The second batch of New Japan Cup first round matches saw a David vs. Goliath battle as Will Ospreay faced his biggest test yet.

For this leg of the tour we’re in Nagoya, with Kevin Kelly sticking around on commentary alongside Rocky Romero. Big Show Don is gone. Once our five undercard matches and the ELP video have passed, it’s time for cup action.

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: Lance Archer vs. Toa Henare
Henare’s had some decent brawls in the last year, but he’s still very much a hair’s breadth above the Young Lions in terms of the pecking order.

He tries to change that with an early powerbomb and a cannonball senton, before he hurled Archer into the crowd as he tried to out-Suzuki-gun his opponent. When they made it back to the ring, Archer finds a way back when he hung Henare across the top rope, before booting him through the strand… and then he reverts to type, dragging Henare outside with a massive Giant Swing from the apron to the barriers. Henare keeps tasting those guard rails, before a suplex on the floor left him laying once more. Back inside, a simple lariat drops Henare, as Archer then waited for the Kiwi to get back to his feet so he could run through him with a shoulder tackle. Some rope walking’s next as Archer showed off as he went Old School, before Henare finally hit back with a clothesline out of the corner.

Forearms from Henare follow, as does a Samoan drop, before another clothesline had Archer down to a knee. Henare’s swatted out of the air as he went for the flying shoulder tackle, but he still had plenty left in him to land a suplex for a two-count. From there, Henare gets POUNCE’d as Archer forces his way back in, before a chokeslam almost put the New Zealander away. A second one doesn’t get the job done either, as Henare fought back with some body blows… only for his uranage to get blocked. He cracks Archer with a headbutt, but can’t stop himself from running into a lariat as Archer proceeded to take him up for the Blackout – an inverted crucifix powerbomb – which was enough for the win. A valiant effort from Henare, but a sadly familiar result… **¾

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: HIKULEO vs. Mikey Nicholls
This was Nicholls’ return to New Japan, having recently left WWE developmental hell.

HIKULEO throws down Nicholls from the off, before the Australian tried to offer some resistance with chops. It made a noise, but left little other evidence before Nicholls got charged down with a shoulder tackle. On the outside, Nicholls is thrown into the guard rails, then into the ring post, prompting a count-out tease as Nicholls tripped on the floor on his way back into the ring. Back inside, HIKULEO drops Nicholls with another chop, prompting a brief fight back before Nicholls was dumped with a backbreaker. HIKULEO’s working well over Nicholls’ back, but nobody in the crowd seems to care, which is making this feel long and drawn out. A suplex from HIKULEO takes Nicholls into the corner, as Mikey finally hit back with a clothesline. Nicholls keeps up with a suplex for a near-fall, only for Jado to hit back with a Kendo stick shot to the back as the camera crew miss whatever it was HIKULEO did in response.

Forearms from HIKULEO leave Nicholls in the ropes, before he bounced back with a death valley driver, then a seated clothesline for a near-fall… as a Mikey Bomb (a Blue Thunder Bomb) quickly followed up for the win. Well, it was a match, but it may have been an idea to have Nicholls have his first match back against someone more established. **½

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: Bad Luck Fale vs. Will Ospreay
Since he’s the Rogue General, Bad Luck Fale’s added a baton to his act. Atten’hut?

Ospreay charges into Fale at the bell with a shotgun dropkick, as he tried to stick and move to get past Fale here. Jado tries to trip Ospreay early, but instead he proved to be a distraction as Fale knocked him onto the guard railings… while distracting the ref as Jado’s Kendo stick was used to jab at Will in the ribs. Fale nearly wrecks the guard rails by whipping Ospreay into them, prompting a count-out tease that ended when Ospreay rolled back into the ring… and was simply stood on. A chinlock’s used to try and bend Ospreay back on himself, before a slam and a nerve hold kept the NEVER Openweight champion at bay.

Ospreay eventually hits back with a handspring enziguiri to take Fale down to his knees, before a dropkick in the corner led to Ospreay heading onto the apron, and back in with a springboard forearm. Finally, Fale’s down, but he barely stayed there, as Ospreay had to kick him in the head to avoid a Grenade. Problem was, Ospreay charged right back at him… and got bulldozed down. An avalanche splash in the corner, then a big splash off the ropes gets Fale another near-fall as Ospreay was hanging on. Another enziguiri catches Fale as Ospreay sprung off the ropes and wiped out the referee as he went for an OsCutter… and that looked to be a horrible landing into Red Shoes Unno.

Another handspring from Ospreay ended when Jado cracked him in the ropes… but Ospreay manages to disarm Jado, and uses the Kendo stick on him and Fale as the tables were truly turned. A Robinson Special followed as Fale was still on all fours, before Fale caught an OsCutter and returned fire with a big spear. The Grenade follows… but Ospreay somehow gets a shoulder up in time, before he countered a Bad Luck Fall into a ‘rana to steal the win! Yeah, Fale had a shoulder up, but the result was well deserved as Fale suffered the major upset. ***

New Japan Cup 2019 – First Round: Michael Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada
This was Okada’s first New Japan Cup outing in four years – last having been entered in 2015, when he crashed out in the first round to Bad Luck Fale.

Elgin’s sporting a huge knee brace after having surgery, but none of his power seems to have gone as he shoved away Okada early on, before clocking him with a forearm as Okada did the “mock clean break” gimmick. Okada tries to leap over Elgin, but instead gets taken down as the pair scrambled for position early on, only for Elgin to deck Okada with a back elbow and a suplex. A dropkick from Elgin takes Okada to the outside, as Big Mike teased flying, only to slide out and slam Okada into the apron with a side Russian leg sweep. Back inside, Elgin throws Okada into the turnbuckles, shoulder-first, before a neckbreaker drew a near-fall to continue the Canadian’s methodical offence.

A low dropkick from Okada gets him back into the game, as the former champion proceeded to throw Elgin into the turnbuckles for a series of elbows and chops. Okada keeps up with a slam and a slingshot senton, only for Elgin to begin to fight back with a powerslam as he caught Okada off the ropes. Elgin comes a little closer with a bridging suplex, before Okada’s attempt at a neckbreaker slam ended in a body press as he almost finished the match right there. Okada’s top rope elbow somehow gets rolled through as Elgin caught him in a crossface, before Okada fought free and ended up eating a series of clotheslines. A flapjack from Okada puts the brakes on things, only for Elgin to restart with a chop, only for Okada to eventually land that neckbreaker slam as neither man was able to maintain the momentum for long.

Okada manages to hit his elbow off the top for the Rainmaker zoom out pose, but Elgin clubs away efforts at the clothesline before clocking Okada with an enziguiri. A German suplex puts Okada back down, before he muscled his way into a Dragon suplex and a Tiger bomb that almost put the former champ away. Elgin keeps up with a barrage of superkicks to keep Okada on the mat, before lifting Okada up top in search of a superplex. Fortunately (for Okada), he was able to fight free and counter back with a sunset bomb attempt… before he just dropkicks Elgin right in the arse. That was enough to let him hit back with a buckle bomb, then… a sit-out powerbomb as Elgin’s own finisher wasn’t enough to put him away. Elgin manages to respond with a Burning Hammer attempt, before he countered a counter into a crossface, which Okada rolls free from as the back and forth ended with an Okada dropkick!

Another Elgin powerbomb led to a near-fall, then another crossface… clinging on as Okada rolled backwards, before the ropes saved the Rainmaker. Elgin calls for his powerbomb finish, first dropping Okada with a buckle bomb, before Okada slipped out of an Elgin bomb and found himself clinging on before a backfist dropped him to his knees. Somehow, Okada musters a spinning tombstone before the Rainmaker proved to be too much for Elgin to withstand. An absolute war, but an outing that perhaps took a little too long to get into gear for my tastes. ****

After the first two days, we’ve got these second-round ties confirmed:

– Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
– YOSHI-HASHI vs. Chase Owens
– Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay
– Mikey Nicholls vs. Kazuchika Okada