Sunday, June 3, 2018

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXV Night Thirteen Review

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXV Night Thirteen
June 3rd, 2018 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,714

The A and B Blocks come together for the penultimate night of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. On this show, we’ll find out who will be facing off tomorrow with the crown on the line. Will KUSHIDA and Will Ospreay repeat? Does the new Bone Solider make it all the way through? Will Hiromu Takahashi add an accolade to his “best junior in the world” mantle? By the way, though NJPW usually books the juniors as lesser stars, these guys managed to sell out Korakuen today. Not a massive accomplishment, but good for them.

I’m using English commentary, which consists of Kevin Kelly and Chase Owens.

A Block: ACH [4] vs. Tiger Mask IV [6]
These two had a damn good match in last year’s tournament (***½). ACH paid tribute by coming out in a Tiger Mask. He did portray Tiger the Dark at Wrestle Kingdom 11 last year. ACH’s shoulder continued to play a major role. He would throw a hard strike and it would come back to haunt him. That was where Tiger Mask found his openings. ACH went into trying to beat Tiger Mask with some of his own moves, including the Tiger Driver. He survived the best Tiger Mask had to throw at him, before countering the Tiger Suplex into a rollup to win in 8:27. For a friendly match with nothing on the line, that was more intense than I expected. Good back and forth, with the story of ACH looking up to Tiger Mask and trying to match him. The arm work was very well done and ACH sold it like a champ again. [***]

A Block: BUSHI [6] vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion Yoshinobu Kanemaru [4]
There’s history here, as BUSHI and Hiromu have feuded with Kanemaru and Desperado for the titles. Desperado/Hiromu was incredible earlier in the tournament. I don’t expect the same here, as Kanemaru has been the worst wrestler in either block. It was BUSHI who dropkicked Kanemaru during his introduction, turning the tables on the Suzuki-Gun scoundrel. He went for a tope and accidentally took out Tomoyuki Oka. From there, Kanemaru used all his underhanded tricks to keep control. Of course, it all led to a ref bump. BUSHI managed to avoid the whiskey spit, but tricky Kanemaru used it successfully shortly after. He hit Deep Impact for the victory in 9:24. The usual nonsense between these two. It wasn’t awful, but Kanemaru is just not very good. [**½]

B Block: Chris Sabin [6] vs. Ryusuke Taguchi [4]
Surprisingly, we haven’t really seen BIG MATCH TAGUCHI this year. Gedo tournaments are typically predictable, so the outcome was expected here. Taguchi brought the comedy act in this one, rolling himself into an armbar and doing his drop down spots. This was worked at a bit of a slower pace than the previous two matches, though they picked things up down the stretch. We got some strong near falls, but the finishing stretch was less than stellar. Sabin survived Dodon, only for Taguchi to awkwardly transition the kickout into an Ankle Lock. Sabin tapped at 10:56. It was largely fine, but very forgettable and kind of just there. [**¾]

B Block: CMLL World Lightweight Champion Dragon Lee [6] vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion El Desperado [4]
Desperado and Lee have the two best tournament matches, both coming against Hiromu Takahashi. Lee wore a Shibata shirt to the ring. Lee came out firing, learning from BUSHI and attacking the Suzuki-Gun guy early. He also went for a dive, but when Desperado moved, he landed on his feet. Desperado begged off a ton, using it to sucker Lee in for a chair shot. From there, he was a jerk the entire way, by doing things like going after Lee’s mask. Dragon Lee lifted some Shibata spots, which I’m all for, because who doesn’t miss Shibata? The match was on pace to become something great, but Desperado’s mask got ripped and it caused some problems. He struggled to get it back on and from there, the match kind of suffered. Desperado ended up winning via rollup in 12:18, before removing Lee’s mask completely. This was heated, intense, and just the kind of match I wanted from them. Lee took to Twitter to challenge Desperado to a mask vs. mask match, so I’m hoping for more down the line. With a better finish, this would’ve been one of the best tournament matches. [***¼]

To the surprise of many, Tomoaki Honma’s music hit and he made his way out to the ring. He hasn’t wrestled in over a year, but announced that his return to the ring will take place on June 23rd!

A Block: Flip Gordon [6] vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay [8]
Many came in hyping this match, as Flip is just a shittier Ospreay right now. Ospreay came out looking like a bad Kazuchika Okada cosplay. To be fair, though, that’s basically Will’s entire look in NJPW. Folks wanted this to be Ricochet/Ospreay, but it never got to that level. Still, it was a high octane, flippy match, which is what everyone wanted. There wasn’t a ton of story behind it or a sense of urgency. Instead, it came across like an exhibition between two athletic guys. At least the Ricochet outings felt like they mattered. I did appreciate how Ospreay underestimated Gordon at times and it cost him. Will’s cocky attitude is a problem, similar to Okada. There just wasn’t enough of that aspect. Lots of cool moves and some impressive feats from both men. Ospreay put him down with Storm Breaker in 19:36. It went too long for what they were going for. They did do a lot of what people wanted from them, so there’s that. [***]

A Block: Taiji Ishimori [8] vs. YOH [6]
A win for Ishimori gives him the block, since he holds the tiebreaker over Will. Interestingly, Ishimori made the BOTSJ final in 2010, while he was part of NOAH. Though YOH couldn’t win the block, he could help his CHAOS buddy Ospreay out. Speaking of Ospreay, he came out for a closer look. YOH played the fiery underdog, throwing everything he had at the favorite. There was a calm confidence in Ishimori, always seemingly in control of YOH. The only time he’d look a bit off his game was when he’d stop to talk trash to Will. YOH’s comeback attempts were filled with energy and the hot crowd believed in him. They bit on his Seth Rollins style superplex/falcon arrow combo. His series of flash rollups were tremendous. Everyone was losing their minds. He made a mistake with them and got caught in a crossface, which he tapped out to in 14:55. YOH’s best performance of the tournament and right up there with Ishimori’s. The desperation from YOH (and Ospreay at ringside) sold a big part of this match. There was urgency, a hot crowd, and great action. I dug this. [***¾]

B Block: NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Marty Scurll [8] vs. SHO [4]
Though SHO has just 4 points, he’s been the breakout stud of this tournament. This match came across as a struggle in the best possible way. The more experienced Scurll wanted to keep a slower pace, while SHO was out to quicken it at every opportunity. SHO mostly battled from behind, but like most of the tournament, he got more than YOH. It’s as if they were trying to show that he’s closer to the level of the top juniors than his partner. As the match progressed and got more intense, they went into a strike battle that wore down both men. The finger snap spot was big here, and it cost SHO the Shock Arrow, as he couldn’t get a good grip. Great stuff. Marty went into a barrage of elbow strikes that nearly saw the referee call for the bell. Instead of continuing, Scurll raised SHO up for the CHICKEN WING. That provided SHO with a tiny opening to successfully hit Shock Arrow and win after 20:39. Another strong match from a Roppongi 3K guy. SHO was absolutely the breakout star of the tournament. This was a great display from both men that played to their strengths. [***½]

B Block: Hiromu Takahashi [8] vs. KUSHIDA [8]
Last year, Hiromu beat KUSHIDA for the Jr. Title at WK 11 (****¼), then basically squashed him at Sakura Genesis. KUSHIDA got revenge and took back the title at Dominion (****½). Clearly, these are the two best juniors in the world. Seriously, it’s these two and there’s not really a case for anyone else. Winner wins the B block and faces Ishimori in the finals. If you wanted an indication of how intense this was, these guys worked a collar and elbow tie up to a stalemate for literally five minutes. Once that finally broke, the pace picked up and KUSHIDA delivered a huge dive. From there, they continued at a frantic rate. Due to their vast knowledge of one another, they had to find new counters for some of their best stuff. It really made for some awesome exchanges. In the end, it became a battle of submissions. KUSHIDA’s Hoverboard Lock against Hiromu’s new triangle choke. Hiromu baited him in on the Fastball Punch, pulling him into the triangle choke. When KUSHIDA didn’t tap, Hiromu added a brutal piledriver and put the hold back on, getting the win in 24:16. Not quite on the level of their 2017 battles, but still a great match between these two. It was different from their other matches, which just shows the versatility of these guys. Solid storytelling, action, and callbacks. [****]

So, our finals is Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori, which is literally the best possible finals that could’ve given us. Bravo, Gedo.

Overall: 8.5/10. Putting both blocks together made for a very fun show. The B Block was far superior throughout, but the A Block did well on this night. A whole lot of good wrestling, some impressive performances up and down the tournament, and we ended on some bangers. All while setting up a fresh finals. Yes, please.

Taiji Ishimori10 (5-2)Hiromu Takahashi10 (5-2)
Will Ospreay10 (5-2)KUSHIDA8 (4-3)
BUSHI6 (3-4)Marty Scurll8 (4-3)
Flip Gordon6 (3-4)Dragon Lee6 (3-4)
YOH6 (3-4)Chris Sabin6 (3-4)
Tiger Mask IV6 (3-4)El Desperado6 (3-4)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru6 (3-4)SHO6 (3-4)
ACH6 (3-4)Ryusuke Taguchi6 (3-4)

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXV Night Twelve Review

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXV Night Twelve
June 2nd, 2018 | New Sunpia Takasaki in Takasaki, Gunma | Attendance: 1,515

Not only is this the final B Block only night of the tournament, but it’s also the final single camera show! NJPW took a while to get this uploaded, so night thirteen is already up as I check this one out. I’ve really enjoyed you B Block, so let’s go out with a bang.

B Block: Chris Sabin [4] vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion El Desperado [4]
Desperado took jumping his opponent before the match to a new level, hitting Sabin just as he stepped through the curtain. That led to Desperado beating him up all around the arena and nearly winning via countout. Sabin fought back by giving Desperado some of his own medicine. I’ve liked that about Sabin’s matches so far. He goes out and finds a way to work the style of the other guy. For example, he tossed Desperado into a sea of chairs and hit a cannonball onto one that he was sitting on. The pace picked up late, which worked in Sabin’s favor. He used Cradle Shock to stay alive after 12:14. This was a fine opener, though not the best outing from either man. I appreciated Sabin playing into Desperado’s style for his comeback. [***]

B Block: NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Marty Scurll [6] vs. Ryusuke Taguchi [4]
To stay alive, the “Funky Weapon” needed a victory. Meanwhile, the “Villain” has picked up three straight wins. The guys had some fun in the early stages, mocking each other a bit. It works because both characters are flat out silly. Yes, if you don’t think Marty’s gimmick is silly, you haven’t been watching him. Taguchi bothered him with all the clever counters he found for some of Marty’s key offense. Had this gone about eight minutes, we’d be talking about a fun encounter. Instead, it went the NJPW route and kept going, ending up twice as long as it should’ve been. The back half was oddly paced, featured another ref bump (a few too many of those in this tournament), and ultimately didn’t make much sense. After Taguchi got a visual tap out win, Scurll rolled him up to steal it in 15:42. It was on pace for something strong, but got marred by too much BS. [**½]

B Block: Hiromu Takahashi [6] vs. SHO [4]
One of my most highly anticipated matches of the entire tournament. For two guys without much history, there was an intensity in this that most other matches in the BOTSJ could rival. SHO continued to be desperate to prove himself against the top guys in his block, while Hiromu is always a safe bet for a wild performance. SHO knew he’d have to bring his best for Hiromu and he did with some German suplexes and a trio of powerbombs. As we saw when Hiromu faced Desperado, though, it takes a lot to keep the man down. SHO showed (ha) just as much heart, kicking out of some of Hiromu’s very best stuff. The finish was tremendous, as Hiromu applied his triangle choke. SHO tried to powerbomb his way out, but couldn’t get Hiromu up a third time and just collapsed, giving Hiromu a win in 16:19. Usually, I don’t these single cam/no commentary matches four stars or more. They just feel hollow. However, Hiromu is so special that he’s now got two in this tournament alone. This was awesome, with two gives throwing everything at each other in a match that felt important throughout. [****]

B Block: CMLL World Lightweight Champion Dragon Lee [6] vs. KUSHIDA [6]
Dragon Lee is basically the Tiger Mask IV of this side, starting hot and going cold late. On paper, this sounds incredible, but in practice, it lacked a bit. That’s not to say it wasn’t great, because it was. It just kind of felt like two great wrestlers having a very good match and not one that featured any real drama. It was mostly crisp, outside of a few miscommunications, but there didn’t seem to be much behind it. Basically, it was a good match that felt like it came between two guys who weren’t going anywhere in the tournament, rather than two at the top of the standings. They had each other well scouted, like KUSHIDA escaping Desnucadora and hitting Back to the Future, only for Lee to roll that into a pin. KUSHIDA eventually hit another Back to the Future to win in 18:17. Like I said, this was a strong main event and I apologize if the review led you to believe it wasn’t. It’s a very good match that had some issues keeping it from being one of the best in the tournament. [***¾]

Overall: 7.5/10. Though I was disappointed in two matches, this was a strong show from start to finish. The opener was solid, Taguchi/Scurll was half a very good match, and the final two matches were damn good. An easy watch outside of the second match. Hiromu is the best junior heavyweight on the planet, while SHO is the breakout star. It’s must watch.

Taiji Ishimori8 (4-2)KUSHIDA8 (4-2)
Will Ospreay8 (4-2)Hiromu Takahashi8 (4-2)
BUSHI6 (3-3)Marty Scurll8 (4-2)
Flip Gordon6 (3-3)Dragon Lee6 (3-3)
YOH6 (3-3)Chris Sabin6 (3-3)
Tiger Mask IV6 (3-3)El Desperado4 (2-4)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru4 (2-4)Ryusuke Taguchi4 (2-4)
ACH4 (2-4)SHO4 (2-4)