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  May 19, 2000



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

New Japan Pro Wrestling presents Top of the Super Jrs. IX
New Japan Pro Wrestling presents
Top of the Super Jrs. IX

Starts May 19, 2000 - Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Finals: June 9th, 2000 - Central Gym, Osaka City


As part of SLAM! Wrestling's growing commitment to provide in-depth coverage of International wrestling, we are proud to present a full preview of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Best of the Super Juniors XI tournament. The ultimate showcase for the best junior heavyweights in Japan and boasting a list of previous competitors such as the WWF's Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, ECW's Jerry Lynn and Yoshihiro Tajiri and WCW's Chavo Guerrero Jr, the annual tournament has a tremendous legacy of providing the best wrestling action in the world. Two 6-man divisions will compete in a round robin format, (two points for a win, one for a draw) with the winner of each division squaring off in the finals. And to the winner goes the ultimate spoils: a showdown with IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion (and junior heavyweight booker) Jushin 'Thunder' Liger. Fans unfamiliar with this special event should check out our story on its history. In handicapping this year's event, we've focused on the top six wrestlers in the tournament, examining what their chances are. And because this is such a special event, we have insights and predictions from two experts: SLAM's resident international wrestling expert John Molinaro and Live Audio Wrestling's Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski.

WHO THEY'RE GUNNING FOR


Jushin 'Thunder' Liger

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Best Move: palm blow, running Lyger Bomb
Tournament Experience: 9 appearances, tournament champion ('92 & '94), finalist ('91 & '96)

A LOOK AT THE FIELD -- BLOCK A


Koji Kanemoto

Best Moves: Northern Lights Suplex, lethal stiff kicks, moonsault
Tournament Experience: 6 appearances, tournament champion ('98), finalist ('97 & '99)
Outlook for this tournament: Kanemoto is pound for pound the best wrestler in the world today. He's appeared in last three finals. Very good chance that Liger will have him win his division and advance to the finals where he'll likely put the Division B winner over, thus elevating them. Just as good of chance he could win it all

El Samurai

Best Move: Tornado DDT, frogsplash
Tournament Experience: 8 appearances, tournament champion ('97), finalist ('92 & '93)
Outlook for this tournament: A stalwart of New Japan's junior heavyweight division, Liger appears to be slowly phasing him down. He's still a great worker, so expect him to be used to put others over, to help elevate some new people

Gran Hamada

Best Move: Huricanrana, tope suicida
Tournament Experience: 2 appearances, 6th place under the single division format ('95), 3rd place Block A ('99)
Outlook for this tournament: One of the true legends of Japan. Even in his fifties, this star from the Michinoku Pro Wrestling office could teach a thing or two to some of the aging veterans in WCW on how to work. A sentimental favourite who might pick up a win or two, but he shouldn't be a factor

Dr Wagner Jr

Best Move: The Wagner Driver (variation of the Michinoku II Driver; Wagner drops his opponent directly on top of his head)
Tournament Experience: 3 appearances, 5th place Block B ('97), finalist ('98), 5th place Block A ('99)
Outlook for this tournament: A major star from Mexico's EMLL promotion, this could be Wagner's year. Although a dark horse to win it all, Wagner would breathe some new life into the junior heavyweight division if he did. Should figure prominently in the tournament


Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Shinya Makabe round out BLOCK A

A LOOK AT THE FIELD -- BLOCK B


Shinjiro Ohtani

Best Moves: Springboard Dropkick, Dragon Suplex
Tournament Experience: 7 appearances, 10th place under the single division format ('93), 8th place ('94), finalist ('95), 3rd place Block B ('96), 2nd place Block A ('97), 4th place Block A ('98), 2nd place Block A ('99)
Outlook for this tournament: Always a bride's maid, never a bride! That sums up Ohtani's experience here. He's every bit as good as Kanemoto and Liger, but he's never won this tournament. He should easily win his division and most likely will be a finalist. Anything less will be a shocker

Kendo Ka Shin

Best Moves: Double arm bar submission, Death Valley Driver
Tournament Experience: 2 appearances, 2nd place Block A ('98), tournament champion ('99)
Outlook for this tournament: Last year's winner, Ka Shin should figure in prominently again. He's been kept strong by booker Liger all year, so an appearance in the finals is a distinct possibility. Could very well win it all, making him the first to repeat as champion.


Minoru Fujita, WCW's Kid Romeo, Minoru Tanaka and Katsumi Usuda round out BLOCK B

TOP OF THE SUPER JUNIORS PREDICTIONS

Full Tournament Schedule

  John Molinaro Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski
BLOCK A WINNER Tatsuhito Takaiwa Hamada or Takaiwa
BLOCK B WINNER Shinjiro Ohtani Shinjiro Ohtani
WINNER Shinjiro Ohtani Shinjiro Ohtani


What the experts say

  • John Molinaro: Looking at Block A, I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Tatsuhito Takaiwa to beat Kanemoto in their singles match on his way to winning the block. Takaiwa would be elevated and he needs the win more than Kanemoto. In Block B it comes down to Ohtani and Ka Shin. Nobody has ever won this tournament back to back so I'll pick Ohtani to win here. And he's also my pick to win it all. He's been with New Japan for so long and he still hasn't won it. Like Kenta Kobashi winning the All Japan Carnival for the first time last month, Ohtani will do the same here. Bet on it.

  • Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski: Two possibilities in Block A -- First, just because he's been at it so long and he's still good in the ring, I'd like to see Gran Hamada win this block and battle with a youngster from Block B and put him over. Second scenario has Takaiwa winning. I really see Othani winning Block B. An Ohtani vs Takaiwa final works in terms of storyline in that the tag partners are put into a situation where they have to fight each other. Ohtani wins, they dissolve the team and they both become singles stars for the rest of their careers moving up to the next level.


    More on the Top of the Super Juniors:

    History of the Top of the Super Juniors
    New Japan tourney turns 10
    Junior Heavyweights take centre stage in Japan
    Kendo Ka Shin wins 1999 Tournament




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