SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NEW JAPAN CUP FINAL 2021
MARCH 21, 2021
SENDAI, JAPAN AT XEBIO ARENA SENDAI
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
Commentary: Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino, and Chris Charlton
-Some new music played, and it was the theme of the returning Yoh of Roppongi 3K. He posed on a corner and took the mic. Chris Charlton translated: “It’s been a while, but I’m still Yoh and I’m still in Roppongi 3K. I’ve been off a long time, but I’m all ready to go. On April 4th, Yoh will be back at Sakura Genesis in Ryogoku. I’m a former champion and I want to challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championships again.”
(Wells’s Analysis: Wonderful news. Yoh has been out with injury for some time and Sho hasn’t been utilized nearly enough as a singles guy in his absence. I’m sure they’ll be on top as champions again before long)
(1) YUYA UEMURA & YOTA TSUJI & GABRIEL KIDD vs. TAICHI & ZACK SABRE JR. & DOUKI
The Young Lions immediately paired off and attacked Suzuki-Gun and the ref called for the bell. Full body slam by Uemura on Douki in the ring and he covered for two. Rope run and Douki put down Uemura with a clothesline. Uemura rolled into a cover for two. Palm strike by Uemura and Douki dumped him from the ring and ran him into two barricades, then used his lead pipe on Uemura’s back while the other members of Suzuki-Gun continued to manhandle the other Lions on the outside. Douki rolled Uemura back inside and smacked him around. Uemura got to his feet and threw some shots until Douki raked his eyes and tagged Taichi.
Taichi slammed Uemura and kicked him in the back. Taichi rubbed Uemura’s face into the mat with his foot, then choked him in the Suzuki-Gun corner until the ref broke it up. Suzuki-Gun triple-teamed until the other Young Lions attempted to interfere and got dumped. Sabre tagged in and hit a cravat and took Uemura down with it. Uemura used an armdrag to escape and hit a dropkick. Tag to Kidd. Kidd threw forearms and an uppercut. Snap mare and a figure four attempt, reversed. Slam and a senton by Kidd for a two count. The two did a few mat reversals until Sabre put on a single-leg crab. Tsuji looked to break but Taichi chucked him from the ring, then stomped on Kidd while he was still in the crab until referee Kenta Sato sent him off. Tsuji fought to a rope to break.
Sabre kicked dismissively at Kidd until he reached his feet. Kidd missed a dropkick but rolled and trapped Sabre for a two count. Sabre threw some kicks and begged for some forearms, and Kidd obliged. Kidd hit a dropkick and sold the work on the left knee. Taichi and Tsuji tagged in.
The two exchanged shots and Tsuji rolled through a slam for an armdrag in a smooth spot. Uemura and Tsuji teamed up on Taichi. Slam by Uemura and an elbow drop by Tsuji. Tsuji covered but it was broken up. The illegal men left the ring and Tsuji put on a Boston Crab. Douki hit the ring and kicked Tsuji three times to break. Tsuji slammed Douki and hit a corner forearm. Tsuji ran right into an axe bomber. Taichi was going to do his pants-ripping spot but Tsuji rolled him up for two. Powerslam and a long two for Tsuji. Tsuji ran into a faceplant by Taichi and a leg lariat to follow. Backdrop suplex finished.
WINNERS: Suzuki-Gun at 10:38. (***)
(Wells’s Analysis: Strong opener that surprisingly stayed in the ring most of the time. This Young Lion crop is just killing it right now)
-The announcers talked about last night’s earthquake. None could recall a time that an earthquake actually happened mid-match. Charlton praised how everyone from staff to talent to audience handled the situation.
(2) SATOSHI KOJIMA & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. JEFF COBB & THE GREAT O-KHAN
O-Khan and Honma to start. O-Khan backed Honma up and broke clean, but Cobb held him. O-Khan ran the ropes and Honma moved, so O-Khan knocked Cobb to the floor. The faces hit a double suplex on O-Khan. Senton by Kojima. Kokeshi by Honma missed. O-Khan worked a brief headlock and threw Honma to the mat for a two count. Cobb tagged in and hit an elbow to Honma’s back. Cobb mocked the Kokeshi taunt and leaned on Honma in his corner. O-Khan tagged in and threw a kick, then toyed with Honma. Inside cradle by Honma for two. Kojima tagged in and hit machine gun chops on O-Khan, then yelled his taunt and hit the top rope elbow drop for two.
Forearms by Honma. DDT. Kojima started to raise up O-Khan for something but O-Khan yanked Kojima’s ear, then did a crane pose and started hitting his Mongolian chops. Cobb tagged in and hit a couple of backbreakers and covered for two. Standing senton by Cobb for two. Cobb ran the ropes and Kojima hit the Koji Cutter. Tag to Honma. Both tried shoulder blocks and neither went down. Forearm exchange. Cobb missed a lariat. Kojima had Cobb lined up for a DDT and O-Khan interfered, allowing Honma to hit a DDT on both. Kojima got involved and hit a suplex on Cobb and Honma hit a Kokeshi for two, broken up by O-Khan. Face claw by O-Khan on Honma. The heels teamed up on him. Spin Cycle by Cobb got two, broken up by Kojima. Cobb set up Tour of the Islands but Honma avoided it. Honma hit a headbutt but ran into a lariat for two. Tour of the Islands finished. O-Khan did some mic time to put over the United Empire and Will Ospreay ahead of the final match tonight.
WINNERS: Jeff Cobb & The Great O-Khan at 8:58. (**1/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: I like how strong this new faction has been booked in nearly every situation. The announcers talked them up as a potential challenge for the tag team championships down the road)
(3) TORU YANO & YOSHI-HASHI & SHO vs. EVIL & KENTA & YUJIRO TAKAHASHI (w/Jado)
Bullet Club attacked immediately and all action spilled to the floor. Referee Marty Asami looked to get the legal men back into the ring, and finally they (Evil and Yano) did. Evil worked over Yano’s arm in the corner. Yano whipped Evil to the opposite corner and took off one of the neutral corner pads, but Evil caught him with a kick. Sho tagged in and hit a corner clothesline, then threw some kicks to ground Evil. Sho covered for two. Sho wrenched Evil’s arm a few times but Evil charged Sho into the exposed corner to take control. Evil stomped Sho and then tossed him to the floor and backed him into a barricade, sending the ring announcer flying. Evil rolled Sho into the ring and tagged Yujiro.
Yujiro charged Sho into the exposed buckle again and covered for two. Legdrop by Yujiro. Cover for two. Kenta tagged in and brought Sho to his feet. Shot exchange. Kenta ran Sho into the exposed buckle a third time and covered for two. Snap mare and a kick to the back by Kenta. Kenta worked a headlock on the mat and Sho got to his feet and tried to free himself but Kenta yanked Sho down by his hair. Eye rake by Kenta. Sho hit a suplex to get a breather. Sho tagged Yoshi-Hashi, who threw some kicks. Chops and a neckbreaker by Hashi. Hashi cleared the other heels from the corner and got the crowd clapping. Chop by Hashi, sho then draped Kenta over the top rope for a dropkick. Hashi covered for two. Yujiro tagged in and things broke down. Evil hit a fisherman buster on Hashi and Yujiro hit an elbow drop for two. Both other Chaos members broke it up. Hashi fought off Pimp Juice and hit a backstabber. Butterfly lock by Hashi. Evil and Yano briefly got involved but soon after were dumped. Hashi wanted a suplex but Yujiro poked him in the eye. It got messy again and Dick Togo distracted Asami so Yujiro could hit Hashi with a walking stick. Pimp Juice finished. Kevin Kelly called out Takahashi as having pinned one-third of the NEVER Openweight Six Man Championships, so this is likely leading to a title defense by Yoshi-Hashi, Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii.
WINNERS: Bullet Club at 9:24. (*3/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: If I never saw any more Bullet Club underhanded tactics and overlong post-match beatdowns, I wouldn’t miss them)
-Cleaning and disinfecting.
(4) JUICE ROBINSON & DAVID FINLAY & TOA HENARE vs. TETSUYA NAITO & SANADA & BUSHI
The announcers put over the factor of Finlay’s bad leg, established heavily in the semifinals last night. Finlay sold the leg as he walked a little gingerly to the ring during the babyface entrance. Naito and Finlay opened. Naito mocked the Juice taunt, but Juice leaned into it and tagged in. Juice mocked the Naito eye taunt. Juice wanted a test of strength but Bushi interfered to give Naito the advantage. Juice sent Bushi outside and hit a hip toss and a body slam, then a dropkick on Naito. Tag to Finlay, who hit an axhandle from the second buckle but then sold the pain to his leg. Cover for two. Finlay hit a European Uppercut and wanted a suplex but got blocked. Naito went after the bad leg and wrenched it until Finlay reached the rope. Naito tagged Sanada, who kept up with the kicks to Finlay’s left leg. Paradise Lock by Sanada, who hit the dropkick to a trapped Finlay. Bushi tagged in and he and Sanada wishboned Finlay. Missile dropkick by Bushi, who did the Bushiroonie. Bushi ran right into a spinning backdrop. Naito and Juice tagged in Juice dominated with elbows, then hit an inverted atomic drop on an interfering Sanada, followed by a senton. Bulldog for Bushi and a stiff senton for him as well.
Juice hit a corner lariat on Naito, then a cannonball. Juice covered for two. Juice wanted a jackhammer but Naito blocked and hit the tornado DDT. Sanada tagged in and went for a rana, but Juice caught him. The two reversed some moves until Juice hit a spinebuster. Juice sold on the mat and finally tagged Henare. Forearms by Sanada, and Henare begged for more. Shoulder tackle by Henare. Forearms in the corner and Henare stomped a mudhole. Corner lariat and a Samoan Drop for two by Henare. Sanada avoided a suplex by Henare and the ring filled and a schmoz ensued. Henare took over by spearing Naito and Bushi. Sanada trapped Henare and pinned him, relatively out of nowhere. Henare was stunned. The announcers, as often, talked about what Henare needs to do to take the next step. Henare sold frustration and slammed around the barricades.
WINNERS: Los Ingobernables de Japon at 10:10. (**1/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Once upon a time, given the announce team’s praise for him, I thought Henare was a project for the future. He’s never even shown much of a hint of being moved up, though. If this is the hint of a heel turn, maybe he’ll finally get a chance to win some matches)
(5) KOTA IBUSHI & KAZUCHIKA OKADA & HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. JAY WHITE & BAD LUCK FALE & CHASE OWENS (w/Gedo)
Tanahashi and White opened. The two jockeyed for position until White yanked the hair and leaned Tana against the rope, then kicked him from there to a corer. Whip by Tana, back elbow and a cross body. Air guitar. Okada tagged in and he and Tana hit a double back elbow. White tried to throw shots to get back into it. Gedo grabbed Okada’s leg during a rope run and shortly after, all men were brawling on the outside. The count reached 13 and Okada made it back inside. White stomped Okada and tagged Fale. Tongan Massage Parlor by Bullet Club. Red Shoes wouldn’t make the count after the triple-team. Fale clipped Ibushi off of the apron in frustration and he and Owens teamed up again. Chase tagged in and threw some shots. Snap mare into a headlock by Chase. Tag to Fale, who threw a shot to the breadbasket. Okada threatened to slam Fale and Kevin Kelly said there would be an earthquake during this match again tonight. after a couple of teases, Okada hit the body slam. White tagged in and elbowed the other faces off the apron, then ran into a big boot. Tanahashi tagged in.
Flying forearm by Tanahashi. He cleared out an interfering Chase Owens and hit a body slam near a corner and hit a rolling senton from the second buckle for a quick count that White broke by grabbing the rope. Tana wanted Sling Blade but the two reversed repeatedly with standing switches. White finally hit a DDT after grabbing Tana’s hair. Back elbow and a brainbuster by White for two. White flexed for whatever reason and picked up Tana for a DVDDT. Reverse and Tana hit Twist & Shout. Owens tagged in and hit a forearm in the corner. He covered for two. Tana hit a stiff palm strike to clear him away and tag Ibushi. Ibushi ran the ropes and hit a flying kick to Owens and a standing moonsault for two. Combo kicks by Ibushi. Owens blocked one and hit his own combo. Owens backed up to the rope and exploded off of it with a lariat. The ring filled with Bullet Club members, who took turns with some shots. Owens hit a running knee for two. Owens set up the package piledriver but Okada made the save. Bonzo gonzo and Tana cleared out Bullet Club. Kamigoye by Ibushi to Owens. After the match, with his music still playing, Ibushi sat down at the Japanese announce table to call the main event to find his next challenger.
WINNERS: Kota Ibushi & Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi at 11:31. (***)
(Wells’s Analysis: It’s a treat every time to see these guys together. The match was very straightforward for a Bullet Club match and was easier to stomach as a result.)
(6) SHINGO TAKAGI vs. WILL OSPREAY (w/Bea Priestly) – New Japan Cup final
Ospreay was the second guy I was going to pick to win the tournament. Since I committed to Jay White, it messed up the entire right side of my bracket. Takagi was more surprising to me. As awesome as he is, it just didn’t feel like the company was going to get all the way behind him. Instead, two years after these two tangled in the main event of Best of the Super Juniors, they’re both completing a journey to heavyweight stardom.
A hype video on the tron showed every winner in the tournament’s history. Ospreay was introduced first and the two lingered in their corners for a while to build suspense. The bell sounded and the two moved in slowly. Takagi’s back was taped and was likely to work into the match. Takagi took Ospreay back to a rope and Ospreay switched, then hit a kick rather than break clean. Headlock reversals. Both guys yanked the hair. Shingo blocked Ospreay to the mat and Ospreay immediately popped up. Takagi clapped in faux appreciation. A couple of quick reversals and Ospreay nearly hit an OsCutter. Reset.
Again, both guys moved in slowly. Ospreay struck first but Takagi hit some headbutts. Takagi put up Ospreay in a fireman’s carry and dropped him on the corner pad. Ospreay bailed and Takagi rammed him into a barricade, then slammed his arm against it. Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan were watching on in chairs behind the barricade. Action went back inside and Takagi wrung the arm, and Ospreay tried to fight out of it. Takagi went at Ospreay’s injured nose a couple of times. Rope run and a knee by Takagi. Takagi tackled Ospreay to applause.
After a couple of reversals, Ospreay hit a cutter and a spinning heel kick off the ropes. Takagi spilled out of the ring and Ospreay followed and ran him to one barricade, then the opposite one. He rammed Takagi into the barricade again, then started working to rip off some of the tape. He backdropped Takagi on the barricade in what looked like a ridiculously painful spot. A slo-mo replay confirmed as much. Ospreay got back into the ring and the count started. Takagi fought to his feet and he was face to face with Kota Ibushi. The two acknowledged each other and Takagi got back to the ring at 17.
Ospreay was still on the offensive. Slam and a cover for two. Backbreaker by Ospreay. Uppercut and a whip by Ospreay. Snap mare and a body scissors by Ospreay, who added shots to Takagi’s back. Takagi got to his feet and Ospreay ran him to a corner again. Ospreay charged and missed, but hit a springboard forearm and covered for two. Ospreay kicked Takagi’s head a couple of times and Takagi ran Ospreay along the ropes and hit a forearm, then a DDT. Both guys sold on the mat. Takagi threw a number of elbows on Ospreay’s shoulder. Death Valley Driver by Takagi. Takagi clotheslined Ospreay to the floor. Takagi followed but Bea blocked him. Ospreay used her as a shielduntil he was ready to take a shot. Bea got involved again long enough for Ospreay to run Takagi into the ringpost. Ospreay set up a chair and referee Red Shoes Unno tried to call it off. Ospreay and Takagi both went for suplexes onto the chair. Takagi couldn’t manage a DVD onto the table but instead put Ospreay’s head into the apron twice. The two went up to the apron and Takagi set up a slam onto the table, but Bea rolled the table out of the way. Takagi wanted a tope but again Bea got in the way.
Back into the ring, Shingo threw Ospreay onto a buckle then hit a pop-up powerbomb for two. STF by Takagi, but Ospreay got to a rope. Noshigami by Takagi for a two count. Takagi wanted Made in Japan but Ospreay blocked. Rope run and a step-up enzuigiri by Ospreay. There were a bunch of sweet reversals leading to a side slam by Ospreay by two. Both guys sold for a moment. Ospreay went for a corner boot but Takagi put him on his shoulders and went up the ropes. Ospreay hit a dropkick on Takagi there, then hit Spanish Fly from the top for a two count.
Ospreay wanted the OsCutter but Takagi caught him and hit a lariat as the match reached the twenty minute mark. Ospreay threw forearms and Takagi threw a whole lot more. Takagi blocked a lariat but got hit with a hook kick. Takagi hit a lariat and Ospreay rolled through and landed on his feet and immediately hit an OsCutter in an insane spot for a two count. Takagi rolled outside to the floor and Ospreay ran from the apron to the buckle and hit an OsCutter to the outside on the floor. Red Shoes went out and checked on both guys. Ospreay reintroduced the table and set Takagi up on it, perpendicular to the ring. Ospreay went up to the top turnbuckle and flew in with a 450 splash that destroyed Takagi through the table. The announcers rightfully lost their minds. Ospreay told Bea to roll him back in the ring, and she did. Red Shoes started the count and got to 11 before Takagi showed signs of life at all, at which point he slaped himself in the face a few times to wake himself up. He used an Ibushi towel, again at Ibushi’s feet, to dry off and entered at 19. Ospreay hit a Shooting Star Press for a long two count.
Ospreay set up Hidden Blade but Takagi collapsed to the mat. Red Shoes checked on Takagi and Ospreay tried to close in. Takagi shook his head to show he wasn’t giving up. Ospreay wanted Stormbreaker but Takagi put on the brakes. Ospreay hit a couple of Kawada kicks and Takagi got intense and the camera lingered on his face in a powerful hero moment. Ospreay threw kicks and Takagi kept closing in anyway. Takagi went ballistic in the corner to big cheers and Ospreay hit a face buster but walked right into Made in Japan for two. Takagi stalked Ospreay as he got up and hit a pumping bomber. He wanted Last of the Dragons but Ospreay rolled through for two. Poison rana by Takagi got another big reaction. Takagi wanted another pumping bomber but Ospreay hit Spanish Fly instead. Ospreay hit a stiff kick and a couple of discus elbows to the back of the head. Hidden Blade. Ospreay picked up Takagi and hit Stormbreaker and it finished.
WINNER: Will Ospreay at 30:06. (*****)
(Wells’s Analysis: I’ve never given five stars to a match I’ve reviewed before, but I can’t really imagine a single spot going better, and I can’t imagine the counters and the psychology and flow being much smoother. Takagi’s zombie-like Hulk Up moment near the ending was genuinely a mark-out moment and had me believing in his chances, even though every booking sign pointed to Ospreay being heavily favored here. There were multiple Takagi-Ibushi teases during the match, and while this worked as a red herring, I certainly wouldn’t write off a longer-term story that could get Takagi to Ibushi. Before this tournament I figured White or Ospreay for the Cup and Okada for the G1, but at this moment you could definitely convince me to pick Takagi in that tournament)
-Ospreay was joined with Bea, Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan and the trophy in the ring. He said he did what he was going to do and then called Ibushi into the ring. Ibushi took both of his belts into the ring and draped them over his shoulders. Ospreay said he agreed with Ibushi about the two championships. He said he didn’t care about history or legacy. He just cared about being number one. He said that he needed the championship more than anything, and he would do anything it takes to take it from Ibushi. He insisted it was his destiny to be IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He then hit the OsCutter on Bea Priestly out of nowhere in a genuinely shocking moment, and Ibushi tried to intervene but Cobb and O-Khan got in the way. Ospreay went outside the ring and seethed. He and his two stablemates left with the trophy as the Young Lions checked on Bea and Ibushi stood stunned in the ring.
(Wells’s Analysis: Whoa. That’s a hell of a way to write Priestly out of the company (I assume) and Ospreay’s corner, keeping him grounded with his three-man faction. A stunner of an angle after an absolutely killer match.)
Ospreay went to the back and said he was sure there were questions that needed answering. He said as much as the trophy meant to him, it didn’t make him the best wrestler. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship does. He said he loves it more than anything or anyone. He said if he has to give an OsCutter to someone he loves to make a point, he’ll do it, because the only thing that matters and the only thing he loves is to be champion. He said if that’s what he’ll do to her, then what the f*&k will he do to Ibushi? He said at Ryogoku on April 4th, he’ll finally fulfill his destiny as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan got into frame and “enjoyed” some Zima with Ospreay. Ospreay told the other two it was time to find the closest bar.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, these guys sure do know how to end a tournament. This was an extremely strong sale for the Ryogoku show in just two weeks, which will feel like a long time after the flood of shows in the tournament. Thumbs all the way up for tonight’s show, though yes, you could simply watch from the beginning of the main event and watch from there until the postmatch comments and not really miss out on anything important. Follow me on social media @spookymilk and I’ll see you on the next recap.