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NJPW New Japan Cup 2018 quarterfinal, semifinal, & final match recommendations: You suffer

NJPW World

Today we’re concluding New Japan Cup with the back half of the tournament matches, so if you missed round one’s recommendations, you can check here. Otherwise, on with the show!

As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

Night 5 (March 14)

Juice Robinson vs. Michael Elgin (2): Back and forth in the early goings, Elgin has a bit of an advantage due to his strength but Robinson keeps making openings and stays in it. A rope-hung neckbreaker leads to Big Mike pressing that advantage, but Juice’s never-say-die babyface spirit keeps things from becoming a rout as they go on to trade bigger and badder moves.

This is a solid match and there’s a lot of cool stuff here (Juice managed an electric chair facebuster on Big Mike!) but I dunno, something about it feels flat. It’s not bad, per se, it just didn’t connect with me, and so it might connect better with you, but I have to give it a pass.

Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (3): Classic David and Goliath action early, Tanahashi trying to pick at Fale and cut him down only to get overwhelmed by the big man’s strength. Hiroshi makes a bold go of proving his statement from after his victory over Taichi that he’s getting better with every match, but Bad Luck is able to brutalize him on the floor to get the match back on script, so to speak.

Now this is more like it, however! Not the greatest match of all time or anything, but a really well-executed version of a classic story. Both men played their parts well, with some on-point salesmanship from Tanahashi (at one point selling a trapezius claw so strongly that I started to wonder if Fale hadn’t caught a nerve going to the bad arm) and Fale doing a good job of being worn down bit by bit. Definitely worth a watch if you have the time, especially for the finish, which was really clever.

Night 6 (March 15)

SANADA vs. Toru Yano (4): If you’ve seen their G1 match from last year this is very much in the same vein as that one, with SANADA having zero compunction against using Yano’s own tactics against him. It’s fast-paced, it’s fun, it doesn’t take very much of your time, and it has one of the best-executed countout nearfalls I’ve seen in some-time. Only skip this one if you hate comedy shenanigans in your wrestling, folks.

Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (5): Grappling early gives way to striking initiated by Sabre as Ibushi holds fast against his mat-based offense, but this ends about as well against a strike of Kota’s caliber as you’d think. So it’s back to the grappling as ZSJ wrenches his legs to try and take the Golden Star’s base out from under him. Shifting to the arms as well, the kitchen sink approach in full effect, but of course Ibushi won’t stay down and he takes his opportunities where he can get ‘em.

I’m pretty sure I could watch these dudes wrestle each other ten times in a row and I’d never get sick of it. A slow steady build to a raging crescendo, a bunch of awesome sequences, just all around really great pro wrestling action. And what a finish! Watch it!

Night 7 (March 16)

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Juice Robinson (5): Slow and steady in the feeling out, Juice don’t want to rush in against the ace and Tanahashi not wanting to wear himself out too quickly. Heating up, and finally Hiroshi gets hot enough to straight up just punch Robinson in the gut. From there Tanahashi goes to work on the leg and Juice is left to make whatever opportunities he can.

So this is another entry in the “Juice is too nice in big matches” story that kicked into gear with his match against Kenny Omega last year and that’s great. Much as in that match, Juice has a moment where he’s willing to take desperate measures and it’s really compelling drama. Plus it creates a natural comparison to his fellow semifinalist Zack Sabre, Jr., too, as Zack’s current mean streak is a direct result of a similar story that played out in Evolve.

This is great, and you should definitely watch it with haste.

Night 8 (March 18)

SANADA vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (4): SANADA somewhat shockingly game to grapple with Sabre early, holding his own against the Technical Wizard but inevitably Cold Skull gives in and turns the speed up to retain control. It’s shockingly SANADA-heavy early given how the tournament has gone for Zack, in fact, but once he gets his licks in the fight evens up quite a bit.

So, based on their interaction in the tag on the previous show that was all fast-paced counters and really cool, intense action, I was really hoping this one would be all-killer, no-filler, and it didn’t quite deliver on that front. But it’s still a quite good match that heats up excellently and has a good amount of that kind of action later on. So... watch it, if you have the time.

Night 9 (March 21)

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (5): This is exactly what you want it to be, folks. Sabre is in full submission master mode, going to work on Tanahashi’s bum arm and arthritic knee and tearing him apart while the 1/100 ace fights from underneath looking for opportunities to enact his own leg-centric limb breakdown program.

This one starts slow and builds to an awesome crescendo in the finest New Japan main event tradition and is, in my immediate reaction, the best of their three matches together, folks. Incredible counters, heart-stopping nearfalls, brutal submission work... Watch it!

There you have it, folks

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.

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