NJPW STRONG #1 – New Japan Cup USA 2020 Part 1

Port Hueneme, CA – 8.7.2020

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

A video shows us the previous New Japan Cup Winners: Kota Ibushi (2015), Testuya Naito (2016), Katsuyori Shibata (2017), Zack Sabre, Jr. (2018), Kazuchika Okada (2019), and EVIL (2020). This year, the first New Japan Cup USA winner will be crowned, with the winner getting a future IWGP U.S. Championship opportunity.

New Japan Cup USA 2020 First Round Match
Karl Fredericks vs. KENTA

Fredericks knew he had no time to waste, blasting a mouthy KENTA before the bell when KENTA got in his face. Fredericks maintains control for a little bit, but KENTA comes back with his signature chest kicks. He absorbs all of Fredericks’ shots and takes him down with one hard forearm shot. Fredericks pulls down KENTA into a neckbreaker across his back, stunting him for the first time in a while. Even though KENTA is able to take Fredericks down with a powerslam and the Green Killer, Fredericks is able to stop KENTA’s momentum with a spinebuster and lock on his signature half crab. KENTA uses his other leg to free himself. He hits Fredericks with a PK after knocking Fredericks down to the mat with open hand slaps. The GTS gets KENTA the pin at 9:59. After how much Lions Break Collision was spent building Fredericks, it was really odd to see him lose in the very first match of STRONG. I wasn’t expecting him to beat KENTA, but seeing him get just a bit further in the tournament would have been nice given the investment made in him so far. The story of Fredericks starting off a bit careless and tightening up his game as the match progressed was sound, especially since until the bitter end he more or less hung with KENTA the entire way. **¾

New Japan Cup USA 2020 First Round Match
Jeff Cobb vs. Tanga Loa

When a shoulder block battle goes nowhere, Loa cheapshots Cobb, and Cobb takes him down with three flying shoulder tackles. Loa pummels Cobb’s back and tries taking him out with sleeper. Cobb uses a chinbreaker to escape. Loa shuts him down with a couple knee strikes to the chin and an enzuigiri. Cobb surprises Loa with a lariat. Loa kicks out of a suplex cradle and blasts Cobb with a dropkick after Cobb kicks out of a schoolboy. Cobb German suplexes Loa after sliding off of his shoulders. Tour of the Islands gets Cobb the pin at 8:45. Cobb’s offense was explosive and interesting while Loa’s was dull and repetitive. Fortunately the better man came out on top, but it did make for an uneven viewing experience. *½

New Japan Cup USA 2020 First Round Match
David Finlay vs. Chase Owens

Finlay scores first with a suplex into a pin, so Owens decides to use some dirty tactics to get control, including using the top rope for a choke, pulling hair, and nailing Finlay with a closed fist. Owens then wears down Finlay’s shoulders and back. Finlay escapes a side headlock with a back suplex. He gets two after a diving uppercut and a uranage backbreaker. Owens hits a rolling back elbow and his own backbreaker for two. Finlay backdrops his way out of a package piledriver attempts, then leg rolls Owens into a pinning combo. Although Owens kicks out, Finlay knees him in the face and hits Prima Nocta (an Acid Drop) for the pin at 9:46. Maybe his understanding of Prima Nocta is that of Michael Scott’s. This brought an energy that the previous match lacked. I like that this tournament pairing felt very even and that Finlay’s victory was hard fought after all the damage Owens did to his back. I hope that isn’t something forgotten in the next round. ***

New Japan Cup USA 2020 First Round Match
Brody King vs. Tama Tonga

Tonga moves quickly and ducks King’s offense in order to strike first. King catches him coming off the ropes, popping him up in the air, and landing a senton after Tonga comes crashing down. King cranks on Tonga’s neck and clobbers his chest and back before giving him a running splash. Tonga avoids a pump kick and drops King with a jump-up neckbreaker. Tonga facewash kicks King successfully, but King catches a Stinger splash an exploder suplexes Tonga into the buckles. King gets a two count after a big lariat. King blocks a Gun Stun with a German suplex and nails a second lariat for two. Tonga escapes a Ganso Bomb with the Tonga Twist. The Gun Stun successfully hits for the pin at 7:14. I like the quick, frenetic pace this match took, and that Tonga’s stick and move approach was successful. I also like that on commentary and in Tonga’s post-match backstage promo, it was mentioned that Tonga pinned King at G1 Supercard, giving this some continuity in overall wrestling lore. **¾

Next week the tournament continues with the semi-final round bouts, which will see KENTA vs. Jeff Cobb and David Finlay vs. Tama Tonga.

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