After an exciting weekend of hard hitting matches and shocking upsets, NJPW‘s New Japan Cup rolls on with the second round promising to be even more exciting and unpredictable.
In this preview we take a look at the eight remaining matches and the paths they’ve blazed thus far to keep championship dreams alive and well.
EVIL vs. Yuji Nagata
One of the fastest rising stars of Los Ingobernables de Japon will do battle against a grizzled veteran intent on returning to former glory.
Yuji Nagata has already sent one brash competitor packing with a hard fought victory over Bullet Club’s Tanga Loa; any arrogance EVIL may carry within him may be best served to be left in the locker room.
On the flip side of the coin, Nagata must beware of what lengths the former Watanabe has already gone to push forward in the tournament. Not only did he dominate a good portion of his opening round upset of Hiroshi Tanahashi, he displayed a new found ability to spew the same poisonous mist utilized by fellow LIJ member Bushi. There is no telling what else he may have tucked away in his twisted mind to move through Nagata.
Nagata will have to keep a safe distance not only from illegal tactics but EVIL’s striking capabilities as well. He will no doubt target the head and neck to set up The EVIL which few have been able to kick out of.
EVIL will need to protect his arms as Nagata’s bread and butter is the Nagata Lock. Also in his arsenal is the backdrop driver that eliminated Loa meaning it is paramount EVIL not let up once he establishes an advantage.
Can Blue Justice come through in a clutch once more or is everything truly EVIL?
Bad Luck Fale vs. Toru Yano
The crafty Yano may have to unload everything he has in his playbook if he is to score one of his trademark upsets against The Underboss.
On paper it may seem like a mismatch but CHAOS’ prankster has already managed quick upsets over the likes of Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Katsuyori Shibata, among others. All have fallen into his trap of stalling and the countless ways he can use a referee to his advantage, both mentally and physically. It served him well in his first round win over Tama Tonga.
With an impressive, hard hitting victory over Michael Elgin, Fale is unlikely in ever sense of the word to be in the mood for games. His overconfidence has cost him wins in the past but with a title opportunity at the end of the proverbial rainbow, a focused giant is literal bad luck for Yano.
If Fale can keep Yano in his grasp, the match is his to lose. If Yano can manipulate the match and Fale’s emotions, he stands a fighting chance of making it into the quarter-finals as an unlikely favorite to perhaps win it all.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Juice Robinson
Shibata enjoys dishing out punishment especially to those he feels stand in his path to something he hasn’t yet captured: a major singles championship.
His ire was raised by Suzuki-Gun’s Minoru Suzuki which he successfully channeled into a hyper aggressive onslaught and a well earned victory. He went through hell to obtain it however and the question remains just how much did it take out of him? Anyone who steps into the ring with Suzuki feels it for days, even weeks after. Will Shibata be ready for a hungry upstart?
Robinson also displayed a great deal of fighting spirit; Bullet Club’s Yujiro Takahashi brought a new level of grit into their opening round match and at times it seemed as if Juice wasn’t goingkand Pulp Friction sequence to advance.
One thing Shibata mustn’t forget is how far Robinson pushed his former partner and friend Hirooki Goto in Sapporo, showing he can hang with the hardest of hitting opponents and have a response or two in the process.
Both will be adrenalized going into the match and it is up to Robinson to keep Shibata on his toes. Shibata will take ten strikes to land one deadly one and that’s all it takes to set up the Penalty Kick. Juice has the slight speed advantage which will serve him well in evading Shibata’s reach.
Will this be the biggest win of Robinson’s career or will Shibata snuff out his momentum and give him a lethal kick back to reality?
Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA
The Stone Pitbull pulled off what many have been calling a major upset in the opening round.
Kenny Omega was unquestionably the odds on favorite to win the Cup and go on to a return match with Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Ishii had other plans and they included fighting Omega tooth and nail in a match that was among the very best in NJ Cup history.
A rare top rope hurricanrana plus the ability to avoid the One Winged Angel equaled victory for Ishii. It may very well have been his greatest victory and performance to date. If there any doubt left lingering about his being able to win when it counts most, this erased it permanently.
With that win in his cap, he now finds himself up against an equally hungry and tenacious SANADA of LIJ.
It took him several attempts but SANADA was finally able to submit Yoshi-Hashi in the first round; the match itself was a great back and forth battle of submissions and counters that really displayed how far both have come in the ring.
This match will be as grueling as the matches they’ve already had and then some. Ishii only knows how to bring offense full speed while SANADA is deadly patient when looking to apply the Skull End.
Ishii loves to throw head butts as if they are going out of style but must be weary about giving up his neck; the very neck he’s had issues with over his career. In the blink of an eye he could find himself tapping out as his CHAOS mate did.
SANADA will also have to protect the neck. Ishii’s sequence in setting up the brainbuster is impeccable in precision and how quickly it is delivered. And that’s not even going into the moves he can bust out of nowhere as seen with the aforementioned hurricanrana.
Will LIJ conquer both brackets and have the tournament come down to them? Or will Ishii plow forward and establish himself once and for all as a viable contender, if not champion?
Main Photo: NJPW