Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid played host to the final-four of this year’s Super J-Cup – as a place in history was on the line!

Again, we’re only dealing with tournament matches. Pro: we have more than one camera here. Con: one of the mobile cameras looks shaky as all hell…

Super J-Cup 2019 – Semi-Final: Dragon Lee vs. Caristico|
These men have singles form in CMLL, with Caristico winning a pair of lightning matches (10 minute time limits), while Dragon Lee took the duke in the quarter finals of this year’s Campeon Universal Del CMLL 2019 tournament.

There’s plenty of lovely lucha flips to start us off with as Caristico and Dragon Lee built up to a headstand stand-off, as we got a shot of the unfortunate empty seats as finally someone puts the lights on! Dragon Lee styles out of a ’rana, before he was caught with a springboard armdrag that Caristico followed up with with a tope into the guard rails. Back in the ring, Caristico puts the boots to Dragon Lee, before a kick to the quad sent Dragon Lee crashing to the mat, following up with a springboard crossbody off the top rope for a near-fall.

Dragon Lee strikes back with a dropkick, but Caristico recovers to sweep the leg and trip a running Dragon Lee before mocking everyone with a Floss. Yeah. It’s 2019. Swinging headscissors take Caristico outside as Dragon Lee follows him outside with a tope con giro, before a Ligerbomb back inside led to a near-fall. The pressure continues to mount as Caristico tries to fight back with chops, but Dragon Lee’s equal to them, taking Caristico into the corner with elbows… only to be met with a superkick as he teed up for the Shibata special. A senton bomb from Caristico almost nicks it, but Dragon Lee turned it around, taking Caristico aggressively into the corner for the stalling dropkick for a near-fall.

Desnucadora looks to follow, but Caristico slips out before an attempt at La Mistica gets blocked. Dragon Lee eats a superkick as Caristico went back to the leg with kicks, before Dragon Lee lands a snap German off the ropes, only to be caught with a neat monkey flip into a Destroyer. Caristico looks to finish off with a moonsault, but Dragon Lee got the knees up, following up with a PK for a near-fall before Desnucadora did the deal. This was fine, but a lot of the lucha lads just haven’t clicked for me in this tournament. Caristico looked to hurt his forearm towards the end, as he rushed to pull off his restrainer… ***

Super J-Cup 2019 – Semi-Final: El Phantasmo vs. Will Ospreay
Going into this, ELP had beaten Ospreay twice – for Defiant last October, then in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors. Ospreay’s sole win came at May 2018’s Epic Encounters for Rev Pro. Speaking of… ELP hadn’t been sporting that Rev Pro belt during this tournament.

Phantasmo attacked Ospreay before he’d even entered the ring, knocking Will off the apron and battering him around ringside with forearms and kicks before whipping him into the guard rails for good measure. ELP heads to the ring as Ospreay dragged himself in… and hey, the bell hadn’t rung! Now it has, and Ospreay almost catches ELP out with a MASSIVE Spanish Fly for a near-fall, before a clothesline took the Canadian out for a huge Sasuke special. Well, despite that beating, Ospreay’s got plenty left in the tank. Phantasmo’s taken back in for a springboard forearm for a near-fall, before they headed outside, where ELP used the guard rails for a spot of tightrope walking… only for Ospreay to kick the barrier away so he could leap into ELP in the crowd.

They’re going at a hell of a pace, that’s for sure!

Ospreay throws ELP back into the ring, as the Canadian begged for a time-out. It wasn’t coming. Instead, Ospreay mauled him into the corner for some boots before ELP tried to catch Ospreay with his own Cheeky Nando’s… ending with Phantasmo just bundling Ospreay to the floor. A dropkick through the ropes keeps Ospreay at bay ahead of a ropewalk moonsault, before he went to work on Ospreay with all the rakes. The Gas Pedal follows, condensing Ospreay’s cahones, before more rakes gave way to a handspring enziguiri as Ospreay fought back. ELP’s caught with a kick in the corner as Ospreay responds with an over-the-top 619, following up with a hattrick of moonsaults, then a corkscrew moonsault for a near-fall. A nasty superkick from ELP swats away an OsCutter, as a whirlibird neckbreaker ends up getting escaped as Ospreay tried to build up some new momentum.

A superkick stops that again as ELP hits a flying Destroyer out of the corner, only to get hit with a Stundog Millionaire. Never suplex Ospreay. Will looked to finish off ELP with a Hidden Blade, but Phantasmo pulled the ref into harm’s way. This time, the punch to the ding ding’s blocked as Ospreay ends up getting spat on… which just enraged him to throw some Kawada kicks and one big head kick, before pulling a limp Ospreay up for an OsCutter. But there’s still no ref… which means Taiji Ishimori can run out and catch Ospreay with a Bloody Cross as Will was set to win with a Storm Breaker… allowing ELP to win with a CR2. A little bit of shenanigans was needed, but this was a phenomenal sprint of a semi-final – and I’m sure if this portion of the tournament hadn’t been a “semis and final” on the same night deal, they’d have gone into that extra gear as well. ****

Super J-Cup 2019 – Final: Dragon Lee vs. El Phantasmo
The long weekend on the west coast all boils down to this – in yet another first-time match. It’s amazing how many of these New Japan’s used up here without going too far off of the list of guys they regularly use for junior shows.

Phantasmo tries to play to the crowd for his t-shirt, but nobody’s playing as we got underway. Especially because ELP got some help at the start of the match as a very-sweaty Jay White sauntered out alongside Taiji Ishimori and Gedo. Referee Red Shoes told ELP he had to lose the help, otherwise he’d get DQ’d, and sure enough, the Sweaty Bullet Club guys got ejected. Meanwhile, away from the camera, ELP caught Dragon Lee with a whirlibird neckbreaker for a two-count, before he started teeing off with punches from the mount. They head outside as Dragon Lee tasted the guard rails, along with some chops after he was taken back inside. There’s rakes too, but Dragon Lee switches it around, taking Phantasmo outside for topes, keeping on top of the IWGP junior tag champion when he tried to run away.

Dragon Lee proceeds to throw ELP into the crowd as we got a bit of a Brookesing on a New Japan show, before they headed back towards the ring, where some choking by the guard rails led to ELP getting kicked in the ding ding… followed by Dragon Lee talking his way out of a DQ too. They stay outside as ELP threw Dragon Lee into the ring post, before lawn darting the former IWGP junior champion into another post as the momentum firmly returned to ELP’s side of things. Booting Lee into the corner, ELP hoists him up into a Tree of Woe for a baseball slide dropkick ahead of the inevitable Gas Pedal.

ELP looks to rile up the crowd by trying to unmask Dragon Lee, slowly undoing the laces on the mask while he held a chinlock. The chinlock’s switch up with a standing surfboard stretch, before Phantasmo began to work over the mask again, loosening those laces some more as he pantomimed going for another surfboard. After stomping the knees into the mat, ELP began to pantomine towards Jushin Thunder Liger, who was at ringside to present the winner’s jacket afterwards. Whipping Dragon Lee into the corner, ELP pretends he’s Sting, but ends up getting sent onto the apron ahead of a flying ‘rana to the floor as the tide quickly turned. Back in the ring, Dragon Lee goes all Shibata, cracking into ELP with a pair of dropkicks, including one that very much had Phantasmo go all KENTA in terms of facial reactions.

Wisely, ELP rolls outside to avoid a third dropkick, before he caught a cartwheel ‘rana and instead powerbombed Dragon Lee through the table by Liger! Holy crap! A flying double stomp over the guard rails follow as ELP looked to damn near kill Dragon Lee… all for that shiny gold jacket. ELP comes up sliced open, presumably from crashing into a chair on the way down… he’s able to get back to the ring as Dragon Lee’s left recovering on the table. Somehow Dragon Lee beats the 20 count, but ELP’s’ waiting on the top rope, crashing into him with a big splash for a near-fall after the Mexican rolled back in. That’s got the crowd back onside, as ELP goes for a CR2, before he rolled through into a Styles Clash, planting Dragon Lee for a near-fall as he began to lean into the old Bullet Club finishers of yore. The crowd boos as a bloody Phantasmo went for the One Winged Angel, instead sitting down on a Victory Roll as Dragon Lee tried to counter out, before a very quick turnaround saw ELP eat some knees and a Ligerbomb for a near-fall.

ELP escapes a Desnucadora, but can’t avoid a Destroyer before hitting one of his own… as both men crumpled to the mat. The blood continues to flow as they trade slaps, then chops, before ELP stopped the flow with a pair of nipple twisters. A bloody spit from Phantasmo just enrages Dragon Lee, who spat back… but ELP ducks as the ref gets the shot, before another dick punch and roll-up led to a near-fall. That’s twice that’s not worked. Instead, ELP goes for some repeated stomps before a spot of rope walking ended with Dragon Lee crotching him in the corner ahead of a Del Rio stomp towards the apron. Ooft. Phantasmo’s still dripping blood as he got back to his feet, falling into the ring as another count-out tease ended with him diving in at the last minute… the crowd thought he’d lost it there! Dragon Lee finds a second wind, heading up top for a crushing double stomp, but it’s not enough, so he sets up ELP for another Del Rio stomp, but Phantasmo pushes away the ref and pulls off Dragon Lee’s mask… before one last dick punch led to an avalanche whirlibird neckbreaker.

And with the fake voices of Andy Quildan in my mind, round and round Dragon Lee goes, where he lands, only El Phantasmo knows. The answer? The middle of the ring, as a CR2 followed, and that’s all as ELP added another string to his bow – becoming only the fifth person to win the Super J-Cup in a match that ultimately will be memorable for many, many reasons. Not just the blood. ****¼

After the match, Jushin Thunder Liger looked to present ELP with the trophy – which was a weak cup for the tournament to be fair. ELP kicks it away, demanding instead that Liger put the jacket on him, but instead Liger threw it down and walked off in disgust. Phantasmo wasn’t letting him get away with that, taking the mic to call Liger a “rude, bald piece of shit”. How does he know?!

ELP threatened to retire Liger early, prompting Liger to drop a very audible F bomb before he stormed off. You’d better believe that match is happening before Liger retires. They edited out the line from ELP to Will Ospreay that got him some heat, as they instead cut to Taiji Ishimori holding him so ELP could lay him out with the trophy before Robbie Eagles made the save as Will left us with one last burn, calling ELP “budget Prince Devitt” ahead of a red hot promo to close out the show.

So, was the wait for the Super J Cup to drop worth it? Absolutely. While that first night was a little long, and some of the matches perhaps left a little to be desired (in particularly the lucha lads) there were no bad matches throughout the tournament – which is a massive bonus – while the stock of Will Ospreay and El Phantasmo grew with their tournament showings. The 2019 Super J-Cup’s worth watching – just perhaps don’t binge it in one go like I did!