New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2021 – Night 7
March 13, 2021
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
Watch: NJPW WORLD
We are currently in the quarterfinals of what has been a fun, and bracket-destroying, New Japan Cup. Tonight’s main matches have a forecast that calls for a high chance of hard hits, and grumpy expressions. I hope this forecast proves correct. While not everything has been a hit, there have been quite a few good performances, and perhaps a dose of the now-familiar questionable booking (Yano beating O-Khan, you serious?). All that said it can be felt that some confidence has cautiously seeped back into the veins of fans. We still have a lot of New Japan Cup to go. Now, for a quick summary of the undercard:
- Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI def. David Finlay, Yota Tsuji, Gabriel Kidd
- Great O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay def. DOUKI, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr
- Tetsuya Naito, SANADA def. SHO, Kazuchika Okada, Yuji Nagata
- Bad Luck Fale, EVIL, Jay White def. Toa Henare, Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi
Not much to the undercard. It is what it ended up being. You can read up above and pretty much figure out who took each fall (with maybe the opening match being a toss-up) Nothing offensive or bad, and there were of course quarterfinal interactions to attempt to garner last-second interest. All that said feel free to hit fast forward (make sure to stop and appreciate the intermission music). Now, onto our featured presentation.
New Japan Cup 2021 Quarterfinals
KENTA def. Minoru Suzuki
I have been looking forward to this. Minoru Suzuki is still the murder grandpa and great and KENTA has had a pretty damn good 2021 so far. Sixteen years since their last meeting. This is one of the pairings I desperately wanted in this tournament and got it! Thank you NJPW, all is not forgiven but this makes me happy.
Now for the match review… I really liked it. I never reached the level of love, but it had more than enough meat on the bone to leave this girl satisfied. Match started with KENTA giving zero shits (and reading the paper) and Suzuki not putting up with that shit. Remember life is about choices folks. Pissing off Suzuki is a choice, and a poor one. KENTA ended up winning so I guess it worked out. Suzuki has some of, if not the best, facial expressions in NJPW. They always add so much to his matches and this was no exception as he showcased frustration, murderous happiness, grumpiness, and determination. KENTA gave us the hard strikes, kicks, and just straight-up cocky mofo attitude you get from him these days. The match is slow and it might be slower than some desire to handle but I think the methodical pace worked for what they were going for, two hard-hitting bastards taking their time and trying to time their shots and destroy each other. Make no mistake there were some hard hits this match, especially near the end with some of the slaps landing quite hard. Neither man is afraid to take a hit which allowed some hard kicks, forearms, and slaps to be delivered to each other’s body.
Suzuki seems to power up when getting kicked/hit as hard as KENTA could and in the end KENTA had to quickly and unexpectedly hit the GTS to get the win as Suzuki always seemed too prepared to get out of it. The match will probably disappoint many who had extremely high expectations or anticipation. Truthfully, it didn’t hit the highs I unfairly placed on this match. The KENTA of sixteen years ago is never coming back after all. I think we’ve mostly accepted that while at the same time fooling ourselves here and there “this will be the match”. His 2021 has been solid though and this is another bout he can add to that as evidence. Suzuki? He’s still going, still kicking ass, always worth another watch until he decides to hang it up. What we got were two battered veterans putting on a methodical but hard-hitting fight that I ultimately found quite pleasing. I had predicted Suzuki, I could’ve bought either in his match, but KENTA was definitely the right call in the end. I’m too use at the moment to booking not making the right call (Yano winning over O-Khan for example). I don’t think this is a go out of your way to watch a match by any stretch, but it’s not skippable. You can definitely find something to enjoy in this match, I know I did. ***1/2
New Japan Cup 2021 Quarterfinals
Shingo Takagi def. Hirooki Goto
Went into this expecting the good shit, and neither man wasted any time getting straight to it. Both treated this match as the must-win it was and went for the victory immediately. Goto even managed a “minutes into it” near fall that caught me off guard and I somehow bought it as the potential finish. Didn’t take long for this match to draw me in and sink its teeth into my veins. I was hooked and immediately knew this was going to rock. I love it when wrestlers treat important matches as must-win situations, give things a better feel of desperation, importance, and necessity. The fast start previously mentioned gave way to that feeling and as a result the feeling rarely left during the match, even when things slowed down. Both men had made it clear they wanted to win, knew that winning was the objective and that losing was the end of the journey in this important tournament. There’s a time for feeling out, and there’s a time to get down to business and they got down to business.
In the absence of Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo is the best wrestler in NJPW right now (you can argue even including Hirmou that may still ring true) and Goto is great. Goto has the unfortunate curse that at times it passes our notice how great he is when he puts on incredible tournament performances and it reminds us all over again. This match is one of those great performances. Goto will probably never be IWGP Champion, but he’s also going to be dependable enough to deliver you can buy him winning big matches that don’t involve it. That helped not making me feel the match result was a foregone conclusion right off the back. Sometimes great matches can be hampered if they don’t achieve making you doubt yourself and consider that both men have a chance of winning. This match did not have that, from the moment Goto almost got his flash near fall I bought into the possibility either man could advance.
Emotion, desperation, anger, determination, all of this was the display in the body language and the facial expression and the noises made. All the things that lesser wrestlers may forget to include or expand on can put matches up to another level of appreciation. Neither of these men is lesser wrestlers, they know what to add and when to add it. They build their story, build their match, two craftsmen who not only have the tools but the talent and experience to get the most use of it. It’s one thing to build a house, it’s another thing to build a house properly and make it worthwhile your effort. These two men built a match and made it worth our while as well as theirs. The crowd built with the match their anticipation and enjoyment growing as we got closer and closer to the finish. I found myself leaning forward, watching, studying, anticipating along with them.
In the end, Shingo hit a definite and match ending The Last Of the Dragon, and put Goto away in a hell of a quarterfinal match. Holy shit, calm my tits that end up being fantastic. Shingo has now put away two New Japan Cup winners on his quest to win his first. Shingo isn’t on another level, he’s the Super Mario Maker of NJPW right now. He’s building his own damn level and daring/challenging the other wrestlers to take it on and see if they can hang. Goto could definitely hang, but he couldn’t complete it in the end. I will not leave Goto in the dust. Goto was awesome, Goto is awesome. Most of the time he’s the bridesmaid but is capable, and at times succeeds, of outshining the bride. I could’ve bought either gaining victory but Shingo winning was the right call. He has to be a hot favorite now to win the whole thing. Would love to see it. Watch this match. Watch all of this match. ****1/2
KENTA/Suzuki is what drew me in, Shingo/Goto ended up being my reward and favorite match of the night and one of my favorites of this tournament. No need to skip Suzuki/KENTA as they put on a fine affair but Shingo/Goto was incredible and both men despite being bruised, battered, beaten can hold their heads up high and know they put on one hell of a main event that will probably hold up extremely well come tournament end.