Scout Report by Wrestlingscout
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tournament
Pro Wrestling NOAH's approach with the classic All Japan style and a hint of Westernized angles has been a strange one. Now that the Global Honored Crown holder has been established in Mitsuharu Misawa, other titles are in order. Though I thought the Tag titles were going to be the first, I was surprised to see it was the Junior Heavyweight title, which was never held in high esteem in All Japan. Regardless, this tournament is full of some great talent and I'll do my best to sort through them.
One of the most interesting aspects of the tournament is who is being brought in by NOAH to compete in the tournament. Though a huge chunk of junior heavyweight talent is under contract to the WWF, either developmentally or otherwise, there is talent in the US. There is also a wealth of gifted youngsters in Mexico and even though many like El Hijo Del Santo, Silver King, Dr. Wagner Jr. are working for New Japan, there are many unknowns. Stars on the way down are also floating around in the US, Mexico, and Japan and NOAH (like New Japan signing Chris Candido for this year's Super J) is willing to take chances on these wrestlers.
A former star in Japan and one of the greatest competitors ever, Harley Race, and his World League Wrestling promotion were one of the first companies contacted. Race, who managed Vader to several WCW World titles, has not had much luck getting WLW off the ground, but this would open a door for his trainees. Vader and Mitsuharu Misawa came to the States and evaluated a handful of Race's boys. The school and promotion stress wrestling and athletic ability over entertainment value, which is a big plus for these youngsters if they can make it to Japan. The one man chosen though was " , "All That" Matt Murphy, a flamboyent highflyer, who was the school's first graduate.
Next NOAH looked to the presitigious All Pro Wrestling, run by Roland Alexander in Northern California. The promotion was aided by being featured in Beyond the MAT and a deal with NOAH would help them even further. Misawa was shown off APW's rich talent, which includes Christopher Daniels (Curry Man in Michinoku Pro), Mike Modest and Tony Jones (who were featured in Beyond the Mat), among others. Surprsingly it was the lesser known "Fly Daddy" Jardi Frantz, who is a cross between Billy Kidman and Hayabusa.
NOAH also looked South of the Border to the "sometimes hot, sometimes not" roster of AAA. The promotion that challenged the world's oldest promotion (CMLL) in the mid-90s has not been the same since losing the likes of Rey Misterio Jr., Psicosis, Juventud Guerrara, Konnan, and many others to WCW in the latter half of the 90s. Though it was innovative in its time, AAA is not at all what it once was and CMLL is back on top. They do have some diamonda in the rough: Oriental, Oscar Sevilla, and the man, who NOAH signed (and one of my favorite luchadors for quite a while) Path Finder. He is a master of every aspect of highflying from great dropkicks to insane highspots and being a luchador he loves to use fancy takedowns.
NOAH also looked to the "has beens" and though they already had Tsuyoshi Kikuchi in the tourney, they got former AAA and WCW star and current XPW wrestler, Juventud Guerrara. Though Juvi has not been the same since his infamous drug-induced stripdance in Australia, he has stated time and again he will be back on top and this is fine chance to prove it. He was one of the best luchadors ever and the matches he had with Rey in AAA were some of the sports' best.
Now that is out of the way here are my choices for the first GHC Junior Heavyweight champion:
1. Naomichi Marufuji - this guy is great, I'd say he's one of the best things going not only in NOAH, but in puroresu today. He gets a bye in the tournament, so look for him to go over the Frantz/Hashi winner (I think Frantz may get the upset) and whomever he meets in the finals.
2. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi - though he's past his prime and is not being put in high caliber matches, he was getting wins in the end of May and he could potential have good matches with youngsters.
3. Saturo Asako - a solid preformer for NOAH, who will be put against Matt Murphy. Unless they want Murphy to go over big time, I think Asako will put him and then Guerrara away on his way to the gold.
4. Matt Murphy - you know if Harley Race trained this guy, he's got to be good, especially where he was the first to come through the school. The WLW/Race-NOAH relationship would start on a great step if Murphy won the title.
5. Yoshinobu Kanemaru - though he's not the best in the bunch, Kanemaru has an exciting style and depending on what NOAH wants this division to be look for Kanemaru to go along with the highspot appeal, wherever its importance may lie.
I think the chances are slim to none that gaijin will win, but Murphy has the best chance in my book. Where New Japan's Super J is happening, NOAH has to decide on what they want to take precident in this tournament. I think they've looked more towards highspot highflying instead of matwork meets aerial manuevers in the past, so they will probably continue on that route. Marufuji is awesome and seems, at least to me, to be the likely choice for champion. Hopefully this tournament is more memorable than the GHC tournament.
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