Quarterfinal lineup completed in Okayama
The second round of the New Japan Cup gets completed in Okayama on March 15. Who will advance to the elite eight Saturday?
Main event: New Japan Cup Second Round- Zack Sabre Jr. vs Shota Umino
Singles record: 1-0 ZSJ
The main event this evening sees Shota Umino, having advanced past Yujiro Takahashi in the first round, taking on NJPW World TV Championship and bye recipient Zack Sabre Jr. The two first faced off one on one way back in 2019, when Umino was still wrestling as a Young Lion. Sabre has taunted that Umino’s progression since has been little more than an aesthetic one, but the Roughneck’s hunger for glory is evident, and could upset the technical master.
Preview tags have seen Umino adopting an STF for tapout victories. Though it might take a lot more than one hold to compete against Sabre’s library of submission holds, the gamesmanship is evident. Should Umino lead the TMDK Frontman down the wrong path in ring in Okayama, he could indeed provide the paradigm shift he’s been promising en route to the elite eight.
6th Match: David Finlay vs Great-O-Khan
February 18 saw the end of an era when Switchblade Jay White was exiled from NJPW by Eddie Kingston, but there was a shocking twist in the tale. Before White could say his goodbyes, he was blasted from behind by David Finlay, who said he would take everything the Switchblade had gained, and more.
Days later, March 6 gave a sign of what that meant, as Finlay headed to the ring as part of BULLET CLUB, and with Gedo by his side. Finlay had apparently taken Jay White’s position at the fore of the group, and moments later, took something that the ‘Catalyst of Professional Wrestling’ had struggled to obtain over five years- a clean win over Tomohiro Ishii.
Yet not all of BULLET CLUB has been welcoming to Finlay, and while El Phantasmo’s attitude toward Finlay has been the source of a good deal of speculation in recent days, the quickest way for Finlay to solidify his new position is by keeping his focus in the ring, and on winning the New Japan Cup. For now, that means defeating British Heavyweight Champion great-O-Khan, a task far easier said than done.
O-Khan’s success overseas has not always been met in Japanese singles action, and the Dominator has often spoken of his frustration in gaining the same level of superiority in the Japan ese pro-wrestling space that he commanded across so many martial arts. A victory for O-Khan would do much to boost his spirits, but could mean trouble for the embryonic BC leadership of Finlay- who comes out on top tonight?
5th Match: Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, YOH & Lio Rush vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
Lio Rush and Hiromu Takahashi’s long road to their March 21 title match continues tonight in Okayama. Hiromu has the backing of all of LIJ tonight, but with Tetsuya Naito and SANADA set to meet Friday in a Korakuen Cup quarterfinal, might tensions be running a little high?
4th Match: Jado, Ren Narita & Tama Tonga vs BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, KENTA & El Phantasmo)
After weeks of tension between El Phantasmo and David Finlay, a chance for relative calm, and a BC trio all on the same page. It was just about one year ago that BULLETC LUB was all on the same page in expelling Tama Tonga and Jado from their fold meanwhile, a point that is doubtless not lost on the NEVER Openweight Champion as he heads to the ring tonight.
3rd Match: Just4Guys (TAKA Michinoku, DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) vs HOUSE OF TORTURE (EVIL, SHO, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo)
Eight man action will see Just 4 Guys take on HOUSE OF TORTURE. Taichi’s derisory comments toward H.O.T of late have centered around the group being a hindrance to the Holy Emperor’s new team as they seek to get their first significant results under their belts. Should Taichi and company put EVIL and company behind them, it may say a lot for their future after a disappointing New Japan Cup, and indeed, 2023 at large thus far. Can they get on their way to achieving their goals in Okayama?
2nd Match: YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Ryohei Oiwa vs United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
Kyle Fletcher’s New Japan Cup campaign came to an end at the weekend at the hands of Hirooki Goto, but only after a dominant in ring performance from the Aussie Arrow. Hot on the heels of a key victory for Fletcher over YOSHI-HASHI, it seems as if Aussie Open’s right to challenge for the IWGP Tag Team Championships sooner rather than later has been cemented. Tonight, a chance for the duo, as well as Jeff Cobb to show that as soon as Goto’s own Cup campaign comes to an end, the Aussies are coming for tag gold.
1st Match: Yuto Nakashima vs Aaron Henare
Singles record: 3-0 Henare
Singles action will kick us off tonight as Yuto Nakashima faces Aaron Henare. From New Zealand Dojo experience to a passion for underground MMA, there’s a lot Henare and Nakashima have in common, but that doesn’t mean Henare will go easy on the Noge Dojo representative. Can Nakashima survive longer with Henare than he has before tonight?