The decision to have Michael Elgin defeat Tomohiro Ishii in the main event of the first show of the 2018 New Japan Cup tour likely surprised some. Still, that was the result as the first round of the tournament kicked off on Friday in Tokyo at Korakuen Hall.
Ishii seemed a logical possibility to win the tournament and go on to face his stablemate, IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada. Given that the last high-profile clash between the two in the 2016 G1 Tournament earned nearly universal praise, and since there are few chances to pit the CHAOS allies against each other, a tournament win seemed like an organic way to get back to that match. New Japan officials clearly have other plans.
It is also somewhat jarring to see Elgin pick up a significant singles win given the current pall that he has in North America. Evidently, Elgin’s nuclear-level heat has not followed him across the Pacific.
The tournament continues Saturday with a show in Aichi, which features a Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Taichi main event, and a Bad Luck Fale vs. Lance Archer semi-main.
Here are the non-tournament match results from Korakuen:
Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI defeated Kota Ibushi & Chase Owens
Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, & Taichi defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, & Toa Henare
Zack Sabre, Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & El Desperado defeated Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, & BUSHI
Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer defeated Bad Luck Fale & Tanga Loa
Chuckie T (Chuck Taylor), Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto defeated David Finlay, Tomoyuki Oka, & Shota Umino
New Japan Cup opening round results:
Juice Robinson defeated Yujiro Takahashi
Robinson missed a cannonball into the corner, and Takahashi followed with a yakuza kick. Takahashi used his pimp cane as a weapon right in front of referee Red Shoes, but there was no DQ called for. Robinson hit a spinebuster and followed with a plancha, but could not get any momentum going, and saw himself backdropped over the barricade, into the crowd, slicing up is back in the process.
Robinson continued to take a beating, but refused to quit, He fired up and nailed Takahashi with a lariat, but Takahashi regained control. Takahashi nearly killed Robinson by spiking him on his head, seconds after botching another powerbomb attempt.
Robinson kicked out of a nearfall, and hit a powerbomb of his own, and followed up with Pulp Friction for the victory. Takahashi isn’t suited for a longer singles match like this. Not bad, but not must-see.
Michael Elgin defeated Tomohiro Ishii
They started with a long strike and shoulder block exchange, with neither man budging, until Ishii finally got Elgin off his feet. Elgin responded with a quick slam, as neither man could grab the early advantage. Elgin missed with one enziguri, but hit a follow-up, and scored the first nearfall of the bout with a Falcon Arrow.
They had a chop battle in the corner, which Ishii got the better of, and he followed up with a belly-to-back. He went for the brainbuster, but Elgin blocked the attempt and deadlifted Ishii into a vertical suplex, firmly establishing control of the match.
After another prolonged exchange of strikes, Elgin slammed Ishii and went to the top for a moonsault, but Ishii popped right up and powerbombed him for a nearfall. Elgin recovered and threw Ishii into the turnbuckle pad, and hit a Falcon Arrow off the top for a nearfall.
Ishii was able to counter a top rope powerbomb attempt, and turned it into a big superplex for a nearfall. He followed with multiple lariats for multiple nearfalls. Ishii attacked with a headbutt, which is always noteworthy after the Shibata incident, but it appeared as though these were safely worked. Elgin hit an enziguri, which led to a double down. Elgin was up first and took control, scoring three nearfalls, each closer than the one before.
Elgin went for a top rope Razor’s Edge, and came dangerously close to spiking Ishii on his head on the landing. Elgin, Red Shoes, and Ishii appeared to huddle for a quick discussion, and I guess Ishii was okay, as he took a buckle bomb immediately after. I know that Ishii’s selling is top shelf, but that was scary. Elgin went for another, but Ishii rolled out and hit a dropkick.
After another double down and strike exchange, Ishii hit a headbutt, and a sliding lariat for a nearfall. Ishii fired up and went for the brainbuster, but Elgin turned it into one of his own. He followed with a dragon suplex, a spinning backfist, and another buckle bomb, but Ishii popped out of the corner and hit a lariat.
Ishii hit the ropes, but Elgin turned it into a pop-up powerbomb for a nearfall. That was Ishii’s last gasp, as Elgin followed with a Burning Hammer and got the pinfall victory. This was a really good big man match.