"Is it better than '94?" THAT is the question. I (along with countless other puro fans) consider NJPW's Super J Cup 1994 to be the pinnacle of Jr. Heavyweight style. Can WAR match or put on a better spectacle than last year's? Let's find out.
Opening Round Matches
1.) Damien 666 vs. Gran Naniwa - 2
I think it's safe to say that Damien is a fan of puro. The entire match seemed to have been dedicated to Japanese wrestling legends. Before every move that Damien made, he would call out the names of the wrestler he was imitating (Muta = moosault, Misawa = forearms, etc.). This Schick got old rather quickly. As far as the in-ring was concerned, the match had some decent flow, but the only things that really happened were a few dives and some chops. This match was simply a comedy opener to get the crowd warmed up. I wasn't a fan. Damien advances to the quarterfinals.
2.) Ohtani vs. Masaki Mochizuki - 5
I really, really was digging this match. As soon as the bell rang, Moch was on Ohtani like impersonator Rosie O'Donnell on her chocolate whale cake, Fudgie. Sick spinning heel kick started the match, with Moch laying into to Ohtani with stiff strikes that flowed right into some nice leg-work on the mat. Not to be outdone, Ohtani came back with some flourious strikes of his own. Moch came of the rope with an ensiguiri to the side of Ohtani's head, who sold it like Terry Funk on a bender. I was totally digging this match until Ohtani got the pin... at four minutes! I was pretty pissed that such a great match only got four minutes -- I could watch this shit for hours. Oh, oh, Ohtani moves on to the quarterfinals.
3.) Ultimo Dragon vs. Sho Funaki - 4
There was a real sense of respect by both guys that I felt was rather genuine. The fluidity by both men was really great, moving from one body part to another while on them mat. Both men's moves fed into each other really well. Ultimo hit one of the sloppiest hurricanranas I have ever seen which really took away from the match. Sloppier than Steph after the New Year's Eve party in Greenwich, to be exact. There was hardly any selling on mat-work to talk about -- both guys looked like they were going through the motions. Sho really shined here with his smooth transitions between maneuvers. I feel that he is a very underrated wrestler. Ultimo moves onto the quarters.
4.) Masayoshi Motegi vs. Gedo - 3
This match just did not take off. Motegi began by working over Gedo's arm, pummeling Gedo with a belt, then moving onto mat-based submissions of the injured arm which Gedo sold well, vocally. Motegi hit these sloppier-than-hell Germans. He eventually submitted to a double chickenwing that looked like it would be rejected at KFC. The finish came out of nowhere with no previous armwork. Gedo moves onto the q-fins.
5.) Dos Caras vs. El Samurai - 6
I dig Samurai, but I have seen less that 5 Dos Caras matches in my life (is this a sin?). Caras hit this sweet submission in which he tied up Sam's arms and floated over onto his back. Both of these guys' offense is just so polished. Caras hit these really awesome roll-up pin attempts, as well. He's just so fucking clean~! Samurai stuck in there with him, but I think this was really a time for Caras to get over in front of the Japanese crowd. All of the match was mat based and it came off a so damn great. Being an opening round match, it didn't break the 10 minute mark, but damn it was a spectacle. Dos Caras flies into the quarts.
6.) Lion Heart vs. Hanzo Nakajima - 5
The first round finishes strong with Jericho taking on Nakajima. I liked the back-and-forth, "can you top this?" style of match these two had. Jericho seemed to be playing the "cool, sportsman-like American" insisting that the crowd get behind Nakajima. Aside from the very distracting, 80's hair metal band-inspired WASP tights, Jericho looked as good as he's ever been here. Nakajima, pink singlet and all, hung with Jericho, but the lionsault did him in. Nakajima sold his abdomen the whole match really well. The look on his face conveyed more pain than getting a tribal tattoo. Lion Heart moves on to the BIG Q.
7.) Gran Naniwa vs. Jushin Liger - 6
Liger, as always, looked great in this match. His dominance and asshole personality in the ring really shined through against the funny man Naniwa. It seemed as though Liger controlled the entire match, streching Naniwa like a used up Stretch Armstrong. In what seemed to be a one sided fight, Naniwa would try his hardest by busting out dives and power maneuvers. One of my favorite spots in the match came at what looked like a botch: Naniwa put Liger in the powerbomb position, but it looked as though Naniwa dropped him on his head, only to have Liger come back with a rolling Liger kick. Shit was nice. I just loved the control that Liger had the whole match. Liger moves onto the SEMI's!
8.) Lion Heart vs. Wild Pegasus - 7
When you look at the two names going up against each other, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, it's hard to imagine the two putting on a bad match. Both of these guys just have such a great technical prowess and ability to pace themselves. This match was such a roller coaster. The mat work and Jericho's vocal selling of being stretched like a new baseball glove was amazing. He even let out this squeal that sounded like a mouse on steroids. Benoit's aggression was on par with everything else he's ever done. He hit a really nice tope suicida on Jericho that he really didn't have to, but hey, it's Benoit. Jericho kept speaking English to the crowd, even calling Benoit a "Motherfucker" which garnered some Japanese "OOOOH'S". I dig it. Both of these guys have stolen the show with this match so far. Benoit moved onto the Semi's, getting the best of the yellow-maned rockstar.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Shinjiro Ohtani - 6
Freaking loved this. The match started off with some great high spots and strikes to get the audience out of their seats. Some of my favorite stuff in this match was the mat-work. I loved how Ohtani tangled up Dragon, and how Dragon retaliated with some tangling and stretching of his own. Both guys turned up the heat with dueling tombstone piledrivers that neither sold. This is an example of good no-selling because it mystified the audience and got them more into the match, catching them in the heat of them moment. Ohtani and Ultimo's ability to go from mat-based to highspots in a split second is awesome. Great back and forth between two junior heavyweight legends. Ultimo slides into the SEMS
Dos Caras vs. Gedo - 3
I can't stand Gedo. He had no business advancing in this tournament as much as he did. Caras looked awesome as always here, bringing his mat-based lucha style to Gedo, twisting him into all sorts of gnarly positions. Gedo was selling them well by screaming. That's about the only good thing Gedo did in this match. Gedo got a lot of crowd heat when he tried to pull off Caras' mask. If anything Gedo looked well in his selling and ability to get crowd heat, but this match really got over Dos Caras and his sweet mat skills. Gedo unfortunately moves to the semi-finals.
Jushin Liger vs. Ultimo Dragon - 8
This. Fucking. Ruled. This is junior heavyweight style at its finest. The ups and downs, the pacing, and the technical and aerial abilities by both men are out of this world. I love both of these guys. The mat wrestling, SWEET CHRIST THE MAT WRESTLING, was amazing! I absolutely adored it. Liger's working over of Ultimo's arm was great, and Ultimo's working over of Liger's leg and Ligers consequent selling of the leg was to die for. The near falls, especially Ultimo's after Liger hit the Liger Bomb, were incredible as well. I would've like to have seen Ultimo sell the arm a bit more, but his selling was still satisfactory. The dives and topes in this match were nastier than your local flea market -- SO GOOD! Seriously, this match was awesome. Liger dives his way to LOS FINALES~
Wild Pegasus vs. Gedo - 4
God I hope Benoit takes Gedo's head off. This was Gedo's best match of the tournament thus far, but seeing as who he was working with, it'd be kind of hard not to have a decent match. Benoit can make a mop doused in genital sweat look good. Gedo just looks so sloppy. I made sure to watch him taking the German suplexes , and damn, he could hardly roll up off of his back. You could make a case that this was really good exhaustive selling, but let's not get carried away. The best element of this match were the nearfalls. They were executed well and seemed as though they fooled the majority of the fans. Gedo, much to my chagrin, moves onto the finals.
Psicosis vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. - 4
The feud moves to The Land of the Rising Sun in a non-tournament match! I dug how Ultimo came out with Rey. I fucking loved their match in WWE. This match struck me as odd, however. It started with some decent mat-based chain wrestling, but moved on to some nonsensical dives. I realize this was put on to get Rey over, but I could have done with a lot less topes. I also wasn't very fond of the finish. Psicosis was basically a crash test dummy for Rey, sometimes obviously showing that he was working with him (e.g. Rey kicking Psicosis, and Psicosis pulling himself up to sit on the top turnbuckle to set up for a hurricanarana. I still liked the action as Rey looks flawless with his dives, but it got a little too repetitive for my tastes.
Jushin Liger vs. Gedo - 6
While I'm by no means a Gedo fan, I will say this: he's great at selling. Liger worked him on the mat for a good portion of the match and he was screaming. I liked it. Liger also hit some awesome rolling Liger kicks which Gedo sold marvelously. The pacing was my favorite part of this match -- it started off slow and built up like a pressure cooker. All the means for a great match was there, and a good one was put on. I think Ultimo (who booked the tournament) really wanted to legitimize Gedo's chances of winning the mind of the crowd. While I disliked how far he got in the tournament, Gedo did prove himself to be an excellent seller.
Overall, I still feel that '94 was a better all around tournament; however, I will say this: if Beck is looking for where it's at, tell his odelay-ing ass to pop WAR Super J Cup '95 in the DVD player.