New Japan Cup 2020: Left Bracket Preview

Unpredictable and unprecedented matchups abound in first round of New Japan Cup starting June 16


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Watch New Japan Cup EXCLUSIVELY on NJPW World from June 16!

Today the always unpredictable New Japan Cup was given an unprecedented edge, as NJPW’s return to action was accompanied with the news that the tournament would be held for the first time without spectators, and for the first time since its inaugural 2005 year as an openweight tournament. 

For the first time ever, 13 of the 32 entrants in the New Japan Cup will be junior heavyweights, all still competing with the ultimate goal of facing Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships at Dominion in Osaka Jo Hall July 12. That creates some incredible opening round matchups, half of which are outlined below!


DAY ONE: Tuesday June 16 7:00PM JST

Togi Makabe (13th entry, 2nd Consecutive) vs Yota Tsuji (New Japan Cup debut)

First singles meeting

The New Japan Cup kicks off with what is sure to be a hard hitting slugfest between Togi Makabe and Young Lion Yota Tsuji. Tsuji has long talked about taking on New Japan Dojo mentor Makabe; after years of tough training from the Unchained Gorila, this could be the opportunity he desperately seeks to carve a name for himself and get some revenge. For Makabe meanwhile, a first round exit in 2019 still stings, and he certainly won’t be in genial mood opposite Tsuji. Without the underdog supporting crowd behind his back, will Tsuji still have the energy to overcome the toughest of competition? Or could added focus be enough to cause the mother of all upsets?


Tomohiro Ishii (12th entry, 5th consecutive) vs El Desperado (New Japan Cup debut)

First singles meeting

Makabe and Tsuji will certainly be a hard hitting contest, but don’t expect this bout between Tomohiro Ishii and El Desperado to be any less snug. Desperado has been extremely vocal about his pride in the junior heavyweight division, and will be -putting ll of that pride on the line when he brings the fight to the Stone Pitbull. Despe is not afraid to take a punch, as evidenced in his hardcore war with Jun Kasai that left him with a broken jaw, but he’ll have to rely on his smarts as well as his toughness to get past Ishii, who looks to improve on his semi-final reaching form in 2019.


Toru Yano (15th entry, 15th consecutive) vs Jado (New Japan Cup debut)

First singles meeting

Now for something completely different. Brute force certainly will not be the order of the day when two of wrestling’s shrewdest tactical thinkers face off against one another in their first round matchup. Toru Yano is not lacking in tournament experience; in fact at 15 entries, nobody has been in more New Japan Cups than Yano has. Despite the benefit of 31 years in this business however, Jado has never been in a NJC. The two men know all there is to know about bending the rules to breaking point, and with years together in first Great Bash Heel and then CHAOS, are more than familiar with one another as well. Could Yano go one step closer to stealing the cup, or will Jado notch one up for BULLET CLUB?

Tomoaki Honma (8th entry, 2nd consecutive) vs Hiromu Takahashi (New Japan Cup debut) 

First singles meeting

Fourth of four matches to look at from night one is Tomoaki Honma against IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi. Years ago, Honma held a reputation as being one of the wildest wrestlers in the game, and he will have to tap into that energy to combat a hugely motivated Hiromu. The global pandemic put a halt to the Time Bomb’s plan of taking on Tetsuya Naito at Anniversary, but now he has the opportunity to not just get that match a decade plus in the making to happen, but for it to happen with all the gold on the line at the same time. On ‘want to’ alone, Hiromu Takahashi could be the head-and-shoulders New Japan Cup favourite, but Tomoaki Honma will be taking this chance to show he can hang with the fastest, the best, and the most insane very seriously indeed. 

*A special additional match will also take place on this card.

DAY TWO: Wednesday, June 20 7:00PM JST 

Kazuchika Okada (4th entry, 2nd consecutive) vs Gedo (New Japan Cup debut)

Singles record: 1-0 Okada (watch on NJPW World!)

One year ago, Kazuchika Okada went the distance in the New Japan Cup to win, and face (and beat) then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White in Madison Square Garden. When the New Japan Cup brackets were first revealed for March 2020, Okada and White were set to face off in the very first round. With Jay White unable to enter Japan for this summer running of the cup, it leaves a lot of pressure on manager Gedo to overcome the Rainmaker. 

A one sided matchup certainly seems to be the order of the day, but never discount Gedo’s uncanny tactical wiles, nor his innate evilness. The one and only time the two faced off in the past, Gedo almost pulled the wool over fans eyes by claiming he had been in an accident, before applying mace to Okada’s eyes. Once upon a time these two men were like father and son, but Gedo traded love for money when aligning himself with Jay White in the autumn of 2018. It would feel amazing for Okada to lay hands on his former mentor, but the Rainmaker needs to be wary of any number of traps. 

Yuji Nagata (13th entry, 2nd consecutive, 2007, 2011 winner) vs Minoru Suzuki (6th entry, 2nd consecutive)

Singles record: 5-5

 One of the great rivalries of the 2000s is revived in the first round of the cup as Yuji Nagata and Minoru Suzuki face off. Four G1 Climaxes, three Wrestle Kingdoms and two New Japan Cups have seen Blue Justice go head to head with the King, always with violent results.  This is the first match in our New japan Cup lineup that has been carried forth from its original February announcement, as these two are destined to go head to head after all. Now, can Nagata climb the top of a mountain he last crested nine years ago, or will Suzuki vanquish bitter memories of last year’s early exit by smashing through the first round?

Yuya Uemura (New japan Cup debut) vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru (New Japan Cup debut)

During the last few matches on the NJPW schedule before its hiatus, one of the most surprising sights was Yuya Uemura’s intense, and arguably foolish, pursuit of Minoru Suzuki. Determined to make a mark on the Suzuki Gun boss, Uemura charged at Suzuki in Korakuen and landed some impressive shots before beating all the way around Korakuen Hall. 

A big motivator for Uemura in this one will likely be the potential for a matchup with his Dojo master Nagata or Suzuki himself further down the line. It’s a huge mountain to climb to gett hat far however, as he first has to face one of the all time junior heavyweight greats. 

Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s junior heavyweight resume is indisputable. Kanemaru will go down in history as one of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s greatest ever GHC Junior Heavyweight Champions, but singles glory has proved elusive for Kanemaru as he has focused on tag team success in recent years. Could Kanemaru attain ultimate glory by going all the way in the cup?

Gabriel Kidd (New Japan Cup debut) vs Taiji Ishimori (New Japan Cup debut)

First singles meeting

Circumstances create an immense opportunity for 23 year old Gabriel Kidd in the New Japan Cup. After years in the British independent scene having started as a mere teen, Kidd had been hand chosen by Katsuyori Shibata to join NJPW’s LA Dojo. Coming to Japan for international study during the New Beginning tour, Kidd’s stay in the country was lengthened dramatically by the global Cortonavirus pandemic, and now he finds himself in the biggest match of his young career.

While Kidd is more than familiar with his opponent’s tag partner El Phantasmo, this is the first singles meeting for the Briton and Taiji Ishimori. There is no doubting that this is an immense mountain to climb for a young wrestler with a mere 13 matches to his name in NJPW, but Gabe Kidd will be looking to do all he can to make a mark. 

*A special additional match will also take place on this card.