Originally published at New Japan Cup 2021 Report: Ospreay vs. Takagi, post-match angle
By: Mark Buckeldee
Welcome to this POST Wrestling report on the final of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s New Japan Cup 2021. The event is the second of two shows from Xebio Arena Sendai in Sendai. The show from the day before was interrupted by an Earthquake.
- Gabriel Kid, Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji vs DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi – A decent, basic tag team match with some good stuff between Kidd & Sabre Jr.
- Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima vs Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb – An okay match where the broken down Honma’s limitations soon became obvious.
- Sho, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano vs Yujiro Takahashi, KENTA & EVIL – Another okay, basic tag match with nothing to make it stand out.
- Toa Henare, David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito – A short, decent tag match with some great touches but little real substance.
- Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale & Jay White – Some nice but subdued flashes from Ibushi in an otherwise by the numbers match. Decent but nothing more.
New Japan Cup 2021 Final: Shingo Takagi vs Will Ospreay – A great match focusing on Ospreay working over Takagi’s back. – RECOMMENDED
*Post main event – Trigger warning for DV*
Before the opening match, Yoh of Roppongi 3K made an announcement. The native of Miyagi Prefecture, the prefecture where Sendai is situated, had been on the shelf since June 2020 with a knee injury. He announced that he would return to action at Sakura Genesis.
Gabriel Kid, Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji vs DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi
The Young Lions attacked first, with Uemura having a promising start before being attacked on the outside by Douki. After being bullied by the Suzuki-gun side, Uemura tagged in Gabriel Kidd. That led to an enjoyable, extended sequence between Kidd & Sabre Jr. This saw Sabre Jr work over Kidd’s leg before Taichi and Yota Tsuji tagged in. Tsuji showed off some Lucha-style offense, including a noticeable botch that he just about managed to save. After a spirited showing by Tsuji, Taichi dodged a spear and hit a backdrop suplex to win the match.
Taichi pinned Yota Tsuji (10:39)
This was a basic but decent tag match where each Young Lion got some time. The bulk of the match with Sabre Jr & Kidd was good while the finishing stretch was good after Tsuji’s slip. Ultimately was one of the more forgettable, by the numbers, Young Lion 6-man tags.
Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima vs Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb –
Satoshi Kojima and Tomoaki Honma teamed up at the start but Kojima was a negligent friend as he did not stop Great-O-Khan from rolling away from the Kokeshi. Both Jeff Cobb and O-Khan isolated Honma before he hit a DDT and tagged in Kojima. O-Khan was extra mocking when using his Mongolian Chops. They did an okay good job of trying to hide Honma’s limitations, which became more obvious the longer this went, and he got a 2 count with the Kokeshi. Soon after this Cobb pinned Honma with the Tour of the Islands.
After the match, O-Khan did his usual post-match statement and declared that Will Ospreay would win the New Japan Cup.
Jeff Cobb pinned Tomoaki Honma (8:58)
This was nothing more than a basic heel vs face tag match. The match did an okay job at hiding Honma’s limitations, but it became more obvious the longer he was in there.
Sho, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano vs Yujiro Takahashi, KENTA & EVIL
Toru Yano & EVIL tried to out cheat each other and EVIL used SHO to attack the ring announcer. Sho was isolated before tagging in YOSHI-HASHI. The Bullet Club teamed up to attack YOSHI-HASHI, but he still managed to lock in the Butterfly lock on Takahashi. KENTA tried to hit YOSHI-HASHI with a Go to Sleep but SHO made the save. That was in vain as Dick Togo interfered to let Takahashi use his stick and win the match with the Pimp Juice DDT.
Post-match the Bullet Club attacked the CHAOS team and KENTA stole YOSHI-HASHI’s big stick.
Yujiro Takahashi pinned YOSHI-HASHI (9:24)
Yet another basic, by the numbers tag team, match with little to praise about it. At this point, the undercard tag matches had been uninspiring even by New Japan’s standards.
Toa Henare, David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito
Tetsuya Naito mocked Juice Robinson early on, but the team of Robinson & David Finlay soon gained the upper hand. Finlay’s left leg was bothering him and that was before BUSHI and Naito combined to let Naito dropkick the knee. LIJ isolated Finlay, using the leg to keep Finlay off balance before he hit BUSHI with a spinning backdrop suplex and tagged in Robinson. The American had a sustained hot tag where he hit all 3 opponents with sentons and got a near fall with the cannonball.
Naito fought back, mocking Robinson’s fist pump before tagging in SANADA. Toa Henare finally entered the match, taking it to SANADA and getting a 2 count with a Samoan Drop. The match broke down as everyone ran in, ending with Henare hitting a double spear. That momentum did not last as SANADA pinned him very soon after with an O’Conner Bridge.
SANADA pinned Toa Henare (10:10)
This was the best match of the show so far, which does not mean much when neither Naito nor BUSHI removed their T-shirts. Finlay still sold the leg and Henare looked good in his brief time to shine. There were some nice touches, like Naito mocking Robinson or constantly attacking Finlay’s knee, but ultimately this was nothing more than a decent LIJ undercard tag match.
Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale & Jay White
The Bullet Club team started by isolating Kazuchika Okada. Tanahashi eventually tagged in and took the match to Jay White. A Blade buster earned White a 2 count before he tagged in Chase Owens. Ibushi then entered the match, full of energy, but his confidence let Owens nail him with a Lariat. Bullet Club combined to triple-team Ibushi and then the match broke down. Almost immediately after Ibushi pinned Owens with the Kami-Go-Ye.
After the match, Ibushi joined the commentary team for the main event.
Kota Ibushi pinned Chase Owens (11:31)
This was another okay tag team match. Ibushi added a bit of energy and pace to the proceedings but there was not much to talk about in this one. The main thing that stood out was that the end of the match had the exact same structure as the match before it. Yet another forgettable undercard tag match on what had been a lackluster show up to this point.
New Japan Cup 2021 Final: Shingo Takagi vs Will Ospreay
During the pre-match face-off, Shingo Takagi pointed a katana at Ospreay. This was the opposite of the pre-match from their first encounter in the 2019 BOSJ final. Both wrestlers traded headlocks early on and Takagi countered an early Oscutter attempt. Takagi repeatedly grabbed Ospreay’s injured nose to gain an advantage. He was almost gleeful while wrenching away at Ospreay’s nose.
The tide turned when Ospreay countered a suplex into a stunner but instead of going for a dive, Ospreay followed Takagi outside and repeatedly rammed Takagi’s tapped back into the barricades. That ended with a backdrop suplex onto the barricade for a near-fall. Ospreay continued to focus on the back with dropkicks and backbreakers. That was followed by a body scissors from Ospreay and a springboard forearm. Mocking Kawada style kicks only managed to rile Takagi up. In a great spot, Takagi’s back slowed down one of his usual striking combinations, but Takagi used his smarts to hit Ospreay with a DDT instead. Takagi would then buy some time by Clotheslining Ospreay over the top rope.
Bea Priestley got involved on the outside, allowing Ospreay to push Takagi into the ring post and set up a table. There was a lengthy tease around the table before Priestley dragged the table away to save Ospreay. A pop-up powerbomb got Takagi a 2 count before he turned that into an STF. A Noshigami gave Takagi the time to rest his back. A series of quick counters saw Ospreay hit a Lariat and a lifting reverse DDT for a 2 count. Takagi looked for the Stay Dream off the 2nd rope but Ospreay escaped and hit a top rope Spanish Fly for a near-fall. Takagi blocked an Oscutter, but the pace of his offense was hurt by the damage to his back.
Ospreay somehow absorbed a Pumping Bomber by flipping through it and hit the Oscutter for a near-fall. Takagi was caught with an Oscutter on the outside and Ospreay put him through the table on the outside with a top rope 450-splash. That leads to a second count-out tease. When Takagi reentered the ring, he was met with a springboard dropkick and a Shooting Star Press for a near-fall.
Takagi avoided a Hidden Blade by crumpling to the mat. A frustrated Ospreay repeatedly slapped and kicked Takagi’s head, which only angered Takagi. Ospreay backed away as Takagi slowly advanced before unloading the corner. Ospreay hit the London has Fallen but Takagi quickly replied with the Made in Japan for a near-fall. A Pumping Bomber nailed Ospreay, and Takagi hit an unexpected Reverse Rana. Ospreay would halt Takagi’s momentum with a Spanish fly, a series of strikes, and the Hidden Blade before winning the match with the Stormbreaker.
After the match, Ospreay talked about how he won the New Japan Cup with a torn rotator cuff and a broken nose. Ospreay called out Ibushi and asked him to enter the ring. Ospreay said that he does not care about the legacy of the IWGP Heavyweight titles. He called it his destiny to be the IWGP World Heavyweight title and said that he loved it more than anything or anyone. To punctuate that Ospreay hits Priestley with a cutter and leaves the ring with the Undisputed Empire as Ibushi tries to help Priestley.
In the backstage promo, Ospreay says that if he would hit an Oscutter to the woman that he loved then what would he do to Ibushi. He also said, “welcome to the single life” while toasting his UE teammates.
Will Ospreay pinned Shingo Takagi (30:06)
I usually struggle to judge multiple versions of the same match. To me, this was not as good as the BOSJ 2019 final between these two. I really liked the story of Ospreay being more methodical and targeting Takagi’s back. I loved Takagi’s selling and facial expressions. Some of my favorite parts of the match stemmed from that.
This was a great match with some great moments and a lot of fast-paced actions, along with some memorable spots. I struggle to put into words what was lacking for me with this match. It could just be a sign that my enjoyment of Ospreay has waned. Ultimately, I failed to engage in this match. I have really enjoyed Takagi’s work in 2021 but personally, I still think that the high point of that was his match against Hiroshi Tanahashi.
In the hours after the match, there was a growing sense of uneasiness and anger on Twitter about Ospreay attacking Priestley, an angle seemingly to add an extra edge to the pre-match build. I get that this angle was about writing out Priestley and probably freeing her up for STARDOM events, but this was basically someone attacking their girlfriend for shock value. If they had to write out Priestley, then there were better ways to do it than an act that could be seen as simulated domestic violence.
Ospreay’s backstage comment of “welcome to the single life” added another layer to the angle, pushing it further than “just someone turning on their manager.” Before you add those elements the act of a heel turning on their heel manager in a clap crowd environment has minimal returns would not be shocked if the negative backlash will not overshadow the match when people look back on the 21st of March 2021.
There was already a sense of a disconnect for a lot of New Japan’s vocal Western audience before something that can be described as “domestic violence used to put over how much someone wants to win a prop.” On its own this is problematic. When you combine it with New Japan’s silence on Speaking out, the use of certain talent, and the presence of Marty Scurll at New Japan Strong then this feels at best tone-deaf. At worst, it feels like completely mocking or ignoring the concerns of large, vocal parts of New Japan’s western fanbase. I can easily see this being the last straw for some people, the thing to drive off at least some of New Japan’s western audience.
This was a one-match show, and even that will be overshadowed in many people’s eyes by what felt like a very misjudged and badly thought-out angle. The match itself was great, although it did not come close to their BOSJ Final match in my eyes, and felt like it lacked something. It may have been the one-sidedness of the final exchange, the table spot, or just something about the flow. Many people loved this match much more than I.
The post-match angle has left a bad taste in many people’s mouths and could become a big problem for New Japan’s reputation among Western fans, many of whom were already uncomfortable with the promotions attitude to Speaking Out. Even if you do not think that the attack was that big a deal, the optics of this in conjunction with New Japan’s actions regarding the Speaking Out controversy will cause a lot of anger among part of the New Japan Western fanbase.