Metalhead Reviews NJPW’s Super J-Cup 2016 Round 1 (Titan vs Ospreay, Taguchi vs Harada, KUSHIDA vs Ishimoru)

Amidst the on-going G1 Climax madness, NJPW also decided to held the first round of 2016’s version of their legendary Super J-Cup tournament. With some amazing talents in there, let’s see how the show went:

Matt Sydal (ROH) defeated Kaji Tomato (Kaientai Dojo) in 7:56 via pinfall:

I stated in my preview I didn’t know much about Tomato, but, apparently he has a gimmick based on… Tomatoes. Or tomato pom-poms to be precise. OK, I’ll admit it, I should have seen that one coming. Good start with Tomato showing some slick moves and even managing to gain the upper-hand on a few occasions. But Sydal was not about to lose this one and unleashed his aerial arsenal towards the end, which resulted in him pinning Tomato after a Shooting Star Press. Good opener with a more than decent performance from tomato-guy.

Kenoh (Pro Wrestling NOAH) defeated Gurukun Mask (Ryukyu Dragon Pro Wrestling) in 11:33 via pinfall:

Kenoh played the heel here (and a very dickish one at that) and basically behaving like Shibata with a tooth-ache. Gurukun-mask is much like the many un-sung heroes of the American Indie circuit. A great performer who has seldom had the chance to perform on a big stage during his career. Kenoh brought his ultra-stiff offense to the game while Gurukun-Mask responded with some amazing moves for a 45-year old. Kenoh gained the upper-hand towards the end with a Dragon Suplex and a PK. He then hit the Ragou (dominator position into a powerbomb) for the win.0 Good, intense match-up between those two.

Taichi (Suzuki-Gun) defeated Yuma Aoyagi (All Japan) in 12:05 via pinfall:

This was lame for the most part, thanks to Taichi who stalled, stalled some more, then there was outside interference from Suzuki-gun followed by even more stalling and even more outside interference. In short: yawn. Amidst all of this, Aoyagi displayed lot of potential with his good selling, charisma and spirited offense (when he got some in). Honestly, at 20 years old, he put the really tiresome-getting Taichi to shame. The ending stretch was somewhat of an improvement but not enough to make us forget what came before. Taichi won, but I’m sure we’ll see much more of Aoyagi in the future.

Jushin Thunder Liger (New Japan) defeated Eita (Dragon Gate) in 9:12 via pinfall:

Eita immediately wowed the crowd with an jaw-dropping senton to the outside. He then continued to work over Liger until the legend countered with some big power-moves, trying to ground the amazing youngster. Eita would have none of it, continuing to fire with kicks and jumps from every corner of the ring and then opened his bag of submission tricks for some very close calls. The two kept the audience on the edge of their seat with some great back-and-forth. Another submission attempt from Eita, but Liger got to the ropes and then hit a huge palm-strike and a brainbuster for the victory. This was a good match, but that result… I get this is Liger’s tournament, but he the legend would have gained much more by putting the youngster over than by putting himself over here. More on this later.

Will Ospreay (CHAOS) defeated Titan (CMLL) in 9:14 via pinfall:

Spectacular match that could have been MotN if only it had been given more time. I mean take 6 minutes away from the Taichi match (where nothing happened anyway) and add them here and you got something really good going on. Both started at 200 mph and never slowed down. Lots of amazing moves thrown in there with various SSP’s, Srpingboard moonsaults, Quebrada’s, Sasuke Special’s, huricanrana’s, an assortment of spectacular dives and splashes, I mean, you name it, these guys did it. Arguably two of the very best high-fliers in the world right now. Add to that some very solid mat-work and psychology and you will understand why I didn’t want this one to end before the 10-minutes mark. In the end, Opsreay hit the Os-cutter (springboard ace crusher) for the win. Easily the match of the night thus far, too bad they didn’t get more time, but do seek up both of their stuff, you won’t be disappointed.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Suzuki-Gun) defeated BUSHI (Los Ingobernables de Japon) in 10:25 via pinfall:

As predicted, this was one of those matches where you can’t help but wondering what the booking department was thinking. I mean, sure, Kanemaru is one of the most decorated wrestlers in NOAH history, and yes, he is the current GHC Jr Heavyweight Champion, but… BUSHI was over, Kanemaru was not. BUSHI was motivated Kanemaru was not. BUSHI was on point throughout the match, Kanemaru was sloppy on more than one occasion. BUSHI seemed determined to make this work, Kanemaru seemed determined to just go through the motion. Getting my point already? BUSHI carried this one from start to finish, but Kanemaru won in typically underwhelming fashion. After watching this, one has to wonder whose idea it was to make Kanemaru GHC Champion again. Too bad for BUSHI, he certainly deserved more in this tournament.

Ryusuke Taguchi (New Japan) defeated Daisuke Harada (Pro Wrestling NOAH) in 15:56 via pinfall:

I’ve been on Taguchi’s case in the past, mostly because I find his comedy-routine tiresome. Then again, I’m well aware that when Taguchi leaves said comedy in the locker-room, he’s still a pretty damn good wrestler, as was proven during this year’s BoSJ tournament AND during this match. Harada is, of course, almost always excellent and both had great chemistry all of which lead us to a great match. Taguchi targeted Harada’s legs almost immediately, trying to ground him (which is very sound strategy when facing Harada) but Harada fired back with some counters. Taguchi also managed to counter some of Harada’s trademark moves and both when on to assemble a very absorbing back-and-forth match. The end came when Haguchi countered an Harada counter (!) with a big facebuster (for a near-fall) followed by a double underhook into a lung blower for the win. Very good stuff from both, little bummed that Harada lost though, although both agreed to do this again. It’s also interesting to note that the crowd was firmly behind Harada for this one.

KUSHIDA (New Japan) defeated Taiji Ishimori (Pro Wrestling NOAH) in 16:55 via submission:

Very good main event to close down the show, although this should come as no surprise, considering the talent involved. One of the great things about KUSHIAD is his versatility, allowing him to adapt to whatever opponent is in the ring with him. Case in point, this match where, although he did use some ground-work here an there (primarily targeting Ishimori’s arms to set up the finish), he also effortlessly went toe-to-toe with Ishimori in some amazing, high-flying exchanges. Ishimori eventually changed tactics and, in turn, decided to attack KUSHIDA on HIS strenghts, which gave us even more great exchanges as both kicked the hell out of each-other. Add to that some great ground-work from both and you end up with an amazingly intense back-and-forth battle that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Ending stretch was fantastic with KUSHIDA countering a 630 attempt with his knees and then going for the Hoverboard lock which Ishimoru kept countering. But, in the end, KUSHIDA’s constant attacks on Ishimori’s arms proved to much for the NOAH wrestler and he finally submitted on the third attempt. Really great stuff from both here and KUSHIDA was easily the most over NJPW wrestler with the crowd.

This all gives us the following Quarter-finals:

Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Taichi

Kushida vs. Kenoh

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Will Ospreay vs. Matt Sydal


Conclusion: Well there are two ways to look at this show. Match-wise, it was very solid show, topped by two excellent matches. Booking-wise however, it was something of a disappointment. Indeed, one has to wonder why it was necessary for veteran Kanemaru, Liger and Taguchi (although the later did have a very good match) to go over younger, more charismatic opponents Eita, Harada, BUSHI) who not only were crowd-favorites during the show but also all bring more to the table than the aforementioned veterans nowadays. And it gets worse. When NJPW announced that they were resurrecting the Super J-Cup, fans were rejoicing at the chance to see great talent from less visible promotion like Dragon Gate, AJPW, CMLL and other. After one round, all those guys are already gone. There are now 4 NJPW wrestlers in the quarters, 5 if you count Sydal who, while ostensibly representing ROH has spend more time in NJPW than anywhere else lately. Add to that Taichi who is still technically a NJPW wrestler, even he has been part of Suzuki-gun’s invasion of NOAH for more than 18 months now and you’re starting to see the problem. The two others (Kenoh and Kanemaru) are NOAH wrestlers, but we all know that NJPW is the one calling the shots in NOAH right now.

And that’s a problem. In my preview, I wrote that I was hoping for the 2016 version to recapture the spirit of the original Super J-Cup but we already know that this is not going to happen. This year’s super J-cup is about NJPW, veterans and getting Ospreay and KUSHIDA in the final so that Ospreay can finally get a (non-title) win over the IWGP jr Heavyweight Champion. It’s NOT about creating new stars or give more visibility to youngsters who, unlike Liger, Taguchi and Kanemaru, are the FUUTURE of Japanese Junior heavyweights. And that’s not only a shame but also a huge missed opportunity for NJPW.

As a reminder, the Quarter-finals, Semi-finals and Final will all happen on August 21; and, as always You can expect a full review from the event.

Until then, have fun, and I will see you all this weekend for my reviews of the ongoing G1 Climax tournament.



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