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DVD Review: New Japan: "Best of Super Juniors," (4-16-04), with Danielson, Kazarian, Samoa Joe, X-Pac

Mar 27, 2007 - 10:48:00 AM
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By Chris Vetter, Torch Contributor

New Japan Pro Wrestling held “Best of the American Super Juniors” on April 16, 2004. It’s hard to believe this 8-man, single-elimination tournament was nearly three years ago! I picked up this DVD at a recent wrestling show I attended, amid a bin packed with wrestling DVDs. It was marked for $5. Well, it looked promising…

While this is a New Japan show, I’m fairly certain this event took place at their dojo in California; the DVD artwork doesn’t say. First and foremost, there is no commentary. Second, this venue is a dark, large warehouse with poor lighting. Third, the lone camera is at “ground level” – usually the hard camera is up off the floor a few feet so heads from fans aren’t blocking the view. This is bad. Ok, even worse, whoever is holding the camera has friends around him, and they are snickering and acting like goofy teenagers. Wow, that’s just… annoying and distracting. Before this show ever started, I’m nearly ready to give up on this DVD.

The crowd, of what is visible anyway, is small, but they are fairly energetic. I like the introduction graphics on the screen before each match. To the ring!

(1) Round 1: American Dragon Bryan Danielson defeats “X-Pac” Sean Waltman at 5:14.
Seriously, this match barely made five minutes. UGH. Waltman wore a white jacket & karate pants. Danielson refused to shake hands. They traded some mat wrestling and the crowd approved. Waltman did a crotch chop, which popped the crowd. Danielson tied up the legs and he pulled back on Waltman’s head. Waltman hit some chops.

Danielson hit a kneedrop on the head for a nearfall at 3:00. Waltman nailed a spin kick to the head and a forward roll dive to the floor. The crowd appeared to be surprised that Waltman was doing so much offense! In the ring, Waltman hit a sitdown powerbomb for a nearfall. Danielson applied an abdominal stretch, then he nailed a butterfly suplex and scored the pin. Good action for 5 minutes, but this was disappointingly short.

* The crowd thanked Waltman for coming. Chyna was visible at ringside.

(2) Round 1: Chad Collyer defeats Bobby Quance at 10:10.
Solid match. Collyer wore his red trunks & robe to the ring. Quance wore blue & white trunks; I’ve only seen a few of his matches before. Collyer grapevined the leg, and they traded mat holds. The crowd was fairly quiet. Quance hit some armdrags at 3:30. Collyer focused on the left leg and he twisted it. They traded chops on the mat as their legs were tied together. Collyer applied a single-leg crab at 6:00, then he applied a Figure Four leglock.

Quance hit an enziguri, and they were both down, and the crowd rallied for Quance. Collyer got a few rollups for some nearfalls. Quance hit a modified Stunner for a nearfall at 9:30, but Collyer got his feet on the ropes. Collyer hit a German Suplex, but Quance landed on his feet! Quance went for a hurricanrana, but Collyer blocked it, and Collyer applied a Boston Crab! Quance tapped out. Merely average.

(3) Round 1: Rocky Romero defeats “Iceman” John Black at 6:45.
Another surprisingly short match. My first time seeing Black, who is a black man with black trunks. Romero wore his red & black pants. They started in a kickboxing stance, and neither could land any strikes. Romero hit some quick right & left kicks, and Black went to the floor. In the ring, Romero tied up Black with some quick mat wrestling. Black applied a cross-armbreaker at 3:30, and he hit some hard kneeshots to the head.

Romero hit a spin kick to the thigh. Black applied an anklelock, but Romero reached the ropes. Black hit a hard jumping kick to the head, and Romero collapsed. This action is quite authentic looking and believable. Romero hit some hard knee strikes, and he applied a sleeper, and Black passed out. Good action for the time given.

(4) Round 1: Ricky Reyes defeats Teddy Hart at 10:12.
Good match, and this was intense & believable. I have to reiterate that the kids who are snickering near the camera are REALLY BUGGING ME. They shook hands and had an intense lockup and some standing switches. Hart hit a nice DDT and he applied a cross-armbreaker, and he focused on the left arm. Hart hit a moonsault press at 3:00, and they were both down. Hart applied a Cobra Clutch on the mat. Reyes hit a clothesline, some quick kicks, and a hard spine kick, then a nice back suplex, dumping Hart on his head!

Reyes stayed in control of the match, hitting a hard running forearm in the corner and more vicious kicks to the chest, then a kneedrop on the neck at 6:30. Reyes planted his knee in the back and he cranked on Hart’s head. Hart came back with a sitdown Torture Rack, and the crowd chanted, “Teddy!” Hart dove off the top rope, caught Ricky’s head, and turned it into a stunner. Hart hit a Flatliner at 9:00 and a hard DDT, but he missed a top-rope corkscrew Spiral Tap. Reyes nailed a flying spin heel kick, a standing neckbreaker, then a hard fisherman’s buster for the pin! Good action, and best so far.

(5) Frankie Kazarian & Tommy Williams defeat Joey Ryan & Eric Matlock at 11:25.
My first time seeing Williams, who appears to be Asian and he wore black shorts. Kazarian wore his TNA X Division Title, and he was in orange trunks. I’ve seen Matlock just a few times; he wore generic black trunks and his hair is wet and slicked back. Williams and Matlock started with an intense lockup and a test of strength, as they traded offense in the knucklelock. Matlock hit a headscissors takedown and some stiff forearms. (There was a clip in the action at 2:30; it appears to be just a few seconds, based on the time check announcements being made).

Kazarian hit some stiff forearms and he grounded Ryan with a headlock. They traded LOTS of quick armdrags, and the crowd applauded. Matlock applied some armbars on Kazarian. Kazarian hit a second-rope crossbody block, then a Legsweep and a springboard guillotine legdrop. Matlock & Ryan began to work over Williams. Ryan hit a nice dropkick for a nearfall at 7:30. Matlock hit a nice backsuplex for a nearfall. Kazarian made the hot tag, and he hit some clotheslines, then a springboard-back-elbow. Kazarian hit a DDT on one opponent while simultaneously hitting a neckbreaker on the other.

Ryan got a schoolboy rollup for a nearfall on Kazarian. Ryan nailed a Superkick on Kazarian, and Matlock got the nearfall at 10:30. Ryan hit the Mustache Ride/second-rope swinging neckbreaker on Kazarian for a nearfall. All four men were fighting in the ring. Kazarian got launched in the air, but he grabbed Ryan, got a sunset flip rollup, and he pinned Joey Ryan! Above-average tag action. Kazarian was really on his game here.

(6) Round 2: Bryan Danielson defeats Chad Collyer at 12:15.
Solid mat-based match. Danielson cranked on a headlock immediately, and he applied a Japanese Stranglehold, as he planted his knees in Collyer’s back. Danielson worked the left arm & neck, and he applied a Fujiwara Armbar at 4:00. This was intense mat wrestling! Collyer hit some kicks to the knee, and he twisted the left knee, and he applied a modified Figure Four Leglock, but Danielson reached the ropes. Collyer applied a half-crab at 7:00, but Danielson again reached the ropes.

Danielson came back with a nice butterfly suplex into a cross-armbreaker. Collyer applied a chokehold, and he hit an overhead suplex for a nearfall at 10:00. Danielson fired back with some hard European Uppercuts that leveled Collyer! Collyer applied a Texas Cloverleaf, and he pulled Danielson into the center of the ring! But, Danielson eventually reached the ropes. Moments later, Danielson locked on the Cattle Mutilation/double armbar submission hold out of nowhere, and Collyer tapped out. This was a good match, but it’s also an acquired taste; not everyone will get into this mat-based style.

(7) Round 2: Rocky Romero defeats Ricky Reyes at 7:48.
Reyes refused to shake hands with his tag partner. Romero hit a dropkick to the back. Romero hit some hard spin kicks to the chest. This was INTENSE mat wrestling, and they traded hard slaps to the face as Romero had a leg grapevined. Romero hit more right & left kicks, as Reyes was able to block most of the strikes. Romero applied a cross-armbreaker at 3:00, but Reyes reached the ropes.

Reyes applied a chinlock on the mat to slow Romero down. Reyes hit a nice German Suplex at 5:30, and that popped the crowd. Reyes hit some blows to the neck and a kneedrop on the neck for a nearfall. Reyes hit a Saito Suplex for a nearfall, then a back suplex for a nearfall. Out of nowhere, Romero slapped on a Triangle Choke, and Reyes immediately tapped out! They shook hands after the match. Good but too short.

(8) Samoa Joe vs. Aaron Aguilera went to a 15-minute time-limit draw at 12:05.
Aguilera, since this show was filmed, wrestled in WWE as “Jesus,” accompanying Carlito to ringside. He’s quite tall, even compared to Joe. Aguilera wore black trunks, and Joe wore his white & blue trunks. Joe landed some kicks to the side & ribs, and Aguilera cowered in the corner. Aaron caught a leg, and he shoved Joe to the mat and he hit some stomps. Aguilera twisted the left leg. They traded armholds, and Joe tied him in a pretzel, but Aaron reached the ropes at 3:30.

Aguilera hit a Mafia Kick, so Joe hit a Mafia Kick and a Legsweep. Aguilera hit another Mafia Kick, drawing a pop and an “Aaron!” chant. Aaron hit a (surprisingly good) standing dropkick, showing more agility here than I ever recalled from his brief WWE career. Joe unloaded a series of kicks & blows, then some chops. Aguilera fired back with a springboard-back elbow, and they were both down at 6:00. Aguilera hit some stomps. Joe hit some chops, some paintbrush blows to the face and a flurry of knee strikes! Aaron hit a running clothesline in the corner.

Joe hit an STO uranage for a nearfall and some chops in the corner. Aguilera has a bloody nose. Joe hit a Facewash at 9:00 for a huge pop. The action spilled to the floor, and Joe whipped Aguilera into the guardrail. In the ring, Aguilera hit a nice back suplex for a nearfall. Joe came back with an Exploder Suplex, then a standing powerbomb, which he turned into an STF, but Aguilera reached the ropes at 11:30. Joe hit some stiff forearms, and Aaron hit another Mafia Kick. Joe hit an enziguri, and they were both down. Suddenly, the bell sounded, and we were told this was a draw. The fans booed and half-heartily chanted for “five more minutes,” which they didn’t get.

(9) Finals: Bryan Danielson defeats Rocky Romero at 13:31.
They had an extended feeling out process, and this has a “big fight feel” to it, as they traded kicks to the legs. Danielson hit a hard kneelift to the chest, and Romero immediately bailed. Romero hit a hard spin kick to the head, and it leveled Danielson in the ropes at 2:00! Romero hit a hard spine kick and a chest kick for a nearfall. Danielson twisted the left leg, hit a European Uppercut, and he hit some bootscrapes to the face. Danielson tied up the legs, and he bridged backward, and Romero screamed in pain.

Romero hit more stiff kicks to the body, and he applied a bodyscissorslock on the mat around the waist at 5:00. Danielson escaped, and he tied up Romero in the Rowboat position. Romero missed a dropkick, and they had a standoff, and the crowd applauded. Danielson hit a series of stiff forearms that leveled Romero. Romero applied an Octopus hold. Danielson applied a Surfboard at 9:30, and he tucked Romero’s head under his arm for a modified Dragon Clutch! The crowd applauded the spot. Danielson hit a back suplex, and they both tumbled to the floor.

In the ring, Romero hit some right & left kicks and a Northern Lights Suplex for a nearfall. Danielson hit some kneestrikes to the head, and he applied the Cattle Mutilation at 12:00, and he rolled over to get a nearfall. Romero fired back with some open-hand paintbrush slaps, and he applied the Triangle Choke! (The move that won his prior match!) But, Danielson reached the ropes. Romero hit a missile dropkick and he applied a cross-armbreaker. Danielson hit a sudden swinging back suplex and scored the pin. The crowd gave the men a well-deserved applause.

* In one very brief promo, X-Pac & Chyna noted that they were here at a New Japan event. Yep, they really didn’t say anything. And the camera was so dark, their faces really couldn’t be seen at all. Worthless promo. (When was the last time I said something was “Worthless?” Well, it really was that bad.)

Final thoughts:
DVD runs about 2 hours. First and foremost, my problems with this DVD are NOT about the quality of the wrestling. I hated the position of the camera. I didn’t like the snickering from fans near the camera. I disliked the lighting. I wished this had commentary.

One positive about the DVD case – it doesn’t list which wrestlers advanced to the second round and to the finals. As I watched this show, I had no idea who won each match, which was a nice treat. I prefer DVD cover art to not “give away” the results of a tournament.

Best match goes to the main event. I’ve seen Danielson vs. Romero before, and it’s good stuff. I am a BIG Romero fan; much like Low Ki, everything he does looks stiff, believable and authentic. Obviously the big strike against him is his height, as he’s legitimately about 5’6”. These two clearly had the best match of the night.

WWE gave up too quickly on Aaron Aguilera. While I’m not a huge Aguilera fan, he proved here to be a better wrestler than many big men that stick around forever in WWE. Samoa Joe got a really good match out of him.

I’ll give third-best match to Hart-Reyes in the first round, just ahead of Collyer-Danielson in the second round. Most of the matches here were quite intense and believable, and nothing was bad, although Waltman’s short match left a bad taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, the poor quality of the taping left a long-lasting bad impression.

If you want to see a DVD with Romero, Reyes, Danielson, Collyer and Samoa Joe… go find a Ring of Honor DVD with this mix of wrestlers, and pass on this one.


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