Ah, we’re back to the much less exciting and interesting A Block portion of the Best of the Super Juniors. The biggest surprise so far has been the unbeaten run of Tiger Mask IV. Taiji Ishimori has been the A Block MVP, while ACH has been a strong contender for the second best. This show happened yesterday, but NJPW World took forever to upload the matches, so we’re a day behind. Get it together, guys.
Their match last year was good (***). BUSHI, who always starts poorly in these tournaments, jumped Tiger Mask before the bell. He dove out onto him and used cheap tactics to remain in control. It was good to see that he came across as desperate to earn those elusive first two points of the tournament. He didn’t want to start off that slowly again and it showed. As the match progressed and Tiger Mask started in on the comeback, BUSHI began to throw bigger offense at him. Tiger Mask weathered the storm and hit the trio of moves that has worked so well in this tournament. Tiger Driver, butterfly suplex off the top, and Tiger Suplex, which earned him a 3-0 start after 11:16. This was largely fine, but unspectacular. I appreciated desperate BUSHI, while Tiger Mask feels like the guy in almost every Gedo booked tournament who starts hot and ends with a whimper (see: Yujiro Takahashi in the G1 23, Shelton Benjamin in the G1 24, Togi Makabe in the G1 26, Desperado last year, etc.).
The match between these two last year was average (**¼). Like BUSHI, Kanemaru entered this without a win so far. Like BUSHI, he attacked ACH before the match officially began. Redundant, though somewhat logical. ACH’s shoulder taping has been a giant target all tournament long and Kanemaru kept that up here. Unlike some other guys in the tournament so far, ACH has done very well to sell that injury. Whenever it gets worked on, he holds that arm low, constantly grimaces in pain, and fails to use it for offense. Selling is not that hard, people. Not being able to use that arm cost him on more than occasion and Kanemaru was quick to take advantage. In the end, Kanemaru spit his trademark whiskey in ACH’s eyes to set up a Brainbuster and Deep Impact DDT. That got him the win in 14:04. I appreciated the hell out of ACH’s selling and his efforts continue to impress. Unfortunately, Kanemaru is just too boring to build a compelling fifteen minute match around.
As noted, Ishimori is the MVP of this block so far, while Flip is my pick for dead last outside of Kanemaru. Disappointingly, Ishimori couldn’t drag him to a standout match. He wore down the aerial artist and we got a lot of yelling from Flip. Has he been watching Ospreay matches? There wasn’t much else to his selling, though. It literally just felt like he was told to scream in pain and that’s it. He made sure to find places to insert his key spots, yet none of them really felt natural. He knew he had to do them and he just wanted to be certain he hit them. Flip eventually won with a shit O’Connor roll in a disappointment of a match in 9:27. At least they kept it short and it was better than Flip/Kanemaru. Still, there are just too many holes in Flip’s game for him to have a standout match. Ishimori also looked worse than he has all tournament.
So far, SHO has been better than YOH in the tournament, but YOH has done quite well. This is his biggest test to date as a singles guy. Also of note, both men are part of CHAOS. Despite that allegiance, has anyone else noticed some Tetsuya Naito like aspects of YOH’s game? I remember there being a rumor a few years ago about YOH (when he was Yohei Komatsu) possibly joining LIDJ. Anyway, YOH managed to keep up with Will’s high octane offense, throwing almost as many big moves as the Jr. Heavyweight Champion. YOH targeted Will’s banged up neck, causing Will to compete with Flip for loudest selling. “Iron” Mike Sharpe they aren’t. Yes, I found a way to reference him in a NJPW junior tournament review. Of course, when Will began his comeback sequence, it saw him land on his neck on basically the first move. Don’t get me wrong, he sold it well on a few spots, like how it hurt him when he hit the ropes, but it’s so inconsistent. YOH got to show a lot of heart down the stretch, and looked dominant at points. In the end, Ospreay fired up and went into a flurry of offense as if he had no damage down earlier in the match, winning with Storm Breaker in 16:28. It was the best match on the show. However, there was still a lot of issues with it that keep it from being one of the best of the tournament. I liked YOH giving his all to hang with the champ, but I never felt like he was much of a threat. Ospreay’s inconsistent selling was a major problem, too.
Overall: Certainly the worst show of the BOTSJ so far. This year’s tournament has been strong up to this point, as even the weaker A Block shows managed to be above average. Here, nothing really worked the way it should have. The main event was good, though not as good as it could’ve been. Ishimori finally had a lackluster match as Flip continues to underwhelm. Kanemaru made ACH somewhat boring, and the opener was alright. Not a terrible show, but one that you can completely skip.
|Tiger Mask IV||6 (3-0)||Dragon Lee||4 (2-0)|
|Flip Gordon||4 (2-1)||El Desperado||4 (2-0)|
|Taiji Ishimori||4 (2-1)||Hiromu Takahashi||2 (1-1)|
|Will Ospreay||4 (1-2)||SHO||2 (1-1)|
|YOH||2 (1-2)||Chris Sabin||2 (1-1)|
|Yoshinobu Kanemaru||2 (1-2)||KUSHIDA||2 (1-1)|
|ACH||2 (1-2)||Marty Scurll||0 (0-2)|
|BUSHI||0 (0-3)||Ryusuke Taguchi||0 (0-2)|