Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
New Japan Cup 2016 First Round Match
Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed on 05/25/2016) His entrance and general gimmick are still goofy as hell, but EVIL’s really won me over in the last few months, and with Ishii being one of my favorite people to watch these days, this ought to be quite a bit of fun. Right off the bat, EVIL jumps Ishii as he enters the ring and beats him down. They bleed to the outside and EVIL continues the onslaught, which includes using a pair of chairs on Ishii, and it somehow doesn’t get a disqualification, which is dumb. Likewise, Okada and Gedo are both on commentary and put up exactly 0 fuss. Get your shit together, literally everyone. Back in the ring, EVIL’s offense continues, and while his presence is pretty good and Ishii’s selling as reliable as always, a lot of it feels half-assed. One notable exception is a hell of a powerslam from Ishii that leads into his shine. Ishii hits a chop right in the throat and afterward stomps away at EVIL’s head when Red Shoes admonishes him, and it’s a nice touch, always making Ishii aggressive and willing to play a little dirty when he’s technically still a face. It makes for a variety between characters beyond simple heel/face dynamics. EVIL quickly regains control following a mean discus clothesline in the corner, and a very sloppy, potentially unsafe fisherman buster, though it doesn’t look like Ishii’s neck and shoulder are any more busted than usual afterward. Some back and forth action follows, with a bunch of sloppy, mean strikes, and a really gross half and half suplex that puts Ishii right on his neck, and a pretty flying clothesline earns EVIL a nearfall. Ishii equalizes things with a headbutt and both guys take turns hitting each other real hard, and Ishii gets a Tenryu-style powerbomb for two and an oddly awesome-looking STO before hitting a clothesline right to the face for another two count. EVIL avoids a brainbuster and connects with a solid (in more ways than one) clothesline for a nearfall of his own. Ishii avoids an STO and hits a dragon suplex, clothesline, and sliding lariat for what I figured would be the finish, but only ended up being one last nearfall before the brainbuster put the Lord of Darkness away. Not a bad match by any means, but with the hype I heard about this beforehand, I can’t help but be disappointed. Hard-hitting, fast, everything I usually like in wrestling, but all the finer points were glossed over or missing entirely, and it all feels like an incomplete product because of that.