Gabriel Kidd, Hirooki Goto, Master Wato & Tomoaki Honma vs. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 6/10
All of Suzuki-Gun came out to Taichi's entrance theme, even Suzuki. Interesting.
This match is building three New Japan Cup matches, so we had small runs with Taichi vs Goto, Sabre vs Kidd, and Suzuki vs Honma. Sabre vs Kidd I found surprising because Sabre gave sooo much to Kidd. Final two were Goto and DOUKI, with Goto getting the win. Ok match, good opener, but nothing special. Wato was basically invisible this match.
I think Suzuki and Honma are gonna have a hell of a slap fest.
Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, EVIL, Jay White, KENTA & Taiji Ishimori) - 5.5/10
Likewise, this is building KENTA vs Robinson, White vs Henare, and Owens vs Finlay for the New Japan Cup. Match had some cool stuff, but it was also nothing special. Tanahashi was babyface in peril, Finlay got the hot tag, and at the end, EVIL pinned Taguchi with EIE after one move.
Robinson by the way, debuted a new look with an afro. Not his best work, he looks like super early FCW Robinson.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, SHO & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA & Shingo Takagi) - 5.5/10
This one is building SANADA vs Ishii and Okada vs Shingo, the latter of which wasn't that promising, Okada's lower back is definitely hurting, you can see it in his walking, his running, how he takes the ropes, and just overall moves. I really hope Shingo eliminates him in the first round and Okada can rest the rest of the tour.
Ishii vs SANADA was good though, I their match will be fantastic if they get the main event of their date. At the end of this match, SHO pinned BUSHI after the Shock Arrow.
Announcements - NJPW is running Yokohama Stadium on May 15, and returning to the Tokyo Dome on May 29. This latter one may replace Dominion, it's the same week, or quite close to it.
New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match
Satoshi Kojima vs. Jeff Cobb - 7.5/10
This was a good hoss fight, with a lot of good displays of strength. Even with Kojima being bigger than the usual Cobb opponent, he was able to pull off some of his moves where he ragdolls people around, and in the same way, Kojima pulled off some spots slamming Cobb. Finish was great, Kojima went for the same lariat packed with dreams and hopes that he used to pin Cobb at Castle Attack, but instead Cobb caught him with the Tour of the Islands and won.
Cobb vs EVIL in the next round. Could be a good hoss fight.
New Japan Cup 2021 First Round Match
Tetsuya Naito vs. The Great-O-Khan - 8.5/10
When I previewed this match in the WRPX Podcast (cheap plug), I thought that there was a big chance that O-Khan could end up defeating Naito here, as a way to create a Naito vs United Empire rivalry, if not a full LIJ vs UE feud.
I really liked the match, I was a big fan of the chemistry behind O-Khan and Naito's gimmicks. O-Khan was immune to all the little things that Naito tends to do to annoy his opponents, but not O-Khan, he kept his mind focused, he took on Naito's offense and bid his time, and when the time came, he locked in a knee bar, locked it in tight, dropped to the mat, and forced Naito to submit.
That is one big name eliminated from the tournament, and one that I don't mind at all, I think after last year and this Castle Attack, Naito will take a long break from challenging for the World title for a while, and feuding with the UE could be perfect. I'm totally expecting Naito vs Ospreay at the Tokyo Dome or Yokohama shows.
O-Khan awaits the winner of Yano vs Fale.
Naito has a bit of a black eye from Castle Attack.
IWGP Heavyweight Title / IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Kota Ibushi (c) vs. El Desperado (with Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) - 8.5/10
This was an interesting experiment of Ibushi working the big dude, while Despy worked as the underdog. Story of the match saw Ibushi be dominant until Desperado was able to finally start working over Ibushi's leg, bring him down, and chase the Numero Dos. Ibushi made a comeback and they headed into the finishing sequence with a fantastic near fall, since we had just seen Naito get submitted by O-Khan, and now Despy had the same lock he used to win the Jr. title, it was a great tease that Ibushi could lose too. Nonetheless, Ibushi recovered, landed two Kamigoyes (one for a kickout!) and got the win.
This wasn't either man's best match as of late, Desperado's BOSJ finals was miles better, and Ibushi still has many people's MOTYC in the Tokyo Dome. Having said that, this was really good, Desperado looked goo and confident main eventing tonight.
For what it's worth, Kanemaru and Taichi never interfered.
Post-match - Such a poetic visual that the masked devil has friends there caring for him, while the wrestling god is alone and has to pull himself up by his own strength. Ibushi and Desperado did have a short nice moment together before Ibushi cut his winner's promo.
Not a strong show really, especially for Budokan, but the card definitely delivered. This card could had been a mix of Road To show or just a new japan cup opening night at Korakuen Hall. New Japan just happens to be trying out a lot of stuff with the schedule that already worked for them, and now they're adding a bunch of new shows in big venues, and suddenly a show like this ended up with a match that at this point is tradition and some New Japan Cup. I don't dislike doing either, but I do think that this show should feel more celebratory, or at least nostalgic, than a quick in-between Castle Attack and the New Japan Cup.