Yesterday, New Japan Pro Wrestling commenced the quarter-finals of its 2018 New Japan Cup. As per previous years, Wrestlinginc.com is reporting that now the winner will be able to choose the gold he vies for at Sakura Genesis on April 1 – either the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, or the Never Openweight Championship, as where it was initially believed only a crack at the former would be the prize.
Following on from a patchy opening round and with the field narrowed to just eight, the imminent Juice Robinson took to the ring to try and fell first round star Michael Elgin, whilst the legend that is Hiroshi Tanahashi stood toe-to-toe with the imposing Bad Luck Fale, the Bullet Club’s only surviving member with Yujiro Takahashi routed on night 1. Thankfully, unlike several moments over the previous quartet of nights, the commencement of the quarter-finals did not disappoint.
Here are the results from Night 5 of the New Japan Cup on March 14:
Michael Elgin vs. Juice Robinson
Juice Robinson defeated Michael Elgin in a fantastic 17:10 back and forth encounter packed with first-rate psychology we need to see more of in matches that feature men of their respective size. Not to mention some top class babyface work by Juice who is fast becoming one of the most underrated fan favorites in the industry today.
Utilizing his speed in the early going, Juice aggravated the physically superior Elgin in the hopes it would give him an advantage. To be fair, for a short time it did, before the psychology kicked in and the agile big man snatched an elegant arm drag and roughed his hurdle up with a series of hard shoulder blocks. It was time for the babyface to take a pasting and Robinson sold the onslaught with such brilliance that you were willing for him to succeed even against the excellent Elgin.
A corner enziguri knocked the stuffing out of Juice, whilst the snap suplex, chop block, and flurry of elbows that followed all drove the wind and will from the American star determined to make good. Refusing to lay down and die in true Bret Hart style, the plucky underdog brought the crowd to their feet with a rallied offense that included a stunning electric chair facebuster, which should not have been possible on an opponent of greater size. A superb gutbuster earned a decent near fall, but the follow-up powerbomb didn’t go to plan however and Elgin powered out to resume control.
A death valley driver into the corner nearly broke Robinson in half. The thunderous suplex which drew yet another heated fall could have broken the smaller man’s ribs. Every hard-hitting maneuver, however, was perfectly designed to draw heat for Elgin and emit sympathy for Juice who the crowd was solidly behind. It was fascinating to watch two men with such a great grasp of the industry work in a way that protected kayfabe and projected the designated roles completely. Pushing his heel role further, the watertight Elgin remorselessly smashed Robinson with a tiger driver and began to rile when his smaller foe refused to stay down.
Elgin missed a breathtaking corkscrew senton, Juice saw his side kick reversed into a bone-shaking powerbomb, and on and on the tension expertly grew as did the support for the gallant little guy who refused to give up. Dual corner lariats looked fine, double clotheslines failed to ground either man, and a German suplex from the dominant force drew a sharp intake of breath and yet another hair-raising near fall. Surely Juice Robinson couldn’t take anymore, could he?
The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’! The man who had grafted hard to shake off the dreadful CJ Parker gimmick wasn’t about to allow his latest chance at stardom slip through his fingers, not after he’d failed to capture a large percentage of the company’s gold the previous year. It was this sheer determination and unparalleled storytelling which made the home straight nail-biting. Even those who staunchly support heels only found themselves willing the heroic long-shot to victory.
Gathering his wits, Robinson upturned a powerbomb but saw the same result for his Pulp Friction. Elgin swung like he was batting for the New York Yankees and almost beheaded Juice with a reverse lariat, taking advantage of the situation with an explosive buckle bomb. It was relentless and thrilling right to the dying seconds when the battered and bruised dark horse inverted an Elgin Bomb into a small package for the euphoric victory.
The best match of the night by a country mile, both men excelled in their roles and drew the required response from a heavily invested audience. The finish protected Elgin whilst pushing the plucky Juice Robinson character a little further into our hearts. I would like to see Juice go all the way in this tournament now it’s clear Elgin will not be able to, challenging either Minoru Suzuki for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship or Hirooki Goto for the Never Openweight Championship, dethroning one of them. He has the right character, the skills to pull it off, and the support of the audience who yearn to see him succeed after countless failures. At this stage in his career, a shot at the top honor and its undisputed star would be a step too far believability-wise.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Bad Luck Fale in a tremendous 14:30 brawl which did wonders for the image of the Bullet Club member but also featured a questionable finish for the second consecutive show. Like the bout that preceded it, the roles were clearly defined with Fale stepping into the shoes of the dominant presence whilst the marvel that is Tanahashi played the part of the aging legend struggling to ward off the advances of a new generation. Both men excelled in their parts, though not to the degree of Robinson and Elgin beforehand.
Dominating the early going with sheer brute force, Fale countered every attempt of Tanahashi’s to remove him from his feet, eventually forcing the former IWGP Intercontinental Champion to regroup on the outside with a hefty hip toss. It soon became clear to the stalwart that his game plan would have to change and Hiroshi lured the behemoth into a chase around ringside which he won, slithering back inside for a baseball slide as the action returned to the arena floor.
A Fale toss saw Tanahashi leap the guardrail, seconds later, however, the wily monster swept his legs out from under him as the athletic idol attempted to re-enter the squared circle. In a rage, the Bullet Club powerhouse pitched his adversary into a throng of fans followed by several barricades but couldn’t keep the ring veteran down, and he beat the referee’s count. By this time, Fale’s game plan became apparent with a huge splash on the apron but he still couldn’t get Tanahashi counted out. Eventually, the action returned to the ring.
Following several more power moves, Hiroshi found himself cornered and reeling. Grabbing the only opportunity available to him, the master of the high fly flow dodged a splash and took his chance, flustering the governing star with countless punches and a body slam, which required a flood of dropkicks to execute. Countering the grenade, Tanahashi walked straight into a colossal Samoan drop and splash for a near fall. It was going to take something amazing to stop the rampaging brute stampeding all the way to the semi-finals.
Drawing on his years of experience, Tanahashi took aim at Fale’s pins with effective dropkicks but was too late to duck a lariat that earned the Tonga-born star a count of two. Spying the end of the bout, which went just long enough so as not to expose Bad Luck’s shortcomings, the pair embroiled in the usual array of counters and near falls that come hand-in-hand with almost every New Japan bout in the present. Tanahashi countered the Bad Luck Fall into a great sunset flip, counteracted the grenade with a gorgeous German suplex, and sent the colossus back to the arena floor with a clothesline.
With seconds remaining in their allotted time, Tanahashi showed his plentiful nous by turning Fale’s previous plan against his opponent. Taking flight with an excellent high fly flow crossbody to the outside, Hiroshi traded hard blows with the heavy-hitter and overturned another Bad Luck Fall to beat the referee’s count, taking the count-out victory in a questionable ending.
Granted, the finale protected Fale, which was the overall idea. This was the main event of the evening, however, and the second show on the bounce to feature a count-out conclusion in a tournament outing. There are ways to protect a wrestler and give the audience an irrefutable conclusion without the need for the ending we saw here, which felt, at least to this writer, like unimaginative booking. It didn’t seem to matter to the paying audience, however, who lost their composure because Jack had slain the giant. All in all, another great bout highlighted by Tanahashi’s ability to get the best out of a limited worker.
On the undercard:
- El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Tetsuhiro Yagi and Ryusuke Taguchi
- David Finlay, Toa Henare, and Ren Narita defeated Shota Umino, Tomoyuki Oka, and Yuji Nagata
- Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. defeated Tanga Loa and Yujiro Takahashi
- Chase Owens and Kota Ibushi defeated Taka Michinoku and Zack Sabre Jr.
- Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and Chuckie T defeated BUSHI, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito
- YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, and Kazuchika Okada defeated Taichi, Takahashi Iizuka, and Minoru Suzuki
- ROH Mayhem in Manhattan
- Ren Nartia
- Yujiro Takahashi
- Tetsuhiro Yagio
- Juice Robsinson
- David Finaly
- Killer Elite Squad
- Toa Henare
- Shota Umino
- Tomohiro Ishii
- Tetsuya Naito
- hangman page
- Tanga Loa
- Tomoyuki Oka
- kota ibushi
- Yuji Nagata
- El Desperado
- Bad Luck Fale
- New Japan Cup
- Hiroshi Tanahashi
- Chase Owens
- Zack Sabre Jr
- Kazuchika Okada
- Michael Elgin
- WWE Star Eyes Up Top Free Agent Match
- Former WWE Star Seemingly Signs Deal With The Company
- Backstage Details On Randy Orton WWE Creative Plans
- ‘A Lot Of Negativity’ Backstage In AEW, Reasons Why Revealed
- WWE Botches Big Match Announcement?
- WWE Star Injured Indefinitely, Pulled From Big Match
- AJ Styles Planned WWE Return Date Revealed
- Former WWE Star Announces Retirement
- New WWE Faction Member Revealed
- Insane Cody Rhodes WWE Record Revealed