KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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-Kota Ibushi has signed a multi-year deal with NJPW. He had only wrestled as a freelance talent in the past for NJPW and other promotions around the world with his most notable run coming in the DDT promotion in Japan. voicesofwrestling.com were the first to report that Ibushi had signed with NJPW.
Radican’s Analysis: Ibushi has seemed to distance himself from Kenny Omega and AEW since the news of his signing with NJPW became public. Sources I’ve spoken to say that Ibushi hates to fly and travel long distances, so it’s not a surprise that he signed a contract with NJPW, who have been trying to be proactive in locking down talent recently under the new regime of president Harold Meij.
It is somewhat surprising that Ibushi has stated he doesn’t intend to wrestle in AEW. He has had a close relationship with AEW executive VP Kenny Omega for a long time, so it seemed to be a natural conclusion to draw that he would at least appear in AEW, but his signing with NJPW effectively ends that from being a possibility right now.
-The NJPW Cup begins tomorrow at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo and conclude in Niigata on March 24. The first round will run for four consecutive days. The winner of the tournament will challenge Jay White for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard event at Madison Square Garden on April 6.
The field is bigger than ever this year, as 32 participants have been announced. In the past, the NJPW Cup has feautred 16 wrestlers. David Finlay was supposed to be in the filed of 32 originally, but he has been pulled due to a shoulder injury he suffered during the Honor Rising tour last month. He will be replaced by Ryusuke Taguchi.
Notable additions to the field this year include Michael Elgin, who is returning from a knee injury that he suffered during the World Tag League last year. Also entering the tournament is Mikey Nicholls (Nick Miller in NXT). He got his release from WWE in December and Rocky Romero recently announced that Nicholls is going to be a member of the CHAOS stable.
HIKULEO is making his return to the company and entering the tournament. He was out for almost a year due to an ACL injury. He has also been training at the NJPW Dojo in Los Angeles. The final notable addition to the field is Colt Cabana, who has wrestled extensively in Japan in the past, but has never been a part of a major NJPW event.
The NJPW Cup will stream live on NJPW World with English commentary. The second round will take place on March 13, March 14. March 16 and March 17. The quarterfinal round will take place on March 20 and March 21. Finally, the semi-finals will take place on March 23 before the tournament concludes on March 24.
Here are the first round matches for the tournament:
March 8 – Korakuen Hall
- Yuji Nagata vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- Juice Robinson vs. Chase Owens
- Tomoaki Honma vs. Taichi
- Manabu Nakanishi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
March 9 – Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
- Toa Henare vs. Lance Archer
- Will Ospreay vs. Bad Luck Fale
- Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin
- Mikey Nicholls vs. HIKULEO
March 10 – Hyogo Baycom Gymnasium
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shota Umino
- EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
- Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
March 11 – Kagawa Takamatsu City General Gymnasium #1
- Toru Yano vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.
- Satoshi Kojima vs. Minoru Suzuki
- Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA
- Togi Makabe vs. Colt Cabana