Welcome to Night 1 of the New Japan Cup tournament. This year, the single-elimination tournament features 32 men and will take place across twelve shows to determine “Switchblade” Jay White’s opponent in the main event of the NJPW/ROH G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden on 6 April. You can find coverage of all of the tournament matches here on RopeBreak.co.uk!
Match 1 – YOSHI-HASHI v Manabu Nakanishi
We kick off with an encounter between Chaos underdog YOSHI-HASHI and veteran Nakanishi. This was a lot better than I expected, in fact it was easily the best Nakanishi match I’ve seen in the few years I’ve been watching NJPW. Nakanishi is a giant compared to YOSHI-HASHI and he used that to his advantage with two moves off the top looked like they could kill Yoshi-Hashi. Unfortunately, the match ended with a weak looking butterfly lock by YOSHI-HASHI forcing Nakanishi to submit. YOSHI_HASHI wasn’t able to convincingly hook the move in because of the size of Nakanishi, but this was covered well in commentary by mention of Nakanishi’s history of neck problems and general injuries over the years.
Winner by submission – YOSHI-HASHI
Match 2 – Taichi v Tomoaki Honma
This was Taichi’s match, he continues to be a top mid-card heel in NJPW. His targeting of Honma’s head and neck throughout the match was effective. This included the use of a chair for some vicious shots to Honma’s neck, and even at one point choking him with it. Honma manged to get in some big offence, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Taichi’s assault. Honma finally succumbed to a painful looking modified chickenwing crossface for the tap-out victory. Ominously, Taichi still hasn’t used the steel glove he inherited from Iizuka, I’ve a feeling that’ll come into play during the tournament.
Overall, this was decent, but very slow-paced and probably went around 5 minutes too long for me.
Winner by submission – Taichi
Match 3 – Chase Owens v IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson
This was a good, solid match. The crowd were behind Juice who goes from strength to strength as a babyface. However, Chase didn’t allow him to work his usual dynamic style and kept the match as close to the mat as possible, using a methodical style for maximum damage to Juice. Once it did get to the outside, though, Juice managed to hit a flip dive from the apron before being rammed face-first into the barrier. Back in the ring, Chase attempted two pins using the ropes for leverage, but the best referee in the business, Red Shoes Unno, wasn’t having it.
The story of this match was Chase trying to use his package piledriver. After several attempts throughout the match, including once on the exposed floor which Juice reversed into a backdrop, he finally managed to hit for the upset victory. This continues the rehabilitation of Chase as a mid-card contender rather than Bullet Club’s resident jobber to the stars. Not only does he move tot he second round of the tournament, but he’s now guaranteed a US Championship match against Juice in the future.
Winner by pinfall – Chase Owens
Match 4 – Tomohiro Ishii v Yuji Nagata
This was the first big match of the tournament I was looking forward to, and it seriously lived up to the hype. This was two of the toughest men in the business beating the tar out of each other. I lost count of the stiff kicks, chops, forearms to the head and everyhting else besides they threw at each other. This included a series of duelling elbos to the head that went on for an uncomfortably long period. After Ishii powerbombs Nagata from the top rope, Nagata somehow cameback and hooked in his patented armbar subission. Ishii somehow gets to the ropes but after breking the hold, Nagata goes to town with stiff kicks to Ishii’s arm and shoulder followed by an exploder from the top rope that Ishii somehow manages to kick out from! Nagata follows up with a brainbuster but Ishii kicks out again! Both men are wrecked by this point and reort to duelling face slaps. This escalates into elbows from Ishii before Nagata drops him with an elbow of his own. Finally, Ishii hits a huge stalling vertical brainbuster on Nagata to end this war.
I loved this match, it was the stiffest wrestling you could ask for and it was exactly what I was hoping these men could do in the ring together. I recommend watching it as soon as you can.
Winner by pinfall– Tomohiro Ishii