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Kevin’s NJPW New Japan Cup Night Three Review

March 11, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Kota Ibushi NJPW
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Kevin’s NJPW New Japan Cup Night Three Review  

NJPW New Japan Cup Night Three
March 10th, 2019 | Baycom Gymnasium in Amagaski, Hyogo | Attendance: 4,780

After two mediocre nights to start the New Japan Cup, we’ve finally reached a show that looks strong on paper. Naito vs. Ibushi is always a safe bet for a banger, while an impressive Young Lion takes on the Ace, and one of my favorite Suzuki-Gun/LIJ rivalries gets another installment.

New Japan Cup First Round: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Ryusuke Taguchi
A heavyweight legend against a junior heavyweight getting a rare opportunity. It’s actually the perfect way to start because both guys are fun and way popular. Taguchi refused a fist bump at the bell and played the powerhouse. He wore down Taguchi with his size advantage. It was a basic match which is fine because this wasn’t here to wow anyone. They did well to have Taguchi fight from behind but never place Tenzan in a spot where he looked like a bad guy. On commentary, Rocky Romero pointed out that Taguchi would have to use his speed to his advantage. He did and won with the Kido Clutch in 12:07. As I said, a fine way to start the show. [**½]

New Japan Cup First Round: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shota Umino
The Ace against the Young Lion. Umino has shown a ton of improvement and has been very good lately. Maybe not White/SHO/YOH levels, but damn good. Their positions on the card made for an interesting battle, especially when you consider Tanahashi is known to lose early in this tournament. This was clearly Tanahashi leading the way. He knew exactly when to give Umino something to showcase his stuff and knew the perfect time to do what he had to on offense. For example, during a strike exchange, he sold a strike beautiful and fell, putting over Umino in a big way. Even with the limited moveset Young Lions are given, Tanahashi made the most of it. Umino also delivered in each opportunity he was given. There’s a rollup near fall that I totally bit on. The pop was nuts. Tanahashi put him in the Cloverleaf and won in 16:48. A damn good match that made Umino look wonderful. Remember when Tanahashi made SANADA look incredible when he first joined LIJ? Nobody else did that. Not Suzuki, Okada, Omega, or anyone. This wasn’t as good as those because Umino isn’t on SANADA’s level, but it was a lot of fun. A bit too long considering who they are.[***½]

New Japan Cup First Round: EVIL vs. RevPro British Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Jr. w/ TAKA Michinoku
Two guys who I really enjoy with completely different styles. The brute against the technician. Last year, Sabre won this tournament with four straight submission victories. Like their New Beginning match, this was a good clash of styles. EVIL showed that he could hang a bit in the technical wrestling department. It was a welcome surprise. Sabre’s always game to strike with bigger guys and that was clear here. As the match progressed, there were more counters. It has become clear that these are two guys who know each other very well. A highlight saw EVIL have a counter ready for Sabre’s European Clutch. I don’t think I’ve seen that outside of WALTER using a rear naked choke. Sabre won out in the closing stretch by making EVIL tap to his wicked Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness in 15:33. Same score as their previous match. Top notch exchanges, great counters, and just some really good professional wrestling. [***¾]

New Japan Cup First Round: Kota Ibushi vs. IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito
I love both of these guys and they always deliver. Their New Japan Cup match in 2015 (****), the G1 27 insanity (****¾), and last year’s G1 meeting (****¼) were all stellar. As soon as the bell rang, these guys went into a wild exchange that set the tone for the rest of the action. Naito was the aggressor. He’s really picked up a knack for being able to work heel or face at the drop of a dime, with both being very good. Tanahashi has mastered it too. Ibushi used his aerial stuff to combat Naito. They called back to some of the insane spots they pulled out during their G1 battles. When Naito hit the sitout Tombstone on the apron, you knew they weren’t holding anything back. I loved Naito’s little smile when he did it. Like he knew he was taking it to another level. That triggered a wild closing stretch for two of the best in the world. Ibushi kept countering Destino but then had the Kamigoye countered into one for a great near fall. From there, Ibushi finished with a flurry including Boma Ye, Ibushi Driller, and Kamigoye to win in 20:38. As usual, these two delivered in spades. Incredible action from two of the best. Wild spots, great character moments, fire from both guys, a hot crowd, and some late drama. My kind of match. [****½]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Easily the best night of the tournament so far. The first two did nothing for me outside of Ishii/Nagata. Everything here was at least solid. The opener was fine, while the next three matches got progressively better and were all great. The main event is one of the best New Japan matches all year.

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NJPW New Japan Cup, Kevin Pantoja