Kyoto hosts today’s New Japan Cup matches, with Henare and Jay White giving us an all-Kiwi main event to wrap up the first round.
EVIL, KENTA, Bad Luck Fale & Dick Togo submitted Yuya Uemura, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano & Juice Robinson in 9:46 (**½)
Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay pinned Tomoaki Honma, Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima in 9:13 (**¾)
BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Shingo Takagi pinned SHO, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto in 10:04 (***)
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: David Finlay pinned Chase Owens in 11:15 (***¼)
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: YOSHI-HASHI pinned Yujiro Takahashi in 15:50 (***)
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: Jay White pinned Toa Henare in 24:26 (***½)
The Sandan-ike Park Gymnasium in Kyoto’s hosting today, with Japanese-only commentary for the live feed. Let’s see how unstable the player is today, eh?
Bullet Club (EVIL, Bad Luck Fale, KENTA & Dick Togo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, Juice Robinson & Yuya Uemura
There’s no immediate matches being built to with our opener – unless they’re planning on an EVIL/Tanahashi final?
Yano wanted to start… thinking he’d be in there with Dick Togo. Except it’s Fale who starts us off for the Bullet Club, prompting Yano to tag in Juice Robinson fairly quickly. Juice tries for a slam, but of course that isn’t happening as he ends up avoiding a Fale slam before he dropkicks the apron clear.
A second go at a slam sees Fale fall back on top of Juice for a two-count. Fale grabs Juice and tags in Dick Togo for a cheapshot, before EVIL came in for more of the same as they led to the chained abdominal stretch. It’s broken up by the ref, so EVIL and KENTA wring Juice’s locks ahead of a snapmare and a kick to the back.
KENTA works over Juice’s fingers, then grounded him in a side headlock. Juice escapes, but he’s met with another side headlock off the ropes, before he broke that up with a back suplex. In comes Tanahashi to run wild with Dragon screws, before an elbow drop to KENTA gets a two-count. Buffering. EVIL’s in, as is Yuya Uemura to try his luck once more, aided by his partners as EVIL’s quadruple-teamed in the corner…
That leads to a back suplex from Uemura for a two-count before he tries a Boston crab, but EVIL just powers free. A dropkick from Uemura resets things, before he countered Darkness Falls with some roll-ups, only to get met with a clothesline as EVIL forces the submission with the Scorpion Deathlock. I mean, I’ll take this over all of the dick kicking EVIL did last year en route to winning the tournament… **½
United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan) vs. Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma
We’re hitting rerun again on some first round matches, and we’ve a jump start as Ospreay targets Kojima in the ring.
Honma comes in to help level things up as Ospreay’s dropped for a double-team elbow, before the Machine Gun chops wait for him in the corner. O-Khan and Cobb try to help, but they’re met with similar resistance, but the Empire just swarm Kojima as he prepared to head up top.
Cobb stays in as Kojima’s laid out in the corner as O-Khan takes a seat. Mongolian chops follow as Kojima was kept on his knees, before he fired back in kind ahead of a swift Koji cutter. Nagata tags in to hit a butterfly suplex for a two-count, before the pair begin to trade elbows back-and-forth before a low dropkick from Nagata made O-Khan faceplant.
O-Khan’s quickly back with a Judo throw as his knee’s compromised, but he’s able to roll across to tag in Cobb, who eats kicks before the Empire broke up a Nagata Lock. Honma tags in and tries to push ahead, landing a DDT/Flatliner combo to Cobb and Ospreay before a suplex… was broken up by O-Khan’s Mongolian chops.
Nagata boots O-Khan to the outside as Cobb’s triple-teamed… but we buffer and return with the tables having turned as Cobb gets a two-count with a Spin Cycle on Honma, before a leaping Kokeshi from Honma earned him a clothesline. From there, Cobb pulls him into a short Tour of the Islands, and that’s the win for the Empire trio. Your usual solid trios match with the United Empire, who continue to stack up wins on these undercard tags. **¾
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & SHO
Our final non-tournament match of the day comes with our favourite – buffering in the entrances! There’s shenanigans to start as LIJ couldn’t decide who’d start – first they were all out, then they were all in…
Okada and Naito start us off, with a lock-up that heads into the ropes for an Okada clean break. Lucha stuff ensues with roll throughs and armdrags, before they reset… Tags bring in SANADA and Ishii to swing with clotheslines that are ducked, before Ishii misses a diving kick, allowing SANADA to fire back. Ishii recovers, but gets kicked in the ropes by BUSHI before SHO came in to help out. The ring fills, then clears, as SANADA’s left on his own to take a clubbering while Okada did… air drums?
Goto tags in, but ends up taking a ‘rana from SANADA before Ishii came in and got dropped with a low dropkick as he tried to stop a tag. In comes Shingo to pin Goto into the corner with punches and chops… that just pisses off Ishii, whose save is neutered as Shingo goes corner-to-corner with clotheslines before a double clothesline took down two-thirds of the NEVER trios champs.
A suplex drops Goto for a two-count, before Goto hit back with an ushigoroshi as tags bring us to SHO and BUSHI. Kicks from SHO leave BUSHI down before the ring began to fill for a mini Parade of Moves… it clears as BUSHI gets cornered for an Okada DDT and another kick from SHO for a two-count.
SHO looks for a Shock Arrow, but SANADA breaks it up to start another Parade of Moves, culminating in a clothesline from Goto to Shingo before Goto blocks a lungblower… handing BUSHI off to SHO for a bridging German suplex that almost wins it, before the Shock Arrow was resisted. BUSHI throws SHO away, the went for a backslide, rolling SHO through for a low dropkick before BUSHI nicked the win with a Magistral cradle! A bit of an unexpected finish, particularly in the finisher, but otherwise an entertaining undercard tag that keeps heating up Shingo/Goto at the weekend. ***
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: Chase Owens vs. David Finlay
These two have split wins in their past singles matches, with the most recent being last August as Finlay eased past Owens in the first round of the inaugural New Japan Cup USA tournament.
We’ve a tentative start as Finlay went to ground, coming in with a side headlock as Owens tries to escape via a hair pull. Chase countered out with a side headlock of his own, but from the push-off Finlay returned with a dropkick and a suplex for a two-count. Owens comes back with a backbreaker, and begins to focus on Finlay’s back as he chucks him into the turnbuckles.
A bow and arrow hold’s next, with Finlay not able to flip out of the hold at first as you’d usually see. Owens relents, but comes back in with a suplex and some body scissors as he looked to wear down Finlay. Yay! Buffering! When my feed recovers, Finlay’s able to return with a diving European uppercut to take Owens outside, with a plancha following, before they returned to the ring as a spinning side suplex gets Finlay a two-count.
Owens pulls Finlay outside for a dropkick through the ropes to the floor… but quickly returns to the ring where Owens leaps off the top into a uranage backbreaker for a near-fall. Finlay goes for an Acid Drop, but just gets thrown into the corner as Chase looked to snatch the win by tiring out Finlay with kick-outs.
A lucha roll-through from Finlay sparks more back-and-forth two-counts before a missed dropkick allows Owens to come in with a knee strike and a uranage backbreaker of his own for a two-count. The pair trade elbows as the Kyoto crowd clapped along, before an Owens clothesline spun Finlay down to the mat for another two-count.
Chase heads outside and pulls up some of the floor mats… that annoys Juice Robinson at ringside, who distracts the referee with his arguing as Chase runs back in to lay out Finlay with his Texas title for a near-fall. A package piledriver looks to follow, but Owens’ back gives out as he ends up hitting a rebound backbreaker and a diving knee before the package piledriver’s countered with a ‘rana, allowing Finlay to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This was a tidy little match – one that I suspect a lot of people will handwave, but an enjoyable outing between two guys who don’t get a whole lot of singles matches under their belts. ***¼
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: Yujiro Takahashi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Yujiro’s 2-0 in their past singles outings, but they’ve not faced one-on-one in over six years, with a lot of water under the bridge in that time.
Yujiro’s out of the gates first, booting YOSHI-HASHI at the bell before the pair traded shoulder tackles, with YOSHI-HASHI pulling ahead with a bodyslam. A hair pull from Yujiro keeps YOSHI-HASHI at bay, as did an eye rake, but YOSHI-HASHI trips the legs out and drags Yujiro to the outside and into the guard rails.
Yujiro retaliates with his pimp cane as he proceeds to chuck YOSHI-HASHI into the rails, which leads to a count-out tease. YOSHI-HASHI beats it, of course, as this wasn’t ending after two minutes… so Yujiro lays in some punches after YOSHI-HASHI had rolled back in. A snapmare, a leg drop, an elbow drop and a falling headbutt keeps Yujiro ahead with a two-count, before he looked to wear down YOSHI-HASHI with a chinlock.
A low dropkick gets just a one-count for Yujiro, who weathered a brief comeback from YOSHI-HASHI before a Fisherman suplex attempt was countered. A thrust kick keeps YOSHI-HASHI away, but YOSHI-HASHI just returns with a suplex, then a dropkick into the corner before a neckbreaker’s elbowed away.
YOSHI-HASHI runs back in with a Head Hunter, before he hung up Yujiro in the ropes for a dropkick to the back. A basement dropkick gets YOSHI-HASHI a two-count, before Yujiro bit back and tried to win it with a front kick. The pair trade elbows, then clotheslines that lay each other out, but it’s Yujiro who’s back up first with another front kick before YOSHI-HASHI tries to chop his way back in. An Incolle slam from Yujiro stops that momentum though, as he then took YOSHI-HASHI up top for an avalanche Fisherman buster. A regular one follows for a near-fall, before YOSHI-HASHI pushes out of a Pimp Juice short DDT and returned with a rear spin kick. A thrust kick followed as YOSHI-HASHI looked to build momentum, but Yujiro escapes a Karma and turned it into a Miami Shine for another near-fall.
Another attempt at the Pimp Juice is pushed aside by YOSHI-HASHI, who eventually comes back with a half-and-half suplex and a Western lariat for a near-fall, before he spun Yujiro in for an attempt at Karma. That’s blocked, but still YOSHI-HASHI pushes on as he took down Yujiro for the Loose Explosion senton for another two-count, before a Butterfly Lock looked to force a submission. Yujiro creeps towards the ropes, but YOSHI-HASHI just rolls him away and plants him with Karma… and there’s the win. That felt a little out of nowhere given the usual trend of “pull away from the ropes and keep the hold on,” but this was another decent little match that, like me, you’d have dismissed. And after the match, YOSHI-HASHI proves his stick’s bigger than Yujiro’s… ***
New Japan Cup 2021 – First Round: Toa Henare vs. Jay White
The winner of this first-time singles match faces Hiroshi Tanahashi in the second round on Monday… and after the pandemic robbed Henare of his cup moment last year, he’s still got that point to prove. I lost power for this one, so let’s fight the on demand player!
We start with White taking Henare into the corner, trapping him there with kicks before he slid outside to avoid an Irish whip. Henare gives chase, taking White back inside… but again White bails. Rushing back inside, White hangs up Henare in the ropes, then grounds him with a side headlock… only for Henare to power up and shoot White into the ropes.
Chops take White into the corner, before they headed outside, with Henare running White into the barriers at ringside. Returning to the ring, Henare picks up a two-count but gets lifted rudely to the outside as White returned the favour from earlier, taking Henare between the guard rails and the ring apron. Of course, the referee wouldn’t count a pin back inside at first, but White continues to push on as he begins to target Henare’s lower back.
A half crab grounds Henare by the ropes, with Gedo taunting him as we get the eventual rope break. White continues to stretch Henare on the mat, then threw him back down as the pace was slowed somewhat. Elbow keep Henare in the corner, but Henare blocks a whip across the ring, eventually reversing it as White bounced into the opposite corner.
Henare adds pressure with a leaping shoulder tackle, before a stalling suplex dropped White for a two-count… only for White to counter out of a Samoan drop attempt with a DDT. A fight over a suplex ends with White hitting a sleeper suplex into the corner, then a Blade Buster for a near-fall.
White tries for a uranage, but Henare blocks it until he’s been kneed in the gut a few times, as White opts to change tactics. Eventually Henare elbows back, but he’s ragdolled down with a German suplex after a snap Flatliner had taken him off his feet. White gets that uranage off after that, but opted to roll Henare to the floor rather than go for a cover as a show of disrespect.
Henare tries to roll back inside, but White just boots him out again and again, before giving up that idea to drop Henare with a Kiwi Krusher for a two-count. White tries to pull Henare up for a sleeper suplex, but instead he’s taken into the corner as a Saito suplex instead folds Henare in half. White takes Henare up top… but White can’t capitalise as he’s shoved down ahead of a leaping shoulder tackle off the top rope.
A running Samoan drop has Henare back on top, with a clothesline getting a two-count as Gedo at ringside could sense victory slipping from White’s grasp. A rolling back elbow decks White, as does a spear, which almost gets Henare the win. White pancakes to the mat but still gets caught with a uranage as Henare almost eked out the win.
White distracts the ref as Gedo fails with a brass knuckles shot, before Henare’s rugby tackle caught White for a near-fall. Henare looks for a Fisherman suplex, but instead opts for a headbutt before a sleeper suplex from White turned things around. Elbows save Henare from a second suplex, but White ends up hitting it anyway before he pulled Henare into a Blade Runner and that’s your lot. A valiant effort from Henare, but in the end Jay White was just far too strong – in spite of his own arrogance on the night. ***½
…and that’s it for the first round! The tour returns tomorrow in Ehime, with EVIL vs. Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan vs. Toru Yano as your two cup matches and an undercard that will be filled out in the morning. This was a show of two halves – if we look at just the cup matches, we’ve a trio of matches that at their worst were “solid bouts”, with the Jay White story of him perhaps getting a little too arrogant against Henare, thinking he could win via count-out… signs that the Jay White of old is back on the scene, perhaps?