New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup Final
July 11, 2020
Osaka Jo Hall
Watch: NJPW World
Meet our previewers:
Paul Völsch: Making his triumphant return after taking the entire no fans era off. Completely overcompensated for that and decided that guesting on two podcasts and reviewing/previewing three shows in the span of one week was a good idea
Jeff Andrews: Like Paul I think empty arena wrestling is the shits and I look forward to seeing fans in the arenas yet again. As an added bonus this card is interesting if nothing else and I genuinely look forward to staying up and watching it.
John Carroll: Hey, it’s our first group roundtable preview for a NJPW show since the Anniversary Show in March, where we wrote a whole preview for a show that never happened! Thanks coronavirus! It’s good to be back anyway. Follow John on Twitter @toshanshuinla, their podcast @wrestleomakase, and check out the new Wrestling Omakase Patreon where you can get tons of great audio (including an entire series covering every Okada-Tanahashi match in chronological order- 11 of 14 episodes are up right now, with the rest coming soon!) for just $5 per month!
GBH vs. Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura
Paul: Uemura spent his entire time off lifting weights and eating nothing but protein. He has become a very beefy boy and apparently has half the Japanese commentary fawning over him. It will be interesting to see how New Japan will handle the excursion for this current crop of Young Lions. They generally tend to go once the previous generation returns and with the glorious debut of Master Wato (see below) it would be time for at least some of them to leave. Now obviously that can’t happen at the moment due to the pandemic. New Japan can now either defer their excursion or have them graduate from Young Lion status without one, as they’ve done with Karl Fredericks over in the LA Dojo recently.
As for this match I don’t think you need me to tell you how it will go. If you’ve somehow never seen a New Japan show and this is your first time reading one of these (welcome first of all) the Young Lions will valiantly fight and get a couple of hope spots before ultimately getting put down by the veterans. Prediction: GBH
Jeff: GBH isn’t exactly my favorite tag team of the last ten years, but I am genuinely excited to see them in action against Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura. Yota Tsuji and Uemura both have a lot of potential as far as Young Lions go and Tsuji in particular feels like a guy to watch in the next five years. I get a lot of old beefy strong style vibes from Tsuji just like I used to get from guys like Ishii and Makabe. That being said, this match is going to go pretty much how you’d expect it to. Prediction: GBH
John: Makabe will take 0 bumps, Honma will miss some Kokeshis, and the young lions will do their best to make this watchable. It is what it is. ‘Ol Sweets looked pretty damn good during the New Japan Cup, having what was possibly his best match in years against Tomohiro Ishii, so maybe the time off did him good. I still wouldn’t expect him to give much effort here because he’s still Togi Makabe in a tag team match, but who knows. Prediction: GBH
TenKoji vs. Hirooki Goto & Gabriel Kidd
Paul: Same as above applies for this match. Gabriel Kidd has improved a lot during the months off and used his time in the dojo to work on his fundamentals. I wasn’t overly impressed with him previously but he’s shown a lot of promise during the empty arena shows. Now he has to keep developing and develop a connection to the crowd. His tag partner Goto is a bit directionless at the moment. He got eliminated by EVIL from the New Japan Cup and he doesn’t have a clear program ahead of him at the moment.
On the other side Kojima is still weighed down by the anchor that is Tenzan. As long as he is teaming with him he will be destined to lower card tags like this. However, Tenzan seems to be primed to retire next year, which hopefully frees up Kojima for one last singles run since he can still go. Prediction: TenKoji
Jeff: Maybe I’m on an island, but if TenKoji became tag champions tomorrow I’d scream their praises from the rooftops. Never has a tag team so good been given so much shit, and even at their advanced ages I believe Tenzan and Kojima are still good workers who could manage a great match when put in a position to do so.Their exchanges with Goto have the potential to be gold, and I’m looking forward to them. Unfortunately, Gabriel Kidd is in this match and I’ve yet to find him impressive in any measurable way. He’s easily the least exciting Young Lion as far as I’m concerned and will almost certainly be eating the pin here. Prediction: TenKoji
John: Gabriel Kidd deciding to ride this COVID thing out in Japan while literally every other foreigner other than ZSJ went back to their home countries has to officially make him one of the smartest people in wrestling, cause look how much worse pretty much the entire Western world (but especially the US with a constellation prize to the UK!) has handled this thing. Goto being in one of these completely meaningless undercard tags with nothing even resembling a direction is always a depressing sight. Hopefully he gets back on track with something to do soon, because he’s shown a million times that he can still go. Prediction: TenKoji
Master Wato vs. DOUKI
Prediction: Master Wato
Jeff: Paul stole my joke so unfortunately I have to try and find something positive to say about this. Before MASTER WATO went on excursion he had one of a kind underdog charisma that made his matches exciting in spite of inferior work. His crowd connection was uncanny, and many figured he might end up in a Honma position in the Jr. Division. Unfortunately, Gedo decided we can’t have good things and is going to force me to say the name Master Wato for the next ten years. This is an awful gimmick, and in my opinion a pretty poor usage of a guy like Kawato. With that being said, Douki is the Junior jobber extraordinaire and will be eating the pin here as one might expect. Prediction: Master Wato
John: Once in a great while we are privileged to experience a television event so extraordinary it becomes part of our shared heritage. 1969, man walks on the moon. 1971, man walks on the moon……uh, again. Then for a long time nothing happened. Until Friday, July 3rd, 2020. On that day we all bore witness to the future of wrestling. And his name was……Master Wato.
Okay, so I ripped that off from Krusty the Clown introducing Poochie the Dog, but I think it works. An heir to Antonio Inoki himself has finally been found. Way to the Grandmaster. Prediction: Master Wato
SANADA & BUSHI vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori
Paul: Out of all of the matches happening on this show this is certainly one of them. I don’t know why this is happening and if there is any purpose to this other than to fill time. I guess BUSHI holds the NEVER Six Man title but with my prediction in the main event I doubt we’ll get a challenge here. Could just be a way to let SANADA get an easy win after he got kicked in the dick and pinned by EVIL. Prediction: LIJ
Jeff: This is a time filler match between 3 people I haven’t cared about in five years and Taiji Ishimori who has been underwhelming in his time in New Japan. As Paul mentioned, this is probably a way to give SANADA a a win for some reason in spite of what has been a fairly sloppy in ring year for him. Prediction: I will be making a sandwich as slow as humanly possible while LIJ wins.
John: Look, with something like a third of the roster (I haven’t done the exact math but that’s what it feels like to me, about a third) stranded overseas, you’re going to get some really weird and nothing tags to fill out these undercards, and this is certainly one of them. Does anyone really care about Yujiro Takahashi in this cursed year of 2020? They do not. It wouldn’t even surprise me if he gets pinned here instead of Taiji, even though the general rule in a heavyweight/junior tag is the finish is always the junior getting pinned. Prediction: LIJ
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr & El Desperado)
Paul: This match continues what is likely the best feud currently going in New Japan and easily the best Heavyweight tag feud in years. The key to that is that both teams involve genuine top talent. Ibushi and Tanahashi are the top 3 and 4 babyfaces in the Company and their opponents Taichi and ZSJ are two of top heels with ZSJ likely being the top Gaijin for now while the others are stuck outside of Japan.
This is just a set up for the tag title match on the next night and from what we’ve seen so far expect a lot of intense brawling. New Japan has treated its heavyweight tag scene as a complete afterthought for such a long time and it’s very refreshing to see it get a bit of shine for once. Time will tell if that focus is here to stay or if this is just a blip. Prediction: Suzukigun
Jeff: If you had told me in 2017 that Suzukigun would be the most exciting team in New Japan in 2020 I would have called the police. Nonetheless that is the reality we’re currently occupying and it’s incredibly refreshing to see a match like this have some genuine stakes and intrigue attached. This feels like a momentum match going into the tag team title match at Dominion and for the first time in what feels like 10 years I can say I’m genuinely interested in the tag team program here.
As an aside, Yuji Nagata and Minoru Suzuki have been mixing it up a lot on the undercard and I’m curious to see if perhaps there’s a little dad feud brewing here. Would love to see it. Prediction: Suzukigun
John: Agree with Jeff that things are clearly not over between Suzuki and Nagata, and I expect them to have another singles match on one of the upcoming shows after Dominion (Sengoku Lord in Nagoya perhaps? Or even one of the Korakuens?). That’s one of those things that’s even more obvious if you watch the promos, as they’ve still been yelling at each other throughout the rest of the New Japan Cup shows. Anyway, I’m also very excited for the tag title match on the following night; the Dangerous Tekkers-Golden Aces feud has been a lot of fun, especially with Taichi declaring that he is going to DESTROY LOVE ITSELF. Hell yeah. I’d expect poor Taguchi to end up eating the pin here, and the night will probably end with Zack and Taichi standing tall to put more heat on the following night’s big tag team title match. Prediction: Suzukigun
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & SHO) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi)
Paul: All aboard the SHO train because it’s leaving the station. He was in line for a big singles push once R3K lost the junior tag titles, but with YOH out injured for a long time it seems that New Japan has pulled the trigger on it now. He is starting to put it all together now and has just been oozing star power since New Japan came back from break.
A curious thing is the lack of a title match for Hiromu and there doesn’t appear to be a possible challenger for him on the other side unless Ishii or Yano drop down to junior, which seems very unlikely. This match should be a ton of fun and after such a long time the fan reaction to Naito will be crazy. While SHO will challenge next night at Dominion I am struggling to see who will get pinned on the LIJ side. Thus I think that Yano eats a Destino to give the crowd a happy moment seeing Naito win on the first show with fans back. Prediction: LIJ
Jeff: Count me among those currently occupying the SHO bandwagon. I know it’s popular right now to have a take on who will end up being better between SHO and YOH, but I think they’re simply destined for different things and will both wind up being very good. This will almost certainly be used to build up the inevitable match between Shingo and SHO while giving Naito a big win on the first show back with fans. Prediction: DES-TIN-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-Kevin Kelly
John: This is an interesting six-man tag because on first blush there’s really no obvious person to get pinned here. Whatever you may think of Toru Yano he doesn’t take very many falls at all (according to Sport of Pro Wrestling his only losing fall of 2020 so far is his count out loss to Hiromu Takahashi in the New Japan Cup, which is pretty amazing even with the long layoff; in 2019 he only lost 12 falls in the entire year even including singles matches, and keep in mind he was in the G1 as well), Ishii is not exactly a pin eater either, and SHO losing would hardly make sense when he’s challenging Shingo Takagi for the NEVER tItle the next night. On the other hand, Naito is the IWGP & Intercontinental double champion, Shingo is also a double champion, and Hiromu is the junior champion. Yeah, I dunno how they’re getting out of this one. I think Yano may just have to suck it up and take one for the team. Regardless of who loses though this should be a really fun match just given who is in there. Shingo and SHO will collide a bunch of times to build more hype for their title match on the next night, Yano and Hiromu will continue their entertaining shtick from their New Japan Cup match, and any time Naito and Ishii get in the ring together it’s guaranteed to be pretty damn good at an absolute minimum. New Japan six-mans don’t generally peak very high, but this could be one of the rare exceptions. Prediction: LIJ
New Japan Cup 2020 Final
Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL
Paul: This at the very least should be an interesting match. While I am a massive Okada fan he hasn’t blown me away with his work in the New Japan cup so far. But I’m willing to chalk that up to him just not caring about shows with no fans. On the other hand EVIL also hasn’t blown me away. With both men having acted a lot more heelish in the tournament it makes for a weird dynamic in this match. Okada still hasn’t pinned anyone with a rainmaker in the tournament and until the Hiromu match hadn’t even used it at all. I could easily see a scenario where he beats EVIL here and then ultimately comes up short against Naito at Dominion. But after turning this into such a major money drawing match I just don’t see them doing it again six months later in a one-third full Osaka Jo Hall show that is already sold out.
On the other hand EVIL makes a lot of sense here. Him vs Naito is not a major drawing match so it’s fine to give it away on what is essentially a sold show. His heelish antics have somewhat distanced him from his stable mates including kicking his regular tag team partner in the dick. Him cheating also gives Okada an easy out on losing this match. Prediction: EVIL
Jeff: I am not a stan for either of these men. I think EVIL is aggressively fine on his best days and has too many mid to bad matches to be considered anything more than average. Okada has felt slower than his prime for the last two years and in the NJCup this year he looked downright forgettable. He didn’t have a single match that really wowed me and such a forgettable New Japan Cup leading into a title challenge vs Naito wouldn’t sit well with me. I’m hoping Okada doesn’t win this not because I think EVIL is a good challenger, but because I think EVIL-Naito might lead to something more interesting down the line.
I know I’ve gotten my hopes up on this issue 4683 times in the past, but I really want this LIJ drama to pay off in a meaningful way. Prediction: EVIL
John: I know people (including Jeff right above me) are really hoping this EVIL storyline is leading to some kind of big permanent change, but I think all the “EVIL to BULLET CLUB! EVIL to Suzukigun! EVIL leading his own new heel stable!” folks are probably not going to like the actual outcome. New Japan has proven over the years that they’re more cautious with the make-up of the units than they are with perhaps anything else in the company (witness CHAOS still technically existing for literally no reason other than because the towels with their logo on it still sell at least reasonably well) and I find it hard to believe they are going to risk the merchandise empire that is Los Ingobernables de Japon by removing one of the original members. The fact is that we’ve seen this whole “one member of LIJ doesn’t get along with the other members during a tournament” storyline before, and the result is always the same: after the tournament is over Naito calls for everyone to put their fists up, one or two guys hesitate, and then they all do it. Of course, we’re not going to get that result this time until the following day, when Naito will beat EVIL to retain after he wins this NJC final, but I would be pretty stunned if anything else happens. I do get why people think this time might be different I guess, given all the cheating EVIL has done along the way (even to his own stablemate SANADA) to win. But ultimately I think this was just a storyline to do something with him for the New Japan Cup, and let him beat some guys without having to win cleanly, and the end result is still going to be the same. People are reading way too much into EVIL cheating when: 1) one of his signature spots is putting a chair around a guy’s neck and hitting it with another chair, which he does in like every match & 2) his name is, in fact, EVIL. It’s kind of all right there guys.
As for this match itself, it’s really hard to know how it will turn out. Okada and EVIL have had some bangers in the past (most notably during G1s) but they also had a very high-profile snoozer in the main event of King of Pro Wrestling 2017. I think this one has a high ceiling but also a relatively low floor. It will probably also involve some major shenanigans with EVIL cheating his way to another victory, and that kind of finish really tends to annoy people in New Japan (despite being a part of the company for the last 7 years or so now), so that may result in some lower ratings from some folks. But I do expect both guys to be motivated here to put on not just an excellent final but a great main event on the first NJPW show with fans since early March, so that is a major factor in its favor. We’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out. Prediction: EVIL