The first round wrapped up in Kagawa, as the New Japan Cup rumbled on with a rather mixed bag of matches.

Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero remain on commentary as we skip the undercard… and I’m instantly reminded of the ear-splitting ring gong from the G1 here.

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Toru Yano
I expect comedy… and a lot of Yano winding up Davey Boy Smith Jr.

Smith chases Yano into the crowd before the bell, as Yano did a Benny Hill-like run to his music. The bell goes, and Yano tries to roll up Smith instantly as he figured that keeping it short would be his best chance. When that doesn’t work, Yano powders outside and removes a turnbuckle pad, only to get joined by Smith, who throws him into the barriers before he ripped up Yano’s bag of curry.

After some brawling, Smith rolls Yano back inside, before Yano gets in a cheapshot and reveals… he brought tape! Smith punches it away though, and we’re back outside as Smith throws Yano back into the guard rails. They head towards the Japanese commentary tables, as Yano gets dropped knee-first on a table… and the slow paced stuff continues as Smith took the match back to the ring, not happy with a count-out.

Smith puts the brakes on as Yano reverses an Irish whip, but it’s Yano who ends up in that exposed corner. A roll-up isn’t enough as Smith hits a scooping reverse DDT for a near-fall, before Yano went back to roll-ups to score near-falls. An attempted low blow gets blocked, as Smith then side steps a mule kick, only to get suckered in with another roll-up as Yano mercifully ends this. Technically this fine, but the pace was torturous and just didn’t click. Next. *

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: Colt Cabana vs. Togi Makabe
Well, that opens up this match somewhat: a singles clash towards the old Most Violent Players, or do we get a comedy match in the second round?

Colt tries to confuse Makabe early on with some wacky rope running, before pratfalling the NEVER trios champion for a near-fall. Cabana trips Makabe again, but ends up on the mat himself in a hammerlock, before a back elbow sent Colt flying to the outside. He’s quickly back in as Makabe stomps on him, before he struggled to keep Colt in the corner – eventually doing so by wrapping his leg in the ropes.

A Bionic elbow from Colt helps him get free, before a sunset flip gets a near-fall… and it’s time for the Dusty punches as a second Bionic elbow dumps Makabe. The Flying Asshole into the corner knocks Makabe down ahead of a double-jump big splash, but it’s still not enough, as the pair begin to slug it out once more. Another elbow from Colt just leads to a clothesline from Makabe, who then followed in with mounted punches in the corner, before a scoop powerslam almost put Colt away. Makabe lifts Colt up top in the search for a spider German suplex, but Colt elbows him down before he crashed and burned on a moonsault.

A swivelling lariat keeps Colt down for a near-fall, as Makabe then headed up to the top rope himself, only to miss the King Kong knee drop, which quickly led to a Superman body press as Colt made the most of that slip up and took home the win. Well, it wasn’t fast-paced, but at least these two seemed to have some urgency among themselves. **¼

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: Minoru Suzuki vs. Satoshi Kojima
This match was one for the long-term fans, going back to December 2011 when Suzuki-gun was formed by Minoru Suzuki effectively over-throwing Kojima from his own stable.

As you’d expect, this started off hot, with Suzuki and Kojima throwing chops at each other early on, with Kojima drawing first blood with a slam… only for Suzuki to come back with some boots as Kojima’s shoulder tackle knocked the former Intercontinental champion down. Suzuki’s right back with a hanging armbar attempt, which Kojima punched away before he joined Suzuki on the apron as a search for a DDT ended up with Suzuki finally landing that armbar. A PK from Suzuki knocked Kojima on the floor, as they then headed into the crowd, brawling by the Japanese commentary team – including a totally unfazed Yuji Nagata.

Suzuki grabs a chair from under the ring, and yes, it’s used on Kojima as a shot to the back just popped out the seat cover. Kojima’s left laying as he’s forced to drag himself back to the ring, where his efforts at fighting back were largely swatted away, only for him to catch a PK and dump Suzuki with a DDT. Machine gun chops from Kojima barely faze Suzuki, as the pair go back and forth in the corner, with Kojima eventually edging ahead.

An attempt at a top rope elbow’s stopped as Suzuki got back to his feet, pulling Kojima down ahead of a running boot into the corner… but a rolling elbow has Kojima back in it. That top rope elbow finally connects for a near-fall, before we go back to the strikes as Suzuki just rang Kojima’s bell with those sickening elbows.

A Koji Cutter’s blocked as Suzuki grabbed a rear naked choke… but when Minoru let go and searched for a Gotch Style Piledriver, Kojima’s able to counter with the Koji Cutter. That gets a delayed two-count before duelling lariats left them down on the mat. A Cozy Lariat drops Suzuki for a near-fall as the match seemed to be heading to a conclusion, only for Suzuki to catch Kojima with another rear naked choke, quickly switching it to the Gotch piledriver for the win. Considering the ages, this was a relatively sprightly outing, with the pair swinging for the fences here. Entertaining, even if you only had a passing knowledge of their histories. ***

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto
The final first-round outing was a relatively fresh pairing – and a match that could have sealed the total elimination of LIJ from the cup at the first hurdle.

We’ve another measured start here as the pair gauged the crowd reactions, with referee Red Shoes Unno finding it hard to distinguish a winner. They start by working on each other’s wrists, with SANADA’s attempt to edge ahead with sheer pace ending when he ran into a kick from Goto. SANADA responds by tripping Goto, before a Paradise Lock was pushed away as Goto waggled his finger in defiance. Goto keeps up with a counter to a hiptoss, only to get low bridged to the outside as SANADA followed out with a cannonball off the apron. Back inside, SANADA tried to roll up Goto, but he can only get a two-count, before a back elbow and a low dropkick put Goto back on the mat as SANADA had to switch up his offence.

SANADA keeps up the offence, throwing some rights into Goto, but that quickly descended into a battle of palm strikes, before Goto tried to take the LIJ member down with a Saito suplex. That’s blocked with some elbows, as Goto just came back with some kicks before he landed that suplex anyway for a two-count. An ushigoroshi attempt ended when SANADA slipped out, then followed in with his double leapfrog/dropkick combo and a plancha as the tempo was quickly turned up. Back inside, SANADA picks up a two-count from all that, as the contest descended into another strike battle, with a rolling elbow from SANADA putting Goto down again. Forearms trap Goto in the corner, but he quickly trades places, only to get knocked back down as SANADA left him laying once more.

A missile dropkick attempt gets caught as Goto looked to pull SANADA into an ushigoroshi, only for SANADA to hit his own version of it as he then looked for a Skull End, pulling Goto back down to the mat. As usual, SANADA releases the hold after a while to go for a moonsault, but Goto’s able to roll away as he watched his foe crash and burn. Both men get back to their feet, but it’s Goto who rushes out with a clothesline as SANADA looked to be back in trouble… only for him to flip back into a Skull End as the momentum changed on a dime. Goto tries to roll out, as he looked for a GTR, only for SANADA to counter with a roll-through for a near-fall, before Goto kicked out and landed the ushigoroshi at the umpteenth attempt!

Another kick from Goto looked to lead to a GTR, but SANADA avoids it and eventually countered back with a twisting neckbreaker off the ropes. As SANADA looked for the death blow, he’s met with a headbutt as Goto nails a GYR, before the pair countered each other’s stuff almost endlessly… until SANADA hit a Sliced Bread in the corner to pull Goto back into a Skull End. From there, SANADA lets go and goes for a moonsault again, this time connecting as he was able to pick up the win. Some decent back-and-forth there, with things picking up massively at the end, as SANADA managed to remain the sole LIJ interest in this tournament. ***½

A rather unremarkable day’s action, all told, with the Yano/Smith match being utterly skippable – although the action picked up by the time we got to the main event. So your second round matches will be: Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii; YOSHI-HASHI vs. Chase Owens; Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay; Mikey Nichols vs. Kazuchika Okada; Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi; Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi; Toru Yano vs. Colt Cabana; Minoru Suzuki vs. SANADA.