NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXIII: Days 2 & 3

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Let’s get straight to it.

Here we go…

B Block – Round One

May 22nd, Shizuoka Kiramesse Numazu

Tiger Mask vs. Ricochet

Tiger Mask     Ricochet

These two worked a solid ten minutes, starting slow, and after Ricochet pulled out a stunning fake-out dive Tiger took control with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Ricochet made the comeback with a (non-contrived) 619 and standing Shooting Star Press, before Tiger cut him off with a high kick for a two-count. Ricochet missed the Phoenix Splash and was put on top for a double-underhook superplex, followed by a Tiger Bomb for a good near-fall. Ricochet found an opening, hit the Zig Zag and locked in a grounded Octopus Hold for the tap out win. Tidy match, with a few more highspots than I had expected. **1/2

Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Bobby Fish

Liger     Bobby Fish

After an opening back-and-forth, Fish grabbed a heel hook which had Liger screaming. The veteran made the ropes, took a moment to recover, and, back in, applied the bow-and-arrow. Fish tried to come back with strikes after playing to the crowd, but Liger caught him and got to work on the arm, including a middle-rope knee drop. He missed a second, however, and Fish took advantage by working on the previously targeted leg for several minutes. Liger powered his way back with a Shotei and Liger Bomb for two, before Fish held firm during an attempted super hurricanrana. Back to the leg went Fish, and an Exploder got two. The ankle lock was applied and Liger made the ropes, but only after a significant struggle. Liger’s koppu kick was caught, but he rolled-through into a pin and held on to the ropes for the three-count (this was very messy in execution). Another decent match, marred slightly by the ending. **1/2

Volador Jr. vs. Barreta

Volador Jr.     Beretta

Volador twice frustrated Baretta early on, so Baretta took it to the floor – and outside of camera range – where they teased the countout, but Volador made it in at 18. Baretta stayed on top, taunting his opponent, before missing a charge and crashing into the turnbuckle. Volador took the opportunity to whip off his stripper trousers to reveal snazzy pink trunks (he and Cesaro must share a tailor). He flipped, hit a headscissors and followed with a nice tope con hilo to the floor. Back in, a springboard crossbody got a two-count, then the mask was voluntarily removed, only for Baretta to immediately hit back with a tornado DDT. Superkick and a lungblower from Volador for two. A moonsault met the feet of Baretta, whose Busaiku Knee earned a near-fall. Baretta went to baseball slide Volador from the apron, but Volador leaped above it and in the same movement Asai moonsaulted onto Baretta – most impressive. A to-and-fro battle of strikes and pinning attempts commenced back in the ring, before Volador connected with the top-rope frankensteiner for a near-fall. Barreta countered a charge and hit the Dudebuster (cradle back-to-belly piledriver) for the win. Good chemistry here, with Baretta adapting well to his opponent. ***

Will Ospreay vs. Chase Owens

Ospreay     Chase Owens

Ospreay got the better of the hold-trading by using his pace and agility, then laid in a couple of hard elbows, before Owens caught him with a low dropkick to the outside, then an eye rake for good measure. Owens came off the top with a double axe handle, complete with Macho Man taunt, and hit a slighshot Codebreaker for a two-count. A waist lock briefly grounded Ospreay, but he fought back and connected with a handspring enziguri and a Styles-esque Phenomenal Forearm (while shouting “Cheerio Motherfucker!”) for two. A lovely Sasuke Special followed, then a standing corkscrew moonsault when back in the ring. Owens countered a charge into a spinning backbreaker, and after a brief comeback from Ospreay, superkicked the Englishman mid-springboard-flight and hit a fireman’s carry gutbuster for a near-fall. A package piledriver spiked Ospreay and was more than enough for the upset win for Owens. A thoroughly enjoyable ten-minute match. ***1/2

A Block – Round Two

May 23rd, Niigata Swallow Citizen Gymnasium

Matt Sydal vs. BUSHI

Sydal     BUSHI

Bushi seems to have decided his act is now Naito Jr. and spent much of the match heeling it up, continually testing the referee’s five-count. Sydal tried to fight back with strikes, but Bushi slowed it down once more with headscissors. A spinning heel kick connected, allowing Sydal to take the lead, and a couple of two-counts followed.  A standing moonsault hit the knees, then Bushi connected with a missile dropkick and suicide dive. Back in, Bushi hit the Codebreaker and double knees in the corner for a near-fall, before heading up top where Sydal sprang a jumping hurricanrana. The Shooting Star Press connected to give Sydal the win. A bit dull and I’m not keen on Bushi acting like Naito. Naito’s facial expressions sell the aloof douche aspect of his character and seeing as Bushi wears a masked you miss that completely. **

Kyle O’Reilly vs. Gedo

Kyle O'Reilly     Gedo

Naturally, O’Reilly got the better of Gedo on the mat, so Gedo took a powder on the floor and stayed there awhile before tricking O’Reilly at the ropes. As on the first show, Gedo used the ringbell hammer to attack his opponent (the referee failed to do anything about it), then, when they were back in the ring, undid the turnbuckle pad and whipped O’Reilly into it a couple of times. Neckbreaker for two, then O’Reilly made the ropes off a WAR Special shoulderlock. The Canadian ducked a charge and went straight to the strikes and suplexed Gedo into an armbar only for it to be reversed into a pin for a two-count. Gedo countered the rebound clothesline into an STO, then transitioned from another WAR Special into a crossface. Rope break, then O’Reilly fired up with kicks and dropped Gedo with a brainbuster for a near-fall, before applying the armbar for the tap out. Gedo played the Memphis heel here and it worked well. Good fun. ***1/4

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. David Finlay

Ryusuke Taguchi     David Finlay

Taguchi continued his more serious approach here (but, y’know, we’re talking in relative terms). He dominated his young opponent, working the knee for a good five minutes before Finlay found respite with a middle-rope dropkick and a sequence of European uppercuts. The ass-attack could not be avoided, however, and Taguchi launched into the Nakamura taunt only to be caught in a Stretch Muffler. A little back-and-forth gave way to an intricate closing sequence which ended when Finlay’s attempted German suplex was rolled-through into an adapted ankle lock, from which Finlay tapped. A basic match, but the final minutes lifted it. **3/4

KUSHIDA vs. Rocky Romero

KUSHIDA     Romero

This went fifteen minutes and was comfortably the best match of the round. There was some arm-work from Romero that was for nought, but this was otherwise another good showing from him, and Kushida was his usual impressive self. There were some effective near-falls peppered throughout, with Kushida hitting a moonsault halfway through and later countering the Shiranui into one of his own. Kushida even pulled out his straight punch, which is usually reserved for bigger matches. Romero escaped the Hoverboard Lock then connected with a rope-hung springboard dropkick that had the crowd biting, before a Shining Wizard put the champ away for the upset win! Kushida goes 0-2 early on. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Romero in singles competition and he’s looked sharp. ***1/2

B Block standings after Round One

  • Beretta – 2
  • Chase Owens – 2
  • Jushin Thunder Liger – 2
  • Ricochet – 2
  • Bobby Fish – 0
  • Tiger Mask – 0
  • Will Ospreay – 0
  • Volador Jr. – 0

A Block standings after Round Two

  • Kyle O’Reilly – 4
  • Rocky Romero – 4
  • Ryusuke Taguchi – 4
  • Gedo – 2
  • Matt Sydal – 2
  • BUSHI – 0
  • David Finlay – 0
  • KUSHIDA – 0

Final thoughts: Of the eight matches, Ospreay vs. Owens and KUSHIDA vs. Rocky Romero are the ones to watch, with O’Reilly/Gedo and Baretta/Volador Jr. the next on the list. Everything was decent, but there are a LOT of matches in this tournament, so it would be wise (unless you’re me, apparently) to cherry pick.

Back on Thursday for Days 4 & 5. See you then.