Welcome to the Wrestling Headlines weekly New Japan Cup review where your tired and ‘proud they managed to keep up’ New Japan guides, Matt Maher (AKA Imp) and Jeremy Donovan, give you their top five matches for the week and then award the best and brightest performer. This week covers nights 9 – 15 of the tournament, the 14th the 21st of March. To follow along through the week you can find either of us on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat and @JeremyLDonovan.
Imp: Gedo strikes again! Upsets galore as we catapulted to the final in a cascade of shows raining from the Japanese skies. The anticipation building as we soared closer and closer towards Sunday’s final and questioned what life was like before New Japan wasn’t on every single day.
But my was it a mighty viewing in the end, Jeremy!
Jeremy: Yes! There were definitely a lot of twists and turns on the way to the final match. Overall a really fun tournament that had a better conclusion than last year. Without further ado let’s take a look at our top 5 matches and top performer for this week.
Top 5 Matches
Imp: Will Ospreay vs David Finlay
What a fantastic flurry of hope spots as we get our latest wrestler to rise as a singles competitor in New Japan. Gedo never stops looking to create the future, does he?.
A one-legged David Finlay nearly advanced to the finals too. The Irishman found himself even more on the back foot following a nasty Spike Dudley-esque dump to the outside, creating a weakening for baddie Ospreay to poke and exploit. Although if anything it just gave those final act hope spots an additional umph as he fought through one more struggle in the injured leg.
A great contest of a heavy favourite cockily facing a true tournament underdog, that dick’ead confidence nearly costing him but in the end he really is just the better wrestler. God that just helps make him more hateable doesn’t it?
Jeremy: David Finlay vs. Jay White
Like many people, I completely overlooked David Finlay in this tournament. Finlay facing off Jay White in the quarterfinals made a ton of sense given their history. Previous to this match, Finlay had only beaten Jay one time and it was in the first meeting. Since then Jay has mopped the floor with Finlay in every match.
I thought this match was going to be more the same. Boy was I wrong! After Juice Robinson dispatched Gedo, Finlay showed great fire and fighting spirit. He showed his desperation to win with a flurry of near falls. Finlay countered the Blade Runner into the Prima Nocta and followed it up with the Acid Drop to get the big upset win. ****
Jeremy: Shingo Takagi vs KENTA
A battle of two of the best trash talkers in NJPW today. After some entertaining backstage comments, the time for talk was over.
KENTA has a chip on his shoulder after losing to Jon Moxley. The loss to Mox has KENTA desperate to get back to the top. We’ve seen in this tournament that KENTA will do whatever it takes to get back in the spotlight. Similar to the Juice Robinson match, KENTA used the ring bell to get the advantage over the Dragon. KENTA focused the attack on Shingo’s head with the Busaiku Knee and the Game Over Submission.
Shingo refused to quit. Shingo unleashed all the big guns from his arsenal. Finally putting KENTA away with the Last of the Dragon. This was a fun hard-hitting match that displayed the resiliency of Shingo ****
Imp: Shingo Takagi vs KENTA
The promos leading into this were absolute gold, two badasses making crappy Dad jokes at each other’s expense in wonderful fashion. KENTA really does have me hating him one minute with Bullet Club shenanigans before reminding me why love this cheeky, striking bastard.
Shingo’s been gradually climbing the card since his debut as the beefiest Junior there ever was, this New Japan Cup really playing as his elevation to the top. Yet another rising star that could easily slot into a Heavyweight Championship match and his wee little battle with KENTA was a strong step in this tournament.
Tough lads trading steak in tasty fashion, the kind of beef that has you salivating the second you smell it. You start to think there might be something wrong with you because no mouth is meant to be so watery. But no, that’s just Shingo and KENTA entering a wrestling ring.
Imp: EVIL vs Shingo Takagi
A placing more because of how much I love Shingo, but EVIL’s tropes don’t piss off me as much as they do others so the Dragon’s fire was still able to breath hot for me. Fighting off Dick Togo and the tricks that helped the King of Darkness to his tournament win last year, as it’s all in the back of your mind that he might just do it again.
Gedo’s not so mean as to give us an EVIL vs Ospreay final of dick’eads and shenanigans, but those close falls after Togo distractions and capitalisations sure do catch you praying. We see you there uttering, “God I hope not.” as your hero gets kicked in the dick and rolled up.
I’m such a big fan of Shingo’s later match bursts of power, the big boy constantly stopping EVIL’s run right in its tracks as ‘Everything Is Reversed’. The pause and glance to the crowd before nailing Made In Japan gets me every time, drawing my attention right in for the final beat.
I’m so glad I got to watch so much Shingo Takagi these past two weeks!
Jeremy: Will Ospreay vs David Finlay
This match was so great! Finlay once again came in as the underdog. However, his upset win over Jay planted the seed of doubt in my mind.
Finlay was full of fight and on track for another upset until a nasty spill to the floor comprised his leg. Ospreay, like a vulture, quickly attacked his prey. Ospreay shifted his attack to the injured leg of Finlay. Finlay’s selling of the injury was incredible. Finlay fought through the pain and wouldn’t back down. The crowd grew more empathy for him as he survived Ospreay’s assault. Finlay gleaned a glimmer of hope by countering an Oscutter with the Prima Notca.
Victory slipped out of Finlay’s grasp with Ospreay countering the Acid Drop and putting him down with the Storm Breaker. This was a brilliant performance from both men. Especially from Finlay. I hope we see more of him in singles action going forward. ****1/2
Jeremy: Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr
Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr. DO. NOT. MISS.
Every time Ospreay and ZSJ step in the ring together they create magic. This match was different from their previous matches. Typically when these two faced off in the past Ospreay was the high-flying babyface while Zack was the dastardly heel they would try to grind him down. Now Ospreay is a heel and the leader of his own faction. With his rise to heavyweight, there’s been less high flying and more strikes. Zack has grown into a loveable tweener.
Ospreay’s bigger frame and strength were unexpected roadblocks for ZSJ. One thing ZSJ is great at is picking a limb and tearing it apart. Ospreay wrestled the whole tournament with an injured shoulder. ZSJ fiercely attacked the shoulder and arm. He wanted t to stretch Opsreay’s arm so bad that he was willing to take some big stikes just to get close enough to grab it.
Towards the end of the match, Ospreay busts his nose open on a La Mistica and becomes a bloody mess. Despite having difficulty breathing, Ospreay preserved and defeated ZSJ. This was a big deal because this is the first time in an NJPW that Ospreay beat Sabre. This match was bloody, hard-hitting, full of great counters and strikes. ****3/4
Imp: Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr
Jesus Christ picking the Match of the Tournament is going to be difficult! The pace of the counters and reversals here were something incredible.
British wrestling on an amazing display in a highlight reel of a match, I don’t even know where to begin because there were so many moments that got a reaction out of me. With this being New Japan the final stretch was obviously insane, but I swear the whole match was wrestled at that rate.
I can’t even call the sequences I loved given the sheer pace of what was happening. As in one guy just shifting his weight to hit a signature move was enough for the other to immediately counter them. When that’s what you’re working with and those counters are reversed and countered back in such rapid/fluid fashion, the match is just a marvel to watch.
ZSJ continues to amaze me and when paired with certain wrestlers that chemistry elevates him to an all new level. When he was amazing before. You get what I mean. I can’t call it all, but I sure do enjoy the pretty pictures when I watch him.
Imp: Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi
Once again Ospreay and Shingo found themselves in a tournament final and Jesus what a trilogy these two have now had! Every single one of their matches is something special. ALL THE STARS!
Yet another insanely impressive outing. Ospreay throwing caution to the wind as Shingo threw Pumping Bombers from Hell, some painful looking spots as ante bloody well got raised for the finale. Both men crashing hard to the outside as that bar of damage they knew they had to inflict got lifted higher and higher.
And Jesus Christ the final stretch, this is where Shingo & Ospreay matches enter that other zone, that chemistry that so few pairings have. The mix of speed, athleticism, power and familiarity creating that aura of magic, a truly special rivalry.
That closing angle though? Absolute trash, get right in the bin. Currently getting the exact negative reaction it deserves.
Jeremy: Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi
Bang! Bang! Another phenomenal banger produced by Ospreay and Takagi. These two have amazing chemistry and I can watch them go at it over and over again.
Ospreay integrated more of his former junior heavyweight style into this match. I lost mind at Ospreay’s 450 to outside on Shingo who was laying on a table. Ospreay unloaded the chamber on the dragon. Oscutters, hook kicks, and a shooting star press couldn’t keep the Dragon down for 3.
Takagi went into Super Shingo mode and unleashed machine gun like forearms. Shingo tried his hardest to rally a comeback. A devastating rolling elbow and the Hidden Blade sealed his fate. Ospreay lifted his prone body up for the Storm Breaker and got the win.
This match was full of spectacular moves and sequences. It’s a shame that the poorly executed post-match angle overshadowed this epic New Japan Cup Final match. ****3/4
Jeremy: Shingo Takagi
I know Ospreay won the cup and had awesome matches, but this was Shingo’s tournament. The Dragon had a murderer’s row of former New Japan Cup winners he had to go through to get to the finals. Shingo’s performance and dominance in the tournament have elevated him to another level. So even though he didn’t walk away with the cup, he raised his stock with NJPW fans around the world. Gedo would be crazy to not book Shingo in an IWGP World Heavyweight title match later this year.
Imp: Shingo Takagi
I so want to put Will Ospreay, but man that final promo left a lot of head scratching. It’s how you leave ‘em, folks! And that secures Shingo’s complete domination of this tournament, the man killed it all the way through and really elevated himself. To the point where some are looking at this tournament talking about him building with Ibushi long term for a big ol’ match, because there’s no way Shingo’s not getting a Heavyweight title match this year right?
When the fans are looking at a wrestler and thinking ‘well his arc to his championship match must already be happening’, then you know you’ve nailed in elevating him.
And that wraps up the New Japan Cup 2021! What were your favourite matches from the tournament? Let us know in the comments below. You can also chat to all of us on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat and @JeremyLDonovan.
You can also find Jeremy every week on the top notch NJPW podcast Keepin’ It Strong Style.
Powered by RedCircle
Imp every week brings you RAW, NXT & PPV Reviews on Wrestling Headlines YouTube: