By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Cup – Night One”
March 1, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Budokan Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
Report by Dot Net contributor Chris Vetter
This year was slated to be a 48-man tournament, with 16 wrestlers “randomly drawn” to get a first-round bye. The notable first-round byes are Sanada, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and El Phantasmo. While it was slated to be a field of 48 competitors, Hiroyoshi Tenzan (knee injury) and Kota Ibushi (shoulder injury suffered injuries during last fall’s G1 Climax finale) have withdrawn and are thus forfeits.
New Japan has been going with a limited roster in recent months, so the return of the Guerrillas of Destiny, Will Ospreay, Cima, Bad Luck Fale, Aaron Henare, and Jeff Cobb are positive additions. Notably not in the tournament are Jay White, Juice Robinson, David Finlay and Kenta. Also worth noting that juniors (cruiserweights) are part of this year’s field. Furthermore, New Japan is acknowledging Jay White and Bullet Club have turned on Tonga and Loa at a recent Impact Wrestling event, so we’ll see how that plays out as the tournament moves forward.
On commentary are Kevin Kelly and the amazing Chris Charlton, providing immediate Japanese translation and just an incredible wealth of knowledge about the history of New Japan. All eight matches Wednesday are first-round tournament matches.
1. Cima defeated Taka Michinoku at 9:45. The announcers talked extensively about the history of these wrestlers, and this is their first appearance in the cup tournament. No mystery about the winner, as CIMA nailed a flying top-rope double knees to Taka’s face for the pin.
2. Yoshi-Hoshi defeated Tomoaki Honma at 9:44. The announcers said that Yoshi-Hoshi is actually 0-9 in past cup appearances. However, this one was never in doubt. I know Honma has his fans, but he is just so awkwardly stiff with every movement in the ring, and he rarely wins. Honma hit his diving Kokeshi headbutt. Honma nailed a top rope Blockbuster for a nearfall. Honma hit a flying shoulder tackle and another Kokeshi for a believable nearfall. They traded hard forearms. Yoshi-Hoshi won with Karma, a pumphandle Michinoku Driver, for the pin. This topped all expectations.
3. Hirooki Goto defeated Yuji Nagata at 12:37. Lots of standing reversals early; this was a slower pace than the hard-hitting match that preceded it. They brawled to the floor and Goto injured his left arm, so Yuji attacked it and worked it over. Nagata hit a top-rope exploder suplex for a near fall at 8:00. They picked up the pace with stiff forearm shots. Nagata tied up Goto on the mat, but Goto was able to reach the ropes. Goto got a cradle roll-up for the pin to advance. A solid match but winner was never in doubt.
4. Jeff Cobb defeated Togi Makabe at 8:10. Cobb has been dealing with a left leg injury, and had it wrapped up. All-time, Makabe is 16-12 in tournament action, while Cobb is only 1-1, having debuted last year. They immediately brawled to the floor. Back in the ring, Cobb was in complete control with blows to the back, and the crowd was trying to rally behind Makable. Cobb hit the Tour of the Islands/twisting powerslam for the win.
5. Taichi defeated Toru Yano at 6:24. The silliness one would expect from Yano, as he delayed locking up. He got a large blue bag from under the ring, which he tried to put over Miho Abe’s head. Taichi put the bag over Yano on the floor, and Yano struggled to get out of it and into the ring. Taichi then put the bag on the ref. This was typical Yano silliness. Yano got a rollup for a believable near fall. Taichi nailed a rolling forearm for the pin. This was the shortest match of the show and still felt too long.
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Yoh at 16:49. This was the first really good match of the show. Charlton laid out the reasons he thought Yoh can win. Good intense mat wrestling to open. They soon both sold leg injuries. Tanahashi applied a Texas Cloverleaf at 8:00. Yoh hit a dragonscrew legwhip and really worked over the leg. Yoh nailed a slam across his knee for a near fall at 15:00. Tanahashi fired back with a sling blade clothesline and a Dragon Suplex for the pin.
7. Tetsuya Naito defeated Yujiro Takahashi at 18:10. Pretty basic action. I just can’t get into Yujiro’s ring-work and personality. The biggest thing here was Yujiro’s partners in the House of Torture were nowhere to be seen, so no outside interference. This was just basic offense. Naito hit a flipping slam from the corner for a near fall. Yujiro hit a spinning slam for a near fall. The referee got knocked out at 15:00, and that immediately brought out EVIL and Sho to attack Naito. However, Yujiro ordered his partners to leave. Naito blocked Yujiro’s attempt to use his stick, and he scored a forward rollup for the pin.
8. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada defeated IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion El Desperado in a non-title tournament match at 26:20. They brawled to the floor early and Desperado was in charge. The intense action one would expect, with neither man making a big mistake early on. Okada was dominating, as he is the much larger of the two. At 12:00, Okada dropkicked Desperado as Desperado sat on the top rope, sending him to the floor. Okada dominated as they brawled on the floor. Okada was a babyface, but he is so much bigger, the crowd wasn’t really cheering for him here.
Desperado hit an AA spinning spinebuster at 15:00, and both men were down. Desperado pounded Okada with some hard chops. Okada threw a flying dropkick that leveled Desperado, who came back with a top-rope frogsplash for a nearfall at 18:00. Okada rallied with a neckbreaker over his knee, then applied a sleeper hold. Desperado fired back by going back to Okada’s injured leg, and he applied the Stretch Muffler, bending Okada’s leg behind Desperado’s neck. The crowd was now really into the action, and the announcers were energized. Okada escaped and went back to the sleeper hold. Desperado passed out, but Okada pulled Desperado back to his feet before the referee could call for the bell. Desperado hit his Angels Wings faceplant for a nearfall. Okada nailed the Rainmaker clothesline for the clean pin.
Final Thoughts: No first-round upsets on night one, but I’m fine with that. The final five minutes of the main event was really, really good. Tanahashi vs. Yoh was second best, and the surprising Honma-Yoshi-Hoshi match was third best. This was a good show and a fine way to kick off the tournament.