5. Hirooki Goto vs. Shingo Takagi – March 13, 2021
In the past, Goto and Shingo have had classic strong style matches over the NEVER Openweight title. As expected, their bout in this tournament was very similar, combining two styles that are more similar than different, and two men who have the same strong will and determination.
The match started very quickly with both men throwing stiff forearms and strikes. As Shingo went for his finisher and Goto attempted a roll-up, it felt like both men wanted to end the match quickly with minimum damage. Fortunately, this did not pay off and fans were treated to s solid main event epitomising Japanese Strong Style.
After the sudden flurry of offence, the pace slowed down significantly. Goto started off trying to wear down Shingo in the centre to capitalise on his neck injury. However, as always, Shingo’s heart managed to power through! It felt like this match was full of so much action. In particular, there were many heavy strikes, counters and signature move attempts from two men who know each other so well.
As the match got to the ending moments, Takagi played some mind games with Goto hitting him with his own version of the GTR. With that, Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber and a Last of the Dragon to keep Goto down for the three count. In the end, it proved how talented both men are and their ability to put on high-quality matches.
4. Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – March 14, 2021
Over the years, Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr. have had some wars both in Japan and worldwide. Their match during this year’s tournament was another one of those epic battles! The match itself got off to a quick start. It seemed like Ospreay wanted to get the win as soon as possible. He hit offence that resembled the aerial assassin from CHAOS. However, Zack quickly changed the pace and tried to move the game to the mat.
Surprisingly, this did not last. There were constant changes in speed. One minute, Ospreay would go high-risk and the next, he would showcase his submission skills almost seemingly ZSJ. Similarly, Zack focused on wearing Ospreay down but would bring out uncharacteristic moves such as the La Mistica.
As the match went on, it was clear that Ospreay’s weight gain since their last encounter played to his advantage. It allowed him to counter moves that he knew so well with this newfound strength. Zack struggled, but it seemed like he was slowly adapting to this new Ospreay. As each man hit their offence, it felt like a battle between two children who know each other very well!
Yet, when it seemed like Zack finally had the upper hand and was ready to hit the Zack Driver, Ospreay managed to reverse the move. With a Hidden Blade and Storm Breaker, Will got the win! It was yet another great chapter to the story between two of the best in the business, but it definitely will not be the last.
3. Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA – March 9, 2021
If there was ever a match of contrasts, it was the first bout between Tomohiro Ishii and SANADA. From their wrestling style to their personality, they are as different as can possibly be, yet they managed to create something special in the ring. As it was their first singles bout in almost three years, the initial minutes were a feeling out process.
Yet, it quickly picked up speed as both men were eager to prove how good they are. Between the two men, there was a combination of hard-hitting offence and speed from two athletes trying to bring out the best and worse in each other. There were a few minutes where they were both just throwing chops at each other in the centre of the ring and both men just seemed to ask for more.
As the match progressed, it felt like Ishii was bringing out some rare aggression from the usually calm and collected SANADA. We saw the Los Ingobernables de Japon member dig deep and find anything to get the win, whether it was pushing the referee or throwing forearms in the corner of the ring. There was a mixture of speed and high-risk moves within a single match with men Ishii executing a top rope brainbuster and SANADA hitting a brutal snap suplex.
With both men beaten and exhausted, everything became a struggle. However, they kept finding a will to fight and kicking out of their opponents’ best offence, including SANADA’s patented bridging suplex. For most of the match, it was anyone’s game. Yet, when everyone was on the edge of their seats, SANADA finally hit his moonsault for the win. It was a match of two opposites that seemed to fit together like a perfect whole.