Does anyone still care about the Super J-Cup? It’s took ages for New Japan to get these up on World and then it’s taken even longer for me to get around to reviewing them. It makes it hard to imagine anyone is clamouring for my opinion (please don’t point out that no-one has ever clamoured for my opinion on anything). Oh well, I’m going to give it anyway. These shows took place in America last month, so let’s see what went down.
El Soberano Jr defeated Rocky Romero in the Super J-Cup First Round
Rocky Romero got a hero’s reception, but when Soberano started pulling out his flippy shit, the fans proved to be a fickle bunch. Not that Romero was complaining, he leaned into it, convincing Soberano to shake his hand before getting a cheap shot in. Amazingly, they then got a (small) fight forever chant following a chop exchange, someone was overexcited.
With Rocky established as the heel, he and his sneaky style tried to ground the luchador. The wily veteran was a step ahead of Soberano, cutting off his offensive flurries with ease and stepping out of the way of a Crossbody. Soberano was wrestling fancy, but Rocky was wrestling smart.
A bit of fancy can get you out of a sticky situation, though. As Rocky came charging in, Soberano was able to catch him with a Superkick before leaping off the top with a Tornillo to get the three, putting to an end an enjoyable match. There was nothing here you had to see, but it was an easy watch.
Verdict: Three Stars
TJP defeated Clark Connors in the Super J-Cup First Round
I do not like TJP. He has one of those faces that I want to punch. Annoyingly, that also made him the perfect opponent for the clean-cut rookie, Connors.
These two worked a very technical contest, focusing on smooth chain wrestling and mat work. There was a cool section where they locked hands and kept them clasped through a series of moves, neither man willing to relinquish their hold. That earned a ‘this is awesome’ chant, continuing my theory that this crowd wanted to love the show (which is no bad thing).
The best thing was how comfortable Connors looked in there. This was pre-Young Lion Cup, but it appeared he was given freedom to work away from the Young Lion style, and the only thing here that marked him out as a rookie was his trunks. If he’s already capable of having matches like this, we should be very excited for his future.
Connors got a couple of big kick-outs towards the end, the most notable of which was after a Superplex/Brainbuster combo, before eventually falling victim to an STF with a stupid set-up. Still, that was a good showing and worth watching for Connors’ performance alone.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Caristico defeated BUSHI in the Super J-Cup First Round
Whoever chose the dubbed music for Caristico deserves, well, I’m not sure what they deserve, but it’s something. It was a chilled out jam that was completely unsuited to being used as entrance music.
That aside, Caristico and BUSHI had a match. I don’t know, nothing about this excited me. It started well, BUSHI attacking Caristico from behind before leaping over the top to hit a Rana on the floor. However, after that, it just trundled along, neither man doing anything to get you engaged in the action.
It wasn’t bad either, Caristico got the win with a nice Spanish Fly, but it was hard to get enthused about what they were doing. They did fine, I can’t say much more than that.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Jonathan Gresham in the Super J-Cup First Round
With Taguchi playing the clown, it’s easy to forget that he’s a good wrestler. Out there with Gresham, you got wee hints of his abilities, mixed in with a liberal sprinkling of comedy. All the nifty counters and technical touches that he used during the opening of this match spoke of a man who knows what he’s doing.
Gresham is rather good at that stuff too, and when they were done with the comedy, he began attacking Taguchi’s arm. It wasn’t a high flying flurry or a selection of hard-hitting blows, but simple, back to basics wrestling as he and the Master of the Funky Weapon battled for control.
It led to a match that was entertaining if not particularly thrilling. In many ways, it felt like a Sunday afternoon film with a touch of comedy followed by some light action. Even the finish avoided anything too violent, Taguchi catching Gresh in a flash pin to make it through the first round.
Verdict: Three Stars
El Phantasmo defeated Robbie Eagles in the Super-J Cup First Round
New Japan doesn’t seem to trust that the ELP and Eagles feud will get over in front of a Japanese audience. Outside of Best Of The Super Juniors and the Birds of Prey Junior Tag Title shot, the major moments have happened in Australia or, with this match, America. Usually, New Japan saves its big feuds for the home crowd, but they have decided this is one that they can give away.
I don’t blame them for that because this match frustrated the shit out of me. Robbie is great, and when he and Phantasmo were having a wrestle, this was pushing in that direction too. They have chemistry and were smoothly dancing around the ring with a streak of violence thrown in for good measure. Eagles hit a ridiculously brutal dive in the opening minutes that saw them both end up in the front row.
The problem is ELP and his frat-boy humour. He should hate Eagles for turning his back on Bullet Club, but he was just as focused as spitting on his hand and tweaking Eagles’ nipples as he was beating the shit out of him. None of it is funny, and it makes ELP look like a twat.
Throw in the low blow that got Phantasmo the roll-up win (it came after an awesome run of Eagles’ offence which made it all the more annoying), and I struggled to love this match. It was good, but far from great.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Dragon Lee defeated YOH in the Super J-Cup First Round
YOH and Dragon Lee are quietly two of my favourite wrestlers. They both have move-sets that combine fantastic high flying with brilliant technical ability, and that ticks all my Junior Heavyweight boxes.
That technical ability was on display here as YOH slowed things down by going after Lee’s leg. There was a cool moment where Dragon Lee escaped momentarily, going for a dive to the outside only for YOH to move, forcing him to adjust and almost handspring off the apron to his feet. Was YOH impressed by that incredible display of athleticism? No, he was standing in wait to Dropkick that leg out from under him.
Despite having that leg ripped apart, Lee kept coming back, refusing to die. With the fans firmly in his corner (they seemed a bit unimpressed with YOH’s limb work if I’m honest), he came to life after escaping a Calf Crusher, hitting a series of knees and a sloppy Poison Rana before getting the win with Descunadora. Even more impressively, he sold the knee brilliantly throughout, never forgetting that it had been tortured all match.
I wasn’t quite sure how to rate this as the slightly flat crowd took away from it a bit, but fuck it, I thought it was great. In another venue with a crowd more appreciative of the limb work of YOH and the selling of Dragon Lee, it would have been pushed a bit higher up the ratings. However, I still thought it was a hella impressive match, and easily the best so far.
Verdict: Four Stars
Taiji Ishimori defeated SHO in the Super J-Cup First Round
Ishimori has had a bit of a rough year since losing the Junior Heavyweight Title, struggling with injury through Best Of The Super Juniors and feeling like the secondary player in his tag team with ELP. It’s made it easy to forget just how good he is.
However, watching him smoothly take SHO apart in this match you quickly remember. Ishimori makes the complex look simple, and even if those in attendance were distracted enough to start a Red Shoes’ chant (he gifted them with a little dance), I found it a pleasure to watch him work.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t pick up with SHO’s comeback, though. With Shingo graduating to heavyweight, he’s officially the Junior powerhouse, and his offence is brilliantly explosive. He focused in on Ishimori’s arm, but if YOH was precision than SHO is a fucking hammer, and it quickly turned into an exchange of big moves.
Eventually, SHO’s power moves would prove too much to Ishimori as he gave him the most painful back cracking of all time with a Powerbreaker before spiking him on his head with Shock Arrow. That was a brilliant match that worked perfectly in contrast to the one before, great stuff.
Verdict: Four Stars
Will Ospreay defeated Amazing Red in the Super J-Cup First Round
You can not overestimate Amazing Red’s influence on what wrestling has become in recent years. When he exploded onto the scene, he was doing things that no-one had seen before. We all know Will likes to blow his own trumpet, but there was no denying that Ospreay vs Red was a cross-generational dream match.
The question was whether they could live up to it. Red looked in good shape, but coming into this match he’d been in the ring ten times since the start of 2018 (according to Cagematch), and he was going to have to raise his game if he wanted to be on Ospreay’s level.
It was a fact Ospreay made clear early on as Red hesitated before going for a kick, seemingly showing Will respect. In response, he got a smack in the face. It was a nice way of telling the fans that it was okay to be in Red’s corner, as Will followed up by allowing the legend to explode with a flurry of high-paced offence. He ain’t dead yet, kid.
What followed was a display of brilliant dickheadedness from Will. He seemed determined to prove he wasn’t this generation’s Amazing Red, but a better version of him, leaping over a table to hit a vicious Dropkick. Did jumping over the table make the move hurt more? No, he just wanted to show he could do it. He then took the action back to the ring, slowing things down as he used his superior size and strength to try and keep Red on the mat.
It’s a tactic many have tried, but few have succeeded at, and eventually, Will seemed to realise that if he wanted to beat his hero, he was going to have to best him at his own game. This became a ridiculous game of one-upmanship, two men doing one incredible thing after another. Whether it was Ospreay hitting an Oscutter on the apron or Red leaping off the turnbuckle post to the floor, these two were going for the spectacular.
And, of course, it was basically a brilliant spotfest, but when it’s this good, who cares? These two provided a metric shit tonne of standout moments, and I don’t care if it was lacking an intricate story or great selling. It was Red trying to prove he can still go and Ospreay wanting to show he’s better than his hero, what more do you need? I’m happy with all the cool moves.
To nitpick, it did not need to be as long as it was. By the end, it felt like they were going overboard, trying to cram too much in when there were two or three moments where it could have ended. Eventually, though, Will connected with the Hidden Blade, Top Rope Oscutter and a Stormbreaker for the three, emptying the tank to get the win and making sure Red went down looking strong.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
I give Will a lot of shit for being a fucking moron, but the promo he cut after the match was heartfelt and genuine. He was determined to let Red know just how important he was and did a cracking job of doing exactly that. Fair play to him.
I probably went a bit overboard spaffing on about that main event, but this show started slow and got better as it went. By the last three matches, I was fully on board, and it’s just a shame that the way New Japan’s released it means a lot of people probably won’t bother with it. If you are one of those people, at least go out of your way to check them out, they’re worth it.
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