What better way to further celebrate the return of New Japan Pro Wrestling than a tournament. The first day of the tournament wasn’t loaded with tippy top talent, but it was top notch New Japan action that delivered as usual.
Togi Makabe vs Yota Tsuji
This was a heavyweight affair full with power moves. This was my first look at Tsuji and I was impressed with his execution particularly his spear. Match was paced well. Went about 10 minutes with Makabe getting the win with a German Suplex.
Not an amazing match but a solid opener. Was not shocked to see Makabe, the established veteran, got the win over the younger inexperienced talent.
Winner: Togi Makabe
Jado vs Toru Yano
With the pandemic going on, NJPW is using substitutes for international stars. Jado has mainly worked tag matches (which is typical in NJPW) the past few years and it shows. Yano was entertaining throughout the match while also fighting off the Bullet Club. I particularly enjoyed Yano spraying the ring before the match started.
It’s nice to have variety on a wrestling show. Especially for NJPW. The perception is that every match is “six stars in the Tokyo Dome.” NJPW can put on a good comedy match when in need. Yano capitalizes on a double groin shot to Jado and Gedo to score the victory with a roll up.
Winner – Toru Yano
Hiromu Takashi vs Tomoaki Honma
The surprise match of the night. Takashi is a star obviously, but Honma rose to the occasion for me. Even though it was clear that Takashi was going to win, Honma gave glimpses that could score the upset victory. The Japanese announcers went nuts for Honma’s head butt spot building up to a climax when Honma finally connected. Ultimately Honma bumped like a boss for Takashi. The match ended with a Time Bomb to give Takashi the vicotry
Winner: Hiromu Takashi
Tomohrio Ishii vs El Desperado
Easily match of the night. This match shows why NJPW puts on some of the best matches in the world. It starts off slow making that audience wonder if these guys have it tonight. Before you know it, you don’t realize you’re watching a wrestling match. The passion and emotion take over and each near fall have you cheering each guy.
Ishii and El Desperado have great chemistry together. There were multiple spots with Red Shoes having to scurry away from the action which culminated in Red Shoes being in the wrong spot near the end. Red Shoes ducked when the power house Ishii was Irish Whipped into the corner. El Desperado perfectly timed a groin shot when Red Shoes covered for dear life. Ishii miraculously kicked out and ended up picking up the win shortly thereafter.
Winner: Tomohiro Ishii
I find NJPW easier to digest in the pandemic wrestling world. Japanese crowds are more quiet in general. These matches are missing the occasional praise for a big spot and random shouting of names. In the end it’s the camerawork and passionate commentary that elevate the viewing experience. NJPW production is next level as always.
Match of the night was an easy pick. For MVP, my pick is Tomoaki Honma. He took nasty bumps and elevated Takashi (as if he needs to elevated anymore). Tournaments especially need your role players to shine.
This was an entertaining first night for the New Japan Cup. I’ll be back next week with the upper right bracket that is stacked with talent. Stay tuned as fellow Sports Obsessive writers, Chris and Conrad, cover the rest of the action.