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NJPW J Crown Tournament 1996 Review



15 June 2004

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* The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This show rounds out the big tournament trilogy of the mid 90's over in New Japan. This show may not be as highly regarded as the other two (Super J '94 and WAR Super J '95), but for historical significance this show is a must. All eight competitors were Champions going into the tournamnet, but they each put there title on the line. This meant that the winner of the tournament walked away with EIGHT championships.

The competitors were: Masayoshi Motegi, Ultimo Dragon, Gran Hamada, Great Sasuke, Justin Lyger, Shinjiro Ohtani, El Samurai and Neguro Casas.

The only major junior title that was not on the line in this tournament was the WCW Cruiserweight Title. The show starts out with a clip of all eight men laying down their titles signifying that the belts are on the line and that its all or nothing for the eight competitors.

I picked up this show along with the other two over at GoldenBoyTapes.com

Anyway, on with the review starting with the Opening Round...

Masayoshi Motegi vs. The Great Sasuke.

A solid opening match which was dominated by Motegi and his work on Sasuke's leg. Match started out with a Dropkick followed by a Plancha from Motegi. Both guys kept the pace going well with some good flurrys of offence, with some well executed and very crisp moves. Both guys used some excellent high flying offence in the match, especially Sasuke's Tope Con Hilo. Finish came when Sasuke nailed Motegi with a Tiger Suplex for the pin. Overall, a decent match.

Ultimo Dragon vs. Jushin Lyger.

This match is an absolute shocker! For the time the match lasted it was a phenomenal match, with awesome offence, execution and timing from both competitors. Considering the match lasted around 3 minutes, the offence packed in this match was astounding. Lyger nailed his usual stiff Koppo Kick and a really ugly release German Suplex. Dragon by comparison did some great high flying like the Somersault Plancha. Finish came following a series of reversals of the La Magistral Cradle, with Ultimo Dragon coming out on top.

Neguro Casas vs. Shinjiro Ohtani.

Good back and forth match starting out with the traditional mat-based submission wrestling. This led on into both guys nailing some strikes heading into the end of the match. Good execution and pacing throughout the match. Casas nailed some good Senton variants while Ohtani used his usual array of kicks, and good outside dives from both competitors. Finish of the match went to Ohtani after a series of springboard Missile Dropkicks followed by springboard Spinning Wheelkick.

El Samurai vs. Gran Hamada.

Some good mat-based wrestling to start out the match leading into some strikes and grappling. Match was dominated for the most part by Hamada. Big finish to the match from Samurai who came back with a Tombstone, Powerbomb and Diving Headbutt. Good execution again, with a good flowing pace and good timing from both competitors. Finish came after Samurai nailed a second Powerbomb on Hamada for the pinfall.

Now for the Semi-Finals...

Shinjiro Ohtani vs. Ultimo Dragon.

This is easily the best match of this whole tournament and one of the best Junior Heavyweight matches ever. Match started out at a great pace with some good psychology with Ohtani escaping from the La Magistral twice. This was followed by some excellent submission work, which was broken up by some small spots in between to help keep the high pace. The finish came after a Super Reverse Suplex and Running Lygerbomb by Dragon.

Every move in this match was well executed, the psychology was awesome, the timing was immaculate, the pace was spot on, but most importantly, the intensity of the match was phenomenal. This was shown through both guys at the end of the match unleashing every move they had to try to gain the pinfall over their opponent. Ohtani's facial expressions when Dragon kicks out of not only the springboard Spinning Wheel Kick, but also the Dragon Suplex are priceless.

El Samurai vs. The Great Sasuke.

Match started out with Samurai gaining the upper hand with a Piledriver and a Suicide Dive. This was followed by some submission work by Samurai, who focused on attacking Sasuke's knee. This match basically boiled down to a battle between high impact and high risk. Samurai nailing some big high impact moves like his Powerbomb, suplexes and Reverse DDT's. Sasuke obviously used all his kicks and high flying like the Asai Moonsault and Missile Dropkick to the outside. Finish of the match came following a German Suplex, which was followed by a Powerbomb by Sasuke.

This was a very good match with crisp execution of moves, good pace and good timing from both competitors. Not as good as Ohtani/Dragon, but a different kind of match, which worked really well overall.

And then the Final...

The Great Sasuke vs. Ultimo Dragon.

Good match that started out with some good technical wrestling, broken up well with some shorts spots. Dragon got the advantage early on with an Asai Moonsault followed by a brutal Brainbuster Suplex. Excellent execution throughout, with only one exception which seemed to cut the match short. Sasuke came off the top with a Somersault Plancha, but hit his head on the floor after losing his footing. Due to this, the match ended out of nowhere with a Powerbomb from Dragon being reversed by Sasuke into Rana for the pin. Match was kept at a high pace as expected from these two, and overall was entertaining to watch.

Now...

The Good

The Great Sasuke, El Samurai and Ultimo Dragon put in good performances throughout, but my pick for M.V.P. of this tournament is Ohtani. His performance in the match against Ultimo Dragon is fantastic and is easily the best performance of the entire tournament.

The Bad

With what is a recurring theme in all three of these tournaments, Motegi again is the worst performer of the bunch. His execution has clearly improved since his performance from the Super J '94, but he is not in the same league as the other competitors in this tournament.

The Ugly

In what was otherwise a near flawless show, Sasuke's Somersault Plancha from the final is just damn ugly. His head hits the concrete floor unprotected and he is clearly shook up after the fall.

Most people don't rate this show as highly as the Super J '94 or '95, but I think it has a rightful spot next to those shows, not just as part of the trilogy, but the perfect way to round it out. It is shorter than the other two and like those is one of the best Junior Heavyweight Tournaments of all time.

Grade: A

Christopher Locke



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