[Please note: to save time, I will review only the tournament matches themselves, and split them into as big a chunk as I can. So here is the remaining matches of the first round, which took place over days 4 and 5. I previously review the first three days here.]
The first round of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual tournament will reach and end, at days four and five of the New Japan Cup 2021. On day four, young lion Yota Tsuji will face his trainer, veteran Yuji Nagata in the first match, before Tomohiro Ishii and SANADA renew hostilities in the main event. On the fifth day of action, fourth generation star, David Finlay will face the Crown Jewel of the Bullet Club, before YOSHI-HASHI and Yurjio Takahashi vie for a shot in the second round. Finishing off the first round of the tournament, Kiwis collide when Jay White faces Toa Henare.
+ Toa Henare vs Jay White (New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match): it’s nothing against Henare, but he was just not a big enough name to finish this first round on. Jay White was the clear bad guy of the pair, and also the clear favourite amongst the crowd, and at least in that regard this match had an interesting dynamic. Still Henare is getting better all the time, and the way he visually stands out amongst the NJPW roster, he could still land somewhere in the upper middle of the card. He’s just not there yet; this was a positive, all because of Jay White
+ Yuji Nagata vs Yota Tusji (New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match): I really enjoyed this, not least of all because unlike the Gabriel Kidd/Zack Sabre Jr. match, this one realistically could have gone either way. Tusji has all the makings of a future heavyweight star (though personally I’d want him to lean down a little bit). Nagata can still go and I always enjoy his matches, whether it be a back and forth slaughter with Suzuki or a more one sided affair like this one
– YOSHI-HASHI vs Yujiro Takahashi (New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match): good lord, who could possibly have cared about this so late in the tournament. As much as it may hurt to hear, both these guys are eternal nobodies, and the idea of either of them winning the tournament overall is laughable (but watch me get proven wrong and Yujiro will take the top title from Kota Ibushi)
– David Finlay vs Chase Owens (New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match): though technically sound, this was just not exciting. I like Finlay’s new gear and facial hair stylings, and I don’t doubt that he could be a medium star in his own right, but he is outshone by his tag team partner, Juice Robinson, in almost every way. Chase Owens, too, has spent the last months being geeked out by Toru Yano, so forgive me if I wasn’t blown away by this match up
– Tomohiro Ishii vs SANADA (New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match): I really don’t like these two as a match; Ishii’s stoic selling works best against the more animated/charismatic competitors, and SANADA’s laid back persona is strongest against the bad guy that tries to phase him. The action was perfectly fine, but not ground breaking, and frankly I was underwhelmed
Should you watch this event: At a pass rate of 2/5, these two shows were not particularly exciting. As always, the winners have moved on to what guarantees to be bigger and better matches, but some of those first round matches are always sure to be duds, and this was no exception.