NJPW Releases Brackets For 2017 New Japan Cup

New Japan Pro Wrestling has revealed the brackets for its New Japan Cup tournament, which begins next month.

The New Japan Cup is an annual event in the promotion, a 16-man heavyweight tournament with the winner earning a shot at the IWGP World Heavyweight Title.

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Here are the pairings for the first round.

March 11, Aichi

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL
Tomoaki Honma vs. Tanga Loa
Michael Elgin vs. Bad Luck Fale
Toru Yano vs. Tama Tonga

March 12, Amagasaki City

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Minoru Suzuki
Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi
​​​​​​​Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega

The winners of these matches will advance to quarterfinal bouts, which take place March 13-15, and 17.

The semifinals are March 19, with the finals on March 20 in Niigata.

NJPW World will broadcast the two first-round events in their entirety, live, as well as the March 19 and 20 events. There will be English-language commentary for all four of those events. All the quarterfinal matches also will be uploaded to NJPW World. 

This year's field includes three first-time participants: Omega, Robinson (formerly known as CJ Parker in NXT) and SANADA.  Omega challenged unsuccessfully for the IWGP Title in January at Wrestle Kingdom, NJPW's biggest event of the year, in a highly acclaimed match. Following that contest, Omega announced he was taking a break from Japan, fueling speculation he would return to WWE.

The New Japan Cup winner traditionally challenges for the IWGP title at NJPW's April pay-per-view, which, this year, is dubbed Sakura Genesis and takes place on April 9.

Last year's winner of the New Japan Cup, Tetsuya Naito, went on to win the championship, besting Kazuchika Okada at Invasion Attack.

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