SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NEW JAPAN CUP REPORT – NIGHT FOUR
MARCH 9, 2021
ZIP ARENA IN OKAYAMA, JAPAN
AIRED LIVE ON NJPWWORLD.COM
(1) CHAOS (TORU YANO, YOSHI-HASHI) & YUYUA UEMURA vs. BULLET CLUB (EVIL, YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & BAD LUCK FALE) – Special 6 man tag match
The show kicked off with a six man tag between CHAOS & young lion Uemura versus the Bullet Club.
The finish came as Evil and company isolated Uemura, which allowed for him to be left to succumb to Evil’s Scorpion Death Lock for the submission. Post match, Yujiro and Yoshi-Hashi continued to jaw at one another as the beaten faces limped away.
WINNERS: EVIL by submission (Scorpion Death Lock) in 8:58 (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: Decent opener, as Uemura slowly but steadily has grown in stature and aggression versus his elders in the ring. Evil and Yujiro kept a lot of the match outside of the ring in brawl format, which didn’t allow for Yoshi-Hashi to get much going in ring given the time allotted in the match.)
(2) SATOSHI KOJIMA, TOMOAKI HONMA & GABRIEL KIDD vs. EMPIRE (WILL OSPREAY, GREAT-O-KHAN & JEFF COBB) – Special 6 Man Tag Match
Up next the Empire came out to limited fanfare to face out with the collected faces in a six man as well.
This match broke down into two separate stories essentially – Satoshi Kojima’s continued quest to avenge the disgrace of his former partner losing his Mongolian chops, and further development of Great-O-Khan as a big man. After an opening exchange, O-Khan backed away from Honma to feign no contact once the king of kokeshi reached the rope, only for Jeff Cobb to grab Honma for behind.
From there, the match became the isolation of Honma as the three members of the Empire cut him off from tagging his allies. Finally, Kojima entered a house of fire, with dozens of chops landed in the corner on Will Ospreay’s chest. Ospreay tagged Cobb after Gabriel Kidd entered the fray, which turned the tide in favor of the faces.
The finish came as a first Tour of the Islands pin attempt was stopped by both Kojima & Honma, who were promptly dumped by Ospreay and O-Khan. Cobb hit the move again and won clean. Post match, Great-O-Khan did the Empire roll call to applause from the crowd.
WINNER: Jeff Cobb by pinfall (Tour of the Islands) in 8:36 (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: Another six man, another showcase for the developing youth of New Japan. Gabriel Kidd in his limited appearance in the match compared to his elder compatriots. O-Khan looks very confident for a developing big man, and while I don’t quite see Jeff Cobb’s fit in the squad, he plays the silent heavy really well.)
(3) TOA HENARE, DAVID FINLAY, JUICE ROBINSON & HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. BULLET CLUB (GEDO, CHASE OWENS, KENTA & JAY WHITE) – Special 8 man tag
The big story in this tag match was the fashion sense of FinJuice, with David Finlay in his typical rocker attire, while Juice Robinson’s outfit needs to be seen to be believed.
No, no seriously, go search Juice Robinson New Japan Cup and see the outfit. This was wild.
Additionally, Tanahashi had to show the folks how six packs look when you’re the Ace of the Universe, so this match was already over the top before the bell rang.
The first part of the match was isolation of Tanahashi while Juice Robinson cursed from the corner, and Jay White spewed insults regarding “King Switch” having better abs than Tanahashi.
After the match broke down (as most eight men tags will) Toa Henare got Gedo alone and dropped the booker/junior irritant with a Death Valley Bomb for the win.
Post match, Finlay told Chase Owens he’d see him soon, and Jay White grabbed a camera ringside to tell fans that Henare can’t and won’t beat him. Juice Robinson somehow acquired Chase Owens’ jacket, which he wiped between his legs as the four men celebrated their win. Tanahashi then began to use his belt to hide his abs and reveal them as he air-fived his way to the back.
WINNER: Toa Henare by pinfall (Death Valley Bomb) in 11:34 (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: A by the numbers eight man tag match. Henare as Tana’s understudy has been great and his win over Gedo was nice to see, given the end of the match was more a Henare feature. I really cannot understate how wild this was and who’s the sassiest man in New Japan between White and Tanahashi. The stage was set for the next few nights of New Japan Cup matches with the post tag encounters, and again – Tanahashi wilding out with his ab game is so insane it only works for him.)
(4) CHAOS (SHO, HIROOKI GOTO & KAZUCHIKA OKADA) vs. LIJ (BUSHI, SHINGO TAKAGI & TETSUYA NAITO) – Special 6 Man Tag Match
This match started with Goto & Takagi having a hoss fight for a solid 2-3 minutes, before tagging out and letting Naito and Sho go shot for shot. Before Sho could get his feet under him however, Bushi kicked Sho in the back as Sho rebounded off the ropes, which gave Naito a temporary advantage. However, that would be short-lived, as Sho quickly tagged in Okada, who, despite reports of back injuries transitioned silkily from a flying corner attack to a DDT near fall.
After both men tagged out, we returned to the continued hoss fight of Takagi-Goto. Bushi eventually tagged in to stop our Saturday preview, and for his trouble ate a GTR for the loss. Post match, Shingo and Goto stared each other down and continued to jaw at each other to the glee of all who witnessed.
WINNER: Hirooki Goto by pinfall (GTR) in 13:31 (***1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: This was a really good, really violent post-COVID cleaning match. The fans were particularly engaged with Okada’s stomps to get them fired up as he wrestled Naito, but overall they remained a positive to the mayhem in ring.)
(5) YUJI NAGATA vs. YOTA TSUJI – New Japan Cup 1st Round
Early on in the match, Nagata and Tsuji engaged in an opening exchange of holds not too dissimilar from the opening Young Lion vs. Veteran days. However, this time around, as Nagata tried to fire out of the corner with forearms, Tsuji cut him off with kicks and a cravat-assisted biel to the mat.
Nagata rose and peppered his younger opposition with his classic kicks, then hit an arm breaker and began to weaken Tsuji’s arm. Tsuji again absorbed more of Nagata’s kicks, only again like the corner exchange powered through and hit a dropkick to fell his elder. Tsuji then slammed Nagata and hit a splash for a two count.
After Tsuji attempted a roll up, Nagata rolled through into Nagata Lock II which nearly won the match. Right when Nagata thought he had the match locked down when Tsuji hit a spear out of nowhere for a near fall.
Tsuji pushed his pace at that point and slapped on a Boston Crab, which Nagata nearly tapped to. Nagata eventually fought out and hit an Exploder, but Tsuji again countered when Nagata tried for a backdrop hold. Tsuji then peppered Nagata with slaps, but Nagata showed the old man strength with a combination spin kick and back drop hold for the win.
WINNER: Yuji Nagata by pinfall (Backdrop Hold) in 13:42 (***3/4)
(Fann’s Analysis: Much like the main event, I cannot contain my bias for Yuji Nagata. This was a great reminder of the skill and violence Blue Justice brings to New Japan while also giving Tsuji really believable flash points in the match where you could reasonably say he could’ve won. While I’m under no illusions Nagata will make it past the second round, this was a great yearly “atta boy” for one of the elder statesmen in the company – and shown respect to an OG is never a bad thing.)
(6) TOMOHIRO ISHII vs. SANADA – New Japan Cup 1st Round
The early story of the match was, can Sanada’s wrestling neutralize the Stone Cold Pitbull’s relentless assault? Early results were in the negative, as Sanada’s pretty counters were prevalent. When Sanada attempted to exchange forearms however, Ishii asserted his power and dropped Sanada with a shoulder tackle.
A few kicks to the back by Ishii left Sanada screaming, until the LIJ man stood to fire some chops at Ishii. That failed miserably, as Ishii’s lone return chop dropped Sanada. Ishii then walked Sanada back into the corner using torso bumps and kicked Sanada with no respect. A basement dropkick sent Ishii to the ground, and when both men were back on their feet, Sanada sent Ishii outside after a leapfrog to dropkick exchange. A plancha to the floor dropped Ishii, which gave Sanada a chance to fire the crowd up and preen. Back in the ring, Sanada hit his Paradise Lock to an okay response from the fans, but when Sanada dropkicked Ishii out of it, Ishii came out hot with forearms and elbows the well coifed LIJ member’s dome.
Eventually after a german suplex into the corner (!!) Ishii lifted Sanada for a stalled superplex. Both men down at this point, Ishii worked himself to a standing position, only to eat a dropkick from Sanada after a failed Skull End exchange. Sanada would try to keep coming back to this, only for Ishii to fight out despite Red Shoe’s declarations that he’d call the match. Sanada then hit a Tiger Suplex, only for Ishii to kick out. At this point Sanada sensed it was time to end the match and went for a moonsault. After Sanada hit one onto Ishii’s back, he attempted one to the front of Ishii, only for Ishii to roll away. Sanada instead ate the mat. After another exchange, Sanada transitioned into a flipping Skull End. Ishii flipped out, and missed his sliding lariat. Both men then went for their finishes and countered the other, until a flash O’Connor Roll nearly got Sanada to the next round.
Both men back to their feet, they quickly returned to the mat after a double headbutt. Sanada then hit a frankensteiner and a TKO to drop Ishii again, then hit his moonsault press for the win.
WINNER: Sanada by pinfall (Moonsault Press) in 35:12 (****1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: Like the last two or three singles matches, this tournament has highlighted how great the chemistry is between Ishii and Sanada. A great match that was built around whether or not Sanada could finally put down the pitbull – and if the pitbull would have patience for some of the more demeaning moves in the Sanada holster. Up next for Sanada is Yuji Nagata, which is going to be a match I’ll enjoy to no end.)
Overall thoughts (7): Solid tag match undercard that led to a really good main event. Opening matches in the New Japan Cup usually are fun previews of careers to come for the youngsters alongside setting storylines for the bigger luminaries and night four was no different.