The 2020 New Japan Cup – Day 2


Tonight, more first round action as we have:

Taiji Ishimori vs Gabriel Kidd
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Yuya Uemura
Minoru Suzuki vs Yugi Nagata
Kazuchika Okada vs Gedo

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Day 1 results are right here:

I’m not gonna lie to you all – this is really a one-match show.  But it’s a HELL of a match.

As a reminder, bracket!

Here we go for Day 2!

Gabriel Kidd vs Taiji Ishimori – Round 1

Kidd comes out of the UK and has been working with Shibata at the LA Dojo, while Ishimori is the former junior heavyweight champ. Me thinks we may have a bit of a mismatch. Kidd wins the chain work to start, taking the arm of Ishimori and working it around to the mat. Taiji escapes into a headlock and they run the ropes, with Kidd dropping Ishimori but he isn’t able to hook the LIon move of death, the Boston Crab. Ishimori takes him the floor and runs him into the barricade, then back in with a cravat. Ishimori controls with what we’ll generously call a ‘leisurely’ pace. Taiji goes up and showboats as my inner Jesse Ventura voice chastises him, and indeed pays as he comes off and gets nailed with a dropkick from Kidd. Kidd on the offense now with a slam and a suplex for two. Taiji cuts him off with a bicycle kick and does his rope/apron run into a ‘rana, but Kidd sits on it into a Boston Crab! Ishimori makes the ropes and they slug it out, Taiji with a kick for two. He rolls Kidd into the Yes Lock off of the kickout for the submission right after. (Taiji Ishimori over Gabriel Kidd, submission, 8:53)

THOUGHTS: **1/4. I liked Kidd here. I thought his selling and facials were really good and aside from him not fully standing up Ishimori on the ‘rana/crab spot, I thought he moved really well and hit hard. With Young Lion matches, it’s hard to rate them because they can only do so much in there, but I thought this was fine. I really, really want to see Hiromu and Taiji mix it up for the junior title.

Yuya Uemura vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru – Round 1

Uemura! Okay, so Yuya may in fact be my favorite Young Lion right now, because at New Japan Road back in February, one of the last events before the wrestling world ended for awhile, Uemura was in one of those 8-man tag clusterfucks that are the hallmark of the New Japan undercards. But what made him awesome was that he was facing off against Suzuki-Gun and because he was so tired of getting beat up by Minoru Suzuki (the Lions stand around ringside during the matches and Suzuki frequently beats them up for amusement), he CHARGED AT MINORU SUZUKI AND PICKED A FIGHT. It was AWESOME. No one ever does shit like that; the babyfaces normally make their entrance and Suzuki-Gun jumps THEM. And somehow, Yuya survived! In summary, he became my favorite Lion on that day and every day that he manages to survive thereafter just adds to his growing legend. He was kind of lost in yesterday’s 8-man tag outside of Suzuki ethering him with the Gotch, but I’m hoping he gets some shine here. Kanemaru, of course, is the whiskey-drinking junior of Suzuki-Gun. 

Kanemaru takes his time getting in the ring, but Yuya attacks him before bell! This man is the SMARTEST YOUNG LION IN NJPW. They fight on the floor and Kanemaru goes to the eyes and sends Uemura to the barricade. Yuya blocks that and drops Kanemaru with a forearm, and we head back to the ring. Uemura controls in the ring with a headlock and he cinches it good, Kanemaru finally breaks and goes to the floor. Yuya chases him there and Kanemaru takes control, sending Uemura to the barricade and legdropping him over it. Yuya manages to roll back in at 18, so Yoshinobu puts the boots to him. More punishment ensues and Yuya ends up in the Tree of Woe before falling to the mat. More pillar to post beatings from Kanemaru. He tries for a suplex, but Yuya reverses it into one of his own, then adds a dropkick before going up top, springboard crossbody! 1, 2, no! Double overhook suplex gets two. Kanemaru pulls the ref in front to cut off a charging Yuya, then hits Uemura with an enzuigiri and goes for the whiskey bottle. The ref recovers and takes the bottle away, causing Kanemaru to argue and Yuya to roll him up for two. 

Yuya gets a few more near-falls, but comes off the ropes and Kanemaru hits a dropkick. Belly-to-back suplex and a Scorpion Deathdrop gets two for Kanemaru. He’s done with this shit now and goes up, Deep Impact connects for Kanemaru! 1, 2, 3. (Yoshinobu Kanemaru over Yuya Uemura, pinfall, 9:33)

THOUGHTS: **1/2. Uemura is so great at everything that he needs to be great at for this point in his career, it’s wonderful to see. He really gets over the idea that he wants to win and is invested in the match, with all of his stuff hitting smoothly and his selling on point. I’ve never been the biggest Kanemaru fan, but he didn’t need to do that much here, just be the bully and it worked. 

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, SHO, YOH, & Yoshi-Hashi) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, EVIL, SANADA, & BUSHI)

The obligatory 8-man tag of the evening is here! The underlying matchup to watch here is Shingo vs SHO, who had a killer match during last year’s BOSJ, back in the heady days when we were pretending that Shingo was a junior. Because apparently scales in Japan have some different interpretations of what a ‘weight class’ is. Or what ‘weight’ is. 

Either way, YOH and BUSHI start us off. They’ll meet in round 1 next week. Back and forth for a bit, but YOH gets a decisive advantage, tag to Goto. He works the arm, over to Yoshi. Stop trying to make Yoshi happen, New Japan. EVIL agrees, nailing Yoshi with a kick from the apron and here comes LIJ, as they storm the ring and knock everyone to the floor. Tag to EVIL and he continues the pummeling of Yoshi, much to my delight. SANADA in with a backbreaker for two, tag to Shingo. More beatings for Yoshi ensue.

Goto comes in try to stop this mauling, but Shingo kills both of them with a clothesline, then takes the time to taunt SHO on the apron. Yoshi has the absolute temerity to try to fight back, so Shingo just clobbers him with a straight right that made me wince. Finally, Yoshi manages to hit a neckbreaker and it’s hot tag SHO! Takagi and SHO have a dandy little mini-match, with a neat suplex reversal spot and both of them going down off a lariat from SHO after a Shingo german suplex. These two have gots the chemistry, yes they do. 

Tags abound and we get back where we started, with YOH and BUSHI. YOH again has the advantage and hits a bridging suplex for two as CHAOS now charges LIJ to the floor. Goto in now, but an LIJ triple team saves BUSHI. Neckbreaker gets two for BUSHI. He goes up, but misses the MX and everyone runs in on both sides. The ring clears and right after, Goto hits the GTR and gets the pin. (CHAOS over LIJ, pinfall, 12:15)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. This was…..fine. It was a very typical trainwreck NJPW tag match, with some really good stuff from SHO and Takagi buried in the morass. Those two are going to tear it down like they usually do, I think. But overall, it was fine. 

Way to the Grandmaster video. Intermission to clean and disinfect the ring. 

Yugi Nagata vs Minoru Suzuki – Round 1

I don’t even know where to start here, except that this may, in fact, be my favorite match that has aired since the pandemic started. 

We start with the Murder Dads squaring off in a striking battle. And I lest you think that I’m using the term ‘battle’ in any type of spurious way, I’ll put it a different way: we start with the Murder Dads beating the SHIT out of each other. There is nothing more terrifying in all of professional wrestling than the King laughing like a maniac and then smacking you. Thud. Smack. Thud. Smack. Thud. Smack. THUD. SMACK. 

They threw 82 forearms in the first 4 minutes of this match, and followed that by exchanging 26 open-handed palm strikes in the next minute. Yeah, I counted. Reflect on the staggering amount of time on my hands later. 

But they didn’t go down. They sold it like crazy, bent over, Suzuki put his hands behind his back and offered Nagata free shots, Nagata squared up and offered Suzuki his chest, they tried to outdo the other man both in intimidation and psychology just in their ring actions and in their selling. This was just exquisite, stalwart, FUCK YOU pro wrestling. 

Everything was put in the hands of these men’s ability to take the bare minimum, just two moves really, and allowing them to tell the story of two men who refused to go down to the other, of how they would stand in the face of the strongest adversity and laugh in it’s face. 

Finally, Nagata went for a kick and they exchanged 15 more palm strikes before Suzuki took him down into a kneebar. Nagata made the ropes and rolled outside. Suzuki chases and grabs a chair but the ref risks his life (I’m not honestly sure that’s hyperbole) to take the chair away, so Suzuki gets the cleaning bucket from under the ring and hits Nagata with that instead. He tries for the chair again, but the ref really has a pair and takes it away again (well, Suzuki threw the chair away and the ref went with it), so Suzuki grabs a different chair while the ref is down and nails Nagata in the elbow with that one, then wraps Yugi’s arm around the barricade while sticking his tongue out at the camera. 

Nagata barely beats the count back at 19, so Suzuki stomps on his face. Glorious. Nagata fires up in the corner and tries another forearm battle, but loses that one as Suzuki just pastes him with a right hand. Suzuki to the floor and he wraps Nagta’s knee around the post and pulls on it. Nagata fires up again and again Suzuki just unmercifully beats the hell out of him in the corner. Running kick in the corner and Suzuki tries a penalty kick, but Nagata catches it and drops an elbow on the knee to finally slow Minoru down. 

Nagata drops Suzuki with a kick and then a penalty kick, but Suzuki does a zombie situp that’s ten times scarier than any the Undertaker ever did, because Undertaker is a cartoon and Suzuki is a real-life destroyer of worlds. Nagata keeps kicking him and Suzuki keeps rising up, slowly getting to his feet in the wake of Nagata’s shots. Suzuki is laughing, smiling – this is what a good time looks like to Minoru Suzuki. Nagata kicks him to the corner and tries for an exploder, but Suzuki clamps down into a front facelock. 

Nagata manages to get under the arm and snaps it over his shoulder, and now Nagata has something to focus on. Kicks to the arm by Nagata, then another arm snap has Suzuki on his knees wailing. Nagata keep going and tries to snap the arm again, but Suzuki is ready and hooks the choke. In a nice touch, he adjusts his non-hurt arm to a slightly different position to hold the choke arm, which is the hurt one, in place over Nagata’s throat, making it look as though he needs to have that arm in place to keep the hold. Arm drops one, arm drops twice, arm….doesn’t drop thrice, as Nagata tries to get up. Suzuki puts him back down on the mat and tries to pin him, getting two. 

Suzuki puts the choke back on as soon as they’re back to their feet, then goes for the Gotch. Nagata widens his base to block, so Suzuki just knees him in the face. Suzuki tries the Gotch again, and again Nagata blocks it into a back bodydrop that he fought and fought for. And we’ve come full circle, as we’re back to forearms again, with Suzuki winning. Nagata is bleeding from the mouth and makes a comeback, and now we’re onto palm strikes. Combo palm strikes from both guys leave their chests raw as Suzuki fires off a headbutt. Another. Suzuki stops Nagata, looks him in the eye, and cracks him straight in the skull with one of the meanest headbutts I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t quite a Shibata killer, but good Christ. 

Both warriors get back to their feet, because that’s what they are. Warriors. More forearms stagger each guy, with Nagata screwing his face up in determination and Suzuki laughing manically. This is everything that pro wrestling should be. Nagata ducks a forearm and hits an exploder! Suzuki off the ropes, go-behind is countered by Nagata, bridging Saito suplex from Nagata! 1, 2….3! (Yugi Nagata over Minoru Suzuki, pinfall, 20:36)

THOUGHTS: ****3/4. The combined age of these two wrestlers is 104 years old – both are 52. More than 100 forearms alone were thrown in the match, whilst no one came off the top rope, nor did any dives. 

This match was all pacing, selling, characterization. This match proved that wrestling is not about age, nor about how many different moves you do in the match. This match was more than everything I could have wanted going in from both of them. You want to talk about working to strengths? These two worked to every strength they had and then some, crafting a tale of two men, good and evil, and their willingness to die rather than be beaten. They worked TO the empty arena, knowing that to do a match this style meant that they were going to have to really lay into each other for real. For 20 and a half minutes, they put everything they had out there and made me believe. 

I can’t imagine a better compliment to a match in these times, where everyone is on the inside and knows it’s all ‘fake’ or how moves are done or how booking happens, I can’t imagine a better way to give a compliment to two great wrestlers than to just say this and mean it wholeheartedly:

They made me believe. 

Anyway, your mileage may vary because there isn’t a lot of what people like in modern pro wrestling in this match, but I loved every single second of it. And that’s what I have to say about it. 

We probably should have made that the main event, frankly, but we’ve gotta finish.

Kazuchika Okada vs Gedo – Round 1

Much like his last one on one match with Okada in December of 2018, Gedo comes out with his arm in a sling, complaining about how injured he is and therefore cannot compete. It’s basically Jerry Lawler’s act from Summerslam ’93. Okada, who is the defending champion of this tournament, wasn’t born yesterday and asks Red Shoes to check Gedo’s sling. Gedo begs off, then yanks his arm out of the sling with a can of mace, but Okada stops him. Next up, Gedo lays down, but Okada isn’t fooled and stomps on him when Gedo goes for the cradle.

Okada checks Gedo’s jacket while he’s down on the mat and finds a pair of brass knucks in Gedo’s pocket and slips them on, causing Gedo to beg for his life. I do find Gedo’s continuous desperation pretty funny, actually. The ref takes the knucks away, so Gedo pulls up his shirt, revealing a wrench taped to his body and he hits Okada with it behind the ref’s back. More wrench shots on the floor, then kicks to the ribs from Gedo. I dunno, after the previous match where two guys went to war with each other, watching Gedo out here pulling every cheap heel trick that exists is just so unsatisfying. I mean, I get it – Gedo knows he can’t beat Okada without cheating, so he’s going full-on over the top with it, but still. 

Gedo hits Okada with a table, with Red Shoes admonishing him from the ring. DQ HIM, ref! Seriously, NJPW really needs to decide what they want here. Gedo went out of his way to distract Red Shoes earlier to hit Okada with weapons, then he just did it blatantly instead. Make up your damn minds – either the heel needs to distract the ref to cheat, or they don’t. This back and forth shit drives me nuts. Okada makes the comeback and gets a DDT for two. 

Okada goes up and Gedo rolls out to the floor. Okada gives chase, so Gedo hits him with the ringbell hammer THREE times in front of the ref. See what I mean? This is dumb and I’m over it. Back in and Okada misses a dropkick, so Gedo goes to a modified bow-and-arrow. Okada screams in pain, but makes the ropes. Okada makes the comeback, but Gedo grabs the ref to block the tombstone. Sure. He shoves Okada into the ref on the second attempt and hits a low blow, then gets a second pair of brass knucks that were taped to the ring post. He blasts Okada with the knucks for two. 

Jado wanders out and drops ANOTHER pair of knucks in the corner and then distracts the ref so Gedo can hit Okada with them again, but Okada ducks and hits the dropkick. A second dropkick sets up the tombstone, and Okada goes into the sleeper immediately to force the tapout from Gedo. Thank God. (Kazuchika Okada over Gedo, submission, 15:41)

THOUGHTS: *3/4. I can’t remember the last time that Okada had the worst match of the night, but he did tonight. This sucked a lot, with Gedo doing every cheap piece of wrestling bullshit to try to get heat, but the match needed to be maybe 6 minutes long and Okada should have won on his first comeback. Instead it was 14 minutes of Okada selling, and while that’s basically the only thing that dragged it above one star, why would you book your defending tournament champ and former world champ to sell that long for a glorified manager? I did not like this and let us never speak of it again. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: As I said near the top, this was a one-match show, but that match was a MOTY-worthy candidate. It won’t be for everyone, but it was certainly for me. The rest of the first round action went pretty much as expected, with both Lions losing and Okada bouncing Gedo. With no Okada/Suzuki, you’d pretty much have to think that this Okada’s bracket to lose now, as I don’t expect him to lose to Nagata, but we could have a very interesting and good final to the bracket if we get Okada vs Taiji Ishimori. 

Next week, we return to finish out the first round! 

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter