On their U.S.-based Friday night show NJPW Strong, New Japan is getting ready to kick-off their second annual New Japan Cup USA tournament.
Before the action starts next week, however, Kevin Kelly had some news. In 2020, the USA Cup winner earned a future shot at the IWGP United States champion. This is similar to the original New Japan Cup, which usually comes with the right to challenge for the top IWGP belt (previously the Heavyweight title, now the new World Heavyweight one).
It took a long time for last year’s USA Cupholder KENTA to get his match against reigning IWGP U.S. champ Jon Moxley. That won’t be an issue this year, however, since Kelly’s announcement was rather than becoming #1 contender for Mox’s strap, the 2021 winner will be the first NJPW STRONG Openweight champion.
We got a look at the design too, which shouldn’t be nearly as controversial as the one unveiled in Japan this week...
Strong Openweight Championship revealed; New Japan Cup USA winner to become first championhttps://t.co/cwRA0mbMai#njpwSTRONG #njcupusa pic.twitter.com/jAV6JCwQDS— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) April 3, 2021
A few things worth talking about here other than how the belt looks.
- Like New Japan’s existing NEVER Openweight titles (the singles championship currently held by Hiroshi Tanahashi and the Trios ones that CHAOS has), Heavyweights and Junior Heavyweights can compete for it. That’s why it doesn’t bear the name of NJPW’s kayfabe governing body, the International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP).
- This probably isn’t so much a reaction to the pandemic-related issues that kept KENTA from getting his 2020 shot at Moxley until early 2020. Not only are travel restrictions easing, but most of the guys in this year’s field as U.S.-based. Booking Mox for another Friday night appearance, or sending the USA Cup winner to Dynamite, wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, it may be that neither AEW or New Japan think any of the wrestlers in the 2021 tournament - a mix of Dojo students and veterans not under exclusive contracts to NJPW - should be the one to dethrone the Death Rider.
We’ll probably here more about this decision in the days ahead. In the meantime, look forward to April 9’s first round matches:
Clark Connors vs. Lio Rush
Brody King vs. Chris Dickinson (interesting given they’re now teammates in ROH)
Ren Narita vs. Tom Lawlor
Hikuleo vs. Fred Rosser
The semi-finals will take place on April 16, with the finals the Friday after.
Thoughts on the new belt, or its existence?