Match 1 – SANADA v Colt Cabana
This started with a series of reversals, wristlocks, headlocks, and headscissors. Cabana locked in headscissors with SANADA’s head down to the mat. SANADA got out but Cabana pushed his head back down, the same thing happened a second time but when Cabana pushed SANADA’s head back in a third time, SANADA flipped his way out. SANADA then tried the Paradise Lock but Cabana pushed him away. Cabana then tried to figure out how to do the Paradise Lock, gave up, and hit a quick Superman dive for 2. SANADA looked like he was going to try for the Paradise Lock again, but Cabana distracted him and rolled him up into a pin for 2. Cabana offered a handshake, SANADA, apparently having missed previous Cabana matches goes to accept but they ended up going into a series of reversals ending with SANADA finally tying Cabana up in the Paradise Lock.
SANADA released Cabana from the Lock with a kick to the backside and Cabana rolled to the outside. Cabana started stalling on the outside, SANADA invited him back in by holding the ropes open for him. Cabana refused to go that way and got in on the other side. SANADA hit a leapfrog and a dropkick to Cabana, Cabana went back out of the ring. SANADA hits a pescado to the outside. SANADA threw Cabana back in, but he rolled straight out the other side. SANADA tried again, but this time he stopped Cabana from rolling out and attempted a pin but didn’t even get a 1 count. SANADA hooked in a headlock, Cabana pulled at SANADA’s hair and hit elbows and chops, but SANADA hit a leaping Frankensteiner. Cabana came back with strikes and dodged an enziguri, getting in a double jump splash for 2. Cabana kept on SANADA with chops to SANADA, then tried for second rope moonsault but missed. SANADA took the opportunity to try for Skull End but Cabana escaped, SANADA then went for a springboard but Cabana caught him, and carried him on his shoulders, before he could do anything SANADA reversed into the Skull End. Cabana got out again and locked in Billy Goat’s Curse. SANADA managed to reach the rope for the break. Cabana hit a big chop and elbow to SANADA in the corner, pushed him to the top, tried for frankensteiner, but SANADA rolled through for a 2. SANADA got Cabana in Skull End but he reversed it, SANADA turned the reversal into a DDT. SANADA tried for a moonsault but Cabana got his knees up and rolled into a pin for 2. SANADA tried a dropkick and missed again, Cabana tried to take advantage with a Superman dive but SANADA rolled through. SANADA dodged another Superman dive attempt and got Skull End in, but Cabana reversed it again. SANADA finally got Skull End fully locked in, Cabana started pulling at SANADA’s hair but it was futile and he had no choice but to tap out.
I’m glad Cabana got as far as he did because this match let us see his more serious side as a wrestler. He had answers to a lot of SANADA’s offence and his style made for a solid Quarter Final. SANADA continued to look good and I think he’s a dark horse in the tournament and could be a surprise finalist, possibly even winning the whole thing.
Winner by pinfall – SANADA
Match 2 – Hiroshi Tanahashi v Zack Sabre Jr
At the start, neither man was able to get the upper hand. Tanahashi showed he had learned from previous encounters with ZSJ by trying to keep his legs as far away from his reach as possible. Tanahashi then went for ZSJ’s leg, getting him in a leglock, ZSJ countered but couldn’t quite lock anything in, they then broke apart. Tanahashi overpowered ZSJ, clasping his hands and pushing him to the mat. ZSJ turned it around and the men went back and forth. ZSJ started twisting Tanahashi’s arm, but he came back with a kick and a snap suplex. Tanahashi went for a headlock, ZSJ reversed it, tried for a a kick, Tanahashi dodged it to go for the Dragon Screw, but ZSJ reversed it into a submission then jumped on Tanahashi’s arm. ZSJ twisted Tanahashi’s wrist and hand, then stomped his arm again. He kept working the arm, eventually transitioning into a pinning combination for a 2 count.
ZSJ started hitting Tanahashi with quick kicks, Tanahashi got back up, but ZSJ hit an uppercut. They then went a series of dueling forearms and uppercuts until Tanahashi hit an uppercut and a running elbow to ZSJ. Tanahashi was then in control of the match, hitting ZSJ with elbows, a slam and a somersault senton for 2. Tanahashi ran at ZSJ twice and but ZSJ got his foot up to boot Tanahashi in the face both times. On the third attempt, ZSJ locked in an octopus stretch but Tanahashi reversed it into one of his own. Tanahashi hit a pumphandle slam before going for Twist and Shout but ZSJ reversed it into an armbar then hit a PK to Tanahashi’s face. ZSJ ran at Tanahashi but got dropped onto the apron, h then managed to get an octopus stretch on Tanahashi through the rope. Tanahashi got out and hit a Dragon Screw through the ropes, a dropkick to ZSJ’s leg, then a second dragon screw. He then hooked in the Cloverleaf but ZSJ pushed him back and turned it into a Triangle. Tanahashi tried to power out but ZSJ grabbed his arm and added it to the hold. Tanahashi was able to power out on the second attempt, transitioning into a cloverleaf, but ZSJ quickly got to the ropes. ZSJ locked in a standing chancery plus wristlocks, but Tanahashi was able to break it and hit Twist and Shout three times. Tanahashi then looked in control again as he hit a Slingblade for 2. He then went for a Dragon Suplex, but ZSJ countered and twisted Tanahashi into an octopus hold, also twisting Tanahashi’s arm. Tanahashi escaped but ZSJ kept at him with kicks until Tanahashi caught him and looked for the Dragon Screw, but ZSJ slipped out and used a European clutch to pin Tanahashi for a 2 count. ZJ hit a PK for 2 again. He then lifted Tanahashi, going for a Zack driver but Tanahashi reversed into an O’Connor roll for 2. ZSJ transitioned into Orienteering with Napalm Death but Tanahashi stomped his head to escape, and hit an inverted Dragon Screw. Tanahashi then went for a Dragon Suplex, but ZSJ rolled through for a pin for 2. ZSJ hit some forearm smashes to Tanahashi and went for the back slide, but Tanahashi countered, hitting a slap and a Slingblade, then went into a Japanese leg clutch hold for the pin!
Another great Quarter Final, this match could’ve gone either way. Zack Sabre Jr’s style is adaptable to any opponent, even the Ace himself and there were a few times when I thought he was going to pull off the win. Tanahashi had a great night too, showing off his mat wrestling skills, including that leg clutch hold for the unexpectedly quick finish, and ending Zack Sabre Jr’s New Japan Cup undefeated streak.
Winner by pinfall – Hiroshi Tanahashi