August 21st, 18:30 from Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo
The Super J-Cup 2016 arrives as something of an afterthought following the excellent G1 Climax, which ended a week ago today. The first round took place at Korakuen Hall last month and was a decent show in its own right, but we move to a bigger venue for the Super J-Cup proper and the tournament matches are bolstered by IWGP and GHC junior tag title matches. Let’s get to it.
Here we go…
Eita (Dragon Gate), Yuma Aoyagi (AJPW) & David Finlay (NJPW) vs. Gurukun Mask (Ryukyu Dragon), Kaiji Tomato (Kaientai Dojo) & BUSHI (LIJ)
Everyone apart from Finlay was in the first round of the Super J-Cup and each of them got an individual entrance (it took a while). Also, everyone apart from Bushi is a face, which resulted in him sitting on the outside for while, but of course he ended up getting involved. He was tripled-teamed, but fought back before aggressively tagging Kaiji Tomato. Eita and Gurukun Mask had a nice exchange, then the hot tag was made to Finlay and Mr. Tomato. Bushi once again attacked his own teammate in order to get back in, but the fight spilled to the floor and Eita, Gurukun Mask and Aoyagi hit dives. This left Finlay and Bushi alone, and Bushi soon hit the diving Codebreaker for the win. Not much of a match, more a way of putting Bushi over, and in that regard it did the job. **
Super-J Cup Quarter-finals
Jushin Thunder Liger (NJPW) vs. Taichi (Suzuki-Gun)
Taichi, accompanied by El Desperado and a lady friend, took an age getting to the ring and taking off his entrance gear. Come on, mate, this is already going to be a long show. All of a sudden he was on top of Liger, trying to rip off his mask and throwing him around outside the ring. Liger lost it, attacking the young boys at ringside and powerbombing El Desperado in the ring. Liger dragged Taichi into the crowd but was soon outnumbered and, after being superkicked, was pinned to the floor by Desperado and counted out after Taichi ran back to the ring. Nothing to see here. *1/2
KUSHIDA (NJPW) vs. Kenoh (NOAH)
They jockeyed for advantage on the mat, and Kenoh had a little success, but Kushida found an opening to target the arm. He grounded Kenoh and applied the kimura, but Kenoh powered him up into a Falcon Arrow and followed with a seated dropkick for two. He tried too much too soon, however, and Kushida pulled him down from the top-rope with an armbreaker, then they fought up from the knees. Kenoh got back on top with kicks and landed the double stomp from the top followed by a Penalty Kick for a near-fall. The follow-up was blocked, and after a back-and-forth, Kushida tried to spin into the Hoverboard Lock. Kenoh stood his ground, so Kushida rolled into the cross armbreaker instead to forced the tap out. A competitive match and Kenoh looked pretty good despite Kushida being the clear choice to advance. ***1/4
Ryusuke Taguchi (NJPW) vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Suzuki-Gun)
Taguchi was the losing finalist in Best of the Super Juniors (BOSJ) and Kanemaru is the reigning GHC Junior Champion. Taguchi’s initial attacks were thwarted – every ass-based threat nullified – and Kanemaru DDT’d him on the exposed concrete floor. Taguchi literally had his ass kicked back in the ring and Kanemaru applied camel clutch and hit an atomic drop before Taguchi fired up. Multiple “hip attacks” followed, including a Boma Ye variation, but the Dodon was countered mid-air to a DDT and it was time for the elbow battle. This time the Dodon connected for a near-fall, then Kanemaru went low behind the referee’s back before delivering a reverse DDT. A diving DDT from the second-rope didn’t get the job done, but the brainbuster that followed put Taguchi down for the three-count. This was fine, but a match built around targeting one’s opponent’s derriere is generally going to have a low threshold for quality. **1/2
Will Ospreay (CHAOS) vs. Matt Sydal (ROH)
Both men brought their nation’s flags to the ring. Sydal’s had a peace sign instead of stars, the damn hippy! An intricate and even opening exchange, including Ospreay’s repeated kip ups, led to a rope break. Next came the flips and counters, and Ospreay finally struck the first blow with a dropkick, followed by a hard elbow, then Sydal caught him with a spinning heel kick as he slingshotted back into the ring. A sunset flip became a shoulderlock from which Ospreay made the ropes, but Sydal stayed on top with kicks and then applied the Muta Lock. A standing moonsault hit the knees and Ospreay landed a vertical suplex and handspring kick, then the Phenomenal Forearm sent Sydal to the floor and Ospreay followed with a corkscrew Sasuke Special! Cheeky Nandos back in the ring, but the attempted Rainham Maker was countered to the Slice. Ospreay rolled-through the pin attempt, but his powerbomb was countered to a hurricanrana pin for two. Strike battle, and Sydal landed with the high kick, but Ospreay backflipped to avoid the lariat and nailed the corkscrew roundhouse kick. He tried to follow with springboard move out of the corner, but Sydal hit a jumping inverted ‘rana and followed with the Shooting Star Press for the three-count! Something of an upset for sure, as the winner of Best of the Super Juniors goes out in the quarters. The match was a lot of fun, but Ospreay’s spot calling was obvious at times and the crowd took their time getting into it – that’s what you get for bringing flags to the ring. ***1/2
Titán, Caristico & Volador Jr. vs. Gran Guerrero, Euforia & Ultimo Guerrero
Titán competed in the first round of the tournament and looked good, as did Volador Jr. in BOSJ. Ultimo Guerrero and Co. were the rudos, as if it wasn’t obvious within seconds of the match starting, and we cycled through the various combinations to start. Not unlike New Japan’s Jr. Tag division, there was no regard for tag rules and this culminated in the rudos applying a triple submission. Eventually, the técnicos hit their dives and Volador Jr. delivered the Spanish Fly to Gran Guerrero for the win. I find that without storyline context, most Lucha feels like an exhibition, but this unashamedly was one. For that reason, I’m not going to give a rating, but it enjoyable enough while it lasted. N/R
Super J-Cup Semi-finals
Taichi vs. KUSHIDA
Taichi, who was once again accompanied to the ring, attacked Kushida on the entrance ramp, then stole Bushi’s t-shirt choke spot. The IWGP Junior Champion fired back, sending Taichi to the outside, but Taichi used his lady friend to prevent the dive and El Desperado did some dirty work on his behalf. While the referee was distracted, Taichi attacked with the ringbell hammer, then continued the beatdown until Kushida was able to land the springboard dropkick. A tope con hilo onto Taichi and El Desperado followed, then back in the ring, Kushida briefly managed to start the arm-work, but Taichi hit back with a head kick. Kushida slid out of the attempted Last Ride and span into the Hoverboard Lock, but El Desperado distracted the referee so that he missed the tap out, then Kushida was nailed with a sick unprotected chair shot. Two-count only! Last Ride from Taichi and somehow Kushida kicked out again! Taichi’s superkick was ducked and Kushida landed a straight punch before spinning his way into a small package for the win. I guess your enjoyment of this one depends on how much Taichi’s stalling and cheating heel act does it for you. In my case, not so much, but you can’t deny it’s effective and Kushida can make most matches watchable. ***
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Matt Sydal
The opening minutes established Sydal’s clear speed advantage, with Kanemaru presented as the canny veteran. He took the fight to the outside, then continued with an aggressive if uninspired beatdown in the ring. Sydal found some respite with a desperation spinning heel kick. Kanemaru hit multiple elbows, but Sydal invited more before he fired back and delivered double knees from the top-rope. The Shooting Star Press hit knees, but Sydal was first to his feet for a jumping knee strike. The jumping ‘rana in the corner was blocked, then Kanemaru connected with the jumping DDT for a near-fall. Lariat from Kanermaru, brainbuster, three-count. Good effort here and it felt like a hard fought match, but it ended just as it got going. ***
GHC Jr. Tag Team Championship
Atsushi Kotoge & Daisuke Harada (c) vs. ACH & Taiji Ishimori
ACH and Ishimori landed a couple of nice dives early on to put themselves in control. They hit a nice facebuster/cutter double team on Harada and ACH followed with chops and clotheslines until his charge was reversed to a belly-to-belly into the turnbuckle and the tag to Kotoge was made. He nailed a couple of kicks to both opponents and hit a cutter and top-rope splash onto ACH for a two-count. ACH kipped-up to duck a clothesline, then connected with slaps, but kicks put both men down. Tags made, and Ishimori hit a springboard dropkick and diving Codebreaker on Harada for two. After fighting over a tombstone, Ishimori hit a handspring kick, and he and ACH got on a double-team roll. Kotoge entered the fray to the same result, but the challengers’ stereo 450s hit knees for a double near-fall! Ishimori was hit with a sit-out inverted DVD by Harada and running leg lariat by Kotoge but somehow managed to kick out. Harada with the Henkei Knee Upper and then a variation to Ishimori, but ACH interrupted the count. He was dealt with via a drop toehold into a stiff knee lift, then Ishimori was left alone to receive a Killswitch from Kotoge and a German suplex from Harada, and that was enough for the three-count. Good stuff. ***1/2
Post-match, Ishimori and Kotoge challenged Jado and Gedo, and another NOAH vs. NJPW match is set up.
IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) vs. Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin
This was Shelley’s first appearance in New Japan since competing in the Super Jr. tag tournament with Kushida last November. He and Sabin looked pretty good here as the reunited Motor City Machine Guns, although I didn’t remember Shelley’s selling being quite so over-the-top. If you’ve watched any NJPW junior tag matches, you’ll have known what to expect, but all the same, it was good to see a plain old 2 vs. 2 tag. A whole lot of crazy, contrived spots were peppered throughout, but it felt like the bar was raised by the addition of a new team. The MCMG hit a lovely super Shiranui/powerbomb combination, which was broken up by Matt Jackson, then Shelley broke up the pin after the Bucks hit a 450/Moonsault. Shelley was on the receiving end of an Indytaker on the floor, and Sabin was left to fend for himself. The Meltzer Driver soon followed and the Bucks retained. Given the regularity with which these belts change hands it seems a shame not to have the debuting team win. Typically, I zone out of these matches, but addition of a new team and it not being a three/four-way was a welcome sight. ***3/4
Post-match, the Bucks challenge the Briscoes for the IWGP Heavyweight tag titles.
Super J-Cup Final
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. KUSHIDA
An exchange of pinning combinations led to a stand off, then Kushida directed a few kicks at Kanermaru’s arm before the Suzuki-Gun representative reversed a handspring elbow into a back suplex and followed with an apron-hung DDT to the floor. Three strong DDTs in the ring earned a near-fall, then the camel clutch was applied. Kushida powered out and tried to strike back, but Kanemaru cut him off and cinched in headscissors. Kushida managed to hit a reverse STO into the turnbuckle and, after sending Kanemaru to the outside, launched a flipping senton from the top-rope onto him and his Suzuki-Gun stablemates. Back in the ring, Kanemaru was caught in a cross armbreaker and made the ropes, but after resisting as long as possible the Hoverboard Lock was applied. He escaped by countering to a small package, then a low blow and a lariat connected for a two-count. Back came Kushida with a Dragon suplex and the handspring elbow, then a huge twisting moonsault connected, but referee Red Shoes Unno was dragged from the ring. A brawl ensued between the members of New Japan and Suzuki-Gun, and Taichi slid in the ring to hit Black Mephisto on Kushida. Kanemaru delivered the diving DDT for a two-count, then hit a nasty-looking suplex onto the apron (Kushida got caught in the ropes). Another diving DDT – this time from the top-rope – connected and Kushida just kicked out. Kushida then twice avoided the brainbuster and nailed a straight punch. He got rid of Taichi and finally was able to apply the Hoverboard Lock for the tap out victory. Overbooked for sure, but the crowd were into it (at last), as was I. Credit to Kanemaru for wrestling three matches in one night at the age of 39 and Kushida continues his excellent 2016. A deserving winner. ****
Post-match, Kushida’s former tag partner Alex Shelley returned to the ring to help him into the winner’s jacket. Promo, confetti, and we’re out.
Final thoughts: Fittingly, the final was the best match, and the tag title matches were good too, but this was too long and the crowd were quiet for most of it (although apparently that was due to the venue). As a whole, this fell flat for me, particularly after such an excellent G1 tournament. Perhaps Gedo needs to hand over the booking of the juniors to Liger – someone who’s invested and cares about the division – although I would concede that this particular show was almost more about setting up NOAH vs. NJPW. Either way, the Super J-Cup still has name value and this didn’t do it justice. To end on a positive, Kushida was as consistently good as we’ve come to expect, and was the right choice to win this. Stick to anything I rated ***1/4 or more and you’re in for a good time.
I’ll be back next month to cover the three Destruction shows. See you then.