Featuring the first four matches of the 2017 tournament Bracket, New Japan Pro Wrestling presents it’s annual New Japan Cup. The first four matches of round one will be: EVIL vs Hiroshi Tanahashi; Bad Luck Fale vs Michael Elgin; Tama Tonga vs Toru Yano; and Tanga Loa vs Yuji Nagata. The overall winner of the single elimination tournament can choose to challenge for any one of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship or the NEVER Openweight Championship. THese first round matches, along with four more huge tag matches featuring the likes of current IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito, the Legendary Jushin Thunder Liger and personal favourite Katsuyori Shibata, this is a show not to be missed.
+ EVIL vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan Cup First Round Match): arguably the biggest of the first day’s tournament bracket, this was a fantastic match. EVIL’s always awesome entrance, and Tanahashi’s new (is it still new? it’s been a couple of months) music got the crowd, and me, pumped up from the get-go. This was a surprisingly one-sided affair, with some very uncharacteristic moments from both competitors. The back and forth whipped the crowd into a frenzy before and ending that will leave you either thrilled or angry (I loved it)
+ CHAOS (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, Jado & Kazuchika Okada) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru): lots of combustable elements quickly gave way to a very entertaining brawl, followed by some real swagger from Suzuki-gun, especially Taichi. A really solid finishing sequence gave way to something I always love seeing, and overall a solid match, if nothing particularly incredible
+ David Finlay, Juice Robinson, Katsuyori Shibata & KUSHIDA vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito): I am such a huge fan of everyone in this match, so it is hard to be objective, but I think anyone will agree this was a phenomenal battle. SANADA has such a presence about him and and Shibata is perhaps my favourite NJPW wrestler so I loved seeing them go to war, although I do have to admit I expected a bit more; this was a relatively short match. Some post match shenanigans made sure that tomorrow’s continuation of the first round is going to be good
+ Bad Luck Fale vs Michael Elgin (New Japan Cup First Round Match): gosh darn I love two big boys smacking the crap out of each other. Even more when they manage to finally hit that big move on the other. This was the good kind of slow and methodical, and an ending I was relatively happy with
+ Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI): I was going to say Takahashi is just the coolest man in pro wrestling right now, but the other three in this match are all awesome too. And so is that damned sexy rabbit girl. This was a really good tag team match, and I didn’t want to have tos ee either team lose. Omega/Ishii in part two of the first round is going to be incredible
+ Hirai Kawato & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku): this was relatively short, but as far as opening matches go this was pretty solid. I am such a sucker for that ‘thud’ elbow strikes make
– Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) and Jushin Thunder Liger vs Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask & Tomoyuki Oka: I can’t believe Liger is still as incredible as he is, and I always enjoy both Tenzan and Kojima. The portions of the match involving Tiger Mask/Liger were the highlights, but overall this was a surprisingly lackluster matchup
– Tama Tonga vs Toru Yano (New Japan Cup First Round Match): Tama Tonga is so cool; I love the facepaint. Which is a shame that this was just a standard Yano match. I admit, I did smile a bit, but this was just not the match I wanted to see here
– Tanga Loa vs Yuji Nagata (New Japan Cup First Round Match): Nagata, replacing the injured Honma, was the exact type of opponent the younger Tanga Lao needed. I will never not be amazed at the way wrestlers can flourish once they leave the WWE. The back and forth in the middle of this match is something to behold, though frankly I don’t think Loa is ready to be in these higher profile singles matches; he just looked entirely outclassed from start to finish
Should you watch this event: Overall this kept my interest, and the majority of matches were good, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say that tomorrow’s first round matches are the bigger of the two halves. Tanahashi/EVIL was great, as were the two 8-man tag team matches, but in general I can’t help but feel they were saving the big guns for tomorrow’s show. If like particularly like anyone in these opening round matches, then give their match a look, but otherwise just tune in tomorrow instead.