NJPW J-Crown

NJPW J-Crown

By NWK2000
From August 05, 1996

NJPW J-Crown
Introduction - The story arc peaks! That's right, eight belts, one champion at the end of the tournament (including two belts that weren't on the line at Skydiving J but who cares) IT'S J-CROWN TIME BABY! This match was run in conjunction with 1996's G1 Climax in August, which only had five guys in two blocks, So, as you can really only find this as a compilation I'll review it all together.

Opening video package - We get a recap of the end of Skydiving J as well as a montage of flips and dives from tonight set to the Uncensored 1996 song.

Quarter Finals
Masayoshi Motegi (NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion) vs Great Sasuke (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion) - 8.75/10

Great Sasuke finally has his "Integral Hard" theme at this point which fucking rules. Motegi hits Sasuke from behind and dives when he rolls out. He then works the leg with stomps in the guard rail. Motegi is antagonizing the crowd, working heel as he works the leg. After a powder to the outside to sell hopping around on his bad leg. Sasuke hits a kick with the other leg, and we get a strong style strike exchange. I like the story of Sasuke having to tap into his inner warrior immediately to even stand a chance. You also can tell Sasuke is fighting for takedowns. Motegi hilariously bites the bad leg in a hold at one point. Any no selling of the leg by Sasuke has done so far is kept to quick flourishes so it looks like Sasuke is blocking out the pain briefly but getting struck down immediately. Motegi stabs Sasuke in the leg with a row of those linked together school chairs, and this doesn't warrant a DQ. Sasuke fights back, choking, biting and throwing out spinning wheel kicks willy-nilly because he's hurt. Sasuke fires up and does a cartwheel handspring crossbody, swanton to the outside. Motegi comes back and hits a dive himself. Now Motegi is just out-powering Sasuke. Motegi goes for the top rope gut-wrench but Sasuke lands on top. Sasuke hits a German, then a dragon suplex, and wins Motegi's belt! This was a fun opener, with an exciting finish

Quarter Finals
Ultimo Dragon (War International Junior Heavyweight Champion) vs Jushin Liger (British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Champion) - No rating, amazing segment

Dragon starts out early with big dive after a crusierweight chain exchange. Liger fires back with a big German Suplex. Rolling kick for a two. Rollup exchange. Liger gets cocky, his rollup is reversed, and DRAGON WINS ! This is to write Liger off so he can take care of his brain tumor. This is one hell of a rub for Dragon, and props to Liger for wrestling at all.

Quarter Finals
Negro Cassas (NWA World Welterweight Champion) vs. Shinjiro Otani (UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Champion) - 9/10

The story of this match is the much more experienced Casas takes a more than capable Otani to school. Whether they go hold for hold like an old World of Sport match (which they do for more than half of the contest) exchange strikes, or fly around, the more experienced Casas takes it to the younger more aggressive Otani. Because of this, Otani has to be a shark, and play possum long enough to dropkick Casas off hte turnbuckle and hit a dive. Even still, Casas fights back. The only thing that bothered me about the match is that the finishing sequence is Otani popping off and hitting three springboard dropkicks and a springboard spinning wheel kick for the three count. The problem is that this sequence reeks of video game wrestling in itself, but the spinning wheel kick, the coup de grace of this match barely glances Casas for the three count. Beyond that, I believe this match should be studied by everyone.

Quarter Finals
El Samurai (WWF Light Heavyweight Champion) vs Gran Hamada (WWA Junior Light Heavyweight Champion) - 7.75/10

This match was very Japanese. Not so much in the "strong style" sense. But in the sense that Hamada was the heavy hitting heel while El Samurai was the babyface scratching and clawing his way out of every pinning predicament. They told that story consistently throughout and the match ended on a brutal looking Super Backdrop and powerbomb for El Samurai to pick up the duke.

Semi Finals
Ultimo Dragon vs Shinjiro Otani - 9/10

One of the amazing things about Liger jobbing is that every tease at a a La Magistral gets a pop, and it's truly an idiosyncrasy that makes the atmosphere of this show truly amazing. This story is very much the same as Otani v. Casas, where an opponent is unexpectedly hanging with Otani in a technical sense, but adding to the drama is that this time it's the dude in the colorful Lucha outfit who got a fluke win over the greatest Jr Heavyweight of all time. Otani is working the leg but it took him longer to get there than any Otani match I've seen. Which isn't a bad thing, Otani would be boring if he immediately worked the leg every match. Dragon fights back with wild kicks and locks in a half crab, which he transitions into the Indian Deathlock, along with that falling backward to hurt the legs thing Triple H used to do to transition into it. Otani blocks a suplex but shoving Dragon into the turnbuckle hard. Dragon fires back, and we get an insane sequence where Otani takes the HBK bump in the turnbuckle but just as he does Dragon hits him with a triangle dropkick. Otani fires back and Dragon kicks out of the Springboard Spinning Wheel Kick and we get an INSANE nearfall off a Dragon Suplex. From here we get a series of very believable finishes that end up being nearfalls. Ultimo wins with a Liger Bomb. This is one of those matches that degraded into "Just Moves" but the moves were impactful and dramatic enough to sustain a high rating

Semi Finals
Great Sasuke vs El Samurai - 7/10

Samurai powers Sasuke around at first but Sasuke takes control with submissions. I guess whoever booked this thought that a New Japan guy would naturally be a babyface? Samurai gets some brief submission flourishes but they're either broken up by the ropes or Sasuke applies something different. Eventually Samurai just jams a finger in Sasuke's eye to fire back and fires back with punches. Tackle dropdown leapfrog which leads to Samurai doing a wonky counter to a shoulder block that looks like it spikes Sasuke hard.Samurai hits a sudden dropkick to the knee, and the suddenness of it makes it look like Sasuke's leg buckles. Sasuke takes a powder after a half crab, but Samurai jumps on him, bending his leg in the Tree of Woe. Sasuke finally powers out of a powerbomb set up, and falls back in such a way to make it look like his leg buckled. Sasuke tries for an armbar but Samurai puts weight on the leg to break out of it Sasuke misses a spinning wheel kick but hits a springboard crossbody. A leapfrog by Sasuke leads to a nearfall German Suplex by Samurai. Springboard moonsault to the outside followed by a top rope dropkick to the outside which Sasuke whiffs which sounds gnarly. Samurai hits two Death Drop DDTs, and Sasuke dodges a flying headbutt and now we're just noselling A third DD DDT and an off the shoulder Powerbomb gets a two. Sasuke does his missed Swanton no sell spot, and sneaks in a huricanrana, but in his attempt to sync the other leg accidentally gets reversed into a sunset flip for a near fall. German Suplex into an Off the Shoulder Powerbomb nets the win for Sasuke.

This match was more noticeably clunky than any other match in the tournament. Samurai's wheelhouse is definitely more big move strong style, and while someone who's a little more well versed in submissions or high flying can make Sasuke's selling and moves a little less fake, Samurai wasn't the style of wrestler to make it work. That said, when Sasuke had to conform to Samurai's style of hitting big moves for near falls, the match really picked up.

J-Crown Championship Match: Tournament Final
Great Sasuke vs Ultimo Dragon - 10/10

Swimsuit models accompany both guys to the ring holding their belts, Ultimo Dragon has his Mexico flag cape so you know the shit's on.

Because Dragon is a martial artist, he can block Sasuke's kicks like you would in a real MMA fight to start. The two go hold for hold at first with Dragon hitting a Roman Knuckle Lock Suplex move, then transitioning that into a pin for a nearfall. Figure Four leg lock gets broken and we get a reset. We get a standing Swanton Dive sequence that would make Ospreay and Ricochet blush, and some other cruiserweight exchanges and then a standoff. We trade arm drags and do the fighting pose standoff, and the crowd ERUPT. Dragon goes back to working the leg. Rope break and we reset. Ultimo works an Abdominal Stretch, which is countered by Sasuke for one of his own. After a standing leg drop Dragon works the neck, When Sasuke rolls over Dragon spreads his hands like he's expecting Sasuke to go to a bridge, but Sasuke breaks free and applies a headlock instead! Brilliant! Sasuke attempts to work a sunset flip into an Octopus Stretch but when Dragon blocks that he fights for a cradle. When Dragon is able to keep his shoulder up, both guys are grabbing at each other's legs. Sasuke loses his grip, but Dragon decides that that isn't working, so he whips Sasuke off the rope, and they both no-sell each other's clotheslines. They both run the ropes and go for a spinning wheel kick which collide. Hooray! A sensible criss-cross spot and running moves colliding! Sasuke botches a tilt a whirl counter to which Dragon shrugs, only for Sasuke to for a Lionsault, which causes Dragon to dropkick him out of the air. This actually plays into the story of the cult hero indy guy (Sasuke) faced with the much less reckless, more technically proficient heel wrestler (Dragon). Moonsault fake out into a tope by Dragon! Dragon hits an Asai which sends Dragon over the guardrail and Sasuke into it. While I know that this wasn't the spot that nearly killed Sasuke, he certainly sells like he got shot in the head. Dragon hits power moves to Sasuke's head for near fall. Ultimo looks like he tweaked his foot on the Asai earlier. Dragon goes up top but Sasuke meets him there and dropkicks him out of the ring. Sasuke hits an Asai all his own. The two dodge moves and trade nearfalls, Poisonrana (which just once I want to see someone counter into an Electric Chair drop) for a two. Ultimo tries for a powebomb on the apron only to be countered and....OW! Sasuke lands right on his head, Jesus Christ. Holy shit, that's basically a fucking Kawada Driver right there. When we come back from replays there's clearly some tape on Sasuke's mask that wasn't there before, presumably keeping his brains inside his skull. They tease a nearfall with a La Magistral. Powerbomb countered into a Huricanrana for the win for Sasuke.

This was a perfect match, literally everything that was done made sense in sequence, it reminded me a lot of a Bret Hart match layout, which is the highest praise I can give a match. Furthermore, I can see so much modern wrestling in this match in 1996 it's incredible.

If you can't watch the entire compilation, please sign up for our forum and watch the final match, which I've lovingly put in our "Videos" Section. That said, if there is a wrestling DVD that you absolutely MUST own, it's this compilation. To compare the mid-90s junior shows to the evolution of human beings, J-Cup 1994 was the rise from the sea on all fours, Skydivng J was us learning to be bi-pedal, while J-Crown was the junior division trans mutating into what we know it to be today.

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