New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2021 Night 3
March 7, 2021
Aimesse Yamanashi
Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Before I dive into the New Japan Cup matches, here are the results from the undercard bouts:

  • Yota Tsuji def. Yuya Uemura
  • The United Empire (Jeff Cobb & The Great O-Khan) def. Satoshi Kojima & Tomoaki Honma
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Henare, & Ryusuke Taguchi def. BULLET CLUB (EVIL, Jay White, KENTA, & Dick Togo)
  • LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi, & BUSHI) def. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, & SHO)

The only undercard match I decided to watch was the young lion opener, which saw Yota Tsuji catch Yuya Uemura in a cradle to score the win. You can never really go wrong with a young lion opener. A solid match from start to finish, and also served the purpose of giving Tsuji a little bit of momentum heading into his first round New Japan Cup match against Yuji Nagata.

New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Gabriel Kidd

While the result of this match was pretty much a mortal lock, it was still a very intriguing bout on paper. Even though Gabriel Kidd is a young lion, he’s someone who had the potential to mesh very well with Zack Sabre Jr. in a singles environment (and we saw some of their exchanges on a few of the undercard tags leading up to this show). When the dust settled, this ended up being a really good singles bout that featured a number of cool moments through. The first half of the match mainly revolved around technical wrestling (which was expected) as the two went back and forth exchanging holds, submission attempts, pins and so on. A big turning point occurred about midway through when Sabre caught Kidd with a neck crank. From there, the intensity started to pick up, and we got some more hard striking exchanges mixed in with the technical wrestling. Kidd looked very impressive here, but he ultimately fell short when Sabre took advantage of the neck damage he caused earlier to submit him with (what looked like) a triangle choke (or at least some variation of a triangle choke). Again, the result was never in question, but these two were given a lot of time (seventeen minutes), and they certainly made the most of that time. Definitely a match worth checking out. ***3/4

New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round
Will Ospreay def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (with Master Wato)

Our second of two tournament matches on this card was also a bout where the outcome was a foregone conclusion, as Will Ospreay managed to defeat Hiroyoshi Tenzan in what will likely be the final chapter of this United Empire/TenKoji feud (there’s nothing else you can really do with this feud, in terms of singles matches). These two went after each other straight away, and we didn’t even get a minute deep into the bout before Tenzan busted out the Mongolian Chops. It’s a real shame that New Japan reneged on this stipulation so quickly. You had all the buildup to that match back in Nagoya, and now Tenzan is just using the Mongolian Chops again like that feud never happened. What makes the whole situation even more frustrating is that he actually abided by the stipulation for a good month there (even carrying it over to a show he did outside of New Japan). The whole thing is both incredibly annoying and disappointing.

Anyway, Tenzan had the initial advantage while they brawled on the floor, but Ospreay gained control after a neckbreaker in the ropes, and just like Zack Sabre Jr. in the match prior, Ospreay began to target the neck of his opponent. Tenzan eventually managed to fight back, and we got a very good second half as the two traded big moves back and forth. It’s been said before, but it’s still amazing that Tenzan is able to have these kinds of performances in singles bouts one or two times a year. He even took a standing Spanish Fly from Ospreay, which I could not believe they actually managed to pull off (given Tenzan’s physical limitations). While Tenzan did take the fight to Ospreay in the closing stages, it was only delaying the inevitable, and Ospreay pinned Tenzan following a Stormbreaker. Another match with a result that we all saw coming, but a pretty good match from start to finish. Ospreay was great (as per usual), and Tenzan had his second very solid singles outing of 2021. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t expecting either of these two tournament matches to set the world on fire, but both of them turned out to be really good, despite the fact that the winners were extremely obvious beforehand. Zack Sabre Jr. had an entertaining contest with Gabriel Kidd, while Will Ospreay had a very solid main event with Hiroyoshi Tenzan. That sets up Ospreay vs. Sabre in the next round, which should be an awesome match.