New Japan Pro Wrestling is set to return after a 4 month absence. One of the first tours announced to return is the New Japan Cup. Since the Best of Super Juniors Tournament was also cancelled, the juniors are going to be part of the NJPW New Japan Cup for the very first time in New Japan history. It is, however, still a tournament that has suffered from cancellations caused by travel problems. Young lions will also participate in the tournament, which creates immense pressure for the young stars. Let’s get into this preview.
Togi Makabe vs. Yota Tsuji
Togi Makabe is a former winner of The New Japan Cup and is one of the veterans of this tournament. Yota Tsuiji on the other hand is a young lion of NJPW. He is someone who’s only been with New Japan since 2018. It is a match of a promising young prospect facing off against a veteran. Togi Makabe hasn’t won a singles championship since 2014 with his NEVER World Championship. Makabe is likely to advance
Tomohiro Ishii vs. El Desperado
For many years, Tomohiro Ishii has gotten so close to the finals of the New Japan Cup, getting eliminated by the ace himself, Kazuchika Okada in the most recent tournament. With the introduction of juniors into the tournament, it has brought in Suzuki-Gun‘s El Desperado. El Desperado, for the past few years, has been teaming with Yoshinobu Kanemaru and he has held the IWGP Junior Tag Championships with him. Ishii hasn’t held a championship since losing the NEVER Openweight Championship in 2019. Some of Ishii’s best matches come from this tournament. The styles between both of these two has tons of potential for a match that could go either way.
Toru Yano vs. Jado
Toru Yano has occasional luck in this tournament, though he’s traditionally luckier in the G1 Climax. Jado, on the other hand, is very reluctant to be in the tournament this year. Not only will this be the first NJC (New Japan Cup) for Jado but it’s a battle between two former CHAOS members. One of the few matches that will definitely showcase the comedy aspect of Wrestling. Jado, in recent memory, has been the punching bag of Bullet Club. Known for managing the Guerillas of Destiny, Yano for the past few months has had trios goals, as he hasn’t held a singles championship ever in New Japan. It could be a short match.
Tomoaki Honma vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu Takahashi made his return to New Japan last December at King of Pro Wrestling after an almost-career-ending injury. He had ambitions for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom. In that tour, Hiromu also retired Jushin Thunder Liger, alongside Ryu Lee he then also won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. After defeating Ryu Lee at New Beginning, Hiromu Takahashi laid a challenge to Tetsuya Naito for the 44th Anniversary Tour. A match that never happened due to COVID-19. Tomoaki Honma on the other hand has been having on-and-off appearances for the company. Ever since returning from his possible career-ending injuries in 2018, Hiromu Takahashi has no experience in this tournament, though Tomoaki Honma does. But Honma is known as a tag team competitor, with a sadistic side to him. These two personalities should lead to a very interesting match.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Gedo
When New Japan first announced the New Japan Cup in March, Kazuchika Okada was scheduled to face off against rival Jay White in a Wrestle Kingdom 13/G1 Supercard rematch. When the tournament got rescheduled due to COVID-19, Switchblade couldn’t make the tour. Gedo is the replacement. The story between these two goes all the way back to when Okada made his return to New Japan from excursion in 2012, as Gedo was the manager of Okada. From 2012 to 2017, Gedo managed Okada while Okada continued to break out to superstardom. Afterwards, at the G1 Climax of 2018, Okada lost his mind. One of the undeniable reasons was losing Gedo, as he didn’t need him. A month later at Destruction, Gedo would turn on Okada and join Jay White as his new manager. While 2019 was always a focus for Jay White, Gedo has not done much in his feud with Okada. These two haven’t even had a singles match due to them being in separate divisions. After many months, these two finally face off with Okada’s ambition to avenge his betrayal by his former mentor. Gedo, however, wants to make his student proud.
Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki
When it comes to special matches that showcase New Japan’s history, the stories of these two go back to the early 2000s. With one of these competitors’ best matches happening way back at Wrestle Kingdom 5, these are two legit veterans of this tournament. Yuji Nagata actually won this tournament twice upon a time – in 2007 and 2011. On the other hand, Minoru Suzuki hasn’t had much luck within the tournament. If there is a match most worth recommending, it is this one. These veterans have had bloody wars and it could be the same again here. Two stars who are this late in their career – at this level – is something very impressive. This match could steal the show… and the tournament.
Yuya Uemura vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Yoshinobu Kanemaru has never appeared in an NJPW New Japan Cup. Kanemaru, for almost his entire career, has been based in the Junior Division of any company that he’s been signed to. He was one of the top stars of NOAH’s in its early years. Yuya Uemura, on the other hand, is still very new to New Japan. Veteran vs. Rookie seems to be a common trend within this tournament. Both of these guys have also not been in this tournament due to the junior restrictions. Expect the veteran Kanemaru to advance
Gabriel Kidd vs. Taiji Ishimori
One of the newest young lions is former WCPW Internet Champion, Gabriel Kidd. Gabriel Kidd made his debut for New Japan in February of 2020. He’s facing off against the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Taiji Ishimori. Neither man has ever been in this tournament. In 2019, Ishimori started teaming with El Phantasmo. He even won the junior tag titles with him. Ever since losing the championship, Ishimori has been looking to prove himself and this year’s NJPW New Japan Cup tournament could be the redeeming moment of his career
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Taichi
The story between Taichi and Hiroshi Tanahashi goes back to around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the second night of New Japan Road, the dream team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi defeated The Guerillas of Destiny for the IWGP Tag Heavyweight Championships. At the end of the match, the team known as Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi) would attack the newly crowned champions. They were scheduled for an advertised match in April, but it never happened (because of the pandemic). These two will be facing off against each other, but in singles competition. Taichi and Tanahashi have a history. Right around the time Taichi became a heavyweight for the promotion, in 2018, Tanahashi eliminated Taichi. Tanahashi has also won this tournament in previous years, winning it two times. This should be a great match.
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
The matches between Ibushi and Sabre have always given us the “What If” scenario for if these two were the main event of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in 2016. It would happen in the G1 Climax in 2017, when ZSJ made his first G1 Appearance, with Ibushi making his official NJPW return to a full-time spot on the roster. From 2017 until 2019, both of these men faced off in the G1. Absurd to think about. The chemistry between these has always led to a great match between them. But the story is similar to the story of Tanahashi and Taichi. Both men have also won the NJPW New Japan Cup tournament in recent memory. ZSJ in 2018, Ibushi in 2015. So both men have ambitions to win this tournament once again.
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. SANADA
Sanada has always felt like the one star who is so close to becoming a main event star. A lot of people are predicting Sanada to be one of the favorites going into the tournament. He could realistically end up winning it. Taguchi, on the other hand, hasn’t been doing much; he’s been working with Taguchi Japan, winning trios gold, and starting a tag team with Rocky Romero. This is Taguchi’s first time in the tournament. Sanada was the finalist in the previous year. This might finally be the big win that Sanada has been craving for many years, since signing with New Japan in 2016.
SHO vs. Shingo Takagi
Sho was one of the most impressive juniors to be showcased in both the 2018 and 2019 BOSJ. In the 2019 BOSJ, Sho came out with an entirely different look and his first match was against Shingo Takagi. These two tore the house down – establishing them both as legitimate competitors in the Junior Division. Over a year passed, Shingo Takagi recently became NEVER Openweight Champion and was supposed to face Will Ospreay in this tournament – a rematch from the 2019 BOSJ final. But because of travel restrictions, the match never happened. Now, Sho and Takagi face off against each other, in what should be a beefy encounter. This is the first New Japan Cup for both of them as well. A note: Takagi is NEVER Champion, whoever defeats him might have an opportunity for that championship at the upcoming Dominion Show. Something worth keeping in mind.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Yoshi Hashi pulled off one of the biggest upsets against Kenny Omega in the 2016 G1 Climax. It was a real showcase of the potential that Yoshi Hashi had within New Japan. Years later, Yoshi Hashi has never held a championship and has never won a tournament within New Japan – but he definitely tries. Hiroyoshi Tenzan on the other hand was one of the Musketeers of the old guard of New Japan. Known mostly for his series of matches against his partner, Satoshi Kojima who he still tags with. Additionally, Tenzan does have history of winning tournaments; going back to the early 2000s with the G1 Climax three separate times. While Tenzan has retired from the G1 Climax, Tenzan looks to take out Yoshi Hashi of the CHAOS brand and win the NJ Cup.
YOH vs. BUSHI
The IWGP Junior Tag Division was showcased in the bouts between these two, though in tag form. Both of Roppongi 3K are facing off against former Junior Tag Champions of LIJ. Something worth thinking about. Both men are completely new to this tournament, so this match is the wrestling personification of coin flip. Hard to predict, but should be fun.
Satoshi Kojima vs. EVIL
Evil has been part of New Japan for the past few years, since making his debut in the late 2015s. In the NJPW New Japan Cup in particular, he has a history of losing within this tournament – with 2017 being the one exception, as he did almost get to the finals that year. Satoshi Kojima, on the other hand, is one of the true veterans of this promotion – having been with the promotion in the early 90s, before a long break when he signed with All Japan Pro Wrestling. He did win the G1 Climax in 2010. In January, the ambitions of Kojima were showcased in his match against Ultimo Guerrero – he showed he wants to hold one more singles championship. This could be the story that Kojima has been waiting for for so long.
Hirooki Goto vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Hirooki Goto is the personification of veteran in this tournament. As he has won this tournament on three separate occasions, Goto’s victories have unfortunately led to failed title challenges. On all three occasions, Goto would lose when it mattered. But within this tournament, the man has also been a finalist six times. To say he’s a favorite would be an understatement. Yujiro Takahashi, on the other hand, has been with New Japan for the past few years – receiving a big title match against Tanahashi in 2012 and even holding the NEVER Openweight Championship when he first joined Bullet Club. But in recent memory, Yujiro hasn’t been doing much of note, other than being known as the Tokyo Pimp and bringing out Pieter for the fans.
A Welcomed New Japan Cup
The NJPW New Japan Cup this year showcases tons of potential. Not only for potential show-stealers, but also showcasing how NJPW can work with not having a crowd for this entire tournament. Rivalries are getting revived after four months of waiting. With the winner facing off against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito at Dominion, in a tournament more historic than ever before, thanks to the inclusion of juniors. What is guaranteed is that it’s going to be good to see NJPW back after months of hiatus. Showcasing the true “King of Sports” mantra, it’s going to be an interesting tournament.
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