Bad Luck Fale vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW (03/20/2017)

Trask: Coming into the match I had suspicion as to how it would be worked. I’m glad they went with the most logical idea possible: Have Fale destroy Shibata, continue the monster tirade within the match, only for a comeback to occur, with obstacles along the way. To start out Shibata jumped Fale, with Fale tumbling over the top rope after a boot as physics attempted to calculate. Then came the good 10 minute stretch of Fale doing everything he could to tear into Shibata. We had nerve holds, barricades thrown onto him, tape ripped off the shoulder, etc. Shibata started a comeback but would continue to hit a brick wall, with top tier selling at that, an example being him trying to lift his neck up after being knocked down, but bouncing back to the mat in remaining in peril. We had tremendous near falls in the Grenade (Samoan Spike) and splash, as the crowd increasingly bought in to the fact that it was now or never for Shibata. A sleeper was locked in but wasn’t enough, as we were on the cusp of Shibata finally getting in his signature offense, it was fantastic to see the crowd so engaged. It’s right around then that the match became a big one in the moment, after feeling like an “ok first rounder”. Shibata DECIMATED Fale with kicks as he was struggling to lift himself up. Fale lifted Shibata up but Shibata transitioned into a sleeper again, getting Fale in position, clenching away with all his remaining power, then hitting a shotgun sounding penalty kick to win the New Japan Cup. The fans went apeshit upon the finish. If there’s one massive positive from the match and culmination as a whole, I got a little bit of the chills seeing the finish play out. It felt like a big moment for Shibata.

The match was built well with the last few minutes being great, but as a whole it was still lacking a tournament final feel at times. You couldn’t have structured the match much better though, with Fale being protected along the way. I enjoyed this for what it was, and the tournament as a whole.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW (03/19/2017)

Trask: Preface: Shibata/Ishii matches have never been my forte. I’m not the type of guy to shit all over them. I still really enjoy them, but am perplexed at some things. It’s just not my style. However, these two came out and delivered their own epic. I’m not in love with it, but I really enjoyed the work put in and the pacing. If you’ve seen a match between these two before, you know what you’re going to get. If you haven’t and this is your first time…? Be prepared for tons of nose to nose animosity, kickouts at one, fast paced hybrid wrestling, and lots of grunts and taunts! I love delayed selling as long as we get correct fallout after the action, but something has never quite clicked with me watching these two face each other. I love them other than vs. each other. I think it more has to do with this style and the aftermath. Throughout the match Shibata and Ishii would come face to face, but the most fun with them being intimate came with Shibata having Ishii in a stretch submission. It was like seeing family stretch each other jokingly, looking back and forth, but these two hate each other in the moment. I actually really enjoyed the forearm exchange between them. It lasted about a minute. Neither would give up. It was a ball of fun with the crowd engaged, and out of the sequence came a busted up Ishii nose. Another sequence I took away as being my favorite was when animosity was at its highest, as we got in a few seconds an Ishii headbutt (avoiding Shibata’s), a Shibata spin kick, then an Ishii kick that sent both down. I’ll be slaughtered if I’m not to mention they did indeed trade suplexes. Lots of ups and downs in terms of not only both getting up, but the way it was worked. Shibata escaped hell by hitting a PK and locking in a sleeper, and with Ishii’s mouth almost bubbling, he had no choice but to pass out as Shibata gets the victory and advances to the finals. I really like these matches for fun macho wrestling, but when the match is over, you don’t remember much. I can see why some see it as being way more epic. Post-match, Ishii crawled over to Shibata being all disoriented, still wanting a piece of him. It was a good way to cap off a solid tournament thus far.

Bad Luck Fale vs. EVIL – NJPW (03/19/2017)

Trask: This is one of those matches where given time, improves on you. At first this saw EVIL jump Fale only to be tortured on the outside area. When it spilled back inside the story started to develop quickly, although still dragging on its feet waiting for interference. Fale hit a huge spear and soon enough, we got a ref bump. In came Tama Tonga to help his friend. EVIL had no chance of continuing his momentum as he was hit down, only for BUSHI of all people to come in to save the day (while also misting Fale in the face). He hit the top rope codebreaker on Tama as they cancelled each other out. From there on out the match got fun. EVIL hung in there, taking advantage of the half-blinded Fale, slugging it out and kicking out of the splash. He lariated Fale to try and take him down but it was hard. Fale powered through, hitting a Samoan Spike, choosing that wasn’t enough, and landing the Bad Luck Fall for a surprising victory and to advance. I enjoyed the story from ref bump on, and felt like it could have been told in a more time effective manner without dragging; but it’s understandable to let a semi final go as long as possible with booking in tact. A fine match. Fale getting a finals push isn’t a shock because it’s the New Japan Cup, but if EVIL went this far, one would hope he’d make the finals.

SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW (03/17/2017)

Trask: It was no doubt these these two were going to have a really good match. While watching, I came to realize something bizarre in the timeline of Ishii’s tournament. We went from the goddamn first round with him having an epic, as well as having every possible counter to Kenny Omega, to the quarter finals with him being dominated by SANADA for a good portion of the match. In the tier of New Japan, and for that to work better, you’d think the matches would have to be flip flopped in order. But that’s the way wrestling works, it’s weird. SANADA controlled a lot of the tempo, choking Ishii with a ringside CHAOS towel, being able to step up to the plate with Ishii wanted to go hard, etc. That created a surprising tempo that led to Ishii playing a familiar face in peril position that always works well. When the match picked up into 50/50 split near falls, it saw the two come up with some very neat counters. SANADA popped up from Ishii’s DDT which led to Ishii hitting a reverse one that did the trick. SANADA had Skull End locked in but Ishii survived, leading to a Sliding D near fall that gets the crowd everytime. SANADA even tried to pull out a moonsault but missed it. Ishii then went on to hit the brainbuster for the win. Another likable match, second to EVIL/Nagata as my favorite of the round.

Juice Robinson vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW (03/15/2017)

Trask: Another match I liked, but didn’t like was worth going to bat hard for. Part of the match was worked like a young lion vs. veteran match, grappling complete with stretching out and Shibata controlling the pace–but it naturally picked up into what I wanted for the last little bit. Juice kept on rocking with his jabs and “FUCK YOUS!” to Shibata, who in response just hit him harder. When Juice got in his offense, Shibata was excellent selling, especially when hit with the gutbuster. He literally arched over like he was told to create a bridge in improv class. Juice went for a brainbuster but was caught in a sleeper, then put away with a PK as Shibata gets the victory and moves on. These two have a better match in them, but still managed to deliver in a unique way vs. other matches so far. It was neat more than great. A novelty tournament match that you can nod in appreciation to.

Toru Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale – NJPW (03/14/2017)

Trask: Like all Toru “Formula Works Best in Tournament” Yano, tournament matches, this was another good match for the formula. Except it wasn’t too short considering Yano, but still sub 10 minutes. As soon as his tricks didn’t play out the way he wanted them to, Yano ran away, eventually ending up on the outside. He tied Fale up to the post for one of the craziest countout teases I’ve ever seen. Fale literally had to drag the guardrail with him alongside the ring to get back in on time. I’m sure someone has GIF’d it. Not a lot went right for YTR, but he did slam the giant~! The match hit its peaks during those points, and existed to be longer than the typical short Yano cheats. Fale was low blown but that was ineffective. Fale eventually hit the Samoan Spike for the win and to advance. I liked the match, as it was Yano throwing darts to see what spots he’d pull out on the big man. We hit the lotto when it landed on the tie up, but other than that, not so much. There’s always next year, YTR.

Yuji Nagata vs. EVIL – NJPW (03/13/2017)

Trask: This match delivered as I saw fit to. They went harder than they could have been positioned to. These two also meshed better than expected. From the bell we saw a fired up Nagata, who wanted to get past EVIL as fast as possible. It spilled to the outside, EVIL grabbed the chair, he never hit the home run chair spot that I love so much. This went from segment to segment with a blink of an eye, paced wonderfully. Nagata would get the upper-hand the majority of the time, with EVIL using the ref for a superkick to the gut, or raking the eyes, to try and halt the momentum. We got some awesome spots such as a top rope exploder, and Nagata getting the arm bar in (opposite hard cam, reversing the STO at that) only for EVIL to roll over but still be put in a regular one. Nagata didn’t fail to throw bombs either as we got some forearms and suplexes as desert. EVIL hit the STO for the victory and to advance. Clean match that was a lot of fun, kept short and sweet. Nagata was awesome; EVIL delivered as always. A win for the tournament.