Produced by Jushin Thunder Liger, the Super J-Cup returned to New Japan… with the unretiring of the Amazing Red taking on Will Ospreay!

It’s taken a good few weeks for New Japan to upload these shows, so we’re diving into the Japanese tracks, complete with cold opens and zero graphics as night one of the tour comes from the Temple Theatre in Tacoma, Washington.

Apparently the VOD is going to only show the tournament matches, so, they’ve deleted the opener with Jushin Thunder Liger and Young Lions. Shame.

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: El Soberano Jr. vs. Rocky Romero
Tacoma’s extremely pro-Rocky, as we started with him refusing a handshake before they locked up in a very jarring unbranded ring. Well, save for that small-ish New Japan logo.

Soberano wows in the early going, taking Rocky outside with an armdrag before he faked out a dive, as now Rocky wants a handshake… and he gets it. Along with a chop battle as he and Soberano lit each other up, spilling outside to keep up the battle.

Soberano tries to pull away, but he just gets dropkicked into the corner as Rocky began to perhaps take him a little lightly. An Octopus stretch subdues Soberano further, but he’s able to stagger into the ropes before he slapped back at Rocky… who just jabs him down to the mat in response.

A baseball slide from Soberano trips Rocky ahead of a legdrop off the top, before he went airborne again, only for Rocky to run under a flying crossbody as Soberano crashed and burned. Rocky hangs Soberano in the ropes after that for a flying dropkick to the head for a near-fall, following up with some Forever lariats in the corner. Those nearly win the match for Rocky, before Soberano returned with a series of superkicks, finishing off Rocky with a Tornillo off the top for the win. This was fine as a crowd-pleasing opener, but this was more of a low-key opener to set the stage for matches to come later in the evening. ***

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: TJP vs. Clark Connors
There were some boos for TJP, who was back in a New Japan ring for the first time since 2011’s Best of the Super Juniors. All that made Connors the overwhelming favourite with the crowd, even more so because he came from nearby Snoqualmie (about 60 miles away). G’wan Clark!

Connors brought the aggression early, locking up with TJP into the corner for a clean break, before he charged down TJP with a shoulder tackle. Clark went for a Boston crab too soon and got spun down with a headscissors as TJP looked to take the lead… but Connors went back in with a side headlock, only for TJP to slip out and lock in a Cobra twist instead.

After Connors got free, TJP caught him out on a trip attempt and instead went to snap away with a hammerlock, before a slingshot senton led to TJP building up momentum with some of Bret Hart’s five moves of doom. A side Russian legsweep gets a two-count, as TJP looked to pin Connors to the mat using a knuckle lock… but Connors counters into a monkey flip before TJP switched up into a Sharpshooter – grabbing Connors hands for extra stretch. The hold’s switched into a Muta lock in the middle of the ring, but TJP loses his grip allowing Clark to get to the ropes.

Clark tries to make another comeback with a bodyslam, before a strike exchange broke out. Another dropkick stops TJP, as does a snap scoop slam, before Connors rolled through a sunset flip and turned it into a Boston crab, only for TJP to get free and land Taguchi’s Dodon to the Throne for a near-fall. TJP looks to follow up with a superplex, but Connors pushes him down… only for TJP to pop back up and eventually get the move off. Straight after the impact, TJP rolls it and followed up with a brainbuster for a near-fall, before Connors struck back in with a spear and a Boston crab, dragging TJP away from the ropes untl TJP was able to roll through and catch him in a knee bar/STF combo for the submission. A hell of an outing from Connors, but in the end the Young Lion came up short in an unpopular result. ***¼

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: BUSHI vs. Caristico
In terms of name value, I think BUSHI may be a little eclipsed here. Caristico’s got his telenovela overdub theme that we all fell in love with over Fantasticamania.

We’ve a jump start from BUSHI, who tosses Caristico outside for a dive from the off, before knocking down Caristico back in the ring for some t-shirt choking. BUSHI keeps up the pressure with a STF, but there’s a rope break as Caristico was really struggling to get out of the blocks.

That was the cue for Caristico to unleash with a series of kicks, following in with a handspring back elbow, then a springboard armdrag to take BUSHI outside for a big tope that tested the flimsy Tensabarrier. Back in the ring, Caristico keeps hitting the ropes for a springboard crossbody with big air behind it for a near-fall, before BUSHI ends up getting caught with a superkick, taking him into the ropes for a 619.

A springboard frog splash follows for a near-fall, before another thrust kick dazes BUSHI, whose attempt to take down Caristico with La Mistica didn’t quite go to plan. They trade chops from there, before BUSHI caught Caristico with a DDT on the apron, then a swinging neckbreaker for another near-fall.

From there, BUSHI looks for the MX, but Caristico superkicks it away before hurrying into the corner, where he eventually lands a modified Spanish Fly for the win. This was fine, but there has to be something up with the crowd audio as the audience seemed very muted. ***¼

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: Jonathan Gresham vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
A first time singles meeting here, with Gresham representing ROH. That may be a kiss of death for him.

The Tacoma crowd was very pro-Taguchi here, although there was more than a smattering of CCK chants that completely took me unawares. Clearly, that PROGRESS match from last summer left a mark in the Pacific North West! Taguchi starts with some arm wringers, but Gresham cartwheels free before he helped Taguchi into tiring himself out in the ropes, as Taguchi’s cardio still left something to be desired. At least he was able to find a second wind to kick out the second Gresham went for a cover!

Taguchi outsmarts Gresham with armdrags before he repeatedly stopped himself from being taken down. Ultimately, a pratfall does the job as Gresham starts to stomp on Taguchi’s hands, finishing off with a dropkick as the Octopus was starting to build up momentum.

Gresham scoots under Taguchi as he took the upper hand, kicking out Taguchi’s arm on the way to locking in an armbar, while looking for the odd pinning attempt too. That left arm of Taguchi remains the focal point, at least until Taguchi dove to the rope to save himself.

An Omoplata’s used to tie-up Taguchi’s arms as Gresham then folded him in half with a single leg crab, but it ends a la ZSJ… in the ropes. Gresham finds himself back in the ropes not long after as Taguchi busts out some hip attacks, then the Three Amigos, only for Gresham to counter that last one with an arm snapper.

A springboard armdrag keeps Gresham in it, as he looked to roll Taguchi into a crucifix pin, before some see-saw sunset flip pins ended up trolling the referee as both wrestlers became dizzy. Taguchi was affected the most, as the pair looked to chop each other in the corner… missing so many times, before Taguchi struck back, grabbing an ankle as another series of roll throughs began, quickly ending with Taguchi snatching the win. A nice, competitive outing that didn’t go too deep in with the shtick – but it’s a little disappointing that the sole ROH entrant crashed out in the first round. ***¼

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: El Phantasmo vs. Robbie Eagles
Our first match with some real juice, as El Phantasmo made his return to the US (after over seven years away). Heck, it wasn’t until I checked that I realised that ELP was looking for his first ever singles win in the USA. Oh yeah, this was also the first time Robbie Eagles was facing ELP since he left Bullet Club.

Phantasmo tried to jump start proceedings, but Eagles was wise to it, sending him outside before starting the match with an attempted springboard… but ELP just powdered outside into the path of a tope con giro. Told you those ribbon barriers weren’t much use!

Back in the ring, ELP begs off, but Eagles just takes him down with an armdrag before some headscissors had the Rev Pro Cruiserweight champion on jelly legs ahead of an eventual dropkick. A slugfest breaks out until Phantasmo raked the eyes, as the tide turned there with him whipping Eagles from corner-to-corner, following up with some cheap rakes to the front and back.

Eagles tries to bounce back, but his springboard’s caught as he gets crotched and put in a Tree of Woe ahead of a baseball slide dropkick and a Gas Pedal. He keeps it grounded with a side headlock on the mat afterwards, before he shot Eagles into the ropes with a dropkick as the Aussie was getting precious little in here. ELP prepared for some spitty chops next, before he kicked away Eagles’ attempt at a leglock. Undeterred, Eagles stays on Phantasmo’s leg, with a 619 to the back of the knee, then a springboard dropkick to the joint as he seemed to be prepping for a Ron Miller special. A thrust kick from ELP puts the brakes on that, only for Eagles to reply in kind until he ran into a big lariat.

Back and forth forearms follow until Phantasmo tweaks Eagles’ nipples, following up with chops that Eagles just shrugged off. Hey, someone’s been watching the Dan Moloney tapes! Eagles charges ELP into the corner for a Violence Party, taking ELP to the mat as some running knees followed for a near-fall.

Eagles heads up top, but Phantasmo caught him with a forearm, then with a springboard enziguiri and a top rope ‘rana to take the Aussie down. From there, a senton bomb and a double-jump moonsault followed, but it’s not enough to put away Eagles, who then countered a CR2 into the Ron Miller Special… which didn’t seem to get any reaction from the crowd.

ELP easily gets to the ropes from that, but he’s caught on the apron with a slingshot DDT for a near-fall, then another DDT off the top as Eagles looked to snatch victory. A 450 splash to the knees is aborted as ELP got the feet up… but he just shoves Eagles into the ref before a low blow and a roll up for the win. Heated stuff, but the wacky crowd audio may take the edge off this for some. A good first match in what’s sure to be a series of many singles outings between these two. ****

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: Dragon Lee vs. YOH
Another first time singles match, with their prior meeting being on the New Japan x CEO video game show last year.

Things start off fine enough with a handshake, before the pair looked to keep things at a steady pace with YOH looking for a wristlock… only for Dragon Lee to cartwheel free as we build up to the obligatory double dropkick. They turn it up a notch as Dragon Lee’s taken outside for a tope con giro, before YOH responded to only getting some two-counts by… stomping on Dragon Lee. It’s a fair reaction.

YOH keeps up the pressure with a low dropkick to Dragon Lee, as that knee looked to be the focal point. A dropkick from Dragon Lee gives him an opening, but YOH regained the upper hand on the outside, as that dropkick took more out of Dragon Lee than he’d thought. Back in the ring, YOH finds himself on the back foot as Dragon Lee found it in him to land a Combinacion Cabron, before he crashed outside with a tope con giro into that ribbon barrier.

Returning to the ring, Dragon Lee hits a knee to the midsection of YOH, before he threw YOH outside. An attempt the skin the cat sorta helps as YOH responded with a corkscrew forearm, then a Dragon screw to yank Dragon Lee off the top. Ow.

Keeping the former junior heavyweight champion in the corner, YOH busts out a bunch of stomps, but he’s caught with a dropkick as Dragon Lee went all Shibata on us with a hanging dropkick into the corner for a near-fall. Out of nowhere, YOH’s back in as he rolled into a single leg crab, twisting the leg down again before he locked in a Figure Four to try and force a submission.

A rope break saves Dragon Lee, who then had to elbow free of a Dragon suplex before a rebound German suplex looked to stun YOH. Back-and-forth knees keep us going, at least until Dragon Lee ran into a superkick as both men hit the mat. Dragon Lee gets the upper hand from the restart, at least until YOH’s enziguiri caught up on the top rope ahead of a superplex attempt… which turned into the pair of them trading forearms on the top rope until YOH got knocked back for a massive Del Rio stomp!

That only gets Dragon Lee a near-fall, so he keeps on with a ripcord leaping knee before he got rolled into a calf slicer by YOH. They’re pretty close to the ropes, so YOH drags him away only for the hold to get broken in the ropes regardless. Another Dragon suplex is flipped out of by Dragon Lee, who chains together a leaping knee and a reverse ‘rana that may as well have been a back cracker, before a running knee almost got the win. From there, he goes for Desnucadora, which doesn’t hit clean but it gets the job done as Dragon Lee booked his spot in the quarter-finals. Some good stuff, even if the finishing run threatened to fray a little towards the end. ***¾

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: Taiji Ishimori vs. SHO
A rematch from this year’s Best of the Super Juniors, SHO’ll be looking to get some revenge.

SHO charges into Ishimori at the bell with a dropkick as he was looking to not waste much time here, taking Ishimori outside with a low dropkick before following up with a PK to the arm off the apron. That left arm was a clear target from the off as SHO lifted Ishimori into the ring by the limb, before he skulked around ringside, confusing the referee, so he could pick his spot with another kick to the arm.

A Fujiwara armbar follows, with SHO throwing some elbows for good measure, before Ishimori broke free and found a way back in with a springboard senton. After throwing SHO into the corner head-first, Ishimori slowed the pace down from there, grounding SHO with a series of stomps before he took him into the corner for some chops.

Some headscissors and a neck twist from Ishimori keep the pressure on, as does a grounded chinlock, as the crowd broke into chants for Red Shoes, who did a little jig in time to it. SHO makes a comeback, crashing into Ishimori with a spear, before looking for a deadlift German suplex.

Ishimori wriggles free, but gets hiptossed into a cross armbreaker instead, with SHO clubbing away to break the grip as Ishimori was thankful for being able to roll into the ropes. SHO keeps up, wrenching Ishimori’s arm before he again went for a German suplex, instead losing out as Ishimori propelled himself into the ropes for a handspring enziguiri. A Golden Triangle moonsault from Ishimori follows as he crashed into the ribbon barriers on the outside – along with SHO. Back inside, forearms knock SHO down, before receipts were issued, with SHO building up a head of steam as elbows went unanswered. At least until Ishimori ran in with a leaping knee and a crashing reverse ‘rana…

SHO responds with a lariat as both men were left laying, before another lariat started to get SHO in front. The Shock Arrow’s escaped, but Ishimori just flips back into position before they rolled through, with Ishimori putting in a Yes Lock, only for SHO to get his foot to the bottom rope.

Ishimori keeps up the momentum with running double knees and a tombstone gutbuster, before SHO countered out of a Bloody Cross. A knee breaks Ishimori’s resistance, allowing SHO to lift him up for a Power Breaker (Last Ride/Lumbar Check), but Ishimori kicks out! One Shock Arrow later, and Ishimori’s put away for the count as SHO progressed. This was really enjoyable stuff, with both guys gelling well – but again, the weird crowd audio hurt it on the VOD. ****

Super J-Cup 2019 – First Round: Amazing Red vs. Will Ospreay
This was the match that everyone had their eyes on from the off. Having retired just before WrestleMania weekend, Red was brought back for one last match against the man who labelled him one of his reasons for wrestling. This’ll be special, right?

Right.

The crowd’s loud enough to be heard on the VOD now, so this must be loud.

We get the obligatory handshake before the pair lock up, instantly heading to the ropes for a break. They stop to soak in the crowd, before another lock up ended with Red back in the ropes, before a conflicted Ospreay swung and missed with a chop. An early OsCutter’s blocked too, as the pair broke into a quick flurry that almost ended with Red kicking off Ospreay’s head. This crowd is eating everything up.

Ospreay suckers Red with a forearm as he didn’t appreciate the mercy that was shown, but that just gets an instant response before Ospreay monkey flipped Red to the outside for a faked-out dive. Red returns the favour with a ‘rana, but he followed through on his dive before he rushed Ospreay back in through the ring for a dropkick and a second tope to the outside. Woah.

There’s cool “you still got it / never lost it” chants for Red as Ospreay took his time getting back into the ring… where a chop waited for him in the corner. A dropkick takes him down, but it’s just enough for a one-count, before Ospreay put paid to Red’s offence by chopping him off the top rope, sending him crashing down to the floor.

Red’s sent into the timekeeper’s table as Ospreay decided to take the match into the crowd, undoing the ribbon barrier you’d usually see in queues so he could have a run up for a nice dropkick over the table, sending Red deeper into the crowd. Ow.

Will keeps the match outside of the ring, throwing some more chops before Ospreay looked on bemused as the crowd chanted for Red Shoes again. Regardless, he keeps up, dumping Red with a pendulum backbreaker for a near-fall, before he trapped Red’s arms beind his back and leaned back into a bridge.

Both men get to their feet, whichs parked a comeback from Red as he took Ospreay back down with a ‘rana, following up with dropkicks in the corner and a short ‘rana that spiked Will on his head for a near-fall. Those “let’s go Red” chants get hijacked for the ref as Red continued to force the issue, chopping Ospreay in the corner, only to get caught out of nowhere by an over-the-top 619.

Red ducks a flying forearm and instead flew in himself with a flying Flatliner for a near-fall of his own. Ospreay responds with headscissors to take Red outside, and this time he’s not faking out as a Sasuke special took down Red flush in the aisle. Ospreay builds up some more, connecting with the springboard forearm once Red was back inside, as those “Let’s Go Red (Shoes)” chants were finally starting to get shouted down.

Red misses a running shooting star press as Ospreay went one better, but his cover’s way too lax as Red kicked out at one. Playful kicks and a spitty forearm or two wind up Red, who just slaps Ospreay into the corner, and to the outside as Red decided to follow out with a senton off the ring post into the crowd. Christ!

Heading back to the ring, Red looked to go up top again, but his Blockbuster’s insanely caught as Ospreay looked for a brainbustr instead, before ultimately landing a reverse Bloody Sunday DDT for a near-fall. Another flurry breaks out as Red ducks a hook kick and lands a thrust kick in response, only for Ospreay to find his mark quickly afterwards, as a Storm Breaker’s neatly countered out of.

Red then wows with a massive satellite spinning DDT, but he took too long covering and had to make do with a two-count instead. A Cheeky Nando’s followed as Ospreay caught Red in the corner, before the pair made their way to the apron, where Will teased a Storm Breaker to the floor, instead opting to trade forearms and chops before a Code Red was countered out of, with an OsCutter on the apron doing the damage!

Both men needed to make use of the 20 count outside, with Red almost falling foul of it as he rolled back into the path of a dropkick as Ospreay turned up the tempo. That gets a near-fall, as does a shooting star press… and a follow-up OsCutter as Will was finally landing the big shots.

The pair pull themselves back to their feet as Ospreay lands a thrust kick to the head of a kneeling Red. A Storm Breaker’s blocked again as Red tried to turn it into a suplex, before Ospreay hauled him up… only for Red to turn it into a spanning ‘rana for a near-fall!

Red’s second wind continued with a massive tornado DDT, before a flying Dragonrana founds its mark for another two-count! A Stardust press followed, but Will’s able to drape his foot on the rope in the nick of time. Ospreay clings to that bottom rope as Red looked to finish him off, only to run into a Spanish Fly for as another near-fall was racked up.

The Hidden Blade’s next out of Ospreay, despite the fatigue, as he then looked to put Red away with an OsCutter out of the corner, before rolling Red up into a Storm Breaker, spinning the veteran to the mat for the emphatic win. Yep, that was ungodly special – living up to the hype it got back in August and then some. Make some time for this match – and prepare to sit back and be amazed. Pun intended. ****¾

With eight first round matches on tap here (plus a deleted match), this was always going to be a full round of action. That being said, everything on this show landed, and while some of the matches in the first half of the show could have done with a little longer, this was a damn fine return for the Super J-Cup.