Written by: Colin Rinehart
NJPW New Japan Cup 2011 Finals PPV
March 20th, 2011
Amagasaki Memorial Park Gymnasium, Amagasaki, Hyogo, Japan
New Japan wraps up their annual springtime New Japan Cup tournament tonight in Hyogo, in a show broadcast on PPV that also includes an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight tag team title match as well as a bunch of other good stuff to round out the final round of the tournament We’re down to the final four of Yuji Nagata, Toru Yano, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Togi Makabe. Who will take home the prestigious trophy? Well you’d better read on to find out, shouldn’t you?
Jushin Liger/Tiger Mask IV/KUSHIDA vs. Jado/Gedo/Killer Rabbit
For those unaware, Killer Rabbit is in fact a guy with a rabbit mask of sorts. He’s a popular character from some social networking video game or something along those lines in Japan, so NJPW brass thought it wise to create a character out of him. Not sure who’s under the mask. Pretty much your standard six man opening fare with a few of the old guard and a chance for the crowd to pop for Liger, who god bless his soul still pulls out the planchas. Crowd loves the babyface trio here. Not bad actually for the opener, everyone showed a bit of fire and KUSHIDA continues to impress. Tiger Mask hits a gigantic splash on Gedo followed by a Tiger Driver for a near fall. He misses a diving headbutt and everyone starts brawling in and out of the ring for the finish, which sees TMIV roll Gedo up with a crucifix pin for the win at 8:38. Energetic and fast-paced while it lasted, but instantly forgettable stuff. **1/4
Koji Kanemoto/Manabu Nakanishi vs. Tomoaki Honma/Tama Tonga
Not a bad pairing of talents here, I suppose this is good enough use for some of the guys already eliminated in the earlier rounds of the NJ Cup. Honma and Nakanishi do some nice strike exchanges to start us off with chops and forearms. Kanemoto tags in to a nice little pop and goes to work on the always fun Tonga. He gets in the facewash spot of course. This is mostly just the vets beating down on Tonga while Honma does his best to fire off some offense. I’d love to see Honma get used in a bigger role in the future, but his days in the limelight have come and gone I suppose. For awhile there he was one of the best in Japan with his crazy hybrid of deathmatch and strong style that he worked in Big Japan for years. He made deathmatch wrestling seem almost like an artform, but I digress. Tonga manages to impress the crowd a bit with one of his crazy corkscrew moonsaults, but Nakanishi winds up making him submit in a torture rack for the win at 8:22. The cranky old vets looked good kickin’ ass, but this was just par for the course really and another one of your average forgettable undercard affairs. **
Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard/Karl Anderson) vs. Iron Hades (Takashi Iizuka/Tomohiro Ishii)
Pretty fun face/heel dynamic here as you don’t normally get to see Bad Intentions playing the faces. Iizuka and Ishii look a bit like the most heinous of villains you could find in a Tokyo alleyway, the kind of hard boiled Yakuza even Sgt. Kabukiman could not crack. Iizuka does great playing the chickenshit heel early, refusing to get in the ring with Bernard and letting Ishii distract him so he can finally jump him from behind and start the match. Crowd loves Bad Intentions and they show it every time they get their hands on Iizuka and Ishii. They manage to team up on Anderson using chairs from ringside while Bernard stews in the corner like an angry rhino. The heels use some wrist tape to try and choke their opponents but that doesn’t work, so they try for a double suplex, only Bernard hops in and we’ve got ourselves a big old ridiculous quadruple-plex! Bernard tags in and cleans house on the heels with big splashes. We get a ref bump and Iizuka tries to use his signature metal glove, but Bad Intentions deliver the Magic Killer to Ishii anyways and pick up the win at 12:28. Very fun tag match here, anyone who harps on about how there are no faces and heels in puroresu needs to watch this match and then kindly shut their trapholes. This was like four angry drunken sumos slamdancing, if that makes sense. I mean that in the best way of course. ***
New Japan Cup 2011 Semi-Finals Match
Yuji Nagata vs. Toru Yano
We’ve got our first of two semi-finals here and Yano apparently doesn’t want to wait for any kind of introductions as he just spits his water into Nagata’s face like he was doing a bad Triple H impression and we’re off. Something tells me you will regret that Yano. They brawl into the crowd quickly and Toru tosses a chair onto him before removing the padding from one of the ring posts. Nagata comes back in and Yano clearly isn’t taking Nagata seriously, body-slamming him with a smirk on his face and then applying a half Boston crab. Yano tosses him into the exposed turnbuckle and things look dark for our middle-aged hero. He outsmarts Yano in an exchange with an enziguri and then hits a pair of Yakuza kicks and an exploder suplex for a near fall. Nagata goes for a brainbuster/crossface combination but Yano winds up biting his hand! Nagata promptly bitch-slaps him for such savagery and they trade pinning cradle attempts. Very nice swinging reverse STO slam from Yano gets him a near fall of his own. Nagata goes for the crossface again before transitioning right into the Nagata Lock III in a pinning cradle to pick up the win and advance to the finals at 7:27. Pretty neat stuff for such short time allotted, Nagata played his role perfectly and Yano brought some nice arrogance to his actions. A bit quick for my tastes, but a fine little match. **3/4
New Japan Cup 2011 Semi-Finals Match
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Togi Makabe
Nakamura is still handing out fistbumps, while Makabe is over like rover with the big PPV crowd as usual. Great heat for this match from the first lock-up. Nakamura seems a bit offput by how fiery Makabe is, like he wasn’t prepared for this. No worry, he lays in the huge kicks and knees anyways, but Makabe is crazy so he just laughs like a madman while Nakamura knees his chest into hamburger meat and then begs him for more. Makabe gets in the crowd-pleasing ten shots in the corner and a Northern Lights suplex, but Nakamura kicks out. Makabe gives him the double bird so Nakamura dropkicks him in the face. Repeated knee strikes in the corner from Nakamura, but he misses the big running knee and eats a nasty German suplex on his head for a close two count. They trade lariats and Nakamura just boots Makabe in the face before delivering a crazy half-sleeper overhead suplex to him that wows the crowd. Makabe blocks the Boma Ye and hits a powerbomb for a hot nearfall, then delivers a big Death Valley Driver, planting Nakamura on the mat. Makabe misses a knee splash off the top and Nakamura climbs to the top and hits the nastiest Boma Ye knee of all time to the back of Makabe’s head, and then gives him another one to the face to finish him off and advance to the finals at 9:55. This was just awesome stuff, both guys brought the fire tonight and Nakamura looked like a machine, meticulously firing off his signature strikes around the wild Makabe before nearly murdering the poor guy with a huge Boma Ye knee to the back of the skull. Super hot crowd, great action, another awesome little succinct sub-ten minute match in a tournament full of them. ***1/4
Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Wataru Inoue/King Fale vs. Masato Tanaka/Tetsuya Naito/Yujiro Takahashi
Because goodness knows we need another random six man tag match, right? But in this case, we actually do! One of the better six-mans in awhile and this works pretty well for it’s spot on the card before the big main events. Naito and Tenzan lock-up to the fan’s delight and Naito nails a nice swinging neckbreaker before tagging out so Fale and Takahashi can go at it next. Fale reminds me a bit of a Samoan MVP. They trade big suplexes and then Fale gets sent to the rails outside the ring and Tanaka sneaks in a shot with a kendo stick on him before tossing Fale back inside for a snap suplex from Takahashi. Tanaka tags in and goes to a stalemate with Fale, so Tenzan comes in and teaches young Takahashi a lesson with crazy chops of both the Mongolian and regular variety. He even snaps off a spinning heel kick for a near fall before Tanaka hops in and cleans house and all semblance of order goes out the window along with the tag rules. Inoue finally comes in to do battle with Naito and tries for a Tiger Driver, but Takahashi breaks it up and tosses him with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. A triple-team neckbreaker won’t put Inoue away, so Fale and Tenzan hop in and start handing out ass-beatings to finish business here. Naito takes his shirt off (he means business!) but winds up taking the old Flair bump off the top instead of the splash he wanted. Naito flips out of a German suplex attempt but winds up eating the SPEAR OF JUSTICE! from Inoue to give them the win at 12:23. Like I said, one of the better thrown together six-mans in awhile. Lots of fun tandem moves and exchanges, and the faces came off looking golden. Tanaka seemed like an afterthought though. ***
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi) © vs. TAKA Michinoku/Taichi
Grab your popcorn now, because this is going to be one hell of a show. The team of TAKA and Taichi might just be the greatest pairing of over-the-top heels I’ve ever seen, and I absolutely love it. I so want to steal Taichi’s cape. Not that I’d wear it, but it’s simply badass. Taguchi and Taichi start us off but it’s not long before TAKA and Devitt hop in and the place kick-starts into high gear for Devitt. Great leapfrog and dropkick exchange sequence between the two and then Apollo start trading ironically quick tags to work over TAKA’s shoulder (how often does irony come into play in one’s in-ring arsenal? It should more often!) The heels get sent to the floor and Apollo do some sexy strutting before TAKA jumps them from behind. The heels go to work on Devitt’s bandaged shoulder next, grinding it down against the mat and working various armbar submissions in their corner while trading tags. TAKA works the Fujiwara armbar and twists and turns Devitt’s fingers in his palm while he’s doing it. Taguchi gets the hot tag finally and he takes out both heels with a reverse DDT combo. Rolling vertical suplexes are broken up by Taichi, who Taguchi wipes out with a top rope plancha on the floor moments later. The faces try a doomsday device dive spot but it backfires on them and Taguchi winds up eating the steel guard-rail again in the electric chair position. Devitt takes out the heels with a big somersault plancha and the chants start up for him again. As Hank Hill used to say, Devitt is “playin’ through the pain” now and his selling is spot-on as Taichi still tries wrenching away on his shoulder with another Fujiwara armbar. Taichi superkicks Devitt’s teeth down his throat and he and TAKA deliver a double-team variation on the Schwein, but Taguchi breaks the pin up with a big German suplex on Taichi. All four men are spent on the mat but you can see the fire in Devitt’s eyes! Taichi misses some of his nifty footwork but Devitt nails him with his spinning enziguri, only to walk right into a boot and that damned Fujiwara armbar again. Devitt looks like he’s about to die or tap, but he manages the rope break again. Taguchi plants Taichi with a facebuster and Devitt nearly double-stomps through Taichi’s chest off the top, but again the pin is broken up. A double team lung-blower won’t do it, but finally Apollo 55 are able to defeat Taichi with a brainbuster to retain at 16:27! Excellent junior tag action just as you’d expect from this crew, but with the added bonus of everyone’s incredible charisma makes this go from “really good” to darn right “great”. ***3/4
Satoshi Kojima/MVP vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi/Hirooki Goto
This is a nice place-holder match featuring more of the guys that were eliminated in the earlier rounds of the New Japan Cup tournament up against the champ and one of the young guns in Goto. MVP and Tanahashi start us off with some nice wristlock exchanges and it really is just a pleasure to watch MVP in Japan these days as you can just tell he’s having a ball and his strong style fits right in. Kojima and Goto tag in and trade stiff forearms and shoulder-blocks. Tanahashi tags (or rather, slaps) back into the match and subtle dissension can be felt among the babyface crew. MVP and Tanahashi trade European uppercuts and then do a neat spot where Tanahashi skins the cat and then gets booted right back out by MVP, who takes him out again moments later with a plancha. Tanahashi starts taking a bad beat-down from the heels here, and Kojima sells it perfectly with his facial expressions. Goto is starting to get fed up of Tanahashi trying to fight both men by himself and the results aren’t in Tanahashi’s favor as the heels continue to work him over. Kojima tears into Tanahashi in both corners and rams his elbow into his sternum off the top rope for a two count. Tanahashi tries to fight back with a dragonscrew legwhip and he finally gets the tag to Goto! Goto hits an elbow of his own on Kojima and then delivers a towering back-drop suplex for a near fall. Ace crusher from Kojima and both men trade discus lariats in another cool spot. Tanahashi blind-tags Goto while he’s running the ropes and hops in and Goto’s temper is clearly rising. Sling blade won’t put MVP away so Tana tries for a German and Goto hops in and winds up inadvertently clotheslining Tanahashi. Tana wants to have words with Goto, so Goto gives him a nasty head-butt and then just takes off, leaving Tanahashi all alone in the ring. Goto would be heading to Mexico shortly after this, but Tanahashi is still all alone in the ring so it’s easy pickings from here. MVP hits the Playmaker, but Tanahashi kicks out. Kojima lariats his head off and MVP locks in the TTB submission, and Tanahashi has no choice but to tap out clean to MVP at 14:44. This was an excellent match that bridged the gap between strong style, and your traditional North American “story-telling” tag team formula. Goto’s turn here was unexpected but it made sense in the context of the match, and the action through-out was hot and heavy. MVP and Kojima come out of this looking like world beaters, and the strut MVP does back to the locker room after the match would make Vince McMahon jealous. Very good stuff. ***1/4
New Japan Cup 2011 Finals Match
Yuji Nagata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Big time match feel here as this is a culmination of a lot of things here. This is Nakamura’s chance to make a splash while Nagata is hell bent on proving his worth in the company during a time when their focusing on a youth movement. Classic archetypical heel and face dynamic here with Nagata playing the wise old middle-aged hand whose hell bent on continuing his dominance while Nakamura is the arrogant young star, ready to grab the reigns from Nagata and never let go until he reaches the top of the company. Lots of heat for this one. They do some nice matwork to start the match off, trading various holds both on the mat and on their feet, feeling each other out a bit like any good fighter would. Nakamura slaps Nagata in the face and just laughs about it, rolling his eyes like Nagata were a hangnail or some other minor nuisance and not the tough legendary veteran he really is. Well Nagata brings him right back to reality with brutal knee strikes as only he can deliver. Nakamura nails a knee strike into Nagata’s sternum and then tosses him to the floor. He sets Nagata up on the apron and nails him in the back of the head with a Boma Ye knee. Nakamura misses a flashy spin kick and then just gets violently dropped on the back of his head with a towering German suplex. Nagata is pissed now and firing off kicks and boots in the corner along with a brainbuster/crossface combo that Nakamura breaks up quickly. Nakamura locks a sleeper onto Nagata and if you’ve never seen Nakamura’s facial expressions in a match, you’re in for a treat here. He fires off more kicks to no avail, as Nagata’s drive won’t be derailed. An exploder suplex off the top only nets Nagata a two count. They trade armbars before Nagata turns him over and wrenches away on his patented armbar, flashing the evil crazy eyes like he’s trying to pull a demon out of Nakamura’s arm socket or something. Nakamura gets the rope break though and manages to fire off one more Boma Ye knee to the back of Nagata’s head as both men crumple to the mat, spent. Nakamura hits a sickening pair of Awful Waffle-type back suplexes and then just goes back to kneeing the everloving bejesus out of Nagata’s face. This only awakens the beast in Nagata though, and he shoots to his feet with fire in his eyes and adrenaline in his heart. He blasts Nakamura with a kick to the head and then delivers a pair of towering back-drop suplexes to pick up his second New Japan Cup trophy, and his first since 2007 at 14:44. This was just an incredible match with that always elusive epic feeling that provided the perfect backdrop for the great story these two men told in the ring with the focus on submissions and matwork, but always keeping a frenzied pace. The only complaint I have is that it was a bit short, but that’s not much of a complaint is it? Nagata and Nakamura deliver an outstanding match here that’s well worth going out of your way to check out. ****
We finish out the show with Nagata receiving the New Japan Cup trophy to a standing ovation. Ever the man of the people, Nagata takes the time to high five and talk to almost every single fan in the front row as we go off the air.
Bottom Line: This was an excellent show and as usual New Japan stepped up to the plate when it came time for a PPV. Even the usual forgettable undercard matches were interesting, the midcard was rock solid, and the finals of the tournament were excellent. The Goto heel turn was executed perfectly, and everything just seemed to come together here to deliver one hell of a cohesive and engaging show. An easy Thumbs Up obviously.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.