The opening round matches of the New Japan Cup wrapped up Monday with a card from Takamatsu and the remaining four advancing to the round of sixteen.
In the main event, Sanada defeated Hirooki Goto in 20:47 in the best match on the show and a mild upset after Goto was positioned strongly at the end of the Anniversary card. The audience’s enthusiasm grew as the match built with highlights including Sanada’s own version of the Ushigoroshi and later missing the top rope moonsault. Goto fought back and they engaged in a series of reversals, a Goto Ushigoroshi and eventually, Sanada kicked out of the corner into the application of the Skull End and hit the moonsault for the win.
A very good match, but of the four main events since Friday, I would put this below the Ishii-Nagata, Okada-Elgin, and Ibushi-Naito matches.
Next up, Minoru Suzuki was victorious over Satoshi Kojima in 13:44 after locking on a rear-naked choke to set up the Gotch piledriver. Rocky Romero outlined the history, their runs with the Triple Crown and past meetings to set the stage. These two had a great interaction at the Anniversary card and I was looking forward to the match. Suzuki attacked Kojima with a guardrail and chairs on the floor, but Kojima beat the count into the ring. Kojima fired up with chops and the top rope elbow. He showed a lot of fire with the lariats and had one of his best singles matches in a long time as he’s slowed down in recent years. Kojima got a big near fall from a lariat before Suzuki recovered for the closing sequence.
Colt Cabana defeated Togi Makabe in 7:47 with a mixture of comedy from Cabana with Makabe’s hard-hitting style. Cabana ran at Makabe into the corner and Romero, with the most casual delivery, called the “Flying butthole” the exact same way he would have called an arm drag. Cabana missed a great-looking moonsault off the top followed by Makabe missing the King Kong knee drop and Cabana caught him with the Superman pin as he dove at Makabe hooking his legs with his own. It was an average match and Cabana treated the win as a surprise and double-checked he got the three-count.
The card’s first tournament match was a rematch from last year’s New Japan Cup with the same result. Toru Yano defeated Davey Boy Smith Jr. in 4:33. Smith chased Yano around the arena, threw his DVD into the crowd and then attacked Yano’s knee. Yano distracted Red Shoes but missed the low blow and then cradled Smith for the surprise pin. It was an average Yano-style match and was more newsworthy for the fact it destroyed WH Park’s bracket.
The second-round matches will begin on Wednesday and below are the pairings:
*Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi (March 13th)
*Yoshi-Hashi vs. Chase Owens (March 13th)
*Kazuchika Okada vs. Mikey Nicholls (March 14th)
*Will Ospreay vs. Lance Archer (March 14th)
*Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (March 16th)
*Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (March 16th)
*Toru Yano vs. Colt Cabana (March 17th)
*Minoru Suzuki vs. Sanada (March 17th)