title match between Bishamon and Bullet Club. The match was pretty good but had no right in the main event, furthering the running theme of this year’s shallow pool. Goto will go on to face David Finlay in the quarters, and I think we can safely call that one in Finlay’s favour. Owens has no right anywhere near a singles main event at this point in his career, but Goto pulled a good match out of him.)

Night seven, Zip Arena Okayama

HIKULEO vs. EVIL (w/ Dick Togo)

Oh good, House of Torture. Evil blindsided Hikuleo before the bell with a chop block, going to work right away on the knee. He ran into a back elbow from Hikuleo, who then leapt into the air with an elbow drop. Evil fled to the floor, where he was met by Hikuleo. Hikuleo whipped him into the barricade, then continued the beatdown. Evil sidestepped a running big boot from Hikuleo, leaving him straddling the barricade in a rather uncomfortable way. With the referee distracted, Togo took a chair to the knee of Hikuleo. Twice. Hikuleo made it back into the ring at the count of 11.

Evil continued to attack the knee, applying a leg lace. Hikuleo made the ropes but had trouble standing as we passed five minutes. Evil rolled Hikuleo to the outside, where Togo again waffled the knee with a chair. Back inside, Evil covered for a two-count. He trash-talked Hikuleo, who fought back and hit a flying clothesline to reset. Still favouring the leg, Hikuleo laid in a series of chops to the chest and a big boot to flatten Evil. Stinger splash by Hikuleo, followed by a suplex for a two-count. Evil bailed to the floor, but Jado threw him right back in. Evil went for a low blow but Hikuleo caught it and hit a big uppercut. Evil caught an attempted boot and flung Hikuleo’s foot into the ref. You know what happened next.

You’re right! HoT Shenanigans (™) ensued. Narita, Perry, Yujiro and Kanemaru held Hikuleo in place for Togo’s literal crotch chop. Evil covered for a near fall. Evil pulled the referee away and blocked his vision long enough for Kanemaru to dropkick Hikuleo’s knee. At the ten-minute mark, Evil applied the Darkness Scorpion. Hikuleo quickly made the ropes. Evil set up for Everything is Evil…Tongan Twist to counter! Togo dragged Hikuleo to the outside but he fought them all off. Back on the inside, Hikuleo hit the popup cutter! He covered, and the referee stopped counting because Togo rang the bell. Ren Narita used the distraction to hit a running guillotine knee. Somehow the ref got taken out again, and here comes another beatdown. Guerillas of Destiny came in for the save! Hikuleo helped El Phantasmo hit a rope-walk moonsault to the outside, clearing our all of House of Torture.

After a series of counters, Hikuleo landed a full nelson slam and went for Godsend. Evil escaped and chop-blocked Hikuleo’s leg out of his leg. Everything is Evil! 1…2…3!

WINNER: Evil via pinfall in 15:00. (*¼)
(Lansdell’s analysis: It was another House of Torture match. It was one of the more frustrating ones, because there was a decent match brewing in between all the shenanigans. The result was always likely to be this, especially with the possibility of Shingo vs Evil in the quarters to set up a feud for the Never title.)


Because of who he is as a person, Kidd hit a running big boot on Shingo as Shingo tried to get in the ring during his entrance. Kidd took Shingo to multiple barricades, threw a chair into his face, and continued beating him down as they went into the crowd. Kidd got on the mic and called Shingo something in Japanese, which infuriated Shingo and led to a turning of the tables. They stood at ringside exchanging shots until Kidd bit down on Shingo’s head. Mmm, tasty dragon.

Kidd rolled Shingo into the ring and we finally got the bell to start the match. Shingo then ran through him with a shoulder tackle. He ran the ropes for a pumping bomber, but in the interest of self-preservation Kidd rolled to the floor. Shingo followed him and whipped him into the cornerpost. Shingo dropped Kidd on the apron with a stun gun, then attempted a DDT on the floor. Kidd ran him into a barricade to block it, then kicked him over the barricade and into the crowd.

Kidd detached a segment of the barricade and threw it into the face of Shingo. As fans scattered, Kidd buried Shingo under a pile of chairs and barricades. He piled up some chairs and piledrove Shingo down onto them. Kidd returned to the ring, demanding the referee join him and count. Shingo staggered and barely made it back to the ring at 19 and a half…only to be folded in two by a back drop driver for a near fall. Shingo rolled back to the outside. Kidd chose to follow him this time, again whipping him into barricades as we hit the five-minute mark.

Shingo made it back to the ring at the count of 16. A loud open-handed slap sent Shingo reeling, then Kidd choked down Shingo in the corner with his boot. The referee tried to break it up but Kidd basically ignored him. The ref counted for Kidd to break, so Kidd shoved him down. Shingo used this time to start to fire up, even absorbing an even louder slap to the face. Kidd ran into a back elbow and a lariat, and both men were down.

Shingo beat down Kidd in the corner with a flurry of strikes. A clothesline in the corner and a vertical suplex followed for a two-count. Shingo planted some knees to the midsection, then hit a snap mare and a sliding lariat. Kidd popped right up! He hit an exploder suplex out of nowhere as we passed ten minutes. The pair started a headbutt exchange mid-ring, and somewhere Christopher Nowinski is cringing. Thankfully they switched to chops, then Shingo switched it up with some stinging jabs. Kidd fired back with a lariat for a one-count, then Shingo returned the favour for another one-count. The game of one-upmanship continued as they exchanged suplexes, then ran into each other twice with lariats. They collapsed into each other’s arms in a tender embrace in the middle of the ring.

Both men recovered at the same time and continued their strike exchange. Shingo hit a trademark flurry but Kidd returned fire with another open-hand smack. Kidd went for a piledriver, Shingo blocked so Kidd spit in his face. Shingo ended the exchange with a back suplex and Made in Japan for a near fall as we hit 15 minutes. Shingo called to the crowd as he set for Last of the Dragon, but Kidd resisted. Shingo tried again, and got him up, but Kidd raked the eyes and hit a lariat. Tombstone piledriver! 1…2…no! Even I thought Kidd had it there.

Kidd tried a regular piledriver but again Shingo resisted. They exchanged some stiff forearms, Shingo countered one into a backslide for a two-count, then flattened Kidd with a sliding forearm to the temple. Shingo pounded down with some 12-6 elbows and hit another sliding forearm to the temple. Pumping bomber connected! Last of the Dragon! 1…2…3!

WINNER: Shingo Takagi via pinfall in 18:00. (***½)
(Lansdell’s analysis: That was the match of the tournament so far, but that’s not exactly high praise this year. Kidd is double-tough and once he learns to vary and adapt his styles he will be a real force. Shingo just keeps quietly churning out great matches time after time. If Will Ospreay did not exist, Shingo would have a real case for wrestler of the year. With all that said, I still had some issues with this match. The large portions that were spent outside kind of made the match feel like it was cut in two, and the long and repeated strike exchanges made it feel much like many other New Japan matches. They have their place, and in moderation they can add a level of physicality and realness to proceedings, but when they happen every time and are so protracted it becomes no different from Cena’s Five Moves of Doom. Shingo and Evil will HOPEFULLY find that balance between brutal physicality and technical wrestling, but I think we all know it will involve far too much HoT Shenanigans (™). Maybe we will be lucky enough to have them cut short by LIJ evening the odds. I think it’s the best match in the quarter-finals so far, on paper at least.)

Night Eight – Kaneoka Park Gymnasium, Osaka


It was almost refreshing to see a match not start before the bell. They exchanged headlock takeovers and headscissors escapes to start the match. Tsuji ran over ELP with a shoulder tackle, then hit a flying headscissors. Unimpressed, ELP chopped him in the chest loud and hard. They exchanged stiff forearms, ELP chopped Tsuji again and caught Tsuji’s hand to prevent the return shot. ELP ran up the ropes and after some snazzy jumping hit a huracanrana. He clotheslined Tsuji to the floor and went for a tope to the outside, only to be intercepted on his way through the ropes with a big boot. Tsuji whipped ELP into the barricade then rolled him back inside at the five-minute mark.

Tsuji took ELP down and applied a body scissors. ELP made it to the ropes, but was subsequently scoop slammed and squished with a running splash for a two-count. ELP tried to fire back with chops, and then turned a tilt-a-whirl slam attempt into a satellite DDT. Tsuji charged into ELP’s boot. ELP hit a springboard crossbody and went to follow up with the lionsault but Tsuji rolled to the outside. ELP went to the apron and connected with a tornado DDT to the floor.

ELP played to the crowd and hit a top rope senton into a lionsault for a two-count. ELP set up for Sudden Death, Tsuji caught the foot and then was able to catch ELP running and turn it into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker at the ten-minute mark. Tsuji missed a Stinger splash but did manage to double stomp ELP’s head to the mat. Both men were down, with Tsuji stirring first. He tried a suplex, ELP blocked it and lifted him for a Cutthroat Driver. Tsuji escaped and hit a big boot. They both went to the floor. Tsuji dropped ELP back-first on the apron then joined him there, threatening a suplex. ELP escaped with a knee and a superkick, then tried for CR2 on the apron…Tsuji escaped with a knee lift. Tsuji went for a curb stomp on the apron, ELP avoided that and went up top for a moonsault…Tsuji moved and went to the apron…Curb stomp on the floor!

Again both men were down, on the outside this time. Tsuji managed to roll inside as the referee started to count. ELP tried to get in at 14 but collapsed, and again at 17. He barely made it in at 19. Curb stomp by Tsuji! As the 15 minute call was made, Tsuji unleashed a thunderclap of a chop and followed up with a Stinger splash. He positioned ELP on the top and went up with him, but ELP fought him off. Tsuji came back with a big boot, then hit a top rope Spanish fly! Good grief. 1…2…no! Tsuji set for Gene Blaster, ELP leapfrogged the attempt! Sudden Death! 1…2…Tsuji kicked out!

ELP called to the crowd and fired up, Tsuji countered CR2 into a rollup, they exchanged rollups which ended with a very near fall on a crucifix for ELP. He remonstrated with the ref and ate a kneelift for his troubles. Superkick! Orange Crush! Shades of Kenta Kobashi there. That got a near fall for Tsuji. Again Tsuji set for the Gene Blaster, and again ELP blocked. CR2!!! 1…2…Tsuji kicked out again!

At the 20-minute mark both men slugged away at each other. ELP managed a flurry of palm strikes, but Tsuji ducked his lariat attempt. Tsuji hit a backbreaker and tried to follow up with a curb stomp. ELP sidestepped it and hit an enzuigiri, but Tsuji shrugged it off and hit a blue thunder bomb and another knee strike. Curb stomp to the face! Triple-jump top-rope curb stomp! Mother of mercy that was pretty. Tsuji gets the win!

WINNER: Yota Tsuji via pinfall in 22:00. (***¾)
(Lansdell’s analysis:I don’t think this will be a popular opinion but I think I liked that match better than Shingo/Kidd. Tsuji is so far ahead of every other Reiwa Musketeer that it’s not funny, and ELP is consistently underrated. The match was more varied, didn’t rely on protracted strike exchanges, and had genuine drama. I hope ELP gets a singles run before he decides to move on.)

ZACK SABRE JR. (w/ Mikey Nicholls) vs. REN NARITA (w/ House of Torture)

Narita had most of House of Torture with him, while ZSJ came out with just Mikey Nicholls for company. I wonder if that will come into play later. House of Torture were shown leaving ringside, but I trusted that to last about as much as I trust a phone call telling me my visa was charged. Mikey Nicholls also left ringside, so nominally we have a one-on-one contest here.

They exchanged takedowns and escapes to start. Narita bailed to the floor to avoid a stiff-looking PK. He came back in and went to the eyes, and laid in some clubbing blows. ZSJ fired back with forearms but was cut off by a kitchen sink knee to the gut. Narita threw ZSJ to the floor with a dull thud. Narita followed him and whipped him into a barricade, and they fought into the crowd. ZSJ locked in an octopus hold on the outside, but relinquished the hold and brought Narita back to ringside. ZSJ got onto the apron and tried a PK, but Narita ducked and swept out the leg. He whipped ZSJ over the barricade and into the English announce table. He whipped him across to another barricade and hit a running boot to send ZSJ into the fans.

Narita cleared out some room and hit an innovative running clothesline bulldog into the barricade, with Narita jumping over the barricade in the process. He grabbed a chair and jabbed ZSJ in the ribs, but the referee prevented further chair-based violence by taking the chair away. Narita simply picked up another one and hit ZSJ with that instead. Narita continued the beatdown on the outside.

When they finally got back in the ring, Narita applied a rear chinlock. He transitioned that to slingshot ZSJ’s throat into the underside of the bottom rope. He hit a back elbow but his cover did not even get a one-count. Narita applied a cobra triwst, ZSJ though quickly reversed it into one of his own. Narita escaped by twisting ZSJ’s ear (as one does) and then leveled ZSJ with a pump kick. A cover got a two-count at the ten-minute mark.

Narita hit a series of pump kicks but ZSJ refused to go down. ZSJ then hit one of his own to take the momentum in the match. After a series of reversals ZSJ locked in a bow and arrow hold, then quickly switched up and dropkicked the spine of Narita. ZSJ changed his focus and went after the arm of Narita. He ducked under a spinning wheel kick from Narita and turned it into a surfboard and then the Romero stretch. ZSJ stomped on the hamstrings of Narita, then grabbed an ankle lock. Narita grabbed the shirt of the ref, so ZSJ kicked his arm away and applied a Fujiwara armbar. He twisted Narita’s arms around into a modified Rings of Saturn, but Narita got his foot on the ropes.

Narita caught ZSJ’s kick attempt and smacked him hard, then hit a clothesline bulldog at the 15-minute mark. So far, no shenanigans. Narita made the mistake of hitting ZSJ with a forearm, and the return blow came with interest. Strike exchange time! They both went for a pump kick at the same time, and at some point in that exchange Narita’s nose exploded. ZSJ went for the Zack Driver, Narita blocked it and then rolled out of an armbar attempt. Bridging exploder suplex by Narita! 1…2…no! He followed up with a running guillotine knee for another near fall. A pair of running boots to a kneeling ZSJ only got a one-count. ZSJ countered an attack into a pair of bridging rollups for near falls, then hit a dragon suplex bridge for another two-count.

With one slap to the face, ZSJ dropped Narita. Zack Driver…Narita escaped out the back! Cobra twist locked in! ZSJ faded but fired up just enough to make the ropes at the 20-minute call. Narita went to the top rope and hit the guillotine knee for another near fall. Double Cross…countered into an armbar! Narita tried to reverse it into his own, but ZSJ escaped and reappled the hold. Narita rolled into the pressure so ZSJ locked on a triangle choke. Jack Perry and Yujiro Takahashi came to ringside with Mikey Nicholls right behind, and ZSJ wisely maintained the hold while his stablemate dispatched the interlopers. Oh, great. Kanemaru popped up with the referee distracted, and sprayed whisky in the jar, I mean face of ZSJ.

Perry and Yujiro got in the ring with Nicholls, who took them both down with a clothesline. The referee tried to establish control, which allowed Evil and Togo to run in. Magic Killer…ZSJ escaped! He mule kicked Togo to the outside, then pump-kicked Evil as well. Narita had the push-up bar…and waffled ZSJ! Double Cross! Three-count!

WINNER: Ren Narita via pinfall in 23:00. (***)
(Lansdell’s analysis: This would easily have surpassed four stars, but of course we had to have the HoT Shenanigans (™). It’s a sad indication of where we are with this nonsense that I almost want to justify this interference as “not that bad” and “could have been worse” but the reality is, it ruined another excellent main event. I had some hope that we would get away without any interference, or at least that Nicholls would be able to head it off. It’s not the result I am angry about; ZSJ did not need this win. He’s won the Cup twice already and would be better served winning the G1. But with three of the eight quarter-finalists being from House of Torture, those four matches will not be any better.)

Quarter-final breakdown

JACK PERRY vs. SANADA – I expect Sanada will lose here. He’s not a credible threat to Naito, having lost twice already, and Perry will want his win back from Forbidden Door. Shenanigans will be plentiful.

SHINGO vs. EVIL – A Shingo win here will set him up for a shot at the Never title down the line, which I fully expect. I think they will want to tease the prospect of a Shingo-Tsuji finals for as long as possible, as well.

HIROOKI GOTO vs. DAVID FINLAY – This is a mismatch on paper, but I expect it will be a competitive loss for Goto. Finlay needs to make the finals, and possibly win the whole thing, to rebuild from his loss to Nic Nemeth.

YOTA TSUJI vs. REN NARITA – I did not expect this match so soon in the Reiwa Musketeers storyline, but I guess after Narita and Umino finished their feud, and Tsuji and Uemura finished theirs, it was the logical next step. I cannot call this one, but I think I shade towards Tsuji winning here.

You can contact me at lansdellicious@gmail.com or on Twitter @lansdellicious . Sean Radican will be covering the quarters next week. Thanks for joining us!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply