Saturday, May 21, 2016
Today, the annual Best of the Super Juniors Tournament kicked off. The first night is all A Block matches. There are a lot of shows in a short span of time, so I’m not trying to get too burnt out. In an effort to avoid that, I’ll only be reviewing the actual tournament matches. I’ll be using a similar format for the G1 Climax later this year.
Rocky Romero wore another mask of Tiger Mask to the ring. I wonder if there is any plan for this going forward. Finlay was out to prove that he’ snot going 0-7 like last year, as he dropkicked Romero before the bell and this started with some brawling outside. That was great since it is a change of pace from a lot of this tournament. Romero had his shoulder taped, so Finlay was smart and made that the target of his offense. Romero’s comeback saw him pay tribute to former Chaos member Shinsuke Nakamura, which got a nice pop. Everyone bought into the upset when Finlay applied the stretch muffler and prevented Rocky from reaching the ropes. Rocky still fought to the ropes and they managed a strong finish. Romero hit a running knee, though it didn’t connect too well, for the win. Exceeded my expectations and was far better than anything we would have gotten with Matt Jackson.
You could tell how over Los Ingobernables are judging by the amount of BUSHI masks in the crowd. It was way more than I expected. It showed that the group hasn’t only been good for Naito. This also continued the rivalry between Chaos and LIDJ. Gedo’s trash talk throughout was on point. This was a good back and forth match and it was cool to see two heels try to out cheat each other. Gedo used the ring bell hammer and both guys pulled out low blows. Gedo survived a codebreaker before blocking a second. It sent BUSHI into the referee, opening the door for a low blow. He hit his own variation of the Rainmaker and a roll up, giving us our first surprise result so far. I found this to be a fun match where two guys played to their strengths and it worked.
Taguchi came out with a giant Big Bird balloon on his head. I shit you not. They shook hands before the bell. This was only Sydal’s second singles match in NJPW, while Taguchi is a veteran of the division and tournament. It was nice to see Sydal work a body part, as he focused on the leg. He busted out a few submissions to do so before Taguchi turned the tide with a dragon screw and ankle lock. Taguchi got busted open on the dragon screw as Sydal’s elbow hit him in the eye. The problem is that neither guy seemed to really care about selling the leg work. Taguchi only did after getting his knees up on the Shooting Sydal Press. Sydal countered him for a rollup, but still fell to Dodon. A bit of a surprising result. This would have been better if they just sold the leg more. It seemed like they worked it for the sake of working a body part. Still pretty good though.
The rematch of last year’s finals! No dubbed over version of O’Reilly’s theme as he got the official “Dance Away”. They came face to face during KUSHIDA’s entrance, giving this even more of a big fight feel. These two jockeyed for position early, with neither one gaining a clear advantage. It showed how evenly matched they are. Since he normally works the arm for his finish, it was surprising to see O’Reilly go after the leg. He used an ankle lock on it but still went to the armbar to combat KUSHIDA’s. It felt like Kyle was desperate to win, even resorting to a knee breaker onto an open steel chair. I love that feeling in a match. In an insane moment, Kyle went for an apron dropkick with KUSHIDA seated in the chair outside. KUSHIDA jumped from the chair and caught him in midair into an armbar, crushing the chair in the process! It was one of the coolest and most innovative spots I’ve ever seen. They got inside and exchanged kicks, but wisely, KUSHIDA kicked the arm and Kyle kicked the leg. They had a fantastic back and forth finishing stretch, doing the important little things like O’Reilly having an armbar in and trying to also latch onto KUSHIDA’s legs. Finally, an armbar became too much and KUSHIDA tapped out. I thought this was better than their finals match last year, since the shorter time frame worked for them and the Korakuen crowd was awesome. This a must see MOTY candidate. Maybe I’m rating it extra high because I literally just watched two of my favorites go out and be incredible, but whatever.
After the match, KUSHIDA didn’t shake Kyle O’Reilly’s hand. He got on the microphone and said that even though he didn’t do that, KUSHIDA is still the best opponent he’s ever stepped into the ring against. He said some things in Japanese and promised to win the tournament.
Overall: A really strong start to the tournament. Last year wasn’t the best of showings but we’re off to a great start. Romero/Finlay was better than I expected it to be, while BUSHI/Gedo proved to be a fun battle between two heels. Sydal/Taguchi was alright but the obvious reason this show worked was KUSHIDA/O’Reilly. They are two of the best on the planet, regardless of weight class and proved it here. The hot Korakuen crowd added to a spectacular main event that is must see and among the five best matches I’ve seen so far this year.