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New Japan Cup Gifted Us Puro’s Best Rivalry

3 years ago
Shingo Takagi vs Will Ospreay in NJPW from Spring 2021 by taigaphoto_pw

New Japan Cup Gifted Us Puro’s Best Rivalry

By: Sam Gladen

Just 24 hours after the New Japan Cup semi-finals were interrupted by a 7.2 earthquake that rocked the entire island nation, NJPW returned to Xebio Arena in Sendai to crown the 2021 winner of the New Japan Cup.

As for Takagi, his time in the Juniors division is regularly looked down upon as he clearly was a heavyweight when he made the transition from Dragon Gate. His style stayed much the same in the intervening years with a heavy focus on striking and ground game. Both mens familiarity with one another was immediately evident as both men quickly reversed signature moves. A blocked Oscutter resulted in Ospreay being driven (broken) nose- first into the corner. It compounded an injury that he sustained in the Cup semifinals to David Finlay.

The original pool of 30 had been whittled down to just Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi following three weeks of brutal wrestling that tested the intestinal fortitude of everyone involved. At stake? The right to challenge the current IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental champion Kota Ibushi at Sakura Genesis on April 4th, 2021 for the all-new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship title.

Ospreay was not the only one to fall victim to old injuries though as he was quick to laser in on Takagi’s heavily taped back which was worked over slowly and brutally by EVIL in their semifinal matchup. After driving Shingo smashing into the guardrail midway into the match, Ospreay seemed desperate to put him away, rolling back into the ring in an effort to win via countout. A move that fans are not accustomed to from the British wrestler. Shingo kept the fight alive and broke the count at 17 by rolling back into the ring.

It would be the first time in the company’s 49-year history that two wrestlers would face off in the finals of a Best of Super Juniors tournament, and then again in the finals of a New Japan Cup.

Ospreay and Takagi have been circling each other slowly ever since their BoSJ 2019 Finals, considered by critics to have been a proper Match of the Year – an epic ‘do you see me now’ moment for both wrestlers that sent the internet ablaze. Somehow, these two making the Cup finals felt completely unexpected.

The finish for the match came when Ospreay delivered a “Hidden Blade” forearm strike to the back of Shingo’s head and followed up with his Stormbreaker, pinning Takagi for the victory to win the 2021 New Japan Cup.

Both competitors overcame enormous challenges to find themselves in the final event of the tournament. The New Japan Cup always provides incredibly stiff competition for all involved but this year’s field will surely go down as one of the most stacked of all time.

After the match, Kota Ibushi left his post on Japanese commentary and entered the ring to stare down Ospreay, now flanked by his United Empire compatriots. Ospreay tells Kota he, “…doesn’t care about history, doesn’t care about legacy – I only care about being number one.”

On Ospreay’s side of the bracket he overcame Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Zack Sabre Jr., SANADA and David Finlay to earn his bid into the finals. On the other side of the bracket, Takagi defeated such names as Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, KENTA and EVIL.

In a truly problematic and controversial move he then delivered a devastating Oscutter to his fiance and stablemate Bea Priestley in order to prove to the champion he would go on to face at Sakura Genesis: he only cares about the title. Above anyone else. Above all else.

This rematch felt important from the start with the normally demure Japanese fan base applauding before either man had even grappled; describing it as a ‘big fight feel’ is almost an understatement. While it didn’t have the breakneck pace of its predecessor, it may very well be the better of the pair’s main event spectacles.

While it can be hard to root for this particular version of Ospreay, it is incredibly hard to say that he is not an incredibly talented pro wrestler with a distinctly unique understanding of in-ring psychology. He achieved exactly what he wanted to with the Oscutter to Priestley. He not only got into Kota’s head… but all of ours as well.

With both men looking to get into each other’s head and outwrestle their opponent, the match showcased how both men’s styles have shifted. Ospreay displayed more mat wrestling, going strike for strike a lot more often than their 2019 meeting including rare submission attempts for the wrestler.

This article first appeared in Monthly Puroresu Issue #4

Written by:

I'm a freelance writer living in Texas with my wife. I also write for and, among other outlets. Monthly Puroresu has given me the opportunity to work as a photojournalist, and cover topics new to me, such as All Japan Pro Wrestling.