Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the New Japan Cup and earned the right to face the IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis on April 1.

Taka Michinoku came out with Zack Sabre Jr. and introduced him and demanded that Tanahashi come to the ring. Tanahashi came to the ring and jumped around to let people know that his leg was alright.

The two displayed some great technical wrestling with Sabre Jr. getting the best of Tanahashi and forcing a rope break. Both men resumed the mat wrestling and Sabre Jr. was able to get the best of Tanahashi and put him in a leg lock. Tanahashi broke the hold and jumped around to show his leg was fine.

Sabre Jr. increased the aggressiveness of his submissions. Tanahashi was able to escape and shot Sabre Jr. into the ropes to tackle him. Sabre Jr. applied a series of submissions on Tanahashi who started selling his arm after grabbing the ropes to break the hold. The crowd was behind Tanahashi cheering for a comeback.

Zack Sabre Jr. backstage with Suzuki-gun stablemate, Taka Michinoku. Photo: NJPW.


Tanahashi mounted a comeback and hit a high-flying move for a near three-count. Sabre Jr. locked in a triangle with an armbar, which Tanahashi reversed into a Texas cloverleaf, and Sabre Jr. reversed that into an armbar.

The fight spilled onto the outside of the ring and Tanahashi dived onto Sabre Jr. from the top rope to the outside. Both men got into the ring and Tanahashi hit a few twist-and-shout’s for a near pin fall. Sabre Jr. hit a PK to get a near pin fall.

The two hit their signature moves for a series of near falls. Tanahashi missed a high fly flow and held his knee in pain. Sabre Jr. locked in the Orienteering with Napalm Death and earned the victory via submission.

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada has a few words with Sabre Jr. Photo: NJPW.


Zack Sabre Jr. was awarded the New Japan Cup trophy and gave media the middle finger. Taka Michinoku asked Sabre Jr., “what do you want next?” Sabre Jr. said that he wanted to face Okada for the IWGP heavyweight championship. Okada will defend his championship against Sabre Jr. at Sakura Genesis.

Okada held up his championship and Sabre Jr. stuck his middle finger in his face. Taka Michinoku grabbed the microphone again and said that Sabre Jr. has beat four other wrestlers to win the New Japan Cup and at Sakura Genesis he will beat Okada.

The New Japan Cup is an annual single elimination tournament. The winner of the tournament receives an opportunity to face either the IWGP heavyweight champion, IWGP intercontinental champion, or the NEVER Openweight champion.