I will only be reviewing tournament matches going forward. Today’s show is all A Block contests.
The Suzuki-Gun mates and former Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions did battle to start the tournament matches. TAKA was back to Suzuki-Gun color and gear for this one. Taichi is one of the worst wrestlers in NJPW (along with Jado), but at least TAKA showed some fire in a fun opener yesterday. Sometimes, I say wrestlers did nothing and its hyperbole. These two LITERALLY did nothing for about four minutes, only teasing making contact. I know they’re teammates, but factions have collided in previous tournaments. Then, they started dodging each other but it all looked incredibly phony. Finally, after an eternity of shit, Taichi hit a low blow and rolled up TAKA at 9:30 for his first two points. This was horrible and stupid. It took forever, made no sense, looked like shit and went on for far too long. It joins the House of Horrors as the only matches to get negative stars in 2017.
With that garbage out of the way, we get to the fun stuff. Both men are over like they’re NJPW regulars. This was my second most anticipated match on the card. Scurll had the plan to ground Lee, showing he did his homework. It got off to a bit of a slow start, but they kept the crowd invested with some nice antics. Scurll did little things, like tie Lee’s mask to the ropes. Like Hiromu yesterday, Scurll had the corner double scouted and countered it with a belly to belly suplex. There was a great spot where Scurll countered a cradle DDT with the finger break spot, which is already over. They fought up top, where Scurll did the finger stuff again, but Lee came back with a headbutt. The double stomp hit and he won at 13:09. Big jump in quality. They delivered the way I expected. Great, even action featuring two guys that already have the crowd in the palm of their hands.
Once I heard this was Liger’s last BOTSJ, I instantly wanted him to win. A final win and matchup with Hiromu at Dominion sounds incredible. This was my most anticipated match of the night and possibly the tournament. Liger tried for the quick win with a lariat, which set the tone for the rest of the contest. He brought out the brainbuster on the outside, trying for a countout win, but Hiromu barely beat the count. I liked how Takahashi adjusted to Liger’s game plan. Liger blocked the sunset flip bomb, so Takahashi changed up and turned it into an apron power bomb. Hiromu countered the Liger Bomb for a near fall but ran into the palm strike. The Liger Bomb connected for two and he ate a German, but no sold and fired up. He nailed another brainbuster for an awesome near fall. After some counters, Hiromu hit the Time Bomb to beat the legend at 8:05. Liger kicked his feet in attempts to kick out, desperate not to lose. This was marvelous. A fantastic sprint with Liger throwing everything at the champ but come up just short. The crowd ate it all up thanks to Liger’s popularity. Hiromu adds another notch to his Wrestler of the Year belt. What an incredible 2017 he’s having.
After the match, Liger got an ovation. He said he was disappointed to lose his last two BOTSJ matches in Korakuen and promised to win the rest
Their match in last year’s BOTSJ caused tons of controversy and sparked internet arguments. I wasn’t excited for this because their matches are typically the same and they’ve done it a bunch in the span of a year or so. Anyway, I’m not going to try and recap this match move for move. That would be nuts. Instead, I’ll just give some notes about what I saw. In terms of athleticism, this was incredible. That’s to be expected. They had some variation to their previous matches (though nowhere near the level of Lee/Hiromu) and brought some great ideas to the table. I particularly liked when Ricochet landed on his feet on a super rana and Ospreay did it back to him. Also, Ricochet hit a sick German in this. A few things turned me off from this. For one, their opening sequence, while breathtaking at times, also felt very choreographed. Granted, it probably was, but I don’t want to watch it and instantly think that it looks staged. Seth Rollins once said in an interview that the worst thing a wrestler can do is take a viewer out of the moment and remind them that this is all staged. Last year’s opening sequence felt more natural and like two guys wanting to prove who was more athletic. There were a few slip ups, like when Ricochet tried a reverse rana off the middle rope, but it’s still impressive considering the things they tried. It went a bit long too, clocking in at 27:24, with Ospreay winning after a dragon rana and Oscutter. Apparently, I’m one of the few people so far who haven’t liked this as much as last year’s match. I’d rank their stuff I’ve seen as Evolve 59 > BOTJ ’16 > BOTSJ ’17 > BOLA.
Overall: I wanted to go higher, but that first TAKA/Taichi match is so bad, it hurts the overall score. If you skip that, then you’re in for a treat. Lee/Scurll was a damn good back and forth match of two guys getting way over in Japan. Liger/Hiromu was an awesome sprint that shows that Liger absolutely still got it. The main event, while not quite as good as their matches last year, was still a worthy way to close the show out.
|Dragon Lee||4 (2-0)||ACH||2 (1-0)|
|Hiromu Takahashi||2 (1-1)||El Desperado||2 (1-0)|
|Marty Scurll||2 (1-1)||Ryusuke Taguchi||2 (1-0)|
|Will Ospreay||2 (1-1)||Volador Jr.||2 (1-0)|
|Ricochet||2 (1-1)||BUSHI||0 (0-1)|
|Taichi||2 (1-1)||KUSHIDA||0 (0-1)|
|TAKA Michinoku||2 (1-1)||Tiger Mask IV||0 (0-1)|
|Jushin Thunder Liger||0 (0-2)||Yoshinobu Kanemaru||0 (0-1)|