Breaking Down & Predicting The 2019 Super J Cup
When a tournament isn’t held every year, it becomes something special. One example of this is the reaction from social media when the King of the Ring tournament was announced to start next week. Another example of this is the Super J Cup being put on this year from New Japan Pro Wrestling. This tournament was last held in 2016 and was won by Kushida. The tournament, created by Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, was created to showcase the talent of the junior heavyweights from all across Asia and North America. The tournament has changed to include wrestlers from New Japan’s working relationships with Ring of Honor, RevPro and CMLL. With a very interesting and deep field, I think that we are in for yet another quality tournament from New Japan.
16) Clark Conners
Someone must have been very impressed with Clark Conners during the G1 Climax tour in order for him to get a spot in this tournament. I think Conners is going to be a great wrestler and just needs a bit more training, and he is in the best hands possible with Katsuyori Shibata and the LA Dojo. While it’s pretty clear that Conners is going to lose in the first round, due to the fact that he is still a Young Lion, I do expect him to look really good. I feel like Conners, as well as Karl Fredericks, will soon join Ren Narita and Shota Unimo as Young Lions that fans will think are ready for their excursion.
15) Soberano Jr.
If you were looking for the risk taker in this tournament, well you’ve found him. When I was watching film of Soberano Jr., this guy just loves to fly around. There was not one clip of him not flipping, flying or doing death defying moves. I think that it is safe to say that Soberano Jr., is going to go far in his career, and at only 26 years old, he will be defying the laws of gravity for a long time to come. The only problem with being that risk taking and high flying however, is the crash and burn that could face him especially if he is facing a veteran. In the first round, Soberano Jr. drew just that with Rocky Romero. While I don’t expect Soberano Jr. to have a long run in the tournament, maybe look for him to be in the Super Junior Tag League and a darkhorse to be in next years Best of the Super Junior tournament.
Don’t let your eyes deceive you, Sin Cara was not released from WWE with no announcement. Caristico is the first ever wrestler to don the Sin Cara name in WWE, but now is one of the top stars in CMLL, like he was before he was released. Caristico’s career kind of has two parts to it. There is the part prior to WWE when he was very good, then there was the part where he was in WWE and it was bad. Now in post WWE, he has returned to his former glory and is having great matches again. But if he is one of CMLL’s top stars, why is he down this low on the list? Well his recent record in New Japan isn’t the best. Since 2016, Caristico has gone 5-3 in a New Japan ring, and didn’t wrestle for them since 2016 until this years Fantastica Mania tour. There is also the fact that the only CMLL wrestlers that can get chances in New Japan is Dragon Lee, but that is beside the point. I do expect him to look good, but I don’t think Caristico will be making much noise in this tournament.
13) Jonathan Gresham
Jonathan Gresham has been a busy man this year. He was in the Ring of Honor Tag Wars, Best of the Super Juniors, the IWC Super Indy 18 and the King of Indies 2019. He still has the Super J Cup, the Battle of Los Angeles, and it’s very likely we see Gresham in the Super Junior Tag Tournament. Gresham’s biggest strength is his submission game which is on par with the submission game of Zack Sabre Jr. One of the things I would like to see Gresham work on is the other parts of his game. Sabre is a great example of someone who has become a great well rounded wrestler. If Gresham follows that model, then he could develop into someone just like ZSJ. Gresham does have a rather interesting draw with Ryusuke Taguchi in the first round in a match that could go either way. I think wrestlers like Gresham are perfect examples of how wrestlers from ROH that can prosper from the working relationship with NJPW. Fans in Japan seem to really like Gresham. I don’t have him going far in this tournament, that is mainly due to him still being new in the New Japan scene. The next time this tournament happens however, I expect to have Gresham’s name a lot closer to the top of this list.
12) Amazing Red
After retiring in April, Amazing Red finds himself back in the ring, and in one of the best wrestling companies in the world. Red has had a very decorated career, with title wins all around the world. Red’s style hasn’t changed much since his days in TNA as he still flies all around the place. He does come into this tournament as someone that has done it all and has gotten to the top of the mountain many times before, and is just the big name they needed for a huge main event dream match that fans have wanted to see. Red was doing what Will Ospreay is doing now before Ospreay was a pro wrestler, and fans have been clamoring to see this match for a long time. It is going to be a fantastic main event and could be just the sendoff that Red wants to cap off his amazing career.
The Roppongi 3K guys are both very talented, but it has always felt like YOH is just a little bit behind SHO in the ring. While the margin between the two is very small, SHO has looked just a little better. YOH is going to be great, don’t get me wrong, but I think it may take a little while longer. YOH thrives in that underdog babyface role where he can show off all the tools that he has. When you think of a junior heavyweight, you often associate them with high flying and flashy moves. YOH doesn’t fly around the ring, he prefers to focus on the big moves. That is the one issue that YOH currently has in his career. If YOH could be a little more well rounded as his career progresses, then YOH will be higher on these lists in the future.
SHO is just one spot above his tag team partner, and that is for the reason stated in YOH’s entry. While SHO does have the focus on high impact moves, he also has the striking game as a part of his arsenal. It’s clear that New Japan is high on SHO, and considering how short they are on big names in the junior heavyweight division. I don’t think that Roppongi 3K is going to be a career long team, and I do think that SHO will be the breakout star of the team. After a less than stellar Best of the Super Juniors, SHO is going to want to show off in this tournament, but matching up with Taiji Ishimori in the first round is one of the toughest first round matchups.
9) El Phantasmo
After a fantastic Best of the Super Juniors and winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships with Taiji Ishimori, it feels really weird to have Phantasmo this low. Phantasmo is what you imagine when you think of a junior heavyweight. But being in Bullet Club means that he has to act as a bad guy and do less high spots and dives. But someone forgot to tell Phantasmo that and he is still flying all around the place. Where Phantasmo is a heel, is his character work. Phantasmo went as a fun loving babyface that everyone loved, to a proper dick and one that people hate, all while keeping his in ring style the same. Phantasmo was a fantastic addition to the New Japan junior heavyweight division, and he is going to be the Junior Heavyweight Champion in the future, but the reason, and the only reason that I have him this low, is his draw for the tournament. Phantasmo drew Robbie Eagles in the first round, and while the two were stablemates during the Best of the Super Juniors but that is not the case anymore. During the Southern Showdown tour, Eagles left Bullet Club and joined Chaos. I feel like an Eagles win is just more likely than a Phantasmo one in the first round, and I wish I had some more sound logic for that choice, but man is it a close call.
8) Dragon Lee
Trying to figure out the booking of Dragon Lee in New Japan is like trying to figure out the weather for the next week. You literally just don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think anyone saw him winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight at the G1 Supercard, yet he did it. We all figured it would be a short reign, and it was. He had an okay showing in the Best of the Super Juniors, but has not really had that real breakthrough win to get to the next level. Now I’m not saying that Dragon Lee is a bad wrestler or that he needs to improve, he is just I think in a weird place in his career right now. He has reached the mountain top of his division, yet he is not necessarily considered one of the top dogs in the division. A good showing in this tournament could really help someone trying to reestablish their footing in the division, and that is just what I think Dragon Lee needs right now in the New Japan scene.
7) Rocky Romero
The career of Rocky Romero is a long one and has a decorated one. He is an eight time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion along with numerous other titles. Romero proved during the Best of the Super Juniors that he can still wrestle at a top level, just go watch his match with El Phantasmo to see that for yourself. I would really like to see Rocky get one more run with the title, but with a loaded division who knows if that’s possible. Romero isn’t the typical junior heavyweight anymore, but as the years go on, wrestlers evolve. I do feel like due to Rocky being on commentary during the G1 Climax, Bullet Club might interfere at some point, but that would be future story building and that would be fine by me.
6) Will Ospreary
If you want to find the busiest wrestler of the year, then Will Ospreay is the wrestler for you. He has competed in the New Japan Cup, the Best of the Super Juniors, and the G1 Climax before even competing in the Super J Cup. Everyone knows how talented Ospreay is, and he may very well be the wrestler of the year. But with how many high profile matches Ospreay has had, it only seems like a matter of time for the endurance to catch up to him. This is the tournament for that story to play out, as I highly doubt that he will be in the Super Junior Tag Tournament but World Tag League is not out of the question. Ospreay is on the tougher side of the bracket, especially with Amazing Red in the first round and Taiji Ishimori or Sho in the quarterfinals. While having a fantastic year, I expect him to take a bit of a back seat in this tournament.
When I first saw the participants in the Super J Cup, I was a bit surprised to see TJP in the tournament. I always thought TJP would be a great addition to the Best of the Super Juniors, but never thought it would happen. After his surprise release from WWE that nobody saw coming, and his reappearance in Impact Wrestling, it seemed like it was a pipe dream that wouldn’t happen. Now that he is in the tournament, I hope that we see more of TJP in New Japan. TJP is someone that fits the junior heavyweight model perfectly as he enjoys flying around the ring and doing amazing high flying moves. He is one of the few legitimate high flyers in this tournament and it gives him a bit of an advantage in the tournament. It is pretty much a guarantee that TJP will get out of the first round in his match with Clark Conners, his quarterfinal match with either El Phantasmo or Robbie Eagles will definitely be a high flying match. I also hope that this tournament helps get TJP more known and leads to bigger opportunities for him in the future.
4) Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi is a wrestler that is very hard to peg. Are we going to get more of the fun and comedy Taguchi, or are we going to get serious Taguchi. While Taguchi had a great showing in the Best of the Super Juniors, it is still a very tough to figure out which of these Taguchi’s will show up. I think because there will be a lot riding on a tournament win here, we will get serious Taguchi and he is going to be a really tough out of this tournament. When we get serious Taguchi, he is someone that has proven that he can be one of the best junior heavyweights in the world. Taguchi is one of the very ground based juniors with a couple of high flying moves in his arsenal. The only reason that I don’t have Taguchi winning the tournament is because of what his role has become in the junior heavyweight ranks. With the retirement of Liger approaching and Tiger Mask IV in the twilight of his career, Taguchi seems to be in line to be the gatekeeper of the division. He may win one more Junior Heavyweight Championship run in him, but he still has the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team Titles that he will hold and chase with almost any other two wrestlers on the roster.
3) Taiji Ishimori
Talk about someone who has gotten the short end of the stick in the division. Ishimori is a very talented wrestler who has only had one three month reign as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, and it ended with little fanfare. I think that Ishimori is someone that could become the ace of the division if Ospreay and Shingo Takagi make the jump to become full fledged heavyweights. Ishimori is rather hard to describe as a wrestler. He does have high flying moves, but he also has a rather good ground game as well and can be a technical wrestler as well. His Sliding German is something that is fantastic to see. Now that he is one half of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions with El Phantasmo, a tournament win might not be on the top of his priority list. He doesn’t have the easiest road to the finals, with being on the same side of the bracket as Ospreay and SHO, but if he reaches the semifinals, Robbie Eagles, TJP, or Phantasmo is waiting for him. We will see what this tournament holds for Ishimori, but a good showing can get Ishimori back in the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship conversation.
2) Robbie Eagles
Now that Robbie Eagles is a member of CHAOS, it seems that a deep run in the tournament is likely. It is clear that New Japan is very high on Eagles. The tournament draw also gave Eagles what he wants, a chance to get revenge on Bullet Club. After having a falling out with the club, Ospreay was quick to recruit Eagles into CHAOS. Eagles drew Phantasmo in the first round, and is on the same side of the bracket as Ishimori. I think that Eagles is going to be a big time player for the division for a while. He is someone that isn’t just a good high flyer, he is a great tactician in the ring as well. I had never seen someone do a 450 onto a leg before Eagles did it in the Best of the Super Juniors. Since he is a new member to a group, it seems very likely that a great tournament is instore for Eagles, but since I think that the winner will earn an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match and Ospreay being champion, it doesn’t make sense for Eagles to challenge for the title. I still expect a finals appearance and a lot of momentum for the future.
Now if you know me, then you know that I am a big fan of Los Ingobernables de Japon. One guy has always felt out of place in the stable, and that was BUSHI. Naito, SANADA and EVIL found success in the G1 Climax and the World Tag League respectively, as well as Naito and SANADA both having reached the finals of the New Japan Cup. Both Hiromu Takahashi and Shingo Takagi have reached the finals in the Best of the Super Juniors, with Takahashi winning the tournament in 2018. BUSHI has never been able to reach the same heights that his teammates. I think that something is changing and BUSHI could be in line for a big run, based off of his run in the Best of the Super Juniors. After dropping his first three matches to Ospreay, Phantasmo and Taguchi, BUSHI won six straight to finish in a tie for second. I think that those results are a sign of good things to come for BUSHI, as he finally has had a chance to show what he could do. I think a win in this tournament would be a great place for BUSHI to show the world how good he is, and that he can hang with the big names of the division. I would love to see BUSHI get another IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship title shot or even another run with the championship. BUSHI has a great mix of high flying and mat based wrestling, with a bit of underhand tactics. His style is very different from the other junior heavyweights, and is someone that fans do love and would love to see it happen. I would like to see different names at the top of the division, and I think that BUSHI is the perfect wrestler to start that movement.