New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2020 Night 3
June 22, 2020
Watch: NJPW World
New Japan Cup 2020 Preview & Predictions
New Japan Cup 2020 Full Preview
Voices of Wrestling New Japan Cup 2020 Staff Picks & Predictions
Right out of the gate, I have to say that it’s great to see New Japan back in Korakuen Hall, even if it was with no fans and a different setup (they used the one larger entranceway instead of the two smaller ones we normally see). The slow march towards normalcy continues for New Japan.
Before the matches got started, we also got a quick appearance from New Japan chairman Naoki Sugabayashi, as he announced that their July 3rd show will be airing live in primetime on BS Asahi.
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & DOUKI) def. Yuji Nagata, Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura, & Gabriel Kidd
In addition to a change in venue, this show also saw a change to the format of these New Japan Cup cards. Instead of having the bonus eight-man tag splitting the two tournament matches, we had the eight-man tag at the start of the show. In this instance, Suzuki-gun picked up a victory over a team consisting of Yuji Nagata and the three Young Lions who were in the New Japan Cup. The first few minutes were the typical Suzuki-gun brawl, but the latter half of the bout was pretty entertaining. You really can’t go wrong with these eight guys. Nagata and Suzuki resumed their fight from Night 2, while the other Suzuki-gun members paired off with the young lions. As you would expect, all three Young Lions got moments to shine throughout. At one point, Uemura and Suzuki were going at it in the ring, and Suzuki LEVELED Uemura with one devastating shot. The final two minutes turned into a brief singles match with Tsuji and Desperado, and Tsuji really took the fight to Desperado before he ultimately got pinned with the Pinche Loco. Nice to see Desperado get a pin after having a great performance against Ishii on Night 1. As for this bout, it was a fun way to kick off the show. ***1/4
New Japan Cup – 1st Round – SANADA def. Ryusuke Taguchi
Coming into Night 3, this was the match that had the most question marks, mainly because we didn’t exactly know what kind of bout these two were going to have. It could’ve easily been centered mainly around comedy, but I have to admit that, when the dust settled, this proved to be a pleasant surprise. These two managed to have a really good match. The few minutes were on the slower side, as both tried to sucker each other in with fist bumps. We also got spots early with the Paradise Lock and SANADA giving Taguchi a couple atomic drops. However, once Taguchi started to mount his comeback, this kicked into another gear. There was really solid action mixed in with some great counter wrestling, particularly with Taguchi’s ankle lock and a couple of nice near falls off of roll ups and cradles. SANADA used his bridging pin to score the victory, and while the result was never really in doubt, it was great to see serious Taguchi show up for this tournament. ***3/4
New Japan Cup – 1st Round – SHO def. Shingo Takagi
It sucks that we lost the highly-anticipated rematch between Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi, but that opened the door for SHO to get another crack at Shingo. Of course, these two have been having a rivalry ever since Shingo showed up in New Japan, and they had an awesome singles contest that helped kick off last year’s fantastic Best Of The Super Juniors tournament. It wasn’t a shock to see these two put together another amazing contest that will certainly be a very strong contender for the best match in this entire empty arena era, but what was a bit shocking was that SHO scored the upset win over the NEVER Openweight Champion!!
The action was fast and furious right out of the gate. They charged at each other, and SHO actually managed to get the better of Shingo during this opening exchange. However, this didn’t last long, as Shingo was able to regain the edge after doing damage to SHO on the outside. Once they got back in the ring, there was an awesome spot where Shingo blocked a SHO spear attempt by just standing there like a brick wall, but SHO countered with a suplex and a successful spear attempt. From there, this bout really took off. SHO worked over Shingo’s right arm in an attempt to stop the Pumping Bomber, but that didn’t totally stop Shingo from dishing out major damage to SHO. These two went back and forth for several minutes, connecting with a number of big moves as the fought tooth and nail for that first round victory. SHO survived Made In Japan and multiple Pumping Bombers, and eventually connected with his Straightjacket Piledriver and the Shock Arrow to score the win. Just an incredible match from start to finish, and as I mentioned already, you could argue that it was the best in-ring match anywhere in the world during this empty arena era. It was so cool to see SHO finally overcome Shingo in a relatively big spot, and while I don’t think he’s going all the way, I’m sure this is setting up a match for the NEVER Openweight Title, and I for one can’t wait for it. The chemistry these two have is unreal. ****3/4
New Japan Cup – 1st Round – Kota Ibushi def. Zack Sabre Jr.
These two have had plenty of great matches in the past, and even with the empty arena setting, I’m sure many were expecting this bout to be another awesome chapter in their rivalry. They went on to have a very good bout here, but I have to say that this was easily their worst match in New Japan. The fact that Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. had a match that could be called a little disappointing is a really weird thing to say. However, that just speaks more to the quality of their previous encounters.
They started off with the typical mat wrestling, which is to be expected with a Zack Sabre Jr. match. The first major moment occurred when Ibushi started kicking at Sabre’s legs. Even though the kicks did damage, Sabre insisted that Ibushi keep kicking at his legs. Ibushi went for more kicks, but this proved to be a trap, as Sabre caught Ibushi’s leg and immediately began to work it over. The action definitely picked up in the closing stretch, and we got some solid back and forth between the two, but then Ibushi just hit a big knee strike out of nowhere, and Ibushi followed up with the Kamigoye. That finish seemed to come out of nowhere, which definitely hurt the match a little bit. Again, the wrestling throughout was very good, and I really can’t fault anything they did in the ring. However, it never really felt it got into that super high gear, and on the scale of Kota Ibushi/Zack Sabre Jr. matches, this one is definitely at the bottom. ***3/4
New Japan Cup – 1st Round – Taichi def. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi came to the ring sporting this awesome ring jacket that had all these spikes on the shoulders. I guess you can say this is Tanahashi’s Road Warriors jacket. Anyway, while Tanahashi was doing his signature pose on the turnbuckle, Taichi came up from behind and delivered a vicious powerbomb that Tanahashi sold for a very long time. The bell eventually rang to signal the start of the match, but Tanahashi was clearly not fully recovered, and Taichi struck immediately with a big kick to the head. DOUKI came out to dish out some punishment of his own on the floor while Taichi had the referee distracted, and things were looking pretty dire for Tanahashi during these first few minutes. However, Tanahashi finally started to fight back with some of his signature offense, and as the match progressed, it became a more even affair.
Once they reached the ten minute mark (which, in this case, was the halfway point), the pace really started to pick up. Taichi weakened Tanahashi with a devastating backdrop driver, and throughout the rest of the match, Tanahashi did everything he could to avoid getting hit with another one. A pair of sling blades put Tanahashi back in the driver’s seat, but a timely distraction from DOUKI led to a great near fall where Taichi nearly got the pin with the Gedo Clutch following a low blow while Red Shoes had his back turned. Tanahashi survived the Axe Bomber and the Last Ride, but once Taichi hit another backdrop driver, it was all over. Another Axe Bomber, a pair of big kicks, and Black Mephisto led to a totally clean Taichi victory over Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Now, it should be said that the result of the Kota Ibushi/Zack Sabre Jr. bout was pretty much going to determine the winner of this one, because they weren’t going to have the respective partners face each other in the second round. Once Ibushi got the win over Sabre, it was so obvious that Taichi was going to win. That being said, he and Tanahashi put together a really strong main event that told a great in-ring story, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since Tanahashi is such a master at in-ring storytelling. They did a great job making you want that comeback from Tanahashi following the initial sneak attack, and I loved what they did in the second half of the bout with the backdrop driver. Tanahashi was great as always, while Taichi more than held up his end of the bargain. I don’t know if it has to do with his opponents, but Taichi has gotten really good with these closing stretches. It’s become my favorite part of his bigger matches. ****
Afterwards, Kota Ibushi ran out to save Tanahashi from a Taichi/DOUKI beatdown, but he also got beat up by the Suzuki-gun duo. No matter what the result of Ibushi vs. Taichi ends up being, it’s clear that a Golden Aces vs. Dangerous Tekkers match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles is coming sooner rather than later.
Night 3 of the 2020 New Japan Cup was a very enjoyable show from start to finish. The bonus eight-man tag was good as always, and all four New Japan Cup bouts delivered to varying degrees. SANADA vs. Taguchi was much better than I was anticipating, while Shingo vs. SHO had an absolutely stellar match that will be extremely difficult to dethrone from the best match of the tournament spot. Meanwhile, Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. was a minor disappointment (by their incredibly high standards), while Taichi picked a big win over Tanahashi in a very good main event. I can gladly say that nothing from this event is an instant skip. Check out the whole show!