NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXIII: Days 4 & 5

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These tournament matches took place on May 24th and 25th, at Yamagata and Ichinoseki respectively.

The story so far:

Here we go…

B Block – Round Two

May 24th, Yamagata Yonezawa Municipal Gymnasium

Tiger Mask vs. Volador Jr.

Tiger Mask     Volador Jr.

Tiger wisely used the opening minutes attempting to ground his younger opponent after catching him with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Volador found a way back in with a kick, missile dropkick, and nicely executed tope con hilo. After a struggle on the outside, Volador hit an Asai moonsault to put both men down. Back in, Volador got a two-count off a magistral cradle, and the crowd were fully behind Tiger. A moonsault was avoided, and a powerbomb out of the corner was followed by a Tiger Bomb that earned a near-fall for the veteran. Volador struck a superkick, hit a lungblower, then wrapped Tiger up in the Depredador Estrada submission hold for the victory. He’s no Dragon Lee, but so far, Volador has impressed. ***

Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Chase Owens

Liger     Chase Owens

Yujiro Takahashi was out with Owens and, as you would expect, interjected at various points in the match, giving his fellow Bullet Club member the advantage (speaking of which, if BC had a Z-list pairing, then this is it). Owens superkicked Liger on the outside, then did the same to Jay White because he’s a bastard. Back in, a moonsault missed the mark, and Liger came back with a Koppu kick and Shotei, before hitting a super hurricanrana for a two-count. After another distraction and flurry for Owens, the package pildriver was escaped and Liger got the crucifix pin for the win. Post-match, Owens piledrivered Liger, and the masked legend left the arena on a stretcher. **1/2

Bobby Fish vs. Ricochet

Bobby Fish     Ricochet

I liked the story in the opening minutes, with Ricochet getting a cocky and flip-happy and Fish bringing him back to earth with hard strikes. After countering the Benadryller, Fish grounded Ricochet and worked towards a submission, before hitting an exploder into the turnbuckle for a two-count. Ricochet missed the Shooting Star Press after striking a comeback, but a succession of suplexes brought a near-fall, then the submission move that won his first match had Fish grasping for the ropes. After a back-and-forth, Fish dropped the flyer with a Falcon Arrow and immediately transitioned to the heel hook, from which Ricochet made the ropes. Ricochet got a near-fall after rolling-through an ankle lock attempt, then, after catching Fish in the jaw with a high knee, connected with the Benadryller for a well-earned three-count. Good chemistry between these two. Fish had a tactic, which was to go for the submission, but he allowed himself to become frustrated and ultimately it cost him. ***1/2

Barreta vs. Will Ospreay

Beretta     Ospreay

This was a tremendously enjoyable twelve-minute match. Both men are members of CHAOS, so the match was more like a game of one-upmanship than a hostile fight. Baretta seemingly had the better of Ospreay at every turn in the early going, but of course the Englishman found an opening and hit the Phenomenal Forearm, Sasuke Special and a beautiful slingshot Red Alert for a near-fall. A strike battle on the apron culminated in Baretta delivering a dragon suplex and Ospreay had to leap in to avoid the count-out. Baretta then threatened a super-Dudebuster, but Ospreay escaped with his turnbuckle superkick (aka the Cheeky Nandos Kick), hit a reverse hurricanrana and connected with the corkscrew roundhouse for a close two-count. Baretta took advantage of a slow turnbuckle climb to launch Ospreay with a release German suplex from the top rope and turned him inside out with the Busaiku Knee. Two-count only! The Dudebuster connected, however, and that was enough for the win. Handshake post-match. That’s a couple of good matches for Baretta, who is proving himself a more than able foil for high-flying opponents. As for Ospreay, if he loses to Richochet he’s out of contention, it’s as simple as that. ***3/4

A Block – Round Three

May 25th, Iwate-Ichinoseki Gymnasium Yudomu

Matt Sydal vs. Gedo

Sydal     Gedo

Gedo beat on Sydal outside the ring for a couple of minutes, breaking the count when necessary, before the match started proper. Gedo maintained control until Sydal connected with a spinning heel kick and fired up the strikes. He followed with his Slice leg bulldog and a standing moonsault for two, before going up top and getting crotched. Gedo hit a rope-hung DDT for a near-fall, then looked for the Gedo Clutch only for Sydal to counter. Sydal sat Gedo on the top rope, hit his jumping hurricanrana, then nailed the Shooting Star Press for the win. Short and inoffensive. **

Kyle O’Reilly vs. BUSHI

Kyle O'Reilly     BUSHI

Bushi goaded O’Reilly to the apron where he delivered the DDT, then used a chair to further the advantage. Back in, a t-shirt choke led to a chinlock and headscissors, before O’Reilly struck back with a sequence of strikes and his rolling underhook suplexes for a two-count. Bushi managed to knock O’Reilly out of the ring and follow with a suicide dive, then a strike battle commenced and was easily won by O’Reilly, who hit the rebound lariat and Regalplex for a two-count. The triangle hold was rolled-through for the pin attempt, and Bushi hit the double knees in the corner and a spinning neckbreaker, but O’Reilly caught him off the top and tried to get the armbar locked in to no avail. O’Reilly kicked the arm, ducked the mist and hit a brainbuster for two. Straight into the armbar and Bushi had no choice but to tap out. Decent match, but that does it for Bushi’s chances, while O’Reilly rolls along unimpeded. ***1/4

KUSHIDA vs. David Finlay

KUSHIDA     David Finlay

The first thing Kushida did was grab a hammerlock, so you knew where this was going. He dominated Finlay on the mat, then connected with a springboard dropkick and a slingshot crossbody to the outside. Back in, Kushida continued to work the arm, and held firm during Finlay escape attempts. A short-arm scissors was broken by the ropes, before a sliding dropkick got a two-count. Finlay caught the handspring elbow attempt and dumped Kushida on his neck with a German suplex, then fired back with European uppercuts and the Irish Curse backbreaker. A middle-rope uppercut was countered to an armbar by Kushida and had Finlay scrambling for the ropes. After yet more punishment to the arm, a hurricanrana was reversed to a Stretch Muffler by Finlay, with Kushida eventually getting the rope-break, then an intricate sequence of pinning attempts led to the Junior champion grabbing the Hoverboard Lock. Finlay was forced to tap after being pulled back into the middle of the ring. Although Kushida’s victory was never in doubt, Finlay showed great fire. ***1/2

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Rocky Romero

Ryusuke Taguchi     Romero

Taguchi started well, with a flurry of ass-based attacks, then Romero took the fight to the outside, where, after taking a huge run-up, he was met with yet another ass-attack to the face. Back in, Taguchi hit a low dropkick, a sequence of ass-attacks and the Three Amigos for a two-count. Romero hit back with his Nakamura-taunting knee-lift in the corner, before connecting with the rope-hung springboard dropkick for another two-count. Main Event Elbow Battle, after which Romero nailed a jumping knee strike for a near-fall. The Shiranui was blocked and Taguchi grabbed the ankle lock, only for Romero to roll-through for a pin attempt. Shining Wizard ducked, Inverted Exploder from Taguchi and his Bom-Ass Ye brought a near-fall, and shortly thereafter the ankle hold (named Oh My & Garankle for some reason) was locked in, forcing Romero to tap. Solid match that picked up towards the end, and if you’re particularly fond of ass-based offence you may rate this match more highly. **3/4

B Block standings after Round Two

  • Ricochet – 4
  • Jushin Liger – 4
  • Barreta – 4
  • Volador Jr. – 2
  • Chase Owens – 2
  • Tiger Mask – 0
  • Bobby Fish – 0
  • Will Ospreay – 0

A Block standings after Round Three

  • Kyle O’Reilly – 6
  • Ryusuke Taguchi – 6
  • Rocky Romero – 4
  • Matt Sydal – 4
  • Gedo – 2
  • KUSHIDA – 2
  • BUSHI – 0
  • David Finlay – 0

Final thoughts: Barreta vs. Ospreay was the best match over the two shows, with Finlay/KUSHIDA and Fish/Ricochet next in line, while O’Reilly/BUSHI is worth a watch as well. My prediction of BUSHI/Ospreay looks way off, as neither guy has any points at the moment, and whilst one of them could launch a comeback, I highly doubt both of them will.

Tomorrow’s B Block show is live and features Ospreay vs. Ricochet. See you then.