We put the call out to our staff writers to determine the final rounds of NJPW’s New Japan Cup 2022. This year, unlike previous years is a 48 man contest, including 16 “play-in” matches where the top talent of New Japan must wrestle twice in order to advance to the next round. Because of the volatility of those rounds and the repeating nature of the tournament, we decided to ask for the winners from the Semifinals to the conclusion. Using our best deductions in the way of all things New Japan, here’s what our staff of C.J. Tappin, Steven Conway, and Jeremy Finestone.
C.J. Tappin: Despite the broad 48-man field, a lot of the 2022 New Japan Cup feels easy to predict. A lot of these first, second, and third-round bouts are foregone conclusions. However, it’s when you get to the elite eight and beyond that the picking gets tough.
My top left match-up in my elite eight is Kazuchika Okada vs CIMA. In the previous round, I have Okada surviving the oft-dangerous Toru Yano, and CIMA getting an upset victory over CHAOS mainstay Hirooki Goto to create a fresher match-up. If CIMA beats Okada I’ll buy a Telsa for everyone who reads this.
My bottom left is Tetsuya Naito vs Jeff Cobb. These two had a fun match in the Tokyo Dome that left me puzzled as Naito won until he challenged the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Okada. I think Cobb gets his win back here.
Top-right has the returning Kota Ibushi against Will Ospreay. Ibushi’s match-ending injury in the G1 finals was jarring and devastating, so I’m thrilled he’s back. I’d love to see him win here, but I can’t see Ospreay taking a quarter-final exit after a massive loss in the Tokyo Dome main event.
My bottom right match-up of EVIL vs Shingo Takagi is the one I least look forward to. EVIL just kinda stinks to watch right now. No disrespect to the man. Takagi will win this.
My left semifinal sees Cobb defeating Okada, setting up a future title match. My right semifinal has Takagi getting a win over Ospreay to set up a Cobb vs Takagi final (and avoid an Ospreay vs Cobb final), with Cobb getting the win, his first Cup, and the title match he will double-earn with a win over Okada as well as the entire tournament.
WINNER: Jeff Cobb
Unfortunately, one name was upended before the tournament even started. Kota Ibushi was pulled from the card just days before he was to return. He was set for a clash with Zack Sabre Jr. Hopefully, Ibushi recovers fully soon.
NEVER Champion EVIL and U.S. Champion SANADA are participating, but they need challengers, not a NJ Cup win. While both might advance a bit, I don’t think they’ll be winning.
As for the rest of the final eight, I think Okada will come out of his side, and face fellow CHAOS member Hirooki Goto.
I believe Hiroshi Tanahashi’s loss of the U.S. title sets him up for a run here, and he’ll emerge from his part of the bracket. I sense Naito suffering an early upset due to House of Torture interference.
On the other side, I’m hoping for an Sabre-Ospreay match in the final 8 with Ibushi out. Gedo might not be able to resist stablemates Ospreay and Great-O-Khan meeting instead. That could be followed by Shingo meeting EVIL, although I’d rather see Minoru Suzuki there.
I feel Goto could pick up a mild upset win over Okada. Then I see Tanahashi beating Cobb, then Goto to make the finals. I think Ospreay will get the win over Sabre in the quarters but fall to Shingo in the semifinals.
After a runner-up finish in 2021, I think it’s Shingo who comes through and gets the New Japan Cup victory in 2022.
WINNER: Shingo Takagi
Jeremy Finestone: I see Okada beating CIMA in the top bracket, while I have Tanahashi tapping into some Ace Magic to topple Jeff Cobb in their bracket so it’s a classic Tanahashi vs Okada match in the semifinals. There are a lot of possibilities with regards to who could advance in Tanahashi’s bracket, including Naito and Cobb. Logic would suggest that because of the recency of Okada racing those two, that they would avoid going back to those matches immediately.
On the other side of the tournament, there are many more likely options to win the Cup. On the top half, You’ve got Kota Ibushi, Great O’Khan, Zach Sabre Jr, Sanada, and Will Ospreay all as viable winners. On the bottom side, it seems almost a lock that EVIL clears the bracket, but after a gruesome amount of damage to his body in 2021, Tomohiro Ishii defeats him in the opening round only to fall to EVIL in the semifinals. But for those worried that I’m predicting EVIL? I am not. I think after several fantastic showings in the New Japan Cup, ZSJ clears everyone out and wins the Cup against Kazuchika Okada.
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr