First round matchups start March 2
New Japan Cup 2022 gets underway on March 2 in the Nippon Budokan with a stacked lineup of eight first round matchups. As the tournament then heads on the road, the first round will be complete after March 7 in Ota, with four tournament matches on each card.
NIGHT ONE March 2, Nippon Budokan
Main event: Kazuchika Okada vs El Desperado
The tradition in anniversaries past has been to have NJPW’s heavyweight and junior heavyweight champions face off. With champions and junior heavyweights in the New Japan Cup mix this year, Okada was quick to make a suggestion that this year’s annviersary matchup be delayed a day, and have extra stakes attached. Here the winner will progress in an unprecedented New Japan Cup.
The Budokan main event is a spot with which Desperado is well familiar, having battled Kota Ibushi in 2021’s Anniversary main event. One year on, and the world will be watching the junior heavyweight champion in a unique high pressure environment, with the opportunity not just to prove junior heavyweight superiority, but also advance in a historic tournament.
WINNER FACES: Master Wato March 9, Korakuen Hall
7th Match: Tetsuya Naito vs Yujiro Takahashi
Singles record: 18-3 Yujiro
While their respective standings within the NJPW roster may paint Yujiro Takahashi as a rank outsider in this first round meeting, his slight seniority at the start of their careers would go on to grant Takahashi a 18-3 record over Naito. This first singles meeting for the two since 2014 was originally slated to be part of G1 Climax 31, but would be cancelled as a result of Naito’s knee injury; tonight the Tokyo Pimp will look to exploit any weakness he can in El Ingobernable and create the biggest shock of the first round.
WINNER FACES: Gedo, March 10 Yamagata
6th Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs YOH
After a hard fought loss over the IWGP US Heavyweight Champion to SANADA at the weekend, Hiroshi Tanahashi will wrestle another former tag team specialist who has fought to emerge from his stoic shell in YOH. Much like in Sapporo, this will be a classical and technical contest with a junior heavyweight twist, but could YOH take advantage of a potential Tanahashi downturn and upset the Ace?
WINNER FACES: Bad Luck Fale, March 10, Yamagata
5th Match: Toru Yano vs Taichi
Singles record: 2-0 Yano
Taichi will be taking on KOPW 2022 holder Toru Yano in first round action in the Nippon Budokan. After Yano humiliated Minoru Suzuki en route to victory in February 20’s Dog Cage Match, Taichi will be looking to avenge his factional leader, but also to send a message after IWGP Tag Team Championship defeat in the Tokyo Dome that this is his year in singles competition. Can he overcome an 0-2 deficit against the Master Producer though?
Due to Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s injury and withdrawal, winner receives a bye to round three
4th Match: Togi Makabe vs Jeff Cobb
One of the hardest hitting matches of the first round will see Togi Makabe face Jeff Cobb. The Imperial Unit will want to make an impact from the start in this tournament, and having put together an incredible eight match streak in last year’s G1 Climax, we know that consecutive singles victories are not an issue for Cobb. Will the veteran Makabe be able to stop Cobb before he can get started?
WINNER FACES: Satoshi Kojima, March 10 Yamagata
3rd Match: Hirooki Goto vs Yuji Nagata
Singles record 7-3 Goto
A 7-3 record for Hirooki Goto over Yuji Nagata also includes a perfect three and oh for the IWGP Tag team Champion over Blue Justice in the New Japan Cup, going back to their first tournament meeting in 2009 where Goto defeated Nagata in the semifinals, and went on to win the first of two back to back trophies. Yet Nagata, extra firey during the last tour, will be doubly eager to prove that he can still bring the competition into NJPW’s 51st year and beyond, and will bring a hard fight indeed to the Fierce Warrior.
WINNER FACES: Dick Togo March 9, Korakuen Hall
2nd Match: Tomoaki Honma vs YOSHI-HASHI
Singles record: 2-0 Honma
YOSHI-HASHI seeks to overcome a 2-0 deficit to Tomoaki Honma in the Budokan in this first round matchup. Recent form and results would paint the Headhunter as the favourite in this one, but Honma showed intensity and a burning will to win in a great singles encounter with Great-O-Khan on February 19, and may seek to ride the momentum of a strong performance and the will of the crowd to a surprise victory.
WINNER FACES: Kosei Fujita March 10 Yamagata
1st Match: CIMA vs TAKA Michinoku
Singles record: 1-0 Michinoku
The first singles meeting between CIMA and TAKA Michinoku in 17 years makes for a New Japan Cup matchup few expected to see. Having impressed by reaching the KOPW 2022 four way at Wrestle Kingdom, CIMA is back representing GLEAT and #STRONGHEARTS in NJPW, and wants to make his mark on the New Japan Cup, but can he get past the devious TAKA, and get revenge for that 2005 loss in the process?
WINNER FACES: Yoshinobu Kanemaru, March 9 Korakuen Hall
NIGHT TWO: March 6, Fukushima
Main event: Kota Ibushi vs Great-O-Khan
Singles record: 1-0 Ibushi
Due to Kota Ibushi’s withdrawal from the tournament, Great-O-Khan will advance via forfeit.
Round 2: Great-O-Khan vs Taiji Ishimori, March 12 Aichi
6th Match: BUSHI vs Will Ospreay
Singles record: 3-1 Ospreay
Will Ospreay faces BUSHI for the first time since an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship defence at Power Struggle in 2019. There BUSHI took Ospreay to the limit, but in the intervening years, the Commonwealth Kingpin underwent a transformation into the leader of the United Empire, New Japan Cup 2021 winner and a former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Can BUSHI step up his game to match?
WINNER FACES: El Phantasmo March 12, Aichi
5th Match: Ryohei Oiwa vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Young Lion Ryohei Oiwa is being granted an immense opportunity in Toyama against Zack Sabre Jr., but he couldn’t ask for a more difficult first round opponent. Having regained focus with a break over the last tour, Sabre will be eager to torture Oiwa out of the cup. Yet for Oiwa, much as for Gabriel Kidd against ZSJ last year in the first round, the potential is still there to leave a lasting impression, and miracles can still happen on any given day in the New Japan Cup.
WINNER FACES: DOUKI March 12, Aichi
4th Match: Yuto Nakashima vs Aaron Henare
Two men make their returns in the first round of the New Japan Cup, as Young Lion Yuto Nakashima takes on United Empire’s Aaron Henare. After Great-O-Khan knocked out Nakashima in Korakuen Hall some weeks ago, the young man is not likely relishing a match with another hard hitter in the Ultimate Weapon. Can he survive?
WINNER FACES: SANADA March 12, Aichi
DAY THREE March 7, Ota
Main event: Tomohiro Ishii vs Shingo Takagi
Singles record: 3-1 Shingo
After a brutal war between Shingo Takagi and Tomohiro Ishii started the G1 Climax last year, so another violent battle between the two will open the New Japan Cup. After reaching last year’s finals, Takagi is doubtless a favourite for this year’s tournament, but Ishii represents a tough draw indeed. Can the Dragon outlast the Stone Pitbull?
WINNER FACES: Tanga Loa March 13, Hyogo
6th Match: Hiromu Takahashi vs SHO
Singles record: 2-2
The last of the first round matchups has Hiromu Takahashi facing SHO. There is still a bad taste in the mouth of the Time Bomb as far as SHO is concerned; the Murder Machine made liberal use of HOUSE OF TORTURE assistance to beat Takahashi during Best of the Super Jr., and even after SHO was eliminated, he almost ruined the eventual final between Hiromu and YOH. Takahashi will be looking to put SHO in his place; after reaching the semi finals of his first New Japan Cup, Hiromu only has eyes on the finale.
WINNER FACES: Minoru Suzuki March 13, Hyogo
5th Match: Ryusuke Taguchi vs EVIL
The always resourceful Ryusuke Taguchi will have his work cut out for him in is first round match against EVIL. The 2020 winner and 2021 semifinalist willbe the heavy favourite in this contest, but could that work out for the Coach? If the King of Darkness is looking past his opposition, we may see an upset for the ages.
WINNER FACES: Tama Tonga March 13, Hyogo
4th Match: Chase Owens vs Jado
A BULLET CLUB derby will see Chase Owens wrestle Jado in Ota. Owens has a world of respect for Jado, but questions have to circle as rumours continue to buzz about the status of BULLET CLUB at large. With Jado apparently unaware of just why Jay White double crossed the Guerrillas of Destiny at IMPACT’s No Surrender, is there now a conflict of interest for Jado and his tag team charges G.o.D?
WINNER FACES: Tiger Mask March 13, Hyogo