Prologue: A Company in Creative Disarray

As always, the winter is yielding to spring, and with it brings the 20th New Japan Cup. After the month this company just had creatively, we are all in desperate need for the rebirth, replenishment, and moppet-like optimism of a vernal turnover.  

In his New Beginning in Sapporo review, Suit Williams noted, “The 52nd year of New Japan begins on March 6th, beginning what may be a mid-life crisis for the King of Sports.” Suit’s right, though it’s an odd one.  They display all the erratic behavior and baffling decision-making one would expect, but this  has to be the first mid-life crisis where people are saying, “damn could you go a little younger?”

That leads us to the Nonsensical New Beginning Reset, which culminated with the New Beginning in Sapporo Night 1 event on February 23. The decisions made on that night were, out-of-context, fairly justifiable. Contextually, though, they intertwine into a miserably irrational clusterfuck of deflating results that stifled any momentum anyone had made, and let us know that Wrestle Kingdom 18 was meaningless:

    1. Taking the Junior belt off El Desperado, who had just won the damn thing at the Tokyo Dome, ending Hiromu Takahashi’s year-long title reign and pursuit of the title defense record. AND putting the Junior belt on SHO, who hasn’t done anything substantive in nearly two years. 
    2. Keeping the NEVER belt on EVIL, defeating Shota Umino, who just beat Ren Narita in a strangely abbreviated feud. Of course, just a week or so prior to this match Umino was put into an angle with “The Scapegoat” Jack Perry. Shota can’t be connected to a belt as long as he’s embroiled in that favor to Jacksonville, so this was all a waste of time.
    3. Running those two matches back-to-back, an excruciating hour.
    4. Matt Riddle defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi for the TV title. This is more of an ethical concern, since Tanahashi is so brittle and depressingly immobile that he had to lose the title immediately. 
    5. Nic Nemeth defeated David Finlay for the Global title. Nemeth is fine, but Finlay became the first Global champion at Wrestle Kingdom, and just two weeks before this match he received a massive credibility boost in the Ten Man Steel Cage Match against Will Ospreay and the United Empire in Osaka.
    6. Of the eight titles won on either January 4 or January 5 (KOPW), SEVEN changed hands on the New Beginning Tour.

These are not the decisions of serious people. All indicate a company detached from process, audience, and the time period they inhabit. They are chasing 1980s heat because… it’s never been done in Japan before? Feuds culminating at breakneck speed, a disregard for continuity and momentum, devotion to acts that only draw to a certain extent (and confound at a much higher level), and capricious title changes. Add in the sad notion that the talent are concocting more compelling stories and concepts in their backstage comments. Not that these things didn’t exist between 2012 and 2020, but they can’t get away with these things anymore.

And so, the only conclusion here is that these decisions were made for the sake of making decisions. No vision.

Things are not dire. This is simply the state as it is now, as we transition towards the new era. Which should happen at some point, surely. Definitely by 2026, no doubt. And while they really fucked things up in Sapporo, the tour as a whole was well executed. The faction warfare worked: both the BULLET CLUB vs. United Empire and Just 5 Guys vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon programs were rousing successes, both business-wise and creatively. The latter set up the junior division nicely with DOUKI’s win, for sure.

That said, nothing is more indicative of the sorrowful state of New Japan at the moment than the main event of the Anniversary Show, and Night 1 of the New Japan Cup: Tetsuya Naito vs. SHO, champion vs. champion.

If you are excited by the idea of a match between  Junior Heavyweight Champion SHO vs. World Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito, if you are exhilarated by the prospects of a match between Junior Heavyweight Champion SHO vs. World Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito… even if you fucking tolerate a match between Junior Heavyweight Champion SHO vs. World Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito, this might actually be what you deserve.

A taste level defined by such brutally ruptured, intelligence-stripping booking decisions. A goldfish brain drifting through the cranial fluid and mucilaginous resin that fills your skull cavity couldn’t handle anything more profound. A cultural epicenter is, by natural design, and which should be enforced by legislative action, a hodgepodge of the most vapidly sordid offal our species has produced: this wickedly self-deceptive business, Wattpad novels, Bizet operas, energy drinks flavored like an abandoned septic tank, whatever the fuck KFC is trying to pull with this Chizza ruse, Time Life’s The Best of Soft Rock compilation, the shirt and facial hair of Ambrosia’s David Pack in the Time Life Best of Soft Rock infomercial. Add Tetsuya Naito vs. SHO to that ignoble list.

And that’s that.

Actually, now that we think about it,  they’re probably right. Never mind all that slander we just wrote. The match will almost certainly be entertaining and worth the time put into it. All the elements for a successful HOT match are there: an LIJ opponent, a Tokyo crowd, and… well, that’s it. Those are the only proven conditions. And since SHO is the best member of HOT, this all does signify a pretty decent match, as rote and unbearably repetitive as the act has become.

Not everyone loves spring. Rainier Marie Rilke once wrote in Letter to a Young Poet, “Being an artist mean; not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which does not force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.” Later, he was less poetic: “…the beginning of spring with its moody, bad-tempered transitions was hard to bear here too…” It seems like we’re going to have to endure a rough one, but with a roster like this, it’s not a matter of if they will turn it around, but when. 

New Japan Cup, as usual, is their Resurrection Machine, and they might need to use it on themselves this time. The tools are all there, all they need it to make one proper decision: a winner that will either have a buzzorthy match with Tetsuya Naito at Sakura Genesis, or a young guy who can be elevated in the process.

New Japan Cup 2024 Preview




This year, there are 28 participants. Four wrestlers have received a bye in the first round, the benefit of being the only past New Japan Cup winners in the field: SANADA, Hirooki Goto, EVIL, and Zack Sabre Jr. The tournament begins on March 6th at the 52nd Anniversary Show at Ota Ward General Gymnasium, and concludes at Ao-re Nagoka on March 20. The winner will challenge Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Sakura Genesis 2024, held at the famed Ryogoku Kokugikan, Sumo Hall.

For this preview, we are examining and analyzing several things for each wrestler:

  • Their past performances in New Japan Cup, if they have competed in the tournament before, including placements and win-loss record
  • The % chance we feel that they have to win the tournament
  • The % chance we want them to win the tournament
  • The % of people, as of March 5th, picking them to advance in the Sport of Pro Wrestling NJC Pick’em Contest, round by round. Thanks to Chris Samsa for these stats, running the tournament, and talking us down from the ledge after New Beginning.
  • The case for the participant winning NJC 2024
  • The case against the participant winning NJC 2024

New Japan Cup 2024 Upper Left Tableau

SANADA

History in New Japan Cup

  •     2019 Finalist, 2023 Winner
  •       Year-to-Year
    • 2017: 2nd Round (Round of 8 – Lost of Tomohiro Ishii)
    • 2018: Semifinalist (Lost to Zack Sabre. Jr.)
    • 2019: Finalist (lost to Kazuchika Okada)
    • 2020: Semifinalist (Lost to EVIL)
    • 2021: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Will Ospreay)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Will Ospreay)
    • 2023: Winner (Defeated David Finlay)

Overall Record: 18-6 (.750 win %)

Chance to win: 33%

Our personal desire for them to win: 5%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 95.24%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 58.93%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 19.64%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0.6%

Current Situation

We have a historical background, and even though it was in European history and not banally vulgar, unsavory American history, we wonder what it felt like after one of the lesser president’s terms. As in, after the Presidency of say, John Tyler, or Benjamin Harrison, or even Gerald Ford, what was the tenor, the perception as it passed?

But now we’ve lived through an eight-month SANADA world title reign, and now we know. The sentiments of the populace are clear:

  • What the fuck was that?
  • We’re going to purposely forget this instantly and let history decide what that was all about
  • Time passed, we’re sure of that
  • We’re still standing, you’ve got to give him that
  • He’s not going back to the Yacht Rock Mountain Goat look again, is he?

We defended SANADA vigorously leading into the Wrestle Kingdom defense against Tetsuya Naito, and we were rewarded thusly: having to live through that story again, immediately following, with even less investment/involvement/initiative on SANADA’s side. He lost the title match at New Beginning in Sapporo, which started out better than Wrestle Kingdom, and then disintegrated into a jarringly befuddled crucible, a gauntlet of fractured timing, fumbled moves, and unambiguous puzzlement. They got lost and couldn’t do much.

SANADA, thusly, comes into the New Japan Cup as the wrestler that lost the championship at Wrestle Kingdom, and has already lost a rematch with the man that beat him. 

The Case for SANADA

It’s funny: when SANADA shows fervent emotion, like he did at one point in that match, or at points in the build up to his historically nauseating lumberjack match with EVIL last autumn, the domestic crowds respond vociferously. That means SANADA is not a lost cause, and thus, even though he just lost twice in a row to the current champion, we can’t rule out that they run this match again. Not with the way these fools have been booking. And especially since New Beginning in Sapporo Night 2 drew a very healthy number. 

The Case Against SANADA

For fuck’s sake, do we really need this again? If they run this for a third event in a row, pack it in. Beware of companies that fall in love with trilogies. Trilogies are nonsense. They should be forbidden, and are a clear sign of a company in the throes of creative sophism. NXT’s downfall wasn’t the ratings spanking they received in 2019, it was when their main creative thrust became: Johnny Gargano’s rivalries are homeric trilogies, and everything else branches off of them.

YOSHI-HASHI

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2012: 1st Round (Lost to La Sombra)
    • 2015: 1st Round (Lost to Yujiro Takahashi)
    • 2016: 1st Round (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2017: 1st Round (Lost to SANADA)
    • 2018: 1st Round (Lost to Kota Ibushi)
    • 2019: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Tomohiro Ishii)
    • 2020: Quarterfinalist (Lost to EVIL)
    • 2021: 2nd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to David Finlay)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Jeff Cobb)
    • 2023: 1st Round (Lost to Kyle Fletcher)
  • Overall Record: 7-10 (.412 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 40%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 41.67%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

YOSHI-HASHI and Hirooki Goto lost the tag team titles at Wrestle Kingdom, the sort of title change that needs to happen at a show of that magnitude. But now we’re  two months removed from the event, and we ask, as we are currently asking in a several facets of this company’s landscape: are we any better off? Is this situation any better  than if they just made the anodyne, boring choice and maintained the status quo on January 4th?

Because the tag titles have already changed hands, in the totally cataclysmic New Beginning Reset, and it’s been heavily implied that Bishamon are now going to challenge the new champions for the belts.

The Case for YOSHI-HASHI

He has a history with Naito. In fact, YSH-HSH’s brazen ass was one of the first to tell SANADA to dump the defective-eyed gimmick cribber, way back in November 2022. Naito’ of course, expertly dismisses anything to do with YSH-HSH, or patronizingly displays pride for YSH’s accomplishments and growth. It would be a fun little program.

The Case Against YOSHI-HASHI

Here’s a fun little stat. The last two years, as tag team champion, YOSHI-HASHI has been the member of Bishamon that lost to a member of the upcoming challengers. In 2022, he lost to Jeff Cobb, while Goto was off playing with Dick Togo and CIMA. Bishamon then lost the titles to Cobb and GOK. In 2023, YSH-HSH lost to Kyle Fletcher. Not only that, Fletcher went on to then lose to Goto, but Aussie Open claimed a title shot anyway (which they won, then vacated). And so, it seems poetic that YOSHI-HASHI then defeat a member of the current tag team champions and claim his shot.

Except that he still remains YOSHI-HASHI. YOSHI-HASHI will never defeat KENTA.

KENTA

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2021: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Shingo Takagi)
    • 2023: 2nd Round (Lost to SANADA)
  • Overall Record: 2-2 (.500 win %)

Chance to win: 20%

Our personal desire for them to win: 500000000000%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 58.33%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 4.17%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 2.98%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 1.19%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 1.19%

Current Situation

KENTA was absent from New Japan from August 2023 to January 2024, and he has looked brutally awful in his, lamentably, championship return. In another indicative exemplar of aggravatingly backwards, potentially defensive booking, KENTA and Chase Owens lost their Strong Openweight Tag Team title shot against G.O.D. on January 20th,, then won the goddamn IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles from them three weeks later. He’s so immersed in gimmick one has to conclude that poor KENTA’s lost all sense of ego, a free-floating identity specter nourished only by propwork and the excessive body fat of earnest cameramen.

The Case for KENTA

When people speak of the New Japan Peak of 2012-2019, don’t let them get away with it! The peak was 2012-2020. The exact moment it reached a pinnacle is hard to grasp, because after Tetsuya Naito finally defeated Kazuchika Okada at the Tokyo Dome, it wasn’t like the aura was that of a series finale. It felt like they were just going to keep rising, escalating, growing.

Why? Because fucking KENTA, that’s why.

He interrupted the roll call, tormented Naito for a month with a series of blistering backstage comments, and then put 11,411 in Osaka-jo Hall. KENTA may not be the same guy four years later, and he was a pale facsimile of his glory period even back then, but running this back at Sumo Hall wouldn’t be the worst idea for a safe title defense.

The Case Against KENTA

It’s nearly impossible to defend KENTA at this point. We advocated, and staunchly believe, that he was Best on Interviews in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Pretty easily, in fact. But even there he has fallen into creative malaise. KENTA was red-hot in early 2020 running against Naito… it’s probably best to leave the memories alone.

Shota Umino

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2019: 1st Round (Lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi)
    • 2023: Quarterfinalist (Lost to David Finlay)
  • Overall Record: 2-2 (.500 win %)

Chance to win: 40%

Our personal desire for them to win: 50%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 33.93%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 30.95%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 20.24%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 16.07%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 4.76%

Current Situation

A year ago, Shota Umino looked utterly lost, devoid of any semblance of connection to the crowds, other people’s gimmicks and look signatures grafted all over his personage. His match with Tetsuya Naito at New Beginning in Sapporo 2023 bombed, and things looked pretty grim, early as it was. He completely turned things around in New Japan Cup 2023, eventually wracking up an excellent performance in the G1 Climax, a brilliant match with Will Ospreay, and a rivalry with Ren Narita. He comes into this tournament having vanquished Narita, lost to EVIL in an attempt to claim the NEVER Openweight crown, and with an AEW derelict looming over him.

The Case for Shota Umino

If they are going to do a self-contained mini-push one of the young guys in this tournament, he’s probably the best choice. He is further along than any of the others, having had a head start on his return. He has the 2023 match with Naito for reference, potentially giving a very clear measurement of his growth. Likewise, with the way New Japan typically tells stories, a loss to Naito would help Umino, giving him a barometer win to chase. Add to this, he is emerging as the leader of Hontai, and not merely because of a lack of options (although that has helped).

The Case Against Shota Umino

Whomever wins the NJC should not beat Tetsuya Naito at Sakura Genesis. Can Shota Umino really take another loss to him? Considering that the young guys, none of them, have a substantial win over a top veteran above them, Umino losing for a second time might not be the best play. The Jack Perry interactions, and likely future match in America, complicates things for Umino too much. He might not even make it out of the first round.

“The Scapegoat” Jack Perry

History in New Japan Cup

  • 1st year in New Japan Cup

Chance to win: 5%

Our personal desire for them to win: 0%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 66.07%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 61.31%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 16.67%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 2.98%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

We’re so far out-of-touch with AEW that we only know the gossip; he got into an argument about glass. At what was supposedly the biggest PPV in wrestling history, Perry couldn’t restrain himself and mouthed off about the argument, giving the scab his window to force his termination. And now Jack Perry is a bearded man, looking more like his father, and… on excursion?

The Case for Jack Perry

He’s set up to go on a revenge tour, with Shota (we’re not sure how that’s revenge, since he instigated the feud, but he sure seemed angry), then the useless husk of either Yano or Yujiro, and then his Forbidden Door II vanquisher SANADA. Of course, sometimes these paths are too rational; this could be a red herring to make us believe he could advance deep. Either way, because of the agreeable structure, you have to give him a chance. It would certainly establish him very quickly.

The Case Against Jack Perry

It’s hard to say, when they seem intent on pushing Americans underwhelming to both the Japanese and American crowds. We don’t see any accolades to suggest he’s done enough to advance out of the first round, let alone win the thing. If Jack Perry makes it to the semifinals, we’re looking at a thoroughly corrupted and creatively disillusioned creative team, totally divorced from reality and the humanity around them. 

Toru Yano

 History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2006: 1st Round (Lost to Giant Bernard)
    • 2007: 1st Round (Lost to Shinsuke Nakamura)
    • 2008: Smeifinalist (Lost to Giant Bernard)
    • 2009: 1st Round (Lost to Milano AT Collection)
    • 2010: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Togi Makabe)
    • 2011: Semifinalist (Lost to Yuji Nagata)
    • 2012: 1st Round (Lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi)
    • 2013: Semifinalist (Lost to Kazuchika Okada)
    • 2014: 1st Round (Lost to Minoru Suzuki)
    • 2015: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Kota Ibushi)
    • 2016: Semifinalist (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2017: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Bad Luck Fale)
    • 2018: Quarterfinalist (Lost to SANADA)
    • 2019: 2nd Round (Lost to Colt Cabana)
    • 2020: 2nd Round (Lost to Hiromu Takahashi)
    • 2021: Quarterfinalist (Lost to EVIL)
    • 2022: 1st Round (Lost to Taichi)
    • 2023: 1st Round (Lost to Mark Davis)
  • Overall Record: 16-18 (.471 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: -87654%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

o   % picking to win 1st round match: 77.38%

o   % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 6.55%

o    % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%

o   % picking to advance to Finals: 0%

o   % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

He’s been out of the KOPW scene for a while, and out of pretty much every scene for at least a year. Like a plaque psoriasis flare-up, he pops up every so often. Painful, dry, and incurable. He performed well in the Frontier Zone matches at Sapporo, though. That’s a proper spot for him at this stage in his career.

The Case for Toru Yano

If they give him enough screen time in the tournament, right up through the final, maybe someone, somewhere, might laugh. It’s possible only Naito could make his act work, at the moment.

The Case Against Toru Yano

He has one thing to do, be funny, and he can’t do that anymore. Even Naito would struggle to make this work.

Yujiro Takahashi

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2010: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Hirooki Goto)
    • 2011: 1st Round (Lost to Manabu Nakanishi)
    • 2012: 1st Round (Lost to Hirooki Goto)
    • 2013: 2nd Round (Lost to Davey Boy Smith Jr.)
    • 2014: 1st Round (Lost to Shelton Benjamin)
    • 2015: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Togi Makabe)
    • 2016: 1st Round (Lost to Toru Yano)
    • 2017: 1st Round (Lost to Juice Robinson)
    • 2018: 1st Round (Lost to Juice Robinson)
    • 2020: 1st Round (Lost to Hirooki Goto)
    • 2021: 1st Round (Lost to YOSHI-HASHI)
    • 2022: 1st Round (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2023: 1st Round (Lost to Shota Umino)
  •  Overall Record: 3-13 (.188 win %)

Chance to win: 0.5%

Our personal desire for them to win: 10%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 22.62%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 1.19%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0.6%

Current Situation

The lower rung of the House of Torture totem pole. His main function is to interfere in HOT matches, because this company wants to fail but knows no other wrestling company in Japan can catch them in a thousand years. We swear this is true: he hasn’t had a singles match since March 6, 2023. This is not only the 52nd Anniversary of New Japan, but the 1 year anniversary of Yujiro Takahashi’s last singles match.

The Case for Yujiro Takahashi

This is entirely circumstantial; his old tag team partner is champion, and so you can;t totally write him off. Sure, it would be clinically insane to book Yujiro Takahashi in a Sumo Hall main event. Or consider the nostalgia for NO LIMIT palpable enough to discern in 2024. Especially considering that, after some obstacles along the way, finally meet in last year’s New Japan Cup, after an eight year gap. Despite all that, he deserves at least an above zero chance. One half of a percent above zero chance.

The Case Against Yujiro Takahashi

He fucking sucks.




New Japan Cup 2024 Upper Left Tableau

Hirooki Goto

History in New Japan Cup

  • 2009 Winner, 2010 Winner, 2012 Winner, 2013 Finalist, 2015 Finalist, 2016 Finalist
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2005: 1st Round (Lost to Manabu Nakanishi)
    • 2008: 1st Round (Lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi)
    • 2009: Winner (Defeated Karl Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura, Yuji Nagata, and Giant Bernard)
    • 2010: Winner (Defeated Yujiro Takahashi, Masato Tanaka, and Togi Makabe)
    • 2011: 1st Round (Lost to Shinsuke Nakamura)
    • 2012: Winner (Defeated Yujiro Takahashi, La Sombra, Togi Makabe, and Hiroshi Tanahashi)
    • 2013: Finalist (Lost to Kazuchika Okada)
    • 2014: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Minoru Suzuki)
    • 2015: Finalist (Lost to Kota Ibushi)
    • 2016: Finalist (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2019: 1st Round (Lost to SANADA)
    • 2020: 2nd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to EVIL)
    • 2021: 2nd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Shingo Takagi)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to CIMA)
    • 2023: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Tama Tonga)
  • Overall Record: 26-12 (.684 win %)

 Chance to win: 8.5%

Our personal desire for them to win: 10000%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 66.67%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 2.38%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 1.79%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 1.19%

Current Situation

His tag team with YOSHI-HASHI, Bishamon, have dominated the tag team scene for the last two years, winning three straight World Tag Leagues and having three IWGP World Tag Team Championship reigns. The most recent lasted 214 days. They resurrected the scene, and under their umbrella we saw a bounty of tremendous defenses. Even World Tag League became a fun watch with Bishamon on top. But Goto was injured in the most recent WTL, and has wrestled sparingly in 2024.

The Case for Hirooki Goto

Alright, picture this. Hirooki Goto wins. Picture that. Look at the picture of him above, and then picture him winning New Japan Cup. Feels good. Feels right.

Imagine this affable, wholesome dad, who pretends to be a bushido warring states samurai before he pretend fights. The most decorated New Japan Cup wrestler in the history of the tournament, Mr. New Japan Cup himself. Who holds a 5-6 record against Tetsuya Naito, but has lost 6 of the last 7? Think of the intensity of emotions if they marketed this match as one final chance for the old warrior to reach for the gold. In Sumo Hall, against one of his most despised nemesis. 

Considering that, if good taste prevails, this should be a perfunctory title defense, have some fun with it. It’s been so long since we’ve seen Goto reach for the top and fall short. He deserves 

The Case Against Hirooki Goto

Goto has been largely absent since World Tag League due to injury. He’s held up better than anyone else in his generation, but a long New Japan Cup run, followed by a grueling Sumo Hall main event, might not be the safest option. Beyond that, they are setting up Bishamon to challenge for the IWGP tag titles, so his future has already been claimed.

TJP

History in New Japan Cup

  • 1st year in New Japan Cup

Chance to win: 2.5%

Our personal desire for them to win: 20%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 8.33%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 4.17%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 2.98%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

TJP was at the forefront of the highly successful United Empire vs. BULLET CLUB rivalry, coming into the feud as one of the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, alongside Francesco Akira as Catch 2/2. That was one of the seven titles that changed hands on the New Beginning tour. TJP rankled Akira by declaring himself an openweight wrestler and raised some eyebrows by suggesting that he might be interested in claiming the United Empire leadership spot. Things seem very wide open going forward for him.

The Case for TJP

If TJP is going to assume the role of United Empire leader, and establish himself as a legitimate openweight wrestler, the lowered stakes of the New Japan Cup and Sakura Genesis title match are worthy methods to do so. And, without question, he is one of the most capable and captivating wrestlers on the roster. A Sumo Hall title match between Tetsuya Naito and TJP would be a surprising delight.

The Case Against TJP

It seems as though there is a disparity between the interesting things wrestlers are saying in the backstage comments and the product being delivered. TJP might just be spouting off, or both company and wrestler are leaving paths open through enigmatic language. Either way, it seems highly unlikely that this is the time where New Japan rocket strap a junior moving to heavyweight. They didn’t even do that with Ospreay or Shingo. They are going to take it nice and slow, a measured pace with this 30-looking 40 year old.

David Finlay

History in New Japan Cup

  • 2023 Finalist
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2021: Semifinalist (Lost to Will Ospreay)
    • 2023: Finalist (Lost to SANADA)
  • Overall Record: 7-2 (.778 win %)

Chance to win: 50%

Our personal desire for them to win: 45%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 91.67%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 87.5%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 83.33%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 52.98%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 14.29%

Current Situation

Finlay was the odd man out in his Wrestle Kingdom three-way match against Will Ospreay and Jon Moxley, the match which crowned the first IWGP Global Champion. He held his own and left the Tokyo Dome as champion. He then kicked Ospreay out of the company in the divisive, but unprecedented ten-man war-games-rules Cage Match in Osaka. 

Then he lost his belt to a debuting Nic Nemeth.

Finlay is really emerging as an idiosyncratic character, after a year of fumbling, grasping, and experimenting with the inchoate character. He’s always been an engaging promo, and lately he has been magnificent. Whether this is working or not has been a divisive issue, and his push has been so scattered and disjointed, one wonders whether it even is a push. Either way, he’s grown into the role, both in the ring and out, and stands as a stable faction leader.

The Case for David Finlay

If the concept of failing up still exists in this company, and it certainly seems like one of the more robust trademarks, alongside challenging for a title match by simply appearing at the right time and place. Finlay was the inaugural Global champion for all of 50 days, and even though it is completely ludicrous that he lost his title after that brazenly ambitious ten-man cage match, his showing in the cage match did give him a lot of equity. If they really are accelerating things with him, he needs to get through his big initial title shot defeat before he can win it later. If they are following the formula.

The Case Against David Finlay

After losing the title that he just fucking christened and as his stable is feeling shaky due to forces well beyond his control, does David Finlay really need to eat another high profile loss here? We just noted that he can, but should he? The whole point of these tournaments is that losses are ameliorated. Losses are diminished in the context of a winner-take-all tournament. He can lose at any point and be protected. He also surreptitiously claimed that if he won the Cup he would challenge Nemeth for the secondary title. That’s not unprecedented; Nakamura did it in 2014. But it usually portends failure.

Tanga Loa

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2017: 1st Round (Lost to Yuji Nagata)
    • 2022: 2nd Round (Lost to Shingo Takagi)
  • Overall Record: 0-2 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 0%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 10.12%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

Tanga Loa’s been battling injuries for a while now. He was out from May 2022 to July 2023, when he returned for an extremely poorly received G1 Climax. He’s been sporadic since, wrestling through the fall, then disappearing between November and February, only returning for Tama Tonga’s send-off match in Sapporo. Some presumed that it was, tacitly, Tanga’s farewell match. He now pushes on as a singles wrestler.

The Case for Tanga Loa

There isn’t one, but he’s a likable person that worked hard over the pandemic to get a better physique and working style. Maybe they think he can fit into the slot his brother left behind.

The Case Against Tanga Loa

He claims he did not know he was in the tournament until 5 days before the tournament was to begin, even though the schedule had been out for weeks. Additionally, most people assumed he was leaving with his brother, even though there was no formalized indication that he would do so. He’s not a threat. Just being here is an achievment.

GREAT-O-KHAN

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2021: 2nd Round (Lost to Toru Yano)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Zack Sabre Jr.)
    • 2023: 2nd Round (Lost to David Finlay)
  • Overall Record: 2-3 (.400 win %)

Chance to win: 10%

Our personal desire for them to win: 95%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 89.88%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 8.33%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 7.74%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 2.98%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0.6%

Current Situation

It’s the usual: the hope for something substantial with this guy, and nothing ever happens. He recently won the KOPW Provisional Title from Taiji Ishimori in a legitimately awesome match based around doing cardio exercises. He won by literally having his hand on the belt as time expired in the match, a stipulation they never advertised nor mentioned before that point. He vowed to use the title to expand New Japan’s grip on smaller towns and lesser visited areas, his Maoist-sounding Regional Revitalization Plan.

On the other end, he wasn’t officially in the Ospreay send-off cage match, and he was demonstratively ignored by anti-otaku Kazuchika Okada in Okada’s send-off matches. GOK remains undefeated in promos however; he obliterated Okada in the backstage comments, which no one but losers like us watch.

The Case for Great-O-Khan

We are too goddamned tired to go through this every year, so we are doing the sensible thing and giving up while we still can. But, the case for GOK? He’s shown considerable range in his wrestling, especially in the matches against Jon Moxley and Alex Coughlin. There is an unruliness that has peaked out, as well as a fascinatingly ruthless potency to his striking (which, admittedly, he was not showing with his Mongolian chops and restrained forearms). He saved a goddamn little girl from a creep in real life. He cuts the most intricately verbose backstage comments in the company. He’s a legit badass, not only excelling in multiple combat sports but also winning a national amateur wrestling title. And, on top of that, he’s a bona fide otaku weirdo. His contradictions are intoxicating, and look at that, we’ve once again fallen for the Great-O-Khan trap.

The Case Against Great-O-Khan

They either don’t see it, or don’t want to see it. We’re at the point where it will be exceptionally difficult to re-educate the audience on his capability and credibility.

Tomohiro Ishii

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2006: 1st Round (Lost to Yuji Nagata)
    • 2007: 1st Round (Lost to Yuji Nagata)
    • 2008: 1st Round (Lost to Hiroyoshi Tenzan)
    • 2009: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Yutaka Yoshie)
    • 2010: 1st Round (Lost to Togi Makabe)
    • 2013: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Hirooki Goto)
    • 2014: 1st Round (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2016: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2017: Semifinalist (Lost to Katsuyori Shibata)
    • 2018: 1st Round (Lost to Michael Elgin)
    • 2019: Semifinalist (Lost to Kazuchika Okada)
    • 2020: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Hiromu Takahashi)
    • 2021: 1st Round (Lost to SANADA)
    • 2022: 1st Round (Lost to Shingo Takagi)
    • 2023:  1st Round (Lost to David Finlay)
  • Overall Record: 11-15 (.440 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 85%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 58.93%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 27.98%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 2.98%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 1.19%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0.6%

Current Situation

Ishii spent a large chunk of 2023 as a member of the Dream Team NEVER Open 6-man Champions with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. He also was VOTED INTO THE WON HALL OF FAME, YOU FUCKERS. Besides that, it was another year of him having the best matches, in singles and six-man situations.

The Case for Tomohiro Ishii

He is the ultimate In Case of Emergency contingency plan. If you put him up against Naito at Sumo Hall, it would be an incredible match. It would get legitimate buzz. It will be watched. The self-evidence of his impending loss would be irrelevant. 

The Case Against Tomohiro Ishii

He has gone out in the first round three years in a row, and this year will be no different. He is up against a vulnerable IWGP tag team champion, but lacking a stable tag team himself, there’s no reason for him to win. And, unfortunately, the notion of him selling out Sumo Hall, or coming close, is probably quixotic.

Chase Owens

 History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2019:  2nd Round (Lost to YOSHI-HASHI)
    • 2021: 1st Round (Lost to David Finlay)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Lost to Shingo Takagi)
    • 2023: 2nd Round (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
  • Overall Record: 3-4 (.429 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 0%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 41.07%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 5.36%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

It was a very sporadic, sparse year in New Japan for Chase Owens last year. Presumably due to injuries, he was only seen during the New Japan Cup, G1 Climax, and the Destruction tour. His performances were putrid, almost unanimously excoriated, which leads us to believe these injuries were strenuous; if there’s one thing you can say for Owens, it’s the respectability of his work. He’s returned in a tag team with KENTA, having awful matches with G.O.D., winning the IWGP Tag Team titles in the process.

The Case for Chase Owens

There’s the old saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight. Well, Chase Owens would bring his contract status to a gunfight. He would also bring his contract to a knife fight. And he would bring his contract to a dick-waving contest. He wouldn’t even roll it up to give it a phallic shape. That’s not what he brought it for. He’d hold his contract up to all the flopping flaccid dicks, with its highlighted clauses and liberal annotations. 

Maybe that contract is meaningful enough that he gets a New Japan Cup win. That’s all we got.

The Case Against Chase Owens

In the most diplomatic option here, we’ll just say that he is an IWGP tag team champion and the defense of that title is what will occupy his future.




New Japan Cup 2024 Upper Right Tableau

EVIL

History in New Japan Cup

  • 2020 Winner
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2016: 1st Round (Lost to Tomohiro Ishii)
    • 2017: Semifinalist (lost to Bad Luck Fale)
    • 2019: 1st Round (Lost to Zack Sabre Jr.)
    • 2020: Winner
    • 2021: Semifinalist (Lost to Shinto Takagi)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Hiromu Takahashi)
    • 2023: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Mark Davis)
  • Overall Record: 13-9 (.684 win %)

Chance to win: 25%

Our personal desire for them to win: -5483%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 84.52%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 26.19%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 5.95%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 3.57%

Current Situation

For a long time, EVIL was simply a menace. His role was to evoke fear in the viewer, the terror that he might actually win something of consequence. He’s now done that, unseating Tama Tonga for the NEVER Openweight title. Of course, winning and losing looks the same for EVIL; the routine is as firm as ever, with multiple run-ins and comically contrived ref bumps.

The Case for EVIL

It doesn’t matter whether we want it to happen, we don’t want it to happen, it makes sense, it doesn’t make sense… if they feel the time is right, it’s going to happen. Not based on anything else but a feeling that the time is right. EVIL failed to draw against SANADA in Sumo Hall, maybe they want to give him a chance to put up a big number with Naito (so they can justify the next five years of overpushed, disproportional HOT main events). Sourness aside, EVIL and Naito is always a match they can rely on. Or, at least, that they feel very comfortable running. We’ve spent 10000 words yelling at people that want to have fun, but Naito vs. EVIL would, unquestionably, be fun.

The Case Against EVIL

Despite finally winning something, it’s still been HOT’s purpose to be the terrifying specter haunting NJPW tournaments. Certainly, that might be changing, and we’ve shifted to the part where they just win, but we don’t think so. EVIL is here to go deep in the tournament, possibly kill some people legitimately from the stress of his run on people’s vital organs, and then bow out. Also, he’s the NEVER champion; it’s more imperative he be challenged at Sumo Hall by whomever he loses to in the Cup than he challenge someone else.

Hikuleo

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2019: 1st Round (Lost to Mikey Nicholls)
  • Overall Record: 0-1 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 5%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 95.83%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 13.69%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 2.98%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 1.19%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

Hikuleo shocked everyone by taking second place in the A Block of last year’s G1 Climax, beating out Shota Umino, the emerald green nerd, Yota Tsuji, and Gabe Kidd. Since then, he was been in the tag division, teaming with El Phantasmo to form the new G.O.D. They had an infamously long match with Bishamon in the World Tag League final, then defeated the champions in the rematch at Wrestle Kingdom. That triumph was squandered fairly quickly, as they lost the titles to the funny-but-abysmal team of Chase Owens and KENTA. Hikuleo’s growth as a big man wrestler is tangible; he strikes harder, carries himself better, and is a sensational hot tag.

The Case for Hikuleo

As shown in the G1 Climax, when he was the young guy representative to emerge from A Block, they clearly see something in him. It’s conceivable that they try to see what they have with him, right now, while they have him. If there’s one thing New Japan has always loved, back to 1972, it’s a monster challenger. Even if he talks with erudition and poise, he fits the bill.

The Case Against Hikuleo

Hikuleo is in a classic NJC situation: he should get to a certain point, earn himself a title shot against a lesser champion, and then get bounced immediately. He’s primed to upset EVIL in the round of 16, and eat a fall in either the quarterfinals or semifinals. Either way, his station right now has risen, but not to the point of challenging Naito.

Oleg Boltin

History in New Japan Cup

  •  1st year in New Japan Cup

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 987654%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 4.17%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 1.79%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

Boltin has entered the phase of Young Lion-dom where he gets signature moves, but still loses. Even though he is bigger than most of his opponents, and has the best athlete’s physique in the company. He’s shown remarkable strength, able to do the gut wrench flip spot thing with anyone in the company. He’s a very exciting prospect, and he speaks fluent Japanese. We’re all just waiting, at this point.

The Case for Oleg Boltin

He’s a beast and they need to stop fucking around. He could win the Cup here and make a grandiose entrance into the main ranks at Sakura Genesis. That alone would cause a ripple effect through every wrestler on the roster. It would freshen the entire company overnight.

The Case Against Oleg Boltin

Young Lion do grapple. Young Lion do move. Young Lion time limit draw with other Young Lion. Young Lion lose to veteran. Young Lion beat other Young Lion. Young Lion lose to other Young Lion. Young Lion go away. Young Lion come back. Young Lion no Young Lion now.

Elapsed time: 6 years, 7 months, 15 days.

Shingo Takagi

History in New Japan Cup

  • 2021 Finalist
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2020: 1st Round (Lost to SHO)
    • 2021: Finalist (Lost to Will Ospreay)
    • 2022: Semifinalist (Lost to Zack Sabre Jr.)
    • 2023: 1st Round (Lost to Aaron Henare)
  • Overall Record: 8-4 (.667 win %)

Chance to win: 50%

Our personal desire for them to win: 90%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 77.98%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 66.67%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 51.19%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 20.83%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 11.9%

Current Situation

Shingo spent much of 2022 and 2023 imbuing the KOPW title with credibility alongside HENARE and Taichi. He recently traded the NEVER Openweight title with Tama Tonga, winning it in the fall and then dropping it at Wrestle Kingdom, seemingly for the sole purpose of having a title change on Wrestle Kingdom. He was paired yet again with Taichi, as the second-tier element in the Just 5 Guys vs. LIJ feud on the New Beginning tour (pushed to third-tier by Tsuji-Uemura). He lost the match with Taichi, which leaves him totally free for this tournament. Simply put, he is the best and most reliable wrestler in the company. 

The Case for Shingo Takagi

He’s completely freed from any title or program, having no potential opponents or matches set up in the near future. He’s coming off a loss, and this company loves the bounce-back for wrestlers at Shingo’s level. He’s a member of LIJ, and LIJ vs. LIJ matches are always successful. It has been five years since he last faced Tetsuya Naito in a singles match… their only singles match. And, honestly, Shingo needs to win New Japan Cup, It would be weird if he didn’t at some point.

The Case Against Shingo Takagi

For nearly every participant, the case against them winning is the easiest part. Not so with Shingo Takagi. The only case against Shingo is that the younger wrestlers desperately need something, with all of them floating in a morass of stasis. Furthermore, the young guy that he faces in the first round, Yuya Uemura, just had his goddamn head shaved. He could get back on track with a win against a lower main event level guy like Shingo.

Yuya Uemura

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2020: 1st Round (Lost to Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
  • Overall Record: 0-1 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 25%

Our personal desire for them to win: either 0% or 500000%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 22.02%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 14.29%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 9.52%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 4.76%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 3.57%

Current Situation

Yuya returned in October, and since then he has participated in World Tag League, faced Yota Tsuji and… kept facing Yota Tsuji. There’s a bit of a misconception about that program… Yuya seems like he’s been dominated, but it’s actually been 50/50:

  • Tsuji pinned Uemura in a tag match on November 4, 2023
  • Uemura pinned Tsuji in a tag match on December 22, 2023
  • Uemura pinned Tsuji in a singles match at Wrestle Kingdom
  • Uemura submitted Tsuji in a tag match on February 4, 2024
  • Tsuji pinned Uemura in a tag match on February 5, 2024
  • Tsuji pinned Uemura in a hair vs. hair match on February 24, 2024

Obviously, losing a lucha de apuestas match is the ultimate indignity, but he got a win over Tsuji at fucking Wrestle Kingdom! 

That said, this is the extent of Uemura’s return. He has not had a singles match with anyone else but Yota Tsuji. So, if you’re wondering why Uemura is “behind” the others, it’s not just his late start, or his bizarrely spartan offensive repertoire, or his atavistically babyface character, it’s also because he hasn’t gained the credibility of standing up to a top guy in this company, unlike his peers.

The Case for Yuya Uemura

If the bounce-back is in effect, no one has bigger bounce-back potential than the guy that just got his head shaved by his generational rival. A long NJC run solves several issues plaguing Uemura: the lack of variety in his opponents. Taking a shot at the champion instantly legitimized Tsuji, perhaps a longer path would legitimize Uemura. Also, New Japan owes us for not being able to follow through on the greatest dropkick in the history of the business.

The Case Against Yuya Uemura

He just got his fucking head shaved. As we lamented in the introduction to this preview, New Japan is having trouble following through on their stories, and skipping steps. Having Uemura go straight from bald loser to New Japan Cup winner, within weeks, would be preposterous.

Uemura is being positioned as an earnest, determined babyface. It’s bad enough that he beat Tsuji so quickly, when he could have been chasing that win for much longer. If he comes right back and powers through his adversity, without the time to feel his struggle, we’ve cemented him as truly half-baked. Also, the winner of NJC gets Naito in Sumo Hall, and that might be a tall order for Uemura, especially considering his first round opponent, Shingo Takagi, could put up a pretty big number there against Naito.

Callum Newman

History in New Japan Cup

  • 1st year in New Japan Cup

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: before his NJPW1972 interview, it was maybe 20%. After he declared love for YOSHI-HASHI and his desire for KENTA to make the final four, it is 98745869896%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 7.14%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 1.79%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

The Prince of Pace was brought in by Will Ospreay in September, essentially acting as a Young Lion, but never officially defined as one. His role has been to get the late tag in multi-man matches, move as fast as humanly possible, and eat the fall. He had a cool little mini-fued with Finlay leading up to the Osaka cage match, and he’s only 21 years old. He remains in a weird category: he’s not a Young Lion, but he still loses every match. The explicitly stated path for him is to be the next Ospreay. He gave an interview to NJPW1972 leading into this tournament that is very much worth reading.

The Case for Callum Newman

Maybe Ospreay got them to commit to pushing Newman immediately before he left. He’s already proven, against Finlay, that he can hang with a main eventer in a singles match.

The Case Against Callum Newman

Conceivably, Newman is in this for the long haul, where he remains in Japan, building an immense silo of credibility, to the point where he can essentially name his price, his place, and his conditions, just as his mentor just did.

He’ll probably be signed by 2026, but in theory the scenario above is the best route for him to become a megastar. Assuming that everyone is still playing along with that utopian tale, he’s going out instantly this year and gradually make it further as the years pass.

Gabe Kidd

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2020:  1st Round (Lost to Taiji Ishimori)
    • 2021:  1st Round (Lost to Zack Sabre Jr.)
  • Overall Record: 0-2 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 10%

Our personal desire for them to win: 63%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 92.86%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 17.26%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 8.93%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0.6%

Current Situation

Are you aware of Gabriel Kidd’s mental state? If you aren’t, he’s about to let you know numerous times: heezuh madman, ch’know! He is as captivating and mesmerizing as anyone on roster. His tag team with Alex Coughlin were the highlight of World Tag League, with their Hansen/Brody entrances and the sheer mayhem they instigated. Kidd projects his presence at a main event level; whether you want to or not, you are going to be aware of him. He’s not going to get lost in a match. He nearly killed HENARE with that fervor, but they also had a match of the year contender against each other on February 4th. At only 26, they could pull the trigger on Gabe Kidd whenever they want.

The Case for Gabe Kidd

Pull the trigger now. As far as the ability to have a great match, cut a memorable interview, and ventilate their personality, he is miles ahead of anyone in his age group. Obviously, that is undercut by the onslaught of vulgarity he unleashes, but that’s surface level nonsense. Because he’s been so inconsistently booked/scheduled, he feels fresh. And he’s coming off the fascinating United Empire vs. BULLET CLUB feud. Simply put, you can imagine the atmosphere of a Kidd vs. Naito match. It would work.

The Case Against Gabe Kidd

The same as all the other young guys: none of them are truly established in a way to make a New Japan Cup win seem inevitable, or even plausible, besides Umino. For the rest, a win would either be a jarring sea change. It would be a welcome one, but this company is totally capricious about when they skip steps and when they don’t, and despite the potential time crunch, they will probably take their time and dot all the lower case j’s with Gabe, right up until he leaves, probably right as they finally show conviction in pushing him, too late.




New Japan Cup 2024 Lower Right Tableau

Zack Sabre. Jr.

History in New Japan Cup

  • 2018 Winner, 2022 Winner
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2018: Winner
    • 2019: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi)
    • 2020: 1st Round (Lost to Kota Ibushi)
    • 2021: 2nd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Will Ospreay)
    • 2022: Winner
    • 2023: 2nd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Shota Umino)
  • Overall Record: 13-4 (.765 win %)

Chance to win: 50%

Our personal desire for them to win: 50%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 90.48%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 65.48%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 43.45%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 39.29%

Current Situation

He lost the TV title to Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom, after defending it more times than any title has ever officially been defended in the company.  After that, he had a stunningly brilliant, match of the year contender against Bryan Danielson, scoring the revenge pinfall on the wrestling legend. He’s defeated Tiger Mask and Yuji Nagata on the recent tour, the sort of easy wins they give someone they want to remain warm.

The Case for Zack Sabre. Jr.

Part of his persona is literally that he’s the best tournament wrestler in the world. He’s 13-4 in the New Japan Cup. If they want to pull the trigger on him, and they don’t want to do it at Dominion, it would be fitting that he win the World Title through a New Japan Cup win. He is a faction leader, and just defeated one of the greatest wrestlers that has ever taken breath.

And, of course, he has a bit of history himself with Tetsuya Naito. His first New Japan Cup run was jumpstarted by a week-long story where he vowed to defecate in Naito’s hat if he won their match. He did, but deferred the hat business (to instead accuse Ibushi of making “sweet love” to his wrestling dummy while shoehorning in a Smiths reference). If Zack Sabre Jr. isn’t champion by the end of 2024, we’re in the bad timeline.

The Case Against Zack Sabre Jr.

Now might not be the time. Naito shouldn’t lose the title yet, and so the Sakura Genesis title defense should be either a chance for a young guy to make a big jump, or an established guy to provide an arduously great match. Either way, they should lose, and Zack Sabre Jr. should not come up short at Sakura Genesis for a third time. 

Yota Tsuji

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2020: 1st Round (Lost to Togi Makabe)
    • 2021: 1st Round (Lost to Yuji Nagata)
  • Overall Record: 0-2 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 50%

Our personal desire for them to win: 51%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 88.69%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 85.71%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 25.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 17.86%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 13.1%

Current Situation

Tsuji burst onto the scene in a truly unprecedented manner: challenging for the world title in the main event of Dominion. There’s one, maybe two spots higher on the New Japan calendar. He’s been a made man since. He had a magnificent match with Will Ospreay in the fall, and has since been tied up with his old dojo mate Yuya Uemura. He definitely won that feud by beating Uemura in a hair vs. hair match. The Just Five Guys vs. LIJ feud was carried by them, largely built around them, and they delivered. 

The Case for Yota Tsuji

He’s the biggest star of the young guys, and he’s in LIJ. A match between LIJ leader Naito and future star Tsuji would be a very big deal, and send a message to sour fuckfaces like us that the company does, indeed, have a vision, and that they still know how to get there.

The Case Against Yota Tsuji

It might be premature for a Naito-Tsuji match. Also, his path looks a bit weird; to win the Cup, he’d either have to beat Uemura again, run through Shingo, or deal with EVIL. All very plausible wins for him, but also plausible losses. 

Jeff Cobb

 History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2021: 2nd Round (Lost to EVIL)
    • 2022: Quarterfinalist (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
    • 2023: 2nd Round (Lost to EVIL)
  • Overall Record: 4-3 (.571 win %)

Chance to win: 12.5%

Our personal desire for them to win: 35%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 11.31%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 9.52%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 2.38%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 1.79%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 1.19%

Current Situation

He’s been dealing with injuries, and so his New Japan schedule has been erratic for some time. He was unable to make it to the match with Alex Couglin on February 4th, but did answer the bell for the big United Empire vs. BULLET CLUB cage match.  He hasn’t had a singles match in New Japan since September, when he unsuccessfully challenged Naito for the January 4th main event title match spot.

The Case for Jeff Cobb

Presuming he’s healed up, he’s fresh, both in his body and in the company at large. Because of his history with Naito, and his popularity with domestic crowds, he’s a viable candidate to provide Naito with a safe title defense and still produce a great match. 

The Case Against Jeff Cobb

He had to pull out of a match within the last month, and his first round opponent is Yota Tsuji, who should not be eating a first round loss after winning the feud with Uemura. Cobb should serve as a substantive win over an established veteran for Tsuji, who, incredibly, doesn’t have a substantive win over an established veteran yet.

El Phantasmo

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2022: 2nd Round (Lost to Will Ospreay)
    • 2023: 1st Round (Lost to Tetsuya Naito)
  • Overall Record: 0-2 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 10%

Our personal desire for them to win: 25%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 86.31%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 4.17%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

Current Situation

ELP was ostracized and ultimately evicted from BULLET CLUB as part of David Finlay’s plan to re-configure the group in line with his vision. He wants gold and/or public maiming, so the guy that twists nipples and rakes backs like ’86 Hogan was a pretty incongruent presence. He was welcomed into the Guerrillas of Destiny stable and… well, it’s been a choppy transition. The Japanese crowds seem confused by his good guy persona, which is essentially the same as his bad guy persona. He won the IWGP tag titles with Hikuleo at Wrestle Kingdom, then lost them during the New Beginning Reset. Not much makes sense with ELP these days.

The Case for El Phantasmo 

He lost to Naito in the New Japan Cup last year, so there is a revenge angle that they could play. We certainly know that ELP could handle the load in the ring along a New Japan Cup run. And, if you look at the brackets, he’d probably run into opponents he’s very comfortable with, such as Zack Sabre Jr or Shingo Takagi. You could easily orient this tournament to make him look top rate, and reclaim the aura he projected before joining G.O.D.

The Case Against El Phantasmo

He feels cold right now, and spent the entire Wrestle Kingdom build doing publicity with his partner, where they went out of their way to talk about their contracts. Things seem unstable, to say the least.

Mikey Nicholls

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2019: 2nd Round (Lost to Kazuchika Okada)
  • Overall Record: 1-1 (.500 win %)

Chance to win: 0%

Our personal desire for them to win: 10%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 13.69%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0%

 Current Situation

Nicholls rejoined TMDK when it was established in New Japan, way back in late 2022. Since then, his tag team with Shane Haste have consistently provided quality matches, though they had oddly come up short in numerous title challenges. Nicholls was a surprise entrant into the 2023 G1 Climax. Even more surprising was his output; he looked like one of the few guys that actually gave a fuck, and put forth assiduous efforts every match.

The Case for Mikey Nicholls

Sighhh, come on, now.

The Case Against Mikey Nicholls

He hasn’t even won the tag belts yet, and his role is Tag Team Wrestler.

Taichi

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2018: 1st Round (Lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi)
    • 2019: 2nd Round (Lost to Tomohiro Ishii)
    • 2020: Quarterfinalist (Lost to SANADA)
    • 2021: 1st Round (Lost to Hirooki Goto)
    • 2022: 3rd Round (Round of 16 – Lost to Kazuchika Okada)
    • 2023:  1st Round (Lost to SANADA)
  • Overall Record: 0-1 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 15%

Our personal desire for them to win: 99.9%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 49.4%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 2.38%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 1.79%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 0.6%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 0.6%

Current Situation

Taichi held the KOPW title for much of 2022 and 2023. Alongside Shingo Takagi, he legitimized the title, or as much as it can be legitimized. He ended as the 2023 KOPW Champion, and has been in limbo for 2024. He paired off with Shingo again in the Just 5 Guys vs. LIJ feud, and they had an incredible match in Sapporo (the loser had to delete their Youtube channel, by the way). That leaves Taichi wide open as we head into the most significant stretch in New Japan’s calendar year.

The Case for Taichi

Along with Shingo, he is one of the most reliably great wrestlers in the company. He has faced Naito nine times, and scored the fall in their most recent match, which was way back in summer 2021. So that is a fresh match, and a natural extension of the Just 5 Guys vs. LIJ feud, where Naito and Taichi both scored the win for their side in Sapporo.

The Case Against Taichi

Along with Shingo, he is a reliable veteran in his 40’s that should probably step aside for the young guys, at least in this tournament. Other than that, Taichi has largely been wrestling gimmick matches for the last two years. He might come across jarring for him to suddenly challenge for the World title, even if the New Japan Cup is the company’s easy resurrection mechanism. Ultimately, we keep hoping for Taichi to make a run, but his performances in the Cup and the G1 are always deflating.

Ren Narita

History in New Japan Cup

  • No significant results
  • Year-to-Year
    • 2023: 1st Round (Lost to EVIL)
  • Overall Record: 0-1 (.000 win %)

Chance to win: 25%

Our personal desire for them to win: 0%

Sport of Pro Wrestling Pick’em Results

  • % picking to win 1st round match: 50.6%
  • % picking to advance to Quarterfinals: 7.14%
  • % picking to advance to Semifinals: 3.57%
  • % picking to advance to Finals: 1.79%
  • % picking to advance to win New Japan Cup 2024: 1.19%

 Current Situation

Narita had an odd one in 2023. They formed an entire stable for him, Strong Style, with the sole purpose of having Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado hilariously stump for the kid, almost literally Lion Kinging him at some points. That fizzled, with long stretches where they didn’t team. Narita formed a tag team with Shota Umino, starting with an infamous fireside chat, much of it spent imagining what it would be like if they were married. After an entire month, and showing signs of finally getting over, Narita turned on Umino and joined HOUSE OF TORTURE. He lost to Narita on the New Beginning tour.

The Case for Ren Narita

He’s a young guy, and everybody wants a young guy to win this thing. They specifically do not want Narita to be that guy, but he could be. And, unfortunately, it’s very easy to imagine the dopey booking team becoming quite smitten with the idea of a Naito vs. Narita 35-minute HOT fuckfest Sumo Hall main event. Let’s go get the heat, boys!

The Case Against Ren Narita

He’s in HOUSE OF TORTURE because he’s had such an uncomfortably awkward return. Right now, he’s a heavyweight SHO (who weighs less than SHO). It would be preposterous if he won. If Narita wins the NJC, there’s no other explanation than that the booking team is actively sabotaging the company. Considering that HOUSE OF TORTURE have received all the triumphs they deserve this year, Narita winning this seems unlikely.

Our Picks

We purposely buried this at the end, since we are always wrong in every tournament preview we’ve ever done for the site (and we’ve done many). Here they are:

  • Upper Left: KENTA, Umino, Yano, SANADA, Umino, Umino
  • Lower Left: Finlay, GOK, Owens, Finlay, Goto, Finlay
  • Upper Right: Hikuleo, Shingo, Kidd, Hikuleo, Shingo, Shingo
  • Lower Right: Tsuji, ELP, Narita, Tsuji, Zack, Zack
  • Semifinals and Finals: Finlay, Shingo, Shingo

Shingo wins. We initially had Finlay, but the legitimately grueling process of writing this thing changed our minds. Run Shingo at Sumo Hall.

Listen to Voices of Wrestling’s NJPW podcast: Super J-Cast!

Powered by RedCircle