Wrestling Tradition Taken to a New Stage: Super J Cup 2019

This week, NJPW’s first post-G1 Climax international events were revealed; days after the best heavyweight wrestler in the world is decided in the Budokan on August 12, it’ll be the junior heavyweights’ time to shine once more!

August 22, 24 and 25 will see NJPW hit Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively, and the stakes will be high; the Super J Cup will be back, and in America for the first time ever!

While Best of the Super Juniors is an annual tradition in NJPW, the Super J Cup is a much less frequent, yet no less prestigious occasion. What makes it unique? Let’s take a look.

Watch Super J-Cup First Stage on NJPW World!

The first Super J Cup took place on April 16, 1994, the same year of the inaugural Best of the Super Juniors, in fact. While the BOSJ would be a New Japan focused, league based affair, Super J Cup was something very different.

Jyushin Thunder Liger was inspired to create the first tournament by his time as a fan. In 1979, he attended the All Star Dream event promoted by the Tokyo Sports newspaper, an event that saw the top stars not just of New and All Japan on the same card (this would be the last time Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki ever teamed up) but also of independent and international promotions. Liger wanted to create the same festival atmosphere with a one night, single elimination tournament.

The best junior heavyweights were brought in to wrestle in the 16 man tournament, with losers’ nights being over in an instant while winners advanced. Liger himself, as well as El Samurai and Shinjiro Otani were the only full time NJPW representatives in the Cup. Michinoku Pro, FMW, and smaller independent SPWF added more Japanese talent to the mix, while EMLL in Mexico and America’s WCW rounded out the card. 

It’s no exaggeration to state that the Ryogoku crowd bore witness to one of the best single nights of action in wrestling history. With so much to prove from all concerned, all caution was thrown to the wind. A 20 year old TAKA Michinoku attacked Eddie ‘Black Tiger’ Guerrero with such aerial prowess that Riki Choshu would exclaim in disbelief ‘What are you, some kind of space alien?’ Hayabusa, from the violent Frontier Martial arts Wrestling promotion sought to show FMW wasn’t all blood and guts, and immediately surprised Liger at the jump with a scintillating dive to the floor. 

Yet it was a pair of amazing single night performances from Great Sasuke and Wild Pegasus that saw both to the finals; while Pegasus, representing WCW, would win the cup with a top rope gut wrench suplex, global stars were instantly born up and down the card, and a tradition had well and truly been birthed in the Super J Cup and its prestigious victor’s jacket.

The Super J Cup was originally conceived as a kind of junior heavyweight Olympics; while these events wouldn’t necessarily keep a quadrennial schedule, they would summon the best from the world’s top promotions, and would do so with a different host promotion each time. To that effect, Super J Cup 2nd Stage was hosted in Genichiro Tenryu’s promotion WAR in December 1995. Rey Misterio and Psicosis were among the newcomers to another stacked lineup of talent, but WAR had their hopes pinned on Ultimo Dragon, and 1994 semi finalist, Gedo. This time, Gedo got one step further, but fell at the final hurdle to NJPW’s Jyushin Thunder Liger. 

The third J Cup wouldn’t be held until 2000 in Michinoku Pro, a tournament that would see Liger retain his winner’s jacket by defeating Toryumon Japan’s CIMA. It seemed as if the host promotion was cursed in the J Cup, a fact reinforced in subsequent tournaments in 2004 and 2009. Both would be won by Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji despite the tournaments being hosted by Osaka Pro Wrestling and NJPW respectively; though in 2009’s case, an NJPW wrestler in the form of Prince Devitt did make the finals.

Watch Super J Cup 2016 on NJPW World!

Night 1

Night 2

New Japan became the first promotion to host two Super J Cups, and there the cup would settle. After a long seven years wait, 2016 saw the tournament reach Stage Six, with NJPW, Dragon Gate, KAIENTAI Dojo, Pro Wrestling NOAH, ROH and CMLL all represented. Then IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA would wear the jacket and cement his position as junior heavyweight ace in NJPW at the time by defeating Yoshinobu Kanemaru in the final.   

So, now to Stage Seven, and the biggest Super J Cup yet. Several prior cups have been held over two days in different venues, but J Cup 2019 will be the first to take place in three separate cities, and all in the US for the first time ever. Who will appear? What promotions will be represented? Who will wear the famed gold jacket in the Walter Pyramid on August 25? Stay tuned for more news, and if you’re on the west coast, get your ticket on June 24 to see history made!