The bracket for the New Japan Cup has been revealed. The annual tournament will determine the number one contender for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship with the winner receiving a title shot at G1 Supercard.
The New Japan Cup has doubled in size from last year, jumping from 16 participants to 32. The single elimination tournament will take place from March 8th until the finals on March 23rd. This year’s tournament will feature eight former IWGP Heavyweight Champions, as well as the returns of Hikuleo, Michael Elgin and Mikey Nicholls (FKA Nick Miller in NXT). You can read more about Nicholls in New Japan Pro Wrestling here.
The most likely winners will be Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada, and Kota Ibushi. As the winner will be main eventing the G1 Supercard show at Madison Square Garden, New Japan will likely want the biggest star possible to win. However, the New Japan Cup has often been the site for surprise wins in recent years, so a dark horse pick may still have a chance.
The lineups for the opening round of the New Japan Cup are as follows:
March 8 – Korakuen Hall
- Yuji Nagata vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- Juice Robinson vs. Chase Owens
- Tomoaki Honma vs. Taichi
- Manabu Nakanishi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
March 9 – Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
- Toa Henare vs. Lance Archer
- Will Ospreay vs. Bad Luck Fale
- Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin
- Mikey Nicholls vs. HIKULEO
March 10 – Hyogo Baycom Gymnasium
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. David Finlay
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shota Umino
- EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
- Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
March 11 – Kagawa Takamatsu City General Gymnasium #1
- Toru Yano vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.
- Satoshi Kojima vs. Minoru Suzuki
- Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA
- Togi Makabe vs. Colt Cabana