Not long ago, the annual New Japan Cup was made from a field of 8 wrestlers. This year, it’s a massive 32-man lineup. This means five rounds during the next month, over 12 shows. This makes the tournament nearly as long as The G1 Climax round robin tournament in the Summer. Normally, champions would be forbidden from competing in the tournament, as the winner would challenge for their choice of singles champions. This year, every singles champion except the IWGP Heavyweight Champion are competing.
Night One is of course made up of Round One matches, and tag matches between opponents who will have tournament matches later. Some of which are made up of matches promised back in January, but were never delivered due to the American Government Shutdown. Whether that’s why the field is 32 men or not isn’t clear, nor does it really matter. The important part is we are getting matches like Nagata vs. Ishii and Kojima vs. Suzuki. And most importantly of all, the winner will challenge Jay White for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at The G1 Supercard, New Japan’s debut at Madison Square Garden over WrestleMania Weekend.
The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hikuleo, & IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, w/Jado) b. CHAOS (NEVER Openweight Champion Will Ospreay, Rocky Romero, & Mikey Nicholls) when Ishimori pinned Romero with a Bloody Cross – This was Nicholls return to New Japan after a four year absence. Fale and Ospreay are first round Cup opponents, as are Nicholls and Hikuleo. Ospreay amazingly knocked Fale off his feet with a flying forearm. The rest of Bullet Club rebounded and knocked CHAOS out of the ring. Romero actually got the upper hand on the Junior Heavyweight Champion, but again got steamrolled by the rest of Bullet Club. Jado smacked Rocky in the face with his cane, and Ishimori followed up with a Bloody Cross for the win
Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., & Lance Archer) b. Satoshi Kojima, Toru Yano, & Toa Henare when Smith pinned Henare with a Powerbomb – As expected, Suzuki-Gun jumpstarted the match before the bell. Yano removed a turnbuckle pad, and tried to trick Smith into running into the steel buckle. That failed. The heels worked over Yano until Kojima got the tag and hit Suzuki with the Machine Gun Chops, which Suzuki seemed to enjoy. Suzuki rebounded with a PK for a two count. Kojima hit a Koji-Cutter for the double down. Henare tried to hold his own against Smith and Archer, but fell to Smith’s Powerbomb.
After the match, Suzuki-Gun pummeled the babyfaces and a few of the ring crew.
EVIL & BUSHI of Los Ingobernables De Japon b. Zack Sabre Jr. & Taka Michinoku of Suzuki-Gun when BUSHI pinned Michinoku with a MX – Sabre out grounded both Evil and Bushi in the opening minutes. However, once Taka got in, LIJ were able to isolate him and get the win.
Los Ingobernables De Japon (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, & Shingo Takagi) b. Kota Ibushi, Hirooki Goto, & Sho when Takagi pinned Sho with Last Of The Dragon – Ibushi and Naito started out with a high energy exchange that ended in a standstill. Goto and Sanada then did likewise. It wasn’t until Sho and Takagi got in the ring together that one side got control. LIJ worked on Sho until Ibushi tagged in., then the momentum swung back for the babyfaces. A multi-man brawl broke out, with Takagi hitting Last Of The Dragon to get the pin on one half of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Togi Makabe, & Hiroyoshi Tenzan b. Ryusuku Taguchi, Micheal Elgin, Colt Cabana & Shota Umino when Okada pinned Umino with a Rainmaker – All eight of these men are in the tournament. Yes, even the Young Lion Umino. He and Tanahashi started the match, with Umino being the aggressor. Taguchi motioned to Tenzan for a fistbumb, and kicked him in the gut when a accepted. The match went back and forth for the first few minutes, until Okada got cut off. Umino did manage to stop Okada from making a tag, but couldn’t keep any momentum. Okada made a comeback, and pinned Umino with a Rainmaker.
After the match , the winners stood tall, with each man posing for the crowd. A strange viral type video aired, showing a silhouette. When the silhouette turned around, we saw a brief glimpse of light up glasses, and a beard. It was too quick to decisively see who it was. Kevin Kelly recognized the music as El Phantasmo’s music.
Now for the tournament matches
YOSHI-HASHI s. Manabu Nakanishi with a Butterfly Lock – Hashi was obviously outweighed, though he still managed to ground Nakanishi and work his leg. Nakanishi landed a superplex, and did a very sloppy jump to the outside. He followed that up with a top rope bodypress. Certainly no Ricky Steamboat in the technique. Hashi kicked out of a pin attempt, so Nakanishi tried for a submission with the Argentine Backbreaker. Hashi, perhaps intentionally, grabbed at Red Shoes’ shirt. This for some reason cause Red Shoes to go the the corner. Nakanishi got a visual pin while Rad Shoes wasn’t looking. Hashi started making a comeback. and landed a few lariats. Nakanishi speared Hash, and again went for the Backbreaker. Hashi escaped by countering into a Butterfly Lock. Nakanishi fought for a while, but eventually submitted
Taichi (w/Miho Abe) s. Tomoaki Honma with a seated crossface – Taichi came to the ring armed with the iron glove left behind by Takeshi iizuka a few weeks back. Honma got the shine early on, until he missed a Kokeshi headbutt. He layed nearly motionless on the mat as Taichi stalked him. Honma of course had a broken neck a few years ago. Taichi took the opportunity to torture Honma with a chair on the floor. Honma started making his comeback, and hit a second rope Kokeshi for a near fall. Honma climbed to the top for another Kokeshi, but Taichi landed a kick to thwart it and went for a Superplex. Honma avoided that by reversing into a sunset flip for another near fall. Taichi, now visibly frustrated, locked in a seated crossface. When Honma escaped that, Taichi followed up with a Saito Suplex. and went back to the crossface. This time, Honma tapped out.
Chase Owens p. IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson with a Package Piledriver – Juice outwrestled Owens at the start of the match. Owens got the upper had on the outside by legsweeping Juice into the barricade. Juice tried making comebacks but kept getting cut off. Owens tried a Package Piledriver on the floor which Juice escaped with a backdrop. Owens used a Juice Box, one of Juice’s signature moves, but only got a two. The two exchanged several roll-ups and near falls. Owens escaped a Pulp Friction and hit a Jewel Heist for another near fall. Before Juice could retaliate, Owens hit a Package Piledriver for a surprising win.
Tomohiro Ishii p. Yuji Nagata with a brainbuster – The two went at it out of the gate, trading holds and strikes. The moves kept getting bigger, and before long they were exchanging suplexes and brainbusters. Neither man built any real momentum, which made for an exciting back and forth match. In the end, Ishii outlasted Nagata and pinned him with a brainbuster.
That’s it for Night 1. Night 2 begins the next day! I do hereby officially pick Okada to win the tournament.
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