That is right! It is now time to take a fond look back at one of the greatest wrestling events in the sport’s history. Within, you will find match breakdowns, ratings, results and an overall opinion of the whole event. And… what an event it was. Japanese wrestling fan or not, this one is must see.
BACKGROUND INFO: The 1994 Super J Cup Tournament was the first one ever held of it’s kind (there would be four more tournaments held later on: ’95, ’00, ’04 and ’09). This one-night-only event showcased junior heavyweight talent from most of the major wrestling companies at that time. Orchestrated by Jushin Liger and hosted by New Japan Pro Wrestling, the 1994 tournament is still considered by many as one of the greatest pure wrestling events of all time (including me). Now that you’ve been briefed, lets begin with the first round!
(NOTE: ALL MATCHES ARE RATED OUT OF 5 STARS.)
Dean Malenko Vs. Gedo- In what I consider as some of Dean’s best work, this match was very much as expected, great. It was very technical, with fairly fast-paced moments scattered throughout. Very much in the style of Dean Malenko indeed. It was very much an even battle, with both men showcasing great wrestling skill. Quite an opener to say the least! Knowing nothing of Gedo previously, I can say he is one of the better technical Japanese wrestlers I’ve seen. Favorite spot of the match: Dean being whipped into the corner, only to jump to the apron, then to the top rope, to hit a high cross-body to receive a near-fall. The match was short, sweet and to the point. It definitely worked well as an opener to wet a watchers appetite for more! Rating: Gedo advances to the quarterfinal round.
Super Delfin Vs. Shinjiro Otani- Being a Super Delfin fan, I personally was looking forward to this one and was happy it came directly after a great opening bout. It was great aggressive contest, with Otani dealing a lot of damage early on. Dolfin/Otani also provided many fast-paced periods. Favorite Spot of the match: Otani dropkicking Delfin to the outside, then performing a top-rope springboard cross-body to the outside, taking his opponent out. For its more balanced points of speed, high-flying, and technical action, I rank it better than the first than the first match. Rating: Super Delfin advances to the quarterfinal round.
Taka Michinoku Vs. Black Tiger II- Knowing of Taka and Black Tiger II Being among my favorite ‘Japanese’ wrestlers of all time, I was even more excited for this one than the first two combined. With fast action from the moment the bell rang, I can say the action only seemed to quicken as the match went on. With brief technical breaks here and there, this was very much a fast spot match-up. Favorite Spot of the match: Taka ducking a clothesline, then spring boarding to the top rope only to have Tiger II duck his moonsault off the ropes. Tiger II then leapfrogged over Taka only to have Taka return off the ropes to finish with a flying head scissors. I can easily say I was entertained the whole way through and that this match is among the best Japanese wrestling matches I have ever seen. Rating: Black Tiger II advances to the quarterfinal round.
El Samurai Vs. Masayoshi Motegi- Knowing close to nothing about either wrestler, this one had my full attention as I was very eager to see what I may have been missing. But alas, I was a little disappointed. What would have been a great spot turned into a hiccup, as Motegi lost his balance on the top turnbuckle and fell back into the ring instead of flying to the outside onto Samurai. Even without considering that, this match was definitely not as smooth sailing as the first three matches (given, they were all tough acts to follow). The moves just seemed a lot more rushed and quite honestly, a bit sloppy. It is safe to say Motegi was the better performer in this one. Favorite spot of the match: Motegi performing a tumbling variant of the Romero Special then turning it into a head/neck lock. Rating: El Samurai advances to the quarterfinal round.
Negro Casas Vs. Ricky Fuji- Being aware of the big name of Negro Casas and knowing Ricky Fuji to be an entertaining and skilled Japanese wrestler, I expected a little redemption after the previous match. These two great performers put on a crisp technical piece to begin the match up. There were a lot of strong-style hits and bumps throughout the bout. Favorite spot of the match: Fuji landing a picture-perfect sitout double underhook powerbomb for the win. There is nothing bad I can say about the match. It was another solid match, again adding to the great card presented so far. Rating: Ricky Fuji advances to the quarterfinal round.
Jushin Liger Vs. Hayabusa- Considering Jushin Liger is my favorite Japanese wrestler of all time, I’d be lying If I told you I hadn’t seen this match previously. I’d also be lying if I told you that I didn’t fully enjoy this match every time I’ve watched it. Before Hayabusa even bothers to remove his kimono he dropkicks Liger to the outside of the ring and immediately performs a front flip dive over the top rope landing right atop Liger (then he decides to take his kimono off). Hayabusa provides many unique, as well as uncommon, holds early on and sporadically through the rest of the match. Favorite spot of the match: Hayabusa performing a spinning wheel kick from the top turnbuckle followed by a beautifully exicuted moonsault for a near fall. The fact that these two immensely talented performers were even pitted together (seeing as they both were from different companies), should be more than a reason to watch this match alone. Rating: Jushin Liger advances to the quarterfinal round.
Super Delfin Vs Gedo- With both of these men having a really sound first round match under their belt already in the tournament, I held moderately high expectations for this one. Much to my surprise, the match was pretty mat-based. Both mounted a pretty even amount of offence throughout the match, which was nice to see. Favorite spot in the match: Delfin sticking a picturesque dropkick on Gedo causing him to roll out of the ring then Delfin leaped up to the top turnbuckle and performed a cross body to Gedo on the outside. The match was what pure Japanese wrestling is all about, brief, flashy moments including some high-flying action and truly entertaining (and skillful) wrestling. Rating: Gedo advances to the semifinal round.
Wild Pegasus Vs Black Tiger II- Basically, what we have here is Chris Benoit (Pegasus) up against Eddie Guerrero (Tiger II). With that knowledge ( being aware of what each would accomplish down the road) and knowing that both are still very early into their career at this point, I expected this one to almost steal the show. With Black Tiger II putting on a GREAT match in the first round, I was eager to see if he could one-up himself with Pegasus. The match started very slow yet deliberate with both men showing knowledge in wrestling holds and general mat-based skill. The pace quickened in time and neither man showed any hesitation or weakness when the pace change came. Favorite spot of the match: Tiger hitting Pegasus with a super hurricanrana/avalanche frankensteiner, only to receive a near fall. It was a great match put on by two great performers. Rating: Wild Pegasus advances to the semifinal round.
The Great Sasuke Vs El Samurai- I wasn’t really sure what to expect with is one. Being a bit disappointed with El Samurai’s first outing of the night and having not seen any of Sasuke’s stuff, it was a toss up for me. Right from the beginning, one could tell this match would be a lot more promising than Samurai’s previous match showed. Sasuke took a good beating early on in the match, falling victim to an arsenal of great submission holds. Favorite spot of the match: Samurai locking in his specialized Samurai clutch II (a Russian legsweep rolled into a cradle submission). El Samurai definitely put on a better match this time around (and was able to redeem himself). Rating: The Great Sasuke advances to the semifinal round.
Jushin Liger Vs Ricky Fuji- Liger is great. Fuji is great. I was glad this was going on last, as far as the quarterfinals go because, it was almost guaranteed to be a great match. This one started off with good, fast-paced action based inside the ring. The pace stayed steady and liger seemed to be in total control. Thus far, this was the only match that had had slams on the outside, most notably, a scoop-slam followed by a double foot stomp from the top turnbuckle to the outside. Favorite spot of the match: Liger slapping Fuji from the same turnbuckle as him, sending him to the mat briefly and then following that up with a jumping senton-turned-hurricanrana to gain the pin fall. This was a great way to close out the quarterfinals for sure! Rating: Jushin Liger advances to the semifinal match.
Wild Pegasus Vs. Gedo- After Gedo put on a great match with Dean Malenko and knowing that Pegasus is just as good as Malenko, if not better, (mostly due to his more willing to utilize aerial maneuvers, adding more dimension to his matches), I was ready for this one. The match began with furious velocity and impact. The intensity notch was definitely turned up a bit higher in this first semifinal match. For begin a bigger Junior Heavyweight, Gedo perfomed high spots more than I would have thought and did them fine. Favorite spot of the match: Gedo performing a moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the outside on a standing Wild Pegasus. For a man I knew nothing of previously, I give Gedo a lot of respect for having three GREAT matches! Rating: Wild Pegasus advances to the final round.
The Great Sasuke Vs. Jushin Liger- Being moderately impressed with Sasuke’s first showing, I expected another great match only to add to this already VERY impressive and entertaining event. The crowd was very pro-Liger I noticed. The match began as a battle of wit and skill. A lot of pure wrestling took place in this one, which if asking me, is always a good thing. The pace soon quickened and the inclusion of high-flying attacks began in the later half of the match, with each man pulling out all the stops. Favorite spot of the match: After no aerial spots yet, Sasuke dropkicked an already airborne Liger, causing him to roll to the outside. Then, Sasuke leaped over the top rope, to the apron, to preform an Asai moonsault onto a standing Liger and nearly landing on his feet. Rating: The Great Sasuke advances to the final round.
Wild Pegasus Vs The Great Sasuke- After an absolutely awe-inspiring tournament filled with stellar wrestling talent, the Final match of the evening was almost bittersweet. As the first Super J Cup tournament came to it’s end, it only left two men in it’s wake. Wild Pegasus had been in great matches and The Great Sasuke had been in great matches. It was anybody’s match for the winning and I was ready to see who would be crowned the victor. You can tell great care and study went into this one. There were many crisp reversals and move telegraphing. Moves that each man was able to apply on their opponent, were very deliberate and calculated. Pegasus seemed to deal the brunt of the damage throughout the match-up. A notable moment in the match was Sasuke performing an awesome corkscrew body attack over the ropes to the outside, onto a standing Pegasus. The later half of the match many high risks were taken by both men adding to the already electric crowd and atmosphere. Favorite spot of the match: Pegasus hitting a dragon suplex, getting a near fall, attempting another one, only to be reversed into a pin by Sasuke. Pegasus then countered the reversal for a pin of his own, still only receiving a near fall. Rating: Wild Pegasus wins the 1994 Super J Cup tournament.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND OVERALL OPINION: The fact can’t be denied. This is by far one of THE greatest, not only Japanese wrestling, but professional wrestling events of all time. The whole thing is worth watching through at least once and if given the chance to do so, I highly suggest it to any serious wrestling fan. Even if you never watch a Japanese wrestling event ever again after watching, I still suggest you give it a try. If you only watch one match from this event, I suggest the either the Black Tiger II/Taka Michinoku match or the Wild Pegasus/The Great Sasuke match, they are both just ridiculously good matches. Either way, the up and coming talent and even the established talent that was featured within this tournament, deserves great commemoration for putting on one HECK of a wrestling show! My only warning to somebody who decides to watch this historic wrestling event, BE CAREFUL, you might just unknowingly get hooked on Japanese wrestling…