6. SHO vs. Hiromu Takahashi – December 2, 2020
Going into this match, many believed that it was a predictable result. Apart from a loss to El Desperado, Hiromu Takahashi had been on a role main eventing almost every show. On the other hand, SHO had also been picking up momentum but less spectacularly. This match was always going to have a big impact on who would make the final.
Despite many fans’ beliefs, SHO and Hiromu are much more similar than first expected. Both men prefer to think with their hearts rather than their brains. They are also not scared to show emotions. It was evident throughout as both men put everything on the line.
The match started at lightning speed with both men utilizing their speed and agility to try and get the advantage. It was the perfect mix of both SHO and Hiromu’s style combining high risk, heavy strikes and submission skills. As expected from Hiromu, there were moments of danger which included a powerbomb to SHO off the apron. This was especially dangerous as SHO’s neck was heavily taped up.
Yet, even with both men going 110%, neither seemed to lose energy and determination. Both men seemed to have the upper hand at different points of the match. It made it difficult to determine a winner. With the offence, SHO and Hiromu were both heavily damaged but determined to win the fight.
In the end, with a final Shock Arrow to Hiromu, SHO picked up his first singles main-event win in New Japan. It was a match that could have gone either way with both men on equal terms in heart, passion and skill. However, SHO deserved the win. It had been a long journey to get to this point in his career.
5. SHO vs. Taiji Ishimori – December 6, 2020
After the heart-breaking loss SHO suffered against Taiji Ishimori during last year’s tournament, it was an opportunity for retribution. It was a rematch between two men who can be called the perfect hybrid athletes. They combine not just speed and agility but also strength and power.
The match started very quickly with SHO and Ishimori darting across the ring trying to get the upper hand. Fans flinched as Ishimori hit SHO with a package pile driver on the ring apron and transitioned into the Yes Lock. It was a perfect strategy as it targeted SHO’s already injured neck. However, SHO’s heart helped him get back into the match with a target in mind: Ishimori’s left arm.
Within five minutes, there had already been enough action for a 15-minute match. It was a match with many layers with speed, submissions and strikes. One minute, they were flying across the ring, the next they were stood in the ring throwing strikes.
In the end, Ishimori hit his bloody cross just after the 12-minute mark. Despite SHO picking up another loss and losing a place in the tournament final, it was still a superb match. Fans were reminded just how good Ishimori is and how much SHO has grown the past year. It also showcased that not all matches have to go over 15 minutes to be full of action.
4. Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado – November 18, 2020
After their stand-out match during the 2018 tournament, the bout between Hiromu Takahashi and El Desperado was one that many fans were looking forward to. The two men are as different as they come in terms of styles and personalities. Yet, they have this unrivaled chemistry that blurs the lines between love and hate. It has always been evident in their matches.
The match itself started uncharacteristically slow, especially for Hiromu. It felt as if the two were going through a feeling-out process during their first singles match in over two years. During this time, you could see Desperado using mind games and their history to rile up Hiromu. It was a risky decision that quickened the speed drastically.
From this point, Hiromu almost became unhinged. He started flinging Desperado into the barricades and throwing slaps without any remorse. However, Desperado took it in his stride and focused on targeting Hiromu’s leg. As the two carried on this onslaught with chops and strikes, it seemed more like a fight than a wrestling match.
It became a battle of Hiromu’s heart and unpredictability versus Desperado’s more methodical and sadistic style.
In the end, Desperado resorted to some of his sneaky tactics using a chair to target Hiromu’s leg while the referee was down. With a final blow and a transition to Numero Dos, Hiromu verbally submitted. With this win, Desperado had a number on Hiromu and made the final even more intense.
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