The second night of the New Japan Cup featured four opening round matches, headlined by Kazuchika Okada taking on the returning Michael Elgin.
The headliner carried the show with a stellar match between the two as Kazuchika Okada defeated Michael Elgin in 24:06 and advanced to the round of 16. Elgin attacked the arm during the early part of the match and then upped his offense, including a sequence of rolling German suplexes, a Dragon suplex, and Tiger Bomb that Okada kicked out of. Okada’s struggle of landing the Rainmaker persisted with Elgin presenting counters and avoidance of the finisher. In a creative spot, Okada turned the tables with a buckle bomb and sit-out powerbomb combination as a play off the Elgin finishing combo, but Elgin kicked out. Following many counters, Okada hit the tombstone and the subsequent Rainmaker for the win.
This was a great main event and easily the best match on the show. The New Japan Cup has produced two top-tier main events on the first two shows following the Tomohiro Ishii victory over Yuji Nagata at Korakuen Hall on Friday.
In the next tournament match, Will Ospreay defeated Bad Luck Fale in 11:31 with the obvious story of Ospreay overcoming the size discrepancy and resorting to a different way to pin Fale. Early on, Jado attacked Ospreay with the kendo stick with Jado feeling overused with a similar role in Hikuleo’s match. Ospreay attempted his first OsCutter and took out Red Shoes, who was used as a shield by Fale. Ospreay went for a handspring off the ropes and was hit again by Jado as he rotated his body upside down. Another OsCutter was blocked with Fale landing a spear and the Grenade, which Ospreay kicked out of and was a big moment in the match considering how the Grenade is rarely kicked out from unless a special occasion. Ospreay countered a Bad Luck Fall with a huracanrana into a cover while hooking the leg for the win.
Mikey Nicholls made his first appearance since leaving NXT and drew Hikuleo in the first round. Nicholls defeated Hikuleo in 8:57 with a gut wrench style powerbomb. It wasn’t a strong match and didn’t capture the audience’s attention. Jado was used for outside interference with the kendo stick, which felt overdone by the end of the show. Announcer Rocky Romero outlined Nicholls’ history with the New Japan L.A. Dojo, and they brought up his participation at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in 2015 when he was on the NOAH roster.
The first tournament match of the show featured Lance Archer defeating Toa Henare in 11:11 with the Black Out. The match was good with Henare bringing the fight to Archer, who withstood a lot of offense before taking over and landing a big lariat before the Black Out. Henare looked good and came out strong with a powerbomb followed by a cannonball to the floor. Henare could have a big year in 2019.
Sunday’s tournament matches in Hyogo:
*Ryusuke Taguchi (replacing David Finlay) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
*Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shota Umino
*EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
*Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Sunday’s show is loaded and easily the best on-paper of the opening round shows.