Thanks to for their badass righteous free counters

NJ Junior Tag League 1994
by Brendan "Shaddax" Welsh-Balliett

-Highlight package from this show, introducing YOUR participating teams: Great Sasuke & Black Tiger, Dean Malenko & Tokimitsu Ishizawa (Kendo Ka Shin, sans mask), El Samurai & "Flying" (2 Cold) Scorpio, Yuki Ishikawa & Shoichi Funaki, Kamikaze & (you knew it was coming) Masayoshi Motegi, TAKA Michinoku & Super Delfin, Norio Honaga & Gran Hamada, and Shinjiro Ohtani & Chris Benoit.

Note: this tape is two hours long, which means the whole tournament is not shown, only selected matches. Fortunately, the best stuff is here.

1. Dean Malenko & Tokimitzu Ishizawa VS. Shoichoi Funaki & Yuki Ishikawa This'll be mat based completely. Ishizawa and Ishikawa in to start, they roll around, in comes Malenko to teach Ishikawa a few things. Malenko works the keylock, Ishikawa with an armbar, stand off, and Wellll, It's a small sho comes in. Dean rolls around with him to a standoff over a kneebar, and here's Ishizawa. He and Funaki go at it hard in a quasi-shoot fashion, and it's hard strikes all around. Really hard strikes. Malenko back in to work on Sho's leg, and he dominates with strong mat work. Quick tags from Ka Shin and Malenko, and they trap Sho briefly. Tag to Ishikawa and he and Ka Shin go to striking. Malenko in and he takes over on Ishikawa with a dropkick, but gets caught with a kneebar. Funaki in, but Dean catches him with an achillies tendon hold. Rope break, and Sho gets a German suplex. Brawl in the ring, and Malenko gets a tiger driver and the Texas cloverleaf on Sho for the tap and win at 8:13. Decent little match with a bit of leg-work psychology and good stiff work all around, very much prefiguring the current trend towards less high flying and more shoot style among the juniors. Dean and Sho carried it. **1/4.

2. Masayoshi Motegi & Kamikaze VS. "Flying" Scorpio & El Samurai Behold again the Motegi rule of Japanese juniors tournaments: he's in all of 'em. No one really knows why either, because he's really no good a'tall. Oh well. Samurai and Motegi start with matwork, standard armbar/wristlock reversals, and Motegi gets a kneedrop. Samurai reverses a chinlock and brings in Scorpio, and Motegi tags in Kamikaze. He's a masked guy, and I have no idea who he is. I've never seen him anywhere else save this tape. He and Scorpio go at it, standard dueling double kip-up wristlock reversals, and now hard strikes from both men. And then Kamikaze works his way into my heart by making Scorpio look like an utter buffoon. He simply takes one step back as Scorp attempts a dropkick, and makes him whiff by about two feet. Funny stuff, and completely logical. Lariat hit-and miss sequence sees Scorp hit a leaping side kick and Samurai comes in. Piledriver! Reverse neckbreaker, and then a stunner sold like a face rake. THUNDER FIRE POWERBOMB! That's actually a finisher for a lot of guys, and it came out of nowhere. Weird match flow here. Motegi breaks up the pin. Samurai and Scorp double team Kamikaze, and a Vader bomb from Scorp nets 2. A Scorp front powerslam produces 2 ½ for Samurai. BACKDROP DRIVER of sorts gets 2 ¾. Kamikaze, in keeping with the technical flow of this match, hits the double reverse inverted ball shot to get some space, and takes over offense on Samurai with hard strikes. In comes Motegi, and he runs through some vanilla offense until Samurai bulls him into the corner and tags Scorpio. Motegi tips up in the corner on a whip, ducks a lariat, and hits a springboard body press. Scorpio rolls through and hits a slam and a standing front somersault leg drop for a big pop and a two count. Standing backflip splash for 2 ½. Samurai comes in, only to be caught by Motegi with a snap suplex. Kamikaze in with a diving headbutt, and Scorpio breaks up a fisherman's suplex at 2 ½. Second rope legdrop by Scorpio on Kamikaze's knee, which gets a working over. Samurai German for 2. He tries the thunder fire again, but gets backdropped. Motegi in and he and Samurai do a pure lucha segment concluding with a Motegi tope, then a Scorpio plancha over the top. Kamikaze with a somersault plancha, and that's the full lucha trainwreck spot. Inside Motegi hits rolling Germans on Samurai, and he and Kamikaze try some tandem offense broken up by Scorpio with a slingshot double lariat. Samurai misses the flying splash and Kamikaze hits a bodyblock variation of the doomsday device, then a sit out powerbomb. He and Samurai blow a rana spot, then hit it giving Kamikaze 2. Sammy rolls through under a spin kick and hits the lariat, then tags Scorpio for a moonsault for 2. Sammy and Scorp hit the tandem kicks, and a Scorp 450 finishes at 13:47. Good slow build to the big spots other than Samurai's odd lapse in the middle, only a few blown spots, and good stuff in most areas with nifty highspots. ***1/4.

3. TAKA Michinoku & Super Delfin VS. Gran Hamada & Norio Honaga TAKA and Delphin are both good at this point, though green as all hell. TAKA notably busts out the goofy mushroom hat here from J Cup '94. Hamada is the world's best wrestling grandpa, and the only wrestler in history to hold a tag title with his daughter as a partner. Honaga blows, and lustily. Honaga and TAKA roll around the mat to begin, and TAKA gets the best of that with a variety of half crabs and Lion Tamers. Side backbreaker, and now a chinlock, which Honaga breaks by BITING TAKA's THUMB. OUCH, and it is creative, I guess. Honaga actually works the thumb for a while, then tags in Hamada, who beats up TAKA with slams and stomps, and copious chinlockery. Delfin in, and the Michinoku pro influence is everywhere as all of these guys spent time there other than Honaga. Team H beats on Delfin with kicks and such, and a rope-style gutbuster for 2. Rope running sequence ends with a Delfin dropkick, and TAKA comes in to whoop on everyone. He teases the springboard plancha, but backflips off the top rope and styles in the ring. TAKA rules. Team H take him down though, until he hits a belly-to-belly. Hamada comes back with his own suplex, then Honaga in with a crab. Delfin breaks it up. Hamada in to put the beats to TAKA again, and he hits the headscissors on the ground. Quick tag offense here from both teams. Delfin in with the released double underhook suplex. Team young punks hit awesome tandem offense, a tree of woe choke/nutstand combo and a snap suplex springboard splash combo for 2. Tremendous. Back and forth all over here to let both teams showcase their offense, with quick tags to maintain good selling of the same. Team punks clear the ring and hit a Delfin pescado and a TAKA springboard plancha, but Honaga comes back in for a pescado of his own, which misses. LUCHA TRAINWRECK~! Is in full effect as Delfin nails a plancha from the top turnbuckle. Back in a spin slam and powerbomb from Hamada on TAKA nets 2 ¾. Backdrop driver finishes for team H at 13:37. Fun little MPro style match with good selling, nice flow, excellent highspots and WACKY THUMB BITING~! ***1/4

4. Black Tiger & Great Sasuke VS. Chris Benoit & Shinjiro Ohtani Strap yourself in for the first of two awesome matches between these teams. Everyone here rocks hard, Hard, HARD, and border on being true legends of juniors wrestling. Chris and Eddie start with matwork galore, quicker, stiffer and more realistic than anyone else's so far. They try the knucklelock and Benoit bridges up, but Eddie hits a headscissors to throw him. Benoit tags in Ohtani, who works Eddie down to the mat. Eddie escapes and brings in Sasuke. He and Ohtani duel on the mat, and Ohtani plays subtle heel, using a mask pull to control. Armbreaker, and here's Benoit to maul Sasuke. They do a running sequence with Sasuke rolling through an attempted monkey flip, but Benoit breaks up this trademark sequence with a LARIAT. I believe this was after J Cup '94, so this is a brilliant bit of psychology playing off the familiarity these men had with each other after their extraordinary match in the finals there. Benoit does his amazing selling trick of shaking out the lariat arm, selling the force of his own blow. Sasuke ducks a lariat and hits a leaping spin kick, and both men tag out. Tiger pokes Ohtani in the eyes (this one's getting personal) and runs through the typical Eddie sequence of face grind- slingshot senton. Sasuke in and Ohtani is set up for a Sasuke lariat by being forced to leap over a sprawling Eddie on a whip. Sasuke with a surfboard, and Ohtani has this marvelous look of vague annoyance at being out wrestled on his face. He hits a series of kicks to break, starting with a forward flip back kick. Rope running sequence, and Sasuke's hiptoss is blocked with a lariat. He backflips off the turnbuckle to avoid a cross corner whip, hits a backdrop and a kick, and teases a plancha on the bailing Ohtani. Eddie in as Ohtani stalls. Off the ropes and Eddie gets a lariat, but Ohtani blocks a press slam with a rollup for 1. Eddie stays on top and Ohtani bumps off the corner. Sasuke in, snap suplex, keylock, try at a cross armbreaker blocked by a face grind from the standing Guerrero, and here's Benoit. Back elbow, German for 2 ½. Snap suplex for 2, broken by Eddie. ENORMOUS Benoit powerbomb for 2 ½ broken by Eddie. Benoit's pissed, and Eddie invites him out. Instead, Benoit brings in Ohtani, who hits the spinning heel kick. Eddie walks across the ring and pokes Ohtani in the eye to break a crab. Benoit in and he puts the sharpshooter on Sasuke, then nails Eddie as he comes in to break the hold. One time to the well too often. Eddie nails Benoit from behind, then punches his own partner and yells at him. Ohtani then bounces Eddie and takes over on Sasuke with a jumping tombstone. Quick tag offense, and Benoit hits the backdrop superplex for an Eddie interrupted 2 ¾. Benoit bounces Eddie's head off the post to get rid of him, and Ohtani hits a powerbomb broken again by Guerrero for 2 ¾. Benoit maneuvers Sasuke into a dragon suplex assisted by Ohtani's kick to the throat for 2 ¾, broken again by Black Tiger. Benoit suplexes Eddie over the top and hits a grotesque powerbomb assisted by Ohtani's springboard dropkick… for 2 9/10, broken again by Eddie. They need to get rid of him to win. Eddie doges a lariat and a spin kick, bounces Ohtani, goes up top for a plancha but gets caught from behind by Benoit. But Sasuke catches Benoit and gets him up on his shoulders, Benoit reverses to the same position but with Sasuke on his shoulders, then Sasuke gets a rollup FOR THREE! Match went 13:11. Awesome psychology and build, and phenomenal selling. The way they use quick tags to emphasis the need for rest and to make the tag stip meaningful is great. All four guys do phenomenal work, everything looking crisp and sudden, not like pre-planned spots at all. All four men truly excel at making this appear to be actual competition, as opposed to simple athletic exhibition or performance, which is extremely important in juniors wrestling since the cushion of the natural realism of something like shootstyle isn't there. Only real flaw is the out-of-no-where ending which more or less contravened the storyline of the need to take out Eddie they had built to then. To a degree it makes sense as a story since Eddie bought Sasuke enough time to recover and hit the rollup, but still. ****1/2.

-End of the round robin, into the four team playoff. Obviously, not all matches are shown. I remain pissed that Delfin and TAKA missed the cut.

5. Dean Malenko & Tokimitzu Ishizawa VS. Chris Benoit & Shinjiro Ohtani Lotsa mat work here it looks like. We join it in progress as Dean works Ohtani's arm. Benoit in with a snap suplex and a german after a series of reversals. He tries the dragon, Dean blocks it, but Benoit blocks a rollup for 2. Dean catches Benoit going up and dropkicks him off the top, then goes for the cloverleaf, which Benoit kicks out of. Dean with a tiger driver and another cloverleaf attempt, which Ohtani breaks up with a springboard sunset flip off a quick tag. Dean with a reversal rollup for 2, and he shortarm lariats Ohtani twice, but misses a third. Ohtani hits a dropkick off the ropes, but misses a leaping rollup giving Dean another cloverleaf, which Benoit tries to break before Ishizawa jumps him. Ohtani escapes on his own, but gets caught with a knee bar, which Benoit breaks. Ishizawa with the released German on Ohtani, and this one's breaking down. Oklahoma roll goes nowhere the first time, but Ohtani pins Ishizawa with it the second time. Not much shown here, but what was, was pretty good. **.

6. Great Sasuke & Black Tiger VS. Gran Hamada & Norio Honaga Why team H is here, I've not the foggiest. We are JIP as Hamada works Sasuke's leg. And bounces him around. Familiar sequence by the two M Pro regulars, as they go back and forth on the mat until Hamada hits a leaping lariat and a spin kick. Sasuke responds with his lucha-esque handspring back elbow. Knee drop and a spin kick put Sasuke on top, and he and Eddie do tandem slingshot sentons. Honaga gets the tag and hits one front drop, but gets headscissored when he tries it again. Eddie with the rana and a teased plancha. Face grind and Sasuke's back in. They do a nifty double team as Eddie boosts Sasuke on a run across the ring into the air for a dropkick on Honaga. Sasuke gets a surfboard, with a foot in the back. Honaga with the somersault kick counter, and here's Hamada to beat on Sasuke with his 1983 offense. But Eddie comes in with an eyepoke to save Sasuke from chinlockery, and Eddie and Hamada do a nice lucha sequence which Eddie wins. Powerbomb for 2. Hamada armdrags out of a second attempt and sends Eddie to the outside, following with a pescado. Back in Honga gets a dropkick to the knee and a knee breaker, then a figure four, which Eddie breaks up with another rudo eye poke. He offers the hand of friendship to Hamada, gets rejected, and hits a brainbuster. Don't ever refuse the Eddie handshake. Dropkick bails Hamada, and Eddie baseball slides under the ropes, but Hamada is already back in. An Eddie super rana gets 2, broken by Honaga, but Sasuke kicks him to the outside and hits a pescado. Hamada with a backdrop driver in the ring and a suplex, both for 2, lariat for 2. Sasuke and Honaga go flying through the ring, Honaga missing a pescado. Eddie finally rolls through a rana for the pin. Bunch of good standard juniors wrestling, noting outstanding and nothing blown. Light on the psychology, but excellent pacing and build to the big spots. Dragged down slightly by Honaga's iffy work and Hamada's moldy offense, which despite his abilities as a worker was beginning to seem outmoded by this point. ***.

7. FINALS: Great Sasuke & Black Tiger VS. Chris Benoit & Shinjiro Ohtani We hit the ground running with Eddie and Benoit brawling out into the crowd (furthering the personal animosity dimension developed in the first match), as Sasuke and Ohtani get it on between the ropes. Eddie goes absolutely Apesh*t on Ohtani with a chair outside, then throws him back in and sets up the powerplex with Sasuke. That gets an early 2 count. Both teams are playing off the hate and rivalry of the first meeting. That match ended off a rollup, not the most decisive of finishes, and both teams are putting over that they're going for the knock out, no doubt win here. Eddie puts Ohtani on his shoulders, and Sasuke hits the Thez press off the top on him for 2 ½. They repeat the duel slingshot senton spot from the first bout, and Sasuke gets the elevated half crab. Rope break, but Eddie stomps Ohtani's hand on the rope. A brilliant little detail to put over the building hate here. Brainbuster from Eddie for 2 2/3. He applies the sharpshooter, which is broken by Benoit. Ohtani runs the ropes off a headlock, and Eddie hits a brutal lariat. He does the "ear to the crowd" taunt, and then gets caught with two spin kicks, which bounce him to the outside. Ohtani follows with the springboard plancha. This match has a much quicker build than the first, suitable to the increased competitive tension and familiarity with the opposing team. Back inside, Benoit's in to maul Eddie with an enormous lariat and tilt-a-whirl back breaker for 2. He goes for a German, but gets the trick-knee mule kick to the neither regions. Sasuke in with a cross armbreaker, which Benoit reverses to a surfboard, before Eddie hits the dreaded eyepoke to break. Benoit nails Sasuke, then tags in Ohtani. They go rope to rope and Sasuke hits a bridging rollup for 2. Ohtani hits a rana, but Sasuke rolls through and they do a short series of pinning reversals and rollups, the kind ECW used to do. Benoit in with a german for 2 ½, broken by Eddie. Northern lights gets the same. Evil stiff powerbomb gets 2, broken by Eddie, and Benoit take off after him, punching him off the apron. Ohtani in and he hits a dropkick on Sasuke, who's up on Benoit's shoulders. German gets 2, broken by Eddie. Same story as the first match here- Benoit and Ohtani are murdering Sasuke, but Tiger keeps breaking up the pin. Ohtani and Benoit see this, and they keep attacking Eddie when he comes in, in a way they didn't in the first match. Sasuke gets a brief comeback on Ohtani and goes for the cross armbreaker. Ohtani gets his own and refuses to break at the ropes, as the hate builds. Benoit in and he chops away and gets a back heel trip into a key lock before Eddie breaks it. Sasuke keeps getting mauled by Ohtani and Benoit, but Eddie gets him a second to breathe with another distraction, and this time Sasuke is smart enough to see what Benoit and Ohtani's strategy is, and tag out.

Eddie comes in with the frog splash for 2 on Ohtani, then a floatover blockbuster (Scott Hall fall-away slam) for 2. He puts Ohtani up top and hits the super rana, but Benoit breaks it. Ohtani looks dead, and Eddie has an enormous shit-eating grin. Gory special applied, and Sasuke off the top with the double axehandle on the exposed Ohtani. Eddie gives the finger to Benoit. Deathlock by Sasuke, and then a kneebar, reversed by Ohtani for his own. Eddie with…wait for it… the eye poke to break. Benoit in with a superplex for 2, broken by Eddie, as that story continues. Dragon suplex gets 2 9/10. Sasuke gets a kick and a dropkick to send Benoit out, then teases a plancha before Benoit moves, THEN goes up top and hits the plancha on Benoit, who thought he was safe after he dodged the first plancha as Ohtani did in the first match. Brilliant. Inside Sasuke misses the moonsault on Benoit, and gets caught with a powerbomb for 2 9/10. Benoit puts him on top and goes for the super backdrop driver he hit in the first match, but THIS time Sasuke sees him coming and twists in mid air into a cross body reversal for 2 ¾. Eddie in, Benoit tries the powerbomb but gets it blocked, and Eddie hits a wrist clutch springboard hurricanrana for 2 ½. Brainbuster for 2, broken by Ohtani. Benoit with a desperation waistlock go behind into the dragon suplex for 2 9/10, and a weak kickout.

Ohtani in and foolishly tries the same dragon suplex, which Eddie reverses into a rollup. Eddie with a sitout powerbomb for 2 ¾. This is all desperation grabs for victory with the top moves in each man's arsenal. Eddie signals for the Black Tiger bomb (sit-out Razor's edge), and hits it for 2 ¾, broken by Benoit. Benoit suplexes Sasuke to the floor over the top, while Eddie hits the tornado DDT on Ohtani for 2 before Benoit breaks. We're at total parity here between the two teams, and someone's going to have to wipe out completely or get lucky to take the win, the logical extension of the story revolving around Eddie's saves for Sasuke. Sasuke appears out of nowhere and dumps Benoit with a kick, tries the high arc quebrada to the floor, and crashes and burns like the Hindenberg. He's done, and that's pretty much you match right there. Benoit catches Eddie and puts him on his shoulders, and Ohtani comes off the top and tries to rana Eddie off Benoit's shoulders, but they blow the spot so that it looks like Eddie got a powerbomb. Both men are done. Ohtani makes it up first and hits the dragon suplex for the win at 28:31. Amazing stuff. Just the absolute pinnacle of storytelling in the tag team format, awesome psychology, great build from the first match, amazing chain wrestling, highspots, really everything you could want in a wrestling match. The only real flaw was the blown finish, which was bad enough to take this down to a measly ****3/4. Had it worked though, it would have been a perfect match; the logical extension of the story being told regarding the value of teamwork was for the finisher to have been a double team move, and a rare and brutally impressive one at that.

Bottom line: a fabulous tape from the golden era of the New Japan juniors division, with the best New Japan tag match I know of. Two four star matches, one near five stars, and nothing bad equals a really great two hour tape. If you're just getting into puroresu, this is the sort of tape you want in your collection, stat. It's really required viewing. Highest recommendation.

Brendan Welsh-Balliett
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