New Japan Pro Wrestling: NJPW New Japan Cup 2016 Finals Review
Location: Aomori, Japan inside the Shin-Aomori Prefectural Sports Park Maeda Sub Arena
The New Japan Cup is a single-elimination tournament that’s been around since 2005, which usually establishes a challenger for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the April “Invasion Attack” show. More recently, it has become something a free-for-all, where the winner can choose to face either the NEVER Openweight Champion, the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, or the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the aforementioned April show. Hirooki Goto, who is once again a figure in this year’s edition, has won the New Japan Cup the most times with three victories. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yuji Nagata are right behind him with two NJ Cup wins.
The 2016 version once again featured 16 competitors going at it for the beautiful New Japan Cup trophy and of course the bigger dangling carrot at the end. Bad Luck Fale, Michael Elgin, Hirooki Goto, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Toru Yano, Tama Tonga, and Tetsuya Naito would all advance past the first round. Elgin would defeat Fale with an Elgin Bomb, Goto has been using a “win by all means” approach so far, as he used the Goto Shiki folding pin to beat Nagata and then kicked Tonga and got a pin, even though Tonga’s shoulder was clearly up on the replay. Yano would defeat Kojima with a hair pull cradle, and Naito countered a Brainbuster by Ishii into El Destino for the win.
So, the stage is set for the final four of Elgin, Goto, Yano, and Naito to compete for the big prize, but there are other things happening on this card as well. Will David Finlay Jr. finally get a win on Jay White? Could Tama Tonga reveal his mystery partner? Could anymore challengers establish themselves for other belts? And of course, the biggest one being if Goto could for once become the bride.
Match 1: David Finlay Jr. vs. Jay White
Winner: Jay White (After Liontamer)
Finlay was much more aggressive then he has been, as he’s obviously upset at this losing streak he’s been on to Jay White recently. So the work was a bit more stiff than usual, with even the wrestling at the beginning feeling that way. Both guys were great as always, with Jay in particular returning the intensity that his opponent brings. Things sort of played out the same way they have the last couple of times, Finlay gets in the Boston Crab, but Jay gets out of it. Finlay gets too aggressive and it allows Jay to get the tap out win. ** and ¼ *
Match 2: Jushin Thunder Liger & Juice Robinson vs. (NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Champion) Tiger Mask IV & Captain New Japan
Winner: Liger & Juice (After Juice makes Captain New Japan TAP OUT to a Seated Cobra Clutch)
Interesting to see Juice winning matches and finding different ways to get the victory as well. He’s adapting well to the Strong Style and the crowd is reacting to him. Nice to see he got a decent length of time at the end with Captain New Japan to setup the finish including a good nearfall on a roll-up by CNJ. Liger and Tiger also had a nice interaction where Tiger does a Suicide Dive, but Liger gets him back with a Tilt-a-Whirl Back Breaker. I should also give a nod to the peculiar submission Liger puts CNJ in at one point too. ** and a ¼ *
Match 3: Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI (CHAOS) vs. EVIL & BUSHI (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
Winner: Los Ingobernables de Japon (After a STO by EVIL on Ishii)
This started and ended like most Ingobernables matches, but the middle of it was nice. EVIL and BUSHI have really grown as a team and manage to keep things interesting even without Naito out there. I loved the Codebreaker and German Suplex combo they did at one point. Yoshi got beatdown to start, which included the now trademark EVIL whipping his opponent into the pole with a chair attached to the head. It then turned into a mini EVIL vs. Ishii match after that and they lit up the screen with big moves, headbutts and Lariats. Just when Ishii starts turning things around, EVIL takes out the referee on purpose so that BUSHI can shoot Mist in Ishii’s face and this facilitates the STO and victory. A good match, but what was more important was the after the match beatdown. EVIL kneels next to Ishii with the ROH TV Title, holds it up, and makes the throat slash gesture. So, looks like EVIL vs. Ishii for the TV Title is happening at Invasion Attack. ***
Match 4: New Japan Cup 2016 Semi-Final Match: Toru Yano (CHAOS) vs. Tetsuya Naito (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
Winner: Tetsuya Naito (After Naito hits a low blow and a flash pin)
This has to be one of the most stacked two minute matches ever. Yano tried every kind of roll-up he could, with the near falls getting increasingly closer to a 3 count each time, until Naito out smarted him on the last one. Yano hit a low blow from behind, but Naito made sure to take the referee with him to prevent Yano from getting the pinfall. Naito then gives Yano a little taste of his own medicine to get the win. Whether it is two minutes or 105 minutes, what matters is telling the story and they did that here through some great facial expressions. It also will surely factor into the NJ Cup Finals match later because Naito hardly spent any energy. No Rating
Match 5: New Japan Cup 2016 Semi-Final Match: Michael Elgin vs. Hirooki Goto
Winner: Hirooki Goto (After a Crucifix Pin)
This was almost total domination by Elgin honestly, but the pacing and having Goto work from underneath really told the story of what it’s been for Goto in this tournament. Elgin brought out everything here, including a Somersault Senton off the apron to the floor. They had a neat rope running sequence, where Elgin kept ducking under Goto’s Lariat and then Elgin hit him with one. Elgin pulled a nice modifier on the Rolling Germans and hit a Tiger Suplex for the third. Elgin was trying his hardest to finish off Goto, even hitting the Buckle Bomb, but just went it looked all but over, Goto was able to stop the Elgin Bomb, counter a Lariat, and then counter a Lariat into a sort of Crucifix Pin for the upset win. This did a great job of furthering Goto’s journey and his “win at all costs” mentality he has now really works in this type of setting. Even though he exhausted more energy than Naito, you could argue he didn’t really use that much because it was more Elgin wasting energy. A very good match that sent everyone stirring into intermission with the NJ Cup 2016 Final match set. *** and ½ *
Match 6: (NEVER Openweight Champion) Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima (Ten Cozy)
Winner: Ten Cozy (After a Cozy Lariat to Taguchi)
Taguchi mocking the Tenzan Mongolian Chops almost made the match for me by itself. He even did a ridiculous super wind-up on one of them that was just so stupid, you really couldn’t help but laugh. Moving away from that, this was all about Kojima and Shibata, not necessarily because they were having all of these interactions in between the ropes, but because even from the very start you could see that Kojima is interested in that NEVER Openweight Title. Kojima also kept knocking Shibata off the ring apron, so when Shibata finally got in there, he did the same thing to Kojima with some big boots. The work here was solid, Ten Cozy showed they are a great tag team and took it seriously, while Taguchi’s antics got the best of him in the end, as Kojima took his head off with a Lariat.
After the match: Kojima tried to challenge Shibata for the NEVER Title, but Shibata was having none of that, so they had to brawl and Kojima laid him out with a Cozy Lariat and said he was done with the tag matches and he’s challenging for the NEVER belt. He laid the belt on top of Shibata and he and Tenzan posed for the crowd. Looks like another match is set for Invasion Attack. ***
Match 7: Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. (IWGP Heavyweight Champion) Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo & Kazushi Sakuraba (CHAOS)
Winner: Team CHAOS (After a Rainmaker Lariat to Nakanishi)
This is certainly an odd pairing to say the least. Nothing here was bad really, but watching Nakanishi and Sakuraba attempt to mat wrestle each other was almost hilarious at times. Okada also tried his hand at wrestling both Nagata and Nakanishi as well. This is probably the most we’ve seen out of both Sakuraba and Nakanishi in a long time. I put this down to Okada, who always seems to get the best out of everyone around him. Sakuraba looked motivated and he pulled off a Dropkick and even nailed Nagata with a Plancha to the outside. Nakanishi had a longer finishing sequence with Okada than you’d expect, even rolling up after the DDT, well whatever you’d consider a Nakanishi roll in 2016. Okada would finish him off with the Rainmaker and the IWGP Heavyweight Champion looks strong, as he should. ** and ¾ *
Match 8: Hiroshi Tanahashi, (IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions) Togi Makabe (Great Bash Heel) & Tomoaki Honma (Great Bash Heel) vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Yujiro Takahashi (Bullet Club)
Winner: Bullet Club (after Tonga hits Honma with a Headshrinker DDT)
Everyone here did their usual stuff, which means you kinda know what this match is. Bullet Club attack before the bell and on the outside, including Yujiro doing something that’s become very common for him as of late, hitting someone with a chair. Honma was the focus of the match, as he usually is in these types of settings because he can get the crowd behind him. He had to do everything he could to fight off the Bullet Club and make the tag to Makabe for him to do his flurry of offense. Tanahashi would get a few things in on Fale and then there was the interesting finish with Tanahashi taking out Yujiro and Fale with a High Fly Flow to the outside, but Tonga would end up pinning Honma in the end. This means in a matter of nine days, Tonga has pinned both Tag Team Champions.
After the Match: Bullet Club lay everyone out, as Tonga hits the Headshrinker DDT on Makabe and Fale hits Tanahashi with the Grenade. Tonga holds both Tag Belts on his shoulders and tells Makabe to look up because at Invasion Attack he is challenging for these belts. He then revealed his tag team partner is his brother, who is the former Camacho or Micah (in WWE and TNA respectively.) I really like the way this Invasion Attack card is shaping up. ** ¾ *
Match 9: MAIN EVENT: New Japan Cup 2016 Final: Tetsuya Naito w/ EVIL & BUSHI (Los Ingobernables de Japon) vs. Hirooki Goto
Winner of the 2016 New Japan Cup: Tetsuya Naito (After El Destino)
A great match that was totally fitting of a New Japan Cup Final. Both men went for everything here, but in the end it was Naito getting the expected win. BUSHI did interfere very early two different times, including Naito having Goto in the tree of woe and BUSHI choking Goto with his T-Shirt, which is certainly something you don’t see in every match. EVIL also got involved, but Goto quickly dispatched him with an Urushi-Goroshi. This continued the story of Goto once again getting very close, but failing when it counts. Although, this would have been Goto’s fourth NJ Cup victory of his career, this one was made to feel bigger than the others because of the booking of his character at the moment. Naito had much more of an old Naito match, where he did everything but the Stardust Press. Goto even pulled out the Avalanche Urushi-Goroshi and Naito KICKED OUT of the Shouten-Kai as well. The crowd was really into the match, which very much helped give it this big time feel as the match continued to build. Naito would get a counter El Destino and not too long after hit a definitive Destino for the victory. ****
The after match proceedings were probably just as important as the match was, as after Naito held up the NJ Cup trophy, he cut a promo saying that he would indeed be challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but it would be on his own time and then all three Los Ingobernables de Japon beat up Goto. Champion Kazuchika Okada came out to make the save and once again offered Goto a handshake. This time, Goto accepted the hand shake and by virtue joined CHAOS. Okada then cut a promo of his own asking Naito to make his challenge at Invasion Attack. This would make total sense, as Okada wouldn’t want someone basically having a free shot at him whenever they choose. Naito puts it on Okada saying that it looks like Okada wants Naito to get the Championship already. So, since this is Okada’s wish, Naito will grant it and the main event of Invasion Attack is set. Naito then stood tall with his stablemates to close out the show.
Naito in a press conference afterwards joked about breaking his promise to the fans in Osaka, (which hate him with a passion), and also told Goto that he was “smart” to become Okada’s lackey.
OVERALL RATING: 7.0: A very good match between Elgin and Goto and a New Japan Cup Final that certainly delivered are the two stand out matches on this show. The other stuff was sort of middling, but you got a lot of matches made for Invasion Attack, which makes this more noteworthy for that reason. Okada vs. Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Title, Tama Tonga & Camacho vs. Makabe & Honma for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, Kojima & Shibata for the NEVER Title and Ishii & EVIL for the ROH Television Title as well. That’s half your card setup in one night almost a month away from that big show. Before that though, there’s at least one Road to Invasion Attack show set for 3/27 that will be available for the world to see. New Japan delivers once again and things look very interesting headed into 4/10.