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New Japan Cup Stats Breakdown

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The 2018 New Japan Cup begins Friday at Korakuen Hall and ends March 21 at Aore Nagaoka. Winning the New Japan Cup means being able to challenge either the IWGP Heavyweight, IWGP Intercontinental or NEVER Openweight Champion April 1st at Sakura Genesis. The option to challenge for any of those titles opens up a variety of potential winners but only once has someone other than the heavyweight champion been called out. I’m here to break down some stats and give you some background on the odds of who will walk out with the New Japan Cup.

SANADA
Appearance: 2
Record (1-1)
Title Choice: Heavyweight
This will be the second Cup SANADA will take part in, 2017 being his first. He defeated YOSHI-HASHI in the first round but was beaten by Tomohiro Ishii in the following match. Last month, SANADA made his first challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Him going after any other belt seems unlikely. I expect him to make it further into the tournament than last year.

Chuckie T.
Appearance: 1
Record (0-0)
Title Choice: Intercontinental
Making his Cup debut and singles match debut, Chuckie T. will have a lot to prove. His positioning in the tournament is strictly due to the injury of his partner, Beretta. In New Japan, it’s rare that a member of a stable will challenge a stablemate who is holding a title. Since he’s a member of Chaos and both Okada and Goto hold titles, that leaves only Suzuki open. In all likelihood, Chuckie T. doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Appearance: 3
Record (2-2)
Title Choice: Openweight or Heavyweight
His first Cup appearance since 2014, where he was defeated by Shinsuke Nakamura in the opening round, Davey Boy Smith Jr. makes his return. Although primarily featured as a tag team wrestler, Smith is known to pick up some big wins. Actually, his last singles match in New Japan was a victory over Hiroshi Tanahashi in the 2014 G1 Climax. In 2013, Smith challenged Nakamura for the IC title so he does have history in the singles title scene. If he were to win, he wouldn’t dare call out his boss, Suzuki, for the IC, instead he would focus on Goto or Okada.

Toru Yano
Appearance: 13
Record (11-12)
Title Choice: Intercontinental
Other than the inaugural tournament, Toru Yano has appeared in every New Japan Cup. Four times he’s made it to the semifinals but never reaching the finals. Since he’s a member of Chaos, if he were to win he’d challenge Suzuki. Those two have a long history, exchanging wins on a regular basis.

Zack Sabre Jr.
Appearance: 1
Record (0-0)
Title Choice: Openweight or Heavyweight
Another Cup debut, Zack Sabre Jr. makes an appearance on behalf of Suzuki-Gun. He has history of challenging for the IC title but wouldn’t challenge Suzuki if he were to win this tournament. Many see him as this year’s dark horse because he’s one of few semi-credible challenges left for Okada. His first round opponent is Tetsuya Naito so the odds are stacked against Zack early.

Tetsuya Naito
Appearance: 7
Record (10-5)
Title Choice: Heavyweight or Intercontinental
2016 Winner
Not appearing in last year’s Cup due to holding the IC title, Tetsuya Naito makes his return. The last time he entered the tournament, he won and went on to challenge Okada. He defeated Okada, the last person to beat him for the title. History can indeed repeat itself this year but right now he seems to be in a bit of a battle with Suzuki-Gun. Recently fighting Taichi and now having Sabre in the first round. Also of note, Suzuki vaguely called him out this week, saying he’s pissed him off.

Kota Ibushi
Appearance: 2
Record (4-0)
Title Choice: Heavyweight
2015 Winner
The only time Kota Ibushi entered the tournament, he won. He went on to unsuccessfully challenge AJ Styles for the Heavyweight title. Now back to teaming with Kenny Omega, his future as a singles star is in question. No one should be doubting Ibushi though. He hasn’t lost a single match in the Cup so until he does he should remain the favorite.

YOSHI-HASHI
Appearance: 5
Record (0-4)
Title Choice: Intercontinental
Every time YOSHI-HASHI has entered the Cup he has lost in the first round. This year he faces a man who has never lost. This is a fun dynamic which screams upset but it’s hard to trust Y-H to get the job done. His history says you shouldn’t bet on him making it past the first round but it sure is an interesting story.

Lance Archer
Appearance: 4
Record (0-3)
Title Choice: Openweight or Heavyweight
2014 was Lance Archer’s last New Japan Cup where he lost to Prince Devitt in the first round. He is not known as a singles star but did have a match against Shinsuke Nakamura for the IC title in 2013. His last singles win came in the 2014 G1 Climax where he defeated Hirooki Goto. Currently, Goto is the NEVER Openweight Champion. Does this mean…? No, probably not.

Bad Luck Fale
Appearance: 5
Record (8-4)
Title Choice: Openweight, Intercontinental or Heavyweight
Never falling in the first round, Bad Luck Fale enters his fifth straight Cup. In both 2014 and 2017, Fale was a finalist, facing Shinsuke Nakamura and Katsuyori Shibata respectively. He is the true definition of wildcard. No one has any clue what this man will do and that’s what scares people.

Taichi
Appearance: 1
Record (0-0)
Title Choice: Openweight or Heavyweight
With only one heavyweight singles match under his belt, Taichi draws Tanahashi in the first round. Ouch. Taichi has some proving to do in this division and while Tanahashi is known to drop some big matches in the first round of the Cup, Taichi would be the biggest drop of his career.

Hiroshi Tanahashi
Appearance: 9
Record (14-6)
Title Choice: Intercontinental or Heavyweight
2005 & 2008 Winner
The ace of New Japan hasn’t won a Cup match since 2012, the year he lost to Hirooki Goto in the finals. Since then, he’s either been the champion (who doesn’t compete in the tournament) or has fallen in the first round. The people he’s lost to in the opening round are: Toru Yano, Bad Luck Fale and EVIL. Him losing to Taichi this year certainly isn’t too far away from being a possibility. He recently lost his IC title to Taichi’s boss, Minoru Suzuki, so he will be out for revenge.

Yujiro Takahashi
Appearance: 9
Record (3-8)
Title Choice: Openweight, Intercontinental or Heavyweight
Making his ninth straight Cup appearance, Yujiro Takahashi is looking to make a comeback. At one point this man was in the Openweight title picture. He has since fallen down the card, mainly being presented in the openers or close to them. His first round opponent is the man who defeated him in last year’s opener, Juice Robinson. Will Takahashi fall once again?

Juice Robinson
Appearance: 2
Record (1-1)
Title Choice: Openweight, Intercontinental or Heavyweight
Another dark horse in this year’s Cup, Juice returns for a second consecutive year. He fell to Katsuyori Shibata in the second round last year and this year his second round opponent wouldn’t be any easier. 2017 was huge for Juice, he challenged for the Openweight and IC titles, also making his G1 and Cup debuts. Juice seems to be trending upwards within the ranks of New Japan.

Tomohiro Ishii
Appearance: 10
Record (5-9)
Title Choice: Intercontinental
Looking to build upon his strong Cup showing in 2017, Tomohiro Ishii enters once again. Last year he managed his best Cup by making an appearance in the semifinals against eventual winner Katsuyori Shibata. There is heavy speculation that Ishii will shock the world by going against New Japan tradition and challenging Chaos stablemate, Okada. Ishii beat Okada in the 2016 G1 Climax but never received his title opportunity and has shown little interest at any title at all. Keep Ishii in mind when filling out your bracket.

Michael Elgin
Appearance: 3
Record (2-2)
Title Choice: Openweight, Intercontinental or Heavyweight
In the U.S., Michael Elgin is in the doghouse. His complicity in sexual harassment allegations has soured him to many. In New Japan, we’re unsure where he sits. In the past he’s had several title opportunities and is a former IC champion. It certainly wouldn’t be an upset if he were to defeat Tomohiro Ishii but it’d be a tough pill for many to swallow.

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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