We’ve the final first-round matches in the New Japan Cup, as the no-fans tournament continues!

We’ve only got Japanese commentary for those of us watching live. Kevin Kelly will be around to backfill with English commentary in the coming days. We’re inside an empty Korakuen Hall for this week’s shows.

I can only repeat what I’ve been saying at the start of my last few reviews. Believe. Support. Learn. Change. Love those who have fought for this change.

Quick Results
New Japan Cup – First Round: BUSHI pinned YOH in 16:00 (**¾)
New Japan Cup – First Round: YOSHI-HASHI submitted Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 17:30 (**¾)
Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & SHO vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi ended in a double count-out at 12:30 (**½)
New Japan Cup – First Round: Hirooki Goto pinned Yujiro Takahashi in 16:30 (***)
New Japan Cup – First Round: EVIL pinned Satoshi Kojima in 20:00 (***¼)

New Japan Cup 2020 – First Round: BUSHI vs. YOH
In their six prior meetings, YOH’s only won once. BUSHI’s quit spraying mist as part of his entrance in the COVID era too, as YOH’s got new music. Finally, he’s not left out!

The measured start sees the pair lock-up, before a brief exchange of strikes led to YOH getting thrown outside. He’s right back in, to throw BUSHI outside ahead of a plancha. The referee’s counting fairly quickly as they head back inside… but they’re back out as BUSHI throws YOH into the guard rails.

I don’t know why, but them keeping Milano Collection AT on TV “from a distance” on commentary row gave me a kick. Especially them doing it during matches. BUSHI uses the guard rails for a neckbreaker on YOH, which starts another count-out tease. Of course, it’s beaten as BUSHI puts the boots to YOH, taking him into the ropes for some choking, before he chopped YOH in the corner.

It’s pretty low-energy stuff so far, but BUSHI stays dominant until a cartwheel back elbow from YOH took him down. Jumping elbows follow from YOH as he kept BUSHI down, ahead of a trip to the top rope where YOH flew in with a missile dropkick for a two-count. A Dragon screw from YOH leads to a Figure Four as BUSHI was trapped in the middle of the ring… before he rolled into the ropes to force a break.

BUSHI manages to fight back with a dropkick before a slingshot DDT took YOH onto the apron… and the momentum continues to build with a swinging Fisherman’s neckbreaker that gets a near-fall. BUSHI goes for the MX, but YOH sidesteps and counters with a bridging German suplex… hitting a pair of them for a near-fall. YOH looks for a Dragon suplex, but it’s countered with a backslide… that he rolls through on as he just blasts BUSHI with a superkick instead.

The pair descend into back and forth slaps until an enziguiri from BUSHI took YOH into the ropes. He’s back with another superkick, before a back cracker from BUSHI almost put him away. A running Flatliner from YOH keeps the tit-for-tat going, until he applied the Stargazer – the Calf Slicer – on BUSHI… stopping to drag him away from the ropes, but another enziguiri stops him in his tracks.

A lungblower from BUSHI buys him some more time, as does a fireman’s carry into a Codebreaker, before he went up for the MX… which just about lands for the win. At a shade under sixteen minutes, this felt a little long and slow-paced – but BUSHI continues to have a hold over YOH. **¾

New Japan Cup 2020 – First Round: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
A first-time meeting, but on paper this could be more 50-50 than you’d expect, given how far Tenzan’s fallen in recent years.

They start with a lock-up into the ropes, with Tenzan getting the clean break… until YOSHI-HASHI snuck back in with a chop. A side headlock from YOSHI-HASHI led to him getting pushed away, and eventually charged down with a shoulder tackle as Tenzan followed up with Mongolian chops.

YOSHI-HASHI switched around with a baseball slide, dragging Tenzan outside and into the guard rails, forcing Tenzan to crawl into the no-crowd for cover. They trade chops before YOSHI-HASHI whipped Tenzan into the apron, forcing a count-out tease as Tenzan barely got back in in time. A cravat from YOSHI-HASHI led to a snapmare as he grounds Tenzan, using a chinlock as the veteran was forced into the ropes for a break. From there, YOSHI-HASHI hung Tenzan in the ropes so he could dropkick his arse, getting a two-count out of it, before he tried to headbutt Tenzan in the corner. Rookie mistake.

That “woke up” Tenzan, who then got charged down for another two-count before catching YOSHI-HASHI with a spinning heel kick. More Mongolian chops follow, then regular chops and headbutts, as YOSHI was being worn down in the corner. A suplex follows for a near-fall, but YOSHI-HASHI fought back with chops and forearms as he trapped Tenzan in the corner again.

Tenzan’s attempts to kick away just earned him more chops, then a superkick as YOSHI-HASHI pulled ahead for a running Meteora that almost got the win. A bodyslam dumps Tenzan, but he’s caught up top, before eventually hitting a sunset bomb out of the corner for a near-fall. Another Tenzan headbutt stops YOSHI-HASHI though, who replies with a slap before a surprise spear took YOSHI down.

A Kokeshi from Tenzan is next for a near-fall, as he followed that up with a STF a la Masahiro Chono, but he lets go and heads up top for a moonsault. It mises, as YOSHI-HASHI followed up… and whiffs on a senton bomb as the pair reset with elbow strikes. More Mongolian chops from Tenzan wear down YOSHI-HASHI, but a Western Lariat out of nowhere stops Tenzan for just a one-count.

From there, YOSHI-HASHI heads up top and hits a Head Hunter for a near-fall, before he trapped Tenzan in Karma… which eventually gets broken up in the ropes. A Mountain Bomb keeps Tenzan in it as we approached the late stages here, with an Anaconda Vise trapping YOSHI-HASHI on the mat… before YOSHI-HASHI stood up and was taken down with an Anaconda Buster for another near-fall. The hold gets reapplied, before YOSHI-HASHI rolled out of it to get a near-fall… then segued into Karma for the submission. Again, this went way too long at a slow pace – and while it picked up a little towards the end, YOSHI-HASHI needing seventeen minutes to beat someone who rarely has singles matches isn’t as good as you’d think. **¾

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & SHO vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi)
Our pre-interval match gives us one tease for the second round, with Hiromu vs. Yano on opposite sides here. Hiromu looked a little scared at that prospect…

We eventually get going with Yano offering Hiromu a handshake. Hiromu wants no part of it, mostly because Yano’s tried to smuggle a water bottle in. He’s also got… hair clippers? Has he got that Manscaped promo too? Hiromu’s horrified at the thought of having his hair shaved, so we get a Benny Hill chase around the ringside area, before we really got going with SHO and SANADA. They trade holds, with SHO looking for SANADA’s arm… but they escape as the back-and-forth continued until a sunset flip from SANADA led to a fake-out stomp to the knee and a low dropkick from SHO.

SANADA seems to slip as he went off the middle rope, missing a clothesline as Shingo ends up getting tagged in… and after a barrage of elbows in the ropes, Shingo begins to build up momentum… only for SHO to reverse a suplex. In comes Ishii, who hits the ropes for see-saw shoulder tackles on Shingo, before the pair teed off on each other with elbows.

A powerslam off the ropes puts Shingo down, as do some chops in the corner… only for Shingo to retaliate with chops and forearms of his own. A jab looked to punch out Ishii, who eventually got knocked down with a swivelling lariat as tags brought us to Okada and Naito. Some headscissors from Naito had Okada int rouble, with Yano and Hiromu coming in to try and break it up… it sort of worked as Okada’s able to get back in with a neckbreaker slam, while SHO cleared the LIJ apron to try and keep things fair.

Naito wriggles out of a tombstone attempt, and comes back with a spinebuster before making the tag out to Hiromu… who’s quickly cut-off with a flapjack. Yano tags in and undoes a turnbuckle pad, as he’s want to do, before Hiromu baseball slid to avoid being whipped into the exposed corner. He tries to catch Yano off the apron with a sunset bomb, but it’s broken up when Yano… pulls out the clippers again. Cue Yakety Sax again as Hiromu runs into the empty seating decks, and even back into the concessions area as he begged for mercy.

Instead, he got slammed on the floor. Yano pulls out some tape as he hog ties Hiromu’s legs as he then tried to go for the clippers again, but he’s oblivious to the referee’s count (and Okada’s yelling) as neither man makes it back in time. A double count-out may be a crap finish, but it at least tells us we’re in for wackiness tomorrow. I could do with some comedy. **½

Post-match, LIJ drag Hiromu back towards the ring as the camera stays on him slowly hopping to the back. Does nobody have any scissors?! At least it’d stop him from walking like he’d shat himself…

Cleaning time!

New Japan Cup 2020 – First Round: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Hirooki Goto
In their past fifteen singles matches, Yujiro has won… ONCE. It’s quite one-sided. Jado’s at ringside for this, which sets off my spidey sense.

Goto goes for a waistlock early, but Yujiro escapes by going for the arm, which is countered out of as they head to the mat… and quickly reach a stand-off. Another side headlock from Goto’s pushed away as Yujiro tries his luck with shoulder tackles, but ends up taking a snapmare and a dropkick as he rolled outside.

Yujiro stays outside as he tried to wind up Goto by teasing a return to the ring, but instead he just head outside and throws Yujiro into the railings. A second attempt is blocked as Yujiro counters with a DDT as we had a countout tease. It’s easily beaten, with no threat of Jado as Goto rolls back inside… and into the path of Yujiro who tries to wear him down.

A chinlock from Yujiro keeps Goto down for a low dropkick, before Jado finally got involved, throwing Goto into the guard rails as Yujiro had the referee distracted. More Bullet Club bullshit. Goto beats the 20-count, but he’s instantly taken into the corner as Yujiro began to chain together offence, throwing forearms and chops. A running boot traps Goto in the buckles, but Goto’s able to respond with some clotheslines as he tried to scythe down Yujiro… eventually doing so with a discus clothesline.

Forearms from Goto take Yujiro into the corner for a spinning heel kick, before a backdrop suplex almost got Goto the win. Goto follows up by heading to the top rope, but he’s caught as a superplex brings him down for a near-fall. Yujiro ducks a clothesline but can’t find luck with one of his own as Goto just about floated him down into an ushigoroshi. They trade elbows, upping the intensity as they went, before Goto just waffled Yujiro with a strike. Yujiro counters back by biting his way out of a suplex, before trapping Goto in the ropes with a front kick… as my feed dropped out.

It’s back with Goto hitting an elevated reverse GTR on Yujiro for a two-count, before Yujiro grabbed the ref to block a GTR. The ref misses a Kendo stick shot as Goto ends up running into a clothesline from Yujiro, who then rolled back the clock to hit a Miami Shine for a near-fall. Pimp Juice looked to follow, but Goto fought out… only to be decked with another forearm.

Yujiro tries for Pimp Juice again, but it’s countered out of… only for Yujiro to rake the eyes as he avoids an ushigoroshi. Jado distracts as Yujiro gets his pimp cane, but he misses the shot as Goto lands a headbutt. That’s followed up with the GTW for a near-fall, before a regular GTR finally got the pin. Again, this was a little on the long-side, with everyone’s favourite Bullet Club shenanigans… as Goto had to dig deep to get into the second round. ***

New Japan Cup 2020 – First Round: EVIL vs. Satoshi Kojima
These two have only one prior singles meeting, in the G1 a few years ago, which EVIL won.

It’s a tentative start as EVIL came in on Kojima with a headlock to start proceedings, but he’s pushed off as a shoulder tackle came back in. Kojima’s back with one of his own, taking EVIL outside… only to miss with a plancha as he tried to follow up on the outside. An Irish whip takes Kojima into the rails, before he was forced to duck a chairshot, as EVIL ends up just throwing the chair into him.

The chair stays in play as EVIL sandwiches Kojima’s arm, then throws it into the ring post. EVIL continues to neutralise the threat of a lariat by wrenching the arm, then throwing elbow strikes to it, before he wrapped the arm around the top rope. Kojima tries to break free, but EVIL remained a step ahead, and quickly leapt on Kojima as he worked the arm some more.

A standing surfboard stretch adds pressure, which Kojima tries to escape, eventually doing so as he caught EVIL with a DDT. EVIL misses a leap into the corner, allowing Kojima to come back with some chops as he built up for the Machine Gun… but EVIL cuts off the top rope elbow by knocking Kojima onto the apron… only to get caught with a second DDT. Back inside, Kojima lands the top rope elbow drop for a near-fall, before another barrage of forearms ended with an eye rake and a cheeky superkick.

EVIL follows that with a Bronco buster in the corner for a near-fall, before going right back to the arm with a Fujiwara armbar, but Kojima escapes and eventually comes back in with a Koji Cutter to buy him some time. More forearms follow in the corner as Kojima lifts up EVIL for an avalanche Koji cutter, which comes off for a near-fall. The pair battle over a suplex next, but it’s EVIL who hits a release Fisherman suplex first, before the pair looked to hit some more clotheslines. It’s EVIL who lands his lariat first, almost eking out the win with it, before he pushed ahead with Darkness Falls. That gets another two-count, buti EVIL can’t quite get off Everything is EVIL as he ends up struggling into a Cozy Lariat instead.

That gets a near-fall for Kojima, who comes close again with a brainbuster, before EVIL used the ref as a shield, and an assistant, as he snuck through with a Magic Killer. EVIL doesn’t go for the cover, and instead lifts Kojima up to the top rope for a superplex, but it still doesn’t put Kojima away… as he manages to somehow find enough to land another lariat!

Kojima can only get a delayed cover as he dragged himself onto EVIL for a near-fall. A second Cozy lariat is delayed as Kojima clotheslines the back of EVIL’s head, before running into Everything is EVIL… and just like that, it’s over for Kojima. Much like the earlier matches, this didn’t need to be quite so long (20 minutes plus), but at least this didn’t feel like it was dragging anywhere near as bad as earlier outings. ***¼

So for the second round line-ups, that means we have: Okada vs. Nagata, Makabe vs. Ishii, Yano vs. Hiromu and Ishimori vs. Kanemaru tomorrow (June 24); Taichi vs. Ibushi, SHO vs. SANADA, YOSHI-HASHI vs. BUSHI and EVIL vs. Goto on July 1. There’s quick turnarounds with the quarters and the semis on July 2 and 3… as the New Japan Cup really spins up. We knew today was always going to be a struggle after a blow-out on Monday… and we were proven right. While not an absolute stinker of a card, a lot of today’s matches ended up being either utterly skippable, or just way too long and overclouded the bright spots on show.