New Japan Cup 2016 Round 1, Full Review (Naito vs YOSHI HASHI, Shibata and KUSHIDA vs Okada and Sakuraba, Ishii vs EVIL, Tanahashi vs FALE, Will Ospreay Joins CHAOS)

Bushiroad president and NJPW owner Takaaki Kidani came to the ring before the show to personally announce that Michael Elgin had signed a two-year deal, to have Shibata sign his new deal and to announce the resuréaction of the Super J-Cup. Kidani doesn’t appear often on an NJPW ring, but when he does he sure makes a splash. He also apparently threw a few barbs in WWE’s direction, which the crowd found very amusing. After all that it was time for this year’s New japan Cup first round matches:

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Toru Yano defeated Yujiro Takahashi in 1:13 via countout:

Can’t really call this a match. Takahashi and Cody Hall jumped Yano before the bell, match started with Yano still on the outside, Takahashi destroyed Yano with some chairshots while Hall distracted the referee, during all this time the ring announcer was counting (in Japan, count-outs are at 20), 18, Takahashi is gloating on the ring-apron, 19 Yano delivers a low-blow, Takahashi falls to ring-side, Yano beats the count and the Sublime Master-Thief steals another one. On a side note, again Takahashi didn’t bring his girlfriend with him which, for me, completely kills any interest I might have for his matches.

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Michael Elgin defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 8:22 via pinfall:

After all that silliness, it was time for the real show-opener and Elgin and Tenzan happily obliged. Fairly good big-man match with Tenzan working his ass off to put Elgin’s arsenal of power-moves over. Good flow with a lot of back and forth and the crowd encouraging Tenzan and going wild for Elgin’s big moves. The Elgin-Bomb spelled the end for Tenzan. Good start of the tournament for Elgin who is definitively the Dark Horse of this whole thing.

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Tama Tonga defected Togi Makabe in 7:40 via pinfall:

We stay in fairly good territory as Tonga’s unorthodox offense proved to be a good match for Makabe’s power. To be honest, I was rather anticipating this match as it was a rare occasion for Tonga to shine on his own. And the Bad Boy indeed confirmed that a push is way overdue for him. He brings a unique style to the ring but is smart enough to make it blend well with the Japanese Strong-style. Gun Stun to finish things, as Tonga scores what probably is the biggest win of his NJPW career.

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Satoshi Kojima defeated Tomoaki Honma in 11:50 via pinfall:

Good, very entertaining match here. Those two know each-other of course which resulted in good chemistry throughout. Crowd was edging Honmamania towards victory, but Mr Strong Arm proved too much of an obstacle. I really like Kojima in this spot because the 45-year old indeed proved is far from done yet. Strong performance form the master of the lariat who looked really dominant while still managing to put Honma’s offense over when he had to. Kojima/Naito in the semi’s? I certainly won’t mind. On a side-note, as expected tag team champions GBH are now officially in trouble as they can now definitely expect challenges form The Bullet Club AND TenKoji.

Kazuchika Okada and Kazushi Sakuraba defeated Katsuyori Shibata and KUSHIDA in 11:25 via pinfall:

Let me start with stating that every single Okada/Shibata exchange was pure awesomeness. Now that Shibata has signed a new contract, I’m getting the impression this could become your WK 11 main event. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I finally figured out why I liked Sakuraba’s demeanor and expressions even if I do not always like his matches. I mean, when you get right down to it, the guy has a big Bea takeshi vibe about him. Well if beat Takeshi was into MMA of course. Yes, I know, I’m rambling but fans of Japanese cinema will know what I mean. Anyway, good match, but at some point I was wondering why KUSHIDA was put in there, since, while he did get some offense, the Jr Heavyweight Champion did look out of his depth at times. The reason was revealed soon after Okada felled him with a Rainmaker. Taking a microphone, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion invited KUSHIA-san to take a look at the big screen and discover who the newest CHAOS member is. This turned out to be the Areal Assassin Will Ospreay (whom NJPW snatched right from under TNA’s nose), who thanked Okada for his introduction and challenged KUSHIDA to a match. Not only is CHAOS growing but it also seems their intention is monopolizing all the titles; should be an awesome match…

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Hirooi Goto defeated Yuji Nagata in 11:28 via pinfall:

Very focused Goto here who is clearly out to prove something. Nagata gave him a strong challenge, but it will take more than a celebrated and though-as-nails veteran to keep Goto down this time. At least that’s clearly the impression Goto and NJPW wanted to give and they succeeded. Good back and forth and no sign of Goto’s doubts that where in full view in recent weeks. On the contrary, The Samurai’s focus and intensity was rather impressive to watch. Nagat never really had a chance. Shouten-Kai for the win, and Tama Tonga is next for Goto.

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Tetsuya Naito defeated YOSHI-HASHI in 13:42 via pinfall:

Interestingly, IWGP Champion Okada and Gedo made their way to the announce table to comment the two Los Ingobernables/CHAOS battles. While I don’t understand one word of Japanese, I still thought Gedo was great on commentary, simply because of the awesome way he reacted whenever YOSHI-HASHI was in trouble or on the offensive. BUSHI accompanied Naito who was dressed in a white tuxedo because… Because he’s Naito and fuck you, that’s why. BUSHI would play a role of course interfering at will, before the eyes of Okada and Gedo often, which gave this a bit of a strange, but also rather interesting, dynamic. Naito was on fire here, ditching some of his now trade-mark nonchalance in favor of some very aggressive moves. Lesson learned here is that Naito takes this tournament VERU seriously. And that CHAOS (Okada and Gedo) takes Naito VERY seriously. Very good match that ended with the Destino. Trade-mark Naito posing after the bell, no doubt his way of sending a message to Okada. Good stuff.

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Tomohiro Ishii defeated “King of Darkness” EVIL in 15:20 via pinfall:

Big test here for EVIL and, I must say that he looked very impressive at times, although that can also be attributed to Ishii’s great selling. And the good thing with Ishii is that he’s not only a great seller but also awesome when on offense. no-one gives head-butts or slaps the shit out of people quite like Ishii does. Quite a few changes of paces here, depending on who was in control. basically this was the Stone Pitbull’s intensity against EVIL more methodical offense, but it worked rather well. Ishii finally put the King of Darkness away with a brain-buster in a match that kept me entertained from start to finish.

New Japan Cup Opening Round Match: Bad Luck Fale defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi in 13:55 via pinfall:

Main Event time and the only big upset of this first round. Only, it wasn’t really that big of an upset since, as stated in my preview, Tanahashi didn’t really need to win the NJC since he’s got more than enough reasons already to challenge IC champ Omega. Not the best match of the night, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. Fale might look impressive when he stands there, arms crossed, but as soon as he starts to move, the impression quickly fades. What WAS surprising is that Fale actually got a clean win over Tanahashi, I must admit I thought there were going to be Bullet Club shenanigans to “protect” Tanahashi. This means we get a Fale coming off a big win against Elgin in the quarters, which should give Big Mike every possibility to wow the crowds with his power-moves. Post match Fale and Tonga stood in the ring, said Bullet Club is still here and that a new era is about to begin.


All of which gives us the following quarter-finals:

Bad Luck Fale vs Michael Elgin

Tama Tonga vs Hirooki Goto

Toru Yano vs Satoshi Kojima

Tomohiro Ishii vs Tetsuya Naito

In quick predictions: Something is definitly up with Bullet Club, some new members are coming in and Fale beating Tanahashi this way is a bit of a surprise so I feel a bit less certain about my Elgin prediction all of a sudden. Will still go with Big Mike but keeping my eye on BC’s new era.

Same as above, but Tonga has already done what he came for, so Goto continues on his road to redemption. Still say that road will lead him to a match against Shibata though.

The Master Thief has already gotten his win and they need a good veteran to give Naito a great match in the semi’s. That’s Kojima in case some of you were still wondering.

Like said in the preview, Ishii will growl, bite and kick ass but Naito isn’t done yet in this tournament. Naito goes through.


Quarter-finals happen tomorrow, see you all then!


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