[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 are all eight matches in the second round, across days 6, 7, 8 & 9. Therefore, there are full spoilers for the entire first round, which I reviewed here and here.]
With the first round of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual tournament, the New Japan Cup 2021, in the books, the second round kicks off with new match ups and more to gain. In eight matches across four days, the field of 16 will be halved, and the matches are as follows:
– on day 6, Toru Yano will look to sneak past the new player on the block, Great-O-Khan, before O-Khan United Empire stable mate, Jeff Cobb, faces EVIL in the main event;
– for day 7, KENTA and Minoru Suzuki look to destroy each other en route to the quarter finals, before one of three pre-tournament favourites, Shingo Takagi faces multi-time former winner, Hirooki Goto;
– the two matches for day 8 will see Yuji Nagata attempt to use his veteran guiles to overcome SANADA, the latter of whom has had a big G1 last years, with long time enemies, Zack Sabre Jr and another pre-tournament frontrunner, Will Ospreay, colliding in the main event;
– and finally, on day 9 David Finlay and YOSHI-HASHI booth look to get into their first quarter finals, before Jay White and Hiroshi Tanahashi square off in the main event.
+ Jay White vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): I make it no secret that I think White is one of the top three wrestlers in New Japan, and probably top five or so in the whole world, and going against a motivated Tanahashi in the main event could only mean good things for this match as a whole. The crowd was heavily behind Tanahashi (unsurprisingly…) but I get the feeling they enjoy Jay for what he is just as much as I do
+ YOSHI-HASHI vs David Finlay (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): from the outset, YOSHI-HASHI looked to be dropping absolute bomb chops and forearms on poor Finlay’s chest and neck. This had the bonus effet of making Finlay looks like a beast for putting up with them, and I think it really elevated both guys in what was perhaps otherwise destined to be a forgettable, filler match. My expectations weren’t rock bottom, though certainly low, but this exceeded them in every way
+ Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): gosh, this was absolutely fantastic. Both guys know each other so well, and have wrestled so many times before, but they were still able to innovate and show some new things. There may have been a hasty finish due to what looked to be a pretty gruesome nose injury to one of the competitors, but even so this was a great match, and perhaps the best of the second round
+ Shingo Takagi vs Hirooki Goto (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): another Shingo match, another fantastic and wild brawl. This was hard hitting, where Goto looked really good and Shingo looked incredible as always. Both guys hit monster lariats and shoulder blocks, and Goto even busted out a few of his older, special moves older fans may recognise. I’m a sucker for Shingo, and he can do no wrong to me. I really liked this overall
+ Toru Yano vs Great-O-Khan (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to this, but it ended up being surprisingly fun to watch. O-Khan had some good comedic moments against Yano, and Yano did a power spot or two against O-Khan, which created some minor hype moments
– SANADA vs Yuji Nagata (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): one year ago, Nagata had a standout match against Suzuki, and SANADA nearly killed himself against EVIL. This year, Nagata had a banger with a young lion, and SANADA managed to make an Ishii match boring. I’ve been up and down on SANADA a lot lately, especially around his being a G1 finalist, but I’m still down on him now and this was not a good showing for him
– KENTA vs Minoru Suzuki (New Japan Cup Second Round Match): this was good, but admittedly not quite as good as I was hoping for. Maybe my hopes were too high, but even with a wild pancrase-style slap exchange I felt like this was just a step behind what both guys have been doing otherwise
– Jeff Cobb vs EVIL (New Japan Cup 2021 Second Round Match): this didn’t really do anything for me, even with some good power spots from Cobb, and the sneaky cheating stuff from EVIL. As I read over this, I feel I should add I’m not even certain of who won, it was so forgettable
Should you watch this event: For the most part, the first of the tournament matches on any given night was a bit of a misfire, before the main event finished things off strong (thankfully, the final night managed to have two great matches). This second round was better than the first overall, and as always the next round proves to be full of even better matches.