Match 1 – Davey Boy Smith Jr v Toru Yano
Yano began the match by running away, which is pretty sensible when you’re up against a member of the Killer Elite Squad. He tried taking off the turnbuckle pad but Smith caught him and threw him into the barrier before he could do anything with it. Yano tried some other tricks, raking Smith’s eyes and pulling out wrist tape to tie him up with, but Smith caught him again and really went to work on Yano’s knee, tying it around the barrier, kicking and twisting it before dropping him knee first on the announce table. Back in the ring, Yano reversed a powerbomb attempt into a pin that Smith kicked out of, Yano went straight for an inside cradle, Smith reversed, Yano kicked out then caught Smith in another inside cradle for the win!
This was a fun match with Yano throwing all of his sneaky style tricks at Smith but getting shut down every time before managing the quick victory in the end. I’m a huge fan of Yano’s style of comedy wrestling so looking forward to seeing him in round 2.
Speaking of comedy wrestling…
Winner by pinfall – Toru Yano
Match 2 – Colt Cabana v Togi Makabe
I went into this really hoping for Cabana to get the victory as it would mean a round 2 match with Yano which would potentially be the most fun of the tournament.
To begin with Makabe seemed bemused b Cabana’s unique style that allowed Cabana to trip Makabe over his back by getting down on all fours behind him and pulling him across, and bouncing off the ropes with no intention of hitting a move. Makabe got some offence in, twisting Cabana’s legs in turn on the ropes but Cabana blocked a Northern Lights suplex and hit the Flying Asshole and a plash. Makabe kicked out and got a lot of stiff strikes and a hard clothesline in the corner. The end saw Makabe miss the King Kong Knee Drop, that allowed Cabana to hit the Superman dive for the pinfall.
Another fun match, but not great. It was a good refresher on Cabana’s style since he only started appearing in NJPW this year. The important thing is that we get Cabana v Yano 2 in the second round!
Winner by pinfall – Colt Cabana
Match 3 – Minoru Suzuki v Satoshi Kojima
This was a contender for stiffest match of the tournament along with Ishii v Nagata. They started with duelling hard chops then gradually fought their way to the outside where Suzuki got the upper hand by slamming Kojima’s head into the announce table and breaking a chair over his head. He then buried Kojima under a barrier and threw two more chairs at him. Kojima made it back in the ring at 18 and Suzuki continued his assault. Kojima came back with chops and then machine gun chops in the corner. Suzuki reversed into hitting elbows to Kojima’s head, they then went back and forth with chops and elbows. The majority of the next part of the match was more big strikes until Kojima went for a Koji-cutter that Suzuki turned into a rear-naked choke. Once Kojima was out, Suzuki went for the Gotch piledriver but Kojima reversed it and hit a Koji-cutter instead followed by a great brainbuster for the 2 count. Suzuki started hurling palmstrikes but was dropped by a big lariat. Kojima went for a second lariat but Suzuki turned it into a Gotch piledriver for the win.
That was an emotional match, these guys have been feuding for years and really looked like they hated each other. Kojima put on a great performance but Suzuki remains arguably the most vicious fighter in NJPW.
Winner by pinfall – Minoru Suzuki
Match 4 – SANADA v Hirooki Goto
The crowd were split, so both men rallied support before starting the match by climbing the turnbuckles and posing for the crowd. Red Shoes indicated the response was about even.
This was a good match with a mix of athleticism and striking. They started with a back and forth but picked up intensity as they went on. SANADA showed his skill when going for a standing moonsault that he turned into a low dropkick after Goto changed position After that they started with duelling chops then countered each others attempts at more high impact moves until Goto hit a big clothesline and a spinning wheel kick in the corner followed by a Saito suplex for a 2 count. Both men managed to hit their big moves but Goto escaped the Skull End and SANADA the Yushi Garoshi. The end came after SANADA reversed several GTR attempts by Goto before running up the turnbuckle and flipping into Skull End, then dropping Goto and hitting the Muto moonsault for the win.
Great match that definitely lived up to the main even slot for me. It was very evenly matched with both men getting in a lot of offence. While multiple reversals are used often in NJPW, on this occasion they added to the match and didn’t feel forced.
Next up for SANADA, Minoru Suzuki.
Winner by pinfall – SANADA