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Pantoja’s NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Finals Review

March 28, 2022 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Semifinals Image Credit: NJPW
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Pantoja’s NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Finals Review  

NJPW New Japan Cup Finals

March 27th, 2022 | Osaka Jo-Hall in Osaka, Japan | Attendance: 2,987

The tournament has been a mixed bag. A few standout matches, some consistently solid stuff, and some awful stuff as well. So basically New Japan in a nutshell these days.

BUSHI vs. Kosei Fujita

I know a lot of people don’t care for BUSHI but I’ve always kind of liked him. He had some bangers in the early LIJ days and consistently does well in the multi-man tags where he has to eat pins. This was the typical Young Lions singles match in that BUSHI held serve while Fujita showed all sorts of fire and did everything he could for an upper hand despite his limited moveset. BUSHI won a spirited match in 7:20 with a Boston Crab. [**¾]

Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, El Phantasmo, Gedo & Taiji Ishimori vs. The Guerrillas of Destiny, Jado, Mater Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi

Man, it’s weird to see G.O.D. line up with the face teams. This was the usual stuff from the Bullet Club as they were all about using heel tactics to gain an advantage. One thing I found interesting about this was getting to see G.O.D. run as faces. Tama Tonga had a pretty impressive hot tag run and I’ve never see him work face so that was really different. Different is good in a company that is this stale. The crowd was way into Jado getting his hands on Gedo though I couldn’t care less. Just when it looked like Jado would finally get his revenge, Chase Owens hit him from behind and Gedo covered to win in 9:53. That was better than expected and had a few bit that were actually intriguing. [**¼]

Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and YOH

Oh, no. The Suzuki/Yano feud is reignited! At least this match gave me a fair bit of Ishii and Suzuki going at it, which I’ll always appreciate. I’m also intrigued by getting to see YOH mix it up with heavyweights. He seems kind of directionless outside of the SHO feud but I’d love to see him make a NEVER Title run or something as a perennial underdog. The less interesting bit of this was that Yano and Taichi teased a lot of sumo stances during their fight and before the bell. Gedo is booking so this will very likely end in a sumo match or something like that. And people will STILL act like he’s a great booker. Taichi pinned YOH after 8:05 and this was carried by the great Ishii/Suzuki brawl, as well as solid work from Taichi vs. YOH. Post-match, Ishii and Suzuki brawled around the arena. [**¾]

El Desperado and TAKA Michinoku vs. SHO and Yujiro Takahashi

SHO walked to the back during his entrance but it was a ruse so he could jump the Suzuki-Gun guys. He wants a shot at Desperado which would’ve been rad in the pre-SHO House of Torture era. When the referee tried to get involved and stop the assault, SHO dumped him outside. Then, the bell rang and SHO made Desperado watch as he choked out TAKA in 0:37. That worked well enough as an angle. [NR]

After the bell, SHO ripped off Desperado’s mask, earning rare COVID-era boos from the crowd.

The Empire vs. Great Bash Heel, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI

The Empire boys jumped the faces quickly. The main setup of this match was to focus on the idea that Cobb and O-Khan want a shot at Goto and HASHI’s Tag Team Titles. That could make for a good match if it isn’t made to 30 minutes. Makabe surprisingly took the heat here as he usually isn’t one to do any work or bump. That’s the kind of thing Honma typically handles while Makabe plays the hits. Things got turned around when Cobb was beaten up by all of his opponents though that obviously didn’t last too long. Honma got caught leaping and was hit with Tour of the Islands to eat the pin after 10:26. This was standard stuff and after the match, Cobb and O-Khan laid out the champions. [**¼]

Dick Togo and EVIL vs. Hiromu Takahashi and Shingo Takagi

The LIJ history is what this was all about. Plus, EVIL was apparently embarrassed that he lost to a junior heavyweight in the tournament. Serves him right to be honest. Hiromu ran at him and attacked, getting some revenge for EVIL doing the same the day prior, and that is how this brawl began. That actually worked in the favor of this match as the fast pace allowed things to be kept short and aggressive throughout so nothing dragged. The finish came after 8:29 when Hiromu beat Togo with Everything is EVIL. He hilariously again used EVIL’s own move and made him watch as he did it. EVIL was fuming. He tried to attack after the match but Hiromu laid him out with a superkick before taunting him and saying that he wants EVIL to demand a rematch because he isn’t asking for one. [**½]

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Satoshi Kojima & Tiger Mask IV vs. StrongHearts and Tatsumi Fujinami

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS MATCH? How you just gonna casually put Fujinami on the card and especially against the likes of Tanahashi and Okada. Watching Tanahashi come out makes me wish there was a Peloton ride with New Japan themes because I will put in work if I hear “Go Ace!” They teased Fujinami and Tanahashi facing off but we got Fujinami and Okada instead. Their exchanges weren’t great but the crowd ate them up. A highlight a bit later was T-Hawk no selling the Kojima rapid-fire chops and giving them right back to him. Kojima then did them again, with success, and seemed satisfied. Kojima took the heat and Stronghearts worked very well together, even impressing Fujinami. Tanahashi found an interesting (illegal) way to lean over the ropes and get the hot tag. There was a great near fall where commentary made it feel like Okada might get pinned by T-Hawk. I would’ve liked that it would set up a random one-off title match at some point. Okada regrouped and won with the Rainmaker after 14:18. You know what? I had a blast with that match and it was better than a lot of the tournament. [***½]

New Japan Cup Finals: Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

These two usually work well as opponents. They met in the G1 27 (***¾), 2018 New Japan Cup (****), G1 28 (****¼), Power Struggle 2018 (***¾), G1 30 (****), Summer Struggle in Osaka (***¼), and G1 31 (***¾). I liked Sabre not getting annoyed by Naito’s extremely slow removal of his pre-match outfit. He stretched and was like, “We got all the time in the world.” Once they got going, Sabre held serve in the early offensive exchanges until Naito snapped off a rana. Some of the middle portions of this kind of lacked and weren’t up to the high level of their best bouts. It picked up late as most New Japan main events tend to do. Naito hit on one Destino but had the second countered into the Zack Driver right at the 20 minute mark, which led to a near fall. Sabre looked damaged and on the verge of losing but found an opening by going back after the knee. They traded roll ups and near falls down the stretch before Sabre won with another Zack Driver after 24:43. A good call on the winner and a very good main event but not something I’d call great. Now do the right thing and have ZSJ beat Okada. Stop being a coward, Gedo. [***¾]

The final score: review Average
The 411
Most of that show was middling at best with only the final two matches cracking three stars. Both of those matches were really good though and nothing on the show was bad, plus it gave Sabre Jr. a big win which was welcome.

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New Japan Cup, Kevin Pantoja