New Japan Cup semi-finals are set

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The semi-finals of the New Japan Cup are set following Thursday’s card at Korakuen Hall.

On Thursday, Sanada defeated Toru Yano and in the main event, Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Kota Ibushi as they join Hiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson as the final four remaining in the tournament.

The Sabre Jr. vs. Ibushi match went 21:05 with Sabre constantly shutting down Ibushi and working the arm and ankle throughout the match. The audience was solidly behind Ibushi, chanting his name as Sabre Jr. locked on the match-ending submission, which looked incredible. Sabre Jr. applied his usual Octopus hold while pulling back on the arms while kicking at the back of Ibushi’s head. As they went down to the mat, the pressure placed Ibushi’s shoulders down on the mat as he was tied up and the referee called for the bell.

The win gives Sabre Jr. victories over Tetsuya Naito and Ibushi, avenging two of his losses at last summer’s G-1 Climax.

In the other tournament match, Sanada defeated Toru Yano in 6:52 in a comedy match built around teases of countouts and Yano near falls. The audience believed in the possibility of a countout finish after Yano defeated Davey Boy Smith to advance by countout and Tanahashi defeated Bad Luck Fale the day prior by countout. The silliest spot of the entire tournament featured Yano connecting with a low blow and went for a cradle, referee Marty Asami started his count and as he was about to count three, Sanada grabbed his arm to prevent the count. This was not cause for a disqualification, instead, the match just resumed with Yano complaining to the referee, being kicked low himself and Sanada won with the Skull End.

The semi-final match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson takes place on Friday morning from Korakuen Hall at 5:30 am Eastern. The Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Sanada semi-final is on Sunday from Shizuoka at 2 am Eastern (late Saturday).

The finals will take place next Wednesday and the winner will receive a title match of their choosing on April 1st at Sakura Genesis at Sumo Hall.

I have to disagree about the Sanada spot being silly, where he stopped the refs count. I thought it was quite brilliant and something I’ve never seen done before. With all of the stuff that the New Japan officials let go, I dont think this comes even close to being something he could have been DQ’d for.