New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Cup 2016 – Finals
March 12, 2016
Shin-Aomori Prefecture General Sports Park
Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers

  • Rich Kraetsch (@VoicesWrestling): One of the founders of Voices of Wrestling, handles a majority of the day-to-day operations. Send all complaints to Joe Lanza though.
  • John Carroll (@toshanshuinLA): Voices of Wrestling’s resident Dragon Gate expert, author of the Dragon Gate 101 and Dragon Gate Timeline series as well as the host of Open the Voice Gate. He knows about New Japan too, don’t worry.
  • Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland): Voices of Wrestling’s weekly NXT TV reviewer and editor extraordinaire.
  • Aaron Bentley (@AaronBentleyVOW): Voices of Wrestling’s ambulance chasing, jet flying, figure reviewing son of a gun. He’s handled many duties on the website including reviewing Ring of Honor as well as frequent roundtable previews and reviews.

Jay White vs. David Finlay

Rich Kraetsch: How many times in the last six months have these two guys produced one of the top three matches on a card? Think about it, it’s probably more than you’d ever expect. This young lion duo has made magic in the last ½ year and have filled in admirably for the departed Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka. Except much of the same here as these two are physically incapable of having a bad match. Prediction: Jay White

John Carroll: It will be awesome and Jay White will win. What else is there to say? God bless these two white boys for carrying on the legacy of Tanaka & Komatsu. Once they are gone too these young lions matches will suddenly get a lot worse. Prediction: Jay White

Alex Wendland: Jay White is going to keep beating David Finlay until he snaps. Or until Finlay gets enough core strength to turn out of that Boston Crab, but probably the former. My bet is this is the storyline that eventually sends Finlay or both Finlay and White out on excursion. You should expect another solid opener that we all wish got another 3-5 minutes. Prediction: Jay White

Aaron Bentley: Everyone has learned not to skip these, right? There are only two things that are ever bad about these matches: Jay White’s ridiculous hair and David Finlay’s ridiculous back tattoo. Other than that, these two will deliver, the crowd will be hot, and the finish will be exciting even though you know the likely victor. Prediction: Jay White

Jushin Thunder Liger & Juice Robinson vs. Tiger Mask IV & Captain New Japan

Rich Kraetsch: I want to call this match a sleeper but c’mon, we all know it’s going to be awesome. Now that Juice Robinson has finally learned how to harness…whatever his character is supposed to be, the cringe factor of him twirling around and screaming to no reaction is a thing of the past. Juice is finally a fit on this roster and should fit admirably into this match featuring a lot of grumpy old men eager to chop the shit out of him. Unlike the other predictors below, I have Captain New Japan continuing his incredible run to the top of New Japan as he’ll pin Juice to a thunderous ovation. Prediction: Tiger Mask IV & Captain New Japan

John Carroll: I am all-in on Juice Robinson after his performance at LIONS GATE; yes, he still does too much wacky yelling and playing to the crowd to the point where he feels out of place sometimes, but his actual in-ring work has just gotten so much better since he first started and the crowd is even starting to get behind him a little! He will probably be the sole highlight of what looks like a pretty nothing tag. Can we let him maybe get the pin on ‘ol Cappy here? Pretty please? Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger & Juice Robinson

Alex Wendland: Here’s the question: will Captain New Japan continue his incredible winning streak or will his reign of madness be stopped in it’s tracks?

Juice Robinson has been improving really well since heading to NJPW. His momentum should keep building, even if Liger gets the pinfall. Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger & Juice Robinson

Aaron Bentley: Sorry, guys, I just can’t get on the Juice Robinson train. Luckily, anything with Liger, Tiger Mask, and CNJ is fun so this shouldn’t disappoint. I still think Liger is the one who gets the pin rather than Juice. Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger & Juice Robinson

Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI Vs. EVIL & BUSHI

Rich Kraetsch: There’s no doubt who’s winning this match and who’s taking the fall. Regardless, I’ll be hyper-focused on what happens within this match as a lot of little stories are developing. EVIL has finally found his calling as a member of the grunty/strong NEVER Openweight division with the likes of Ishii, Makabe and Shibata. It’s the perfect spot for him and should help him continue growing after a lackluster and uneventful excursion to America derailed much of his progress. On the other side you have one of my current favorites, BUSHI, going toe-to-toe with the increasingly important YOSHI-HASHI. After spending much of the last few years as a mere CHAOS foil, YOSHI’s been getting more mentions in commentary, more mentions in interviews and there could be something in the works for YOSHI-HASHI this year. If it’s just a brief program with someone like BUSHI or something larger remains to be seen but this is a match rife with narratives.  Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon

John Carroll: Speaking of people who are improved, EVIL has looked a lot more comfortable with his gimmick of late and it’s helping him out a ton. We all know Watanabe is a fine in-ring competitor already but he seemed awkward and/or tentative at times since coming back with this character, but now that he’s gotten the hang of it a little better it’s all starting to come together for him now. BUSHI and Ishii are always great and even YOSHI-HASHI has been showing a little more fire of late, so this tag match could be a real sleeper on the undercard. YOSHI-HASHI is probably getting pinned here but I’m expecting a fine match along the way. Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon

Alex Wendland: This seems like a pretty easy prediction. Los Ingobernables de Japon have been pretty well protected as a unit and YOSHI-HASHI is in this match. That should be all you need to know, but even YOSHI-HASHI has been competitive in 2016. EVIL’s work hasn’t really impressed me as much as it has other, but his work hasn’t been offensive. No matter what happens, Tomohiro Ishii has been incapable of having a bad match for years now, so this will be fun at the very least. Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon

Aaron Bentley: Tetsuya Naito destroyed YOSHI-HASHI in a recent interview. I know Naito isn’t in this match but will YOSHI-HASHI perhaps be a little more motivated here? I was excited about him after his great match with Big Mike but nothing has materialized for him. He’s taking the loss here but that doesn’t mean he can’t put on a good performance. Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon

New Japan Cup – Semifinal Match
Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito

Rich Kraetsch: A mere 8% of our New Japan Cup pick’em participants thought Toru Yano had any chance of being in this position. Boy, are they looking smart (or lucky, let’s go with lucky) right now. Unfortunately for the proficient DVD salesmen, this is the end of the line. I give him 0% chance of beating Naito, everyone in this panel gives him a 0% chance of beating Naito and exactly 0 of our pick’em participants give him a chance to reach the Finals. It was a hell of a run though. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

John Carroll: While I think there’s plenty of intrigue on who’s winning the New Japan Cup, on the other hand I don’t think there’s much intrigue at all in who’s winning this semi. It has to be Naito, right? There’s absolutely no way they’d put Yano in the finals (not to mention two matches in one night), right?? This is a match that I would expect to be overwhelmed by the sheer heel shenanigans involved between these two men (comedy shenanigans in Yano’s case and serious ones in Naito’s), so I’m not expecting much in the ring. But Naito has to win. Like, he just has to. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Alex Wendland: It’s kind of unbelievable that this is even a semi-final match. Toru Yano won his first New Japan Cup match in about one minute, so I guess he was fresher than his opponent in the second round? That’s just about all the reasoning I’ve got for him making it this far. This will be a quick match that puts Tetsuya Naito in the final with an advantage as the fresher opponent. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Aaron Bentley: Yes, it seems unthinkable that Naito would not win this match but it was also relatively unthinkable that Yano would make it this far! Of course, as American fans, we often forget how popular Yano is in Japan. And if the plan is for Naito to win the whole thing, Elgin or Goto can save a little face since Naito will have had such an easy path to the finals. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

New Japan Cup – Semifinal Match
Michael Elgin vs. Hirooki Goto

Rich Kraetsch: I’ve changed my pick below at least 15 times. This is such a coin flip match and I just can’t get a confident, solid read on it. Either man makes sense not only to make the finals but win as well. Goto has been egged on by Okada and members of the CHAOS stable for months. A win here as well as a NJ Cup victory will make Goto a four-time Cup champion. However, another loss in a big title match could damage Goto beyond repair or give him new life with an updated character/persona. #BigMike has a brand-new NJPW contract and appears to be one of Gedo’s new shiny toys. A win here as well as a win in the Finals gives him the opportunity of a lifetime, though I see him looking to avenge defeat from his best friend (Hiroshi Tanahashi) and challenging Kenny Omega for the Intercontinental Championship. Oh man, I really have to pick someone don’t I? ….Can I stall some more? ….. Okay, fine. Prediction: Michael Elgin

John Carroll: If the other semifinal leaves a lot to be desired, this one more than makes up for it I think! Goto and Elgin had an excellent battle during last year’s G1 and you should see more of the same here, with both men trading power moves and vicious strikes. This is kind of a tough one to call and I think it depends a lot on who you think is winning the main event, because Goto has no chance of winning the Cup this year but Elgin is the guy they’ll go with if it isn’t Naito. Ultimately I think Goto is winning this to set up Naito getting his win from Wrestle Kingdom back in the main event, but I could easily be wrong. Prediction: Hirooki Goto

Alex Wendland: The first real question mark on the card, but it should be a slugfest. Michael Elgin has been exceptional since coming to NJPW (though I’ve never been as hard on #BigMike as some of my contemporaries have been). Hirooki Goto has nearly shed his loser mentality with a couple of nice wins in the New Japan Cup, but they haven’t been against particularly tough opponents. I’d say Goto goes back to his losing ways in this match, but both Goto and Elgin will take a beating – something that might come into play given the relative ease with which the other finals participant will win his match. Prediction: Michael Elgin

Aaron Bentley: I really don’t know! Goto has been doing the losing streak gimmick so a loss would make sense but Elgin isn’t that established yet in Japan so it’s not exactly a huge win. That also plays the other way, though, because if the fans don’t see Elgin as being at that high of a level, Goto losing to him could hurt Goto more than the payoff to this angle would eventually help. I lean toward Goto winning here so he can lose to Naito but I would not be surprised if it goes the other way. Prediction: Hirooki Goto

Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima

Rich Kraetsch: Currently, one of the best storylines in New Japan is Katsoyuri Shibata vs. The Old Farts (or Third Generation, whatever you want to call them). Not only because it allows Shibata to get away from the NEVER Openweight norms (constantly matches with the likes of Ishii and Makabe) but because it gives much needed publicity, time and importance to the veterans of New Japan who can still go — Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata in particular. Both Kojima and Nagata have been afterthoughts in recent years despite the fact that they CAN be assets, particularly out of the main event picture. This feud and subsequent battle of the third-tier NEVER Openweight Championship is the perfect spot for them and I’m all in. The match will feature a lot of angry men and Taguchi who will no doubt piss off said angry men. Prediction: TenKoji

John Carroll: Shibata vs. the Third Generation is a really cool, intriguing storyline that sets up matches we’ve never seen before, and it really gets going here with Shibata across the ring from TenKoji. Ryusuke Taguchi will be up to his usual antics and I’m sure is there primarily to eat the pin in what should be a good little post-intermission tag. Prediction: TenKoji

Alex Wendland: The composition of this match is strikingly similar to the Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI Vs. EVIL & BUSHI match earlier on the card but with appropriate names for this position on the card. Ryusuke Taguchi is there to eat the pin, but Katsuyori Shibata is going to do his damndest to lift his team over a highly considered unit. Neither Shibata nor Ishii will be able to overcome the well-oiled teamwork of their opponents. Prediction: TenKoji

Aaron Bentley: Apparently you can’t call them “old guys,” but this match coincides with Shibata’s run through the most senior veterans of New Japan. It’s a fresh take on the NEVER title and I am looking forward to all the possible bouts. Taguchi loses to set up Shibata’s next title defense. Prediction: TenKoji

Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba

Rich Kraetsch: Welcome to the second half of the card Manabu Nakanishi! This is an intriguing match in the sense that I don’t really understand why it exists or what any of the stories are. Okada is in a holding pattern until the conclusion of this show, Nagata is waiting for Shibata to be free and Nakanishi, everyone! This should be short and sweet with Okada scoring the pinfall. Pay close attention to the interactions between Nagata and Okada, they had one of my favorite matches in last year’s G1 Climax and always work well with one another. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba

John Carroll: Wow pretty far up the card here for Nakanishi eh? I’m a little bit intrigued at the idea of a Nakanishi-Sakuraba exchange cause like….what can they do, exactly? Sakuraba doesn’t take a lot of bumps but Nakanishi ain’t exactly gonna be rolling around the mat with him either. Anyway, this probably won’t be very good, all intrigue inside, unless they just make most of the match Okada-Nagata. Which they hopefully will do! CHAOS wins of course. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba

Alex Wendland: This will be mercifully short, it might last longer than it takes me to write the preview for the match. Might. The champion is here to be on the card and to score a pinfall. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba

Aaron Bentley: While this match is fairly similar to the previous tag, I am way less interested. I’ve enjoyed Sakuraba lately but it’s more fun when he’s mixing it up with the young guys and letting them think they can match him on the mat. Oh well, at least it’s always fun to see a Rainmaker. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi

Rich Kraetsch: Ouch this card really takes a dive in the second half doesn’t it. Tama Tonga likely continues his momentum here grabbing a pinfall over Honma. Otherwise, Tanahashi will do a move or two and chill on the apron, Makabe and Fale will grunt at one another and Yujiro…welp. Is it time for the New Japan Cup Finals yet? Prediction: Bullet Club

John Carroll: Yeah, these post-intermission tags don’t look too hot other than the Shibata-TenKoji tag. I guess this match might be okay and the crowd will be into Honma and stuff, but anything involving Yujiro Takahashi in 2016 does not interest me even the tiniest bit. I just have no desire to watch the dude grapple, like at all. Tama Tonga is really good and Fale is fine at what he does, but the more Yujiro we get the less good this match will likely be. You’ve got a guy on each team more than capable of taking the pin, so let’s say Tonga pins Honma to put even more heat on the upcoming tag title match. Prediction: Bullet Club

Alex Wendland: The Bullet Club needs a proper jolt if the group is going to overcome the sorta-kinda departure of The Elite. Tama Tonga has yet to announce his partner for his challenge on the tag titles, and I think the announcement will come soon after Yujiro Takahashi eats the loss in this match. The mystery partner may not show up during this show, but Honma and Makabe will have this match to cement their status prior to the showdown with Tonga and X 2.0. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma

Aaron Bentley: This is the part of the card I will be struggling through waiting for the New Japan Cup Final. I just hope it doesn’t last too long. With the Tama Tonga tag title challenge on the horizon, I’ll say he gets the victory here and maybe his tag partner even shows up! Prediction: Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi

New Japan Cup – Final

Rich Kraetsch: Naito vs. Elgin is my pick for the finals and like the Elgin/Goto semifinal, I haven’t the slightest clue who will win. Conventional wisdom says Naito reigns supreme here but you have the wrinkle of his title shot against Okada. Invasion Attack is far too early to show your hand on Okada/Naito as that’s a match that should be built over many months to help draw a big audience. Also, Naito shouldn’t lose right now. His character is building tremendous momentum and a title loss would do serious damages to the optics of his Los Ingobernable persona. Could Naito win here then hold off on challenging Okada for the title? I suppose you can do that but what does that say about the New Japan Cup and any pretense of prestige it has? For Elgin, what about the scenario I described in his semifinal match — Elgin beats Naito after a grueling match and immediately challenges Kenny Omega for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Would that work? I say absolutely yes but then you still need a main event for Invasion Attack. There’s a lot to chew on with this match and a ton at stake. This will seem like an obvious pick in hindsight but as I write this today, it’s wide open. I’m going Elgin. Prediction: Michael Elgin

John Carroll: I have my final as Naito vs. Goto, which I’m expecting to be a really great match (it had better be after what I’m assuming will be two straight nothing tags, to be honest). We’re kind of entering a new phase with Naito now where the interference is still there but it feels less important to his matches; the character is clearly over (like, really over) and Naito seems to be more focused on his in-ring work again of late, so it would surprise me if this final was anything but fantastic. A disappointing title challenge last month aside, Goto is usually great in these big spots as well. I have Naito winning the tournament here and withholding his title shot until Dominion, because something something tranquilo. Los! Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Alex Wendland: My final is Naito vs. Elgin. The story of this match will be Elgin fighting off fatigue and the wear of the battle he just fought to try and overcome all of Los Ingobernables. Like Naito’s other New Japan Cup matches, I don’t think their presence will define the match further than the first act, but having EVIL and BUSHI around will weigh on Elgin’s chances. The big Canadian will put on a valiant effort and look great coming out of the loss, but Naito will win the New Japan Cup and have a title shot to store in between that ridiculous hair and that ridiculous hat. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Aaron Bentley: Naito will be coming off a quick, easy victory over Yano, while Hirooki Goto will likely have had a compact version of his and Elgin’s G1 battle. That should set up a compelling in-ring story with Goto fighting from underneath but ultimately coming up just short. The match itself should be fantastic. There was originally some concern that Naito’s matches were going to be mostly gimmick work and not meet his previous standard but that has melted away of late. Naito gets the win and sets up his challenge against Okada, which we’ve all been waiting for. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

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