The likely main event of Sakura Genesis will soon be decided as the New Japan Cup finals take place tonight in Niigata.
Katsuyori Shibata and Bad Luck Fale have both made it to the finals, defeating three men to earn their place. It makes the most sense for Shibata to win and headline against Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis, as that seems like the key money match. However, Fale has done well in tournaments like this before, in fact reaching the finals in 2014. Given that he’s usually pushed as a threat, tonight may just be the night they go all the way with him.
The rest of the card will feature a number of multi-man tag matches that will build momentum towards Sakura Genesis. Two programs in particular that have been built are Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru against Gedo & Jado over the IWGP Junior Tag Team titles and Hiromu Takahashi against KUSHIDA over the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.
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Tomoyuki Oka vs. Hirai Kawato went to a time limit draw
Oka dominated but Kawato held his own and fought back. Kawato did a good job selling his hurt shoulder. Both Oka and Kawato escaped Boston crab attempts. Kawato was going for a series of near falls when the bell rang, going to a time limit draw. Really good while it lasted, as both played their roles well in a heavyweight vs. junior heavyweight battle.
Kawato went at it with Oka after the match, showing the young lion fighting spirit.
David Finlay, Tiger Mask and Jushin Thunder Liger defeated Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado and Taka Michinoku
They brawled around the ring where Iizuka smashed Finlay with a chair. Heels worked on Liger for a while, with the referee being easily distracted while Iizuka choked Liger with the ring rope. Finlay made the comeback but got whacked again with another steel chair shot by Iizuka. Finlay rallied back quickly then pinned him with a stunner in a pretty decent match.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima defeated Yuji Nagata and Katsuya Kitamura
A lot of this match was both members of Tencozy, sometimes together, working over Kitamura. Nagata finally was tagged in and cleared house, dropping Kojima and sinking in the armbar until Tenzan broke it up. Kitamura was tagged in as they both worked over Kojima. Kitamura had it close with a Boston crab, but Kojima broke free and hit the lariat for the pinfall. Good enough match that made Kitamura look like someone with potential.
Jado, Gedo & Hirooki Goto defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi and Minoru Suzuki
Suzuki, Kanemaru and Taichi all worked and Jado and Gedo a lot during the match. Suzuki was going for the Gotch piledriver on Jado but was broken up by Goto. Taichi came in with his microphone stand and evened the odds. Jado kicked out of a pin attempt and rallied back, sinking in the crossface. Taichi tried to escape but Jado rolled him back in the ring and had no choice but to tap. Nothing special, but did continue the build for the IWGP Jr. tag team titles.
EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito defeated Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA and Michael Elgin
They teased a confrontation early between Tanahashi & Naito, but Naito didn’t engage and instead EVIL started things off. Turned into a pretty good back and forth contest with everyone getting their time to do their thing. Naito and Juice had a really nice exchange that people got into. Juice was going for Pulp Friction but Naito escaped, low blowed Robinson then pinned him with the Destino.
LIJ put the boots to Robinson after the match, with Naito putting in the final touches.
Toru Yano, Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI and Tomohiro Ishii Kenny Omega, Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga and Tonga Roa
This was okay, nothing special compared to the other tags tonight but still pretty solid. There was some comedy involving Yano and Tama Tonga, as Yano doesn’t like Tama Tonga’s crawl as it creeps him out. Yujiro controlled a lot of the match and looked like…Yujiro. Okada and Roa were going at it and let’s just say the talent discrepancies were obvious. Okada eventually hit the elbow and pinned Roa with the rainmaker.
Katsuyori Shibata defeated Bad Luck Fale to win the New Japan Cup
Fale controlled early, throwing Shibata into the barricade and laying waste to him. Fale worked on Shibata’s bum arm, wrapping it against the ring post. Shibata was goaded into landing some shots, but Fale continued to grind him down.
Fale lifted him up on his shoulders, but Shibata escapes by putting his foot on the top rope. Fale immediately came back, taking Shibata out of the ring. Fale tries to whip Shibata into the barricades, but Shibata counters and starts choking him with Fale’s own shirt.
Shibata takes down Fale and begins working on his arm. Fale escapes and counters with a lariat and a big splash. He goes for the grenade but Shibata kicks out. Fale goes for the Bad Luck Fall but in midair Shibata transitions into a sleeper. He transitions for a rear naked choke but Fale counters with a sidewalk slam.
Shibata immediately gets up and starts no selling, responding with some vicious strikes and puts him in the sleeper once again. He lands the PK and scores the victory, winning the 2017 New Japan Cup. I liked the story this match, but there were way better matches in this tournament — this wasn’t even close to reaching the upper echelon.
Shibata took a microphone after the match. He wasn’t sure who to choose, but eventually yelled out one person’s name — Kazuchika Okada, the IWGP Heavyweight champion. The camera cuts to the entranceway…but Okada never shows up. Shibata reiterates his promise to challenge Okada anyway as streamers fly and the show closes.