NJPW Sky Diving J

NJPW Sky Diving J

By NWK2000
From June 17, 1996

NJPW Sky Diving J
Introduction - In 1994, the Junior Heavyweight world was set on fire with the 1994 Super J Cup. The 1995 Super J Cup, while objectively a better show in terms of production values, lacked a lot of the major talent that made that made the other ones so special (FMW and Michinoku Pro were experiencing booms in business at the time, so no Sasuke, Taka, or Hayabusa). However. Lucha Libre was in the very beginning of a boom period, so we got a lot of Lucha featured on the show (Dos Caras appeared, as well as Rey Mysterio and Psychosis wrestling in the semi-main). Despite it being a lesser show in the ring than the 1994 installment , the 1995 Cup, won by Jushin Liger, drew well, and so an all Junior Heavyweight show was devised, which featured inter-promotional Junior Heavyweight title matches of some description in all of its 8 matches. How would such a show perform? Let's find out.

Opening - We see all the champions wearing their belts and see all the championships on a table. Genuinely shocking to see all these promotions working together, and trusting enough of one another to actually do this.

WAR International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
Lance Storm and Yuji Yasuraoka (WAR) (c) vs El Samurai and Norio Honaga (NJPW) - 2/10

Both teams are in the ring already for the introductions. Revolutionary War Guy is our ring announcer for this show. The New Japan guys are wearing matching gear while the War Guys are not. Yuji is wearing a body suit with the color scheme of a Baby Ruth candy bar. Yuji and Samurai start. Immediately we establish Yuji is faster. They work each other's arms. Now they're working legs and Samurai gets the better of it. Now they're doing the "punches in the leg lock" spot. Samurai tags in Norio who starts things off with a sloppy looking neck snap. Strike exchange which ends in the turnbuckle and goes back to a leg lock. This is now the third time in three minutes they've cut to Lance Storm on the apron looking concerned on the apron, even going as far as to try and film over Norio and Yuji while they're working the turnbuckle. Yuji tags in Lance, and now Lance and Norio, and they work each other's arms. Chin lock by Storm now. Norio gets his feet under the ropes. Lance tags in Shuji for a Scoop Slam/Senton combo. Shuji is working Norio's stomach now. Gut Buster gets a two. Shuji tags in Lance who hits a rolling fireman's carry for a two. Lance misses a Stinger Splash. Norio tags in Samurai, which pops the crowd. Lance breaks out of a pin by grunting and physically pushing Samurai off of him instead of rolling the shoulder, that was cool. Suplex for a two, Lance fights a single leg crap but gets put in one anyway. Lance gets a rope break, and muscles Samurai into his corner so he can tag Shuji in. Crazy springboard cutter by Shuji which causes Samurai to land on his own head and flop to his back. Shuji hits a picture perfect triangle springboard crossbody on Samurai when he rolls out. Shuji locks in the armbar for some reason. Waist lock chain and a Scorpion Deathdrop by Samurai. Samurai hits a suicide dive. The crowd is very pro Samurai. Samurai tags in Norio who applys a stomach claw (!!!) to Yuji and works the stomach. Norio his a low blow and tags in Samurai Team New Japan hit a double powerbomb which for some reason requires Yuji to roll off Samurai's back and onto Norio's shoulders, a spot they almost botch but salvage. Lance gets knocked out of the ring by Norio and gets a piledriver outside the ring. Team New Japan sets up for some kind of double team high flying move, but Yuji gets up and tries to fight Norio, and they have to slam him and reset the spot. They do that Rockers double missile dropkick that nearly killed Big Bossman at Wrestlemania 5, except Shuji gets hit by like a fourth of the move. Lance makes the save but gets thrown out again. Norio sets up the piledriver spot again but Lance counters out this time. Shuji kicks out of a Samurai powerbomb at 2. Norio makes the save when Team WAR hits a powerbomb into a German Suplex. Dumb looking handspring clothesline by Lance. Lance blocks a lariat with a Northern Lights Suplex but that gets broken up. We get a double team reversal into a roll up for 3. I feel bad speaking ill about this match, as they were the least important match on the card, so they had to do some crazy stuff to get over., but this match would've been less egregious if they'd kept it simple and not overstayed their welcome with multiple false finishes.

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
Masayoshi Motegi (c) (Wrestle Dream Factory) vs Shiryu (Michinoku Pro) - 1/10

Shiryu is a young Kaz Hayashi under a mask. Motegi is TERRIBLE. Anything outside of very basic power moves and swan dives he botches. The only thing saving this from a dud is that Shiryu is a good hand and everything he does indepedent of Motegi looks good . Motegi wins with a wacky top rope Gutwrench Suplex to retain.

WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship Match
Gran Hamada (c) (Michinoku Pro) vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa (NJPW) - 8/10

The first half of this match is your strong style, minimal frills contest of the evening. The story is that Takaiwa is better at striking (to the point where I winced at a normal stomp) but Hamada is the better all around package, and when Takaiwa is bested he starts brute forcing Takaiwa into the post and using power moves. That's when Hamada busts out the neat dives. Takaiwa fires back after reversing huricanrana into a powerbomb with some subsequent power moves, including a botched top rope something, that actually ended up looking cool, because it looked like a Hamada top rope Urinage where Takiwa happened to land on top in a perfect pinning predicament. Hamada botches the move Trish Stratus would later use as the Stratusphere, but it's so spectacular it didn't even bother me that it was botched. Hamada follows this up with a flying Tornado DDT for a win. This was a great match full of strong style goodness.

UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship Match (vacant)
Shinjiro Otani (NJPW) vs Kazushi Sakuraba (UWFI) - 9/10

Saku immediately kills Otani with kicks and a German Suplex. Eventually Otani gets into it and starts working the leg. What happens next is what I can only describe as a submission war, with each man selling that the other is so good at submissions they're scrambling for counters and rope breaks. Otani gains the advantage when he turns into a wrestling match, with an elaborate kick, an Irish whip, and a German Suplex which looks like it kills Saku. Otani whiffs a missle dropkick and Saku is right back on the leg. Otani fights back, but then Saku fights back with a kick which Otani sells like a shoot knockdown. The two trade hands while Otani is on the apron and Otani lands a springboard dropkick to the back of the head. Otani lands a Full Nelson Suplex, but taps Otani out with a choke because screw you that's why. This was an amazing match that honestly felt like a worked shoot.

CMLL Jr. Championship Match:
TAKA Michinoku (Michinoku Pro) vs. Super Delfin (Michinoku Pro) (c) - 9.75/10

This starts with a handshake... but Taka jumps Delfin from behind, getting a heel character over. The opening sequence of the match starts at a million miles an hour, with Taka hitting a triangle jump Asai moonsault like 10 seconds in. Then they start trading holds. Taka seems to get the better of all of this, getting a cocky young heel character over all the same. The people love Delphin. Delphin finally gets fired up and in a rare moment of genre savvy, halts when Taka starts walking out of range of a dive to pose like a superhero. Delfin has control for a while but then Taka gets it back and works the leg. When Delphin gets a rope break, Taka slaps Delfin around, which leads to a pretty organic looking strong style strike exchange. Taka does a crazy dive when Delfin bails, jumping from one side of the ring post to the other. Delfin fires back with a dive of his own. They tease a count out, and Delfin hits a Strong Style backdrop. Deflin counters being body slammed off the top rope (that specific throw all wrestlers do to get people off the top rope) into a Tornado DDT! The tease Taka getting the win by countering the Bow and Arrow pin but it's a nearfall.. Another near fall for Taka. Taka hits a brutal top rope knee to the back of Delfin's head. Delfin hits a German Suplex and in the pin that insues you can see Taka actively fighting his way out of it Taka somehow counters a victory roll attempt into an Air Raid Siren. They tease another victory roll, but then Taka counters into a sunset flip AFTER the pin has been broken for a near fall. Taka hits a missile dropkick to Delfin's back and the crowd sounds audibly exhausted. Delfin kicks out of a Michinoku Driver! Delfin counters a rotating Michinoku Driver into a Death Drop for a nearfall. German suplex with a bridge into a Dragon suplex and Super Delfin retains.

This match was certainly "just moves" but it had so many moves of so many different varieties that if felt like a delicious buffet instead of a themeless one course meal. Go and watch this match immediately

WAR Int'l Jr. Championship Match:
Gran Naniwa (Michinoku Pro) vs. Ultimo Dragon (WAR) (c) - No Rating

They do a fun, semi-comedic match where Naniwa plays the cowardly heel. Unfortunately Dragon doesn't give Naniwa a ton to work with and just wins after a sloppy huricanrana, lionsault and La Magistral. Calling this a true dud would be a disservice because this is the absolute best cooldown after the match we just had

British Commonwealth Championship Match:
Jushin Liger (NJPW) vs. Dick Togo (Michinoku Pro) (c) - 9/10

Dick Togo gets booed because Jushin Liger is pro-wrestling Jesus. Togo works Liger's arm until Liger starts fighting through it, at which point Togo hoofs Liger out of the ring and hits an out of control suicide dive but it looked awesome. Togo strips the mat away and hits Liger with a DDT on the concrete. Togo works the stomach after a foot stomp, suplex on the ropes, and standing on Liger's belly, which displeases the crowd. Liger eventually hits a monkey flip which Togo sells the holy shit out of of, and a rolling kick. Togo gets crazy lift off a German Suplex by Liger. Now it's time for Liger to work Togo's arm. Liger is brutal, and Togo sells this by screaming a lot and selling well. Liger teases Shattered Dreams but hits a rolling kick instead. Togo has enough wherewithal to immediately rope break when an armbar is applied. Liger does a dive and brain busts Togo when he comes back in. Togo fights back and hits a Springboard Swanton to Liger on the floor. Togo tries for a diving huricanrana but Liger counters with a powerbomb on the outside that hit with such a loud thud that I screamed. Liger hits another powerbomb on the outside because fuck you. Liger gets back in the ring, does a hair flip, and does the Michael Hayes strut. Liger hits a slam and knee drop on Togo and Togo fights for. Togo kicks Liger in the balls to avoid a German Suplex which draws the ire of the crowd. Powerbomb and two sentons aren't enough to put Liger away. Liger dodges a third and somehow hits a missile dropkick to the arm, and locks in an armbar, which Togo immediately breaks with the ropes. We get some counters and some nearfalls. A Fisherman's Buster doesn't put Togo away. Liger hits a Superplex and his palm strike to win the BC Title. This match was the story of a young kid who pissed off a veteran who had to fight back. I liked this match a lot!

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
Black Tiger (NJPW) vs Great Sasuke (Michinoku Pro) (c) - 8.5/10

This is BT's Best of the Super Juniors 1996 title shot as well as his last match before he begins working for WCW full time. The guys trade holds until Sasuke rolls out which causes BT to bolt after him and body check him into the guard rail. This was brutal BT works the arm more. Sasuke fights back with kicks but BT goes back to working the arm. Sasuke fights back with a rear naked choke. BT finds the ropes for this move. Sasuke tries again but BT gets the ropes again. Sasuke locks in more submissions but BT powers out with a dropkick another exchange leads to BT dropkicking Sasuke in the knee. BT works the knee from here. BT counters a handstand to the apron with a wacky Alabama Slam. BT starts working the back but there are some chain reversals, and Sasuke shoot suplexes him out of the ring.. Sasuke does an RVD-style diving kick which BT has to tuck and roll backward to sell properly. Wacky counters ensue. Sasuke gets a Diving Huricanrana countered into Powerbomb which then leads directly to an STF. Sasuke kicks out of a Black Tiger Bomb at two. Top Rope Black Tiger Bomb gets countered into a huricanrana for three! Great Sasuke retains. This was a match with great psychology that traded it in for moves at the end, but ended on the highest note possible.

Post match - During the big group picture, Liger challenges everyone to a unification tournament, which will unify eight singles belt. Everyone throws their belts into the middle of the ring as we get dramatic orchestral music . This is the lead in to the J-Crown.

Having to watch Skydiving J to watch the J-Crown is like saying you have to watch every Marvel movie to enjoy Infinity War. Do you have to? No. But if you do, will you gain more appreciation for what's being presented? Yes. This show had some GREAT matches, but is not required viewing to watch The J-Crown by any means, so if you basically want to see the Saturday Night's Main Event show that lead to the big show, pick this up.

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