Second round gets underway
Saturday March 11 saw the second round of the New Japan Cup get underway, Tetsuya Naito facing Chase Owens and KENTA meeting SANADA.
Naito and Owens would be first on the night, the Crown Jewel getting the drop on his foe with a jump start, but getting rocked with a baseball slide into the guardrail. Naito would keep up the pressure with a cravate as Owens went back to the outside to walk the damage off and consider his next move. That reflection didn’t seem to help Owens, who was rung off the ringside steel, but a momentary opening would see him deliver a Russian legsweep into the guardrail, doing heavy damage to the back of Naito’s head.
Now in control, Owens would make use of some classic black hat tactics. A knuckle to the skull was followed by a mocking corner combination to its innovator, who struggled to get any sustained offense in. Chase continued to stay one step ahead of Naito until getting a little bit too cute, taking the time to steal El Ingobernables hat before flying off the top rope into his opponent’s boot. The original corner combination followed, and Naito started to hone in on Chase’s neck as the match passed ten minutes.
Chase would battle back with combination strikes, but got rocked with signature elbows to the side of the neck. Esperanza followed, but Owens went prone to avoid the Destino and get an inside cradle for two. That seemed as close as Chase would get as Naito landed a running Destino, but the BULLET CLUB member was able to prevent himself from absorbing the full version, landing a hot shot and C Trigger at the 15 minute mark as the match continued.
Owens would score with the Jewel Heist, and buried a hard knee to Naito before setting for the Package Piledriver; Naito resisted, but was rocked with a head kick on the top corner followed by a second rope Styles Clash. After repeated knees, Owens seemed inches from home, but a shock victory roll put Naito into the quarterfinals.
The main event saw SANADA and KENTA square off in front of a divided crowd, both men appealing to the Aichi audience before a snug exchange of holds. Headlock exchanges would dominate the early going, but it would be SANADA with the first knockdown, a dropkick following up; Cold Skull had the best of KENTA inside the ring, but the STRONG Champion would take advantage outside it, sending his opponent barreling into the ringside steel.
KENTA took charge of SANADA, and drilled him with a DDT on the floor before looking for weaponry underneath the ring. Finding a roll of tape, KENTA wanted it as a shortcut to steal his foe’s Paradise Lock, now taking great delight in riling up the crowd and humiliating SANADA. More heavy strikes followed, but Cold Skull finally found a leapfrog dropkick and a plancha that brought the Aichi crowd back into the match and scored two back inside the ring.
SANADA’s offensive run didn’t last long, as KENTA found an STF, before a heavy DDT had the LIJ member in trouble. SANADA resisted a KENTA attempt at game Over, before starting to build momentum, recovering first from a double knockdown ad hitting a springboard dropkick before heading up for a Moonsault. SANADA missed the top rope attack though, and was rolled up for two, but SANADA’s kick out saw KENTA crash into the referee.
Now finding a chair from under the ring, the cheers at the start of the match for KENTA from some corners of Dolphins Arena were now firm and unified boos. Referee Red Shoes Unno prevented a chair assault, but only momentarily as he was sent tumbling from the ring; a trio of shots rang off the spine of Cold Skull, before a hard shot saw the chair explode over SANADA’s head.
KENTA brought the official back inside and launched a double stomp, but only got two out of SANADA; when Cold Skull resisted a Go2Sleep as well, KENTA unleashed a barrage of brutal overhand rights. SANADA again escaped Go2Sleep, but was locked in Game Over, after coming close to a referee stoppage, he would barely make the ropes, but the damage appeared to be done. The match passing 25 minutes, KENTA looked for a Busaiku Knee but was turned into an O’Connor Roll for two, and then a moonsault for another nearfall.
SANADA looked for his new modified DDT finish, but was sent crashing yet again into the referee. KENTA drank in the boos of the crowd after a low blow, and retrieved his STRONG Openweight Championship from ringside, only to find the gold kicked directly into his head; the DDT variant followed as the referee came to for the three count.