The quarter-finals of the Super J-Cup came to San Francisco as some of the world’s best juniors fought for the shiny gold jacket.

This round’s coming from the San Francisco State University Student Life Event Center. It’s a mouthful. Once again, we’ve just got the tournament matches on tap, with no English commentary (yet).

Super J-Cup 2019 – Quarter-Final: Soberano vs. Caristico
It’s an all-CMLL match here, but with these guys usually tag partners, this is a first-time meeting.

We’re looking at a single, fixed-camera shot here as the luchadors hit the ropes and handspring around each other to try and establish dominance early, before Caristico blocked a springboard armdrag and instead dished out one of his owm, sending Soberano outside for a faked-out dive. Referee Marty Asami doesn’t waste time with his count, but it gets Soberano back in quickly for a flying ‘rana off the top, taking Caristico outside for a Sasuke special as I rue the fixed camera. Both men beat the count-out, with Caristico landing a lofty springboard crossbody back in for a near-fall, following up with a tope con giro out of frame.

Returning to the ring again, the pair reset with back-and-forth chops before a Soberano superkick took down Caristico. There’s a quick receipt as we passed the five minute mark, before a handspring back elbow from Caristico drew a near-fall. Stomps from Caristico keep Soberano down, before Soberano slid outside and came back in with a legdrop off the top that seemed to catch Caristico unawares. Soberano keeps up with chops, only to get caught with another Caristico crossbody before he hit a springboard moonsault as Caristico was caught in the ropes. That’s another near-fall, prompting Soberano to head up top… where he got caught with a Spanish fly for the win. This was fine, but it just didn’t work for me. If you’re more into lucha, your mileage will probably vary. ***

Super J-Cup 2019 – Quarter-Final: El Phantasmo vs. TJP
Prepare to be shocked – another first-time meeting here, and it seemed that San Francisco wasn’t any more charitable to TJP.

We get going with ELP taking TJP into the ropes, and of course there’s no clean break. Things pick up from there with headlock takedowns, escapes adn the like, before TJP blocks a poke to the eyes and dabs. To boos. Good. San Francisco has taste. Ever the bad guy, ELP agrees with it, then offers a handshake, complete with drooling spit…that he then flung towards the referee. TJP offers a Too Sweet, but gets dabbed in return as this became a battle of loathed gestures… before TJP hit the ropes for a ‘rana.

Phantasmo tries to lift TJP outside, but instead gets caught with a spinning headscissors that came to rest in an Octopus stretch. A STF on the mat’s next for TJP, who then broke and decided to catch ELP in the corner with a headstand on the top rope… only for Phantasmo to finally land the poke to the eyes anyway. Phantasmo mouthes off to the crowd as he slowed the pace down, grinding TJP’s head in the mat before setting him up in the corner for the inevitable Gas Pedal. ELP goes to the wrist afterwards, tweaking TJP’s fingers before it was time to go rope-walking… ending when TJP crotched him in the corner ahead of an eventual springboard top rope ‘rana.

A dropkick from TJP follows ahead of a springboard crossbody for a near-fall, before they went back to trading strikes. TJP broke free with a spinning kick, before it was back to the elbows and chops, ending when Phantasmo twisted those nipples. ELP pushes ahead, only for a kick to get caught and turned into a back suplex by TJP. Phantasmo rolls outside and superkicks away a springboard by TJP on the apron, before ELP went for his own dive, landing a ropewalk moonsault into the crowd. Back in the ring, Phantasmo goes for a whirlbird neckbreaker, but TJP slips out into a backslide before a tornado DDT and a Detonation kick clocked Phantasmo for a near-fall.

TJP looked to finish up off the top rope, but ELP kicks the ref into the strands to crotch him before landing a top rope ‘rana. From there, Phantasmo lands a senton bomb only to miss with the double-jump moonsault, as TJP tried to capitalise with a chickenwing lungblower for another two-count. The knee-bar follows from TJP, but ELP clings on and ends up rolling into the referee for our mandated ref bump. Cue a punch to the balls, and a roll-up… and that’s the win for Phantasmo. Like the opener this was fine, but with the crowd on TJP’s back, this was a weird match between two bad guys by default… with only ELP really leaning into it. ***¼

Super J-Cup 2019 – Quarter-Final: Dragon Lee vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Hey, we’ve some past form here – Taguchi’s never beaten Dragon Lee, losing to him early on in last year’s Best of the Super Juniors, while also losing in the first round of last year’s King of Indies tournament in a rare, non-New Japan outing for the arse fan.

Taguchi dances around Dragon Lee’s attempt to lock-up, but he instead ends up in a wristlock before shoving Dragon Lee into the ropes. A shoulder block doesn’t come off, nor does a low dropkick as Taguchi seemed to be a step ahead here, following in with an attempt to make Dragon Lee run the ropes… but it backfires as he gets his regular dose of cardio in instead. Eventually Dragon Lee comes in with a dropkick, sending Taguchi outside for a tope con giro, as I get sight of some mobile cameras and wonder… why the hell weren’t their footage spliced into this?

Back in the ring, Taguchi eats a butterfly backbreaker and a low dropkick for a two-count. Chops keep Taguchi on the back foot, but he’s quickly able to land a hip attack to turn things around… and there’s more of those where that came from. Dragon Lee uses forearms to stop a leaping hip attack on the outside, before he crashed and burned with a pescado, as Taguchi instead headed back into the ring to land a springboard plancha to the floor. Returning Dragon Lee to the ring, Taguchi lands a flying sit-down splash for a two-count. Hey, I missed Doink’s old whoopee cushion! Dragon Lee ducks another leaping attack as Taguchi crashes and burns as the “Red Shoes” chants started up briefly.

Taguchi and Dragon Lee trade right hands from there, before another hip attack finally landed… only for Taguchi to go back to it too quickly and get caught with a German suplex. He tries to no-sell it… but to no avail! Still, Taguchi’s back up to his feet, only to get overwhelmed in the corner as Dragon Lee went all Shibata on us with a hanging dropkick for a near-fall. From there, Dragon Lee sets up Taguchi for a Del Rio stomp, but Taguchi leans back and came straight back with Oh My Garankle, which is quickl rolled out of. A wheelbarrow roll-up from Dragon Lee’s sat down on for a near-fall as Taguchi goes back to the ankle lock, holding on this time as Dragon Lee rolled through.

Eventually Dragon Lee got free, only to get clocked with a leaping knee before Taguchi looked for Dodon. It’s countered into a Tiger suplex, which Dragon Lee flipped out of before returning with a Ligerbomb for a near-fall of his own… eventually following up with a Shining Wizard for the win. I wasn’t expecting that to be the finish, but that was a pretty solid “babyface” match – but again, nothing from this particularly leapt off the page for me sadly. ***¼

Super J-Cup 2019 – Quarter-Final: SHO vs. Will Ospreay
Another first-timer!

We got going here with a tentative lock-up that Ospreay aborted so he could jaw with the crowd. SHO looked to get the upper hand early as he worked a wristlock, but Ospreay flips free as the pair jockeyed for position. Another lock-up ends in a knuckle lock, with SHO forcing down Ospreay only for Will to power up and counter into a monkey flip that SHO tried to turn into a cross armbreaker. They keep the monkey flip going, until Ospreay gets sent into the corner, from where he went to the apron before a leg sweep and a hanging dropkick knocked him to the floor. A running PK on the apron targets the arm as SHO looked to be rather methodical with his offence, following Will outside to work on the wrist, wrapping it (presumably) around the ringpost as this went out of shot.

Back in the ring, SHO stays on the arm, as Will tried to fight back with his (good) right arm. A forearm took Will into the corner, before he chopped SHO off the top rope, sending him outside for crowd brawling that was out of shot. Tremendous work not having a mobile camera on this feed, lads. So we watch Red Shoes watching them around ringside for a spell, as we hear a guard rail spot before we caught glimpses of Ospreay presumably leaping off the guard rails with a forearm to SHO. It sounded awesome.

They make it back to the ring as Ospreay lands a variety of knee drops for a two-count, before a pendulum backbreaker added to the list as SHO suddenly seemed to be on the ropes. Figuratively speaking. That’s the cue for SHO to look to make a comeback, which Ospreay quickly cuts off… only for his handspring to get kicked away as SHO looked to build up steam, hitting the ropes for a forearm before a suplex was countered out of. A hiptoss takes Ospreay into a cross armbreaker, but he clings on and ends up rolling into the ropes to save himself. SHO keeps up on that left arm, restraining Ospreay by it as he threw some kicks, only for Will to respond with a handspring enziguiri off the ropes. An over-the-top 619 and springboard forearm follow for Ospreay as he continued to build up near-falls, before he used some headscissors to take SHO over the top rope and to the floor. Ospreay measures up for a Sasuke special, landing it flush in the aisle, returning SHO to the ring so he could playfully kick in a la KENTA.

Ospreay begins to pick his shots, but SHO fought back with a clothesline and some rolling Germans that absolutely hurtled Ospreay into the air. Will flips out of the last one and countered back with a Robinson special, only to see a follow-up OsCutter blocked as SHO returned with a spear, before a suplex from SHO’s finally stopped with a Stundog Millionaire as both men were left flat out. The match descended into back-and-forth strikes, with SHO’s chops having Ospreay reeling… but the retaliatory forearms had just as much a sting, before another OsCutter attempt was countered into a bridging German that almost sent SHO through. Duelling chants greeted both men as they fought back to their feet, as SHO prepared for a Power Breaker, only for Ospreay to flip free and come back with a standing moonsault for a near-fall.

Kawada-style kicks from Ospreay leave SHO stunned, but SHO finds a second wind to monster through it all and sting Ospreay with some much stiffer-looking receipts. Out of nowhere, Ospreay backflips over a lariat and ragdolls SHO with a wild Ligerbomb for a near-fall, before an OsCutter drew yet another two-count as somehow SHO clung on! A Cheeky Nando’s awaited SHO from there, along with an avalanche Iconoclasm, then a Hidden Blade that SHO responded to with a desperation lariat. Another slugfest took Ospreay into the ropes for some rapid-fire elbows, before SHO landed one more lariat to spin Ospreay inside out. The Power Breaker follows as the fixed camera gave us a view we perhaps didn’t need, as Ospreay somehow managed to kick out, before he slipped out of a Shock Arrow and booted SHO in the head. They keep going, as a standing Spanish Fly caught SHO unawares, as did a second Hidden Blade, before the Storm Breaker finally put away the leading light of Roppongi 3K. An absolute stormer of a main event – and one I wish they’d captured better on tape. Add another string to the bow for Ospreay’s wrestler of the year candidacy… ****½

Main event aside, this was a quarter-final line-up that was just “fine”. Not helped by the single, fixed-camera shot, this will be a slog for some to get through on VOD… if you’re the picky kind, just watch the main event and skip the rest. It’s just a damn shame that production choices overshadowed the show…