It’s that time again, as sixteen of the best heavyweights in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) compete in a single elimination tournament for a chance at any singles title in the company – that’s right, it’s the 2018 New Japan Cup! Headlining this show are two of the eight first-round matches, as two BIG BOIS go meat-to-meat when Tomohiro Ishii and Mike Elgin collide, and Juice Robinson looks to overcome the Tokyo Pimp himself, Yujiro Takahashi. As always, both of these matches will be joined by an undercard of various tag matches between upcoming entrants.
+ Michael Elgin vs Tomohiro Ishii (New Japan Cup 2018 First Round Match): one of these men is my pick to win the whole thing – and the other is Mike Elgin. If I could make a petty complaint: this was almost too good a match for a first round. This match had so many big moves, near falls and sickening strikes that it felt like the final. I obviously wish both of these men could have gone through (or perhaps had this as each of their second matches or whatever), but this was a bit of a contradiction: a really bad first-round match, but fantastic in its own bubble
+ Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi (New Japan Cup 2018 First Round Match): this started quickly, but the crowd was dead, but the longer and slower it went, the more the crowd got into it. A nasty cut on Juice’s back added a little something tot he visual aspect, before a tremendous final few minutes sealed this as a slow-burn but great match
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toa Henare & David Finlay vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki): I know I’ve been hard on Henare in the past, and I do personally think it’s too soon for Tanahashi to be back, but dang. Even Finlay looked great s he was beaten pillar-to-post, and Suzuki is great as always. It is really on Iizuka here that I think was perhaps out of place. This was really good, and this may have been both Taichi and Henare’s best matches to date
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr.): there was somuch gold around the waists of the Suzuki-gun goons, it goes to show that they must be threats in any competitions. This was, as you’d expect, built around the ZSJ/Naito match on Day 3. This was a lot of fun, not least because I get all giddy when I get BUSHI/Desperado in the same ring
– CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI) vs Chase Owens & Kota Ibushi: this Ibushi/Owens team is interesting, obviously stemming from their affiliation with Kenny Omega, but for whatever reason (least of all the finish, which I’ll bring up tomorrow I’m sure) this never clicked for me. Ibushi is great, Okada is great, the others are growing on me, but whatever
– Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Tanga Loa) vs K.E.S. (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer): this was very strongly built around the upcoming Fale/Archer NJC match, but it never really clicked for me. I don’t know what it is about the K.E.S, but they never come across as a real threat, despit them both being huge mofos
– Tetsuhiro Yagi, Shota Umino & Tomoyuki Oka vs CHAOS (Chuckie T., Hirooki Goto & Toru Yano): it’s a young lions opening tag match, so you know what to expect. Oka is going to be a huge star one day, and he and Kitamura should be main eventing the Tokyo Dome in your lifetime. What a time to be alive
> Oh lordy’s Yujiro’s lady-friend. God bless the New Japan cameramen.
Should you watch this event: Get used to seeing a more-or-less veen split of good and bad matches for these shows, as I think you’ll be seeing it a lot. Unsurprisingly, the tournament matches themselves were great, but the tag matches were hit and miss.