The 2022 New Japan Cup begins tonight with a show consisting of all tournament matches at the Nippon Budokan.
In the main event, IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada will take on IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion El Desperado. The winner will face Master Wato in round two.
In the semi-main, Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi will face off in a singles match for the first time since 2014. The winner will take on Gedo in the second round.
Hiroshi Tanahashi will take on YOH, with the winner facing Bad Luck Fale in round two.
KOPW 2022 Toru Yano will face Taichi. The winner will receive a bye to the third round following an injury to Hiroyoshi Tenzan.
Togi Makabe will take on Jeff Cobb, with the winner facing Satoshi Kojima in the second round.
Yuji Nagata will face Hirooki Goto. The winner will take on Dick Togo in round two.
Tomoaki Honma will take on YOSHI-HASHI, with the winner facing Kosei Fujita in the second round.
In the opener, CIMA will face TAKA Michinoku. The winner will take on Yoshinobu Kanemaru in round two.
Our live coverage begins at 3:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The show opened with a ceremony celebrating the launch of New Japan’s new mobile game, Strong Spirits. After generally speaking about the game, Hiroshi Tanahashi declared the digital product open, and a group of people on the dev team cut a red ribbon.
New Japan Cup: CIMA defeated TAKA Michinoku
This match, for what it was, was enjoyable.
After a fairly even opening, CIMA sent TAKA to the floor, which he followed with an impressive dive through the ropes. Back in the ring, CIMA tried to establish control on the ground, but TAKA synched a head-scissor that forced CIMA into the ropes. TAKA continued to focus the neck while branching out to CIMA’s arm, all while on the mat.
CIMA retook the lead with a sudden lung blower. CIMA followed up heavy knee drops and some light striking. TAKA reversed momentum in a strike exchange and took CIMA back to the mat; CIMA barely escaped a deep head-scissor.
CIMA fought back into the match with a quick suplex, a sliding lariat, and a Meteora. This fast sequence left CIMA with a clean pin; he advances Yoshinobu Kanemaru in round two.
New Japan Cup: YOSHI-HASHI defeated Tomoaki Honma
This match had absolutely no business being as good as it was.
YH and Honma opened the match by trading heavy shoulders and strikes. Honma dropped YH and tried for Kokeshi, but YH avoided the headbutt. YH took full advantage of this opening, transitioning into an extended offensive sequence. Honma began to fight back with chops and a DDT before missing Kokeshi again. This time, YH could not follow up as a missile headbutt from Honma landed flush. Honma tried a third time for Kokeshi, and this time, he hit it; YH kicked out.
Honma tried for a rocket Kokeshi from the top rope, but YH stepped aside to dodge the move. YH continued to make offensive inroads with a top rope blockbuster and a lariat, but he couldn’t connect with Kharma. After stuffing YH’s finish, Honma landed two rocket headbutts and a top rope Kokeshi for a convincing near fall.
YH squared up to Honma after surviving Kokeshi. The pair traded hefty trikes, with a lariat from YH dropping Honma. YH hoisted Honma, hit Karmah, and secured the pinfall win to advance. YH will face Young Lion, Kosei Fujita in round two.
New Japan Cup: Hirooki Goto defeated Yuji Nagata
This match had an extended opening sequence that saw both men gain small, short-lived leads. Things worked their way to the outside, where Goto tried for a lariat; Nagata avoided the move, sending Goto’s arm into the ring post. Nagata’s attention turned to Goto’s new injury as he tried for an armbar. After landing a headbutt to stun Nagata, Goto escaped blue control, but his arm was still a target.
Nagata and Goto went back outside, but Goto gained momentum on the floor this time. Goto rolled Nagata inside and climbed to the top, but Nagata met him atop the ropes. Nagata landed a suplex from the top to score a near fall. Goto continued to fight, however, as a quick lariat and ushigoroshi left him with a two count. Nagata responded with a thunder death driver, resulting in a match reset.
Goto seemingly emerged from a strike exchange with a lead, but Nagata slipped in a Nagata lock II; Goto used the ropes to escape the hold. Goto reversed a backdrop and dodged an enziguri before transitioning into Goto Ni Shiki. In a retelling of their 2016 New Japan Cup match, Nagata couldn’t escape from the cradle combination, leaving Goto with a win. In the next round, Goto faces Dick Togo.
New Japan Cup: Jeff Cobb defeated Togi Makabe
This match was, unsurprisingly, 95% Cobb.
Cobb established control early, slamming Makabe into various objects around the ring. Back in the ring, Cobb maintained his lead with significant strikes and slams. Makabe eventually bought a moment to breathe after a clothesline. He followed this with a short sequence, but Cobb landed a back suplex to extinguish any Makabe hope.
Makabe managed to stay in the match for a while after another lariat, but Cobb continued his advance. After some more heavy strikes and a tour of the islands, Cobb pinned Makabe to secure his position in round two. Cobb is to face Satoshi Kojima, who he defeated in last year’s New Japan Cup.
New Japan Cup: Taichi defeated Toru Yano
This match was a silly Yano match, filled with silly Yano stuff.
Yano tried rolling up Taichi as soon as the match began. After Taichi kicked out, he removed a turnbuckle pad and threw him to the floor. Yano tried putting Taichi in a tarp, but Miho Abe was used as a human shield. Taichi then put the tarp over Yano, resulting in a near count-out.
Back in the ring, Yano reversed the last ride with the tarp still over his head. The referee then removed the tarp, a move Taichi wasn’t overly fond of. Taichi then placed the tarp over the official’s face, just in time for a Yano rollup attempt.
Yano tried for another rollup after he ripped off Taichi’s pants. Taichi responded by sending Yano into the exposed buckle, landing a forearm, and pinning Yano. Taichi, because of Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s withdrawal from the Cup, is advancing to the third round.
New Japan Cup: Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated YOH
This match had a lot of little things going on that played into the final product. Overall, it came together nicely. Perhaps the match’s most powerful element was that it made a YOH victory feel possible.
A back and forth grappling sequence opened this match. YOH managed to gain an early lead with purposeful offence directed at Tanahashi’s knee. Tanahashi answered with a thrust kick and dragonscrew before locking in a Texas cloverleaf. This was a leg-based war.
YOH connected with a dragonscrew of his own and a leglock to retake control. Tanahashi transformed a YOH suplex attempt into twist and shout for another shift in momentum. Tanahashi landed another dragonscrew, but YOH dodged the follow-up sling blade and landed a German to turn the match on its head once again.
YOH landed a superplex, only for Tanahashi to answer with a sling blade; Tanahashi went for another, but YOH landed his own sling blade this time. A DMV resulted in a YOH near fall. YOH tried and tried for a dragon suplex but couldn’t connect, opening him up to another sling blade from Tanahashi. Tanahashi then landed a dragon suplex of his own and pinned YOH to close the match. Tanahashi will face Bad Luck Fale in the next round.
New Japan Cup: Tetsuya Naito defeated Yujiro Takahashi
This match did absolutely nothing for me before the HoT interfered; that only further detracted from the match. This was bad.
Naito gained control for the first time with strikes to the back, an arm drag, and a snap mare. Yujiro stopped Naito’s advance by dropping him with a hotshot. Yujiro followed up with a plotting series of moves.
Naito turned things around again after a knee strike and neck breaker combination. Naito led Yujiro through his typical spots before a mid-match strike exchange. Yujiro won out and landed a fisherman buster to score a near fall. Naito bounced back, landing strikes to the neck to set up Destino; when Naito tried for his finish, Yujiro blocked it before landing Miami Shine.
The pair traded strikes once more, and again, Yujiro won out. Naito was able to fight off pimp juice and big juice, turning things back in his favour. Naito tried for the finish, but Yujro shoved him into the referee. Enter House of Torture.
After SHO and EVIL beat down Naito, Yujiro had second thoughts. Once he asked his faction mates to leave, he dropped Naito with a low blow. Yujiro tried hitting Naito with his stick, but Naito ducked and landed a disgusting low blow of his own. Natio secured a jackknife pin to win the match. Naito is scheduled to wrestle Gedo in the second round.
After Naito pinned Yujiro, EVIL hit the ring for a beat down. EVIL's plan failed as Naito reversed everything is evil before dropping his former faction mate with another low blow.
New Japan Cup: Kazuchika Okada defeated El Desperado
This match, especially in its final act, was an effective rollercoaster that almost convinced me Desperado had a chance. I don’t think you could ask for more.
This match opened with a swift sequence, complete with a rainmaker attempt and a submission that forced Okada into the ropes. The action spilt to the floor as Desperado continued to focus the leg of the heavyweight champion. Desperado maintained this control until an Okada flapjack reset the flow of the match.
Okada slammed Desperado into the barricades before using a chinlock to slow the match back down. Okada connected with substantial strikes, but Desperado stayed in the match by landing a dropkick to the knee. Desperado tied Okada into a leg lock variation that forced Okada into the ropes. Even after the rope break, Desperado continued to attack Okada’s leg.
Okada sidestepped Desperado, sending him into the corner. Okada then lifted the junior champion onto the top rope and landed a dropkick, sending Desperado crashing onto the floor. Okada hit a DDT outside the ring for a near count-out. Another DDT in the ring led to a near fall.
Desperado escaped the air raid crash and landed a spinebuster for a late reset. Desperado chopped Okada’s chest—Okada answered with a picture-perfect dropkick. Okada climbed to the top, but Desperado avoided the attack, chopping away Okada’s knee before landing Guitarra de Angel; Okada kicked out. Desperado then hit a splash à la Jun Kasai for another near fall. Okada blocked Pinche Loco, leading to an air raid crash neckbreaker to reestablish Okada’s control.
Okada locked in the money clip. After Desperado escaped, Okada hit an elbow drop and tried for the rainmaker. Desperado avoided the finish, connecting with another dropkick to the knee. A dragonscrew dropped Okada. Okada tried to fight back with a dropkick, but Desperado caught him mid-jump with another dragonscrew. Desperado secured numero dos for an intense period on the mat.
Once Okada escaped numero dos, he locked in the money clip again. Desperado seemingly passed out in the hold, allowing Okada to land two uncontested rainmakers; on the third attempt, Desperado sparked up, hitting Pinche Loco. This led to an explosive sequence, ending with one more rainmaker and an Okada pinfall. Okada advances to face Master Wato in the next round of the New Japan Cup.