The 2016 New Japan Cup kicks off in the morning (March 3rd) at 19:00 JST (5AM EST/10AM UK). This tournament is single elimination with the winner getting a title match against the champion of their choosing at Invasion Attack in April. This tournament is usually full of upsets and is sometimes used to propel someone to a title match, such as Kota Ibushi last year who won and went on to challenge AJ Styles for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
The quarter-finals take place on March 4th at 18.30 JST with the semi-finals and final on March 12th at 17:00 JS.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Bad Luck Fale
Fale has been a guy known to cause upsets in tournaments like this. Last year he knocked out Kazuchika Okada in the first round. The winner of this faces the winner of Elgin/Tanahashi, so we could potentially see the Elgin/Tanahashi team collide in the quarter-finals. Last year Toru Yano upset Tanahashi, which set up a mini feud between Tanahashi & Yano. Something similar could happen here if Fale was to take out Tanahashi.
Michael Elgin vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Elgin has to win this. He has recently signed a contract with NJPW and should be in line for a push. I can see him as a favourite to win this. Elgin beating either Tanahashi or Elgin in the next round would be huge for him. This will be a real test to see what Elgin can get out of Tenzan. NJPW need new main event talent, and Elgin is a guy that can be propelled in this tournament.
Togi Makabe vs Tama Tonga
Tama Tonga has been getting somewhat of a push recently and with him set to challenge Makabe & Honma for the tag titles, it would be a nice upset to see him beat Makabe here. This is one of Tonga’s first big opportunities as a singles wrestler, so he will be looking to impress.
Hirooki Goto vs Yuji Nagata
Hirooki Goto has become known as Mr New Japan Cup. He has won it several times and made it to the final last year. However, the story right now is that Goto has hit a slump and is on a losing streak. A loss to Nagata here would be a nice win for Nagata and would further the story of Goto falling off the rails leading to Nagata vs possibly Tama Tonga in the next round. This should be a very good match.
Tomoaki Honma vs Satoshi Kojima
Despite being one half of the tag team champions, it would still be seen as an upset for Honma to win this. It’s possible that he will win of Makabe is to lose his match in order to not have both tag champions lose. This should be a hell of a match. Kojima is still one of the best workers in New Japan and Honma is the perfect guy to play underdog with him.
Toru Yano vs Yujiro Takahashi
If this doesn’t have match of the year written all over it, I don’t know what does. I don’t think NJPW could possibly have put together a worse match without having Captain New Japan involved. Hopefully this is a quick low blow and roll up win for Yano. There is no reason for Takahashi to win this. The winner of this will face Honma or Kojima.
Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
This could be the match of the first round. EVIL is best suited to and opponent where he can get really physical and this is one of the first times we’ll be getting to have to sort of singles match in NJPW. There is no way EVIL wins this as he will likely be facing Tetsuya Naito in the next round. However, EVIL will have a chance to impress some people here with a good performance against the ROH TV champion.
Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI
Again, this could be another great match. YOSHI can go and he plays the underdog role really well. The crowd will be firmly behind him here as he fights from underneath against mega heel Naito. Naito is one of the favourites for the tournament, so it would be a major shock to see him lose here. I really hope we get Naito vs Ishii in the next round as they had one of the best matches of 2014 in a match that really launched Ishii.
Also on the card will be Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba vs Katsuyori Shibata & KUSHIDA
The likely winner will be Naito or Elgin moving on to challenge Okada at Invasion Attack. As Tanahashi has lost two major matches lately, it’s possible that he could get the win here to set up a rematch between him and Kenny Omega for the IWGP Intercontinental championship at Invasion Attack.