New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2021 – Night 6
March 11, 2021
Item Ehime
Ehime, JAPAN

Watch: NJPW World

There is substantial reason for optimism in New Japan, in both a macro and micro sense, even if this isn’t exactly the show to make that case.

The first two months of New Japan’s 2021 was a torrent of ennui-inducing cards that were engulfed in stasis, stretched to molecular limits due to State of Emergency conditions. Bereft of the blithely refreshing Fantasticamania mini-tour, the results were dire: monotonous cards, almost entirely held in the same dehydrated venue, with the top programs uninspiring (a rematch of the G1 Climax Final and a rematch of the Wrestle Kingdom Night 1 main event).

We might have escaped that arduous phase. With the stakes of the New Japan Cup, the domino effects of consequence resultant from it that historically leads us all the way through Dominion, and a staggeringly ambitious Spring schedule, New Japan looks rejuvenated on a macro sense. Round 1 of the Cup was essentially clean the whole way through, smartly front-loaded with significant match-ups and back-loaded with Young Lion matches and match-ups between satisfyingly competent mid-carders.

The reason I have to address the micro optimism: this show was complete fucking NONSENSE. I am a proponent of both Yano and EVIL, and yet I simply can’t objectively defend the bollocks inculcated throughout this show. Yes, this was a frustrating show, but the rest of Round 2 looks promising. Remember the lesson from Castle Attack: 2021 New Japan delivers exactly what things appear to be on paper. And on paper, things appear encouraging moving forward.


  1. Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-YASHI def. Yota Tsuji and David Finlay
  2. Jado, Yujiro Takahashi, and Bad Luck Fale def. Yuya Uemura, Tomoaki Honma, and Satoshi Kojima
  3. SHO, Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, and Yuji Nagata def. BUSHI, SANADA, Shingo Takagi, and Tetsuya Naito
  4. Toa Henare, Juice Robinson, and Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Chase Owen, KENTA, and Jay White

What To Look For

No one is on KENTA’s level

  • In my review of Night 5, I noted that KENTA was the rightful 2020 Best on Interviews. I now proclaim, on March 12, that KENTA has once again wrapped up this category.
  • The reasons why KENTA is so sensational is literally a list of what makes anyone great at elocution: his intonation, his diction, his posture, the way he changes spatial sight-lines, his cadence, the immaculate use of emphasis, etc. What takes KENTA to an Olympian level is the caliber of his ideas and the superlative execution. It’s the wild oscillation between jocularity, disdain, and, crucially, sober earnestness.
  • Case in point: most of KENTA backstage comment after this show was hilarious, continuing his running gags that the cameraman is ignominiously obese and riffing on Okada’s “New Jacan Puc” spoonerism (leading to “Sinoru Mizuki and “Ozuchika Kakada”).  But infrequently, he changes things up and punctuates his silliness with a dose of significance.
  • In this comment, his punchline was a reference in memory of those that lost their lives or have suffered from the 2011 Earthquake, on the 10th Anniversary of that awful day. This is KENTA’s power. He is so exceptional at presenting a cavalier atmosphere that when he does something meaningful it is amplified.
  • The subtle aspect of KENTA’s promos: he builds matches with remarkable depth this way. And, in this case, he provides a tonal shift so jarring that you are left stunned by his message

Great-O-Khan is an Axiological Philosopher

  • Some wrestlers have derided the unification of the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles, immersed in superficial, fairly narcissistic and self-absorbed concerns. Great-O-Khan, however, is a philosophical potentate. He has used his backstage comments as an extended, multi-part axiological delineation on the extrinsic value that wrestlers place upon the titles themselves.
  • With his typically peremptory tone, he guides the view through a polished and compelling elucidation on how wrestlers infuse titles with value, which suffuses the entire endeavor. It may be ultimately self-fulfilling, but by establishing the value of a title, wrestlers establish the value of this profession, and justification of their actions, heel or face.
  • To this end, O-Khan agrees with Ibushi’s measures to unify. To O-Khan, whose character is reliant upon the sacrosanct nature of power and the Divine Right of Kings, the champion himself is the vindication for such actions. O-Khan’s issue: Ibushi isn’t good enough. He’s not divine to the level of O-Khan.
  • Just like KENTA, everything he says has a purpose, and it all effectively builds pro wrestling.

David Finlay Is Right on the Cusp

  • In my Night 5 review, I lamented that Finlay is missing some moves of significance in his repository. This is concealed within tag matches (and his work in tags is really great). In singles matches, he seems to still be searching for something to legitimately invigorate the crowd. Jay White, for instance, had this issue to some, and he came back from the pandemic seemingly exploding with such moves. Finlay is still getting there.
  • But now I’ve seen the backstage promos he’s delivered the past two days. His delivery is not much different from how he’s always delivered things, but a slight tweak in the intensity of his cadence and a minor adjustment in his phrasing has amplified his innate charm.
  • His work with YOSHI-YASHI on the undercard here, the confrontation between the two on the apron in the post-match, and his passionate promo explicating to YOSHI how Finlay surpassed him… I might not have given Finlay enough credit.
  • The moves might be the only glaring thing Finlay is missing.  Finlay might be on the cusp of being the new Despy.

Naito vs. Okada with No Implications

  • This is really something else. Both guys are eliminated. Thus, there is absolutely no immediate consequence to their interactions. What a wild notion. It’s worth checking out for a couple of minutes just on that concept alone.

The opening match was a lot of fun.

  • Honestly, the only match I recommend watching.


The white-armed goddess Hera rose and shouted

Loud as the brazen voice of the great-lunged Stentor

Who cries out with the blast of fifty other men.

 Stentor is the incredibly loud Greek herald mentioned very briefly in the Illiad, from whom we derive all variations of the word stentorian. It defines a person with a powerful voice, sometimes in an impressive sense and sometimes in an obnoxious one. Stentor apparently died after some sort of formalized shouting match with Hermes.

Here, we find two stentorian wrestlers, possibly the two loudest on the roster. For half of this match, they did indeed engage in a prolonged shouting contest. Both survived. Hopefully, O-Khan’s credibility did as well.

The live crowd loved this, although the length at one point things killed the crowd, who got so silent you could hear someone zip up their jacket in the lobby. They did not have enough ideas for a 13-minute match.

O-Khan locked Yano in his head-and-arm choke way too deep into the match; one could argue that there was no place for that hold in any kind of match between these two, but most definitely not seven minutes into a Toru Yano match. There a name for the seven-minute mark of a Yano match: The Time To Wrap Things The Fuck Up.

But regardless of that, it was a hit live. For the viewing audience. Pronouncedly less so.

I acknowledge my bias towards Yano, only to emphasize that this is one time I have no defense or amelioration to offer. Unquestionably, there is a giddily immersive experience to be found somewhere in the match-up between these two. The contrast between O-Khan’s stoic utilitarianism and Yano’s effusively emotional skylarking is a naturally fecund comedic premise. But timing is the key element to anything, and this one went way too goddamn long. That could work if the length is part of the joke; this match, however, was just senselessly long.

Let’s examine recent matches where people lost their hair, and if the moment matched the action:

Giulia at the Budokan? Memorable. A moment befitting the stage and context and grandeur.

This fucking match? I sincerely hope that O-Khan was using extensions here, because this match was not worth his hair. **3/4


Here is where I acknowledge my comprehensive bias for EVIL and EVIL matches. I don’t sincerely like most of them, but I comprehend and admire the purpose and intent of them. I thoroughly enjoy this version of BULLET CLUB in multi-mans, where their unwavering amorality and delight in misfortune is tremendous. And yet, just as in the last match, I have to run contrary to my own bias: EVIL is no longer defensible.

Sure, the Okada match was fine, but this match accentuates EVIL’s cardinal, irredeemable transgression. It’s not the interference, it’s that he is TOO FUCKING BORING. He most effective personality right now is the flailing legs of Makoto Abe from under the announcer’s table.

I was so aghast at how awesome Jeff Cobb looked, that EVIL’s complete banality pushed me over the edge. I was so goddamn bored and unimpressed by EVIL in this match that I have sworn off that I refuse to allow EVIL any more of this review. I renounce the letters E, V, I, and L. Let’s continue.

Th dynamc of ths match dd not work to ’s faor, athough thr was ray no othr choc. How ths works aganst  s not mry that h s so dradfu controng th sowr portons of a match. t’s that, n ths partcuar match, h was up aganst on of th bst n th company. Cobb has bn an absout gm, spcay n mut-mans, usng hs strngth as th bass for a numbr of fasaf gmmcks. Th on whr h carrs hs opponnt to a dstanc just out of rach of a tag s my prsona faort. ’s bst work n that rgard s th abdomna strtch chan thng but works bst n mut-man’s.

Th antcs and shnangans was actuay fary rstrand hr. t was mtd to a rf bump, a coup of garott run-ns, and a ow bow. Naturay, th ow bow d to th antcmactc fnsh, prfcty fn out of contxt.  b many, whn prssd frmy, woud agr that most of what  dos s torab out of contxt. t s th totaty that s so dsusonng. Part of that totaty ncuds xtrna factors, and on of th most dsnchantng abhorrnt s th rf bumps. Not th quantty, mnd you; many ar frustratd by that, but th quantty s a mnor concrn compard to how fuckng brutay amatursh thy ar n xcuton.

Now, to b far, th on hr wasn’t as bad as th on sn durng Mastr Wato’s Bst of th Supr Junors match aganst DOUK. t st maks no sns, though. Th bump cam whn  gnty tuggd on Unno’s shrt. Not k th panckd mprosaton at Jngu, whr  compnsatd for a botchd rf bump by aunchng Unno wth an aggrss tug. No, ths was k tryng to gt somon attnton by tuggng th cornr of thr s surrpttousy. And yt, Unno droppd and f out of th rng. Ths rsutd n Uno nappng on th foor for thr fu mnuts. Cobb throwng hm back n th rng had mor forc.

Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m tired of that gimmick. Also as I watch through the match again to write this review, I’m surprised by how much better it is when I can just skip through it. The real issue is the scope and sequence of the match:

  • EVIL controlled the match in a very boring way for six minutes
  • Cobb got a bit of shine
  • EVIL took back control by locking on a scorpion deathlock
  • Cobb gets control back and begins to orient the match to the athletic hoss showcase it could be.
  • A terrible ref bump killed the potentially emerging momentum of the match

It really never got back on track after that point, because once it seemed like things were starting to smooth out into a decent home stretch, Yujiro got involved and the low blow spot ended the match. Too much spoiled tempo and deceleration.  ***1/4

Final Thoughts

One might have to consult their Primary Care Provider before watching this show. The show is exactly what you would expect on paper, although one might have been misled by the excellence o Round 1 to expect more than Cobb-EVIL delivered. If you are pruritic at the thought of these two New Japan Cup matches on paper, then you might have some sort of apoplectic crisis watching this. If you are inclined to favor Yano and EVIL’s antics, then this might be your card of the year. Either way, neither of these matches are worth sacrificing any part of your life to see. Literally, the benefits of just sitting in complete, empty silence outweigh whatever these matches could provide you.