After gruelling matches in the knock-out stages, Katsuyori Shibata and Bad Luck Fale go to war in the final round of the New Japan Cup, knowing only one of them can take home the trophy…
(Winner: None, due to time limit draw)
Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & David Finlay
Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado & Taka Michinoku
(Winners: Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & David Finlay, via pinfall)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
Yuji Nagata & Katsuya Kitamura
(Winners: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima, via pinfall)
Hirooki Goto, Jado & Gedo
Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi
(Winners: Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi, via submission)
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson, Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi
Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Evil, Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi
(Winners: Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Evil, Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, via pinfall)
Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi
Kenny Omega, Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa
(Winners: Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi, via pinfall)
Bad Luck Fale
New Japan Cup – Final
(Winner: Katsuyori Shibata, via pinfall)
Given the opening match was a ‘Young Lions’ contest, presumably expected to be the weakest of the matches on the card, I actually really enjoyed the match-up between Hirai Kawato and Tomoyuki Oka. Watching Kawato get more and more over with the crowd, each time he kicked out of a pin attempt, was quite something. I liked the finish being a time limit draw, and it put over both men very well. Some good technical wrestling.
From this point on, we were presented with five consecutive tag matches. The quality varied between them all, and in most cases there was no real feeling of there being anything at stake. It wasn’t until the fifth match of the night, which featured talent such as Tetsuya Naito, that it felt like things were stepping up a gear. Speaking of Naito, his cheating to win was a nice touch, and the beatdown of Juice Robinson afterward felt like we were finally seeing some story progression taking place on the show.
Bullet Club versus Okada and Chaos was easily the best tag battle of the night, with Kenny Omega the standout performer within Bullet Club. Watching and hearing him directing his team was fun, and when Okada was finally tagged in, seeing he and Omega come into contact again brought back fond memories of their incredible match at Wrestle Kingdom 11 (potentially the greatest wrestling match of all time).
The crowd were really behind Okada, and got into the match far more once he was tagged in towards the end. Great visual when he was isolated in the middle of the ring, surrounded and beaten down by all four members from Bullet Club, who looked like predators trapping their prey. Okada turned things in his favour though, and popped the crowd loud when he hit a dropkick and turned it into the Rainmaker, giving him the pinfall win for his team.
The main event was your typical “Man vs. Monster” contest, with Bad Luck Fale using his size advantage to dominate for most of the match. Shibata was a believable David versus Fale’s Goliath, and every attempt Shibata made to fight back was often crushed immediately.
On the occasions when Shibata did have some sort of control, we got some nice spots. Such as when he dropped Fale onto the steel barricades at ringside, or when he threw the steel chair into the hands of his opponent, and then kicked the chair into his face (avoiding a DQ as a result). The idea of a smaller man fighting a bigger man is not new to wrestling, and often times these matches can be the most engaging. Shibata and Fale told a good story, and the finish was great as Shibata all but made Fale pass out, then ran off the ropes to deliver a Penalty Kick, sealing his victory with a three count. As you’d expect, Shibata confirmed afterward that he would be cashing in his victory to challenge Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in April 2017. That will be one hell of a championship match.
All in all, and average show that left its memorable matches for the final hour. I’ve still yet to really enjoy the undercard of an NJPW show, but the top matches do deliver. Perhaps I’d have more success with this company’s output if I enjoyed tag team wrestling far more than I already do…?
Match of the Night
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale
New Japan Pro Wrestling: New Japan Cup 2017 Rating