“PHOTOTHELIVE” is an exhibition of NOAH photographs, which have been taken by Miyaki Wakako, NOAH’S official photographer responsible for the match photography and for the wrestler photo portraits (she also used to be the official photographer for Big Japan and has worked with other promotions besides that); in 2013 she started teaching photography and has taught more than 500 students in four years.
It has been a long time since NOAH have released a photobook (the last where done in the early and mid 2000s, KENTA & Marufuji’s “Shin Uchi”, Kenta Kobashi’s “DOCUMENT”, and the Mitsuharu Misawa memorial photograph album). The book will be released in September (I am going to do my best to get hold of a copy of it).
The exhibition was held in a gallery in Shibuya, Tokyo, in August. A sticker of Kenoh telling “you bastards” to go to the fourth floor was put in the lift (it changed to a different wrestler each day), and various NOAH wrestlers came to visit and to do talks, in particular Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya, Atsushi Kotoge, Kaito Kiyomiya and RATELS.
The exhibition ran for a week, ending on the 26th August. The exhibition sold portraits of the NOAH wrestlers, (unsurprisingly RATELS are the most popular with women, alongside Kaito Kiyomiya and Kenoh). Miyaki Wakako also had some merch available in the form of a manga style acrylic key ring and a glossy sticker. The photos were said to have captured things that are difficult to communicate on TV and the matches are powerfully conveyed. The most emotional pictures are said to be Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima in particular, you can feel the force of the Veterans, and there is a good transmission of the “generation struggle” too. The pictures are said to “be alive”.
Unsurprisingly, the only photography allowed in the event was by the picture above, the wrestlers, the fans, the photographer, all had their pictures taken next to it.
I have listed below some interesting points from the wrestler talks:
- HAYATA talked (yes, he actually said more than one word), with the photographer’s (or else a staff members) little Shiba dog “Hana” on his lap (YO-HEY patted it). HAYATA and Kenoh in particular were “out of character”, with Kenoh described as having a “gentle facial expression” (not his usual scowling petulant tantrum throwing one)
- Seiya Morohashi and family visited the exhibition (he said he was hungover). Naomichi Marufuji was also there that day, and they had a group photo taken.
- RAN (the lady who does NOAH’s intro and half time shows) also did a talk at the exhibition
- Kenoh was asked his advice on dealing with stress caused by an “unreasonable boss”, his response was to throw things.
- Daisuke Harada said that if you don’t go, you will regret it, and each time you visit you will see something new.
- Kenta Kobashi appears on the back cover of the book
- Kenoh was asked what the most painful match has been so far. He says that following the GHC Heavyweight title match with Eddie Edwards, he had a pain in his legs for the rest of the year.
- When asked what wrestlers from outside groups they would want to face, Masa Kitamiya said Michael Elgin, with Kenoh saying Yohei Nakajima.
- All the participating wrestlers signed autographs and had their pictures taken with fans after their various events.
- Kenoh (who is apparently unmarried) was asked if he would like to get married, Kenoh said that regardless of that, he would like children one day (he’s not bothered by what sex it is though, he can see the merits in both).
- RATELS event was called “Daytels” as they appeared at lunchtime and each had a can of beer. They also played “Rock Paper Scissors” (not a “Roshambo Tournament” as my auto-text suggested)
- Kenoh says he gets his hair bleached and cut about once a month (and if you want to know what shampoo he uses, its “Ichikami” EDITORS NOTE: same brand as I use)
- Kaito Kiyomiya says that he likes Jazz, Atsushi Kotoge joked that had they met at school, he and Kiyomiya probably wouldn’t have been friends.
- Kenoh was asked a question (which apparently was meant for Daisuke Harada) asking him why he didn’t wear a cloak and join in with Kotoge’s “revolution” as the fans would be delighted with it, Kenoh’a answer was “I don’t think so.” He was also asked what he did on tour when he had a day off. Kenoh says that he usually stays in the hotel, and “enjoys hotel life”, it is usually the gaijin wrestlers who make plans and go out to see something (editors note: Takashi Rikio must have been an exception to this as he and some other NOAH wrestlers all hired bikes and went to do some sightseeing, unfortunately Rikio was knocked off of his by a reversing taxi)
- Apparently there aren’t that many pictures of Marufuji in the photobook.
Daisuke Harada is wearing a “Noah The Classic T-Shirt“, these are sold through the online NOAH shop, and the t-shirt picture is one of the old lockers at Differ Ariake (NOAH’s home for sixteen years).
WITH THANKS TO: Maitake, Fujiwara Armbar, NOAH GHC, Abeshin, Go Shiozaki
Andrew’s New Japan Cup Results & Match Ratings: 3.5.2021
The New Japan Cup tour officially starts today, even though we already got one upset! Who moves on to round 2!?
Even though the first two matches happened on the Anniversary show, this is the first official show dedicated to the Cup.
With one huge upset already, do we get any more shocks to the system? And no, if Yano wins (which he probably will) that’s not an upset. He has a surprisingly good record in tournament first rounds.
So let’s all revel in the goofy way Yano invents to move to round 2!
- Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, DOUKI) vs Gabriel Kidd, Yuya Uemura & Tomoaki Honma: Suzuki wins via Gotch Style Piledriver @10:46 – ***
- Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori) w/ Dick Togo vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tiger Mask IV, YOSHI-HASHI, David Finlay: EVIL wins via Scorpion Deathlock @11:40 – ***
- TenCozy & Master Wato vs The United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & Will Ospreay) w/Bea Priestley: Cobb wins via Tour of the Islands @9:14 – ** ½
- New Japan Cup: Toru Yano vs Bad Luck Fale: Yano wins via Countout @5:50 – **
- New Japan Cup: Hirooki Goto vs Taichi: Goto wins via GTR @22:43 – **** ½
Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, DOUKI) vs Gabriel Kidd, Yuya Uemura & Tomoaki Honma
This was fun and definitely had better energy than a lot of the preliminary matches New Japan has done before bigger singles. Honma and Suzuki took shots at each other often, with Honma getting the best of Suzuki often. But Honma never backed down, we’re slowly getting back to the underdog Vampire Chicken that people were initially introduced to.
ZSJ did a great job putting Gabe over in this match as well. They started with a lot of World of Sport fast paced counters, ringers, spins and what not, but surprisingly, Gabe and the face trio got the best of ZSJ at different times. Zack was actually on the receiving end for a bit, but after Yuya is tagged in legal, and the tandem locomotion corner spot, we knew it was a matter of time.
After ducking a lariat, ZSJ quick tags Suzuki and then heads out, which allows Suzuki to make quick work of Yuya, continuing to add on that story they had going earlier in the year.
Just very fun with good energy, and this is how prelim tags should work.
Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori) w/ Dick Togo vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tiger Mask IV, YOSHI-HASHI, David Finlay
Tanahashi starting the match against Ishimori was great. This could lay the ground work for a future Openweight challenge, especially since Ishimori got the best of the Ace. The moves were basic, but as soon as Tanahashi start flexes and doing body builder poses, Ishimori returns after he hits a few moves and also highlights his washboard abs; causing Tanahashi to grab his stomach and get flustered since he’s not 6% body fat like Ishimori.
So with the little taste of comedy, we then see YOSHI-HASHI come in and get beat on by everyone at some point. Bullet Club even pulls off an amusing human chain during an Abdominal Stretch. After HASHI eventually tags out, then we see Finlay and Tiger Mask gets some shine. Finlay actually looks really good, hitting a cool Spinning Backdrop to bring in Tiger, but Tiger isn’t quite back up to snuff.
Even with him still recovering, he pushes things to needing EVIL to tag in, and Dick Togo has to cheat to help BC win, but generally speaking, it was a fun match where Tiger taking the fall proves he’s still on the way back.
TenCozy & Master Wato vs The United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & Will Ospreay) w/Bea Priestley
This feud has gone on a bit long, and I’m not a big fan of Tenzan using the Mongolian Chops even though he lost a match saying he can’t. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission I suppose, but I’m still not a fan.
This was a solid trios match with a fantastic finish, but it didn’t really excite me like the first two multi-tags. Cobb catching Wato mid Satellite DDT, to throw him into Powerbomb position, to block a Frankensteiner, toss him like pizza dough and catch him in the Tour of the Islands position, to hit his finisher. It was just a thing of beauty.
When Cobb tries, he’s a great wrestler, and he’s been much more consistent this year. I also liked that Cobb was talking smack to EVIL on the camera, but EVIL and Dick Togo jumped him to try and get a small advantage in their upcoming New Japan Cup match. It’s a good spot before intermission.
New Japan Cup: Toru Yano vs Bad Luck Fale
Now this was pretty amusing. Fale attacks Yano in the middle of his announcement, but not with a strike, with a Roll-up. Sadly for Yano, this causes the KOPW trophy to break, but he doesn’t notice right away.
Yano spends a good bit of the match running from Fale saying he’s scared. But we get to the typical Yano stuff and he tries to tape Fale to the guardrail, but Fale is keen. So he shoves Yano back, and uses the tape to tie Yano’s hands around the ring post.
As the countout starts, Fale tries to pepper in a few free shots, but Yano is kicking him away. Fale gets mad and charges, Yano shields himself with the post and then it seems like one of his defensive kicks…goes a little low. Marty Asami allows it since it look unintentional just trying to keep someone back. So Yano manages to swing his legs onto the apron and scoot halfway into the ring while tied to the ring post. Marty decides that’s good enough and counts out Fale.
The Sublime Master Thief pulls out some TOTAL BS, but it’s still funny. Afterward, he gets the broken trophy and starts crying like its Hardball and G-baby just got shot.
New Japan Cup: Hirooki Goto vs Taichi
This match had stage, Taichi was up to his old tricks of slow moving, malicious outside tactics with cables and general cheating, but that makes sense with all of the things Taichi went through to get Iizuka’s fingers back.
Red Shoes is ever lenient, and Taichi was doing it just to be a brat, every choke count he would smile bigger; hell even the crowd seemed to find it devilishly charming. But when Goto fired up, it seemed like it woke something up in Taichi. Taichi and Goto traded strikes and it was fantastic especially when they both just slumped down. Both men pulled out classics, I love when Goto does the Shouten Kai, even Taichi pulled out the Dynamic T Chokeslam! Kawada classics like the Step Kicks and the Jumping High Kick, Goto threw everything at Taichi, but they both did a good job avoiding the finishers most of the match.
It was a great back and forth where both men knew the other’s offense and it showed. Serious Taichi is more and more like Kawada, it’s fantastic, but Goto when Goto countered the counters and finally hit GTR, it was all over for the Holy Emperor!
The wrong man won, but it was a great match.
Overall Score: 7/10
Well the Yano match was enjoyable, but if you dislike his style; that was going to do nothing to change your opinion. Taichi and Goto definitely deserved to be the main event, which was beautiful. Even the undercard tags were done well and the participants seemed to have a little more fun and remember the point of those.
Even if my personal taste is that the TenCozy/Empire feud is starting to wear out its welcome, it wasn’t offensive of anything, I’m just over it. I’m also looking forward to see if Cobb can continue this streak of evolution or if the new EVIL will just make me hate that match.
So there we go, another solid show…so now I’m gonna try my best to forget Castle Attack.
Mitchell’s NJPW 49th Anniversary Results & Report! (3/4/21)
Will there still be a Double Champion?
NJPW’s Anniversary kicks off the New Japan Cup!
After the year we wish never was, NJPW triumphantly celebrates their 49th anniversary! And to spice things up, there will be New Japan Cup matches, too! Who takes an early first step towards what is still the IWGP Heavyweight Championship?
NOTE: NJPW no longer wants to feed AXS TV now that it is with Anthem and Impact Wrestling. But never fear, I will cover NJPW in the spirit of AXS in providing the most important matches of the show.
- 10 Man Tag: Bullet Club VS Taguchi Japan; Bullet Club wins.
- Six Man Tag: Los Ingobernables de Japon VS Chaos; Chaos wins.
- 2021 New Japan Cup Opening Round: Jeff Cobb VS Satoshi Kojima; Cobb wins and advances.
- 2021 New Japan Cup Opening Round: Tetsuya Naito VS Great-O-Khan; Khan wins and advances.
- IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Double Championship: Kota Ibushi VS El Desperado; Ibushi wins and retains the titles.
PLAY BY PLAY
10 Man Tag: Bullet Club VS Taguchi Japan!
Jay White leads his faction into battle, feeling pumped up after having dealt with the Stone Pitbull! But will #KingSwitch, the Bone Soldier, Crown Jewel, Fang Revived and King of Darkness be able to trump the Funky Weapon, FinJuice and HenarACE?
The Bullet Club Low Sweet, while Taguchi Japan low fist bumps. Fans cheer as the teams sort out, and Henare starts against White. They circle, fans rally up already, and then White asks Bullet Club if Henare is serious. Henare fires up, he and White tie up and Henare powers White to a corner. The ref calls for the break, Henare lets off but White pokes him in the eye! White kicks and throws haymakers then stomps Henare in the corner. White CHOPS, whips but Henare reverses. White slides out, plays a cat ‘n’ mouse, then tags in Kenta. Henare wants White to man up but White hides behind the other Bullet Club members.
Henare tags out to Juice and fans rally as Juice flips Kenta off. They circle, tie up, and Juice powers Kenta to ropes. The ref calls for the break Kenta turns things around and he pulls on Juice’s hair! The ref counts, Kenta lets off but he headlocks. Juice powers out, but Kenta pulls hair to reel him back in! Juice gets mad, throws body shots, and powers out. Things speed up, Juice hurdles but Kenta kicks him! And KICKS, and KICKS! Juice blocks the third kick to unleash “JUICE!” Jabs! Kenta throat chops before the Left Hand, but he runs into Juice’s atomic drop! Russian Leg Sweep and BIG senton! Cover, TWO!
Juice sees Dick creeping and spits at him. They talk trash, Tanahashi and Taguchi get in and they scoop slam Kenta! Taguchi Japan stomps away on Kenta! The ref reprimands, Bullet Club protests, and Tanahashi stays in and drags Kenta up. Tanahashi fires off strikes but runs into a cheap shot from White! Taguchi and Henare want in but the ref keeps them back. Kenta and White mug Tanahashi, and now Bullet Club stomps away on Tanahashi! The teams back off again, Kenta tags White in and White stomps Tanahashi’s legs. White stomps the left, then the right, then tags Evil. Evil drags Tanahashi up, reels him in and has the cobra twist! Bullet Club makes the chain to the railing!
Taguchi Japan protests as Tanahashi endures but Bullet Club gets away with it all! Evil lets Tanahashi go to cover him, TWO! Bullet Club protests the count but fans cheer. Chase tags in, fans rally with “LET’S GO, ACE!” but Chase YANKS Tanahashi’s leg! Tag to Ishimori and Bullet Club mugs Tanahashi more. Ishimori stomps Tanahashi, digs his boots in, but Tanahashi fires forearms back! Tanahashi hits every member of Bullet Club but Ishimori kicks low! Ishimori whips, Tanahashi reverses but Ishimori handsprings, but into Tanahashi’s waistlock! Ishimori fights free with elbows, kicks a leg, then runs but misses the dropkick! Tanahashi gets a leg for a GROUND DRAGON SCREW!
Both men are down and fans rally up, hot tags to Chase and David Finlay! Finlay rallies, Chase reverses the whip but Finlay uppercuts him down! Finlay blasts the Bullet Club corner then runs in at Chase to uppercut! Chase staggers, Finlay hops up and hits a flying uppercut! Cover, TWO! Fans rally again and Finlay drags Chase up. Chase fights off the Side Effect but Finlay dodges the knee! Chase bucks off the O’Conner to JEWEL TRIGGER! Tag to Evil, he drags Finlay up, but Finlay kicks. Evil blocks, hands the kick to the ref, but then Finlay blocks Evil’s kick! Finlay throws the foot down to hit a neckbreaker!
Fans fire up, hot tag to Taguchi and he unleashes his team! They go after the rest of Bullet Club as Taguchi climbs and leaps! But Evil catches him to EVERYTHING IS EVIL!! Cover, BULLET CLUB WINS!!
Winners: Bullet Club, by pinfall
Taguchi snatches defeat from the jaws of victory! White rubs it in that Evil wins, but will Bullet Club make such easy work of things in the New Japan Cup?
Six Man Tag: Los Ingobernables de Japon VS Chaos!
Sanada, Bushi and Shingo Takagi take on Kazuchika Okada, Sho and Tomohiro Ishii before they all jump into the New Japan Cup! Will LIJ get in the way of the Rainmaker rising back up? Or will Okada, High Voltage and the Stone Pitbull be leading the charge into the opening round?
The trios sort out, and Okada starts with the Dragon as a preview of their NJCUP match! Fans rally, “O-KA-DA!” “TA-KA-GI!” Okada and Takagi circle, tie up, and Okada manages to power Takagi to ropes. The ref calls for the ropebreak, Okada lets off, and fakes the chop to pat Takagi’s shoulder. Takagi forearms back! Takagi CLUBS Okada and stomps him down! Takagi drags Okada, CHOPS him, but Okada blocks the boot to give a boot! Okada bumps Takagi off buckles, throws elbows, then tags Ishii in. Takagi gets clear, and Ishii wants the Cold Skull! Takagi tags Sanada and fans rally with “SA-NA-DA!” “I-SHI-I!” They tie up, Sanada wrenches to a wristlock but Ishii throws body shots.
Ishii wrenches to a wristlock, Sanada wrenches back but Ishii throws a forearm! Ishii deflects the boot, swings a clothesline but Sanada gets to a waistlock. Ishii elbows out, swings into another waistlock, but Ishii switches, only for Sanada to elbow out. Sanada whips Ishii to a corner, runs in but Ishii dodges. Ishii runs back in but Sanada dodges! Sanada runs in but into a boot, only to boot back! Sanada swings into a waistlock, Ishii ducks the elbow to ROCK Sanada! Ishii runs, but Sanada hurdles, hurdles and dropkicks! Fans fire up and Sanada encourages them to get louder. Fans clap “SA-NA-DA!” as he brings Ishii up and uppercuts him.
Sho runs in, Sanada boots him, then boots him again! Sanada whips but Sho CLOBBERS Sanada! Bushi runs in, boots Sho but Sho elbows back. Sho runs, Bushi dodges and RANAS! Okada DECKS Bushi, Takagi runs Okada over! Takagi and Ishii ram each other over and over then go forehead to forehead. They throw forearms, Ishii whips but Takagi reverses. Bushi trips Ishii and Sanada basement dropkicks! LIJ goes after Chaos on the outside while Sanada stomps Ishii. Fans rally as Ishii eggs Sanada on. Sanada stomps him more but Ishii dares him to keep going. Sanada does keep going, tags Bushi, and Bushi takes his shirt off to choke Ishii with it!
The ref counts, Bushi hits a neckbreaker! Cover but Okada breaks it! Takagi throws Okada back out, Bushi tags Sanada. Bushi DECKS Sho, Sanada drags Ishii up and hits a BIG back suplex! Cover, TWO! Fans still rally as Sanada drags Ishii up to a fireman’s carry. Ishii slips off, shoves Sanada but Sanada elbows back. Sanada Quebrada but Ishii gets under, only to run into the fireman’s carry! Sanada slings Ishii into a dragon suplex, but Ishii slips free! Ishii catches Sanada to a spin and suplex, but Sanada slips out to dragon sleeper! Ishii spins through to hit the suplex! Fans fire up as both men are down! Hot tags to Takagi and Okada!
Okada dodges to fire off forearms, whip but Takagi reverses, only for Okada to elbow him down! Okada fires up and he whips Takagi corner to corner. Okada elbows Takagi, kicks low and DDT’s! Cover, TWO! Fans rally, “O-KA-DA!” “TA-KA-GI!” Takagi and Okada throw forearms back and forth, faster and faster! Okada ROCKS Takagi, EuroUppers, and whips Takagi corner to corner. Takagi reverses, runs in but blocks the boot. Takagi eggs Okada on to push harder, but then he CLOBBERS Okada! Takagi whips corner to corner, hits another clothesline, then runs, into Okada’s catch! Okada has the MONEY CLIP!
Takagi slips free, arm-drags and elbows Okada to JAB and power up! Okada BOOTS Takagi down! Fans fire up as both men head for their corners again! Hot tag to Sho! Sho runs in at Takagi to clothesline! Sho whips, Takagi reverses but Sho reverses back to kick and kick and kick! But Takagi blocks to elbow the leg! Sho forearms, runs but Takagi clotheslines at ropes! Takagi runs and runs Sho over! Fans fire up, Takagi tags Bushi and he climbs up to missile dropkick! Bushirooni! Bushi dropkicks a leg, and SPIKES Sho with a DDT! Cover, TWO! Fans rally, Bushi drags Sho back up and reels him in to wrench and hook Sho up.
Sho resists the lift and Ishii runs in to run Bushi over! Sanada dropkicks Ishii, Okada BOOTS Sanada! Takagi blocks a boot to JAB and LARIAT! Fans rally up with “OI! OI! OI!” and LIJ whips Sho. Sho SPEARS Takagi down! Bushi clubs Sho, Sho avoids the Fisherman Screw and the enziguri to dead lift GERMAN SUPLEX! Fans fire up with Sho as he waits for Bushi to stand. Sho runs to LARIAT! Sho drags Bushi up, Okada is after Takagi on the outside, and Sho hits the SHOCK ARROW! Cover, Chaos wins!
Winners: Chaos, by pinfall
High Voltage is building up power! Will this help him build up towards the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship? Will Okada be ready for the Dragon in the first round?
Speaking of coming match-ups, Ishii and Sanada stare down, then start brawling with forearms and CHOPS! The ref breaks this up and the two part ways, for now. Will either of them be able to walk away from their coming confrontation in the Cup?
2021 New Japan Cup Opening Round: Jeff Cobb VS Satoshi Kojima!
The United Empire was shocked to have been beaten by the King of Cozy Style and Hiroyoshi Tenzan at Castle Attack! But the Hawaiian Hulk has a chance at redemption while also going for the gold! Will Cobb take Kojima on a Tour of the Islands before kicking him out of the tournament?
The bell rings and fans rally as Kojima and Cobb stare down. They slowly approach, tie up, and Cobb gets around to a waistlock. Kojima pries free, wrenches, but Cobb facelocks and cranks on the head! Kojima gets to ropes, Cobb lets off clean, but then gives Kojima a shove. Fans cheer as the two circle and tie up. Kojima headlocks, Cobb powers out but Kojima rams him with a shoulder. Cobb stays up so Kojima runs and rams him again. Cobb still stays up, and Kojima tries a third time. Kojima still can’t knock Cobb over, and Cobb kicks low to run. Kojima dodges, and finally runs Cobb over! But Cobb is right up to run Kojima over!
Cobb drags Kojima up, CLUBS him, and has Kojima in a corner. Cobb rams his shoulder, whips Kojima corner to corner then runs in but Kojima dodges! Kojima CHOPS, CHOPS, then fires off the machine gun CHOPS! Fans fire up, Kojima tops it off with one last CHOP, then whips Cobb again. Kojima runs in to forearm Cobb and throw him down! Kojima climbs up but Cobb clubs him first! Cobb lifts Kojima but Kojima slips off, only for Cobb to RAM him into the other corner! Cobb rams again and again, then reels Kojima in for a LARIAT! Fans rally for “KO-JI-MA!” as Cobb drags him back up. Cobb headbutts Kojima and Kojima flops down!
Cobb toys with Kojima, drags him back up, and DROPKICKS him down! Cobb takes his time with the cover, TWO! Fans rally up again but Cobb brings Kojima up to throw forearms. Kojima forearms back, Cobb returns the forearm, then knees low. Cobb whips, elbows Kojima down and covers, ONE! He covers again, TWO! GACHIMUCHI MOONSAULT! Cover, TWO!! Cobb is angry with the ref but the ref says his count was fair. Cobb kicks Kojima to a corner, slaps him around, then CHOPS him! And CHOPS! Cobb unleashes his own machine gun CHOPS! Cobb pushes Kojima around, whips him corner to corner, then runs in to forearm smash!
Cobb rolls Kojima and heads up top!? But Kojima CLUBS him first! Kojima climbs up to join Cobb, fans rally up, but Cobb resists the superplex. Cobb throws body shots, Kojima headbutts him back! Kojima CLUBS Cobb, brings him up, and hits a SUPERPLEX! Fans fire up even more as Cobb writhes and Kojima rises! Kojima SHINING WIZARDS Cobb out of the ring! Fans fire up as Kojima takes aim and PLANCHAS?! But Cobb catches him, and KNEES him in the ribs over and over, to then SLAM him down! Fans fire up as Cobb gets back on the apron. Kojima sweeps the legs! Cobb hits the apron, Kojima gets up and fires up as he reels Cobb in! APRON DDT!
Cobb is stuck upside-down but then flops to the floor. The ref starts the ring count, but Kojima drags Cobb up at 6 of 20, and puts him in at 10 of 20! Kojima climbs up top, and hits the MACHO ELBOW! Cover, TWO! Cobb survives but Kojima just focuses his power. Kojima drags Cobb up to fire off forearms and a ROLLING ELBOW! Kick and DDT! Fans rally more as Kojima brings Cobb in for a cravat. Cobb powers out to thrash Kojima around and hit a GERMAN SUPLEX! Cobb and Kojima go to opposite corners, and Cobb runs in corner to corner, to hit the leaping back elbow! Kojima staggers into a scoop, and Cobb RAMS him into a corner!
Kojima avoids Oklahoma Stampede to COZY CUTTER! Fans fire up as Cobb slowly rises. Kojima is on him and brings him up to suplex! COZY BRAINBUSTER! Cover, TWO!! Cobb still lives but Kojima isn’t done yet! Cobb blocks him from taking off the armband! Kojima throws haymakers, whips Cobb, but Cobb reverses to reel Kojima in, ATHLETIC PLEX! Gut wrench and POWERBOMB! Cover, TWO!! Kojima survives and fans fire up again! Cobb grits his teeth, drags Kojima up and whips him, to scoop and TOUR- NO! Kojima slips out but his lariat is blocked! Cobb runs, into the LEFT LARIAT! Cover, TWO!
Kojima keeps his cool and he throws off the armband! Kojima runs but into a SUPERKICK! Kojima stays up but Cobb JABS him, and copies the armband toss, only to run into the COZY LARIAT! Fans are thunderous as Kojima powers up and runs, but into a TOUR OF THE ISLANDS!! Cover, Cobb wins!!
Winner: Jeff Cobb, by pinfall (advances to the next round)
There was nothing cozy about that, but it was snug! Will Cobb continue on from here to conquer the Cup on behalf of the United Empire?
2021 New Japan Cup Opening Round: Tetsuya Naito VS Great-O-Khan!
The Uncontrollable Charisma couldn’t take back the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, and the Dominator couldn’t take the NEVER Openweight Championship for the glory of the United Empire! But will one of these two redeem themselves and head for the coming IWGP world title?
Khan is patient as Naito takes off his elaborate entrance attire, so Naito takes his time. Naito then mocks Khan’s pose and the bell rings. Fans rally as Naito and Khan slowly circle. Khan sits down to use a leg guard against Naito, but Naito keeps his distance. Khan corners Naito, but lets off as Red Shoes calls for the ropebreak. Khan whips Naito, Naito grabs ropes and boots Khan. Naito throws Khan out, builds speed, but then rolls and mocks Khan’s pose again! Fans cheer that and even Khan laughs at Naito’s bravado. Khan returns, Naito rushes him and kicks him low! Naito clubs Khan, snapmares and wraps on a chinlock.
Khan endures, Naito grinds him down more, and then pulls back on the chinlock. Khan fights up, Naito grinds harder, but Khan throws body shots. Naito grinds further still but Khan pulls hair! Naito CLUBS Khan and stomps him for that! Naito pulls Khan’s ponytail, CLUBS him, then runs, into a hip toss! Khan wants the katagatami! Naito scrambles around and gets the ropebreak with a foot! Red Shoes counts, Khan holds on until 4. Fans rally as Naito bails out but Khan pursues. Khan drags Naito up, SLAPS him on the back, then pursues him around the way. Khan CLUBS Naito and whips him HARD into railing! Naito flops over and Khan grins as he walks over.
Khan stands on Naito’s head, mockingly asks what’s wrong, then stomps Naito. Khan puts Naito in, covers, ONE! Fans rally up but Khan drags Naito around to a gut wrench. Khan suplexes Naito hard, then covers, TWO! Fans rally up, Khan taunts Naito and follows him to ropes, then drags him up. Khan puts Naito in the corner to CLUB him on the back, then Khan sits on Naito’s head! Khan laughs but Red Shoes counts. Khan stands up at 3, to pull Naito’s arms back! Red Shoes counts again, Khan hops off at 3 and brings Naito out of the corner. Khan taunts Naito and kicks him, then he talks trash to Naito’s fans. Fans rally up, Khan digs Naito’s face into his boot!
Naito fights up, throws body shots, but Khan knees low. Khan runs but into Naito’s shotgun boot! Both men are down but fans fire up! Naito rises first, brings Khan up by his ponytail and whips him to ropes. Naito elbows Khan down then basement dropkicks him! Naito whips Khan to a corner now, rocket kick and sweep, COMBINACION CABRON! Fans fire up as Naito does his pose, then mocks Khan’s pose! Khan gets up but Naito has his ponytail again. Naito brings Khan around but Khan fights out of the neckbreaker. Khan swings but into a spin for the neckbreaker! Cover, TWO! Fans rally as Naito drags Khan back up.
Naito cravats and cranks Khan’s neck, but Khan gets to a corner. Red Shoes calls for the break, Naito lets off to throw elbow after elbow in! Naito gets the cravat neck wrench again, but Khan throws body shots. Khan whips and BOOTS Naito inside-out! Both men are down again and fans rally! Khan slowly rises, Naito crawls, but Khan drags Naito up for Mongolian Chops! And more Mongolian Chops! Khan whips Naito to ropes, Naito leaps but is caught to a bearhug! Naito fights free, Khan knees low and whips, but Naito reverses to tornado, only for Khan to turn the DDT into a TOSS! Naito clutches his bad knee and Khan storms over.
Khan grabs the leg to stomp away on it, then YANK the leg! Naito crawls to a corner, fans rally up and Khan stalks Naito again. Khan drags Naito to the corner and ties up the legs around the post! Red Shoes reprimands and counts and Khan lets go at 4. Khan goes around the way to look under the ring, and he brings out a chair! Red Shoes tells Khan no but Khan pushes Red Shoes away, to SMACK Naito’s leg against the post! Naito flops down and Khan taunts the fans. Khan has the chair again, sits Naito up and brings him around to the ramp. Naito fights back but Khan clubs and kicks him down! Khan has the chair again, sits it up, and has Red Shoes move aside.
Khan laughs at Naito as he drags him over, has the leg, and gives him a SHIN BREAKER to the chair! Naito clutches the leg and Khan paces around as fans rally up. Khan pretends he can’t hear the fans so they get louder. Khan leaves Naito behind and waits as Red Shoes checks on Naito. Naito is okay to continue so the ring count starts. The count is 10 of 20 before Naito sits up with the bad leg. Naito still doesn’t get up until 15 of 20! Naito hobbles, but gets in at 19.99!! Khan is right after the bad legs with a modified deathlock! Naito grabs at Khan but Khan clamps harder with the iron claw on the bad knee! Khan drags Naito up for an IRON CLAW SLAM! Cover, TWO!!
Naito survives but Khan drags him around by the leg, for a CALF KILLER! Naito endures, fans rally but Khan thrashes the leg around! Naito powers up but Khan pulls back as far as he can! Naito starts to fade but Khan lets him go to clamp onto the knee with the claw. Khan drags Naito back up but Naito turns that into a SATELLITE DDT! Fans fire up as both men are down! Naito slowly rises, Khan drags himself up in the corner, but Naito manages to run in. Naito blocks Khan’s boot to throw back elbows! Naito stands Khan up with his ponytail to throw more elbows! Khan flops over, fans cheer, but Naito isn’t done there.
Naito drags Khan up by his ponytail again for more back elbows! And more back elbows! Naito hops up, reels Khan in, for ESPARANZA! Cover, TWO!! Fans rally up as Naito drags Khan back up. Naito reels Khan in for a hammerlock but Khan resists Gloria! Naito CLUBS Khan, pulls him up by the ponytail, then hammerlocks again. Khan still resists, clubs Naito in return, but Naito throws those back elbows again! Khan catches one for an atomic FACEBUSTER! Fans fire up as both men are down again. Khan drags Naito up and reels him in for an INVERTED EXPLODER! Cover, TWO!! Naito survives but he clutches his leg again. Khan grits his teeth as he gets up again.
Khan strikes his pose and clamps his claw onto Naito’s face! Khan drags Naito up but Naito throws back elbows. Khan claws Naito’s eyes! ELIMI- NO! Naito fights out but Khan kicks his legs out! Khan clamps on again, but still no Eliminator! Naito comes back to DESTINO!! Both men are down, fans are thunderous, and Naito rises! Naito drags Khan up, wrenches, but Khan elbows him. Naito throws more elbows back, wrenches, but Khan still elbows free. Khan kick the bad leg but Naito ENZIGURIS! Tilt-o-whirl but Khan blocks and throws Naito off! Naito elbows, Khan dodges the enziguri and LARIATS! Cover, TWO!! Naito survives but Khan gets the leg for a STANDING KNEEBAR!
Khan claws Naito’s face to keep him down but fans rally as Naito reaches for ropes! Khan shifts to get a TRUE KNEEBAR! Naito endures as Khan shouts at him! Khan clubs and CHOPS Naito, pulls the leg, but Naito refuses to quit! Naito grabs at Red Shoes but Khan gets the other leg and gator rolls around! FIGURE FOUR KNEEBAR!! Naito fights towards ropes as Khan thrashes about! Naito grabs Red Shoes, reaches again, but Khan keeps pulling on the legs! Naito rolls and rolls but Khan still holds on! Naito reaches, flails, fans are rallying as hard as they can, but Naito can only grab at Red Shoes! Red Shoes calls it, Khan wins!!
Winner: Great-O-Khan, by referee stoppage (advances to the next round)
He’s won, but Khan won’t let go! Young Lions run in to pry Khan off Naito, but then Khan attacks the Young Lions! Khan STOMPS Naito’s bad leg, and mocks Naito’s pose! Khan talks trash right to Naito’s face then gives the bad leg one last stomp! Will Khan brutalize all of his opponents on the way to the finals?
IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Double Championship: Kota Ibushi VS El Desperado!
Speaking of the coming IWGP world title, the Golden Star God could be the first man to hold that new belt. But that’s only if he gets past the Junior Heavyweight Double Champion! Will Ibushi ascend to a new level in NJPW history? Or will it be the Rogue Luchador holding more gold than any wrestler in the world today?
The introductions are made, Ibushi’s belts are raised, and a rematch from almost eight YEARS ago happens for even greater stakes!
Fans rally as Ibushi and Desperado stare down. They circle, feel out the grapple, and tie up. Desperado gets around to a waistlock but Ibushi backs into ropes. They honor the break, and fans cheer as the two reset. Fans rally for “I-BU-SHI!” as he and Desperado tie up. Ibushi gets a leg, brings Desperado down but Desperado facelocks. Ibushi slips to a waistlock, Desperado switches, but Ibushi has his arm. Desperado tries to get free but Ibushi rolls and wrenches to a wristlock. Desperado reaches for ropes but Ibushi keeps him away. Desperado rolls, spins and wrenches back, and fans cheer the technical exchange. Ibushi rolls, trips Desperado and gets a toehold.
Desperado tries to hold him off with forearms, but Ibushi shifts inside the leg guard. Ibushi goes for a lateral press but Desperado slips right out to facelock and snapmare. Ibushi avoids the lateral press, Desperado still facelocks then waistlocks. Ibushi pries free, wrenches, wristlocks then hammerlocks. Desperado works on his reversal, he drops and rolls and gets the wristlock back. Fans cheer this exchange as Desperado hammerlocks. Ibushi elbows then drop toeholds, then floats to a chinlock. Desperado rolls to slip out the back and get the hammerlock back. Ibushi stands, slips out to hammerlock, but Desperado steps through the ropes then back in to wrap Ibushi’s arm on the ropes.
Red Shoes reprimands and counts, Desperado kicks the rope to jam the arm! Ibushi fires forearms back, then eggs Desperado on. Desperado roars and shows haymaker but stomps Ibushi’s foot! Desperado runs but into a KICK! Ibushi sees Desperado bail out and fans rally up. Ibushi goes out after Desperado, drags him up and whips him into railing! Desperado sputters as he slumps down, but Ibushi brings him back up. Ibushi puts Desperado in, but Desperado goes to scoop him! Ibushi CLUBS Desperado down, scoops him and SLAMS him down! Cover, ONE!! Ibushi keeps on Desperado with another chinlock.
Fans rally, Desperado endures, throws clubbing shots up at Ibushi but Ibushi shifts to a headscissor necklock. Desperado endures, moves around, kicks his way around but Ibushi gets the leg for a cover! TWO, and Desperado scrambles to ropes. Ibushi stands on Desperado at the ropes, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi are there to protest on Desperado’s behalf, so Ibushi lets off. Desperado glares up at Ibushi defiantly so Ibushi stands him up to forearm! Desperado forearms back but Ibushi eggs him on. Desperado throws more and more forearms but Ibushi says he needs ot hit harder! Desperado does, but Ibushi BOOTS him right down! Cover, ONE!!
Fans rally as Ibushi KICKS and KICKS and KICKS Desperado around! Desperado ends up in a corner, fans rally and he comes back with forearms! Ibushi still eggs Desperado on, so Desperado keeps hitting him! Desperado forearms over and over, but Ibushi BOOTS him again! Desperado comes back with forearms, Ibushi just leans into them! Ibushi backs Desperado down that way then BOOTS him to the corner! Ibushi drags Desperado up, whips him corner to corner, but Desperado reverses and runs in. Desperado blocks Ibushi’s boot, puts it on the ropes, then dropkicks the other leg! Fans cheer as Desperado gets the leg for a DRAGON SCREW! Ibushi falls over and fans rally up again.
Ibushi grits his teeth as he crawls but Desperado is after the bad leg! STRETCH MUFFLER! Ibushi gets the ropebreak, Red Shoes counts as Desperado thrashes, but Desperado still lets go at 3. Fans rally as Ibushi clutches the leg. Desperado stomps the leg, but Ibushi glares back at him! Desperado stomps the leg, reels Ibushi in, but no Guitarra as Ibushi gets free! Ibushi’s leg jams, Desperado runs, but into the POWERSLAM! Ibushi somersaults to the corner but Desperado dropkicks him out! Ibushi hits the floor and fans fire up! Desperado watches Ibushi on the outside, takes aim and builds speed, to DIVE! The somersault tope hits!
Fans fire up more as Desperado drags Ibushi up and into the ring! Desperado reels Ibushi in, GUITARRA DE ANGEL! Cover, TWO! Ibushi survives and Desperado grows frustrated but the fans fire up again. Desperado stands, stomps Ibushi’s bad leg, but Ibushi eggs him on. Desperado grabs the legs, Ibushi kicks him but Desperado stomps the leg again. Desperado drops knees on the knee! Desperado grabs the leg, steps through but Ibushi BOOTS him away! Ibushi slowly rises, and avoids Desperado’s basement dropkick to DOUBLE STOMP him down! Fans fire up while both men are down! Ibushi gets up and kicks Desperado.
Desperado sits up so Ibushi gives him toying kicks and fast palm strikes! Desperado wobbles but he forearms back. Ibushi forearms, Desperado rolls him up, to get the STRETCH MUFFLER! Fans fire up as Ibushi endures again! Desperado gets the arm for NUMERO DOS! Ibushi reaches with his free arm, moves around but Desperado drags him away from ropes! Desperado pulls as hard as he can on the hold but Ibushi fights his way around to the ropebreak! Desperado lets go mostly out of his own exhaustion and fans rally again. Desperado looms over Ibushi, drags him up, and reels him in to underhook the arms. Ibushi resists the lift, powers up and has Desperado tucked in!
Desperado fights desperately and avoid the Bastard Driver! Fans fire up as Ibushi hobbles up and Desperado runs in, but into another DOUBLE STOMPS! Ibushi still counters Desperado but the damage to his leg makes that a little more double-edged! Ibushi rises and he kicks at Desperado again. Desperado talks trash as he gets up but Ibushi kicks him. Desperado CHOPS, Ibushi forearms, repeat! CHOP, forearm, but then Desperado kicks the bad leg! Ibushi ROCKS Desperado, KICKS him in the chest, but Desperado eggs him on! Ibushi KICKS again! Desperado gets forehead to forehead with Ibushi but Ibushi fires off a strike fest!
Desperado blocks the kick to GUITARRA DE LA MUERTE! Cover, TWO! Desperado hurries right to a corner and climbs up! FROG SPLASH! Cover, TWO!! Kanemaru & Taichi coach Desperado and fans are thunderous! Desperado drags Ibushi up, underhooks the arms, but again Ibushi blocks! Ibushi powers against the underhooks but Desperado knees low. Ibushi back kicks, dodges Desperado’s straight right to SHOTEI! And V-TRIGGER! KENNY~! But then ROUNDHOUSE meets LOCO MONO!! Fans are thunderous as both men go down!! Ibushi stirs but Desperado stands first. Desperado fires up, the fans respond and he drags Ibushi up. Underhooks for PINCHE-
NO! Ibushi fights out to wrench and LARIAT! Ibushi fires up and fans respond in kind! Ibushi gets Desperado up, reels him in, and lifts, for a LAST RIDE!! Cover, TWO!! Desperado lives but Ibushi vows to end it! Ibushi grits his teeth, gets Desperado’s wrists and sits him up. Desperado wrenches through to ES EL CULERO! Cover, TWO!!! ROUNDHOUSE from Ibushi hits clean! Ibushi sits Desperado up again, KAMI- NO! ROLL UP, but to the STRETCH MUFFLER!! And he puts it on tight! Then gets NUMERO DOS SUPREME! Ibushi endures but he is caught! Desperado holds on as hard as he can but Ibushi refuses to give in!
Ibushi pries an arm free, reaches, but Desperado rolls him from ropes! Ibushi make sit a cover, TWO!! KAMIGOYE!!! Cover, TWO!??!?! Ibushi can’t believe Desperado still lives! Ibushi gets the wrists again, for ANOTHER KAMIGOYE!!! Cover, Ibushi wins!!
Winner: Kota Ibushi, by pinfall (still IWGP Double Champion)
Desperado showed Ibushi he is a “different animal” from eight years ago, but it wasn’t enough to end the Golden Star God’s run! Can anyone stop Ibushi from being THE champion in NJPW?! But Ibushi is a gracious champion, and he shows respect to the Rogue Luchador. Desperado shows it back and they shake hands! Will Desperado at least continue on to define the Junior Heavyweight Division?
After catching his breath and having both belts presented back to him, Ibushi gets the mic. “This wasn’t about proving who’s the strongest between heavyweights and junior heavyweights. Desperado, oi. Thank you.” Fans cheer the respect Ibushi shows, but Ibushi says there are so many great wrestlers in the Junior Heavyweight Division. Ibushi is up for taking on any challenger and he truly means that. Ibushi won’t change his mind. “When these two titles are unified, I’ll show what awaits.” And then he asks Hiroshi Tanahshi and Jushin Liger for their blessing.
Ibushi will truly take on any challenge from anyone. When these titles are unified, he will take them “to the highest global stage.” Fans cheer that idea as Ibushi again says he will never betray them, never quit and never lose. Ibushi thanks the fans, and drops as he drops to his knees as he drops the mic. Will Ibushi help NJPW reach the world once he is truly THE IWGP World Heavyweight Champion?
A great event right here, especially to kick off the New Japan Cup. Apologies to Suzuki-Gun fans, I seem to keep skipping their matches because they’re always beating up Young Lions. However, I am surprised, Suzuki-Gun lost and Douki takes the pin from Hirooki Goto. Though, I’m not surprised that Douki lost it for them, that is his role. The 10 Man was ridiculous because Taguchi gets in just to lose it for his team. I have a feeling that will feed right into Evil’s first match in the NJCUP, since he has a bye into the next round starting on 3/11/21. The Six Man was a lot of fun, too, and it was big for Sho to get the win since he’s not in the tournament. He can move up and challenge Desperado for the Junior Heavyweight Championship while Hiromu is hurt.
Speaking of the tournament, the first matches tonight were both great stuff. It just seemed natural for Cobb to beat Kojima, but it was quite the surprise for Khan to win. Naito’s struggles as of late would’ve made it seem like he was going to overcome, but now he’s on a different path. We could end up with Empire VS Empire but it’s likely Evil beats Cobb next round to take Khan on in the round after that.
Then we get an incredible match out of Ibushi VS Desperado. Of course Ibushi wins, Desperado can’t have five belts on him right now (he holds onto Kanemaru’s tag belt just cuz) and Ibushi really could lead NJPW into a new era where Heavyweight & Intercontinental titles fuse their lineage into the new IWGP WHC. With bonds building between NJPW, AEW and other companies, it would work out so amazingly well if Ibushi was top champion and Kenny Omega is still AEW World Champion for them to clash as truly two of the best in the world.
My Score: 9.2/10
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