It was exciting news a few weeks ago, when New Japan Pro Wrestling of America CEO Takami Ohbari announced the creation of the 1-hour program, NJPW Strong. This is great news for both wresting fans and NJPW fans, specifically, to have a weekly show devoted to the best professional wrestling anywhere. This announcement came with an even better surprise – the creation of the New Japan Cup USA Tournament.
The new New Japan Cup USA tournament is the newest tournament within the NJPW umbrella that has ramifications for a future title opportunity for its participants. That is, the winner of the 8-man single elimination tournament receives a title opportunity for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom in January. This brings us to Friday night and the first streaming broadcast of NJPW Strong.
The maiden episode of Strong presented the opening round of the NJ Cup USA and it did not disappoint at all. Every match was a testament of the ability of New Japan to present stars of the promotion as legit contenders to a title regardless of status or position on the card. If you have access to www.njpwworld.com/ then you must check this opening round out.
The brackets broke down like this:
KENTA vs. Karl Fredricks
KENTA is a legit threat to all titles in NJPW. This is the KENTA most North Americans missed in WWE. Karl Fredricks is a new graduate of the LA Dojo. He was impressive, but his time will come.
Jeff Cobb vs. Tanga Loa
This was a battle even if was just under 10 minutes in time. The Gorillas of Destiny are on singles runs now and they look like they are going to do some things. Cobb is a BEAST and he’s a future champion. Loa is a great in ring worker and has a great look, but I don’t think he’s going to get the push Tama will.
Chase Owens vs. David Finlay
Finlay is on a singles run now that he’s not teaming with Juice Robinson in the Tag Division. As a 2rd generation talent (he’s the son of Fit Finlay) he has a pedigree and is a phenomenal worker inside that ring. Both competitors in this match are so good at what they do that they’re “swiss army knives”. Plug them in any situation and they are going to put on a great show. Finlay looked good and he went over.
Brody King vs. Tama Tonga
To say King is a monster is an understatement. This main event of the opening round was not a disappointment. Tonga is going to be a superstar. Too much charisma and in ring ability to overlook. As Kevin Kelly said, “he’s the best defensive wrestler in wrestling” and “his speed” is his greatest asset. With that said, King had control of this match for the vast majority but couldn’t get the job done against a more skilled (in terms of NJPW style) and faster opponent.
All told this was a fantastic opening night for not only the NJ Cup USA tournament, but for a debut of a weekly wrestling show. Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly (one of the best in the business) and former Jr. Tag Champion and team Forever Hooligans member Alex Kozlov providing analysis. Friday nights for the foreseeable future are going to be can’t miss on New Japan World. As a fan of New Japan, I sincerely hope this turns into appointment viewing and brings new eyes to a phenomenal wrestling product. If you haven’t subscribed to NJPW World you don’t need to waste any more time. Go subscribe. This is pro wrestling as it is supposed to be.
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