What happens when you go to Germany (and then away elsewhere on holiday) just as New Japan start a tour? Well, this year… you return to an insane backlog! We start on that, with the tournament matches from the first night of this year’s New Japan Cup tour!

This year’s seen New Japan expand their programming for the New Japan Cup – so instead of just posting tournament matches, every show has been live. Those first few shows were while we were at 16 Carat Gold, hence us not picking it up! We’re not going to review everything right now (some of the tour matches may well pop up in Random Reviews down the line), and instead just focus on the tournament matches show by show, since the winner gets a title shot of their choosing at Sakura Genesis on Easter Sunday.

New Japan Cup 2018 – First Round: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson
We’re going all the way back to March 9 in Korakuen Hall for this, with Kevin Kelly and Chuckie T on commentary.

Yujiro started off trying to sucker Juice with a big boot, but that doesn’t work… although an eye rake does! Juice’s new gear kinda reminds me a little of the Booty Man, what with the use of tights on the sides… and we kept up that WCW motif with a Booker T-like sidekick early.

Juice’s offence came to a crashing end as he misses a cannonball in the corner, allowing Yujiro to respond with a clothesline off the ropes… but he doesn’t go for a cover, opting to take his time and instead throw some rights. An attempt at Pulp Friction from Juice saw his try at a comeback end when Yujiro pulled him up by his dreadlocks, before heading outside… whacking him in the head with his cane right in full view of the referee.

Still, that’s only enough for a near-fall despite the clear DQ, but Yujiro’s able to keep up, only to get taken down with a back suplex as we crossed the five minute mark. A spinebuster followed from Juice, as did a plancha and a slingshot spear as Yujiro was taken outside… and back in! Dusty punches gave way to a hotshot that sent Juice spilling to the floor, where he was held back by a little biting and a back body drop over the railings and into the front row – slicing open Juice’s back in the process.

A fisherman buster onto a stray chair keeps Robinson down… almost leading to a count-out, but he made it back in time, only for a second fisherman buster to almost put him away. Robinson headbutted away a potential avalanche fisherman buster, before he got crotched as he took too long to follow up… allowing Yujiro to get the move off regardless. Still, it’s not enough though, but Juice is a limp body at this point, taking superkick after superkick in the process, before finally throwing a desperation clothesline.

Somehow, Juice had enough left in him to nail a gutbuster for a near-fall, before another crack at Pulp Friction was shoved off. A low blow and an attempted inside cradle only gets a two-count for Yujiro, who came close again with the Tokyo Pimp inverted swinging slam, before damn-near killing Juice with a sit-out Dominator… still only getting a two-count from that! The Pimp Juice DDT follows, but Juice shoves away and instead counters into a powerbomb attempt, which doesn’t quite go to plan…

A second powerbomb follows, but we’re still in the land of near-falls, before a fired-up Juice lands Pulp Friction for the win. Well, it’s that time of year for Yujiro Takahashi to have a good match – and it’s two years running that Juice has put Yujiro out in the first round. Cracking stuff to get the tournament underway! ***¾

New Japan Cup 2018 – First Round: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin
Following that… was this. Elgin has become a rather polarising figure as of late, albeit for incidents outside the ring.

This match main evented night one, and almost went for half an hour, with the notable incident being a top rope powerbomb that quickly did the GIF rounds in Oberhausen. Yeah…

As for the match itself, it started as you’d expect two big lads to go – showing off power as they charged each other into the ropes, before the obligatory big lads shoulder tackle spots, giving way to back-and-forth forearms. Korakuen was certainly into this, with Elgin’s blasting forearm sending Ishii rocking into the ropes… for more back-and-forth shoulder charges as we hit a stalemate!

Ishii quickly breaks that stalemate, knocking Elgin down, before running into a gorilla press powerslam and another elbow smash that puts the Stone Pitbull down on the mat. A chop battle breaks out, prompting Kevin Kelly on commentary to tell us that dojo training features wrestlers hitting themselves in the throat with pipes to prepare themselves for chops to the throat. That can’t be a real thing, surely?

Ishii took control there, but we’re still exchanging strikes, with the series almost ending when Elgin tried to sneak in a half-nelson suplex. That doesn’t come off, so he lands an enziguiri and some back elbows ahead of the scoop slam and slingshot splash. A release Northern Lights suplex keeps Ishii on the back foot, before the Falcon Arrow forced a near-fall out of Ishii.
Elgin keeps up with a back-handed chop in the corner, but Ishii just hooks himself in the ropes to egg on “Big Mike”… before issuing some receipts, which prompted a similar response. We upgrade to chops and forearms from both men, before a clothesline from Ishii left Elgin laying… albeit briefly as he came back up for a suplex, only for Ishii to pop right back up and deliver an instant response.

Except Elgin popped right back up also!

More back-and-forth forearms ended with a clothesline out of Elgin, who then avoided a receipt by catching Ishii and charging him into the corner. Elgin keeps up the pressure with clotheslines into the corner, but Ishii still has something left in the tank… only to get dropped with a Blue Thunder Bomb out of nowhere that nearly ended the match.

We’re back to forearms again, with both men leaning into them, as Elgin ended up getting caught on the top rope with a folding powerbomb as Ishii got his near-fall. Elgin avoids a sliding lariat, as he ends up dumping Ishii into the corner with a death valley driver, following up with a big splash off the top for another two-count. From there, Elgin turns it up with an avalanche falcon arrow for another near-fall, before Ishii powered out of a powerbomb attempt.

German suplexes followed from Ishii, but Elgin’s right back up with a superkick… only to run into a leg lariat as both men continued to throw the proverbial bombs at each other, leading to Ishii leaping up into a headbutt as Elgin was on the top rope, following up with a superplex for a near-fall.

A swinging side slam followed from Elgin, but Ishii’s right back up with a lariat for a one-count. Another lariat gets a two, but Elgin’s back in with forearms and pump kicks, before an enziguiri led to both men crumbling. More shots follow from both men when they got back to their feet, with a rolling forearm knocking Ishii down once again, along with another lariat… but somehow he’s up at one!

Elgin keeps up with another swinging side slam, but it’s still not enough, so Ishii’s taken up top for the aforementioned neck-shortening powerbomb… but again Ishii is up! Even if his height was not. A buckle bomb follows, as Elgin sensed blood, but the Elgin Bomb is countered with a ‘rana and an enziguiri as both men were beginning to run on fumes. A sliding lariat from Ishii nearly does it as he fires up… only for his sheer-drop brainbuster to get reversed as Elgin went back to the neck again with a half-nelson suplex.

Another buckle bomb’s almost lost, but Ishii rebounds out of the corner with a lariat. Elgin keeps up with a pop-up powerbomb, then a Burning Hammer as the head drops finally came to a close as the Stone Pitbull was put away. This took a little while to get going, but when it kicked into gear, it got real good. Elgin faces Juice Robinson in the quarter-finals in what’s sure to have been a clash of styles. ****½

We’ll not be covering the finals live (least of all because of the wacky 6am start time in the UK), but we should have the cup reviews up show-by-show before Sakura Genesis on April 1!