We’ve got another tournament starting in New Japan, as the first ever New Japan Cup USA gets going on the debut episode of NJPW Strong.
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: KENTA pinned Karl Fredericks in 10:00 (***½)
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: Jeff Cobb pinned Tanga Loa in 8:40 (**¾)
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: David Finlay pinned Chase Owens in 9:40 (***)
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: Tama Tonga pinned Brody King in 7:10 (***)
Interesting that they’ve got Jay White in these opening titles… Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov are live on commentary. They pitch the first New Japan Cup USA tournament, with the winner getting a shot at the US title down the line (interestingly, they don’t name the champion…), before a package runs on recent New Japan Cup winners. Who’ll join EVIL in winning it this year?
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: Karl Fredericks vs. KENTA
This was originally set to be a New Japan Cup match in Japan – but we’re getting it in the States. Unfortunately, what remained in Japan was KENTA’s solo theme, as instead he got the generic Bullet Club theme to go with the quarantine hair.
Fredericks attacks KENTA before the bell, taking him into the corner with forearms before they traded front kicks. A leaping crossbody from Fredericks finds its mark, as he began to stomp on KENTA for a one-count, before some derisory shots on the former NEVER champion just wound up KENTA. KENTA kicks his way back into it, then caught Fredericks with a DDT for a near-fall, before knee drops kept the former Young Lion down ahead of a derisory backheel. More kicks eventually annoy Fredericks into a fightback, but he’s slapped down before he began to blister KENTA with chops, uppercuts and elbows. An elbow takes him back into the ropes though, before he shot back with an Orton-ish backbreaker.
A running splash in the corner and a backdrop suplex sees Karl push on, with a leaping elbow drop getting a two-count, only for KENTA to return with a scoop slam off the ropes. He kicks Fredericks onto the apron, where he stomped on his head through the ropes, which led to a draping DDT that kept KENTA ahead. Fredericks kicks out at two from that, before he blocked a backfist… but the roll-up came to nought as did the rest of the flash pin attempts. A short spinebuster nearly wins it for Fredericks, before he looked for a half crab… but KENTA hooked the leg as he was only able to delay the submission.
KENTA gets free and flips Fredericks with a lariat as he regained the momentum, before a Go 2 Sleep was elbowed out of. A barrage of shots led KENTA to a PK, before he finally put Fredericks away with the G2S… and that’s it. A good effort from Fredericks, whose post-Young Lion career isn’t quite as straightforward as he may have expected. ***½
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: Tanga Loa vs. Jeff Cobb
Winner gets KENTA in the semis… and this is a bit of a hoss battle, is it not?
We open with a lock-up as Cobb’s taken into the corner, before a second tie-up ends with Cobb taking Tanga to the ropes for a clean break. Shoulder tackles follow, but Tanga gets fed up of hitting the ropes and just nails Cobb with a forearm, only for Cobb to return with a hattrick of leaping shoulder tackles. Tanga responds by charging Cobb into the corner for some shoulder charges, and avoids a switcheroo as he managed to maintain the upper hands. An Irish whip into the corner gives Tanga momentum to dump Cobb with a back body drop, before a trade of headbutts kept Cobb on the deck.
Cobb takes a jab in the corner as Tanga faked out a chop, before a slam and an elbow drop gets Tanga a two-count. Almost a Million Dollar Dream keeps Cobb on the mat, but he powers up and hits a jawbreaker to get free… before it’s back to the shoulder blocks, only for Tanga to catch him with an enziguiri to put on those brakes. A leaping clothesline off the ropes buys Cobb some time, and he’s able to build a new with chops and forearms in the corner. An elbow from Tanga sets up for what looked to be Apeshit, but Cobb slips out and lands another forearm before he tossed Tanga with a pumphandle fallaway slam for a near-fall.
Tanga fires back with a dropkick before another go at Apeshit is slipped out of. Cobb hits a German suplex, then tossed Tanga into the ropes for a Tour of the Islands… and that’s all folks. This felt like it could have been a little snappier – it threatened to drag, as you could tell who the singles guy was in this outing. Cobb takes on KENTA in next week’s show. **¾
The wacky adverts remain!
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: Chase Owens vs. David Finlay
David Finlay was rocking his old music – I guess sharing MP3s really is hard?
With Juice Robinson on the shelf, Finlay’s gone back to singles stuff then, and he started after getting taken down from Owens. A side headlock quickly ends in the ropes, but a shoving match breaks out before Chase clung onto the ropes to avoid a dropkick… only to run into one seconds later as Finlay picked up a one-count. A hair pull from Owens takes Finlay between the ropes, which Chase used to snap Finlay between the strands as the Bullet Club guy (shock) took shortcuts. Chase keeps going, throwing Finlay into the corner, before a reverse bear hug on the mat was used to try and wear him down some more.
An eye rake takes Finlay into the corner as Owens proceeds to bounce him off the opposite turnbuckle for a couple of near-falls. Some choking in the ropes follows, as does a grounded surfboard stretch, before a grounded full nelson seemed to target Finlay’s previously-injured shoulders. Finlay backs up into the corner to break the hold, but the damage had been done… even more so when Chase pulled him to the outside for a dropkick through the ropes. Back inside, Finlay’s frustrated again as Owens uncorks a series of elbows, before a sleeperhold grounds Finlay again, but Finlay frees himself with a side suplex… which led to an European uppercut off the middle rope for a near-fall.
Chase elbows out of a uranage, but ends up taking a uranage backbreaker after he’d landed a flurry of shots. Finlay teases an Acid Drop in the corner, but Chase clings onto the ropes, then landed a spinning back elbow before a slingshot backbreaker almost got him the win. A running knee lands flush for a near-fall, before Finlay countered a package piledriver with a back body drop. Finlay looked to squeak it with a roll-up, before landing the Prima Nocta – the Acid drop variety – for the win. This was pretty solid, even if it lacked juice. Pun not intended. A worker’s match, you’d say. ***
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Quarter-Final: Tama Tonga vs. Brody King
Holy sh… clean shaven Tama Tonga?! Brody King’s done some New Japan stuff before, appearing on last year’s Best of the Super Junior tour… but he’s usually a ROH guy, and seemingly has undergone some tweaking in his downtime.
There’s a fair amount of stalling as we eventually get lock-ups into the ropes, but Tama cheapshots on a break before he found himself pulled into the corner by the much larger Brody. Tama has to use his speed advantage here, which he does so with a dropkick and a Stinger splash, before he just got pancaked and back senton’d by King for a two-count. King takes over, taking Tama into the corner for some elbow strikes, before a double-handed chop took Tama off the ropes for another two-count. A grounded neck crank is next out of Brody, then some overhand clubbing blows, as the bigger guy just clubbed down the many-time former tag champion. A slam and a running splash keeps Brody ahead, before Tama’s leaping neckbreaker got himself back in it.
Tama traps Brody in the ropes before he kicked his leg out of his leg, setting up for a face-washing boot in the corner. Another Stinger splash gets caught as Brody dumps Tama into the corner with an Exploder, before he bounces Tama off the buckles again, with a lariat almost getting the job done. Tama tries to come back in, and lands the leaping Veleno DDT, before a Gun Stun was countered into a German suplex. Brody follows up with another murderous lariat, but Tama kicks out at two, before he came back with a Tongan Twist. Rather than go for the pin though, Tama waits for a Gun Stun… and that’s enough to get the win. A bit of a surprise given that many expected Brody to get something of a push, but this was a nice, short, competitive match that had Tama absorb a lot of punishment en route to booking his spot in the semis. Getting used to the clean shaven look is gonna take time though… ***
We pitch to Tama’s backstage comments, before Kevin and Alex wrap up the show. Next week: Tama Tonga vs. David Finlay and Jeff Cobb vs. KENTA in cup action, plus a pair of unannounced tag team matches.
I mean, yay we’ve got some different names on a New Japan show, which does a LOT in terms of shaking things up, especially if you’ve seen all of the Summer Struggle shows. I found it very odd that they never told us who the winner of the cup would face – which could suggest something or nothing at all. A perfectly functional one-hour show, and one that you should make time for – especially for that opener.