On March 10th, David Finlay stood a tag-team specialised, “good hand” on the overflowing New Japan Pro Wrestling roster. On March 20th, he stood an entirely changed man.
A mere 10 days and 4 matches have manifested an unrivalled elevation – a quite astounding feat. Defeating Chase Owens, YOSHI-HASHI and most crucially Jay White, before falling narrowly short to Will Ospreay in a spectacular semi-final, Finlay has embarked on a career-defining New Japan Cup run in 2021.
From a noteworthy wrestling family, Finlay was born into the industry, making it his permanent home in the latter months of 2012. He jumped ship to NJPW in 2015, starting off in the company’s famed Young Lion system.
Since graduating from his Young Lionship in 2016, he has mainly focused on tag-team action, forming the “FinJuice” tag team alongside Juice Robinson in summer 2017. This has brought with it some success: a month long IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title reign in the early embers of 2020, and an ongoing run as IMPACT Wrestling’s champions.
Winning the Impact World Tag Team Championships looked great at the time, but it has been shadowed by the singles glory David Finlay has achieved in the incredibly short time since. Their tag team victory was televised on March 13th, but was taped seemingly well in advance, as both Finlay and Juice were competing in the New Japan Cup that same week.
While his tag team success must not be forgotten, his sterling New Japan Cup crusade has been even more well received. It’s given light to questions about a singles push in NJPW for this fourth generation wrestler.
What Happens to Juice Robinson and FinJuice?
Of course the big caveat to a single push for David Finlay is its implications on his tag partner Juice Robinson (and their tag team as a whole).
Since their inception, it’s been believed that Juice was the bigger star in the duo — but not anymore. After being overshadowed by his flamboyant, glorious, perennial underdog partner, Finlay has shown himself more than capable of exuding gripping babyface fire all the same.
For me, this was no clearer than in Finlay’s semi-final match against Will Ospreay. When adversity barrelled towards him – in the shape of a horrid looking injury to his right ankle – he was able to fight through it. After Ospreay ripped away Finaly’s right boot, the injury was tortured more and more.
Wearing only one of his boots, Finlay literally hobbled to a thunderous OsCutter counter. It looked for a tantalising second that Finlay was going to do it, then, the moment was snuffed out as Ospreay dug deep and hit a flurry of power based offence, climaxing in the decisive Stormbreaker.
Even in defeat, Finlay has proven he is a babyface worthy of our sympathy, love and attention. However, in recent years Juice Robinson has accomplished this too – his first encounter with Jon Moxley for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship in 2019 immediately springs to mind. Both Juice and Finlay have copious amounts of underdog credibility (perhaps this is the ingredient that makes their tag team a wonderful product), but this is undoubtedly Finlay’s time to shine.
Juice is a good wrestler for New Japan to have on their books, but he will have to take a backseat for the immediate future, to allow his tag partner to continue flourishing. By no means is this a splitting up of their team, as Robinson pounding his palms on the ring-mat like there is no tomorrow is an invaluable source of energy by which to get the crowd invested in Finlay’s comeback and hope spots.
So, in answer to the question “what’s next for FinJuice?”, it’s perhaps only that their tag team ventures are being put on the backburner as Finlay roars forward in single competition (with his tag partner in tow). This is no different from when the team took up secondary standing to Juice’s numerous singles campaigns of the past few years.
Don’t expect the band to be breaking up – as that would be a beyond stupid decision for NJPW to make, from a purely booking standpoint.
Already David Finlay has begun to tease a G1 Climax appearance. Realistically, this is entirely possible (and probably advisable).
In less than a fortnight, Finlay has become one of the hottest commodities in the company. If this can be sustained until G1 season (seemingly Autumn once again), his inclusion in the grilling tournament would probably be the best option for NJPW. Although, if Finlay is to be added to the tournament, someone must be taken out.
The obvious choice is Yurjio Takahashi, but I predict we could see the Great O-Khan take a spot in the tournament as well, so who else misses out? This is up for debate, and now isn’t the time, so instead let’s focus on why Finlay should partake in the first place.
Finlay is in the midst of the best singles run of his career so-far, and that must be capitalised on to the fullest extent. In my opinion, this should include putting him into this year’s G1 Climax competition, as it is truly the best place to showcase him as a must-watch higher level star in NJPW’s heavyweight ranks.
To be taken seriously, and in the same breath as some of New Japan’s top wrestlers, Finlay has to prove himself in a G1 environment. It’s the most testing of schedules in world wrestling, and even though this recent New Japan Cup tour has come thick and fast, it pales in comparison to the demands the G1 requires of its competitors.
If Finlay’s elevation is to be continued, and firstly sustained, a strong G1 showing is certainly needed from him. It sets him apart from the bulky mid-card, and places him firmly towards the zenith of NJPW’s roster.
Rise, and rise some more!
As I mentioned above, the rise of David Finlay in the past 10 days must not be wasted, forgotten about, or not used properly. Instead, NJPW must take Finlay from his newly found (elevated) position, and raise him further still.
As a boring statistics and analysis loving football (soccer, if you prefer) fan, I see a lot of talk about “form”. I think it’s transferable here too, as in both a kayfabe and real-life sense, Finlay is in the form of his life.
In kayfabe, he’s the best he’s ever been. He defeated ‘Switchblade’ Jay White just last week, for crying out loud.
In match quality, he’s also the best he’s ever been. That match with Jay, and his subsequent encounter with Will Ospreay, have both been highlights of a fantastic tournament for Finlay. His early tournament matches also showed much promise, so I would staunchly argue that the match quality aspect of Finlay’s game is superb at present.
I’m so invested in this run because, for me, it embodies the feeling of being overlooked and ignored, only to come back stronger than before. It’s said a lot that certain wrestlers “deserve” a main event run, a future-setting payday or a world title match, but with Finlay I honestly feel that he “deserves” this chance in an elevation spot.
He’s played second fiddle to Juice Robinson ever since their tag team was formed, but the time for that has elapsed, as Finlay is at the very least on par with his partner. If not, he has although surpassed him entirely.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.