NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXIII: Days 8 & 9

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The story so far:

Here we go…

B Block – Round Four

May 30th, Yonago Convention Centre, Tottori

Baretta vs. Chase Owens

Beretta     Chase Owens

Aside from the first round match against Ospreay, Owens has worked a typical Bullet Club-style match, complete with Yujiro Takahashi as a second. Not exactly inspiring. This was somewhat of a return to that initial form, with Baretta continuing his streak of decent matches. Owens threatened a package pilerdriver on the apron, but ended up taking a backdrop instead, which did not look like fun. Baretta got a couple of decent near-falls towards the end, but Takahashi distracted the referee and Baretta got some brass knuckles to the jaw. Owens then pinned him after a package piledriver. A watchable 10-minutes. **3/4

Tiger Mask vs. Will Ospreay

Tiger Mask     Ospreay

Funny spot to begin as Ospreay got started with the kip ups and Tiger stood back and watched before stomping him in the gut. Ospreay was soon back with a running elbow strike and a straight punch to the face, followed by an Octopus Hold into a pinning combination for two. A brief moment of respite for Tiger was curtailed after a handspring enziguri, then Ospreay connected with the Cheerio Motherfucker springboard forearm and gorgeous Sasuke Special for the near-count out. Standing SSP from Ospreay for two. Tiger Bomb from Tiger Mask, also for two. Running C4 from Ospreay for yet another two-count. The Red Arrow hit the knees and Tiger looked for a double undertook superplex – which he hit, the a crossface chickenwing suplex (aka the Millennium suplex) led to a scissored armbar from with Ospreay tapped immediately. So, despite that win against Ricochet, this loss all but ends the Englishman’s chances of winning the tournament. An action packed match. ***

Bobby Fish vs. Volador Jr.

Bobby Fish     Volador Jr.

After sending Fish outside with a hurricanrana, Volador connected with a tope con hilo. Back in, Volador was caught with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and, despite avoiding a moonsault, was at the mercy of Fish for the next several minutes. Volador made the comeback with an outside-in springboard moonsault and a lungblower, before Fish took his feet from under him on the apron and followed with an Exploder into the turnbuckle for a two-count. Voldador tweaked his knee flipping out of a back suplex and Fish was immediately onto it with strikes and a dragon screw. He then delivered a falcon arrow for two and transitioned into a heel hook for the submission victory. Another good match. ***

Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Ricochet

Liger     Ricochet

Ricochet immediately hit a knee strike and leg-hook Michinoku Driver for a two-count, and we were off to the races. He followed up by heelishly using the ropes to aid his beatdown before applying the headscissors. Ricochet then looked to suplex Liger out of the ring, only to receive a Shotei which knocked him off the apron, then Liger connected with a running cannonball to the floor. Back in, Liger looked for a super hurricanrana, but was sent to the outside, and Ricochet hit a dive. After a brief back-and-forth, Liger turned Ricochet inside out with a Shotei and spiked him with a brainbuster for a close two-count. Ricochet replied with his suplex combo, and a standing SSP brought another near-fall. Liger found himself locked into an armbar variation from which he only just escaped, hitting a Koppu kick to put both men down. A Main Event Strike Battle commenced, and Ricochet ran into a Thesz Press from Liger for two. Ricochet fired back with a brainbuster for two-count that had the crowd biting, before reapplying the armbar submission for the tap out, much to the crowd’s dismay. Both men showed respect post-match. Aside from a couple of wobbly moments early on this was very good and had fantastic heat towards the end. Ricochet is top of the block. ***3/4

A Block – Round Five

May 31st, Hiroshima Green Arena

BUSHI vs. David Finlay

BUSHI     David Finlay

A quick pace from the off here, with Bushi nailing a suicide dive before taking control in his standard fashion. Finlay got to display his flair for comebacks, busting out a slingshot crossbody to the outside before applying the Stretch Muffler back in the ring. Bushi made the ropes and struck back with kicks and the double knees in the corner. He connected with the seated jawbreaker after Finlay had tried a couple of roll-ups, then delivered the diving Codebreaker for the win. Finlay is now eliminated from the running. This was a perfectly acceptable match. **1/2

Rocky Romero vs. Matt Sydal

Romero     Sydal

These two did a great job working the crowd with teases and a couple of comedy spots. After luring Sydal to the ring, Romero worked him over, raking the eyes to stay in control. The Shiranui was countered to the Slice leg bulldog, and a standing moonsault hit the mark for a two-count. With both men on the outside, Romero threatened to suplex Sydal on the concrete before successfully using the ringpost to deliver the Shiranui on the mats. Back in, and the strikes started up, with Sydal countering a high kick to a sitout powerbomb for two. He was caught up top, but slipped out to deliver the jumping hurricanrana, then landed the Shooting Star Press for the three-count at 13 minutes. Sydal continues to accumulate the points. This was very good. ***3/4

KUSHIDA vs. Gedo

KUSHIDA     Gedo

Nice moment early on when Gedo nearly got the Gedo Clutch and used Kushida’s own “this close” gesture. Naturally, Kushida got to work on the left arm at the first opportunity, and this continued for next several minutes. Gedo managed to block the handspring elbow to Create Seperation, then DDT’d Kushida from the apron for the near-count out. In the meantime, Gedo had removed the turnbuckle, and when Kushida was back in he launched him into it – twice. The WAR Special was applied, then transitioned to a crossface, before the Junior champ dragged himself to the bottom rope, and soon Gedo found himself whipped into exposed turnbuckle. A springboard dropkick from Kushida was swiftly followed by slingshot crossbody. Gedo blocked a charge and got a two-count off a low superkick, then both men exchanged pinning attempts before a simultaneous straight punch knocked both men down. A low blow behind the ref’s back and a Gedo Clutch brought a near-fall, then the Raintaker was countered to the Hoverboard Lock and Gedo was forced to tap. Tremendous match, with the crowd fully invested. ****

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kyle O’Reilly

Ryusuke Taguchi     Kyle O'Reilly

Within the first minute of this one Taguchi had targeted the leg and O’Reilly the arm, but it was the Canadian who enjoyed the better share of offence early on. He dissected Taguchi’s arm in typically aggressive fashion while making it clear that his own leg was not 100%. Taguchi countered a sunset flip in O’Reilly-style (but with an ass-attack rather than an armbar) and from there the match was a more even affair. O’Reilly hit a trio of underhook suplexes and Taguchi replied with the Three Amigos, and blocked the rebound clothesline with – yep, you guessed it – his ass. O’Reilly applied the Sharpshooter (nice), then connected with a brainbuster for a two-count. He went for an armbar but Taguchi grabbed the ankle lock, and despite fighting desperately, O’Reilly had to tap. Two losses on the bounce for O’Reilly, while Taguchi joins Sydal at the top of A Block. This was rock solid, and on the condition that your tolerance for ass-based offence may vary, I give this one: ***1/2

A Block standings after Round Five

  • Matt Sydal – 8
  • Ryusuke Taguchi – 8
  • Kyle O’Reilly – 6
  • KUSHIDA – 6
  • BUSHI – 4
  • Rocky Romero – 4
  • Gedo – 2
  • David Finlay – 2

B Block standings after Round Four

  • Ricochet – 6
  • Jushin Liger – 4
  • Barreta – 4
  • Volador Jr. – 4
  • Chase Owens – 4
  • Tiger Mask – 4
  • Bobby Fish – 4
  • Will Ospreay – 2

Final thoughts: Round Five of A Block was the best of the single-camera shows so far, and KUSHIDA/Gedo, Romero/Sydal and Taguchi/O’Reilly (in that order) are all worth seeing. Of the previous night’s matches, Liger vs. Ricochet was the stand out, so seek that out too. As far at the blocks go, there is a mathematical possibility that BUSHI could still win but it seems unlikely, and despite his loss to Ospreay, Ricochet’s chances appear undimmed.

Back in a couple of days for more. See you then.