The A Block is back today with a few interesting matchups. Jushin Thunder Liger looks for his first win as he takes on Ricochet, Hiromu Takahashi goes against another Suzuki-Gun guy and Will Ospreay and Dragon Lee rematch their ROH outing.
Considering their point totals, I can predict this outcome. As always, Taichi attacked before the bell, but his microphone stand was outdueled by Marty’s umbrella. Marty could show Taichi how to be a proper villain and not one who sucks the life out of everything he’s involved in. Since NJPW heels tend to be carbon copies of each other, whether Suzuki-Gun or Bullet Club, this had the standard brawling around the arena. Marty made Taichi tap to the chicken wing, but the referee was down, so it was missed. Taichi used a low blow and roll up to steal two points at 9:25. About what I expected. Scurll tried, but couldn’t drag Taichi to something better.
I gave their match in the tournament last year ***½. Ricochet pumping his fist at the “LIGER” part of Liger’s theme was cool. There was a respect based back and forth sequence in the early goings. Liger would gain control, but Ricochet used his quickness to slip free. Once they got into their stuff, everything flowed smoothly. They’re just so good. I also liked how it showcased something different for Ricochet. Against guys like Lee and Ospreay, he flies all over the place. Here, we saw other facets of his game and man, Ricochet is damn good. He picked up the win with King’s Landing at 9:04. Liger continues to have a strong final tournament, despite his 0-5 record. Ricochet has another very good match and remains consistent. I’d like to see him get a Jr. Title run at some point.
Hiromu got a good match out of Taichi, so this should be just as good, if not better. And it was. TAKA looked to do the Suzuki-Gun style of underhanded tactics, while Hiromu was out to pretty much just punch him in the mouth and bring the big offense. Unlike Taichi and Kanemaru, TAKA’s shenanigans were entertaining. They didn’t feel like he was doing them for the sake of it, but to overcome the juggernaut that is Hiromu. TAKA showed his desperation by feigning a knee injury, using eye pokes and trying several rollups down the stretch. Hiromu survived it all and won with the Time Bomb in 9:24. Hiromu Takahashi can do no wrong. Another fun match for him, while TAKA has another solid outing. TAKA knew he was overmatched and tried everything, but it wasn’t enough.
At ROH’s Manhattan Mayhem VI, these two had a ***¾ showcase. Like that match, this was the two athletic showmen trying to outdo each other and take the lead in their block. However, Dragon Lee showed how he’s more well-rounded than Will. His strikes were better and he didn’t have an odd section early on where he tried some odd submission work. As fliers, they’re about even, and when they focused on that, the match was at their best. Ospreay kicked out of some of Lee’s best shots, including the tree of woe stomp. He fought off the Dragon Driver and went into his finishing stretch, capping it off with the Oscutter to win at 10:06. I preferred their ROH match. This was a fine showcase too, but I wasn’t a fan of some of the early stuff and the finish felt anti-climactic. Ospreay leads the A Block, which is disappointing to me since I’ve been over him for about a year now.
Overall: The story with the A Block is the same each time out. Taichi drags the show down all by himself. To be fair, the rest of the card wasn’t that strong either. I thought Liger/Ricochet and Hiromu/TAKA were both highly enjoyable, but found Lee/Ospreay to be a disappointment. Nothing here is must see, but everything is fine.
Will the B Block trend continue today? They’ve typically had good but not great matches (sans KUSHIDA/BUSHI). El Desperado started unbeaten but looks to go the Gedo booking route of a collapse, while KUSHIDA is on the road to the opposite, which is another Gedo booking trope.
Desperado came out without any of his Suzuki-Gun buddies. Much appreciated. ACH was ready for some of Desperado’s antics, but quickly had his knee targeted. Desperado unwrapped the bandage on it and methodically worked it over. Kudos to ACH, who sold it all very well. He limped, had trouble standing and let out audible yells of pain. In the end, he slipped out of the stretch muffler and scored with the Midnight Driver at 9:56. Solid opening contest. They worked a smart match and both guys succeeded in what they tried.
I’m not sure what they were going for here. Early on, BUSHI used a chair on Volador’s leg. I’d expect that would become a target. Instead, it was largely forgotten. BUSHI just went into his normal offense, as if none of that happened. Partially because of that, this felt more like two guys hitting their moves than a cohesive match. Sometimes that’s fine. Here, I don’t think it was because it needed more leg work after the way it started. BUSHI scored with MX to win in 10:53. I wanted more from this. Cut that early stuff out and you’ve got another ***+ performance from BUSHI.
Taguchi’s theme makes me wanna twerk. These two are friendly, so Taguchi was free to be his wacky self. That’s the Taguchi I was never a fan of though. I know comedy has its place in wrestling (I quite enjoy Toru Yano), but Taguchi’s brand doesn’t typically click. After some comedy, Tiger Mask went to work with a few rest holds. He lacked some of the fire we’ve seen from him in this tournament thus far. Both guys tried setting up their submissions (ankle lock and armbar), but it was Taguchi who won out. He applied the ankle lock and Tiger Mask tapped at 9:29. Smooth work, but I wasn’t a fan of the middle portion and didn’t love the comedy stuff.
It’s a rematch from the Super J-Cup Finals last year. That lackluster tournament ended with a match I generously gave ***¼ to. Like I said on previous shows, looking at the records guys have can tell you how a certain match will go. This was the expected match from these two. They tried to sell KUSHIDA fighting from behind and making this valiant comeback. Suzuki-Gun shenanigans and interference were how he fell behind, so that part wasn’t very interesting at all. They even worked in a dreadful looking referee bump, because why not? Taichi clocked KUSHIDA with a tequila bottle and proceeded to stick around for far longer than I wished. When his Hoverboard Lock kept failing, KUSHIDA resorted to Back to the Future (small package driver) to win in 13:17. Like everything Kanemaru does, this lacked. I got what they were trying to go for, but I feel the execution was way off. KUSHIDA gets the expected win to continue the overused Gedo comeback booking. Hopefully, and I say this as a KUSHIDA fan, he doesn’t win the block.
Overall: I think we can safely call this the worst show of the BOTSJ this year. Only the opener cracked three stars. Luckily, there’s no Taichi level awfulness, so it isn’t a particularly bad show, just one that’s very skippable.
|Will Ospreay||8 (4-1)||El Desperado||6 (3-2)|
|Dragon Lee||6 (3-2)||Yoshinobu Kanemaru||6 (3-2)|
|Ricochet||6 (3-2)||ACH||6 (3-2)|
|Hiromu Takahashi||6 (3-2)||Ryusuke Taguchi||6 (3-2)|
|Taichi||6 (3-2)||Tiger Mask IV||4 (2-3)|
|Marty Scurll||6 (3-2)||KUSHIDA||4 (2-3)|
|TAKA Michinoku||2 (1-4)||BUSHI||4 (2-3)|
|Jushin Thunder Liger||0 (0-5)||Volador Jr.||4 (2-3)|