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* The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
This show is the follow up to the highly excellent New Japan Super J ’94. With that show widely being considered one of the best tournaments ever, there are many people who do consider this one to be either on par, if not better. Again, like last year its a single elimination tournament with 4 rounds.
The competitors this time round were: Masayoshi Motegi, Gran Naniwa, Gedo, Ultimo Dragon, Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoit), Damien 666, Masaki Mochizuki, Sho Funaki, Dos Caras, Jushin Lyger, Shinjiro Ohtani, Hanzo Nakajima, El Samurai and Lionheart (Chris Jericho). Wild Pegasus and Jushin Lyger get byes into the quarter finals.
The line up this time round, I personally think, was weaker than the line up from Super J ’94. Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, TAKA Michinoku were all missing, but most notably, the MVP for Super J ’94, The Great Sasuke was missing from this years show.
I picked up my copy of this show from GoldenBoyTapes.com.
Anyway, on with the review starting with the First Round…
Gran Naniwa vs. Damien 666.
A really entertaining and fast paced match from start to finish. Match was dominated for the most part by Damien 666. Damien 666 is a really great wrestler, as he calls out the name of another wrestler and wrestles in their style. This just made the match really enjoyable as the offence throughout was so varied. High flying from both guys kept the match at a really good pace, with everything executed well. Finish came after Damien 666 missed a Moonsault and was caught by a Rana from Naniwa.
Shinjiro Ohtani vs. Masaki Mochizuki.
Mochizuki was unknown back then, but he is now one of the top stars in Toryumon. The match started out at an incredible pace with both guys striking one another, but leading to Mochizuki gaining the upper hand and nailing a perfect German Suplex. Match was short, but was so hard hitting and intense, well paced and well executed. Ohtani worked on the leg of Mochizuki to the finish, when he hit a missile dropkick to the knee and gained the submission from a Knee Bar.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Sho Funaki.
Yes, this is the same Sho Funaki who claims to be Smackdown’s No 1 Announcer. This match like the two previous started out at a high pace, but then was slowed down by Funaki’s mat wrestling and submission based offence. The pace quickened towards the end, with both guys nailing Fisherman Busters, but Dragon got the win following a Moonsault and a La Magistral Cradle. Match was okay, well executed offence, but Funaki slowed it down too much in the middle.
Gedo vs. Masayoshi Motegi.
Good start to the match with Motegi nailing a Belly to Belly, Dropkick and then a Plancha. Match was good throughout, well paced and was mostly dominated by Motegi, who worked over Gedo’s arm for most of the match. From last years tournament, Motegi’s offense is much more crisp and varied, but still is not to the standards of the other competitors. Gedo picked up the win via submission after applying a reverse Butterfly Lock to Motegi.
El Samurai vs Dos Caras.
This match was dominated by Caras from start to finish. Caras has a bewildering array of submissions, which he used to wear down El Samurai. Late comeback from Samurai after he nailed a Piledriver and a Powerbomb. Match was average pace and didn’t really have much variety to it due to Caras dominating the match. Finish came after Samurai missed a Diving Headbutt, which was followed by Caras hitting him with a Flying Bodypress for the pin.
Hanzo Nakajima vs. Lionheart (Chris Jericho).
Good high paced, back and forth match with some good aerial offence from both competitors. Match was well put together and was enjoyable throughout. Hanzo nailed some impressive offence during the match, as did Lionheart. Finish came after Jericho had nailed a Fisherman Buster, which he followed up with a Lionsault.
Now for the Second Round with Jushin Lyger and Wild Pegasus…
Jushin Lyger vs. Gran Naniwa.
Incredible fast paced start to the match with Naniwa going on the offensive straight away nailing Lyger with a Dropkick, top rope Rana followed by a Plancha to the outside. Lyger came back with some brutal offence including a Powerbomb and an ugly German Suplex. Match was balanced and well rounded, with both guys executing all their offence well and keeping the match to a good pace. Lyger finished Naniwa off with a Fisherman Buster.
Lionheart vs. Wild Pegasus.
In a similar way to the ’94 tournament which had Guerrero against Benoit, this time round we get this quarter final – Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit which is awesome everytime. This was an excellent match with both guys going toe to toe throughout, matching one anothers offence. Match started out with the technical wrestling, which was followed up by both guys unleashing some amazing suplexes and power moves. Pace was perfect, execution of moves was excellent and the match was balanced brilliantly. Finish came when Benoit hit a top rope Tombstone on Jericho.
Shinjiro Ohtani vs. Ultimo Dragon.
Another fast paced opening to a match, with both competitors looking for strikes and nailing aerial offence on their opponent. Match was then slowed down with some great, mat based submission wrestling. The pace quickened again later with more striking from both competitors. Great back and forth action which helped keep the pace of the match going. Both guys executed their moves well, except for the end of the match which was nothing but ugly. Dragon missed a Corkscrew Moonsault by about 3 feet, but got up like he nailed it. He then cradled Ohtani with La Magistral for the finish. Good match, ugly finish.
Gedo vs. Dos Caras.
This match was totally dominated by Dos Caras as he spent most of the match working over Gedo’s back. He used a huge amount of unique submissions, before starting to nail some big power moves like Powerbombs, Powerslams and Backbreakers. Finish came from out of nowhere after a low blow by Gedo, when he hit a DDT followed up by a Camel Clutch Cradle pin. Match was average with good execution of moves and pace. Match seemed to be carried by Caras from start to finish.
And then we move into Round Three…
Jushin Lyger vs. Ultimo Dragon.
Good submission based wrestling to start the match, followed by Lyger gaining the upper hand working over the leg of Ultimo Dragon. The match then continued at a very high pace throughout with some excellent back and forth offence from both guys. Match had something for everyone with crisp suplexes, excellent submissions, great high flying and awesome wrestling from start to finish. The balance of the match was perfect, as was the pace, psychology and execution of moves.
This match was by far the best match of this tournament and one of the best Junior Heavyweight matches ever. The match ran for about 18 minutes, but it felt more like 6 or 7 when watching it from start to finish. Match ended when Lyger countered La Magistral into a cradle of his own for the pin.
Wild Pegasus vs. Gedo.
Good, short and well paced match from these two. Benoit begun the match with a bang, dominating the first few minutes until Gedo hit a low blow and took advantage himself. Excellent suplexes as always from Benoit, with Gedo pulling out some good suplexes himself. Crisp execution on all moves also from both competitors. Props to Gedo also for taking one of the sickest Clothesline bumps I have ever seen, where he landed full force on his head. Finish came from a Brainbuster by Gedo followed up with a Swan Dive Headbutt. Good match.
Rey Mysterio Jr vs. Psicosis.
This was a special exhibition match allowing both guys to display their skills to a large, Japanese audience. Match started out with some mat based, submission wrestling. Then the pace of the match turned red hot as Rey Mysterio went on the offensive nailing several dives to the outside and loads of Rana variants. Psicosis nailed some good hard hitting offence including Powerbombs and a top rope Leg Drop. Match ended from a standing Rana by Rey. Match was nothing special, but was great fun to watch.
Jushin Lyger vs. Gedo.
Great match which started with Lyger taking the lead and destroying Gedo’s arm with some awesome, stiff shots and submissions. Gedo then came back with a low blow, but then it was back and forth from there with both guys nailing some huge moves, notably Lyger with the Fisherman Buster and Gedo with the Brainbuster. Overall, a well paced match with some excellent execution of moves and some good psychology. Finish came after Lyger nailed a huge, SUper Brainbuster.
Lyger, Pegasus and Dragon were all great throughout the tournament, with Gedo and Jericho putting in some good showings too. Overall, this time round Lyger was 100% M.V.P. as he was part of some of the best matches, was consistent in his performance and his execution of moves.
Even though he had improved since the ’94 tournament, Masayoshi Motegi was still not good enough to be in this tournament. His match with Gedo wasn’t bad, but his execution of moves in comparison to the other competitors was, despite his improvements.
Gedo’s goofy ring attire and ridiculous hair certainly were ugly, but the worst part of this show was the finish to the Ultimo Dragon/Shinjiro Ohtani match. The missed corckscrew moonsault was totally inexcusable and almost ruined a good match.
This tournament, much like Super J ’94 is awesome top to bottom. With great performances, great matches and none of the matches being terrible, this show is easy to recommend. I personally prefer the Super J ’94, but this is also a tournament that every wrestling fan should own.