NJPW: Results, Highlights, and Review from New Japan Cup 2020 Night 1

NJPW, New Japan Cup 2020 (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
NJPW, New Japan Cup 2020 (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /
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A full review of the action from NJPW’s first show back!

After nearly four months of inaction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NJPW returns with the 2020 New Japan Cup! A few significant changes and casualties of circumstance make this tournament markedly different than its past iterations, but it’s nonetheless an entertaining re-entry into live pro wrestling with some exciting prospects for the future.

Despite no audience in attendance, the energy stays pretty consistent. What the matches lack in ambiance is made up by the fact that they’re probably as eager and excited to get back to it as we were to watch them, so there are few (if any) truly awkward moments.

This tournament comes on the heels of other canceled events — Best of the Super Juniors 27 and the high-anticipated 48th Anniversary Show among them. Perhaps because of these cancellations, as well as travel restrictions preventing many of their foreign stars from appearing, this is the first New Japan Cup that’s deliberately openweight, consisting of multiple junior heavyweights, heavyweights, and young lions.

For many of these junior heavyweights, it’s also their first time competing in this tournament.

More firsts: Ultimately the winner will face the current top champion at Dominion in Osaka-jo Hall in July. Considering that top champion is Tetsuya Naito, this is also the first time that both belts will be on the line.

It’s a solid compromise to what was an unprecedented and unexpected series of setbacks for the entire industry. Night 1 of this year’s New Japan Cup already had some unique but really fun opening matchups, some highlights of which are below.

Yota Tsuji vs. Togi Makabe

Tsuji is gigantic – that’s my first note. He’s among a few other young lions competing in this tournament, so the chances of him using this opportunity to make a name for himself and really step up as a top young lion is highly likely, especially considering he christened this tournament by hitting Makabe with a heavy spear as soon as the bell rang.

It’s an incredibly high-momentum match with no real low moments — Makabe gives him a great fight as a seasoned competitor, and Tsuji’s reflexes and recovery are on point. It’s absolutely no surprise that Makabe wins this one, but I’d watch it alone for the fact that Tsuji is putting out his best effort and has obviously come to show everyone that he’s capable of way more than being the biggest person in the room.