New Japan Pro Wrestling announced all sixteen participants, the full bracket, and match scheduling details for this year’s New Japan Cup at a press release at noon JST today, so with no further ado let’s list ‘em out and break ‘em down, folks.
- Bad Luck Fale (Competing in his fifth New Japan Cup, former finalist)
- Chuckie T (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
- Davey Boy Smith, Jr. (Competing in his third New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi (Competing in his ninth New Japan Cup, he won in 2005 and 2008, but he’s lost in the first round the last three years)
- Juice Robinson (Competing in his second New Japan Cup, former quarter-finalist)
- Kota Ibushi (Competing in his second New Japan Cup, he won his previous and only tournament appearance in 2015)
- Lance Archer (Competing in his fourth New Japan Cup, has never made it out of the first round)
- Michael Elgin (Competing in his third New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
- SANADA (Competing in his second New Japan Cup, former quarter-finalist)
- Taichi (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
- Tetsuya Naito (Competing in his seventh New Japan Cup, he won in 2016)
- Tomohiro Ishii (Competing in his tenth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
- Toru Yano (Competing in his twelfth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
- YOSHI-HASHI (Competing in his fifth New Japan Cup, has never made it out of the first round)
- Yujiro Takahashi (Competing in his ninth New Japan Cup, former quarter-finalist)
- Zack Sabre, Jr. (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
So those are the sixteen men on the field, a similar mix of first-timers and established participants to last year’s. Faction warfare, as always, is a real theme here, with a full three-quarters of the field wearing someone’s colors, but Chaos and Suzuki-gun got the most men with four each. Bullet Club’s recent struggles have reduced them to two entrants here, while Los Ingobernables de Japon also having two men in tells a different story, with SANADA and Naito representing their full complement of active heavyweights given EVIL’s orbital bone injury.
How’s the bracket look?
It’s the right side of the bracket that has me excited, folks. Sabre/Naito is probably the single most slam-bang guaranteed awesome match of the first round, and the winner likely comes out of it and right into a match against Kota Ibushi? Gold. Meanwhile in the southeastern quadrant, we could very well be setting up for a comedy Match of the Year candidate in the second round if Toru Yano and Chuck Taylor make it past their opponents. (And I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, because Taylor/SANADA has the potential to be really good, especially since they’ve got a main event spot.)
Looking at the left side, Juice/Ishii should be good fun if both men make it out of the first round, and I fully expect Tanahashi to, despite mounting injuries, make a desperate push to clear up his losing record of the last few years by getting past newly-heavyweight Taichi into something of a last stand against either behemoth that ends up being his second round opponent.
Let’s take a look at dates and times and get outta here then, shall we? I’m only going to list out tournament matches in the interest of brevity, but all of these will be featured live in full on NJPW World, folks.
Day One: Tokyo (March 9, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30AM Pacific)
- Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi
- Michael Elgin vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Day Two: Aichi (March 10, 4AM Eastern / 1AM Pacific)
- Bad Luck Fale vs. Lance Archer
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Taichi
Day Three: Hyogo (March 11, 2AM Eastern / 11PM Pacific)
- Kota Ibushi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
Day Four: Kagawa (March 12, 5AM Eastern / 2AM Pacific)
- Davey Boy Smith, Jr. vs. Toru Yano
- Chuckie T vs. SANADA
Day Five: Shizuoka (March 14, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30AM Pacific)
- Winner of Robinson/Yujiro vs. Winner of Elgin/Ishii
- Winner of Tanahashi/Taichi vs. Winner of Fale/Archer
Day Six: Tokyo (March 15, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30AM Pacific)
- Winner of Ibushi/YOSHI-HASHI vs. Winner of Naito/Sabre
- Winner of Smith/Yano vs. winner of Chuck/SANADA
Day Seven: Tokyo (March 16, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30AM Pacific)
- Semifinals between winners from March 14
Day Eight: Shizuoka (March 18, 1AM Eastern / 10PM Pacific)
- Semifinals between winners from March 15
Day Nine: Nagaoka (March 21, 1AM Eastern / 10PM Pacific)
- New Japan Cup 2018 finals
There you have it, folks
Who do you wanna wake up at butt o’clock and see win this thing to earn a shot at a singles champion of his choosing, Cagesiders?