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    Tuesday, July 14, 2020

    #CafePuro: The New Japan Cup Final and Dominion Fallout

    The events of the New Japan Cup finale and Dominion just changed the landscape of NJPW. Saturday's NJ Cup Finals saw EVIL win the tournament over Kazuchika Okada with the help of Bullet Club members Gedo and Yujiro Takahashi. EVIL then lived up to his name by using every dastardly means possible to make sure he would win.

    Many viewers, including myself, thought that Gedo's interference was simply revenge on Okada for defeating him in the first round. As good ol' JR would say "BAH GAWD." We were wrong. EVIL was no longer satisfied with being a member of LIJ and defected to Bullet Club!

    Here are some of the highlights from this past weekend's New Japan Cup Final and Dominion events.

    Bullet Club is... EVIL

    After winning the New Japan Cup, EVIL betrayed Tetsuya Naito and joined Bullet Club. He then scored the biggest win of his career to date by defeating Naito at Dominion the following night to become a triple champion, holding the NEVER 6-Man, IWGP Intercontinental, and IWGP Heavyweight Championships simultaneously.

    The match had the usual Bullet Club shenanigans like distracting the referee, using weapons behind the back, and more. Personally, the most memorable moment from this match wasn't even between EVIL and Naito. NJPW commentator Milano Collection A.T., who had been a long-time supporter of EVIL, always had the expensive sickle light with him every time EVIL made an entrance. During the match, EVIL took Milano's sickle light and broke it in half, thus ending his friendship with Milano. It was pure... EVIL.

    Towards the end of the contest, a masked wrestler would interfere on EVIL's behalf. The commentators were suspicious of the man in the BUSHI mask because he was bigger than usual so it clearly was not the real BUSHI. This BUSHI was actually the returning Dick Togo in disguise! That's right. The head advisor of Grapple MAX has come back to New Japan Pro-Wrestling for the first time in years.

    The decision is a head-scratcher at first, but Togo's connection with Jado and Gedo as the Far East Connection makes it reasonable that the duo recruited one of their buddies to make up for the lack of Bullet Club members who are currently stuck abroad.

    This is Hiromu-chan World

    One of the biggest questions to come up after Naito's loss was who would be challenging EVIL? The man just took out one of the company's biggest stars, while Okada is busy with Yujiro to settle a problem. Enter the Time Bomb.

    Photo from NJPW World

    EVIL was friends with Hiromu for the longest, having entered the NJPW Dojo together. Plus, they were Naito's protegés from the get-go. Hiromu even wrote the word "Why?" on his wrist bands at Dominion to show his frustration and confusion. After the post-match attack on Naito, Hiromu rushed into the ring to save his senpai and challenge his former LIJ brother for the Intercontinental and Heavyweight belts.

    EVIL had other plans and refused to answer Hiromu's challenge so he left the ring and headed to the back with both belts in tow. EVIL's non-response left Hiromu mad and his post-match interview saw Hiromu declare that he will take the belts from EVIL as everyone will enter Hiromu-chan's world.

    Dangerours Tekkers take the tag team belts

    The heavyweight tag team title match was a huge surprise in the night as it was probably the second-best match of the night behind SHO vs. Shingo. Having main-eventers like Tanahashi and Ibushi in the tag division really helps make the tag belts look more legitimate. The Golden Aces made every moment count whether it's breaking a pinfall or attempting a finisher. 

    Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr. always had a response to the dream team and the biggest counter the Tekkers had was to destroy Tanahashi's knees. Taichi would hold Tanahashi's arms in a full nelson position, while ZSJ applied the dragon screw on the Ace's knees again and again until he could no longer kick out. 

    What made the victory even sweeter for the Suzuki-gun duo was the fact that this was ZSJ's first taste of championship gold in New Japan. He had the Revpro world title for a while, but the title is just defended in NJPW so it doesn't really count.

    Photo from NJPW World
    P.S. ZSJ finally got a cold beer for once.  

    Desperado challenges Shingo

    After delivering the best match of the night with SHO, Shingo Takagi was attacked by El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru as he made his way to the back. This brutal attack by the duo signified Desperado's intentions to challenge for the NEVER Openweight title.

    Shingo did say he wanted to take on all comers regardless of weight division so this was the logical next step. With YOH out for the next few months due to injury, the Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships are practically on hold and that will give time for the Openweight division to be the focus of the Juniors.

    Enter Master Wato

    After spending almost two years in excursion, Kawato Hirai returned to New Japan as Master Wato. The gimmick is still confusing because it's just Kawato with blue hair dye and blue tights. There isn't much of a character at the moment. However, I trust Gedo to have something in store for the former Young Lion. Don't forget that when Okada came back from excursion he looked like this:

    The blonde dye on the eyebrows was a tad bit too much, but Okada's in-ring talent and charisma silenced the critics of the former Okato. All I'm saying is we should give Master Wato some time to get a handle of his character because his wrestling skills are already there. After all, even the Rainmaker didn't become a success overnight.

    What does the future hold?

    After a crazy weekend, New Japan held a press conference yesterday to showcase their upcoming schedule. During the press event, we got a good look at everything EVIL accomplished over the weekend with the New Japan Cup trophy, IWGP Heavyweight, and IWGP Intercontinental belts all laid out as the press asked him a few questions. When asked about his status as NEVER Openweight 6-Man Champion, he simply said that he doesn't need it. The question that stood out the most for me was about EVIL facing Hiromu Takahashi at the Sengoku Lord event. All EVIL said was this:

    "Hey Hiromu, you 100% yet? Can your neck survive my offense? Hmph."

    After being asked what it was like to hold both IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts, EVIL abruptly left the conference because he didn't want "to waste time answering such a crappy question."

    Here are a few highlighted matches for the upcoming New Japan Road and Sengoku Lord shows:

    New Japan Road: July 20 (Korakuen Hall-Tokyo)
    • Los Ingobernables de Japón (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, and BUSHI vs. Bullet Club (IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion EVIL, Dick Togo, and Taiji Ishimori)
    • Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata, and Master Wato vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., Minoru Suzuki, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
    • Shingo Takagi & SANADA vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and DOUKI)
    The July 20th New Japan Road show will be the first time Naito and Hiromu will get their hands on the treacherous EVIL and it is also Dick Togo's first match in NJPW in three years. Will Hiromu go crazy after losing a friend or will he be tranquilo like his mentor Naito?

    Minoru Suzuki will make his return to action after being out of the Dominion shows as a precautionary measure due to a fever. He also has unfinished business with "Blue Justice" Yuji Nagata. The Golden Aces will also have the chance to potentially challenge for the tag belts again if they can pin Taichi or ZSJ in the match. Master Wato will also face another Suzuki-gun junior in Kanemaru who attacked him after his match at Dominion.

    Shingo Takagi gets to see if El Desperado is capable of holding his own in a heavyweight vs. junior heavyweight tag team match which could easily see DOUKI getting pinned as the obvious result.

    Sengoku Lord in Nagoya: July 25
    • IWGP Intercontinental & Heavyweight Championship: EVIL vs. Hiromu Takahashi
    • NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. El Desperado
    • Kazuchika Okada vs. Yujiro Takahashi
    Hiromu will finally get his hands on EVIL and potentially achieve his dream of becoming Junior and Heavyweight Champion at the same time and maybe, just maybe, bring the belts back to LIJ.

    El Desperado finally gets his chance to shine in singles action after being stuck in the tag team division for so long and "The Dragon" Shingo Takagi will be ready.

    Okada and Yujiro's story is interesting. Every time Okada was on the cusp of retaining or inching close to winning the heavyweight championship again, Yujiro was there to interfere. In 2013, Yujiro betrayed ChAoS and joined Bullet Club by attacking Okada to help AJ Styles win his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship. History repeated itself this year in the New Japan Cup when Yujiro interfered in Okada's match against EVIL to prevent the Rainmaker from facing Naito once again for the Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts. I don't think Okada is losing in his return to his hometown. This isn't the WWE where hometown wrestlers lose by default. It's going to be an easy win for the Rainmaker.

    The Okada/Yujiro story is extra compelling after Yujiro said in a post-match promo that he could never rise up to Okada's level, but that he could drag Okada down to his. That's compelling and meta at the same time. Great stuff.

    Closing Thoughts

    I'm excited for what Gedo has planned for the rest of the year. The pandemic forced his hand when it came to his plans for Bullet Club, but I think giving EVIL the spotlight was the right move. That said, I'm still a little hesitant to see EVIL as a main -venter. His win didn't have the same impact that Okada or Jay White's Heavyweight Championship wins did. There's just something awkward about EVIL in long matches that doesn't work for me. 

    I really thought SANADA would be the one to leave LIJ first, but I'm more interested to see what EVIL does as one of the newest members of Bullet Club. Will he form his own group once Jay White and the rest of the group is allowed to return to Japan? Could we see Bullet Club Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo?

    Can Hiromu leave Nagoya as a triple champion just like EVIL did in Osaka?

    Will Master Wato be able to gain his footing back in New Japan or will he fumble and end up like YOSHI-HASHI who's just... there?

    How many wrestlers will it take before Shingo is defeated for the Openweight belt?

    What the heck will happen to New Japan's heavyweight tag division?

    Last weekend's events left more questions than answers and I can't wait to see what happens next.

    What did you think of the NJPW events from last weekend? Share your thoughts below!

    Images from NJPW World

    Steven Tan is a data encoder by day and blogger/podcaster by night for The Geeky Juans. A geek culture blog that covers anime, video games, comics, puroresu and much more. He's a fan of the Anaheim Ducks NHL team and loves to read comics in his spare time.
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    Item Reviewed: #CafePuro: The New Japan Cup Final and Dominion Fallout Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Steven Maxwell Tan
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