The story so far…
A Block – Round Four
May 23rd, Tochigi City Athletic Park Gymnasium, Tochigi
TAKA Michinoku vs. Marty Scurll
After some heel one-upmanship from both gents, Taka found out that You Can’t Sunset Flip Marty Scurll, then both men attempted pinning combinations. Taka took control at this point, working a headscissors and cinching in the Just Facelock, from which Scurll stretched for the rope-break. The Just Kidding superkick from Scurll landed, but the brainbuster did not, so he settled for an apron superkick instead, earning a two-count, then Taka fought back with a shin kick and thrust kick, also for two. Scurll reversed the Michinoku Driver to a rolling small package for another two-count before catching Taka’s eye poke and snapping his finger! The Chickenwing was locked in and Taka soon tapped.
Marty had plenty of fans in the house for this one, but it was not much more than a parade of signature spots from both men. Taka has been disappointing thus far. **
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Will Ospreay
Great reaction for Liger and he got the better of the initial exchanges, stretching Ospreay with a modified surfboard then dropkicking him as he was posing. The Romero Special made its first appearance of the tournament and he added the Dragon Sleeper too, but Ospreay slipped out. He ducked Liger’s Shotei and knocked him down, before a big elbow strike enabled an armlock/cloverleaf combo, and a low dropkick earned two. Liger blocked a charge and landed the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, then set Ospreay on top for the super frankensteiner for two. The Shotei missed again, and Ospreay’s handspring kick set up the always impressive Sasuke Special! Springboard elbow, standing shooting star press, two-count. Ospreay tried to go all Shibata in the corner, but Liger turned him inside-out with the Shotei then clipped him with the koppu kick. Liger Bomb for a near-fall! All the way up top, by Ospreay slipped out for the Cheeky Nandos kick and the Shooting Star Press got the… two-count! The corkscrew kick and the OsCutter followed, however, and the three-count was academic.
And with that, his fourth loss of his final Best of the Super Juniors tournament, Liger is out of the running. Damn it. The crowd really wanted Liger to kick out there at the end. They totally got me with Ospreay hitting the SSP and, although I had no expectations that he’d win here, I’m still disappointed to see Liger lose. I enjoyed this, but more than that was invested in the result. ***1/4
Taichi vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Worth noting that Taichi had been taunting Hiromu in the lead-up to this match. Mocking him with the black wrestling trunks a trainee would wear.
Naturally, Taichi attacked before the bell, so Hiromu tried to escape into the crowd, but Taichi came at him with the pair of trunks and nailed him with the mic stand. Taka distracted the ref while Taichi used the ringbell hammer then stomped and slapped Hiromu in the corner. A ‘rana from Hiromu sent Taichi to the floor, where the former hit a running dropkick from the apron, but Taichi seemingly hypnotised Hiromu with the trunks, and tried to convince him to put them on. Hiromu declined, smacked Taichi in the face, and put the trunks on voluntarily. Missile dropkick and a fisherman suplex for two, then he put the trunks on Taichi’s head and mocked him. Taichi fired back in anger and sent Hiromu into the ringpost on the outside before smacking him several times with a chair! Seriously, Red Shoes, do your job. Back in the ring a folding powerbomb got a two-count, but Hiromu reversed the Last Ride and something like Tenzan’s Mountain Bomb put both men down. Hiromu threw elbows, but Taichi levelled him with huge kicks and landed a pinpoint superkick for a near-fall. Nicely done. More kicks and hard elbows from Taichi, then a kick combination to put Hiromu down, but Taichi waited too long and Hiromu nailed three thrust kicks and a lariat. Modified Death Valley Driver – two-count only. DVD into the turnbuckle. Time Bomb. One, two, three.
Really good! The story was well executed and despite the slow start this heated up nicely with the crowd buying Hiromu in the near-babyface role. He’s nailing absolutely everything at the moment, but the character work in particular is exceptional. Taichi was no slouch here, either, and contributed an equal share to what was by far his best match of the tournament so far. ***3/4
Ricochet vs. Dragon Lee
Ricochet took the early advantage with some arm drags, but an extended back-and-forth of counters and missed moves led to a stand-off, much to the crowd’s delight. Ricochet stun-gunned Dragon into a neckbreaker to take control, then earned a two-count from a seated enzuigiri. The modified Gory Special slam got another two, then Ricochet heel’d it up, taunting Dragon before slapping him, so Dragon picked up the pace to make the comeback with a dropkick. He followed with an STF, forcing Ricochet to the ropes, then landed a corner dropkick. The ‘rana over the ropes to the floor saw Ricochet land on his feet(!) and nail a big boot, but Dragon recovered and followed with a tope con hilo. Ricochet blocked a charge back in the ring, and a big lariat and snap German suplex got a two-count, but Dragon blocked King’s Landing and the tilt-a-whirl DDT, countering to a Cradle Orange Crush for a near-fall! He set Ricochet up for the double stomp, but it was countered very neatly into a Destroyer and the follow-up leg-hook Michinoku Driver got two! German suplex and a standing Spanish Fly from Dragon Lee also got two, but put both men down. Dragon blocked Ricochet’s frankensteiner up top, set him up in the tree-of-woe, and this time the double stomp hit the mark for the three-count.
While good, this was a little below expectations. There was lots to enjoy, particularly in the second half, but the opening minutes were somewhat disjointed, and while I don’t doubt that these two could deliver something truly spectacular, this wasn’t it. Still: ***1/2
A Block standings after Round Four
- Dragon Lee – 6
- Will Ospreay – 6
- Marty Scurll – 6
- Ricochet – 4
- Taichi – 4
- Hiromu Takahashi – 4
- TAKA Michinoku – 2
- Jushin Thunder Liger – 0
B Block standing after Round Three
- El Desperado – 6
- Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 4
- Ryusuke Taguchi – 4
- Tiger Mask IV – 4
- ACH – 2
- KUSHIDA – 2
- Volador Jr. – 2
- BUSHI – 0
Final thoughts: I never thought I’d see the day when Taichi was in the match of the night, but here we are. You, faithful reader, may profoundly disagree. If so, Liger’s Last Stand and the main event should please you, despite nothing being notably great.
Back late on Friday on Saturday for Days 7 & 8. See you then.