SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NEW JAPAN CUP 2021
MARCH 11, 2021
EHIME, JAPAN AT ITEM EHIME
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
(1) DAVID FINLAY & YOTA TSUJI vs. YOSHI-HASHI & TOMOHIRO ISHII
Finlay and Hashi to start. Collar and elbow. Clean break against the ropes. Headlock by Finlay, who took Hashi down but got stuck in a brief headscissors. Rope run and a shoulder block by Hashi. Hashi wanted Karma early but Finlay blocked. Tsuji tagged himself in and wanted Ishii, so Hashi made the tag as well. Tsuji started throwing punches even before Ishii entered, and the two exchanged a good number of forearms shortly after. Tsuji tried a block and a running forearm, but Ishii took him down with a block. To a corner, the two traded big forearms again. Tsuji got the better of the exchange and briefly grounded Ishii, but Ishii started no-selling and threw one big forearm to take Tsuji down. Ishii took Tsuji to the Chaos corner and tagged Hashi, then took a cheap shot at Tsuji after hitting the apron. Tsuji took yet another shot at Ishii and Hashi kicked him in the back to get his attention.
Hashi took a lot of Tsuji forearms and put him down with one of his own. Running chop by Hashi. Rope run and Tsuji caught and slammed Hashi. Tsuji yet again threw a forearm at Ishii, putting him on the floor from the apron. Tsuji tagged Finlay, who dominated Hashi and knocked Ishii off the apron himself. Finlay took down Hashi and covered for two. Finlay went for Sliced Bread but Hashi didn’t go down. Hashi snapped Finlay to the mat and tagged Ishii, who ran into punches and a dropkick from Finlay. Tsuji tagged in again and he and Ishii both fired up. Tsuji took down Ishii with a block, then a dropkick. Tsuji avoided the brainbuster and Finlay and Hashi got involved. Hashi got dumped and Finlay directed traffic as Tsuji splashed Ishii. Tsuji worked a Boston Crab on Ishii until Hashi made the save. Back kick by Hashi, and the two Chaos members dominated Tsuji. Side slam by Ishii got two. Ishii missed a lariat and Tsuji rolled him up for two. Vertical suplex by Tsuji got a long two count. Ishii slipped through a slam attempt and hit a German suplex. Boston Crab by Ishii. Finlay threw forearms at Ishii, who wouldn’t break. Hashi dumped Finlay and Tsuji broke free. Tsuji rolled up Ishii for another long two. Tsuji ran himself into a hard lariat by Ishii.
WINNERS: Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi at 11:33. (**3/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Strong stuff here for an opening tag. Tsuji was in the majority of the match, much as has been the case by the Young Lions on this tour, and he continues to look to be on the way to becoming a strong style favorite in a few years)
(2) SATOSHI KOJIMA & TOMOAKI HONMA & YUYA UEMURA vs. BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Jado)
The action spilled outside the ring before the bell sounded. Back inside, Jado and Takahashi worked on Honma, who hit a DDT on both Bullet Club members. Honma and Jado were legal. Honma chopped Jado and hit forearms in his corner, and Uemura tagged himself in and hit a stiff chop to applause. Another. Uemura hit a running knee, then a nice body slam. Uemura stomped Jado, then ran the ropes and got tripped from the outside by Yujiro. All six brawled outside the ring at half-speed until Uemura and Jado got back into the ring. Jado threw repeated forearms to the back of Uemura’s head, then tagged Yujiro. Big forearm by Yujiro. Irish whip and a big boot in the corner by Yujiro. Fale tagged in and kept Uemura close to the BC corner and hit a body slam. Jado tagged in again and he and Fale sent Uemura to the Tongan Massage Parlor. Honma lost his cool and got involved but Jado easily shoved him aside, which was sort of odd.
Jado threw forearms at Uemura, who fired up and started throwing his own. Uemura ran the ropes and Jado blocked him to the mat. Fale covered with a boot and made Kenta Sato count the two. Uemura slipped out of a body slam and made the hot tag to Kojima. Fale missed a corner splash and Kojima hit his machine gun chops. Jado ran over and got the machine gun chops as well. Honma ran in and hit the Kokeshi on Jado. Honma and Kojima teamed up on Fale and hit some corner moves. Kojima yelled his taunt and went to the top, but Yujiro knocked him off. Kojima hit some discus punches and a Koji Cutter. Kojima ran the ropes and Jado used his kendo stick, opening up Fale for a splash. Uemura and Yujiro tagged in. Uemura fired up and hit a corner senton. Belly-to-back suplex by Uemura got a two count. Yujiro hit a couple of knees and Uemura missed a dropkick. Suplex by Yujiro got two. The other four started brawling on the outside. Yujiro wanted his finisher but Uemura turned it into a rollup for two. Backslide by Uemura got two. Cross-body by Uemura. Uemura ran the ropes but Yujiro hit a lariat for two. Yujiro hit Pimp Juice to finish.
WINNERS: Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale & Jado at 10:27. (*3/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Uemura looked pretty good and he was in the majority of the match, but this isn’t exactly murderer’s row on the Bullet Club side.)
(3) CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada & SHO) & YUJI NAGATA vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (SANADA & Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI)
There’s long been an established order for the LIJ guys to enter, with Naito always entering last, but this is the second night in a row that both Sanada & Takagi entered after he did. It could just be that they’re still in the tournament and he’s not, but it’s interesting to me nonetheless. Goto also entered last for Chaos, so apparently all factions are doing it that way.
Second-round opponents Goto and Takagi opened the match with a long forearm exchange. Goto nearly caught Takagi in GTR and Takagi fought himself free. Naito and Okada tagged in to some anticipatory cheers. Naito stalled a little before a collar and elbow. Okada took Naito to the ropes for his usual cocky clean break. Naito reversed and did Okada’s break to him. Rope run and a back elbow, then a boot by Okada. Irish whip by Okada. Naito took him down and soon after, all men got involved and the illegal men ended up brawling on the outside. Naito worked a headlock on Okada until Okada reached the bottom rope. Bushi tagged in and hit an ax-handle on Okada’s arm. He used his shirt to choke Okada and resisted when referee Marty Asami tried to pull it away.
Takagi tagged in and hit a snap mare. He went at Goto on the apron and once again, everything broke down. Takagi took down Goto with a stiff lariat. Asami regained control. Sanada tagged in and threw forearms at Okada. Irish whip by Sanada, who ran the ropes for a boot but then ran into an Okada boot. Nagata tagged in and went to the LIJ corner to knock them to the floor. He did his big kicks to Sanada’s chest, then a corner boot. Double-underhook suplex by Nagata got two. Irish whip by Nagata. Sanada missed a moonsault but landed on his feet and hit a dropkick. The two spilled to the outside. Sanada soaked up some crowd admiration and rolled Nagata back inside.
Nagata hit some elbows on Sanada, and then the two started exchanging shots. Both reversed suplexes, and Nagata fought off Skull End and hit neckbreaker off of the ropes. Bushi and Sho tagged in. Bushi hit a missile dropkick and then a DDT for two. The two exchanged forearms. Rope run and a shoulder block by Sho. Sho grounded Bushi and threw some kicks to his chest. Sho missed a corner lariat and Takagi and Naito appeared out of nowhere to team up on him. Bushi covered for two. Bushi and Sho reversed moves and all eight guys got involved in the ring briefly. Goto dominated Naito and Takagi, then Bushi. He called for Sho to end it. Bushi fought off Shock Arrow and hit a rewind kick. Sho hit a lariat and a deadlift German suplex for two. As Chaos got the better of things outside, Sho hit Shock Arrow to finish. After the match, next round opponents Goto-Takagi and Sanada-Nagata both paired off for brief staredowns.
WINNERS: Sho & Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada & Yuji Nagata at 12:00. (**1/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: A messy crowd-pleaser)
-Cleaning and disinfecting.
(4) HIROSHI TANAHASHI & JUICE ROBINSON & TOA HENARE vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White & KENTA & Chase Owens) (w/Gedo)
Tanahashi and White did a little posedown before the bell, and were then the first legal men. Collar and elbow, and White took Tanahashi to the rope and then posed. Tanahashi did the same to White. Arm wringers by Tanahashi, who tagged Henare. Henare took out his frustration from the first round on White by beating him into the corner, then another. Irish whip and Henare exploded out with a lariat. Headbutt by Henare. Owens tried to trip Henare, and took his focus long enough for a Jay White dragon screw. White kicked Henare into the BC corner and tagged Kenta. Kenta hit a back elbow and then dumped Henare to a waiting Jay White, who stomped on him. Kenta covered inside for a one count.
Owens tagged in. He stomped Henare’s arm. White tagged in and stomped Henare’s right leg. Kenta tagged in and stepped down on Henare’s wrist to continue the sequence of cruelty. PK by Kenta to Henare’s back. Another. Henare started to fire up and he shook off Kenta’s forearms. Rope run and a shoulder block by Henare. Juice tagged in and hit a corner lariat. Juice let loose with the expletives even more than usual. Juice circled Kenta and hit rights. Kenta ducked one so Juice hit a DDT instead. Juice charged Kenta in the corner but ate boots. Kenta dropped Juice’s neck on the ropes and went in for a two count. Kenta hit a DDT for two. Juice hit a spinebuster to get a breather and both guys sold on the mat. White and Tana tagged in. Flying forearm by Tanahashi. Tanahashi battered White into a corner and slammed him, then hit a rolling senton for two. Tanahashi went for a kick but White hit a dragon screw. White hit a corner forearm and a suplex for two. White elbowed the other two babyfaces off the apron and beat Tanahashi down with kicks. One more dragon screw from White.
Tanahashi broke free from a figure four and hit his own dragon screw. Owens tagged in and threw forearms on a grounded Tanahashi until Asami broke it up. PK by Owens got two. Henare got involved and soon after, so did everyone else. The ring cleared and Tanahashi hit another dragon screw on Chase. Cloverleaf by Tanahashi. Chase tapped.
WINNERS: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson & Toa Henare at 13:18. (**1/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Fun, forgettable fare)
(5) TORU YANO vs. THE GREAT O-KHAN – New Japan Cup second round match
Yano stalled a lot on his way to the ring carrying his chair, KOPW trophy, towel and sash, setting perhaps an even goofier tone than usual. O-Khan stared at him intensely the whole time.
The two jawed a lot to start. Yano bailed and grabbed some tape from under the ring. O-Khan turned his back, inviting Yano to tape his fists together, which Yano did. O-Khan asked Yano (I think) to remove a corner pad, and he did. Yano swung and missed, and O-Khan broke free of the tape. Yano freaked out and bailed up the ramp. O-Khan laid prone in the ring and invited Yano in. Yano entered and hit a few stomps, and O-Khan trapped him in an ankle lock until Yano reached a rope to break. It took almost two and a half minutes for first contact.
O-Khan missed a couple of lariats but hit a back elbow. Yano escaped up the ramp again and O-Khan took Yano’s chair and set it up in the ring, then sat in it. Yano set up a ringside chair on the ramp and sat in that one, staring in at O-Khan. The referee started counting. O-Khan told Young Lion Gabriel Kidd to give him the KOPW trophy, which he did, and Yano got annoyed and pleaded for it back. O-Khan acted like he was going to stomp the trophy and Yano entered the ring again. O-Khan extended a hand to Yano, and Yano took it. O-Khan squeezed and grounded Yano. O-Khan stomped Yano’s arm and then hit a deadlift gut-wrench suplex for a two count. O-Khan worked a headlock/sleeper and Yano tried to escape, but O-Khan slammed him down to continue the hold. Yano got his foot on a rope to break.
O-Khan put Yano’s head into the exposed corner, then sat on him in his regal pose. O-Khan shoved Yano to the mat and stomped him. O-Khan tried to force Yano to kiss his feet. Yano reversed and put O-Khan into the exposed turnbuckle. Belly-to-belly by Yano. The two exchanged shots and Yano again put O-Khan into the exposed buckle and rolled him up for two. Yano ran the ropes into a big boot by O-Khan. O-Khan did his Mongolian chops. Yano avoided the claw from O-Khan and rolled him up in a small package for two. O-Khan put on a claw and so did Yano. O-Khan’s proved to be more powerful and he put Yano on the mat for a two count. Yano dumped O-Khan to the floor and then used O-Khan’s long braid to tie him to the barricade. O-Khan used nearby scissors to cut the hair in about half, and then he entered and got enraged. Yano hit a low blow away from referee Red Shoes Unno’s view and rolled up O-Khan for the win.
WINNER: Toru Yano at 13:01. (*)
(Wells’s Analysis: Oh boy. O-Khan’s win over Naito sure doesn’t look like it means as much now that he took this loss to Yano, who simply clogs up a spot in the final eight when nobody takes him seriously. After a fairly straightforward opening round match with a very Yano finish, Yano went full Yano tonight and it was pretty rough. I’m stunned that he was deemed worthy, since he’s got all his KOPW silliness keeping him afloat anyway, to win two (or more?) matches in this tournament)
(6) JEFF COBB vs. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) – New Japan Cup second round match
Cobb charged and Evil bailed to open. Having Yano and Evil with their stall tactics wrestling the two singles matches on the same show is in retrospect probably a mistake. First contact at about 70 seconds when Evil throws a kick, then chops Cobb against the ropes. Rope run and a shoulder block from Cobb. Evil bailed again. Dick Togo tried to get involved, and Cobb tossed Evil into Togo and Togo ran into the barricade. Cobb beat town Togo again and went back after Evil. Stomachbreaker by Cobb, who tossed Evil back into the ring. Cobb threatened special announcer Yujiro Takahashi, then went back inside and hit a dropkick on Evil.
Cobb flattened Evil with a forearm, then threw a few more and dropped him again for a two count. Cobb hit a headbutt, then got briefly distracted by Togo. Togo grabbed Cobb’s arm on a rope run, and Evil clotheslined him to the floor. Evil followed Cobb outside and ran him to a barricade. He blocked Cobb into another barricade, knocking over a table and some equipment. Evil took Cobb to another side of the ring, then did the chair-around-the-neck spot, which fell flatter than usual as the chair didn’t fly off of Cobb’s head. Evil went into the ring and the ref started the count. Cobb reached the ring at 12.
Evil went after Cobb’s left leg with punches and elbow drops. He wrenched the leg and Cobb threw forearms at Evil’s back to try to get him to break. Cobb reached a rope and Evil broke eventually. Evil dumped Cobb to the outside again and put him into another barricade, this time knocking down the table with the ring announcer, who fell back into the next barricade. After a few more shots the two went back into the ring and Evil went for a suplex. Cobb blocked momentarily but Evil hit one, then another, for a two count. Evil kicked down at Cobb, who threw a shot to Evil’s gut to try to get back in it. Evil did his ref spot but Cobb reversed and did it instead, and then hit a belly-to-belly suplex to finally create some separation.
Cobb went up the turnbuckle and deadlifted Evil up and into a superplex in one motion that is a feat of strength that has to be seen to be believed. Cobb covered for two. Cobb hit a running powerslam into the corner pad, but Evil slipped free and took down Cobb and the two sold for a moment. Evil hit a corner lariat. Both guys missed running lariats and Cobb finally hit one. Cobb went for a standing moonsault but Evil got his legs up. Evil hit a running lariat and went for a Scorpion Death Lock, and hit it. Cobb did a push-up, then crawled to the rope to break. Evil held on for as long as was legal.
Sit-out powerbomb by Evil got two. Evil went for Everything is Evil but Cobb fought it off and hit a superkick. Cobb yanked up Evil by his gear and hit a powerslam for two. Cobb wanted a fireman’s carry and chopped Evil when he resisted. Cobb lifted Cobb and tossed him across the ring, where Dick Togo tried to use the garrote on him. Cobb fought him off and hit a back elbow on Evil, then a standing moonsault. Cobb hit the Spin Cycle, but Evil grabbed the ref during the move and he got bumped to the outside.
Outside the ring, Yota Tsuji tried to revive Red Shoes. Inside, Cobb yanked Evil up and hit a running European uppercut in the corner. Cobb put Evil on the top buckle but Togo appeared behind Cobb and choked him with the garrote. Cobb backed Togo into Evil to break and to stop Evil’s momentum. Cobb picked up Togo on one shoulder and Evil on another for slams in another superhuman display. Cobb laughed at his work and chucked Togo to the outside, then rolled Red Shoes back in. Sitout powerbomb by Cobb got two.
Cobb tried to run Evil across the ring, but Evil crumbled to the mat. Cobb picked him up and he raked his eyes, having been playing possum. Evil called for the end of the match and went for Everything is Evil, but Cobb reversed and hit a German suplex. Cobb tried the Tour of the Islands but Evil backed him into the exposed buckle. Evil charged but Cobb moved and Evil ate the exposed buckle. Cobb went for Tour of the Islands but Yujiro Takahashi distracted the ref, Evil hit a low blow and then Everything is Evil to finish.
WINNER: Evil at 23:09. (**1/2)
(Wells’s Analysis: A very, very slow match with a healthy helping of stalling that was saved only by Cobb’s various feats of strength. This was an extremely bizarre booking decision to pit Evil, the most wretched and cheating of all heels, against a man who himself is freshly heel. Now we get Evil vs. Yano in the round of eight, which is going to be a mess on a whole new level)
FINAL THOUGHTS (5.0 out of 10): This was one of the lesser New Japan shows I’ve watched in a very long time, and I watch all of them. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten through a NJ show without feeling any matches reached three stars. Booking this tournament and trying to ensure that each show gets something worth seeing has to be a Herculean task, but this seemed like a very avoidable problem tonight, with both matches won by an oft-stalling wrestler that in both cases won because of a low blow. Two singles matches on the show and they both end in a low blow? In just about any New Japan show, you’ll get one or more excellent pure wrestling matches, but this wasn’t a usual show. On the other hand, all the silliness was vacuumed into one quadrant, and the rest of the second round looks to be a wonderful slate of matches. I’ll see you again when I recap the final. Cheers.