My review of the tournament that everyone forgot trundles into the final station as we blast through the semis and the final on one show. If you’ve seen any New Japan programming since this happened then you know who won, but let’s pretend we don’t for the fun of it. Who are you betting on? I reckon Caristico is going to take it home.
Dragon Lee defeated Caristico in the Super J-Cup Semi-Final
Lee and Caristico made the smart decision to have Caristico heel it up. After a fairly standard lucha start, he began to go after Lee’s mask, before mocking the crowd with a wiggle of his hips. Dragon Lee was always going to be the more popular of the two, so leaning into that made all the sense in the world.
Unfortunately, the match never seemed to find the extra gear that it needed. Lee was good, showing fire as he went through his Shibata tribute, but there was also weird moments like him very obviously setting Caristico up to flip into a Canadian Destroyer. It felt a bit like they were going through the motions rather than pushing for something special.
To be fair to the two of them, it did look like Caristico might be injured as he seemed to have issues with his shoulder during the action while Lee went to check on him seconds after he’d got the win. It happens, and while I didn’t love this, it wasn’t bad either. They did enough to hit fine.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
El Phantasmo defeated Will Ospreay in the Super J-Cup Semi-Final
Phantasmo attacked Ospreay during his entrance and left him lying on the outside after a sustained assault. Despite that, Will made it back to the ring and exploded into action, forgetting that he could barely stand a second before to hit a Standing Spanish Fly and a Sasuke Special.
What followed veered from a lot of fun to kind of annoying. I think it’s time to accept that I’m never going to like heel Phantasmo (I did enjoy parts of his pre-Bullet Club work). There’s something about him that pisses me off and watching him stand on Billy’s balls wasn’t enough to change that opinion.
Will leaping into the front row to hit Pip Pip Cheerio (stupid name) and Phantasmo leaping off the middle turnbuckle into a Destroyer were great, even if Will’s selling of the later was ridiculous. It didn’t stop this leaving me cold, though, and when Ishimori charged out to hit a Bloody Cross and set Phantasmo up for CR2, I didn’t even feel angry. It’s hard to get worked up about something you don’t care about.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
El Phantasmo defeated Dragon Lee to win the Super J-Cup
Before the match could get started, White, Gedo and Ishimori came out to be in Phantasmo’s corner. However, Red Shoes has learnt his lesson, and much like at the G1 Final, he sent them straight back. It still worked as a nice distraction for ELP to attack Lee, though.
What followed was a classic match of two halves, with the first going to type. Dragon Lee had some great fiery moments, but ELP’s control period was dull. One of the hardest things to do in wrestling is working someone over and making it interesting, as it’s only the truly elite workers that can pull it off. ELP is not that.
Then, when Lee did his cool handspring off the apron, Phantasmo caught him and Powerbombed him over the barricade through a table. He’d follow up by Springboarding from the ring to crash down with a Double Stomp, coming up gushing blood from who knows what. Now, I’m not someone who needs blood in my wrestling, but fuck did that add to this. Suddenly, this match became a war, two men slugging it out while Phantasmo’s blood stained the ring and their bodies. At one point, Lee smeared it across ELP’s face before licking it off his hand.
And there was still the occasional bit of ELP bullshit. Despite being in a war, he chose to go for a walk along the ropes (why? What does it fucking achieve? Fair enough if you’re pissing about in a mid-card tag, but in the final of a prestigious tournament where you’re gushing blood?) and he would use a low blow to set-up the win, but on the whole this was a Phantasmo I could get behind. He was a prick, but a prick who was slugging it out with Dragon Lee.
Even with the low blow, the finish still looked awesome. Phantasmo hit an Avalanche version of that Torture Rack Neckbreaker he does, stepping on the rope to get the spin. He’d then follow up with a CR2, and I’ve gone from giving up on the guy to enjoying the heck out of one of his matches, don’t you love wrestling?
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
ELP’s post-match promo started with him demanding Liger put the fancy gold jacket on him. The Thunder God was having none of that and stormed off with ELP calling after him with a promise to retire him before the Dome (which panicked people as they thought he said at the Dome).
Phantasmo would then move onto Ospreay, calling him out which brought Ishimori to the ring too, attacking Will from behind and kicking off a quick brawl that Eagles got involved in too. Ospreay then stated he and Eagles’ intention to challenge for the Junior Tag Titles which, of course, came to pass.
New Japan had (quite obviously) edited out a bit of this promo because ELP originally made some comments about Ospreay being autistic which (rightly) annoyed some people. To be fair, I do think ELP gave a genuine apology, but everyone will have to make their own decisions as to whether that was the case or not.
That was two mediocre semi-finals followed by a great main event. Going into the final, I was starting to question the logic of watching the entirety of a tournament that I knew was going to be won by someone I dislike, but ELP pulled it out the bag at the end, giving me hope that in a big title match he might do the same.
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