The 49th Anniversary of New Japan Pro Wrestling is here. We have the annual Heavyweight vs. Junior Heavyweight Championship match in the main event, with El Desperado challenging Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Double Gold. We’re also getting the first two matches in the 2021 New Japan Cup, kicking that tournament off with a bang. Let’s waste no time and get right into it!
New Japan Cup Match: Jeff Cobb vs. Satoshi Kojima
Tournament action begins with Satoshi Kojima entering his 8th total New Japan Cup, and Jeff Cobb entering his first. Cobb would have been in last year until the pandemic mucked it up.
Cobb & Kojima locked up and seemed to be equally matched in the power department, Cobb just having the benefit of youth. Kojima dodged a clothesline from Cobb and hit a shoulder tackle, only to be run over seconds later. Cobb hit some clubbing blows around the ring, before he missed the splash in the corner.
Kojima hit the machine gun chops, the running forearm smash but got taken off the top rope when he wanted the elbow drop. Cobb drove Kojima into the corner hard, before hitting a standing dropkick for a two count. The big standing moonsault got another near fall, before Cobb hit the machine gun chops. He’d try to go for Kojima’s elbow drop but was cut off and taken down with a superplex.
Cobb rolled to the outside and caught a diving Kojima like a small child, and slammed him onto the floor. Kojima caught the legs of Cobb with a lariat before hitting a DDT onto the apron. The elbow drop landed as well as another DDT, but the Koji-Cutter was countered into a suplex.
Cobb went for the running powerslam, but was fit with the Koji-Cutter. Next was a brainbuster, but Cobb kicked out and hit the Spin-Cycle. A deadlift-gutwrench powerbomb landed, but Kojima countered Tour Of The Islands and hit a lariat. Kojima took the elbow pad off, but ran into a superkick. Cobb went for a lariat, Kojima countered but Cobb hit Tour Of The Islands when Kojima ran in again.
Jeff Cobb has finally hit his stride in NJPW, and after his match with Shingo at Wrestle Kingdom there is no denying that. His win over Kojima tonight just starts what could be a deep run in this tournament, and it was a damn good match from both men. Kojima is shining this year, and it’s a shame his tournament ends early .
Match Rating: 3.75/5 (*** 3/4)
Jeff Cobb advances to the second round, where he will face the 2020 New Japan Cup winner, EVIL. EVIL got a first round bye.
New Japan Cup Match: Tetsuya Naito vs. The Great O-Khan
Tetsuya Naito is entering his ninth New Japan Cup, and was the winner in 2016, while O-Khan enters his first. Both men are coming off major losses at Castle Attack, especially Naito who failed to end the IWGP Double Gold before the belts were unified.
O-Khan would approach Naito slowly, but Naito grabbed a chinlock, and moved into a headlock and forced O-Khan to fight his way out. O-Khan got a hip toss into a head & arm choke, and Naito got the ropes.
Naito was placed into the corner, having his arms yanked backward while O-Khan sat on him and laughed. O-Khan tried to make Naito kiss his boot, which just fired Naito up. A one legged dropkick rocked O-Khan, and gave him space to get moving.
Combinación de Cabrón nailed it’s mark in the corner, and he’d follow up with a neckbreaker. Naito dialed up the aggression and attacked the neck with back elbows and the cravate, softening up the neck for Destino. O-Khan fought back with Mongolion Chops, and countered the tornado DDT into a flapjack, Naito landing awkward on the knee.
O-Khan noticed and bent the knees around the ring post in response. He grabbed a steel chair, and whacked the knee. Red Shoes didn’t want to throw this one out, and Naito was hit with a kneebreaker on the chair.
Naito countered another knee breaker into a DDT, nailed more back elbows and then Diamond Dust for a near fall. O-Khan hit a reverse powerslam, and looked for Eliminator, but Naito fought free and nailed running Destino, but O-Khan applied a knee bar. Naito had a hard time freeing himself, and Red Shoes had to call for the stoppage to protect him.
O-Khan showed that he’s not a one note brawler in another excellent match here. Naito is a great tournament wrestler, but will sit this one out due to just getting overwhelmed by O-Khan tonight. This one only suffered from the finish being dragged out to protect Naito who refused to tap, but absolutely showed how good Great O-Khan can be. Nice to see a shock early in this tournament. This one busted plenty of brackets for sure.
Match Rating: 4/5 (****)
Great O-Khan will face the winner of the coming Bad Luck Fale vs. Toru Yano match, which happens tomorrow night.
Double IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships Match: Kota Ibushi vs El Desperado
Desperado & Ibushi have only met in one prior singles match, all the way back in 2014. They’ve both upped their game considerably, and are now two of the top champions in all of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Whoever wins this match will be known as the first ever IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, as the belts are set to be unified. At Castle Attack, Ibushi reminded Desperado that he ‘sucked seven years ago’, making this one personal.
They’d start this one off slowly, Ibushi & Desperado going for some technical wrestling. Desperado got a waist lock, and Ibushi countered down into an STF. Ibushi lost the hold as Desperado calmly slipped through the ropes, and trapped the arm of Ibushi. He’d follow up by just stomping on the foot of Ibushi, who came back with a hard midkick.
Desperado slipped outside, and Ibushi threw him into the barricades, before maintaining control in the ring using a scoop slam and sleeper hold. Ibushi was almost looking down at Desperado in this match, and for good reason as he just booted him down with ease. Desperado took those heavyweight strikes from Ibushi, who was shrugging his strikes off. Ibushi would finally crumble as Desperado went after the same knee that Naito worked over in the match at Castle Attack.
Desperado applied Numero Dos, but Ibushi was close to the ropes. Guitarra de la Muerta was attempted, but Ibushi slipped out, hurting the knee in the process. Ibushi hit a snap powerslam and wanted the moonsault, but Desperado cut him off and kicked the knee.
Desperado followed Ibushi outside with the cannonball dive, taking Ibushi down. In the ring, he’d nail Guitarra de Angel for a two count. Desperado would attack the knee again, and was getting somewhere.
Ibushi countered a low dropkick from Desperado with a double stomp, forcing a double down. Desperado & Ibushi traded blows in the middle of the ring, before he’d slip right into Numero Dos. Ibushi would get the ropes, but this one was very close. Pinche Loco would be planned next, but Ibushi almost countered into the Bastard Driver.
Another rushing attack from Desperado was met with a double stomp, this one almost getting Desperado in the face. They’d stumble back to their feet and trade blows, Ibushi kicking with the good leg, and Desperado taking the best shots and nailing a modified angle slam for a two count. Desperado went up top, and nailed a big Jun Kasai style frog splash and nearly got three.
Pinche Loco could end it, but Ibushi stood strong and nailed the bicycle knee before Desperado leveled Ibushi with a straight right hand to the head and dropped Ibushi. Desperado went for Pinche Loco again, but Ibushi nailed a hard lariat. Golden-Star Powerbomb landed, and Ibushi signalled for Kamigoye.
Desperado countered the Kamigoye into a cradle pin for a two count, before taking a head kick. Another Kamigoye saw Desperado counter into Numero Dos! Ibushi had both arms trapped, but was able to wiggle free. He’d get the Kamigoye, but Desperado managed to kick out! One more Kamigoye and this one was over.
There were moments where it truly felt like El Desperado was going to beat the top name in the company right now. This cements his status as perhaps the best Junior Heavyweight in the company, and a top star. Considering this time last year he was just viewed as a tag team wrestler, his rise was huge. However, Kota Ibushi is on fire right now, and wouldn’t be stopped.
Match Rating: 4.5/5 (**** 1/2)
This means that Kota Ibushi is the first ever IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, having now merged the IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships together. Was it a mistake to merge the double gold? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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