The 2020 New Japan Cup – FINALS!


We’re here! After 8 days and 32 competitors, we’re down to two – EVIL and Kazuchika Okada will fight it out to see who wins the 2020 New Japan Cup and gets the title shot at Dominion!

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

What a long, strange trip it’s been…..

Day One:
Day Two:
Day Three:
Day Four:
Day Five:
Day Six:
Day Seven:
Day Eight:

I shall be straight up with all of you – I’m going to skip most of the heavy match recaps of the undercard (“THANK CHRIST!”….okay, I heard that, don’t hurt my feelings) because I want to get this up before Dominion later on and I have a lot to say about the main event and the angle therein. 

I don’t normally say much about the opening video, but this one was actually really good, as you don’t need to understand the language to get the emotion therein. 

Tomoaki Honma/Togi Makabe vs Yuya Uemura/Yota Tsuji

Typical heavys vs Young Lions match here. Uemura is gonna be something for sure, and Tsuji is also damn good. Between the current Young Lion crop in Japan along with the LA Dojo guys like Clark Connors and Karl Fredericks, the company is in excellent shape. Watching this one along with watching his matches thus far, I kind of hope that Uemura skips the Juniors and goes straight to Heavy, as he was fine in there with Makabe and Honma. Bridging German gets the duke for the vets. (Tomoaki Honma/Togi Makabe over Yuya Uemura/Yota Tsuji, pinfall, 9:16) 


Satoshi Kojima/Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Hirooki Goto/Gabriel Kidd 

Only one guess who did the job here. Kojima over Kidd with the lariat. I didn’t think this was as good as the opener, mostly because I just don’t think that Tenzan really has much going on anymore. He really is limited in his mobility. Kidd is good, but I don’t think he’s quite at the level of the other Lions yet – he should get there with more ring time. Goto seems to be a bit energized these days, hopefully that continues. (Satoshi Kojima/Hiroyoshi Tenzan over Hirooki Goto/Gabriel Kidd, pinfall, 9:57)


DOUKI vs Master Wato

OH YEAH BABY. You know I’m recapping the REAL main event today. DOUKI tries to nail Wato with his pipe, but that’s a no-sir as Wato avoids that and fires off some educated feet with kicks to send Douki to the floor. Wato comes off the ropes, twisting press onto DOUKI! Wato tosses him back in, then comes flying in with a giant springboard elbow for two. Wato-Mania is running wild! DOUKI finally puts a stop to this relentless assault by backdropping Wato to the floor, then following with a plancha. He beats on Wato and goes to get his pipe, the ref tries to stop him, DOUKI tosses the ref to the floor and nails Wato with it anyway, so the ref has no choice but to call for the DQ.

Oh, don’t worry. This is NJPW. Nothing like that happens – DOUKI just continues with choking Wato while the ref is still down. Back in now, and DOUKI slaps him and goes to the eyes. Slam and a double foot stomp by DOUKI for two. Eye rake, knee lifts, and another eye rake leave me in awe of DOUKI’s moveset. Off the ropes, Wato stops him with a dropkick. Strikes and a kick get two for Wato. He comes off the ropes, but DOUKI drops him with a lariat. DOUKI springs in from the apron with a DDT for two. DOUKI with the torture rack slam for two. Wato rolls through a Wheelbarrow to get two, then hits a spin kick to drop DOUKI. Spinning backfist by Wato sets up what looks to be a Red Arrow variant, and DOUKI is done. (Master Wato over DOUKI, pinfall, 7:46)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. That’s one. Look out, Bill Goldberg. This was fine, if a bit underwhelming for a debut for Wato. He’s got a lot of time to get over, so we’ll have to see what happens. He looked pretty alright, if a bit nervous. 

Post-match, Kanemaru attacks Wato with the whiskey bottle until Tenzan ambles down to make the save.

Time to disinfect the ring! 

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI/SANADA) vs Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi/Taiji Ishimori)

This was a tag match that happened. Yujiro won with the DDT. I can only barely remember it was above average by a bit, and that’s weird because I literally just watched it. (Bullet Club over LIJ, pinfall, 9:21


Ryuske Taguchi/Yuji Nagata/Hiroshi Tanahshi/Kota Ibushi vs Suzuki-Gun (Taichi/Zack Sabre Jr/Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado)

In one of my favorite things right now, Suzuki-Gun has been messing with the babyfaces by NOT jumping them before the bell rings. It has been tremendously entertaining to me to watch the babyfaces all prepared and cautious, and then nothing happens. This one was all about softening up Hiroshi Tanahashi for tomorrow, as the heels abused his knee in glorious ways. Kota Ibushi took some punishment as well, just to make things as fair as possible. They’ve built this tag title match up stronger than they’ve built one in a very long time – I’m sure they’re going to deliver when it comes down to it. El Desperado won with the Pinche Loco in a very fast-paced, excellent match. (Suzuki-Gun over Ryuske Taguchi/Yuji Nagata/Hiroshi Tanahshi/Kota Ibushi, pinfall, 12:44)

THOUGHTS: ***1/2

In one of my favorite visuals of the night, right after Desperado gets the pin and the music plays and he starts to get up, you see Sabre go sailing past in the background as Ibushi sends him to the barricade. Post-match, ZSJ and Taichi grab the belts and taunt Ibushi and Tanahashi with them, beating Ibushi down until Tana makes the save. I’m fine with either result tomorrow, but I’ll be rooting for the villains. Well, one of the villains, but it’s been long overdue for ZSJ to get his first title in NJPW. 

CHAOS (SHO/Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito/Shingo Takagi/Hiromu Takahashi)

This was almost a fun sort of ‘greatest hits’ of this tournament, with SHO/Shingo, Hiromu/Yano, Hiromu/Ishii all pairing off at various points in the match, plus Yano and Naito did a really fun sequence with tons of cheating, as you’d expect. Superkick by Hiromu into a Pumping Bomber from Shingo into a roll-up from Naito gets the pin on Yano, with all of LIJ working together to pick up the duke, something that I think was a bit of foreshadowing as to what was to come. Entertaining as hell, as you’d expect. (LIJ over CHAOS, pinfall, 15:01)

THOUGHTS: ***1/4

Shingo went nose to nose with SHO after the match, then LIJ laid down all their title belts and hit poses next to them, before Naito yanked Hiromu up by the hair to do the fist bump. Hiromu DID look at Naito’s belts for more than a few seconds, just saying. But everyone left as friends and stablemates, so that’s all that matters!


EVIL vs Kazuchika Okada – New Japan Cup Final

They take a bit to lock up,  but once they do, EVIL hits a lariat and Darkness Falls for a 2-count almost immediately. I almost bought it, actually. I’ll talk about that a bit more in the thoughts. Everything is Evil is blocked and Okada goes for the Clutch, but EVIL makes the ropes right away and Okada rolls out. They fight on the floor for a bit, with Okada tossing EVIL back in. Okada with a neckbreaker and a seated dropkick. 

Okada misses a clothesline and gets his arm snapped on the top rope, and EVIL follows that by pulling Okada to the floor and going to work, barricade to barricade. He wraps Okada’s arm in a chair and sends it to the post, and now we’ve got a target. He follows that up with the neck chair shot. This is a big enough match that I can live with Red Shoes not doing anything, but I’m not happy about it. I just want the heels to try harder to hide their scurrilous behavior, is that too much to ask? 

Okada rolls back in and EVIL methodically goes to work on the arm, which has the added benefit of stopping the Cobra Clutch and the Rainmaker. The pacing on this match is fine, but you can tell they’re going long. It’s like one of my reviews. EVIL slaps on an armbar and cuts off Okada trying for a comeback by elbowing the arm. Okada finally does come back after EVIL misses a blind charge in the corner, and he dropkicks EVIL to the floor. Draping DDT by Okada on the floor drops EVIL. Back in, that gets two. 

EVIL blocks an Air Raid Crash by going to the eyes, then hits a Fisherman’s Buster for two, then back on Okada’s arm. Back and forth, they each miss sentons and Okada gets a dropkick. Cobra Clutch, but EVIL escapes. He ends up sending the Okada into the ref, then hits Okada with a low blow. He gets chairs from under the ring and hits Darkness Falls onto them. He clears out the ring, Red Shoes rolls back in and EVIL gets two. Superplex from EVIL gets two. 

Air Raid Crash from Okada buys some time. They slug it out, EVIL wins that but runs into a dropkick from Okada, and we’re back to the Clutch. EVIL escapes, but one shotgun dropkick and spinning Tombstone later, and Okada puts it back on. Hey, they’re going all the way with trying to get that move over, I gotta give it to them. Okada picks him up out of it, hits 2 Rainmakers, then puts it back on. Slow down, man! You’re gonna kill him! 

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, GEDO comes running down to the ring and tries to enter?! That is…..weird. But he distracts the ref and Yujiro hits the ring to break up the Clutch and drop Okada with Samoan drop. They take their leave as you can tell even the Japanese commentators are trying to make sense of this. EVIL with a lariat for two. Okada blocks Everything is Evil and goes back to the Clutch in the center of the ring…..but EVIL backs him into the corner along with Red Shoes, and the ref goes down in a heap. Sigh. I can now totally see where this is going and I’m not sure I like it.

They trade finisher attempts and EVIL hits a mule kick to the nuts of Okada, then just opens him up and stomps on his balls on the mat. Red Shoes finally comes to, and EVIL wastes zero time hitting Everything is Evil and getting the pin to win the New Japan Cup. (EVIL over Kazuchika Okada, pinfall, 31:49)

THOUGHTS: ***. I have a lot to say here. Let’s start with the match itself. I’m going to say this first: Okada NEEDS a KUSHIDA/Takahashi match in the WORST way. And I’m not saying that it should have been here, but he needs a match, a one on one singles match that’s been built up, that lasts about 2 minutes, win or lose. And the reason for that is that so much of this felt foregone and forced, as a lot of his matches have been recently – I need to believe that he could win at any time or lose at any time, not that we’re always getting an epic, whether or not its called for. So the spamming of the Clutch meant zero to me because I knew that the match wasn’t going to end in the first few attempts, therefore there was no drama to work with. Second, the match had WAY too much extracurricular activity going on, with EVIL openly cheating on the floor, then not one but TWO ref bumps, outside interference, and multiple low blows. This was excess to the nth degree from a company that doesn’t typically rely on that type of booking crutch. Third, the arm stuff in the beginning didn’t seemingly factor into either the finish or even the second portion of the match – Okada had no problem holding the Clutch or hitting Rainmakers, which kept the psychology of the match all over the place. 

I was disappointed here. I wanted something better, because both guys are capable of better. I may be in a minority on this one, I admit.

Now, let’s get to the post-match shenanigans. Okada and his hurting Rainmakers are helped from the ring and EVIL grabs the New Japan Cup. He gets the mic and calls out Naito, who comes out with an amused smile on his face. He enters the ring and lays down his belts, gets the mic and cuts a quick promo before offering the Ingobernable fist bump to EVIL. EVIL raises his fist, but right before it touches…..he give Naito the Too Sweet sign! Everything is Evil to Naito! 

And here comes the Bullet Club! GEDO, JADO, Yujiro, Ishimori, they come down the aisle applauding. EVIL picks up Naito’s LIJ hat and stomps on it, then does the Bullet Club salute with the rest of the BC before stomping on Naito some more. LIJ hits the ring to save and tend to Naito as EVIL leaves with the Bullet Club, doing their hand signal as they walk to the back. LIJ helps Naito to the back as he collapses against them, and we’re done.

Okay, let’s dig in here: is this a good idea? I’m thinking that this is a lateral move for EVIL, honestly, so I don’t think it necessarily is. To put it another way, is EVIL replacing Jay White as head of the BC? I don’t see it. This feels more like a KENTA-type thing, where he’ll be the challenger of the month, lose, and then head down the card a bit. He might end up tagging again with KENTA or with Yujiro. 

I guess I’m not seeing this one. When I see an entire angle leading to a big turn like this, I want there to be big consequences and elevation, but I don’t see EVIL as that big a ‘get’ for the Bullet Club, nor do I see him going higher than he is right now. Could he conceptually beat Naito for the title? Maybe? I don’t think he will, but if GEDO wants to take the big swing, he very well could. There’s potential with him and Jay not getting along, I would think. 

Overall, I’m taking a very strong wait and see attitude towards this. Big moves for the sake of big moves don’t excite me, but GEDO normally has a plan, so I’m willing to go for the ride here. 

Before we go….the tournament awards!

Top 5 Matches of the 2020 New Japan Cup:

Honorable Mention: Toru Yano vs Hiromu Takahashi, in a match that I’m still not sure how to rate. Still the funniest match in a long time in NJPW, though. 

5. Tomohiro Ishii vs El Desperado, ****: the first big-time match of the tournament, this one really let Desperado shine and showed off how good he can be when in there with an elite worker like Ishii.

4. Kazuchika Okada vs Hiromu Takahashi, ****: A good match that I think had a great one contained in it, Okada and Hiromu pulled off one of the best finishing stretches I’ve seen in ages. 

3. SHO vs Shingo Takagi, ****1/2: Let’s hope this rivalry continues for a long, long time. SHO definitely has proven that he probably doesn’t really belong in the Juniors for much longer, as he was totally at ease with the insanely talented Shingo. Two matches between them and both were ****1/2, so the only question is how much higher can they get? I’m not betting against them.

2. Tomohiro Ishii vs Hiromu Takahashi, ****1/2: The two best workers in the tournament, this was a fantastic piece of business, as Ishii gave a lot of himself to make sure that Hiromu came out looking great. And Hiromu more than kept up his end of the bargain, resulting in a match that could have easily been the best of the tournament.

1. Minoru Suzuki vs Yuji Nagata, ****3/4: But the Murder Dads held on to take it. Suzuki and Nagata went out there and just beat each other up in the most basic of pro wrestling ways, and yet the lack of dives or top rope maneuvers only served to highlight what came across as a pure and unadulterated fight. There wasn’t a harder-hitting match in this entire tournament, and both guys, at the age of 52, showed that the younger guys have a long way to go to match the intensity that these two veterans gave. 

Tournament MVP:

Hiromu Takahashi. The only choice. There is a case to be made for Ishii, but Takahashi did it all in this tournament. He worked against heavyweights the entire time and kept on pulling different matches out of his bag of tricks, from comedy (Yano), overconfident but still victorious (Honma) and epic clashes (Ishii and Okada). I don’t know if they gave him all the shine because he didn’t get his match against Naito at the Anniversary show, but I don’t really care; his work in this tournament was simply magnificent. It proved that he is truly a 5-tool guy that they can plug in wherever they want, and not just as a Junior for life. I hope that good things come for him because of this, since this whole thing would have been demonstrably less enjoyable without him.

And last, but far from least:

The Master Wato Award for debuts of Master Watos:

Master Wato: It was closer than you think.

This has been a fun ride, everyone, and I plan to continue. Thanks for all the comments, and if you enjoyed my work at all, leave me one now. If you didn’t, well, now is the time for quiet reflection and contemplation. See you all for Dominion!

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter