It’s time for possibly the best two matches on paper for the second round of the New Japan Cup. We have KENTA taking on Minoru Suzuki in what is sure to be as hard hitting as it is technical, and just reading the names Hirooki Goto & Shingo Takagi together is enough to get most fans excited. Let’s waste no time, and get right into it!
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & Toa Henare vs. BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, EVIL & Jay White)
Much like EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi got a first round bye for this tournament, and it led to a major match. He will face Jay White, a man who generally has had the aces number in past encounters on March 15th. Alongside Robinson & Henare, he looks to get some damage on The Switchblade as we build to this encounter.
Tanahashi would start up with White, and after some flexing from both sides, White finally took some strikes on Tanahashi. Tanahashi hit a springboard crossbody out of the corner to take White down, before tagging in Henare. Together they’d apply a double boston crab, before Robinson dove in on White with a double axe handle.
Robinson would hit a big dropkick, and scoop slam EVIL when he hit the ring. Fale wouldn’t be slammed, instead just crashing down onto Robinson when he tried, before just standing on the back of Robinson. Robinson was sent to the outside for a Bullet Club mauling. White would slam Robinson into the mat by his hair, before rolling him back to his corner. Fale beat Robinson down, but White & Tanahashi soon tagged in.
White was slammed down in position for the sommersault senton, and Tanahashi nailed it. He’d fight off a Dragon Screw to hit a DDT, before following up with Bladebuster. Tanahashi followed up with a Twist & Shout, but couldn’t make the tag. EVIL tagged in, but took a Dragon Screw and was met by Henare.
Henare hit a Samoan Drop, before they’d all rush EVIL down with lariats and set up the spear. EVIL would go for the STO but take a spin kick to the head. White hit a Sleeper Suplex after sneaking up behind Henare, and shoved him into the STO for the finish.
Classic Bullet Club stuff here, but the fire from the babyfaces helped to bring this one up. Tanahashi is hitting another stride in his legendary career, and his interactions with White here made the match.
Match Rating: 3/5 (***)
New Japan Cup Match: KENTA vs. Minoru Suzuki
This is the first time KENTA & Suzuki will meet in a singles match in NJPW, having previously matched up in Pro Wrestling NOAH. They are wildly different performers than they once were in on NOAH Shiny Navigation 2005 – Tag 7, but we know for certain the strikes in this one will be stiff, and the submissions tight… if KENTA decides to fight today.
KENTA has been using social media to mock Suzuki, and took time to read the newspaper instead of paying attention to his opponents entrance. Even as Suzuki was ready to start the match, KENTA was casually flipping through the paper. KENTA is a master of mind games, and had Suzuki mad before the bell even rang. He’d linger on the outside and make Suzuki wait, grabbing another copy of the paper from commentary, but Suzuki snatched it and laid it out in the middle of the ring.
KENTA finally had to get physical with Suzuki, but fled the ring. Suzuki was losing his head, and KENTA kicked him in the head as he tried to get back onto the apron. Suzuki responded by applying an armbar over the top rope, and using every last second of the referees count. He’d drag KENTA outside and send him into the barricades, before grabbing a chair and having KENTA kick it into his face.
KENTA used the chair to choke Suzuki briefly, before throwing him into the barricade. Back in the ring, he finally threw some strikes at Suzuki, only inviting him to come back even harder with his own. The fans were finally getting what they wanted, as KENTA & Suzuki traded forearms in the middle of the ring.
KENTA would counter a forearm by taking Suzuki down to the mat for a submission, before letting go and stomping on him with lazy kicks. Suzuki would again be stomped, and his nose started to bleed. Like a shark smelling blood in the water, he perked up and took KENTA down with a single forearm shot. A big headbutt and running boot followed, before some low kicks and a PK.
KENTA hit a quick DDT before he sent Suzuki to the apron to set up Green Killer, but only got a one count. Suzuki took another boot to the face, and had to be beaten down into the corner for an attempt at the dropkick, but instead KENTA was met with forearms on the other side of the ring. KENTA once again rushed in and hit a boot, finally setting up and hitting the hesitation dropkick, and going up top for a double stomp.
As KENTA went to set up Go To Sleep, Suzuki got him in a choke hold and tried to move into the Gotch Style Piledriver, allowing KENTA to shift into Game Over. Suzuki got the ropes, but was dropped with the running knee for a two count soon after. Go To Sleep was countered into a single leg Boston Crab, but KENTA eventually got the ropes.
Suzuki rocked KENTA with slaps, who came back with some of his own. This was met with wild laughter, as Suzuki finally hit his stride in his match. KENTA hit two rolling chops and looked for the GTS, but Suzuki got a sleeper hold and more slaps, before going for the Gotch Style Piledriver. This was countered by KENTA setting up and nailing Go To Sleep for the win.
Despite a slow and very uniquely KENTA start, this one was fantastic. They really laid every last strike in, and few men can apply submissions like Suzuki. The story was well told, and you don’t see many men who can play mind games as good as KENTA does these days.
Match Rating: 4/5 (****)
KENTA will now face the winner of Hirooki Goto vs. Shingo Takagi in the quarter finals.
New Japan Cup Match: Hirooki Goto vs. Shingo Takagi
This will be the fourth singles encounter between Goto & Takagi, with Takagi having a 2-1 lead. He’s taken the NEVER Openweight Championship off of Goto, and now looks to take him out the 2021 New Japan Cup. Takagi has been better than ever in 2021, with only Hiroshi Tanahashi able to record a singles victory over him so far, and taking Okada out in the first round. If you can beat Okada, you can beat anyone, but nothing is ever predictable in a tournament like this.
Goto started by coming off the ropes with a shoulder tackle, but Takagi stood tall. They’d trade forearms in the middle of the ring, before Takagi dropped Goto with a shoulder tackle. Goto tried to set up the GTR early, but Takagi countered and hit a sliding lariat. Takagi looked for Last Of The Dragon, but Goto countered into a flash pin for a very close pin.
Goto was taken to the outside, thrown into the ring post and barricade before Takagi nailed a quick DDT on the floor. Back in the ring, Goto took some hard elbow strikes and a knee drop, before Takagi went for a cocky pinfall. Goto fought back with a hip toss and an attempt at the mid-kick, before Takagi countered and almost hit a GTR.
On the apron, Takagi set up the Death Valley Bomb, but Goto was able to slam his head down to gain control. Takagi was sent into the barricade, before Goto hit a lariat to the back of the head and threw Takagi back into the ring. A chinlock was applied, before Goto hit an elbow to the face and applied a headscissor hold.
Takagi found a way out of this hold using the bottom rope. Goto took some heavy chops from Takagi, but Goto remained in control with some elbow strikes, at least until Takagi dropped him with a lariat. Takagi followed up with a running shoulder block, before hitting a snap brainbuster, only for Goto to come back with one of his own.
Goto was sent into the corner, where he tried to catch Takagi with a boot to the head. Instead, Takagi caught the kick and hit a lariat. Goto came back hitting a lariat of his own before a backdrop driver, only for Takagi to pop up and hit one of his own. They’d trade lariats, neither man wanting to fall, but in the end both did.
Takagi was first up, but Goto dropped him with a lariat and Ushigoroshi soon after, but couldn’t capitalize. Goto would be caught with a lariat to the back of the head, before Takagi hit some lazy kicks to the head. Takagi would block a rolling lariat and hit Noshigami, before setting up for Pumping Bomber.
Goto would dodge, but was hit with Made In Japan for a near fall. Takagi set up Last Of The Dragon, but Goto still had plenty of fight left in him, so Takagi beat him down with elbow strikes. Goto countered a punch and nailed a quick GTW, but couldn’t make the cover.
Goto threw a mid-kick, but was countered into a roll up before Takagi nailed the pumping bomber. Takagi set up Last Of The Dragon, but Goto countered. Instead, Takagi picked up Goto and placed his legs on the top rope before bringing him down with a GTR. Pumping Bomber & Last Of The Dragon were all Takagi had left, but enough to put Goto down.
This one met the hype and then some. All of their matches have been excellent, with their styles just meshing perfectly. Tonight was no exception, as they threw heavy strikes and their signature blows, slowly building up to a fast paced finishing sequence. All the makings of a NJPW epic, but followed the formula too closely for a perfect rating.
Match Rating: 4.5/5 (**** 1/2)
Who will win between KENTA and Shingo Takagi On March 16th? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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