August 2-5, 1996
This was the tourney held to combine all the top Junior titles in the world, and the winner would hold 8 titles simultaneoulsy, don't think it lasted more than a couple years though.
1) Great Sasuke (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion) v. Masayoshi Motegi (NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion)- 6
Awesome start as Motegi just unloaded on Sasuke even before the bell. His attack was relentless, like ABC's Dancing with the Stars commercials, really mean strikes and leg work dominated the bulk of his attack. I do like Sasuke's beaten man selling, like he's searching for water in a desert, crawling around, gives more credence to his comeback moves. The pace and story they set right from the bell made this fun to watch, as well as sets up for Sasuke's leg injury that would plague him throughout the tourney.
2) Jushin Liger (British Junior Heavyweight Champion) v. Ultimo Dragon (WAR Junior Heavyweight Champion)- 2
This was one of those flash losses Liger does every so often, was really looking forward to them going "full tilt boogie" as me and my friends used as lingo back in the day. Really gnarly somersault outside though on Liger that made him bend over backwards even more than he did at Kazuo Yamazaki's limbo party in '99 that he never truly recovered from, as a man.....
3) Shinjiro Ohtani (UWA Lightheavyweight Champion) v. Negro Casas (NWA Welterweight Champion)- 4
I was really looking forward to this match, as both are still kicking ass to this day but the match suffered from a lack of mixed styles that never came together. Ohtani was a step off in keeping up with Casas quick matwork and rope spots and Casas' offense really wasn't holding up in the Japanese style, some loose holds and other misc. items kept this from really working overall. Casas had several much better matches with Liger earlier in his Japanese touring days.
4) El Samurai (WWF Lightheavyweight Champion) v. Gran Hamada (WWA Junior Lightheavyweight Champion)- 5
Now this match was all about grinding each other out and pouring on the pressure on the match. The whole first half saw them exchange armbars and just exert control over the other; neither guy was really selling up the standards I usually credited them for, Samurai at some points just trying to get his mask situated instead of making me believe his arm was being ripped off. I love Hamada's high flying act, something about a chubby bear cub of a man flipping over other people's heads that puts a smile on my face. Samurai was really great at getting momentum going with offensive moves and his reverse DDT's never looked sweeter.
5) Ultimo Dragon v. Shinjiro Ohtani- 8
My god, i haven't been this into a performance since watching oil mogul Daniel Plainview. This was the Ohtani show, in big bright marquee spotlights. Off hand, i have to think this is his best performance I've ever seen. Dragon while high on the list of scientific pro wrestling acumen, doesn't emote a lot when on defense, struggling to stay in the match but he didn't need to , Ohtani was selling his ass off for him. They went at it fast for the whole first 10 minutes, both guys breaking out all their top shelf shit, the Asai, the springboards (both the spinning kick and the back of the head dropkick, assassin style) and fun brawling outside to boot. It's when Ohtani took back control, he Hulk'd up better than the skullet sporting gas head ever did! We saw a whole wide range of emotion from near tears to Native American War dances when he thought he had the match won, and big near falls were the highlight of the whole 2nd half, especially the part where they were using each other's big moves for them, didn't make you cringe like when that was done every week in the Attitude era. Just a once in a lifetime match for him.
6) Great Sasuke v. El Samurai- 6
Okay these are two awesome dudes, don't know them personally, but i'm willing to bet they are really fun to play board games with and are probably the two most hung guys with masks on. I've always loved Sammy's brutal offense, not usually pretty but very effective, his short elbows, powerbomb where he just drops you as soon as he hoists you up. Sasuke was brilliant selling the knee again here, and more desperate crack addict willing to give you brains for a hit selling, Sammy's cut off dropkick on the knee was sweet about 11 minutes in or so. Would like to see more of these guys against each other.
7) Great Sasuke v. Ultimo Dragon- 5
This match didn't hold water for me, especially after just watching a semi finals where we saw two distinctly different but hard fought wars. I think it suffered from both guys' wrestling styles being so similar and both predominantly faces. The highflying was on par with some of the other stuff, especially the killer Asai, and all the techincal stuff from the open was cool but the ending really was a let down and the match as a whole wasn't that special in my eyes. Didn't even notice Sasuke's knee bothering him again that much here and Dragon is an amazing performer, but as ass beater, he just doesn't measure up so a few flaws going on here but still was a competently worked match with both men showing why they made it to the finals.