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Pantoja’s NJPW New Japan Cup 2023 Finals Review

March 21, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
David Finlay Sanada Image Credit: NJPW
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Pantoja’s NJPW New Japan Cup 2023 Finals Review  

NJPW New Japan Cup Finals

March 21st, 2023 | Aore Nagaoka in Nagaoka, Niigata | Attendance: 3,384

So, we’ve reached the finals. New Japan is kind of trying something new with this finals but they’re also likely reverting back to the same old, same old in terms of who faces Okada so there’s that. There’s one match on this card that I’m excited for.

DOUKI and Taichi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yuto Nakashima

Did DOUKI spend the last few months getting jacked? It’s so weird to see Tanahashi in an opener. The bulk of this was handled by Nakashima as he got beat up by two of the JUST FIVE GUYS stable. Tanahashi was clearly taking the night off. Rightfully so, Ace, you rest up. I did love Tanahashi’s absurd lean over the ropes for the hot tag. He did his thing when he entered and hit everything moving. Interestingly, Nakashima wanted to come back in and Tanahashi was tempted to wave him off but made the tag anyway. The Young Lion made the mistake of trying to trade shots with Taichi rather than keep him grounded. That proved costly and he was bested by a backdrop driver in 10:03. That was entertaining, had energy, and told a story. [***]

Kosei Fujita and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Ryohei Oiwa and Shota Umino

It looks like we’re gearing up toward Umino/ZSJ for the TV Title at some point. What I liked here was the personalities of the Young Lions. Oiwa had the fire we’ve come to expect from them and while Fujita did too, he added arrogance to his style. It’s something that comes with being chosen by ZSJ. I liked ZSJ’s arrogance throughout, even sarcastically applauding Umino as he beat up Fujita. This was kept relatively short and had a fair bit of action. Fujita wouldn’t lose to submissions so Umino had to resort to Death Rider to beat him in 9:44. Post-match, ZSJ agreed to a challenge for the TV Title from Umino. [***]

Chase Owens, El Phantasmo and KENTA vs. Tama Tonga, Tomoaki Honma and Tomohiro Ishii

The Bullet Club is in a weird place. David Finlay is apparently the new leader but he doesn’t really seem to like or want any part of the rest of the group, even ignoring ELP on the previous show. Anyway, three BC guys jumped the faces here before the bell. I don’t have much to say about this match because it was really basic. The main stories were that Owens and Ishii kept going at it (including after the bell) though that’s not a pairing I care much to see and ELP was being goofy. He scaled back on it late, which is in line with commentary talking about Finlay’s feelings about ELP, and beat Honma with CR2 in 8:14. This was largely fine. [**½]

Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO and Yujiro Takahashi vs. El Desperado, Ren Narita, Ryusuke Taguchi and Toru Yano

Weird to have no Suzuki here. Likely due to that, this was kept extremely short. The House of Torture geeks jumped the faces in the aisle. They brawled for a bit and once this started, the only legal men I counted were Taguchi and Yujiro. Taguchi got isolated and Yujiro beat him with Pimp Juice in 2:45. Short and to the point. [NR]

Aaron Henare and The Great-O-Khan vs. Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito

How does LIJ fare in a post-SANADA world? Damn, Naito lost SANADA and EVIL? On one hand, these hoes ain’t loyal. On the other, he kind of shed the dead weight of the group while Shingo and Hiromu are still there to carry things. Anyway, this had the added story of Henare scoring an upset over Shingo in the tournament. This was just about what you’d expect from these four. Quality wrestling, some hard hitting stuff, and it was entertaining throughout. Alas, we did get t-shirt Naito, proving this wasn’t that big of a match. Henare continued to kind of have Shingo’s number picking up near falls and remaining a step ahead at points. The closing stretch here was really strong, with O-Khan nearly beating Naito after countering Destino into a Tombstone. Naito then countered the Eliminator into a rollup to steal this in 12:43. That was a really good tag that made me intrigued in more from these guys. [***¼]

Post-match, Shingo and Henare kept going at it while O-Khan beat up Naito and got a visual pin on him.

Aussie Open and Jeff Cobb vs. Bishamon and Kazuchika Okada

It looks like Okada has nothing to do until we’ve got a winner so he’s here in a match meant to hype the eventual Bishamon/Aussie Open title match. Interestingly, Cobb did a bit of mocking Kenny Omega throughout the match. I’m guessing he’s angling for a US Title shot. The United Empire isolated Goto for a while because he’s a geek. It’s wild how Goto is a dweeb and so is HASHI, yet they work well as a team. Okada came in with the hot tag and turned the tide for a bit. Cobb catching Okada’s cross body into an offensive move was probably the best spot of the match. In the end, it came down to another tag title preview that saw HASHI fall victim to Corealis (I think that’s how it’s spelled) after 11:13. That was really good, featured a bunch of energy and did everything it set out to do. [***½]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi [c] vs. Lio Rush

The one match on the card I came in excited about. As expected, the opening exchange here was breathtaking. These two both move at a ridiculous pace and they managed to make sure it all came off smoothly. The counters they had for each other were great, like Lio blocking the sunset flip bomb only to end up being hit with an apron powerbomb anyway. Hiromu had trouble keeping up with Lio at times so once he got hold of him, he made sure to leave an impact, doing things like a Death Valley Driver into the guardrail. Lio responded by using that speed again, firing off multiple tope suicidas and dives to overwhelm the champion. Lio found a way to hit Final Hour but then his Frog Splash saw Hiromu get the knees up. Lio kicked out of Time Bomb and they went at it for a bit longer with several close calls on both sides. Thankfully, they never hit the level of going overboard with that kind of stuff. Lio busted out YOH’s finish but again missed the Frog Splash. A few moves later and Hiromu retained with Time Bomb II after a tremendous 21:27. Just a fantastic match filled with great offense worked at a wild pace. I loved how Lio made a key mistake or two and it cost him. [****¼]

After the match, Zack Sabre Jr. showed up and threw to a video of TMDK’s newest member. It’s Robbie Eagles who challenged Hiromu for Sakura Genesis. Love Eagles joining and that match should rule.

New Japan Cup Finals: David Finlay vs. SANADA

So, this is a match. Two guys who have switched/joined stables in the past month or two. As has been the case since turning heel, Finlay gave this an intense start, which is interesting because that’s something so different from how SANADA tends to work. Thankfully, SANADA was game to keep up and this had a brisk pace to it. They kept that up throughout which I appreciate but this was still lacking something. At no point did it ever really hit a note of sniffing greatness. Plus, every single time SANADA lets go of his finisher to do a moonsault, I will talk about how stupid it is. How am I supposed to take him seriously? They went into the finisher spamming and counter stuff way sooner than I expected and then all of a sudden SANADA turned the Trash Panda into his new DDT to win in 19:56. Maybe I’m so used to New Japan’s 35 minute main events that this going under 20 felt abrupt. I’m all for it but I’d like the match to be better. This was solid yet unspectacular, so SANADA in a nutshell. [***¼]

On one hand, the main event went under 20 so Gedo couldn’t have booked it. On the other hand, we’re getting another chapter in the painfully mediocre SNADA/Okada series so Gedo had to have booked it.

The final score: review Good
The 411
While the main event wasn’t anything special, this was a pretty consistently good show. Nothing bad, several good matches, and one standout Jr. Heavyweight Title banger.

article topics :

New Japan Cup, Kevin Pantoja