New Japan Cup Round 2 preview (2/2)

July 1 sees the final second round matchups

June 24 saw the first half of the second round play out in the New Japan Cup, with four now through to the quarter finals. As the tournament approaches its climax, Wednesday July 1 sees the remaining four matches in round two play out, with a quick turnaround to quarter finals July 2 and semifinals on July 3. Here are the matches we can expect to see Wednesday night on NJPW World: 


First singles meeting

June 22 saw one of the hottest performances of SHO’s life on the way to unarguably the biggest singles win of his career. Fighting tooth and nail with Shingo Takagi, a Shock Arrow led to victory over The Dragon. Now SHO has made his way to the final 16, and almost certainly earned a future title opportunity against the NEVER Openweight Champion, who will be eager to stop that electrifying momentum. 

The question for SHO then is whether he has done all he set out to achieve in this New Japan Cup? A thrilling match and a satisfying victory over his rival now attained, will he continue to wrestle just as hard against SANADA? If he doesn’t, Cold Skull will make him pay dearly. SANADA clearly enjoyed wrestling Ryusuke Taguchi in round one, but now business gets more serious, and after a patchy start to his 2020, here’s where SANADA will want to pick up the pace and get on the road to the Osaka finals. 


Kota Ibushi vs Taichi

Overall singles record: 1-0 Ibushi

Kota Ibushi and Taichi’s singles record may stand at 1-0 Ibushi, but it might as well be 0-0, the two only meeting once in Ibushi’s first Best of the Super Junior tournament way back in 2009. Since then, both men have changed significantly, and not just in their transition to heavyweight. 

Ibushi and Taichi have both, in their own ways, hardened their resolve over the years; Taichi’s to win by any means necessary, and Ibushi’s to gut through any form of punishment conceivable to survive and thrive. Each man’s respective first round matchups evidenced that; Ibushi was on the back foot and massively out wrestled by Zack Sabre Junior, but a tiny opening was all he needed to blast ZSJ with a knockout Kamigoye and advance. 

Meanwhile Taichi attacked Hiroshi tanahashi on his entrance, and continued to pull out all the stops, from weapon shots, to DOUKI interference. yet it was Taichi’s own toughness that shone through when he hit Black Mephisto to pin the Ace in the dead center of the ring. The man who shunned love defeated its very embodiment, and now the Holy Emperor wants to take Tanahashi’s partner down the same road. 

The heavy shot with the IWGP Tag Team Championship belt delivered to Ibushi after the match Monday likely won’t figure physically into this match. But it will have given Ibushi plenty to think on, and gave a clear message as to what methods Taichi will use on July 1. the question lies in whose resolve will be stronger. 


EVIL vs Hirooki Goto

Singles record: 3-1 Goto

We’ve seen a good number of raw power hoss fights over the course of the New Japan Cup so far, and EVIL and Hirooki Goto is sure to be among the best of them. Separated for over two years after they met for the NEVER Openweight Championship in Osaka at new Beginning in 2018, EVIL and Goto have maintained similar paths, eager for a breakout victory to (re)assert themselves in the very top flight. The New Japan Cup represents just such an opportunity.

Goto has had to recover from a NEVER Openweight Championship reign started at the Tokyo Dome coming to a crashing halt at the hands of Shingo Takagi after less than a month, while EVIL, a proud NEVER 6-Man Champion, is nonetheless eager to finally break out as more than a mere team player and take his shot at Tetsuya Naito in Osaka July 12. 


First singles meeting

Our last round two matchup is an intriguing cross-weight class clash as BUSHI faces YOSHI-HASHI for the first time. In the first round, BUSHI’s meeting with YOH was expected to be a highly tactical affair between two strategic thinkers, but BUSHI showed more composure as he struck MX in the face of an over eager YOH who tried to land new moves, and was overly fixated on hitting a Dragon Suplex that wasn’t coming. 

BUSHI’s composure may be the key against YOSHI-HASHI who has a history of letting big match pressure get the better of him. That said, the Headhunter has to be in high spirits after defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan in a first round matchup that could justifiably be listed as one of the most exciting of the whole tournament when all is said and done. YOSHI-HASHI seems to be tapping into a fire rarely seen, and might be impossible to deny July 1.