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New Japan Cup 2020 is full of junior heavyweights

Travel restrictions have lead the tournament to have an essentially openweight field

With last night’s announcement that New Japan Pro Wrestling will start running events again next Monday (June 15), our next question is “what’s gonna be on these shows” so let’s break down what’s been announced, shall we?

First off, the return show on the 15th, entitled Together Project Special, is a New Year Dash!! style mystery card! Nothing will be announced until the opening bell rings, but we can get an idea who’s going to be on the show by looking at the New Japan Cup field by way of this handy dandy bracket.

So the thing that immediately leaps out at me is that this is the same bracket that they announced back in February, just rife with substitutions to accommodate the difficulties inherent in international travel in the age of pandemic.

On the left side of the bracket—

  • Jeff Cobb is replaced by young lion Yota Tsuji.
  • Toa Henare is replaced by Suzuki-gun junior heavyweight El Desperado.
  • Chase Owens is replaced by Bullet Club’s junior heavyweight legend Jado.
  • Colt Cabana and Bad Luck Fale are both out and replaced by a match between IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi and Tomoaki Honma.
  • “Switchblade” Jay White is replaced by his mentor Gedo.
  • Juice Robinson and LA Dojo prospect Alex Coughlin are both out, replaced by a match between young lion Yuya Uemura and Suzuki-gun junior Yoshinobu Kanemaru.
  • David Finlay and Tanga Loa are both out, replaced by a match between UK indie wrestler Gabriel Kidd and Bullet Club junior heavyweight ace Taiji Ishimori.

On the right side of the bracket—

  • Mikey Nicholls is replaced by Annoying Butt Man and multi-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Ryusuke Taguchi.
  • Will Ospreay is replaced by his Chaos stablemate SHO.
  • Both KENTA and Karl Fredericks our, replaced by junior mainstays YOH and BUSHI.

So, overall the right side of the bracket made it out better, but just six matches remain from the original New Japan Cup field. The most interesting thing here is the sheer number of junior heavyweights that are filling in. Not counting young lions, ten of our fourteen substitutions are juniors, giving the tournament something of an openweight feeling.

And this leads to the tournament having a real “anything goes” vibe to it, and some of the new matches have real potential. Hiromu vs. Honma should be great fun, Ishii/Desperado had ought to kick some ass, and while SHO/Shingo is a step down from Ospreay, it’s not that much of a step.

Back to Together Project Special, we have here 32 men that are likely to comprise the bulk if not all of the talent on that show, and there’s one match that leaps out at me. That’s the main event of the canceled 48th Anniversary Show, the annual tradition of pitting the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion... Hiromu Takahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito.

It’s a match that most of us have been drooling over since it was announced, and it’d be a strong start for a reopened New Japan even if it’s tempting to save big matches like that for when we can have crowds again, especially seeing as we know exactly when that’ll be— July 11 and 12 for Dominion in Osaka-Jo Hall... and the main event of the second night has already been confirmed as Naito defending his IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against the winner of the tournament.

There you have it, folks

Excited to finally get to see the 2020 New Japan Cup, Cagesiders?

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