By Anish Vishwakoti, ProWrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)
Taped in Los Angeles, California
Streamed August 7, 2020 on New Japan World
A NJPW Strong opening video aired… The broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checked in and ran through the New Japan Cup USA tournament first-round matches while the bracket was shown… A video showed past New Japan Cup winners…
1. KENTA vs. Karl Fredericks in a first-round match. KENTA got in Fredericks face to start off the match, prompting Fredericks to throw him to the floor and start a running exchange with Fredericks hitting a cross body and getting a two count. Fredericks stomped on KENTA and prompted a striking exchange with him which KENTA welcomed and easily got the better of. KENTA rocked Fredericks’ chest with kicks and goaded him in to get a clothesline, with KENTA grabbing him and hitting a DDT to get a lazy two count.
KENTA kneed Fredericks in the back and whipped him into a Kitchen Sink before hitting Fredericks with a soccer ball kick and taunting the cameramen? KENTA dropped a few knees into Fredericks head before pulling down the kneepad to jump over and slap Fredericks with the sole of his boot. KENTA continued to lay into Fredericks with kicks, with Fredericks getting up and trying to trade but simply being elbowed back down to the ground. KENTA let Fredericks get up and chop him but didn’t seem fazed at all.
KENTA just struck him down and continued to fight lazily, allowing Fredericks to hit a backbreaker to build some space. Fredericks hit KENTA with a splash and back suplex followed by a jumping elbow to get a two count. Fredericks tried for a DDT, but KENTA pushed him off and hit a powerslam. KENTA followed up with stiff kicks to the prone Fredericks, nudging him to the apron. KENTA hit Fredericks with a Spike DDT and tried for a pinfall, but Fredericks made it out.
KENTA tried for a couple of strikes, but Fredericks reversed into a backslide to get a two count. KENTA completed his striking combo and ran into a spinebuster from Fredericks who got a two count. Fredericks then attempted a Single Leg Boston Crab, stomping on KENTA, but Fredericks was booted himself and released the hold. Fredericks picked KENTA up and struck at him, but KENTA hit him with a boot and a running clothesline to get a two count.
KENTA finally woken up signaled for the end and picked Fredericks up for the Go To Sleep, but Frederick got off his shoulders and laid into KENTA with forearms. KENTA fired back with palm strikes and hit a PK to lay Fredericks down, only to pick him up for the Go To Sleep, getting the pinfall victory…
KENTA defeated Karl Fredericks to advance to the semifinals.
Anish’s Thoughts: This as a really fun way to open the New Japan Cup USA, with KENTA essentially allowing himself to be challenged by Fredericks, which made for really great viewing. KENTA did seem in trouble at times, giving Fredericks some good offense with the backslide particularly making me think for a half-second that KENTA might lose this match.
2. Tonga Loa vs. Jeff Cobb in a first-round match. Loa and Cobb locked up multiple times with neither getting the upper hand in quick fashion. Loa eventually snatched a side headlock but was shot off the ropes and an attempted shoulder tackle resulted in a stalemate. Loa tried a couple of shoulder tackles, with Cobb following suit, neither knocking the other down. Loa feigned another tackle but punched Cobb straight in the face. This didn’t faze Cobb however who just retaliated with three consecutive shoulder blocks of his own. Loa then tried to muscle Cobb in the corner, hitting some shoulder strikes to Cobb’s gut.
Cobb then dodged a clothesline attempt, only for Loa to get him back in the corner and hit a back elbow followed by a Backdrop. Loa hit Cobb with some stomps by the ropes, and while Cobb tried to get to his feet, Loa headbutted him to the ground. Loa then slapped Cobb in the corner and took his time before hitting him with a Scoop Slam and an elbow to get a two count. Loa then used a Sleeper to try and put Cobb out, but Cobb was able to hit a Jawbreaker and a shoulder block before then running into a boot and enziguiri from Loa.
Loa then got Cobb right back up and peppered him with elbows to the face. He whipped Cobb to the ropes, but Cobb surprised him with a jumping clothesline. Cobb then rattled Loa with a number of chops and forearms before pushing Loa into the corner and hitting a jumping uppercut. Cobb then hit Loa with a pump-handle slam to get a two count. Cobb then tossed Loa into the ropes, but Loa got over him with a Schoolboy to get a two count.
Loa followed up with a quick dropkick and tried for another slam, but Cobb was able to reverse and hit a rope rebound reverse powerslam to get the pinfall victory…
Jeff Cobb defeated Tanga Loa to advance to the semifinals.
Anish’s Thoughts: This was a little bit of a subdued match for Cobb given his style, but nonetheless it was a good win for him. More than his offense, Loa’s attitude is what shone through in this match, making it a fun watch until the finish. It came a little out of nowhere for me, with Cobb not really getting to show off too much of his offense, but it was a first round match so I get it, good win for Cobb…
3. Chase Owens vs. David Finlay in a first-round match. To start off the match Owens and Finlay each tried to gain back control, ending up with Owens getting a side headlock but being shot off by Finlay. The two entered a running exchange, each dodging trip attempts until Finlay hit Owens with a dropkick, followed by a suplex, earning a two count.
Owens and Finlay continued to grapple, with Owens yanking at Finlay’s neck, forcing him to the ropes and then pulling Finlay’s neck hard into the top rope. Owens used a mouth stretch on Finlay, with the ref forcing him to break before the count of five. Owens followed up with a waist lock on Finlay and kneed Finlay in the back before picking him up for a backbreaker that earned him a two count.
Owens picked Finlay up and after wrenching his nose, whipped him into the corner and attempted consecutive pinfalls, forcing Finlay to kick out and wearing him down. Owens used his 5 count on the ropes again, driving his foot into Finlay’s neck. Owens then used a standing bow-and-arrow stretch on Finlay to continue wearing him down. Owens then transitioned to a seated Full Nelson, but Finlay was able to get to his feet and back Owens into the turnbuckle.
Finlay tried to follow up, but Owens tossed him out of the ring and hit a running dropkick to the outside. Owens rolled Finlay into the ring and tried for another cover, getting a two count. Owens agitated Finlay, slapping him about giving Finlay the fire to stand up and trade with Owens. Finlay lost out in the exchange, hitting a back elbow and a grounded forearm and then locking in a chin lock.
Finlay struggled out and was able to hit Owens with a backdrop. Finlay followed up with uppercuts and a middle rope diving uppercut, giving him a two count. Finlay attempted a uranage and although Owens was able to block it initially, Finlay pushed through and hit it right after getting a two count.
Finlay called to Kevin Kelly, saying that he was about to finish it, but this hesitation allowed Owens to catch him with a slingshot backbreaker and get a two count. Owens then ran right into Finlay and hit a running knee, but again only got a two count. Owens then went for the package piledriver, but Finlay reversed into a backdrop. Finlay and Owens then entered a striking exchange, with Finlay able to hit his Prima Nocta (Rope run Cutter) to get the pinfall victory…
David Finlay defeated Chase Owens to advance to the semifinals.
Anish’s Thoughts: This match had a very slow and labored pace, which made sense given its placement on the show. Owens dominated for most of the match and Finlay’s selling definitely made him look good. I think Finlay could have taken more of the match, or had a more obvious transition into his comeback, but otherwise it was a solid win, although I do believe this match made Owens shine more than him.
4. Brody King vs. Tama Tonga in a first-round match. King and Tonga slowly circled each other to start and when they locked up, King pushed Tonga to the ropes and let go, only for Tonga to attempt to break early and strike at King. Tonga managed to force King to the corner and hit him with a running clothesline, when he attempted to follow up with a running attack, King lifted him right into the air and hit a big senton to get a two count.
King started ramming Tonga’s head into the turnbuckle and followed up with heavy strikes to Tonga’s jaw. King then chopped Tonga on the ropes and then hit a running chop to get a two count. King then locked in a neck wrench and drove his elbow into Tonga’s face. King then smacked Tonga repeatedly while Tonga tried to get to his feet, with Tonga seemingly feeling it in his gut. King noticed this and hit a scoop slam and senton, getting another two count.
King was caught out by a sit-out jawbreaker from Tonga, and although Tonga had to work for it, he was able to catch King with a neckbreaker. King crawled to the corner, where Tonga followed him and stomped him before hitting a face wash and a running boot in the corner. Tonga took some time to talk trash and hit a running corner splash, but King powered through it and hit Tonga with a belly to belly suplex straight into the corner.
King got to his feet first and hit Tonga with a corner clothesline and then a Lariat to get a two count. King then attempted a powerbomb, but Tonga escaped and hit an elbow followed up with a DDT. Tonga tried for a Gun Stun, but King hit him with a German and then a running Lariat, but this ended with a great near fall as Tonga just managed to get the shoulder up at two and a half. King tried again for a high angle powerbomb, but Tonga reversed into the Tongan Twist and followed with the Gun Stun to get the pinfall victory…
Tama Tonga defeated Brody King to advance to the semifinals.
Post match footage aired of a Tama Tonga press conference… Kelly and Koslov hyped a pair of tag team matches, and the semifinal tournament matches of Jeff Cobb vs. KENTA, and David Finlay vs. Tama Tanga for next week’s show…
Anish’s Thoughts: This was a great main event, with Brody King really working hard to both sell for Tonga but also to continue looking credible by putting Tonga in difficult positions and almost winning with at least one extremely captivating near fall.
Overall, this was a well put together first show, however I do question the scheduling of the tournament. It might have made more sense to space out the first round matches and give them a 20-minute time limit and have them over two episodes to really give this roster a little more time to shine, especially given that this was the first episode of a new show. But with that being said, each of these matches brought something different, and if you want to check out any from this show, the opener and the main event were definitely the two best. My weekly audio review of NJPW Strong will be available for Dot Net Members on Saturday mornings.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features referee Rob Page discussing the difficulty of reffing tag matches in the modern era, making three counts if a wrestler's shoulders are down even if it wasn't the planned finish, the growth of F1rst Wrestling, and more...