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Kevin’s NJPW Super J-Cup Night One Review

September 20, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Super J-Cup
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Kevin’s NJPW Super J-Cup Night One Review  

NJPW Super J-Cup Night One
August 22nd, 2019 | Temple Theater in Tacoma, Washington | Attendance: 991

For the first time since 2016, New Japan brought back the Super J-Cup. The last one was won by KUSHIDA. This time around, the entire tournament took place in the United States. Let’s see how it goes as I’ve heard good things.

I’m only focusing on the tournament matches.

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Super J-Cup First Round: Rocky Romero vs. Soberano Jr.
The crowd was mostly behind Rocky Romero. He is a West Coast boy so that makes sense. This felt like something out of 2017 205 Live. It was perfectly fine but it had no real heart or heat behind it. You got two guys just having a match. There didn’t seem to be any stakes even though this was a tournament and wins and losses matter. They had a random chop battle that really made no sense. Towards the end, things picked up and we saw Rocky nearly pull out the victory. But the veteran was here to put someone over, so he fell to the Tornillo Press in 11:04. Like I said, acceptable wrestling and nothing more. [**½]

Super J-Cup First Round: Clark Connors vs. TJP
Though TJP has been wrestling in the area, it is hometown boy Connors who is the crowd favorite. In fact, TJP was booed pretty hard. This worked a lot better than the opener. TJP was the clear heel and wrestled as such. He pulled out some nice offense like a Sharpshooter with the hands trap, which he turned into a Muta Lock. Great stuff. I dug Connors using his size to run over TJP. Knowing his offense is limited, Connors just doing something like that made a lot of sense. Connors had the crowd in the palm of his hands for several of his comeback attempts. His near falls were great. TJP made him tap to a Regal Stretch like move in 11:56. My kind of pro wrestling. Straightforward while telling a clear story and getting to the point. [***¼]

Super J-Cup First Round: BUSHI vs. Caristico
These are really going to feel repetitive aren’t they? Two guys with aerial skills who have met in multi-man tags before. Their chemistry was fine as most of what they did came off well and looked smooth. But it suffered from a problem that the opener had. It never felt like it was all that important or intense. It came across like an exhibition. I did enjoy some of the spots and the closing stretch featured some really good exchanges and counters. BUSHI had MX in mind but Caristico ran up to the top and brought him down with a Spanish Fly that ended things in 10:08. Fine match. Nothing more. I really hope this tournament picks up because right now, a Young Lion has outshined everyone. [**¾]

Super J-Cup First Round: Jonathan Gresham vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
A match with potential. BIG MATCH TAGUCHI is a real thing, while Gresham was a highlight of the BOSJ this year. While we didn’t get special Taguchi here, he still put on a solid match. He brought the playfulness and used it to combat Gresham being the superior mat wrestler. Without doing play by play, there’s not a lot to talk about because this wasn’t a deep match. What you saw was what you got. That’s fine considering the participants. I liked how a series of rollup near falls actually led to the finish when Taguchi kept Gresham down for one after 12:59. Solid pro wrestling. [***]

Super J-Cup First Round: El Phantasmo vs. Robbie Eagles
Some stakes and history here. They both were Bullet Club guys during the BOSJ. Eagles impressed me more during the tourney but ELP seems to be the hot new thing around so whatever. Anyway, Eagles beat Will Ospreay with help from ELP and wasn’t happy about it. He eventually turned on ELP after a title shot at Ospreay and they’re now rivals heading into a Jr. Tag Title match. Onto the match, I liked how Eagles was prepared for an ELP sneak attack to start. He combated it and that set the tone for a match where the two guys knew each other quite well. Keeping this under 15 minutes was a great idea because it’s a great spot for ELP who only has one great match over 25 minutes (vs. Rocky). There were some lame moments like ELP tweaking Eagles’ nipples. That just didn’t fit in with the intense nature of the rest of this. Eagles survived a nice swanton/moonsault combo and ELP kicked out of a combo of DDTs. That was just getting to the point of overdoing it even with the short length. False finishes are a crutch a lot of guys use. ELP used a low blow after a ref bump to steal the win in 12:17. Some see that as a cheap finish but I find it to be a great one because it fit with the story they’ve been telling between these two. Best thing on the show so far but not great. [***½]

Super J-Cup First Round: Dragon Lee vs. YOH
Dragon Lee has had two **** matches with YOH’s partner SHO. Can these two have similar success together? I hope so because I really like both guys. This turned out to be very good and felt different from the previous match. There was animosity there but this one was more based on pure competition. You had two good guys going at it and there was respect throughout. We also were treated to the most impressive displays of athleticism and quickness in the tournament to this point. YOH worked the leg, which was smart as it could take away Lee’s quickness. Unfortunately, he didn’t utilize it all that much and Lee didn’t bother to sell it that often. It wasn’t terrible no selling but it was enough for me to question bits of the match and that kept it from being great. Really good stuff all around though with Lee scoring the win via Desnucadora in 18:51. [***½]

Super J-Cup First Round: SHO vs. Taiji Ishimori
They met in a BOSJ main event this year (***½) with Ishimori winning. In fact, Ishimori has a great singles record in NJPW since becoming Bone Soldier, including a 7-2 mark in this year’s BOSJ. His only losses were to Shingo Takagi and a countout one against Kanemaru. SHO isn’t just a tag guy, though. He’s incredibly talented and took Shingo to the limit this year. He can match any junior in almost any aspect Here, he was able to hit just as hard as Ishimori and move just as quickly. However, Ishimori was more willing to get vicious and aggressive. It caused SHO to have to fight from behind and he had a sense of desperation with his stuff. You got the sense that nothing came easy for either guy here and that’s a good thing. You want a tournament outing to feel important and like a struggle. The final few minutes were great. There was drama and they never overdid the false finish gimmick. SHO won with Shock Arrow in a stellar 17:06. Match of the night for sure. [****]

Super J-Cup First Round: Amazing Red vs. Will Ospreay
A dream match for some. Willy is the Jr. Heavyweight Champion and he idolized Amazing Red. Most people have spent all of 2019 acting like Ospreay is a pro wrestling savior, desperately trying to justify claims that he’s the Wrestler of the Year. That made it interesting that he was receiving more of the boos in this one. Fans were pumped to see Amazing Red in a big spot. Luckily, Willy opted to lean into that and act more heelish than usual. I appreciated that. He loves to show me elements of a great, smart wrestler from time to time. This match had plenty of fun exchanges. It was as if Red was facing his younger self at times. That made sense considering Ospreay’s fandom for Red. Unfortunately, they fell into the typical trap of doing a match that is too long. They overdid stuff. Red kicking out of an Oscutter on the apron AND in the ring was too much. There are ways to tell a stellar story without resorting to this trope. It’s not just a New Japan thing as a lot of companies fall into this trap. Look at the Cole/Gargano series in NXT. Red got some pretty good near falls down the stretch before falling to Storm Breaker in 28:19. A great 17 minute match trapped in a 28 minute match. [***½]

The final score: review Average
The 411
The first half of this is an easy skip. While Connors/TJP and Taguchi/Gresham are good, they aren’t anything you need to see. The final four matches are where this show makes it mark. You get two really good matches and a great one in SHO/Ishimori. Red/Ospreay had a lot of potential but they tried too hard to make an epic and it missed the mark. I am intrigued at some of the remaining tourney matchups, especially SHO/Ospreay. Also, the production on this was pretty rough at points and distracting.