The first round of this year’s New Japan Cup is in the books (check out my match recommendations here if you’d like) and with no show today I thought we could take a quick look at the quarterfinals and where we think the tournament might be headed. So, here’s a quick and dirty updated bracket as a visual aid and we’ll get right to it.
Michael Elgin vs. Juice Robinson
Two men at different points of similar career arcs, here, as both Elgin and Robinson came to New Japan off of runs with mixed success in NXT and ROH respectively and found themselves revitalized, but Juice is on his way up and Big Mike on his way down. Robinson admits that he looked past Yujiro Takahashi in the first round and it nearly cost him while Elgin believes he’s unstoppable after his victory over Ishii, and that confidence, I feel, is what will eliminate him from the tournament.
Juice is hungry and ready for the fight of his life and I have to think he’s a strong contender to make it through to the finals if he does indeed beat Big Mike here.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Over the last year and change, Tanahashi’s body has been failing him bit by bit. A nagging arm injury gave way to a serious bicep tear, and he wrestled through it. His arthritic knee gave out on him, and he wrestled through it. Minoru Suzuki seized on that weak spot, wrenched and tore, and actually managed to get Tanahashi to go away for a few weeks, but the thing about the once in a century ace is that he refuses to let anything stop him, for better or worse, and here he is again.
He’s admitted that he thought he would be able to put Taichi away in the first round with less effort than it actually took, but he’s feeling good about his chances now that he’s made it out of the first round for the first time in years. But you have to think-- if he had trouble ending Taichi, how’s he ever gonna manage to put Fale down for three? I’m not one to doubt the ace, but...
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
Ibushi wanted Naito as his opponent this round, but Sabre, well, let’s just look at his post-match comments directly, shall we?
”Oi, Naito! Who’s tranquilo now, dickhead? You’re out in the first round! Y’know what, you can keep your hat, I don’t wanna piss or shit in it because as far as I’m concerned, we’re finished. Round one! I won’t even remember your name in a couple of days. Oi, Ibushi? So I’ve got you next round, huh? Well, nice that you decided to become a professional wrestler again, rather than swim with dolphins or making sweet love to that blow-up doll of yours. I haven’t forgotten the G1 loss. I’m only human, heaven knows. I’m not miserable now, but I did make a mistake. I hope you’ve been doing your homework-- your institute study better be twelve hours of homework, mate, because I’ve got a couple of submissions just for you. Cheers, TAKA.”
So, first off I want to take a second to just appreciate Zack’s trash talk for Naito right there. That’s good stuff. But then you see he’s focused on avenging his G1 Climax loss to Ibushi last year. Kota not only has to switch gears and prepare for Sabre’s submission grappling attack rather than Naito’s hybrid lucha-infused strong style, but he’s got to do so knowing that ZSJ is starting fighting mad and ready to twist him into knots
And regardless, I’m calling my shot-- whoever wins this match wins the entire tournament.
SANADA vs. Toru Yano
One day we’ll all get the comedy dream match we deserve, folks, but alas, the dream of Chuck Taylor vs. Toru Yano must wait for another day. As far as the match we’re actually getting here goes, neither man is saying much, but this IS a G1 Climax rematch so we can at least get a little blood from the stone by looking at that match.
In that one, SANADA met Yano on his own ground, using his own tactics against him and successfully managing a count-out victory. Can lightning strike twice or will the Sublime Master Thief raise the bar for underhanded tactics and put Cold Skull down? And more importantly, does either man stand a fair shot against Ibushi or Sabre if they can make it through?
There you have it, folks
If I have to make a pick, I’ve got it down as Sabre/SANADA and Tanahashi/Robinson next round, but who do you have heading to the semifinals, Cagesiders?