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New Japan’s March schedule includes a 72 year old wrestler and a 48 man tournament

After a month of COVID rescheduling and injury issues, New Japan got back on track last weekend with the culmination of their New Year’s Golden Series tour in Sapporo.

A trio of undercard titles changed hands (Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag titles in a 4Way, Provisional KOPW Trophy is back in Toru Yano’s hands after he beat Minoru Suzuki in a Dog Cage Match, and SANADA took the IWGP United States title from Hiroshi Tanahashi), and Kazuchika Okada won his latest battle with Tetsuya Naito to keep the IWGP World Heavyweight belt in Sun., Feb. 20’s main event.

So what now? NJPW will kick off March with an anniversary show, and a massive tournament.

The 50th Anniversary event on Tues., Mar. 1 will feature the return of Kota Ibushi, who’s been sidelined by the injury he suffered in the G1 Climax final against Okada last fall. Ibushi will team with Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata in an 8-man tag against a United Empire team of Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Aaron Henare.

At 53 years old, you’d think Nagata might be the oldest man on the card, but no. Befitting the show’s celebration of New Japan history, 63 year old Shiro Koshinaka returns for a 10 man tag with Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii & Yano against Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI. Then in the main event, aces Okada & Tanahashi team with 68 year old Tatsumi Fujinami to take on Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. & 72 year old Yoshiaki Fujiwara.

New Japan Cup starts the following night, and the 48 man field is the largest in the history of the tournament. The company has pretty much its entire roster in the field, plus CIMA. The Dragon Gate legend and OWE founder will return to NJPW the night before at 50th Anniversary. The will be 16 first round matches, with 16 wrestlers “randomly” receiving byes. The semis and finals take place the weekend of Mar. 26-27.

Here’s a look at the bracket and line-up for the 2022 New Japan Cup.
  • Kazuchika Okada
  • El Desperado
  • Master Wato*
  • Toru Yano
  • Taichi
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan*
  • Yuji Nagata
  • Hirooki Goto
  • Dick Togo*
  • CIMA
  • TAKA Michinoku
  • Yoshinobu Kanemaru*
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • YOH
  • Bad Luck Fale*
  • Tetsuya Naito
  • Yujiro Takahashi
  • Gedo*
  • Togi Makabe
  • Jeff Cobb
  • Satoshi Kojima*
  • Tomoaki Honma
  • Kosei Fujita*
  • Kota Ibushi
  • Great-O-Khan
  • Taiji Ishimori*
  • Ryohei Oiwa
  • Zack Sabre Jr.
  • DOUKI*
  • Yuto Nakashima
  • Aaron Henare
  • Will Ospreay
  • El Phantasmo*
  • Tomohiro Ishii
  • Shingo Takagi
  • Tanga Loa*
  • Chase Owens
  • Jado
  • Tiger Mask*
  • Ryusuke Taguchi
  • EVIL
  • Tama Tonga*
  • Hiromu Takahashi
  • SHO
  • Minoru Suzuki*

* First round byes

Ready for some March Madness, puroresu style?

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