New Japan starts it’s Best of Super Juniors tournament this Sunday. Sombra is the sole CMLL participant, it doesn’t have a lot of direct relevance back to Mexico. NJPW seems to be sorting thru the non-Mistico portion of the roster, either because they haven’t decided on any one else they might want to bring in as a regular, or they just rather have a new guy each time. CMLL guys have fared poorly in NJPW this year – the only wins for any one are the tag/trios wins Negro Casas picked up on his tour, and that success is outweighed by losing the Middleweight title – and there’s no particular reason to expect the trend to change with Sombra.
However, it’s still a tournament, and breaking down tournaments is still fun. Even funner when the tournament structure is actually made clear before it starts, and not changed half way thru. For fun, a preview of Sombra’s schedule.
NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors is a league style tournament for junior heavyweight wrestlers. The number of particpants and format changes slightly from year to year. This year’s version includes two seperate blocks of eight wrestlers, with each wrestler facing all the others in their block in one fall, thirty minute matches. The wrestlers are ranked on a simple point system – two points for a win, one point for a draw, zero for a loss – with the two top wrestlers in each block moving onto the semifinals.
Eddie Guerrero, as Black Tiger, won this tournament in 1996. Dr. Wagner Jr. particpated from 1997 to 2001, finishing a best of 2nd in 1998. No luchador has been in the tournament since 2006, when Sangre Azteca and Fuego (not the ex-Flash, but the current Durango Kid) finished last in their block.
The current IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion is NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji, who is not a tournament. The winner of this tournament will get recieve a title match. Marufuji is an outsider who’s been dominant against the NJPW regulars since the start of the year. He defeated Tiger Mask for the title, and successfully defended it against Prince Devitt, Koji Kanemoto, Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask in a defense. This story typically ends with someone finally defending the honor of the home promotion, and it’s about the right time for that ending. It’s expected a NJPW wrestler will win this tournament, then defeat Marufuji.
All matches from last year’s tournament, include those not on TV tapings, were recorded by New Japan and distributed thru their premium video service (before hitting the usual pirate locations.) They may do the same this year, so all of the Sombra matches have a chance of turning up.
05/30: Tiger Mask vs. La Sombra
– Tiger Mask may be the most despised top face in any wrestling division, but NJPW has been deaf to the complaints (cold, short matches.) TM4 should make the final fouor or come close, so Sombra starts off with a loss here.
06/01: Kota Ibushi vs. La Sombra
– Ibushi was the indy draling of 2009 and still seems beloved in 2010, but he’s also an outsider here whom NJPW probably has no long term plans for and is just bringing in for the good matches. That’s pretty much Sombra’s role as well, so this is a good measuring stick of a match. I flipped a coin and picked Sombra
06/04: La Sombra vs. Gedo
– Gedo is on the tail end of his career and involved in the creative side of the company; he’s here to make up the numbers and probably pull off a couple surprise wins. Sombra really should win this one; if he doesn’t, it’s a sign he’s going to be in the basement.
06/05: La Sombra vs. Davey Richards
– Tough to tell. Richards is new here, and I’m not certain if he’s meant to be regular here or just brought in for the two juniors tournaments. Based on the full of indy drama circumstances which led him to NJPW, my guess is he’s going to be in semi-frequently and will get some wins to establish him for later. Including this one.
06/06: Manabu Nakanishi, Yutaka Yoshie & Tomoaki Honma vs. Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & La Sombra
– Heavyweights versus Juniors. Odd for the juniors to lose on their own special tour but that’s what normally happens.
06/08: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Wataru Inoue & La Sombra vs. Toru Yano, Yujiro Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Takashi Iizuka & Tomohiro Ishii
– Tanahashi & Sombra can’t possibly get along! (Or it’ll just be a less interdsting match.)
06/10: KUSHIDA vs. La Sombra
– KUSHIDA, who was in IWRG in early 2008, is a Tajiri protege who wrestles for SMASH promotion. Seems people like him, but he doesn’t seem like a high priority in this tournament. This is a win Sombra should pick up.
06/11: Prince Devitt vs. La Sombra
– NJPW regular who they’ve been high on for a long time and the fans are behind, but his body keeps betraying him. Devitt was unable to finish the 2007 and 2008 versions of this tournament due to injuries, but was the runner up last year. Assuming he’s healthy by this point, Devitt would be closing in on the points needed to advance, and will pick up these two.
06/12: Jushin Liger vs. La Sombra
– These tournaments are usually booked backwards, trying to schedule pivotal matches for the closing day. If my guesses hold up, neither of these men will be close enough to move on to the next round with a win, but they can still create their own drama. Since Liger is half-secretly coming to Mexico after this tour, it seems likely he’d lose this match to the CMLL wrestler to set up a rematch in CMLL soon after.
06/13: semifinals, finals
– which probably means an undercard tag match.
Sombra final tournament record: 3-4, enough for 4th in his block. A below even record but a positive tour.
For fun, I made full picks here. My guess is Devitt goes thru his current tag team partner, then beats one NOAH wrestler to set up beating another NOAH wrestler for the title. (I’m probably incorrect.)