New Japan Cup field is business as usual

New Japan Cup field is business as usual
New Japan Cup field is business as usual


Well, folks, it’s the beginning of March and in New Japan Pro Wrestling, that means it’s time for New Japan Cup lineups! The annual single-elimination tournament grants the winner a title shot.

Without further ado, let’s list the field out and break it down, shall we?

  • Bad Luck Fale (Competing in his seventh New Japan Cup, former finalist)
  • Chase Owens (Competing in his second New Japan Cup, he fell in the second round in 2019)
  • David Finlay (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
  • EVIL (Competing in his fifth New Japan Cup, he won last year’s tournament)
  • Gabriel Kidd (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the second time, he didn’t make it out of the first round last year)
  • Great-O-Khan (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
  • Hirooki Goto (Competing in his thirteenth New Japan Cup, he won in 2009, 2010, and 2012, the most victories out of anyone)
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi (Competing in his twelfth New Japan Cup, he won in 2005 and 2008)
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan (Competing in his tenth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
  • “Switchblade” Jay White (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
  • Jeff Cobb (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
  • Juice Robinson (Competing in his fourth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
  • Kazuchika Okada (Competing in his fifth New Japan Cup, he won in 2013 and 2019)
  • KENTA (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the first time)
  • Minoru Suzuki (Competing in his seventh New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
  • SANADA (Competing in his fifth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
  • Satoshi Kojima (Competing in his eighth New Japan Cup, former quarter-finalist)
  • Shingo Takagi (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the second time, he didn’t make it out of the first round last year)
  • Taichi (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the fourth time, former quarter-finalist)
  • Tetsuya Naito (Competing in his ninth New Japan Cup, he won in 2016)
  • Toa Henare (Competing in his second New Japan Cup, last year he failed to make it out of the first round)
  • Tomoaki Honma (Competing in his eighth New Japan Cup, has never made it out of the first round)
  • Tomohiro Ishii (Competing in his thirteenth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
  • Toru Yano (Competing in his fifteenth New Japan Cup, former semi-finalist)
  • YOSHI-HASHI (Competing in his eighth New Japan Cup, former quarterfinalist)
  • Yota Tsuji (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the second time, he didn’t make it out of the first round last year)
  • Yuji Nagata (Competing in his fourteenth New Japan Cup, he won in 2007 and 2011)
  • Yujiro Takahashi (Competing in his eleventh New Japan Cup, he’s never made it out of the second round)
  • Will Ospreay (Competing in his second New Japan Cup, former quarterfinalist)
  • Zack Sabre, Jr. (Competing in the New Japan Cup for the fourth time, he won in 2018)

Not a lot of surprises here, this is prettymuch the New Japan heavyweight roster as it currently exists, with a couple first-timers who were all announced for last year and couldn’t compete due to COVID-induced travel restrictions.

All that out of the way, let’s drop the bracket in, shall we?

New Japan Cup 2021 tournament bracket

New Japan Pro Wrestling

So! The most interesting thing here is a slight tweak to the tournament format, with NEVER Openweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and 2020 New Japan Cup winner EVIL both getting byes in the first round. Going along with that change, the winner of this year’s tourney will no longer be able to challenge the champion of his choice, and is rather being locked into being the first challenger for the unified IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Sakura Genesis on April 4.

It’s a change that’s a long time coming, as who would ever, having won a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, choose to instead challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental or NEVER Openweight Championships? As well, this opens up an interesting story choice given that Tetsuya Naito fought valiantly at Castle Attack to split the titles and keep Ibushi from unifying that. If he wins the 2021 Cup, can he convince New Japan management to re-split the titles even after they’ve been unified?

And in other New Japan Cup news, New Japan Cup USA is also back! We don’t have a full bracket yet, because they’re going to run qualifying matches on NJPW Strong all month, starting this Friday with “Filthy” Tom Lawlor vs. the DKC and Lio Rush vs. Rocky Romero.

That’s not all New Japan have for us, of course, because they’ve also announced the full card for the upcoming 49th Anniversary Show, so let’s list that out and break it down before we get out of here, shall we?

Anniversary Show (March 4, 3AM Eastern / 12AM Pacific)

  • Gabriel Kidd, Hirooki Goto, Master Wato, & Tomoaki Honma vs. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, & Zack Sabre, Jr.)
  • Bullet Club (Chase Owens, EVIL, “Switchblade” Jay White, KENTA, & Taiji Ishimori) vs. FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson), Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Toa Henare
  • Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, SHO, & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, & Shingo Takagi)
  • Jeff Cobb vs. Satoshi Kojima (New Japan Cup First Round Match)
  • Great-O-Khan vs. Tetsuya Naito (New Japan Cup First Round Match)
  • El Desperado vs. Kota Ibushi (c) (IWGP Heavyweight / IWGP Intercontinental Championship)

So, this year’s Anniversary Show main event is, as is tradition, a special challenge match for the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, defending against the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.

This time around, as announced, that means Kota Ibushi putting the twin belts on the line for the last time before they’re properly unified, against freshly-crowned junior champ El Desperado. Should be a hoot!

Beyond that we’ve got a pair of New Japan Cup first round matches, likely to even the scheduling out with our two byes, and the usual brace of undercard tag matches. Cobb and Kojima clobbering each other should be great fun, and Great-O-Khan gets to sharpen his iron against the Stardust Genius.

Not the most inspiring lineup in the world, but with a great main event, anything is possible.

There you have it, folks

Excited for New Japan’s 49th birthday, Cagesiders?



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