NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXIII: Days 10 & 11

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The story so far:

Here we go…

B Block – Round Five

June 2nd, Nagoya International Conference Hall, Aichi

Chase Owens vs. Volador Jr.

Chase Owens     Volador Jr.

Without Yujiro Takahashi at his side, Owens was free to have another good performance against a flyer. This was decent, with Owens getting solid heat and providing a base for Volador’s lucha comebacks. He put on his opponent’s mask during the beatdown, and when he missed a moonsault, Volador superkicked it off his head in a neat moment. After a couple of near-falls, Owens countered a hurricanrana to a fireman’s carry gutbuster, then hit a sweet running neckbreaker for two. He headed up top, but got caught, and Volador executed a top-rope hurricanrana for the win. ***

Tiger Mask vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

Tiger Mask     Liger

Liger won in barely a minute after countering a charge to a grounded Cobra Twist for the pin. Always smart to do this at some point in a tournament and since it was two veterans in the ring nobody’s undermined. NR

Will Ospreay vs. Bobby Fish

Ospreay     Bobby Fish

Ospreay tweaked his knee early on and that became the underlying story of the match; not that Fish was necessarily working the leg, but rather that he was trying to, and Ospreay kept using his innovative offence to escape getting caught. For example, at one point, Fish avoided the Cheeky Nandos superkick and kicked the injured leg, but then Ospreay avoided to follow-up on the apron and connected with a SSP to the floor. Naturally, Ospreay landed a couple of sweet dives, while Fish held up his end of things with a hard Exploder into the turnbuckle and Falcon Arrow. As in the (now infamous) match with Ricochet, Ospreay earned the win with the jumping corkscrew roundhouse and the OsCutter. An unusual approach to a match, I felt, and one that paid off. ***3/4

Barretta vs. Ricochet

Beretta     Ricochet

A shout out to Barretta, who’s consistently delivered in a variety of match types. Here, they played off Ricochet’s cockiness in the early going, which didn’t wash with Barretta at all. From there, the match built purposefully and effectively, with Ricochet’s speed increasingly a factor and source of frustration for his opponent. In the latter stages, however, Baretta hit his stride, nailing the cradle tombstone for a near-fall, then a half-nelson suplex on the apron for a near-count out. Back in, the Busaiku Knee connected, but Ricochet reversed the pinball attempt to a crucifix to keep Baretta down for three, escaping with the win to keep himself top of the block. Fantastic work by both guys. ****

A Block – Round Six

June 3rd, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

This show was live on NJPW World and featured four multi-man tag matches, but I’ll only be reviewing the tournament matches today.

Kyle O’Reilly vs. David Finlay

Kyle O'Reilly     David Finlay

Finlay did a nice job here going after O’Reilly’s leg with a low dropkick and powerslam over the bottom rope before a pissed off O’Reilly kicked the crap out of him, then dissected his young opponent’s left arm in typically aggressive fashion. Finlay impressively got the better of an exchange of elbows, then connected with the Finlay Roll and jumping uppercut for a two-count. O’Reilly’s sequence of strikes put him back in control, and despite a back-and-forth of slaps, the sharpshooter was successfully applied with Finlay just making the ropes at the second attempt. Finlay again got the better of an exchange and locked in the Stretch Muffler, and when O’Reilly tried to escape, caught him with a bridging German suplex for two. O’Reilly delivered the rebound clothesline and a brainbuster for a close near-fall, then decided he’d had enough of this match, and laid in vicious curb stomps before applying the triangle hold for the submission win. Good match, great closing stretch. O’Reilly stays in the hunt, for now. ***1/2

Gedo vs. Rocky Romero (w/Baretta)

Gedo     Romero

This was hilarious. They played up the CHAOS alliance at the start and almost ended up in a three-way fight, but made up with a hug. Gedo said he had a big gift for Romero – he was going to lie down for him. Of course he tried to small package him instead, and after that all bets were off. Baretta was conflicted until he got eye-poked (twice) by Gedo, after which he tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to help his Roppongi Vice partner. Gedo mostly had the better of things, using his veteran shenanigans to good effect, but Romero overcame these to connect with the Shining Wizard for the win. They were all friends again afterwards. Genuinely funny stuff here. ***1/4

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. BUSHI

Ryusuke Taguchi     BUSHI

Taguchi, brilliantly, came out dressed as Naito, complete with skull mask and green sequinned jacket. He removed the mask to reveal green lipstick (mocking Bushi’s black lipstick), which Bushi did not take kindly to and he attacked Taguchi with a rarely seen intensity. He crotched him on the top-rope, then several times on the ringpost, before using his t-shirt to choke Taguchi. The inverted atomic drop and STF had Taguchi struggling for the ropes, then he fired back with a low dropkick and knocked Bushi off the apron to hit a lovely tope con hilo. Some ass-based offence was followed by the Three Amigos and an ankle lock, but Bushi scrambled to the ropes and “unintentionally” low-blowed his opponent for a near-fall. Taguchi grabbed the ankle again, and once more Bushi got the rope break. With referee Red Shoes momentarily knocked from the ring, Bushi used the mist and connected with his jumping Codebreaker from the second-rope for the three-count. Taguchi was rightly upset. Bushi showed much more fire here and I was glad to see it. ***1/4

KUSHIDA vs. Matt Sydal

KUSHIDA     Sydal

Neither man was able to claim an advantage in the opening minutes until a drop toehold allowed Sydal to apply the Muta Lock. Kushida escaped and started to work over the arm, hitting an armbreaker over the top-rope then applying the Cattle Mutilation. After a Liontamer from Kushida (no idea why), Sydal came back with a spinning heel kick and double knees from the top, then the Slice leg bulldog and standing moonsault for a two-count. A handspring kick from Kushida knocked Sydal to the outside, and he followed-up with a flipping senton from the top-rope. Back in, Sydal connected with the Here It Is pumphandle driver for two, before Kushida reversed the jumping hurricanrana for a near-fall. The Main Event Strike Battle put both men down, then Kushida was spiked by an inverted hurricanrana. The Shooting Star Press missed, and Kushida went for the Hoverboard Lock, which stuck at the second time of asking, and Sydal reluctantly tapped. For whatever reason, this fell flat for me. The crowd heat was lacking and the chemistry just wasn’t there. They tried though. ***1/4

A Block standings after Round Six

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

B Block standings after Round Five

  • Ricochet – 8
  • Jushin Liger – 6
  • Volador Jr. – 6
  • Barreta – 4
  • Bobby Fish – 4
  • Will Ospreay – 4
  • Chase Owens – 4
  • Tiger Mask – 4

Final thoughts: Do check out Baretta/Ricochet as a matter of priority and follow it up with Ospreay/Fish. Everything from today’s show was solid, but I’d urge you to make time for Gedo vs. Romero, which is one of the funniest wrestling matches I’ve seen.

So, B Block have two shows left, with Ricochet the overwhelming favourite to make it to the final. Meanwhile, A Block’s four-way tie going into the last round throws up a whole host of permutations. I trust that you’ve got your Excel spreadsheets working overtime to keep up.

Not BOSJ-related, but worth mentioning that Tanahashi was confirmed as being out of the ladder match at Dominion due to his shoulder issues – thereby missing his first major show in five years. That was likely the semi-main, if not the main event, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do instead.

We’re into the closing stretch, with shows on Sunday, Monday and the finals on Tuesday. See you then.