The New Japan Cup continued Saturday with the most highly anticipated match of the opening round headlining the show.
In the main event, Shingo Takagi scored a big win defeating Kazuchika Okada in an excellent match.
Okada’s injured back played into Takagi’s attack by driving the former champion into the apron from the floor and hitting a big superplex late in the match.
Okada continually applied the Money Clip, which Takagi would utilize rope breaks to survive.
In the most memorable sequence, Okada’s spinning Rainmaker missed, and Takagi hit his own version of the move. This was teased previously when Takagi landed his elbow off the top and did the Rainmaker pose.
After a huge Pumping Bomber, Okada returned and attempted the Rainmaker, Takagi ducked and hit Last of the Dragon for the win.
This was a terrific main event and a major win for Takagi, eliminating one of the favorites in the opening round and places Takagi on the shortlist of potential finalists. He advances to face Hirooki Goto in the next round next Saturday.
KENTA advanced defeating Juice Robinson after using Game Over. The match dragged at points and was not the match on the show that will likely stick in your memory. The work was fine with KENTA bullying Robinson, wrapping him around the guardrail, and landed a big boot sending Robinson off the apron into the rail shoulder first.
They engaged in counters for the Go to Sleep and Pulp Friction before trading strikes as KENTA used overhand slaps and Robinson hit the big right hand. His final attempt at Pulp Friction was countered with KENTA applying Game Over and Robinson finally tapped.
In the third tournament match of the show, Minoru Suzuki defeated Tomoaki Honma in a hard-hitting fight and probably the most ambitious match we’ve seen from Honma since his neck injury.
Honma has his limitations but he channeled his familiar style with an opponent that gels in that form.
The tempo was immediately set with a prolonged series of chops back-and-forth. Suzuki targeted the neck using a cravat and teasing a count-out when Honma returned to the ring at the count of nineteen.
Honma ate a series of PKs and roared at Suzuki, eventually hitting a kokeshi. Suzuki’s attempts at the Gotch piledriver were thwarted by Honma on several occasions with Honma countering with a cradle for a near-fall down the stretch. Finally, Suzuki overpowered Honma and hit the Gotch for the win.
For Honma, this was a great performance in a big singles setting where the bar was high for him to perform in a match with Suzuki, and achieved that goal.
Suzuki and KENTA will meet in the next round next Saturday.
Sunday’s show will feature opening round matches between Will Ospreay and Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Gabriel Kidd.
Here are the full results from the show:
*Jay White, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori over Toa Henare, David Finlay & Yuya Uemura
*Will Ospreay, The Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb over Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI
*New Japan Cup Opening Round: Minoru Suzuki over Tomoaki Honma in 14:55
*New Japan Cup Opening Round: KENTA over Juice Robinson in 17:17
*New Japan Cup Opening Round: Shingo Takagi over Kazuchika Okada in 23:59