There can be only one winner of NJPW’s New Japan Cup, but that doesn’t stop the other 31 entrants from taking their shot at glory. While these wrestlers won’t be going on to challenge Jay White at Madison Square Garden’s G1 Supercard, they turned out solid performances that could set them up for big 2019s.
NJPW loves a good tournament. Their entire year is basically made up of different tournaments to set up challengers for every title from the G1 Climax to the Best of the Super Juniors to the World Tag League.
What makes the New Japan Cup different is that it’s a single-elimination tournament rather than a massive, often multi-block round robin extravaganza. Coming so early in the year, the Cup is a way for a massive group of wrestlers to make their names ahead of the summer’s G1.
It’s safe to assume that most of the names on this list will compete in this year’s G1, but will they be able to parlay the stories they told in the Cup into summer success stories leading to Wrestle Kingdom 14? Only time will tell, but for now, let’s break down the top 5 performances from the New Japan Cup!
#5: Will Ospreay
Will Ospreay’s quest for 2019 has been to bridge the gap between Junior and Heavyweight. With a critical victory over Kota Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom, Ospreay began building that bridge with a huge first piece.
Since then, Ospreay has continued to evolve not only his in-ring style but his body. He’s beefed up a bit since his days of wrestling strictly as a Junior and has added some more striking and power moves to his arsenal.
With Stormbreaker, which he debuted last April, he laid the groundwork for his work as a power wrestler. With the addition of his Hidden Blade elbow, Ospreay popped a hugely useful quick-strike finisher to his tool belt. Both of these would need to be at the ready for the New Japan Cup.
In the tournament’s first round, Ospreay made relatively quick work of Bad Luck Fale. Fale dominated with his considerable size advantage for much of the match, but Ospreay proved that while he wants to connect the two worlds of Junior and Heavyweight, he’s not walking just one of those paths directly.
Ospreay used his speed and agility to keep Fale off-base when Fale wasn’t able to ground the Aerial Assassin. As Fale looked to end things with the Bad Luck Fall, Ospreay countered into a hurricanrana for the victory.
Against Lance Archer in the second round, Ospreay would once again combine his growing power with his familiar agility. Despite some absolutely brutal offense from Archer, Ospreay gritted his teeth and put Archer down for the count in surprising fashion – with the Stormbreaker.
Ospreay wasn’t able to make it past Okada in the quarterfinals, but his performances against Fale and Archer specifically proved that there is merit behind Ospreay’s words. Not only can he continue to fly with the best of them, but he now adds power to his skill set which is bound to throw other heavyweights off of their games.
As Ospreay continues to dance the line between Junior and Heavyweight, his 2019 will prove to be massively important for wrestlers who don’t quite fit into one category or the other. And, with a new spotlight being shone on the NEVER Openweight Title that championship could soon mean more than it has in years.