SUPER J CUP – SIXTH STAGE
August 21, 2016
Ariake Colosseum – TOKYO, JAPAN
GURUKUN MASK [Ryukyu Dragon Pro], KAIJI TOMATO [K-Dojo] & BUSHI [LiJ/NJPW] def. EITA [Dragon Gate], YUMA AOYAGI [AJPW], & DAVID FINLAY [NJPW]
This was a showcase for the losers of the first round (and David Finlay). Even with the dives and rapid succession spots, they somehow managed to squeeze in the story that BUSHI hated his teammates. Gurukun Mask won over the hearts of many with his first round performance against Kenou, and Kaiji Tomato is full of love, life, and the pursuit of happiness at this point in his career. BUSHI did his best to take out those two, as well as the trio that he was actually supposed to be wrestling in. Sadly, this reeked of of a consolation prize type of match. The crowd didn’t care, which was a shame because I doubt I’ll ever seen Gurukun Mask wrestle Eita again. This was painless and rather enjoyable for the spectacle of it all. **1/2
Taichi [Suzuki-Gun/NOAH] def. Jushin Thunder Liger [NJPW]
There’s so much that could be discussed here. First of all, both of these men have Timothy Thatcher to thank because normally this would be the worst match of any weekend. Second, Liger laid in more offense to El Desperado, who I happen to enjoy, than his actual opponent, Taichi. After hitting his greatest hits on Despy, Liger and Taichi brawled in the crowd and again, Despy made his presence known. This time, he tackled Liger, like someone making a citizen’s arrest, and let Taichi win via countout. I’m really hoping Taichi doesn’t make it through to the finals. He sucks. Despy would’ve been much better in this tournament but he was buried 10 feet under by Liger. Ugh. 1/4*
KUSHIDA [NJPW] def. Kenoh [NOAH]
If you imagined what KUSHIDA vs. Kenoh would be like in your head, you probably imagined this match. It played to both men’s strengths and ended up being a hot little match by the end of things. KUSHIDA showed off his grappling abilities early on, which are criminally under appreciated. He’s awesome on the mat and I feel like he only shows that off when he wrestles Kyle O’Reilly. Kenoh has unique offense that KUSHIDA played off of perfectly. The IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion worked over the arm of the NOAH wrestler in an attempt to put him away with the Hoverboard Lock, but Kenoh made things difficult for him. This was a great first round matchup, accomplishing that KUSHIDA is a well-rounded threat that could win the whole thing while also providing quality entertainment. Hopefully Kenoh’s stock is raised from this match. ***1/2
Yoshinobu Kanemaru [NOAH/Suzuki-Gun] def. Ryusuke Taguchi [NJPW]
It’s 2016 and Ryusuke Taguchi has had a better in-ring year than Kanemaru. Taguchi had a wonderful outing in the Best of the Super Juniors and then delivered the goods against Daisuke Harada in the first round of the J Cup, seemingly erasing his status as nothing more than a meme. Kanemaru has stunk up the joint in NOAH, killing interest in what could be an exciting NOAH junior division. He didn’t fare much better here, as he worked his slow, Suzuki-Gun style of match, bringing the show back down to the lifeless feeling it had during Taichi vs. Liger (note the trend with Suzuki-Gun wrestlers). Kanemaru will move on to face either Matt Sydal or Will Ospreay in what could be a very fun match. This was disappointing considering how good Taguchi has been this year. **3/4
Matt Sydal [ROH] def. Will Ospreay [CHAOS/NJPW]
Color me shocked that Sydal defeated the Aerial Assassin. I certainly wasn’t expecting Sydal to win and I didn’t think Ospreay would lose unless it was in the finals. Nope. Sydal might be a faux-ROH superstar, seeing as how he’s wrestled more for New Japan this year than ROH, but he made the company proud in this match. These two are some of the best grapplers going at it today and they put on another thrilling performance. Sydal is so crisp in the ring and it’s a great foil to Ospreay, who is still a little reckless. I fully expected Ospreay to make a thrilling comeback after the Shooting Sydal Press, but he stayed down for the count, meaning it will be Sydal vs. Kanemaru in the semi-finals. Besides Liger defeating Eita in the first round, this is the most shocking result yet and as much as I love Ospreay, having Sydal in the mix makes the semi-finals and possibly finals much more exciting. Two thumbs up to this match. Go out of your way to see it. ****1/4
Titan, Caristico, & Volador Jr def. Ultimo Guerrero, Gran Guerrero, & Euforia
I was making progress in my lucha fandom this year, but I think this match set me back about two years. It just wasn’t for me. The Titan/Caristico/Volador trio is full of exciting workers who have all had exciting matches this year, but I just can’t deal with the opposing trio. They aren’t for me. Ultimo Guerrero is someone who I will never get. If you like the CMLL style, give it a watch. If you’re like me, and your lucha viewing comes from grimy fancams, skip it. **1/4
KUSHIDA [NJPW] def. Taichi [Suzuki-Gun/NOAH]
Taichi went from being the worst part of this tournament to actively bad and detrimental to the process. He hurt this field. He sucked All Japan’s Aoyagi into a blackhole with him in the opening round, then dragged Liger to an embarrassment of a match, and if it wasn’t for KUSHIDA being at the top of his game, this would have been just as bad. Taichi jumped KUSHIDA during his entrance, which was awkward, seeing as how they were kicking off the 2nd half of the show. No one in the crowd had settled in. KUSHIDA was forced to go through the Suzuki-Gun song and dance and pulled it off better than most, but it was still obnoxious. To make matters worse, KUSHIDA won via rollup. Not so bad on the surface, even though I think he should’ve squashed Taichi like a bug, but after the match, KUSHIDA quickly rolled out of the ring, was iced up, and hobbled to the back like a fallen soldier while Taichi and El Desperado stayed in the ring. I had to go back and watch the finish twice because everything about this made it seem like Taichi had won. He sucked. KUSHIDA is going onto the finals, which is a great thing, but he was forced to climb through Taichi’s muck instead of dealing with a competent opponent. *1/4
Yoshinobu Kanemaru [Suzuki-Gun/NOAH] def. Matt Sydal [ROH]
With the prior match having a Suzuki-Gun dork lose, the result of this one was pretty obvious from the start. A part of me still held onto the idea of Sydal winning because I wanted him to have a beautiful dream run and win the entire thing, but no, Kanemaru beat him. Sydal worked his ass off and took one the gnarlier bumps off a lariat that I’ve ever seen, but there’s only so much you can do with slug-like Kanemaru. Even now, on this bigger stage, he seems disinterested. He doesn’t want to be in NOAH, he looks silly being in Suzuki-Gun, and it’s so painfully obvious. If we start a Patreon can he go back to All Japan where he’ll be happy? Disappointing match, despite Sydal’s hard work. ***
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Atsushi Kotoge & Daisuke Harada (c) def. ACH & Taiji Ishimori
As I mentioned earlier, Kanemaru, being atop the junior division in NOAH, is killing what could be an exciting division because there are people like these four guys that work their asses off, even in front of dead NOAH crowds, and tonight was no different. Kotoge & Harada have done amazing work with Hajime Ohara & Kenoh and they are now setting their sights on ACH & Ishimori. These two had a killer match in the finals of NOAH’s Jr Tag Team League, and this, while being a slight step down, was still quite entertaining.
ACH could be a really exciting guy to watch if he continues to spend time in Japan. This isn’t the ACH you’ve seen over the past year or so. Time after time, he gets stop-start pushes in ROH and at the end of the day, is left in the dust. ACH has been in ROH as a regular since early 2013 and he’s never held a title. He’s come closer to holding gold in NOAH and he’s been there for a month. He’s motivated and I can speak from experience, seeing ACH live is completely different than seeing him through a screen. He oozes charisma live. The NOAH crowd is already behind him and I expect him to only get bigger and better reactions. The finish was a little abrupt, with Kotoge & Harada retaining, but this match still gets a thumbs up. Don’t skip this. ***3/4
After the match, Kotoge & Harada got on the house mic and made a bold challenge as they called out Jado & Gedo. Who would’ve thought? Jado is broken down, but I am all for the idea of Gedo mixing it up with those two.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Young Bucks (c) def. Motor City Machine Guns
New rule: Keep Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks far, far apart from each other. I have spent the entire year rolling my eyes at the trio and their goofiness, then suddenly the Bucks go home and Omega has the run of his life and now the Bucks are back and they have the best match they’ve had all year.
This was the first time the Guns had wrestled in Japan since December 2010. Alex Shelley, of course, found a home in Japan in recent years teaming with KUSHIDA, but for Sabin, this was his first time back in the country since the end of the Guns.
This was a return to the Bucks of old. I still think the act is a little stale, but even then, when they’re on, they’re so good. It was fast-paced with spots on spots on spots and flawless execution from everyone involved, which is what I want when I watch the Young Bucks. Shelley, in particular, looked good for his side. I hope the Guns, or at least Shelley, are brought back. They’re still a very good team. As stated earlier, this is the best the Bucks have looked all year. Two thumbs up. ****1/4
Super J Cup Sixth Stage Finals
KUSHIDA [NJPW] def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru [Suzuki-Gun/NOAH]
This is the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion vs. The GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion
KUSHIDA has had one hell of a year and this caps it off. After finally getting through Kenny Omega at the start of the year, he’s done everything he can to solidify himself as the ace of the Juniors division in New Japan. He’s gone through Will Ospreay twice, BUSHI, and Jushin Thunder Liger in an effort to defend his title, and in the first round, took out Taiji Ishimori. He had to get through the pesky Kenoh and the….dreadful Taichi en route to the finals, and finally, he outlasted the most decorated GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion of all-time to come out on top in the sixth stage of the Super J Cup.
This match was messy around the edges, but I understood what they were going for. The Suzuki-Gun bullshit was still a factor, but less here than in the Taichi matches earlier in the night. KUSHIDA has had an excellent track record of delivering in big matches and making them feel important, and here, while it was a step below what he’s been doing this year, he brought Kanemaru to the best match he’s had all year. A respectable outing marred by the length of the show and Suzuki-Gun bullshit. ***1/2
There’s no reason to sit through this entire show unless you’re a completist. Kenoh vs. KUSHIDA was fun, but Ospreay vs. Sydal and the two junior tag matches qualifies as the essential viewing for this show. I am an outlier on the lucha tag, so if that style floats your boat, give that a look also. Thumbs in the middle for this show. I’m glad KUSHIDA won and I think that’s the right decision, but Suzuki-Gun was such a key part of this show and it was so terribly frustrating.