For Zack Sabre Jr. and Hiroshi Tanahashi, it now all boils down to the final match of the New Japan Cup tonight in Nagaoka.
Tanahashi bested Taichi, Bad Luck Fale and Juice Robinson to make it to tonight’s finals. But the story of the tournament thus far has revolved around Sabre. He defeated Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and SANADA, which in itself is a pretty great accomplishment. But it wasn’t just that he beat them, he utterly demolished them in devastating fashion, picking all three apart and making them submit to a variety of submission moves that he has developed. He very well may be on course to rectify a Tanahashi loss from last year tonight.
The winner of the bout will be able to challenge either the NEVER Openweight champion (Hirooki Goto), the IWGP Intercontinental champion (Minoru Suzuki) or the IWGP Heavyweight champion (Kazuchika Okada) at Sakura Genesis on April 1. Sabre would probably have no problem challenging Okada if he were to win tonight.
But Tanahashi has a very interesting choice, as prior to the tournament he was utterly destroyed by Minoru Suzuki, much like how Sabre has been destroying people.. It would make the most sense for him to challenge Suzuki and take back the title he took from him, but he could also challenge Okada and break his title defense streak, which is nearing Tanahashi’s own record of 11.
Join us for live coverage tonight at 2 a.m. EDT. There will be commentary in both Japanese and English on New Japan World.
Shota Umino defeated Tetsuhiro Yagi
A solid, basic match. Both Yagi and Umino have pretty good dropkicks, and looked good here. Umino was the one mostly on offense, as he’s the young lion with more ring time. He picked up the win with the Boston Crab.
Taichi defeated Tomoyuki Oka
Mostly just a squash by Taichi. Oka looked good as a babyface who sold for most of the match. Taichi picked up the win with a superkick in a short match.
Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Roa defeated Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin and Henare
This was alright, but nothing special. Seemed to be kind of just there. Solid action throughout with Henare working a lot of the bout for his team . Tanga Loa picked up the win with the sitout piledriver that he apparently has a vulgar name for.
Elgin and Makabe exchanged words with the NEVER six man tag team champions after the match. Kevin Kelly mentioned that information regarding the cards for Strong Style Evolved and Sakura Genesis will be out tomorrow.
Killer Elite Squad defeated Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano
DBS worked on both Yano and Ishii. Yano managed to slingshot DBS into the exposed turnbuckle but DBS soon followed that with a side suplex and grinded down Yano with a crossface. Archer came in and wiped out Ishii with the pounce, but Yano made the save for him by grabbing Archer as he hit the ropes.
Yano came in after Ishii escaped the killer bomb. With Ishii being thrown into the barricade, DBS goes for a press powerbomb, but Yano escaped and rolled him up. Archer came in and the two laid out Yano with the killer bomb for the win. A pretty decent match with everyone doing their jobs well.
Archer called out EVIL and SANADA after the match, making it clear that they were the next challengers for the IWGP tag team titles.
Juice Robinson and David Finlay defeated Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI
A basic, sold tag team match. Kind of reminded me of a WWE-style tag team match. YOSHI-HASHI worked over Juice early. Finlay got a hot tag and cleared house. Juice was tagged back in. CHAOS tried to isolate Juice but Finlay came back in and throw YOSHI-HASHI into the barricade. Goto tries for the ushigiroshi but Juice connects with a punch and hits the pulp friction for the shock win. The crowd popped for that one. That sets him up for a NEVER title match, probably at Sakura Genesis.
Tetsuya Naito, SANADA , BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi defeated Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Suzuki-gun quickly took it to the outside. Suzuki targeted Naito and took him to the entrance, where he choked him with a chair. Back in the ring, Suzuki-gun gets the heat on Takahashi by focusing on an arm. Naito comes in, but Suzuki took down Naito and sinks in a heel hook.
Iizuka and SANADA were in, and Iizuka was about to use the iron fingers of death on SANADA when BUSHI grabbed his feet. SANADA used the distraction to roll him up then sink in the skull end for the submission. Another perfectly fine match that did its job of establishing the next big Intercontinental title match.
Suzuki was far from done following the match and assaulted Naito all the way to the press area, where he choked him a chair. Meanwhile in the ring, Kanemaru and Desperado were having a showdown with BUSHI and Takahashi when Roppongi 3K came in and laid out both champions with the 3K. Seems clear we’ll have another triple threat match for the Jr. tag team titles down the line.
Kazuchika Okada and Chucky T defeated Kota Ibushi and Chase Owens
A focus on the match was between Okada and Ibushi, which was pretty fun. Okada wiped out both of his opponents on the outside with a top rope crossbody to the floor. Chase Owens tags in and gets offense in on Okada. Owens went for the package piledriver but went in too early for it.
Okada came back for the dropkick and went for the Rainmaker but Owens escaped. Ibushi flew in with a dropkick that took out Okada. Okada came back with the cobra clutch, the new submission finisher he’s been getting over on this tour. Owens, like others before him, submitted. Another solid bout.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the New Japan Cup
I really liked the story that they told here, and overall it was a really well done technical match. This was a more competitive match than the other three matches, but still told a good story of Tanahashi eventually wearing down and, in the last few minutes, unable to fend off Sabre’s relentless ability to lock in a submission at any time.
They start off with mat wrestling, with both at one point getting the advantage over one another. Tanahashi has control of Sabre with a headlock and takes him down with a side Russian leg sweep. Sabre caught Tanahashi and started working on his arm.
Using wrist control, Sabre takes apart Tanahashi’s arm. Tanahashi comes back and takes Sabre to the corner, where they exchange some back and forth. Tanahashi hit the somersault senton, but Sabre came back with the Octopus hold. Tanahashi took down Sabre with the dragon screw, but Sabre came right back with the Octopus hold.
Sabre has Tanahashi in a triangle hold, but Tanahashi counters with the cloverleaf. Sabre tries to for for a cross armbreaker, but Tanahashi countered with a dragon screw. The story seems to be that while others couldn’t outmaneuver Sabre, Tanahashi can, at least during this stage of the match. Tanahashi connected with a high fly flow on the outside, wiping out Sabre.
Tanahashi is thrown out of the ring by Sabre. He skins the cat, but as he does Sabre grabs him by the leg and starts working on it. Tanahashi rallies back and hits a neckbreaker. Tanahashi goes to hit the high fly flow, but Sabre catches him and hits a knee lock.
Sabre sweeps the leg again, but Tanahashi counters and tries another dragon whip, only for Sabre to counter with a bridge for a nearfall. Sabre hits a PK kick, but still no luck. Tanahashi tries to counter with the Dragon suplex, but Sabre escapes, only to walk right into the slingblade. Tanahashi hits the high fly flow, but missed a second and landed right on his bad knee.
Sabre took the opportunity to take down Tanahashi and, despite Tanahashi struggling, managed to get him in the center of the ring an apply the Orienteering with Napalm Death, the name of his new submission that he used against Naito. Tanahashi quickly tapped, making Zack Sabre Jr. the winner of the New Japan Cup.
Taka Michinoku cut a promo after the match. He asked him a question: what is next for him? Sabre thinks about it for a minute, and says there’s no question — he wants Okada. Taka told him to come over here, and Okada obliged. Taka and Gedo exchanged a war of words before Okada and Gedo left, leaving Sabre and Taka to celebrate as the show closes.
That will make it Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for the IWGP Heavyweight title at Sakura Genesis on 4/1.