New Japan Pro Wrestling announced the brackets for this year’s New Japan Cup tournament. This will mark the 13th annual Cup where the winner of this single elimination tournament will earn a title shot at any singles championship they wish to challenge for at Sakura Genesis (formerly Invasion Attack) on April 9th at Sumo Hall.
The first round matches will begin on March 11th (The right side of the brackets) and March 12th (The left side of brackets) the quarterfinal matches will occur on March 13th and March 17. Semifinal action will take place on March 19 and the finals on March 20th. The Wrestling Observer has confirmed that the last two days will air live on New Japan World while the rest of the shows will air on a delay.
These matchups make for some interesting possibilities. I’d expect Hiroshi Tanahashi to at least make it to the finals of his bracket. Besides Toru Yano, who he’ll face in the finals is anyone’s guess.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Minoru Suzuki in the first round is just all sorts of awesome. Booking their match in this position is the right call because placing them anywhere else in the same bracket makes the outcome too predictable.
O Kenny! My Kenny! What do we do with Kenny Omega? “The Cleaner’s” white-hot popularity makes him the easy pick to win the whole enchilada, however, does New Japan plan on having the Okada/Omega II on April 9th?
If not, how do you beat Omega?
The wrestling world is absolutely enthralled with every move Kenny Omega makes ever since his unprecedented six star classic with Kazuchika Okada back in January at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
If Omega is going to lose at some point in the New Japan Cup, it will have to be done in a way that enhances the guy he puts over while incurring absolutely no damage to his character.
Minoru Suzuki, Katsuyori Shibata, and Hiroshi Tanahashi are the only suitable candidates for this role. Suzuki is one belt away from being the first person to hold every major Japanese world title. Shibata is on the come up and Tanahashi, well, he’s freaking Tanahashi.
What if Omega wins the New Japan Cup? It’s assumed that he will challenge for Kazuchika Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight Title. However, what if New Japan throws out a curveball?
Omega might want to make a statement and challenge last year’s New Japan Cup winner, Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship. Maybe Omega will want one more go around with Hirooki Goto and vie for the NEVER Openweight belt?
Omega could even challenge Adam Cole for the ROH World Title. There was a tease of dissension between the two Bullet Club members at the recent Honor Rising show with Cole being the instigator.
A shot at the ROH Title is not one of the options for the tournament winner, however, there could be an unknown loophole allowing the match to occur since Ring of Honor is in a working relationship with New Japan.
Bullet Club drama always sells and drama within the faction could be a way of making Omega/Cole a reality without diminishing the three main singles titles that are officially up for grabs.
There is a precedent for this sort of thing. Chris Benoit won the 2004 Royal Rumble as a SmackDown superstar but found an unknown loophole where he was able to vie for the World Title on Raw instead.
I admit that I’m reaching here by using a WWE example to lend credence to a storyline in New Japan Pro Wrestling though stranger things have happened.
We should be treated to some fun matches throughout the tournament. The winner against the titleist of their choosing always makes for a super spectacular match. AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi in 2015 and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada in 2016 are great examples of what can be derived from the New Japan Cup.