Yuji Nagata defeated Kosei Fujita
This was a par-for-the-course opener.
Unsurprisingly, Nagata controlled this match for the vast majority of its runtime. He won with the Nagata Lock.
Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Gedo & Chase Owens) defeated Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Tiger Mask
This was a 2022 Bullet Club C-Team match; there wasn't much to it.
After a ton of Bullet Club tomfoolery, an Owens package piledriver and ELP Thunder Kiss ‘86 led to the pinfall over Honma.
After the match, there was some bickering about ELP’s continued lack of confidence to deliver the superkick, but everything was pushed under the rug after a group "Too Sweet."
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato defeated House of Torture (EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi)
Much like the last match, this was a reasonably typical House of Torture match. Tanahashi was able to elevate the match beyond the low bar set by the rest of the House of Torture catalog, but there’s only so much even he can do.
After a lot of chicanery from House of Torture, Yujiro looked to close the match with Big Juice. but Tanahashi reversed his finish attempt by pushing Yujiro nearly into the referee. Then, with the referee’s back turned, Tanahashi hit a low blow and rolled up Yujiro to score the win.
The babyface trio did score a pinfall win over the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champions, which could lead to a title shot in the future.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi) defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOH)
Keeping with today’s theme, this was a by-the-book showcase tag with everyone having a bit of time with their divisional rivals/upcoming opponents.
YOH tried closing the match with multiple roll-up attempts, only for SANADA to catch him in Skull End, leading to the submission and LIJ victory.
After the match, Ishii and Shingo fought outside the ring, forcing their faction mates to restore order ahead of their New Japan Cup match.
United Empire (Jeff Cobb & The Great-O-Khan) defeated Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Taiji Ishimori)
This was a back-and-forth affair with some, but not an overabundance, of cheating.
O-Khan seemingly had the match in his grasp, but a distracted referee let Ishimori land a low blow. Fale followed up with the Grenade leading to the pin.
New Japan Cup first-round match: Aaron Henare defeated Yuto Nakashima
This match was good, and Nakashima truly shined.
This match opened with light striking, leading to a Nakashima takedown attempt. Henare sprawled but couldn’t maintain control. Nakashima moved to side control, but Henare bucked him off, standing the match back up. Henare tried to take control with strikes and a headlock, but again, Nakashima won out in these exchanges.
Nakashima landed a big shoulder tackle that upset Henare more than hurt him. Henare dropped Nakashima with one of his own before throwing him to the floor. Outside the ring, Henare slammed Nakashima into the barricades before rolling him back in the ropes. In the ring, the beatdown continued with heavy strikes from Henare.
Nakashima began to fight back into the match with a shoulder tackle and some light offense. When the Young Lion tried for a Boston Crab, Henare blocked the move. Thinking on his feet, Nakashima transitioned into a leg lock, forcing the rope break.
Nakashima’s momentum came to an end after losing in an intense strike exchange. Henare followed up with a rampage tackle that ended this match.
Henare moves on to face SANADA in round two.
New Japan Cup first-round match: Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ryohei Oiwa
Again, I really liked this match. Oiwa came off a little arrogant, but that’s not a bad thing. The pair meshed well, and the match had a nice flow. Good stuff.
Oiwa gained an early lead with quick answers to ZSJ. ZSJ played it cool, rolling to the outside. After ZSJ returned to the ring, Oiwa tried taking the match to the mat. ZSJ, unsurprisingly, took over on the ground. ZSJ took his time, pulling and contorting in convincing fashion. Oiwa tried using his amateur background to compete with ZSJ’s mat work, but he was outclassed.
Oiwa’s rally began with a spinebuster after ZSJ allowed him to stand. A dropkick, tackle, and gutwrench suplex left Oiwa with a two count on ZSJ. His comeback ended as soon as he tried for a Boston Crab. ZSJ took over the match again, almost forcing the submission with a headscissors. A similar exchange played out a couple of times, with each attempt at the Boston Crab leaving Oiwa a little closer.
Try as he might, Oiwa wasn’t ready for ZSJ tonight. Then, after surpassing the 10-minute mark, ZSJ locked in a toe hold that led to the tap out.
ZSJ moves on to face fellow Suzuki-gun faction mate DOUKI in round two.
New Japan Cup first-round match: Will Ospreay defeated BUSHI
What an utterly bizarre match. I have no clue why this match used four referees, as their being down had nothing to do with the rest of the bout. I feel like I must have missed something. This was actively bad structurally, and everything else was pretty mundane.
BUSHI landed a big dropkick that sent Ospreay to the floor just as the bell rang. BUSHI followed up with a tope and some barricade slams but couldn’t maintain his hot start back inside the ring. A chop from Ospreay sent BUSHI crashing to the floor, letting Ospreay take control for the first time.
Ospreay slowed the match down significantly, playing into a heavyweight heel role. BUSHI continued to fight, landing a big dropkick and rana to the floor, but Ospreay wasn’t on the back foot for long. Ospreay tried to bring the match to an early end with the OsCutter, but BUSHI pulled the referee into Ospreay’s path. After the official ate Ospreay’s finish, another referee came to the ring. He too ate a move, this time a BUSHI dropkick. With two referees down, a third came to the ring only to take a faceful of BUSHI mist and an Ospreay head kick.
As the fourth referee found his way to the warzone, Ospreay tried for the OsCutter two more times, hitting it on the third attempt. BUSHI kicked out. A powerbomb led to another Ospreay near fall. It was a Hidden Blade from Ospreay that brought this strange match to its actual end.
Ospreay moves on to face El Phantasmo in round two, a very likely win for the British Heavyweight Champion.