El Phantasmo looks to win back-to-back tournaments as New Japan brought back the Super J-Cup once again.
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: Chris Bey pinned Clark Connors in 9:36 (***)
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: ACH pinned TJP in 9:52 (***¼)
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: Blake Christian pinned Rey Horus in 12:00 (***¼)
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: El Phantasmo pinned Lio Rush in 15:16 (***½)
Danny Limelight & JR Kratos pinned Rocky Romero & Fred Rosser in 12:49 (***)
Super J-Cup 2020 – Semi-Final: ACH pinned Chris Bey in 8:27 (***½)
Super J-Cup 2020 – Semi-Final: El Phantasmo pinned Blake Christian in 7:24 (***¼)
KENTA & Hikuleo submitted Kevin Knight & Ren Narita in 10:02 (***)
El Phantasmo pinned ACH in 16:11 to win the Super J-Cup 2020 (***¾)
We’re live on tape from the same venue they use for NJPW Strong, with Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov on the call. At least this is a huge step up from how they released last year’s tournament – which escaped via several VOD releases from what I recall. They run down the card, including Kevin Knight’s debut subbing for Karl Fredericks as we finally get a new Young Lion in the mix. Cue titles… and it’s off to the races, as we go through a list of the competitors, featuring guys from Impact, ROH and GCW – a very American slant on the original J-Cup format.
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: Clark Connors vs. Chris Bey
We’re dealing with no time limit matches in the tournament, as you’d expect.
Connors picks the leg early on as an attempt at a Boston crab ended in the ropes. A takedown has more luck as Connors looked to take Bey’s back, but Bey rolls up and grabs a wristlock that’s quickly reversed, before he flipped free in the ropes. The trading of holds continues to escalate before the pair looked to trade shoulder tackles.
Bey wanted no part of that as he knees Connors, before he got bulled down anyway. Uppercuts take Bey into the corner as Connors uncorks some chops, before a charge into the corner missed. A gamengiri from Bey and a dropkick lands, as more chops followed, this time from the former X-Division champion as Bey responded to a dropdown by… stomping onto Connors’ back. A European uppercut to the back gets Bey a two-count as he looked to stretch out Connors, following up with some mid kicks that enraged Connors. He can’t build much though as Bey clotheslines him down, then took him back to the corner for some uppercuts, before a roll-through neckbreaker landed for a two-count.
Connors tries to throw Bey into the ropes, but Bey switches around and sweeps the leg, before a massive POUNCE knocked him loopy. Clark picks up with some chops as Bey tried to recover in the corner, including a double chop to the back before a slam set up Connors for a spear… but Bey leaps over him. An attempt at the Art of Finesse springboard cutter’s countered with a German suplex for a near-fall. Bey tries to chop back in, but they’re shrugged off as Bey had to muscle his way in for a backslide, following up with a Tiger bomb for a near-fall. Connors goes back to the chops, which opened the door for him to go for a Boston crab, only for Bey to cradle him for a two-count. From there, Bey hits a leaping knee before the Art of Finesse cutter landed for the win. Solid enough, with Bey looking pretty decent against a relatively unfamiliar foe. ***
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: TJP vs. ACH
TJP tries to take this to the mat early, as he picked out ACH’s leg… but nothing comes of it as ACH instead looked to get an early pin on.
An Irish whip sees TJP float over ACH in the corner, then rebound off the ropes for an armdrag to take ACH outside for a slingshot dropkick onto the apron. TJP’s suplex barely gets a one-count, before he tried to trap ACH in an Octopus hold, with the pair instead going for an abdominal stretch, which just ended with ACH rolling TJP to the mat for a quick two-count. The pace continues with ACH knocking TJP down with a dropkick, before a gutbuster left TJP down. Chops follow, but TJP baseball slides below ACH before he took the long way around into an armdrag as he looked to trap ACH in a Muta Lock. TJP switched it into a double armbar, before he wrenched on the arms some more to get a two-count.
ACH crawls into the corner, but he’s pulled out for a side Russian legsweep and a grounded Octopus hold, but that too is escaped as ACH hits some low dropkicks to sweep the leg and take TJP outside. A dive followed, with a plancha knocking TJP down… back inside, as pinning clothesline and a Fisherman suplex lands for a two-count, before a struggle led to ACH just elbowing TJP down. TJP finds a second wind with a springboard DDT for a near-fall, before he looked to follow with a Mamba splash… but ACH avoids it and nails a rolling forearm. A deadlift German is next for a near-fall, as TJP tries to strike back in with some elbows, only to get caught with a Majistral as ACH then rolled through… and got suplexed for his troubles.
TJP tries again with a step-up superplex, but he has to steady himself… and gets caught with an avalanche gutbuster off the top for a near-fall before ACH hit a picturesque 450 for the win. A fairly snappy match with these two trying to work on the mat, but in the end it was pace that got the win here. ***¼
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: Blake Christian vs. Rey Horus
This was billed as a GCW vs. ROH match, and was apparently Rey’s first match in an indeterminate period of time – he last appeared for ROH in February before the shutdown.
We open with a lock-up as Christian took Horus into the corner… but Rey returns the favour as they separate. Horus works a wristlock on Christian, taking him to the mat before the hold was reversed, with the pair going around each other with holds. A hammerlock from Horus is rolled out of by Christian, who then took a wheelbarrow’d sunset flip for a two-count, before he countered out of a backslide for a crucifix pin as the pair eventually reached a stand-off. Christian takes down Horus for a standing moonsault, which gets a two-count, before Horus caught him in the ropes with some stinging chops. Some clothesline attempts end with Horus baseball sliding outside, only to get dived onto by Christian, but that only gets a one-count back inside.
Chops from Christian seem to piss off Horus, who responds with a double-jump armdrag to knock Christian onto the apron…then knocked him off ahead of a tope con giro across the ring post. Horus breaks the 20-count so he could chop Christian back into the ring, following with a discus lariat and a low dropkick for a two-count. Horus’ attempt at a suplex gets reversed, with Christian throwing in a wheelbarrow into a splash, before a standing shooting star press got a near-fall. Blake’s bloodied his nose as he trades forearms with Horus, but a rear spin kick takes Rey into the corner, with an enziguiri following… only for Horus to roll away from a charge as he met Christian in the corner with a kick.
From there, Horus leaps off the top, missing Christian, but quickly sent him into the corner with an overhead belly-to-belly, before he rolled him into a Trailer Hitch… but Christian rolls into the ropes for a break. Christian gets a boot up in the corner, but heads up top and got caught with a wheelbarrow driver for a near-fall. Horus looks to go up top again, but he’s caught with an inverted Spanish Fly for a near-fall, before a frog splash off the top sealed the win. This was your flippy match out of the first round, with the much-more-established (in New Japan) Christian eking out the win. ***¼
Super J-Cup 2020 – First Round: Lio Rush vs. El Phantasmo
Rush has gotten some new entrance gear, which makes him look like a moth. Because “Man Of The Hour”, get it? Meanwhile, El Phantasmo kills the commentary, because I guess they don’t have the rights to his theme? It’s a hell of a gimmick.
Rush and ELP hit the ropes to start, but it’s a missed dropkick from ELP that showed that he was perhaps a little rusty, playing up how he’d not wrestled since lockdown. Yeah, a Rev Pro show in March was his last match before lockdown, with just one match in Calgary in September having broken things up…
Rush confounded Phantasmo as he used plenty of misdirection, but a missed clothesline allowed ELP to hit a springboard crossbody. Rush returned with a springboard ‘rana to take ELP outside, but Rush fakes out a dive as Phantasmo tried to slow down the pace. Back inside, ELP trash talks Rush as he took him down by the arm, stomping on it for extra effect. Phantasmo hits the ropes… but he slips as he went to show off, and gets dropkicked to the floor. Rush followed up with a baseball slide, but Phantasmo ducked… and counters a ‘rana off the apron into a Styles Clash.
ELP takes advantage back inside as he looked for a One Winged Angel, but instead he just hurls Rush into the corner. Rush rebounds with an up kick, but gets hung up in the corner as ELP pulled him into a Tree of Woe ahead of the Gas Pedal. Back rakes follow as ELP’s going into his bag of tricks, digging deeper as he bit away on Rush’s hand before some rope-walking was pulled away. Rush finds a way back in with a reverse ‘rana that takes ELP outside, following up with a big tope that wiped out both men on the floor. An Asai moonsault off the bottom rope followed, ahead of a flying clothesline for a near-fall. ELP goes for a low blow, but Rush evades it and returned with a clothesline… then a Falcon arrow that almost does the deal.
A handspring from Rush just takes him into a whirlibird neckbreaker from ELP for a near-fall. The pair trade right hands, which has ELP back ahead for a brief moment. From there, ELP goes for CR2, but Rush spins out for a small package for a near-fall, before a springboard stunner off the bottom rope takes Phantasmo into a roll-up for a near-fall. Rush tries to finish off ELP with a frog splash, but ELP gets his knees up… then pushed Rush into the referee. Eye poke. Dick punch. Roll-up… and ELP snatches your win, and gets his old music back too, by the sound of it! It’s 2019 ELP back again, but I did enjoy the small touches of him “blowing spots” because of ring rust. ***½
JR Kratos & Danny Limelight vs. Fred Rosser & Rocky Romero
If you’ve been watching NJPW Strong, you’ll be familiar with this feud – one that may be harmed by this all being taped in advance given how Rust Taylor’s since signed to NXT.
Limelight and Romero start – but Danny quickly tags in Kratos… Rosser’s in too as the bigger men on both teams went at it. Elbows and stomps from Kratos have Rosser in the corner, but Rosser avoids a splash in the corner as he looked to force an opening. Kratos busts out a leapfrog as he clotheslines Rosser, before shrugging off a headbutt as the pair then tagged out. Now we get Rocky and Limelight, trading shots before Limelight got tripped as Rocky unloaded on him. A leaping knee from Romero knocks down Limelight, who’s then chopped into the corner ahead of some Forever clotheslines, but Limelight gets free and hangs him in the ropes as Kratos ran in with a clothesline on the apron.
Distractions and double-teaming keep Rocky down, as Kratos returned to charge down Rocky with a back elbow. A suplex drops Rocky for a one-count, with Rosser coming in to break it up. He’s sent outside as Kratos popped up Limelight for a fist drop on Rocky. A wheelbarrow from Limelight takes him in for a rear naked choke on Rocky as Kratos played guard dog, but Rosser runs in to bite Kratos and eventually break up the hold. Rocky blocks a kick as he began to fire back on Limelight, slipping out of a suplex to blast him with a clothesline as Rosser and Kratos returned. Kratos gets knocked off the apron repeatedly as Rosser looked to take advantage, following up with a back suplex onto the edge of the ring. Rosser tries to keep Kratos on the deck, but the big man powers up with some elbows before he suplexed Rosser away.
Limelight tags back in and sprints in for a PK for a near-fall, before he ran into a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Rosser. Rocky’s back to pick apart Limelight, hanging him in the ropes for a dropkick to the back. That gets a near-fall, as Limelight hit back with a spin kick before a Fisherman buster dropped Rocky for another two-count. Rosser broke that up, and quickly had to deal with Kratos as we had a brief Parade of Moves. Rocky hits some right hands as he looked to set up for a Shiranui, but Kratos makes the save and slams Rocky instead, before a wheelbarrow German suplex left Rocky laying… with Limelight taking his time to make the cover for the win. I really like this Kratos/Limelight combo, particularly for Limelight’s arrogance while also being able to back it up. I guess this feud will keep rolling… ***
Super J-Cup 2020 – Semi-Final: Chris Bey vs. ACH
ACH came in with a bad back from his opening round match, and he started out on the defensive as Bey looked to work the wrist early on.
ACH gets lifted to the apron, but returns with a sunset flip for a two-count… but that bad back didn’t stop him from a cartwheel, a backflip and a dropkick that took Bey outside. A switcharound takes ACH into the ropes, where Bey hits a springboard elbow for a two-count, and it only got worse from there as Bey targeted ACH’s back. Shoulder charges trap ACH in the corner, but he escapes with an elbow, before running into a leg sweep. A standing moonsault gets a two-count for Bey, who continued to target the back by using ACH as a surfboard, before ACH struck back with a forearm. A thrust to the throat stops ACH briefly, but Bey gets lifted onto the apron… then booted off of it.
Bey can’t avoid a plancha as ACH did more damage to himself, but he recovers to head back inside with a leg sweep and a stomp for a two-count, before a suplex was kneed out of. Bey then flips out of a German suplex, before he returned with a Code Red for a two-count of his own. The pair trade strikes, with ACH looking to set up for a Tiger Bomb… it’s escaped though as Bey takes him to the corner for a European uppercut and a gamengiri, but Bey’s caught up top as ACH looked for that avalanche gutbuster again… except this time it’s countered into a ‘rana for a two-count. Bey looks to set up for the Art of Finesse, but the springboard cutter’s caught as ACH countered with a German suplex, before he absorbed a superkick. A lariat followed, then the Buster Call brainbuster for a near-fall, before the Midnight Star 450 splash landed for the win. Brief, but enjoyable given that ACH was coming in hurt and was heading to the final. ***½
Super J-Cup 2020 – Semi-Final: Blake Christian vs. El Phantasmo
ELP’s still muted, as we’re told that Blake Christian broke his nose in the first round.
Christian charges out with a shotgun dropkick at the bell, as he tried put away ELP in seconds. Phantasmo kicked out though, and got taken into the corner as a series of elbows saw Blake push on… and then ELP grabs the broken nose to force a separation. Chops follow, but Blake takes ELP onto the apron for a 619 to the ribs. A flip senton off the buckles keeps ELP down, but ELP rolls across the ring to keep away from Blake. That backfires as Blake hits a Sasuke special, before he went for a springboard 450 splash. Blake lands on his feet as he tried to follow up with a Sharpshooter, but Phantasmo plays “gotcha nose” again, as they head into the corner with ELP choking Christian with a boot.
Yet again ELP goes to the nose as he was having fun, before he set up Christian in the ropes for a back rake. More back rakes follow as ELP set up for CR2, but Christian ‘rana’s out and almost gets the upset. Kicks and a lifting reverse DDT keeps Blake close, as does a death valley driver and a shooting star press – but the latter saw Blake land on his face as that momentum threatened to come to an end. Phantasmo’s positioned into the corner, but he rolls away from Elia as Christian crashes and burned off the top. One superkick later, and Blake’s done for. Pretty short, as ELP used all the short cuts to book his spot in the final against a similarly worn-down foe. ***¼
Bullet Club (KENTA & Hikuleo) vs. Ren Narita & Kevin Knight
Knight is a new Young Lion out of the LA Dojo – and was replacing Karl Fredericks due to injury. This was Narita’s first match since February, when he beat Aaron Williams on a Black Label Pro show. There’s a trivia answer for you!
Narita wanted to start against KENTA, and gets his wish as those two trade elbows at the bell. A rear spin kick stops Narita, while a slap decked him as KENTA proceeded to take him into the corner as a tag brings in Hikuleo. Who blistered him with a chop of his own. Thanks for coming, Ren! Narita fights back and gets a tag in to Knight, who helped put the boots to Hikuleo in the corner, before KENTA went for Narita and slammed him on the floor. A side headlock from Knight looks to subdue Hikuleo, but he’s pushed into the ropes and pancaked by the big lad before a whip took Knight into the corner.
Hikuleo’s stalling suplex gets him a two-count, with KENTA coming in to elbow away on Knight in the corner. Knight tries to chop back, but he’s kicked at as Hikuleo tagged back in to keep things going. Knight gets thrown into the corner by Hikuleo, but the referee won’t count the pin… which draws some consternation from commentary. When even the “good guy” commentator’s unsure, you know that’s a weird call. Knight tries to find a way in with an uppercut, but he’s chopped back down, then slammed, before Hikuleo telegraphed a leg drop, with Knight rolling away.
Narita’s back on the apron and tags in, charging to knock KENTA off the apron before he was caught by Hikuleo. A dropkick staggers Hikuleo, but he’s back to goozle Narita ahead of a chokeslam attempt… except Narita slips out and looked for a Cobra twist. A hiptoss breaks that as KENTA tagged in… but he’s taken into the corner for an elbow as Narita nearly got the win with a suplex. KENTA has to take a few more elbows before he hit a back fist… that knocks Narita into the corner. Knight tags back in and manages to charge down KENTA before a dropkick found KENTA’s mush for a two-count. Uppercuts follow as a snapmare and a sliding tackle gets Knight a near-fall. A kitchen sink knee to the gut from KENTA turns it back around though, with the pair trying to trade strikes once more, before another dropkick from Knight was caught and rolled into a Boston crab… which Narita came in to break up.
Elbows from KENTA stop that as Hikuleo hits a chokeslam to dispatch of Narita, before the Boston crab was reapplied to Knight for the submission. A pretty good debut for Knight here, but we all know how it goes for Young Lions… I guess this would have gone differently had the original match happened, but for what we got, this was a showcase for KENTA and Hikuleo. ***
Super J-Cup 2020 – Final: ACH vs. El Phantasmo
We’ve an attack before the match as ELP smashes ACH from behind in the entranceway…
ACH’s back is heavily taped-up, as ELP clears the ringside announcer’s table… but rather than put ACH through it, he just smashes the Super J-Cup trophy across his back. Officials check on ACH… who wants to start… and goes for a roll-up at the bell. We’ve got some flash pin attempts too, before a ‘rana and a dropkick took ELP outside. Phantasmo capitalised by sweeping ACH onto the edge of the ring, then pulled a Jay White by charging him into the edge of the ring before he went back inside, looking to grab a count-out. Of course, it’s way too early for that, as ACH rolls in at 18, but ELP goes for the lower back again, ripping off the athletic tape so he could choke ACH with it.
ACH tries to fight back, but he’s caught with a chinlock as ELP dug into the book of tricks, hooking the nose before a suplex got the Canadian a near-fall. He hooks ACH in a Tree of Woe for a baseball slide dropkick into the corner… then a Gas Pedal, which takes ACH outside as he continued to club away on the lower back. A suplex from Phantasmo dumps ACH on the ramp, as ELP rolled back inside looking for another count-out. Yet again, ACH beats the count, but he’s quickly bitten by Phantasmo, who took him to the mat for more small-joint manipulation. ELP pulls ACH up for some rope-walking, but ACH kicks away the rope to knock Phantasmo outside, and followed up with a massive apron PK.
It took ACH a while to follow up, but he’s able to land a slingshot cutter for a two-count, before a German suplex was blocked. ELP elbows free, but gets caught with a rebound German for a near-fall, before ACH was caught on the top rope with a gamengiri. A top rope ‘rana from ELP brings ACH down, with a big splash following for a near-fall. CR2 looks to follow, but ACH back drops free… before ELP rolled through and caught him with a Styles Clash for another near-fall. A V-Trigger follows as ELP continued to roll through former Bullet Club finishers, but the One Winged Angel comes to nought as ACH slips out. Another flurry from ACH leads to a Buster Call for a near-fall, but ACH couldn’t get up top quickly enough to land the Midnight Star 450 splash.
ELP crotches him in the ropes, then met him up top… but ACH counters with the avalanche gutbuster to almost win the thing. From there, ACH pops up top again for the Midnight Star, but he lands in ELP’s knees… who then pushed him into the referee again. Low blow, roll-up… but this time it doesn’t get the job done! A superkick followed, before he pulled ACH up for the CR2, which proved to be enough to get ELP over the line to win back-to-back Super J-Cups. It’s an act that no doubt infuriates some, but would be much more effective if we didn’t have “bad guys win by cheating” all the time… ***¾
They “present the trophy” to El Phantasmo, well, what’s left of it… and ELP finishes the job by destroying the remnants. He’s much more gentle with the jacket, but he spits on it anyway before declaring that the “Junior division is mine.” ELP addresses “Mr Best of the Super Junior,” and agreed to the match… all without naming Hiromu Takahashi. I mean, it was for the best given how much could have gone wrong!
As soon as I saw it was the NJPW Strong environment, my expectations for this show were altered massively. This show won’t be as in as much demand with tape traders as say, the first Super J-Cup, but was pretty enjoyable in spite of the many limitations. I’m hardly a fan of one-night tournaments, but this was at least consistent throughout. This year, they went for story-telling over “match of the year” calibre outings – with back-to-back wins for ELP setting up something at the Tokyo Dome with Hiromu Takahashi, it would seem.