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New Japan Cup 2019 First Round Preview & Predictions

With the winner of the New Japan Cup being awarded an IWGP Title Shot at G1 Supercard in MSG, it’s kind of a big deal. Let’s see how Jonathan sees the first round going!

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With the winner of the New Japan Cup being awarded an IWGP Title Shot at G1 Supercard in MSG, it’s kind of a big deal. Let’s see how Jonathan sees the first round going!

The New Japan Cup kicks off March 8th and is the largest in history with 32 wrestlers vying for the trophy! The winner of this year’s New Japan Cup will challenge Jay White for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of the G1 Supercard PPV at Madison Square Garden. With seven wrestlers competing in their first ever NJ Cup and the prize being greater than ever, let’s take a look at what this stacked First Round has to offer.

 

Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii

We’re finally being treated to Nagata vs Ishii which was originally scheduled to take place on the New Beginning USA tour. This feud has been cooking since New Year Dash and they’ve been at each other’s throats ever since. Whilst Nagata retired from G1 Climax competition two years ago, he can still go at a really high level when called upon. This could be one of the better matches of the entire First Round and looks set to be a brutally stiff contest. 

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Tomoaki Honma vs Taichi

I’ve been watching Honma since his return to the ring and you can really see how badly the injury to his cervical vertebrae has impacted him. It’s quite frankly a miracle that he’s back in the ring and for that I’m grateful, however it’s quite clear to me his in-ring days are numbered. At the end of Takashi Iizuka’s retirement match, Taichi was seen picking up Iizuka’s iron fingers whilst sporting a dastardly smile. I’m fully expecting them to become a part of Taichi’s gimmick moving forward and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him pick up the win against Honma by using them. 

Prediction: Taichi

Manabu Nakanishi vs YOSHI-HASHI

Nakanishi surprised me during his recent New Japan tours by demonstrating he can still throw himself over the ropes to the outside. I pity the poor wrestlers who have had to cushion his fall though. YOSHI-HASHI is just a really odd one. Since he’s come back from his injury, it feels as though it’s more of the same. He’s sort of drifting without a purpose. The current speculation online by fans seems to be that he is the mole in CHAOS that Jay White has spoken about. There’s been no sign of this of course, but I do believe it could help freshen up his character. Who knows? That might be touched upon in this tournament, he is in Okada’s bracket after all. Anyway, based on Nakanishi’s usage in New Japan, I would assume YOSHI-HASHI is going over here. 

Prediction: Yoshi-Hashi

Juice Robinson vs Chase Owens

I think this is a deceptively tough one to call. I’ve been paying close attention to Chase Owens and he’s been picking up the pinfalls in the tag matches that he’s been involved in. That usually tells you that he’s being moved higher up the pecking order and I don’t think it is beyond the realm of possibility that he upsets Juice here and earns himself an IWGP U.S Champion Match. Despite my theory here however, I’m sticking with Juice on this one. 

Prediction: Juice Robinson 

Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin

Elgin returns to New Japan for the first time since his injury that required surgery and forced him to miss Wrestle Kingdom 13. Okada/Elgin matches are always really entertaining so I’m expecting it to be one of the better matches of the First Round. Due to what Kenny Omega said in his interview with Dave Meltzer that the original plans for the MSG final were Kenny vs Okada, Okada is my pick to win the whole thing. Plans obviously do change in wrestling, but New Japan booking usually sticks to those plans, but changes the wrestlers in the positions. My guess is Jay White is in the position that Kenny was and Okada will still fulfill his original role. 

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Mikey Nicholls vs HIKULEO

Mikey Nicholls was a surprise addition to the New Japan roster after leaving WWE to be closer to his family in Australia. According to Rocky Romero on Twitter, Mikey has joined CHAOS permanently as well. HIKULEO is also back into the fold after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury. He returned during the Honor Rising tour supporting his two brothers. Due to HIKULEO’s position as a young lion (although having a bit more of a gimmick) I would say Mikey will be taking this one. 

Prediction: Mikey Nicholls

Will Ospreay vs Bad Luck Fale

This is a really tough one to call. Ospreay is no doubt receiving the biggest push of his career. After beating Ibushi at WK13, he has torn through all opposition including established heavyweights such as Davey Boy Smith Jr and Jeff Cobb. Gedo is clearly high on establishing Ospreay as a heavyweight and there’s no bigger heavyweight in New Japan than Bad Luck Fale. I’m expecting Ospreay to beat Fale, but I could just as easily see Fale winning and earning a NEVER Openweight Championship match in the future. 

Prediction: Will Ospreay

Toa Henare vs Lance Archer

An interesting match-up. Henare is usually the guy to take the fall if there isn’t a young lion in the match, but he’s been in that role now for over 12 months. I’m hopeful that this year’s New Japan Cup is where we really see him get elevated a bit. Lance Archer lost in the First Round of the New Japan Cup last year and due to his tag team partnership with Davey Boy Smith Jr, doesn’t usually get many singles opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see what the result will be with this match. I think Henare should get the win as I believe it’s time to push him further up the card, but Archer is an established heavyweight and I could see why him winning here could be on the cards.

Prediction: Lance Archer

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shota Umino

Shota Umino is currently at the top of the pecking order as far as young lions go. He recently had a very competitive match against Zack Sabre Jr during the Honor Rising tour and whilst tagging with fellow young lion Ayato Yoshida, has won matches against non-young lion New Japan talent. Tanahashi is coming off a tragic loss to Jay White, losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but I don’t think that’ll affect the outcome of this match. I’m billing this match as ‘Ace vs Future Ace’ because I really rate Umino, I think he’s going to be a top star for New Japan. Despite that, Tanahashi is getting the win here, should be a good one though!

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs TBD

Originally scheduled to be Tenzan vs David Finlay. My guess is Finlay will get replaced by a young lion (presumably Ayato Yoshida) and Tenzan gets the win. 

Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito

The match we’re all excited to see. Ibushi or Naito could feasibly win the entire tournament, so it’s interesting to see them both facing off against each other so early. Both progressing would make sense. Ibushi has signed a multi-year exclusive contract to New Japan, something he’s never done before and has set his sights on winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and the G1. Naito has spoken about his desire to be the only person to hold both the IC and Heavyweight championships at the same time. I personally feel Ibushi winning would open more doors as it could lead to a future IWGP IC championship match, but the prospect of Naito potentially holding both belts could generate a lot of interest if he were to win the whole tournament. Tough call this one! I believe the winner of this match will be going to the final.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi

EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr

EVIL and ZSJ had their first singles encounter last month during the New Beginning tour, which saw EVIL victorious. Considering ZSJ won the New Japan Cup last year, I see him getting the win, if nothing else but to even the score to 1-1 against EVIL. 

Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr

Togi Makabe vs Colt Cabana

Colt Cabana’s inclusion in the New Japan Cup is arguably the biggest surprise next to Mikey Nicholls. If New Japan were dipping into the ROH roster, I’m surprised they didn’t use Jeff Cobb. Regardless, Cabana is no stranger to Japan and the fan’s response to him during the Honor Rising tour was very positive. I think the quality of this match could surprise a few people as Cabana is able of working a variety of styles, he just typically leans toward the comedy routine.

Prediction: Colt Cabana

Toru Yano vs Davey Boy Smith Jr

This is a rematch from last year’s New Japan Cup where they both faced off in the First Round. Toru Yano beat Davey Boy Smith Jr via count out in embarrassing fashion. In my opinion, DBS Jr really needs the win here. If they want him to be taken seriously that is, plus he’s due the win back from last year. 

Prediction: Davey Boy Smith Jr

Satoshi Kojima vs Minoru Suzuki

Due to Kojima having not competed in the G1 Climax in 4 years, we don’t get many Satoshi Kojima singles matches, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Two veterans who I believe can still go at a really high level. Suzuki is as good as anyone in the business today as far as I’m concerned. I have Suzuki winning this one based on how both have been booked in recent years, but don’t sleep on this one. It should be a lot of fun.

Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Hirooki Goto vs SANADA

The last match of the First Round and it should be a great one. Both wrestlers are returning to action after disappointing results. SANADA (with EVIL) recently lost the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Championships to G.O.D and Goto came up short against Jeff Cobb in his challenge for the ROH World Television Title. My gut is telling me that SANADA is winning this one as he has all the ability to be a top singles star and just needs to the right push. Perhaps now he’s free of the Tag Titles, this tournament could help him come into his own as a singles star.

Prediction: SANADA

New Japan Cup First Round Schedule

March 8th

Manabu Nakanishi vs YOSHI-HASHI

Tomoaki Honma vs Taichi

Juice Robinson vs Chase Owens

Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii

March 9th

Mikey Nicholls vs HIKULEO

Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin

Will Ospreay vs Bad Luck Fale

Toa Henare vs Lance Archer

March 10th

Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito

EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shota Umino

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs TBD

March 11th

Toru Yano vs Davey Boy Smith Jr

Satoshi Kojima vs Minoru Suzuki

Hirooki Goto vs SANADA

Togi Makabe vs Colt Cabana

 

That’s all folks! Who do you think is going to win the New Japan Cup? Let us know in the comments section below or via our social media channels. Stay tuned for our New Japan Cup Round Two preview and predictions!


Let us know what you think on social media @ChairshotMedia and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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