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* The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
This show is the show that gets most people including myself watching Puroresu, so I thought it would be the best place to start my reviews. This is widely considered one of the best tournaments ever and also one of the best overall shows ever. Its a single elimination tournament with 4 rounds.
The competitors were: Masayoshi Motegi, Super Delphin, Gedo, Black Tiger (Eddie Guerrero), Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoit), Dean Malenko, Ricky Fuji, TAKA Michinoku, Great Sasuke, Justin Lyger, Shinjiro Ohtani, Hayabusa, El Samurai and Neguro Casas. Wild Pegasus and The Great Sasuke had byes into the quarter finals.
This was basically a who’s who of the best Junior Heavyweight wrestlers in the world with one notable exception missing for me (Ultimo Dragon).
Anyway, on with the review starting with the First Round…
Gedo vs. Dean Malenko.
A really solid opening match with some ultra crisp, technical wizardry from Malenko at the beginning. The match was paced really well and all the offence was crisp, notably Gedo’s Tombstone Piledriver and Malenko’s Top Rope Crossbody and Jackhammer. Finish came when Gedo caught Malenko with a powerslam, in what was a really enjoyable match.
Shinjiro Ohtani vs. Super Delphin.
Another solid match which starts with Ohtani doing a complete clinic on Delphin’s leg, applying loads of submissions and attacking the knee. The match again was well paced and was helped by the stiffness of both competitors. Ohtani just kicked the hell out of Delphin, but Delphin brought it right back with a stalling Brainbuster. Match ended out of nowhere though, with a Tornado DDT and the Delphin Special by Super Delphin.
TAKA Michinoku vs Black Tiger (Eddie Guerrero).
Really fun match which starts out at a ridiculous pace with Eddie hitting the Tope Con Hilo, Folding Powerbomb and Running Back elbow within the opening 60 seconds. There seemed to be a bit of miscommunication at first between the two competitors, but then it got going with some really great offence. TAKA hit the Spaceman Plancha and Eddie nailed the Frog Splash (different to how it does it now). Ending came when Eddie hit a Tornado DDT.
El Samurai vs. Masayoshi Motegi.
What looked to be a good start to the match went a bit off the boil with Motegi falling off the top rope close to the start. Match was hurt by some blown spots by Motegi, but Samurai was crisp as ever and held the match together well. Delphin nailed a Powerbomb to end the match following a German Suplex.
Ricky Fuji vs. Neguro Casas.
This was a very basic match from who I consider to be the two weakest competitors in the tournament. However, blown spots were kept to a minimum, the pace of the match was okay and all the offence from both guys was basic and well executed. The finish went to Fuji after he hit Casas with a Tiger Driver.
Hayabusa vs. Jushin “Thunder” Lyger.
This was my favourite of the opening matches, but it does feature two of my favourite Junior Heavyweights. Match starts with Hayabusa hitting a Somersault Plancha. Match was crisp with a couple of exceptions from Hayabusa (most notably the Shooting Star Press), but it didn’t hurt the match as Lyger recovered each time really well. Good high flying from Hayabusa and excellent offence from Lyger all round. Lyger finished the match with a Fisherman Buster.
Now for the Second Round with Wild Pegasus and The Great Sasuke…
Super Delphin vs. Gedo.
For me, this was one of the worst matches of the whole tournament. Match was dominated by Super Delphin who started out working over Gedo with some technical offence. Match seemed to lack flow and pace as both competitors didn’t click with one another. The offence in the match was good and well executed, but the match just didn’t flow at all. The finish came from Gedo reversing the Delphin Special into a cradle for the pinfall.
Black Tiger vs.Wild Pegasus.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit is an awesome match everytime. Match was fantastically paced and had a bit of everything for everyone. High Flying, Technical, Stiffness, this match was just great from start to finish. The match went back and forth throughout allowing both men to showcase their skills and offence. As always with these two the offence was executed to perfection. The only black spot was the finish, Benoit countering a top rope cross-body into a powerslam, which looked more like an armdrag.
The Great Sasuke vs. El Samurai.
Similar to the previous match, this had everything from top to bottom, with one hell of a hot finish to the match. This match featured some of the best high flying in the tournament with Sasuke nailing The Space Flying Tiger Drop and Samurai nailing a Somersault Plancha. Match was excellently paced and the crowd got really into the finish of the match. The match ended when Sasuke rolled through a Rana attempt from Samurai and holding him for the pin.
Jushin “Thunder” Lyger vs. Ricky Fuji.
Again a decent match, with the best offence coming from Lyger. Again, like the first round Fuji kept his offence basic, but this allowed him to keep everything crisp. Lyger brought some really awesome moves like the release German Suplex and the Double Foot Stomp off the top to the outside! Match was well paced, but was nothing special considering the two previous matches. The ending was a surprise as it came out of nothing when Lyger came off the top and nailed a Rana.
And then there was four as we move into Round Three…
Wild Pegasus vs. Gedo
This was an excellent match, full of great moves and it ran at such a fast pace. There was plenty of counter wrestling and reversals to help tease the crowd to the finish. Both guys were on form, hitting everything to near perfection. Gedo nailed a top rope Moonsault to the outside and Benoit ended the match with the Swan Dive Headbutt. Overall though, the best thing about this match was the fast pace, but also the high level of intensity from both competitors.
The Great Sasuke vs. Jushin “Thunder” Lyger
This is one of my favourite Junior Heavyweight matches of all time. It starts out with some good mat wrestling and both guys trading submission holds. Then Lyger takes the upper hand until Sasuke hits a beautiful Asai Moonsault and Top Rope Somersault Plancha. Sasuke kept on him with a Crucifix Powerbomb and Tombstone. Lyger gets back on offence and gets several near falls of some really awesome high impact moves. Finish came from a Rana by Sasuke.
This match is worthy of this short play by play as it is the best match of the entire tournament. It had perfect pacing, awesome psychology from both guys and excellent, crisp offence. I couldn’t find a fault with this match, other than the finish, which was recovered in a really good way.
Round Four, The Final…
The Great Sasuke vs. Wild Pegasus
This would easily be near the top of any list of Junior Heavyweight matches, but was just piped to Match of the Night by Sasuke vs. Lyger. Match was awesome, with most of the match being dominated by Benoit, who nailed all kinds of offence from dragon suplexes to springboard back elbows! Sasuke also hit some amazing offence, like the Space Flying Tiger Drop and also a missile dropkick to the outside. Match had perfect pace and excellent psychology. The finish came when Benoit nailed a top rope Gutwrench Suplex.
Lyger, Pegasus and Sasuke were easily the top three guys in this tournament. Each one was involved in at least one of the two best matches, but the M.V.P. must go to Sasuke who featured in the Final, but also the best Second Round match, and the best Third Round match.
Other than Gedo’s ridiculous ring attire, the only person who put in a below average performance was Masayoshi Motegi. El Samurai struggled to hold their match together and it was certainly a good thing that he didn’t go onto the later stages.
This show is just so damn good that there is not a single wrestler that I can say put in an ugly performance. The only thing that was below bad was Hayabusa’s Shooting Star Press, which he blew attempting it on the guy who invented the move!
Overall this is one of the best wrestling shows of all time and is certainly one of the best tournaments of all time. Everyone who is a fan of innovative, spectacular wrestling should own a copy of this show as you will not be disappointed.