The second round of the New Japan Cup concluded this morning, and it didn’t disappoint. With great showings from Zack Sabre Jr., Kota Ibushi, and Juice Robinson, it was hard to be disappointed. The semi-finals are set to kick off tomorrow morning and finish on Sunday. With that said, let’s take a look back at the action!
Michael Elgin v. Juice Robinson
This was a fight if there ever was one. Elgin put on display his repertoire of suplexes against Robinson. The real story of this match is Juice Robinson’s heart. Juice has shown his will to continue even with injuries beginning to pile up. Elgin hit all of his big power moves as he does every match.
Between painful striking exchanges and a chess match of reversals, Elgin and Juice had a hell of a 2nd round match. Juice hit the big left forearm and began to set up the Pulp Friction only to be countered into another suplex by Elgin. The finish came when Elgin went for an Elgin bomb just to have Juice hit a roll-up for the win. Juice advances to face the winner of Tanahashi and Fale.
Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Bad Luck Fale
Not much to go over when it comes to this one. As I mentioned during round 1, Fale gets a lot of love from the NJPW office due to his loyalty. This was a story of the athletic Tanahashi trying to take out the monster Fale.
The common theme throughout the match was fighting to beat the count of the referee. This was a play on a match they had at the previous G-1 where Tana defeated Fale by countout. After a heavy back and forth and a lot of fighting on the outside, it was Tana that rose to the equation. Tanahashi gets his hand raised and will now be dancing with Juice in the semis.
SANADA v. Toru Yano
This was a Yano match if there ever was one. Lots of shenanigans and random spots of competency from Yano. SANADA was always going to be the one to move on but they still made him earn it. There were moments where Yano looked like he could steal the victory from Sanada. Hitting his patented low blow spot for a two count and chances at multiple countouts. At one point, Yano had SANADA for a 2 count and SANADA stopped the refs hand from hitting the 3.
Yano even went for SANADA’s own Skull End but had it reversed, only to reverse it for a roll-up for 2. Yano generally isn’t treated like someone who can actually get something done, but SANADA gave him the world. The end came when SANADA locked in the Skull End to get the submission victory. The end of the match was also a highlight as Sanada locks a Young Lion, Yano, AND a referee in the Paradise Lock and left em for dead.
Zack Sabre Jr. v. Kota Ibushi
This was the match of the tournament without a single challenger to its greatness. The level which these two competed at was off the charts. The story of the match was Ibushi’s strikes against Sabre’s submissions. It felt for each and every strike Kota gave, Sabre had a way to turn it into a submission. The beauty of this match was that fans had no idea who would win. Both wrestlers are favorites of NJPW.
The way these two were able to weave in and out of reversals and submissions was a damn thing of beauty. At one point, Ibushi went for a moonsault and Sabre caught him in a triangle choke. Now, this may sound like a typical wrestling counter but the way Sabre caught Ibushi was so smooth that it was seamless. It looked like it took absolutely zero effort.
I have to give Zack Sabre Jr. the title of best submission wrestler in the world. What Dean Malenko was 20 years ago, ZSJ has taken the throne. This guy was putting Ibushi in stuff that I had never seen before and had no idea what to call. Both men fought their hearts out but the finish would come when ZSJ locked Ibushi in the Octopus Hold but would take it a step further and trap both arms and start stomping on Kota’s head. The ref stepped in and called an end to the match. ZSJ moves on to the semis and a date with SANADA.
The semifinals will take place on Friday and Sunday, with Tanahashi v. Juice on night one and SANADA v. ZSJ on night two. Stay tuned to Wrestlaholic on twitter for live reaction and check back here later on Sunday for my full breakdown.