New Japan World Gems #3: Super Delfin Vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
The next installment of the New Japan World Gems series has arrived! For number three, we head back to June of 1994, for the final match of the inaugural Best of the Super Juniors tournament. These two masked Puroresu legends would face off to find out who the best junior wrestler in the world really was! In a series that is intended to get you more out of your New Japan World subscription than just the monthly shows of today, this singles match between NJPW’s Liger and Michinoku Pro’s Delfin pulled me right in!
During the early to mid nineties, some of the greatest wrestlers in the world were emerging as much more than just “smaller” stars. Juniors from Mexico, America, Canada, and Japan were collected together to take part in the fabled Super J-Cup in April of 1994. Tapes of this two-day tournament were widely traded and regarded as it became known as one of the most important events of the 1990s, hosting several overly-delivering dream matches. One month later, to follow up on the widespread success of the J-Cup, the Best of the Super Juniors would be hosted by New Japan Pro Wrestling. The BOTSJ stayed true to the idea of collecting some of the greatest junior wrestlers and having them battle it out in a tournament. Except, this time, it would be held over the course of almost a month as opposed to just two days! After several hard-fought matches with David Finlay, Black Tiger II, Wild Pegasus, Shinjiro Otani, El Samurai, Dean Malenko, Tokimitsu Ishizawa, Masayoshi Motegi, and Taka Michinoku, Super Delfin and Jushin Liger would secure their spots in the finals to be held on June 13, 1994.
Just as a qucik background for both men at the time, Jushin “Thunder” Liger was on the verge of superstardom in all three of pro wrestling’s major markets. As one of the most recognizable Japanese wrestlers at that time, Jushin Liger would dazzle fans of World Championship Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, and many more with his areal skill packaged with his technical prowess. Also, Liger held a strong backstage presence at this time, helping orchestrate the Super J-Cup and book the juniors currently employed by NJPW. Needless to say, Liger was at the top of his game at this point in his career, and the top of the game as far as being one of the greatest pro wrestlers in the world in 1994.
On the other hand, Super Delfin was relatively unknown by the major pro wrestling markets. As the future founder of Osaka Pro Wrestling and current star of The Great Sasuke’s Michinoku Pro Wrestling in 1994, Delfin was somewhat of a hidden gem himself in Japan. After bouncing around for some time in Mexico and Japan, Delfin was just coming into his own by 1994. With a unique mask, persona, and some flashy moves, Delfin quickly jumped on the radar of New Japan as someone fresh and new. They snatched him up for the BOTSJ and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, the reason I decided to watch this match, is because I am a huge fan of both men. Admittedly, I had seen this match previously, and remembered it to be pretty good. So, that definitely helped my decision. Personally, I think Super Delfin is one of the most underrated Japanese wrestlers of all time, and it is crazy to think that there are fans of today’s Japanese wrestling scene that don’t know who he is or that have seen any of his matches. So, if you fall into this category, I am glad you’re here. Delfin is somebodyspecial that never got the change to showcase himself in America, but if he had, I’m willing to bet his fanbase would be tenfold. Not to mention his gear is awesome. So, for this New Japan Gem, I suppose I’m a little bias. Nonetheless, let’s get into the match!
So, seeing as it has been a while since I watched this one, I totally forgot that this was only a twenty minute match! That was a little bit of a surprise when I checked to see how long the match was as I put it on. I remembered it going longer than that… Anyway, the match picks up with skipping the entrances and going right into the preliminaries. Right way, I noticed that Delfin had a half Liger, half Delfin mask on and even included Liger’s colors scheme for his own attire. Just one of the many reasons why I love The ‘Def, when he does stuff like that. Both men get really strong applause from the crowd when they’re announced, so right off the bat, I can tell they’re going to be hot for this main event. Delfin event gets his own chant as the men shake hands! The crowd chanting for him over Liger is hard to believe. Although, technically, he is the underdog going in.
Things started off with some basic opening technical work to a standoff. Delfin again mocks Liger slightly. Liger picks up the pace and gets Delfin back down to the mat with a modified stretch which turns into a camel clutch. Liger’s submissions always looked liked he was actually wrenching them and that they actually hurt! The tides would turn though, and Delfin would attempt a submission, but ultimately give up and just lay a few strong strikes in.
Jushin Liger again applied one of his famed submission, this time being his Romero Special. After five minutes, Delfin hasn’t really shown anything substantial thus far, which is sad. All of a sudden, the two broke into an on-the-fly spot, including a great flying headscissors and a dropkick complements of Delfin! Super Delfin then teased a jump out to Liger who stood on the floor, but posed instead. Classic.
Just watching through, I forgot how well Super Delfin’s attire was made for this match. The two men’s outfits are so similar, if you aren’t really paying attention, you’ll miss something. It almost makes me wish the two tagged together like this a couple of times!
For a few solid minutes, Liger continued the beating pretty good with Delfin selling his butt off. Liger then hit a devastating backdrop on the man, basically folding him in half. Super Delfin would let out a burst of energy and hit Liger with a dropkick that sent him to the floor where Delfin was able to follow up with a big crossbody splash onto him from the top to the floor. The crowd “ooooh!”ed pretty good for that showing of heart! Another huge Delfin chant broke out!
The pace of the match quickened as a few near falls were executed, and Delfin hit a huge elbow drop off the top rope. Macho Man would’ve approved of that one! Liger would answer back with a tombstone piledriver. The two masked men would again end up on the outside, with desperation setting in to put one another away. Liger was very nearly counted out, in fact.
Side note, I just connected why Super Delfin is getting the response he is over Jushin Liger… Because, jeez you know, they’re in Osaka! You know, where Super Delfin is from. Where Michinoku Pro held many of its events at the time. I felt dumb for forgetting and then wondering why Delfin was so over with this random New Japan crowd. Sorry guys.
Deflin picked up major momentum and even caught Liger with a tornado DDT and in his innovated Delfin Clutch for a near fall. The crowd was worked into a frenzy after this combo. Delfin’s momentum wouldn’t last long though, as Liger again picked up the pace with a few well-timed reversals and a dangerous diving senton from the top onto Delfin who stood on the outside. I still feel Delfin hasn’t had the match that he could of with Liger at this point, more than seventeen minutes in.
In closing, the ending of the match followed a few cool reversals, moves off the top, and really close three-counts. For this entry and moving forward, I’m not going to reveal who ended up winning, because YOU HAVE TO GO AND WATCH FOR YOURSELF, of course! With that said, I wish it had gone a little bit longer after watching it back, as I feel like it was just starting to get going. I’m also a little bummed the two never had a return match together, as this one only really opened the door a crack instead of kicking it right in…
Now, why was this one worth the watch? Well, for starters, it is one of the only Super Delfin matches on NJPW World, and it just so happens to be against Jushin “Thunder” Liger in a main event! Again, I don’t think Delfin showed his best in-ring work in this one (as his character shined through pretty well), but between the solid work with Liger and the reactions of the crowd, it felt like a big-time bout. Also, it is just one of those unique matches that, if you weren’t told to go out of your way to find, you’d probably never see. It was a quick twenty minutes and left me wanting more from both, but I was happy with what the match provided: Strong submissions, great striking, increasing pace and drama, with a couple of big moves sprinkled within. Easy and fun!
That’s it for this installment, folks. Not too bad of a precedent set by the great Jushin “Thunder” Liger and the always eccentric Super Delfin for the first finals matchup in NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament history! Be on the look out for New Japan Gems #4 right here on Wrestling Recaps. You never know what match I’ll suggest for you and your subscription next!