NJPW Cup 2017: Round 1

Instead of watching endless multi man tags spread out over 8 shows, I'm just going to cover the actual tournament matches.

Yuji Nagata vs Tanga Roa

Yuji is replacing Homna. I have to assume this is the biggest match of Camacho's career. Either this or jobbing to Adam Rose at the first NXT Takeover, I guess. I mean, how many chances is Camacho going to get to face off against a bona fide WCW legend? What the fuck is that shit on Yuji's back? Was he doing that weird suction cup shit before the match? There's really nothing going on here. While Yuji is still capable of of a couple of really strong matches per year, Camacho isn't. Yuji wins with the backdrop hold.

Toru Yano vs Tama Tonga

FRICK. A Yano's single match. FRICK. Luckily, this goes like 3 minutes. Unluckily, Yano won, which means more Yano matches.

Michael Elgin vs Bad Luck Fale

Man, I'll finally buy into Elgin's strong man gimmick if he deadlifts Fale a few times. HOSS shoulder block stand off! Fale doesn't go down, but he does get knocked to the floor. Fale catches Elgin off the apron and rams him back first into the post, and the back becomes the focus of the match. HOSSES with psychology. Maybe Elgin isn't as strong as he claims since he only hits two suplexes and loses clean to the Tongan Spike. Pretty solid little HOSS match. 

EVIL vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

EVIL has been laying Tanahashi out at pretty much every recent show. Lol at the dueling eye gouges. Tanahashi is sick of this shit. Getting bumped to the mid card, having to team up with Taguchi. Ain't got time for some fuck head cheating against him anymore. When are refs going to disqualify EVIL from hitting people with chairs? Grow a spine, Red Shoes. The chair spot would lead to EVIl dominating for the next few minutes, continuing the neck work. Literally curb stomping him. Tanahashi gets a few brief come backs, but EVIL seems to have his number, so he goes all out with the High Fly Flow to the floor. Friggin' Red Shoes gets bumped TWICE, a chair makes its way to the ring. I swear the ending stretch went on for 5 minutes, which ended with EVIL misting Tanahashi and winning with a STO. Damn. The state of Tanahashi's career standing right now.  

Juice Robinson vs Yujiro Takahashi

FRICK. FRICKIN' YUJIRO. Luckily, Juice stiffs the shit out of him at the start of the match. About fucking time. No one should be taking floor bumps for Yujiro. No one should be taking bumps for him period, because he shouldn't be employed in the profession of wrestling. What a fucking surprise, Yujiro looks like he breaks his opponent neck doing a simple fucking move. Shit head trying to do a snapmare from a neck breaker position and expecting it to work out right. This piece of shit. At least Juicy Juice has found that white meat babyface fiery fighting spirit. He'll need it to not break his neck working this rat faced fuck. And this is a serious concern as about 75% of Yujiro's moves are neck based. I'd love to know what benefit anyone in NJPW sees in Yujiro. He's not an interesting wrestler, no one buys Bullet Club shit because of him, and he's been shockingly reckless for years. Juice won with the Kid Krusher, again showing a LOT of great babyface fire. It's so weird how much he's improved on all levels and how the crowd is reacting to him. Betting on himself is the best career move he could have made. I'd certainly rather watch him than Trent fucking Baretta.

Sanada vs Yoshi-Hashi

I remember when Nakamura left, people were saying Yoshi-Hashi was going to finally take this giant leap up on the card. Lol. I wonder why Sanada wears a shirt in the ring. He's jacked as heck. He's anime hair is fascinating as well. Most of this match is Sanada working the head/neck area to set up the dragon sleeper, and Yoshi having his bursts of comebacks. This does not seem like an appropriate match for a stiff elbow strike exchange. Yoshi is somehow able to get a rope break from the dragon sleeper, which is a move that has put out like...everyone that he's put it on. Including top stars like Tanahashi. What the frick.  Actually, he got out of it multiple times. WHAT THE FRICK. A dragon sleeper did eventually end the match, but I'm not comfortable with Yoshi-Hashi being able to get out of shit Tanahashi can't. 

Minoru Suzuki vs Katsuyori Shibata

This is a FIRST ROUND match. That'd be something like WWE running HHH vs Sami Zayn in the first round of the 2017 KOTR. This seems like it should probably be a better pairing than Okada/Suzuki ended up being, also likely to be half as long since it's a first round tournament match instead of headlining title match. Things start off slow until Shibata gets offended at a clean break from Suzuki and boots him in the face. Then they just start beating the shit out of each other. Suzuki hits a big knee to the LIVER. Made that shit quiver. Boy would I love a match built around liver work. Shibata shows ZERO respect or fear of Suzuki, repeatedly showing he ain't taking any of his shit. Seeing that he's outmatched this time, Suzuki takes things to the floor to use the guard rails, chairs, and Taichi to gain the upper hand. That liver/rib shot has been the easy out for all of Shibata's flurries ever since the big knee. I think we need to start accepting that Minoru Suzuki is nearly 50 and is certainly past his prime. His strikes aren't as fast, aren't as stiff, he has a lot more downtime in his matches than he had just 2-3 years ago. In a match like this, where Shibata is showing he can do everything Suzuki does but better and faster, it kind of actually works for the story, but generally speaking, Suzuki's days as a top level talent are behind him, imo. Oh no, here comes the never ending forearm battle. Which Shibata wins and never gets tired from while Suzuki dies off and throws weaker and weaker shots, eventually leading to a double big boot, dueling chokes, and then Shibata wins with the PK.

Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii

Kenny's first singles match since Wrestle Kingdom. In NJPW. He did have a singles match in the UK a couple of weeks after WK, but nothing else. So two singles matches in January, none in February, and his first one being half way into March. And you know he's about to get that WORK. Kenny actually throws the first big strike, and all it does is piss that little spud off. Kenny doesn't really work well with this heavy strikes, but he does add the big bumps and more athletic stuff that these types of matches usually lack. This is better when Ishii is on offense, because Kenny seems kind of iffy on working the Ishii style of offense of just pounding the shit out of him, and it's not like his strikes are super believable to begin with. But when it's Ishii blasted Kenny and Kenny bumping like a shithead, it's quite fun. Ishii doing a super rana is lol. Kenny throws EVERYTHING at Ishii and can't keep him down. Basically everything short of an avalanche dragon suplex. In the end, Ishii wins with a brainbuster in what has to be the biggest upset of the first round.

A very strong first round, which is interesting because it seems like the NJ Cup has been a filler event for most of the past decade. I'd say Ishii/Omega was my favorite, but Shibata/Suzuki (much better than Suzuki/Okada), and Tanahashi/EVIL were quality as well. Even Fale/Elgin was pretty solid.