Things are heating up for New Japan, as they are going into yet another Summer of Tournaments, with the Best of the Super Juniors, the G1 Climax, and the formerly defunct Super J Cup returning to compete with WWE’s Cruiserweight tournament.
The first step to the summer is Invasion Attack in April, where the heels of NJPW are set to start an all-out war with the babyfaces. The New Japan Cup Finals this past Saturday started this trend, which will hold over the booking until new challengers for the belts are decided throughout the summer.
On this night, new heels came from out of the darkness, a stale stable found it’s mojo again, and a new Heavyweight contender seems to have come to fruition.
Let’s take a look at what went on March 12th, in Japan.
This PPV is unfortunately not covered by English commentators, so I just sat back and enjoyed the pageantry behind Japanese wrestling.
They review the final four competitors in the tournament: Naito, Goto, Elgin & Yano, and show who they all beat to get to where they are. Apparently Goto trains by sitting underneath cold waterfalls. Yeah, this dude is a straight Elemental.
They then go over the Intercontinental, Heavyweight, and Openweight Champions, reminding the fans who the winner can chase in April. They also point out that the winner gets an over-sized check and the New Japan Cup, which resembles a Power Ranger Megazord mixed with the old King of the Ring crown.
They then cut to the live feed, where a ring announcer is introducing the card live to the fans, making it feel like a real fight night.
Jay White vs. David Finlay
The card opens up with the two Young Lions facing each other, and as expected, there is a lot of chain wrestling up top. These two kids try and show one of everything they have to impress fans and get the energy up. There’s a couple HUGE Jay White banners in the background, showing that the mullet/mohawk combo attracts ladies, even in the East.
David Finlay is white, pudgy, and has a terrible beard and generic tribal back tattoo. Basically, he looks like very kid from my High School who said THEY would get into wrestling.
The fans get excited for the first time in the night when Finlay locks in a Boston Crab. No one gets that excited about a Boston Crab in the WWE. Jay White gets some offense in to turn it around before locking in the Walls of Jericho (a very deep Boston Crab) for the win.
I guess they’re going to have Jay White go over in this Young Lions feud. I expect him to come to the midcard soon as a heart-throb babyface. This was a great way to start the card.
WINNER: Jay White via Submission (7:41)
Juice Robinson & Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Captain New Japan & Tiger Mask
Tiger Mask comes out with a NWA belt, which I later found out is the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. I forget that the NWA is still around, and that New Japan still does business with them. Liger and Juice come out to Liger’s music, which New Japan apparently doesn’t have the rights to, so they dub what seems to be the theme from a Saturday morning cartoon where kids turn into cars, or something equally absurd.
Liger and Tiger Mask IV apparently HATE each other, so Captain New Japan steps in to keep tensions down. The crowd gets PUMPED to see Liger versus the Captain. I love how even the comedy characters in New Japan are booked like warriors.
The match ensues with Captain providing some Benny Hill-esque spots, including missing common clotheslines and shoulder tackles. Juice punches Captain multiple times before Captain stops him by simply holding his hand up. Gold. All of it.
Juice Robinson notices a missed flying headbutt and yells “I’ll show you a flying headbutt!” Does anyone need to show us a flying headbutt? Have we learned nothing from our mistakes?
This match was good, but was obviously the comedic filler of the night. Liger and Tiger Mask can both go, as both did suicide dives out of the ring. Good for you guys, good for you. The most surprising part of the match was that Robinson picked up the win, choking Captain New Japan.
Liger and Tiger Mask square up, foreshadowing a title match over in the NWA.
WINNERS: Juice Robinson & Jushin Thunder Liger via Submission (8:12)
Match #3: YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. BUSHI & EVIL
EVIL & BUSHI come out for their tag match. EVIL’s entrance is terrifying. Then again, I realize he’s walking to the ring with a giant plastic staff and a laser pointer…
BUSHI is behind him, with that horrifying Day of the Dead inspired mask on.
Chaos comes out next, with YOSHI-HASHI spinning his baton and Ishii looking pissed (as always), holding the ROH TV belt. I never looked at Ishii’s titantron video until now, but I see that he went to college at Bite U, apparently. Even the Stone Pitbull needs a degree. Let that be a lesson to all you kids out there!
Los Ingobernables attack Chaos before the bell even rings. They take Ishii out and start ripping into YOSHI. The ring announcer powders out of the ring, but still completes the introductions in Japanese outside, while the good guys are getting the crap beat out of them. That’s dedication to your job, folks.
The evil henchmen of Naito keep ripping Ishii off of the apron, keeping him from tagging into the match. When he finally gets tagged in, he gets some offense in before getting green mist sprayed in his face by BUSHI. I forgot how much I missed foreign heels spraying mist. So good.
BUSHI makes sure YOSHI-HASHI stays on the outside, isolating Ishii inside the ring. EVIL hits The Pitbull with a lariat, followed by his STO for the win. I don’t know if it’s because I missed a lot of the tag matches from earlier New Japan Cup shows, but I did not expect this kind of match out of the heels. It was a perfect example of dissecting the good guys and beating them down to nothing. They looked vicious, and Ishii has every right to be pissed when he looks for his revenge.
Their generic Disturbed-like metal music (perfect for them, though, no complaints) plays as EVIL grabs Ishii’s title, holds up an unconscious Pitbull, and cuts both his and the title’s throat.
Looks like the TV Title from Ring of Honor will be defended in Japan for the next while, as EVIL seemed to step up to the plate with authority. I am an official Los Ingobernables fan.
WINNERS: EVIL & BUSHI (Los Ingobernables de Japon) via Pin (8:17)
Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito (New Japan Cup Semi-Finals)
Naito comes out to the ring in slacks and a dress shirt, along with a what looks like a Lucha Libre sabretooth tiger mask on. At least it’s not that horrifying metal skull number he wears in his video. That makes him look like he’s there to steal small children.
There is no way that would be sold at merch stands in America.
Toru Yano runs into the ring to try and get a small package on Naito for the early win. Yano, you sly dog.
The match consists mostly of Yano trying to get a cheap win on Naito. I realize that Naito’s slacks are breakaway. Nice. Yano puts himself into the ring ropes after Naito gets up, to protect himself from a beating. Naito drops to the mat and does his “shooting stardust to the sky” thing with his eye. Yano looks genuinely confused as to why he’s taunting him.
A couple of moves later and Naito catches Yano with a pin. And he didn’t even have to take his shirt off.
WINNER: Tetsuya Naito via Pin (2:32)
Hirooki Goto vs. Michael Elgin (New Japan Cup Semi-finals)
Elgin comes out with his bad attitude and wrinkly robe. Goto is summoned by samurais from the clouds, apparently.
The action is pretty standard, and pretty back-and-forth. Elgin does his extra-delayed suplex for almost a minute, and Goto hitting a Ushigoroshi, the fireman’s carry into a over-the-knee facebuster he uses as a finisher.
Elgin misses a clothesline, and Goto hooks him and cradles him for a pin. I guess these guys are leaving the multitude of finishers and false finishes for the finals. Good match, but no real story advancement when compared to the previous ones.
As my prediction went, Goto will meet Naito in the finals for the New Japan Cup.
WINNER: Hirooki Goto via Pin (9:28)
They replay parts from all the matches and provide commentary. They basically replay the ENTIRE Naito vs. Yano match, and over 90% of the Elgin vs. Goto match, it seems.
Japanese fans must watch their PPVs more casually, because this instant, in-depth replay is driving me bonkers. I JUST SAW ALL OF THIS! At least the WWE isn’t this bad.
The Young Lions run the ropes during intermission.
They then cut to the announce team, who are delivering what I assume to be expert analysis on the action and the finals. One of them is wearing a South Park tie.
I realized at this point that they aren’t competing in an arena, but literally what looks to be a huge gymnasium.
They cut a little early to the entrance view, and we can see the lights go out and welcome the crowd back from intermission. The ‘Welcome Back’ music can NOT sound anymore like an arcade game.
Ryusuke Taguchi & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Tenzan and Kojima come out, and apparently their team name is Tencozy. I never knew that. Taguchi and Shibata come out to Shibata’s music, which, when grouped with his titantron video, makes it seem like he’s from a Japanese after school special.
Shibata and Kojima start with a little elbow contest. ELBOWS TO THE FACE! Tenzan comes in with his patented nerve chops. Taguchi mocks his nerve chops, before hitting Tenzan with the Funky Weapon (his ass). Shibata big boots everyone before Kojima catches him in the corner and does his patented drum roll on his chest. Kojima and Shibata went extra-strong style on this one. Shibata elbows himself out of a corner, before he sits Kojima down and kicks him multiple times in the chest.
Taguchi comes in and summons the power of his butt, but Kojima stops him, hits him with his lariat, and pins Ryusuke for the win. Another surprise for me.
Kojima starts to cut a promo on Shibata after the match, before Shibata runs in and gives him a big boot. Kojima knock the Lover Boy down, lays Shibata’s NEVER title over his chest, and continues the promo. Fantastic.
It looks like there’s yet another title match scheduled for April, and we’re not even done with the card yet! Japanese wrestlers are much more badass when they ask for title shots than WWE wrestlers (sorry, Sports Entertainers). Never mind, they don’t ASK for title shots, they TAKE title shots.
Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuchika Okada
Three out of four of these competitors look too worn out to wrestle. Okada is smiling before the match, and shows respect to his opponents and the legends before him. Face turn almost complete.
Sakuraba and Nakanishi have mouth pieces in, which always make pro wrestlers look extra tough. The action is fairly slow, but very stiff, as one would expect given the competitors. Nagata locks in an armbar on Sakuraba so deep that his eyes roll back in his head.
Okada hits the Rainmaker on Nakanishi for the win.
WINNERS: Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuchika Okada (12:00)
Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale
Great Bash Heel comes out with yet more dubbed over music. If New Japan doesn’t have the right to play some of their own wrestlers theme songs on their own network, then why have them walk out to it in the first place? G.B.H. uses what sounds like a Godsmack riff.
Hiroshi Tanahashi comes out, which is a sight that needs to be seen. I couldn’t find his actual titantron video, so watch this one instead, and feel the best. And yes, he does consider himself the Ace of the Universe. Tanahashi looks like he’s made out of five smaller, mechanical Tanashi Power Rangers, sort of like a New Japan Megazord. I know, I know, TWO Megazord references in one article.
The Bullet Club come out, with Tama Tonga leading the charge. He’s wearing a Roman Reigns-esque flak vest, except much smaller. Maybe since WWE is blatantly stealing the Bullet Club for themselves, New Japan is scooping the SHIELD gimmick. All is fair in wrestling.
The action is pretty standard here, except the Bullet Club is much more vicious and nasty in this match. Maybe they read my last article about how they’re fading out of existence. They keep Tanahashi out of the match as much as possible. This helps in Kayfabe, as Tanahashi is the overall 1/100 Ace, but also in real life, as Tanahashi might still have an injured shoulder.
Tonga takes a camera man’s camera and takes pictures of his teammates as they brutalize the other teams. Genius.
Red Boots is officiating this match. Whenever he officiates, the rules are strictly followed at all times. Great job, Red Boots!
The faces take control for a bit, which leads to an awesome spot where Tonga and Honma are battling up the aisle. Honma makes it back into the ring at the count of 19 (in Japan, a count of 20 loses the match for you), and the crowd goes insane. Honma takes Tonga out, and hits a top rope headbutt. He goes for another one, but Tonga does a Orton-like Ace Cutter from the mat to the turnbuckle, then hits Honma with his finisher for the win. He then immediately ties his hair up in a man-bun. Like, two seconds after he wins a sporting contest.
Tonga grabs both belts from G.B.H. and he gets on the mic. He definitely speaks part of his promo in another language, and hisses a lot. Maybe that other language is Parseltongue. He mentions that he’s bringing his brother (Rock’s cousin) to New Japan, and that they’ll win the belts from New Bash Heel. Tonga mentions that he’s taking Bullet Club to a new level. Looks like he’s the new leader.
Fale chokeslams Tanahashi while Tonga hits his finisher on Makabe. They look vicious.
Yet another heel defeating their opponent and then immediately going for the title. They were just feuding for the 6-man belts last month. It seems like whenever someone loses a title in New Japan, they just go after a different one. Great match nonetheless.
WINNERS: Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale (Bullet Club) via Pin (13:21)
Main Event: Tetsuya Naito vs. Hirooki Goto
(New Japan Cup 2016 Winner and #1 Contender for Heavyweight, Intercontinental or Openweight Championship)
Naito comes to ringside, and this time he was smart enough to take his dress clothes off before he hits the ring. BUSHI is alongside him, making it seem like EVIL won’t play a part in the match.
The match starts similarly as the last Ingonerables match, with Naito and BUSHI taking advantage. BUSHI chokes Goto with his hoodie while Naito distracts the referee. The action picks up, and becomes too fast to keep down. The crowd, who are traditionally respectful during big fights in Japan, are going nuts. Simple moves like the Superplex and hurricanrana draw much bigger reactions in Japan than they do in America. We must be spoiled.
Goto hits a top rope Ushigoroshi and then headbutts Naito. Then again, maybe American fans don’t go crazy over high-risk moves because we don’t have to watch so many headbutts, lariats, kicks and elbows. Jeez, these all look like they hurt. Goto gets a two-count as the fans go NUTS.
BUSHI distracts the referee while EVIL sneaks in through the crowd (imagine eating popcorn and then accidentally looking over at him) and into the ring. He attacks Goto, but Goto hits EVIL with the Ushigoroshi. He then tries to hit one on Naito, but Naito turns it into a Zig-Zag like maneuver. The two competitors then sit up and get in a FIST FIGHT ON THE GROUND. This is exactly the drag-out fight I thought it would be.
More action, and then Goto goes for a lariat. That turned out to be his downfall, though, as Naito countered it and turned it into his finishing move, Destino. Three seconds later, and Naito has the Cup.
BUSHI and EVIL celebrate their boss’s win by knocking over all the Young Lions at ringside. Despicable.
WINNER: Tetsuya Naito via Pin (20:17)
Naito cuts a promo after his win. I don’t speak Japanese, so I skipped around, but stopped when Okada came out. Naito and Okada lock eyes before Naito leaves with his henchmen. Okada gives a sign of respect and handshake to Goto as the fans cheer Goto. Apparently Naito will be challenging Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in April. I can’t wait!
In conclusion, this was a terrific show that really showcased the future for New Japan. It looks like NJPW is having no problem filling the gaps that their top stars left behind. WWE could learn a thing or two.
What did you think of the New Japan Cup Finals? Wish something different had happened? Comment below! Still haven’t subscribed to New Japan World? What are you waiting for!?!? It’s than $10 USD per month, and has all the new shows, plus a ton of archived footage. Buy it here (use Google Chrome to get an automatic translation): http://njpwworld.com/
See you guys for Invasion Attack!