With both Rounds 1 and 2 producing some excellent matches in this year’s New Japan Cup, expectations were high approaching the later rounds. Did New Japan live up to these expectations? Let’s see…
TOMOHIRO ISHII VS HIROMU TAKAHASHI
To kick off the quarter finals, we have one of the best matches that I’ve seen in 2020. This was great. The daredevil style of Hiromu perfectly blended with the hard-hitting Ishii, and this lead to some great moments. It was a surprise to me that Hiromu picked up the win against a firmly established upper-midcard heavyweight, which just goes to show how much faith New Japan have in Hiromu. However, it came at the expense of Ishii, who will seemingly never break out into the main event scene. Ishii is billed at 220lbs, or 100KG. Could it be possible that we see a rematch at some point for the Junior Title? Probably not, but it’s fun to speculate. 10/10
YOSHI-HASHI VS EVIL
To follow the previous classic, we had a quick and easy 2 minute squash. YOSHI-HASHI was apparently working with an injury which is why the match didn’t last long, but regardless of the injury this match did exactly what it needed to do. It allowed EVIL to look… well… evil, and it didn’t overstay its welcome. A refreshing change to the usual 20 minute plus affairs. 5/10
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS TAIJI ISHIMORI
On paper, this match is one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, and certainly the parts featuring Okada and Ishimori were thrilling. However, as soon as Gedo got involved, the whole match suffered. I’m not a fan of his antics, and I find myself waiting for the actual wrestling to resume. I get that that’s the point, but I should be left feeling annoyed, not bored. There were a few moments where I thought Ishimori could win, but in the end a Rainmaker win was an expected result, as he made Ishimori tap with his poor-looking Cobra Clutch. 6/10
SANADA VS TAICHI
I’m trying so hard to stick up for Taichi, but he’s had a poor New Japan Cup. It doesn’t help that SANADA gave him basically nothing to work with, apart from one of the worst Skull End’s I’ve ever seen. Seriously, Taichi locked in a Skull End and it looked ten times better. The actual match itself was a plodding affair, which wasn’t enhanced by the Kanemaru interference. SANADA does nothing for me, and even Taichi’s endless charisma couldn’t keep me engaged. 4/10
Before we go on, I wanted to briefly mention Master Wato. As a young lion, Kawato had a great connection with the crowd, which unfortunately didn’t help him during his return segment. He looked goofy, and being attacked by DOUKI wasn’t the best introduction. However, he looked impressive during his match against DOUKI, and in the tag match the next night. At Sengoku Lord, he teams with Tanahashi and Ibushi, so it’ll be interesting to see how he compares to those two giants of New Japan.
EVIL VS SANADA
I’m conflicted on this match. On one hand, EVIL and SANADA brought some aggression that we hadn’t seen from either man for ages, and the match really felt personal. However, the constant ref bumps and chair shots seemed a bit hokey, and whilst it helped establish a more aggressive EVIL, I feel that could have been done without cheating. The match itself was good, but at 20 minutes could have done with tightening up a bit. However, this was both men’s best match of the tournament, and the result was a genuine shock. I had SANADA winning, so when EVIL pinned SANADA I was surprised, which was a good thing. Little did I know what was to come. 7/10
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS HIROMU TAKAHASHI
This was what I’ve been wanting from Okada since the restart of New Japan. This match was 27 minutes of excellence, and both Okada and Hiromu brought their A Game. Whilst the match was probably a bit long without a crowd, particularly the end sequence which seemed to go on forever, it was still an amazing match. Hiromu has the heart of a lion, but beating the Ace was a step too far. He didn’t have to beat Okada, he already established himself as a major threat with wins over 3 heavyweight and a brilliant showing against the 5-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and 2-time G1 Climax winner. At Sengoku Lord, he challenges for the Double Championship, which will be another test for Hiromu, whom Gedo obviously has a lot of faith in. 9/10
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS EVIL
Well, what a poor ending to a great tournament. This match lasted 31 minutes, but felt like it lasted 31 hours. The crowd didn’t help this match, but to be fair neither EVIL nor Okada gave them anything to be excited over. I’ve already made my feelings on the Gedo interference clear, I’m not a fan. But luckily, this match wasn’t ruined by it because it was bad before the interference. Whilst EVIL winning and joining Bullet Club was a shock, it wasn’t a good one. I can’t buy EVIL as a main event threat because for the last few years he’s been the forth, and lately fifth, most interesting member of LIJ. He’s under delivered in most of his big matches and a swerve for the sake of a swerve isn’t good, it’s 2000 WCW levels of bad. 4/10
After the match, EVIL turned on Naito and joined Bullet Club. You can expect a full article on my thoughts on this in the not too distant future, but I’ll say now that I’m not a fan. Once Jay White and KENTA return, EVIL goes back to being a midcarder, which is poor especially considering what happened the night after.
Overall, the New Japan Cup this year was good. Considering what New Japan had to work with in terms of roster size, they produced some fantastic matches. However, they also produced some stinkers, including one of the worst matches of the year, and had the wrong person win in my opinion. I feel really passionately that EVIL was the wrong winner, however that cannot take away from the performances from the likes of Ishii, SHO and especially Hiromu. Was it as good as last year’s New Japan Cup? No, but with the tools that New Japan had, they did a good enough job.
What are your thoughts on this year’s cup? Leave a comment below.