It’s about time we end the first round of this year’s New Japan Cup, and there are just three matches left. The field of 30 has shrunk considerably, and three more men will fall off tonight. Jay White & Toa Henare take the spotlight, but don’t count Finlay vs. Owens out.
New Japan Cup Match: David Finlay vs. Chase Owens
David Finlay has been taking the fight to Chase Owens all tour in preparation for tonight. These are two dark horse picks in the New Japan Cup, way more skilled than their undercard status would show, and will show that tonight.
Finlay grabbed a hammerlock, before moving into a headlock. Owens failed to shove him off, and even when he did get free he took a dropkick and suplex. Finlay went to the second rope, but Owens yanked him down into a backbreaker. A bow and arrow hold would follow, Owens bending Finlay in an unnatural manner.
Finlay was then sent off the ropes and dropped with a back elbow, and hit with the Northern Lights Suplex. Owens applied the body scissors, and Finlay had to fight his way free, and hit a jumping back elbow to send Owens outside. Finlay soared over the top rope, crashing onto Owens before sending him back in the ring. A spinning backdrop got a two count, and he’d catch Owens with a backbreaker soon after.
Owens came back by hitting a backdrop on Finlay into the corner of the ring, before hitting a big lariat for a series of two counts. They’d trade roll up attempts on the mat, before going for dropkicks. Owens feinted Finlay out, hit a PK and nailed another backbreaker. Finlay came back only to be dropped with a big lariat.
Owens got frustrated, and pulled up the mats on the outside, which distracted the referee as he smashed Finlay with his Texas Heavyweight Championship. Finlay was deadweight as Owens tried to get him up for the Package Piledriver, but almost nabbed a rollup. Owens hit a slingshot backbreaker, and shining wizard, before Finlay countered the Package Piledriver into a pinfall for the win.
As technically sound as a match gets, just solid fast paced action from both men from bell to bell. Lots of creative backbreakers, and a flash pinfall finish solidifies David Finlay as a solid underdog in this tournament.
Match Rating: 3.5/5 (*** 1/2)
David Finlay will now face the winner of YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yujiro Takahashi on March 15th.
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Last year was a rough tournament for YOSHI-HASHI, as he got mauled by eventual winner EVIL in the second round. Since then, he’s considerably upped his game, won his first championship, and has become a steady threat. Yujiro Takahashi is no one’s pick to win the tournament, but an upset win over YOSHI-HASHI in the first round isn’t impossible.
Takahashi ran right in with two big boots to the head, before YOSHI-HASHI came back with a shoulder tackle and uppercut. He would bodyslam Takahashi, but got his eyes raked, only for YOSHI-HASHI to trip him under the bottom ropes with a slide and throw him into the barricade. Takahashi attacked with his cane as they brawled outside, getting YOSHI-HASHI upside the head with it and going into the ring. Takahashi was quickly running down his list of moves while YOSHI-HASHI was weakened, but his weak strikes only fired him up.
YOSHI-HASHI missed the rewind kick and Takahashi nailed the low dropkick, before looking for the Fisherman Buster, being hit with a vertical suplex instead. Takahashi was placed over the top rope and hit with a series of dropkicks, YOSHI-HASHI getting a two count. YOSHI-HASHI would have hit hand bit and get flapjacked over the top rope, before Takahashi kicked him in the face.
They’d trade blows in the middle of the ring, before Takahashi won out with a lariat. YOSHI-HASHI came back with a chop before being hit with an Angle Slam, superplex and Fisherman Buster! This combo still only got a two count, and YOSHI-HASHI countered the low DDT. He’d drop Takahashi with a thrust kick, and kick out of Miami Shine. YOSHI-HASHI would fire up to hit a Snap Dragon suplex, lariat and apply the Butterfly Lock to wear Takahashi down, and Karma would end this one.
Yujiro Takahashi showed up for this first round match, one of his better matches in recent memory. YOSHI-HASHI is always great in an underdog role, and Takahashi was able to help build that with his cheap shot on the outside. They’d end up with a back and forth hard hitting match in the end, which showed the value of both men.
Match Rating: 3.75/5 (*** 3/4)
This means YOSHI-HASHI is the opponent of David Finlay on March 15th, setting up a battle between undercard underdogs.
Toa Henare vs. Jay White
Last year was going to be the big coming out party for Toa Henare, as he was set to meet Tomohiro Ishii in the first main event of his career. Plans had to change, but tonight he gets a chance to break through all the time. He just needs to defeat a fired up Jay White, a man who’s keen to sweep this tournament and take the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship from Kota Ibushi.
Henare would quickly show his power edge over White, shoving him into the corner. White slipped out and stomped him down, but the moment Henare took even a bit of control, White slipped away to the outside. Henare would be dropped throat first over the top rope, and taken down into a headlock. He’d power out and stun White with a forearm to the jaw, before laying in some hard chops in the corner.
Henare took White outside and threw him hard into the barricades, before slamming him in the ring and hitting a forearm drop. White would gain some ground by just throwing Henare over the top rope with an Exploder Suplex. Herare would be sent relentlessly into the apron and barricade, White getting a near fall in the ring and putting the pressure on with a single leg crab.
Henare got the bottom rope to break the hold, and threw White hard across the ring. Another chop and a diving shoulder tackle landed flush, before setting up a big suplex. White came back with a DDT, before hitting Bladebuster in the middle of the ring for a two count. Henare would be stomped down in the middle of the ring, but this was just firing him up.
White would use Henare’s momentum against him as he hit a flatliner, and quickly shifted into a German Suplex. He’d slap Henare’s face in time with the fans clapping, and goad him right into a big uranage. White dumped Henare to the outside and said that he didn’t belong in his ring. Anytime Henare tried to get in he’d be stomped down, before White came out and grabbed him.
White asked Gedo what move to hit next, and would get the Kiwi Crusher on Henare. I think Gedo just loves yelling KIWI, because it once again only got a near fall. White put Henare to the top rope, but he was taken down after a headbutt. Henare soared off the top with a shoulder tackle, sending White rolling to the opposite corner. White was hit with a big clothesline and Samoan Drop, before Henare just hit a rolling back elbow.
Henare nailed a spear for a two count, before planting White with a uranage. He was quickly learning how much it takes to beat Jay White, and Gedo took a cheap shot at him. Henare took Gedo down, before looking for the Fisherman Driver. White slipped behind and hit a set of Sleeper Suplexes before ending this one with Blade Runner.
Henare looked like the equal of Jay White in the end of this match, an accomplishment in it’s own right. White is still miles ahead of someone like Henare however, and was always dictating the pacing of this match from the opening bell to the end. It was another master class from White, and the start of a potential winning run.
Match Rating: 4/5 (****)
Jay White will now face Hiroshi Tanahashi on March 15th. Can he defeat the NEVER Openweight Champion? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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