The second round of competition in the 2019 New Japan Cup has come to a close, and as always, New Japan Pro-Wrestling had a few shocks in store for its faithful fanbase, including a relatively big upset for last year's winner.
In the process, it further tipped its hand at the wrestlers who will serve as the foundation of the promotion as it continues to rebuild in the wake of the departures of Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and Kushida.
What are the matchups fans can expect in the quarterfinal round of competition, and which wrestlers should fans expect to advance to the semis?
Round 2 Results
Tomohiro Ishii pinned Taichi.
Yoshi-Hashi pinned Chase Owens.
Kazuchika Okada pinned Mikey Nicholls.
Will Ospreay pinned Lance Archer.
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Ryusuke Taguchi.
Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Kota Ibushi.
Colt Cabana pinned Toru Yano.
Sanada pinned Minoru Suzuki.
Tanahashi Outwrestles Taguchi
Sabre Jr. Targets Ibushi's Injured Knee
An Aggressive Nicholls Brutalizes Okada
Archer Halts Ospreay's Momentum
Ishii defeats Yoshi-Hashi.
Ospreay upsets Okada.
Tanahashi defeats Sabre Jr.
Sanada defeats Cabana.
Sabre Jr. Poised for a Repeat?
In 2018, Zack Sabre Jr. rode an unmatched submission arsenal and a thirst for championship gold to the New Japan Cup, tapping out Hiroshi Tanahashi out in close to 35 minutes. He will have another shot at defeating Ace in the tournament in the quarterfinals after submitting Kota Ibushi in one of Round 2's more surprising outcomes.
On the surface, Ibushi looked among the favorites to win the tournament, let alone Saturday's match with Sabre Jr. Unfortunately for Ibushi, he ran into a buzz saw of an opponent seeking to prove that last year's victory was anything but a fluke.
The Suzuki-gun member targeted the knee of Ibushi like a shark smelling blood in the water. He sought to pick apart his opponent's injured joint. Whenever Ibushi looked like he might be able to mount some offense and find his way back into the match, Sabre cut him off.
Late in the match, a surging Ibushi tried for a running knee, but Sabre kicked it. Moments later, he trapped the acclaimed star in his Orienteering with Napalm Death submission.
Sabre's greatest test of the tournament may well be Tanahashi, who will be looking to avenge his loss to the Brit a year ago. Considering how kind 2019 has been the veteran, Sabre may face a challenge he is simply not ready for in the former IWGP heavyweight champion.
Ospreay: Giant Killer
NEVER openweight champion Will Ospreay advanced to the second round of this year's tournament by defeating Bad Luck Fale in the first round of competition despite giving up 170 pounds to the Bullet Club member.
To make it to the quarterfinals, he would have to defeat Chaos' Lance Archer despite another significant size disadvantage.
The Englishman would prove size is but a number in a fantastic David vs. Goliath showdown.
Ospreay endured a tremendous amount of punishment from a focused, determined and ruthless Archer. He had his core tested as he was suplexed on the floor and then sent into the guardrail. Ever the resilient competitor, though, he fought back and remained alive in the match.
The plucky underdog even withstood Blackout, kicking out to the dismay of his opposition.
Ospreay survived just long enough to finish off Archer with Stormbreaker and continue his path to the New Japan Cup.
Much like compatriot Sabre, Ospreay faces his toughest challenge to date in the quarterfinals when he squares off with former IWGP heavyweight champion, and the face of NJPW, Kazuchika Okada.
The Rainmaker himself was lucky to escape Round 2, having withstood an onslaught from an aggressive Mikey Nicholls.
The question becomes whether the company wants to focus on the tired-and-true (Okada) or take a risk with elevating Ospreay even further than it already has with a signature win over its franchise star.