The New Japan Cup is off and running. Eight men have pushed through to the second round as the rest of the field look to make the next step. It is difficult to predict the winner as New Japan does an excellent job booking these tournaments with some surprises along the way. Shingo Takagi picked up what some may call an upset with his win over Kazuchika Okada, but looking at his momentum coming into this tournament, he should be the favorite to hold the New Japan Cup when this is all said and done.
Takagi is a name that has been growing in popularity across all of wrestling. Starting out as a junior heavyweight, he picked up multiple titles within Dragon Gate but is a made man across many of the major promotions in Japan and North American organizations like ROH and PWG. His feuds against men like PAC, Akira Tozawa, and BxB Hulk outline a resume that is impressive from start to finish. But it is his recent run in New Japan heading into this tournament where the ending is set for him to become a main event player.
In their first-round matchup, Okada and Takagi put on what can be considered one of the top matches of 2021. This will be considered an instant classic, but it is not the only match recent match where Takagi and his opponent put on a show. Just this year alone his matches against Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jeff Cobb are among the best seen three months in. Looking at his performances in those, one of which was dropping the NEVER title to Tanahashi, it is hard to not see Takagi as a favorite to pick up a victory in this tournament.
With the way the bracket is set up, Takagi will have to go through Cobb a second time to get to the finals. Cobb is a real threat to Takagi’s run. Looking at the bottom half of the full bracket, Jay White and Hiroshi Tanahashi are also two other men that could end up facing Takagi in the finals and stopping this run. At the very least, expect Takagi to make it through to the final match of the entire tournament, but he is poised to pick up a career-defining moment.
New Japan does an excellent job using tournaments to build up names into the main event. With the 2021 New Japan Cup underway, Shingo Takagi looks like the favorite to win the tournament and get a shot against Kota Ibushi and the new IWGP World Heavyweight title.