On Thursday, the second-round matches of the New Japan Cup continued with Kazuchika Okada taking on Mikey Nicholls and Will Ospreay facing off with Lance Archer.
In the first tournament match, Archer had one of the best matches of his career with a lengthy one involving the NEVER Openweight champion. The match focused on the size discrepancy, which will be frequent as the former junior heavyweight division makes the transition. Archer attacked Ospreay’s ribs, working in Ospreay’s legitimate injury from last year.
Ospreay’s first attempt at the OsCutter was stopped with a pounce from Archer in mid-air that was visually impressive. Archer choke slammed him onto the edge of the apron and then delivered one of the biggest chokeslams you are going to see, which Ospreay kicked out from. Ospreay avoided the Blackout and attempted the OsCutter again, which was caught before hitting it on the third try, but Archer kicked out the finisher.
Rocky Romero was calling for the Storm Breaker from ringside on commentary but Ospreay could not lift Archer. He was hit with the Blackout and Ospreay became the first person to kick out of Archer’s finisher. They fought on the turnbuckle, Ospreay landed the cheeky Nando’s kick and got Archer up for the Storm Breaker and Ospreay pinned Archer at 18:09.
If this wasn’t the best match of Archer’s career, I’m not sure what is. Archer had very good performances in 2013 and 2014 in the G1 but this felt like his best match.
Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero were great during this match, as well.
In the main event, Kazuchika Okada defeated Mikey Nicholls in 17:29 after hitting the spinning Rainmaker followed by the regular version.
In a vacuum, this was a good main event, but I don’t think there was a soul inside the building believing Nicholls could win. It didn’t help that we saw a similar dynamic this past week between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino and this match didn’t come close to achieving the level of drama as that one did.
Nicholls worked a headlock for the longest time at the start, they traded headlock exchanges for a while and then Nicholls had the advantage. He used a sliding D, a top rope moonsault and countered a Rainmaker with a spine buster. His finisher is the Mikey Bomb, which he used to win in the first round. That move was countered into the spinning Rainmaker and then Okada hit the traditional version to pin him.
On its own, it was fine, but it wasn’t a spectacular Okada singles match and I didn’t think it came close to one.
The tournament resumes on Saturday and Sunday with shows from Korakuen Hall and the following matches:
*Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (Saturday)
*Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Saturday)
*Colt Cabana vs. Toru Yano (Sunday)
*Sanada vs. Minoru Suzuki (Sunday)