United Empire (Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb, The Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Ryohei Oiwa
United Empire led this match almost through its entirety. The babyface quartet tried to rally, but a Rampage Tackle from Henare dropped Oiwa for the pin.
Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)
This match had wider Bullet Club implications as Yujiro teamed with Bullet Club proper. For the first time since the stateside schism, both sub-groups teamed together and seemed to be on the same page. In fact, the only tension was between ELP and Ishimori, which Yujiro worked to calm.
The Bullet Club team had the win secured after Ishimori hit BUSHI with a Bloody Cross, but ELP had secretly tagged into the match. After Ishimori wasn’t allowed to pin BUSHI, ELP dropped BUSHI with CR II and pinned him himself.
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH)
After a match with plenty of offense from both sides, ZSJ secured an armbar on YOH, leading to the Suzuki-gun victory.
New Japan Cup first-round match: Chase Owens defeated Jado
This wasn’t great, but it could have been a lot worse -- a small victory, but we take those.
A quick knee to Jado after a deceptive handshake left Owens with an early lead. Owens continued making advances until Jado caught a C-Trigger. For the first time, Jado landed a pair of lariats to take control into his own hands.
A Green Killer to Owens left Jado with a near fall. Owens sprung back with a Jewel Heist. After kicking out, Jado answered with the Crossface of Jado. Owens couldn’t reach the rope to break the hold, instead pulling the referee. Owens tapped while the referee was down, convincing Jado he had won the match. Jado, in anger, grabbed his stick. Owens talked him out of using the weapon, only to hit a low blow after the act of borderline courtesy. A C-Trigger brought this match to an end.
After the match, Owens paid care to Jado, giving him an ice pack and helping him to the back.
Owens moves on to wrestle Tiger Mask in round two.
New Japan Cup first-round match: EVIL defeated Ryusuke Taguchi
This was bad.
Taguchi came to the ring in a jank EVIL costume, complete with a dollar store skull mask, plastic scythe, and ill-fitting cloak. Once he removed his mask, Taguchi revealed his EVIL-inspired face paint, but to be honest, he just looked tired.
Once the match started, both men immediately tried for Everything is Evil. EVIL dropped Taguchi, but a hip attack kept him in the match. Strangely, a missed hip attack allowed EVIL to take complete control. EVIL slammed Taguchi into the barricade before choking him with a foreign object.
Taguchi launched a comeback after a deadman sit-up. A low blow dropped EVIL, prompting Dick Togo to make his presence felt. Taguchi pulled Togo into the ring and smothered him with his backside. A series of B-Triggers, both to EVIL and Togo, left Taguchi with a strong lead. Taguchi connected with the Three Amigos, an enzuigiri, and a Bomaye, resulting in a near fall.
Taguchi looked to close with an ankle lock, but EVIL grabbed the referee. With the official distracted, Togo hit the ring with a wire. Taguchi turned his attention to Togo, locking him into the ankle lock and forcing him to tap out. With Taguchi’s attention subverted, EVIL snuck in and hit Everything is Evil to close the match.
EVIL moves on to face Tama Tonga, a match with significant implications following the recent Bullet Club happenings.
New Japan Cup first-round match: Hiromu Takahashi defeated SHO
This was not for me in any way. Other than this match structure being utterly played out, the actual contents bored me to tears. It felt like they were just going through the motions.
Before the match could even start, SHO carried Hiromu from the back, wielding a chair. SHO beat Hiromu with the chair all the way to the ring.
Once inside the ring, Hiromu immediately turned things around with an explosive sunset flip powerbomb to the floor. He then led an extended offensive sequence, mainly on the outside. Hiromu removed the padding next to the ring, buying SHO enough time to grab the ring bell hammer. After hitting Hiromu with said hammer in plain sight of the referee, SHO dropped Hiromu with a piledriver on the concrete.
SHO could not finish the match, leaving Hiromu with an opportunity after a missed clothesline. Hiromu rallied, landing a Falcon Arrow. SHO stole the lead back after a brief back and forth by pulling the referee into Hiromu’s path and landing a spear. A powerbomb into the Snake Bite forced Hiromu into the ropes.
SHO then grabbed a chair and his wrench. The referee confiscated the chair but left SHO with his signature blunt object. Hiromu dodged the wrench attack, landing a German suplex and a lariat. Hiromu's offense continued with a thrust kick, lariat, and Victory Royal, but SHO kicked out.
After surviving Hiromu’s rally, SHO pushed him into the referee and landed a low blow. SHO tried using the wrench again, but Hiromu ducked. Hiromu then ran SHO into an exposed turnbuckle corner, prompting Yujiro Takahashi to hit the ring. Yujiro dropped Hiromu with his cane, leaving SHO free to land a cross-arm piledriver. Hiromu held on, reversing a Shock Arrow into a quick roll-up for a surprise win.
Hiromu will face Minoru Suzuki in the next round.
New Japan Cup first-round match: Shingo Takagi defeated Tomohiro Ishii
This was the kind of match you would expect from these two. Full of high impact sequences, big moves, and brutal strikes.
The match opened with a heavy feeling out process filled with shoulder tackles. After Shingo fell, Ishii took the fight to the floor, throwing Shingo into the barricades. Shingo answered with strikes and a Death Valley Driver to the floor. Back in the ring, Shingo continued making offensive inroads with a senton, standing suplex, and a back elbow drop.
Shingo came off the ropes, perhaps looking for the Pumping Bomber, but Ishii caught him with a slam. Ishii then worked Shingo into the corner, landing heavy strikes, but he wasn’t ahead for long. Shingo connected with a lariat to initiate a long back and forth. Ishii eventually won out, landing one more backdrop than Shingo.
Ishii connected with a superplex but couldn’t follow up as a quick Shingo DDT left him grounded. A nasty buckle bomb and superplex from Ishii yielded Shingo a near fall of his own. Shingo tried to close with a Pumping Bomber, but Ishii avoided the move, initiating another back-and-forth sequence. Shingo won out, hitting a Pumping Bomber for a believable false finish.
Ishii blocked Last of the Dragon and followed up with a nasty headbutt that brought both men down. Ishii tried dropping Shingo with a snap German, but Shingo popped up. Ishii was quick to respond with a lariat. Shingo kicked out at the count of one. Shingo reversed the brainbuster and hit one of his own. Ishii kicked out before the one count. After two more one-count kickouts, Shingo connected with Made in Japan for an actual near fall. Shingo then picked Ishii up and set him down with Last of the Dragon. This time, Ishii did not kick out.
In round two, Shingo is set to face Tanga Loa.