I’m going to be reviewing a lot of these shows over the next few weeks. Let’s not waste all my good intros now, eh?
Shota Umino defeated Yota Tsuji
I tend to get a bit carried away with my Young Lion ratings (I love those wee cubs so much), but do not sleep on this match. With Ren Narita picking up an injury, Tsuji stepped in and proved that he is light years ahead of where you’d expect him to be at this stage in his career.
Not that he went out and put on a wrestling masterpiece, he most definitely didn’t. Instead, this was phenomenal character work, to the point where he won over every fan in that building. The story was that Umino was the better man. However, Tsuji would not quit. Time after time Umino locked on the Boston Crab only for Tsuji to push himself up and crawl to the ropes. Even when he finally gave in to defeat it was after one final desperate attempt, causing roars of delight from the crowd, before finally collapsing, unable to summon the energy to make the crawl.
Yota Tsuji – a few months into his career – put on an underdog clinic and got himself over in the process. That’s damn impressive.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
CHAOS (Will Ospreay, YOH and YOSHI-HASHI) defeated ACH, Tiger Mask and Tomoyuki Oka
Ospreay vs ACH is going to be a hell of a lot of fun (I know it will have happened by the time you read this). They had a couple of fun sequences here and were tapping into that Ospreay vs Ricochet style. With Rico not around this year, it might be ACH who steps up and puts on the GIF-worthy performance with Will.
Amazingly, the other Junior to stand out was Tiger Mask, who got a hot tag and came in growling. If kitty keeps up this intensity up for the whole tournament, maybe he won’t be the weak link after all.
Final note, Oka got his loudest reaction yet when he tagged in. While I’m not sure what’s changed to have the Korakuen crowd get behind him, fingers crossed it’s the start of him gaining momentum.
Verdict: Three Stars
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Flip Gordon and Toa Henare
When New Japan throw random teams together, I like to imagine what they talk about backstage. Can you imagine a conversation between Flip and Henare? No, me neither.
Combine that invented awkward silence with Gordon being introduced to MiSu and he had a rough day. Suzuki did what Suzuki does and made sure Flip wouldn’t forget him. That aside, Gordon is getting over and looking great so far on this tour. It will be interesting to see what he manages to do with Kanemaru.
The finish saw Henare eat a Gotch Piledriver but not before he and Suzuki traded off on some strikes. If you know anything about my taste in wrestling, you’ll know that was my personal highlight. Hit each other harder you beautiful bastards. Gosh, that sounds kinky.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and Bushi) defeated The Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Taiji Ishimori)
My personal highlight of this one was Chase Owens attempting to put Sanada in the Paradise Lock. Upon realising that he didn’t have a clue what to do, he turned to Milano Collection AT (who, as usual, was on commentary) to ask for help. Even with the master of the hold giving him tips he couldn’t get the job done. Then, unsurprisingly, he ended up in it himself. Poor Chase.
That Chase and Sanada mucking around was my highlight says a lot about the match. Ishimori looked good without going all-out. It followed the formula of these tags as he and Bushi nullified each other to allow Chase and Sanada to finish us off. It was all pretty standard.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Dragon Lee (1-0) defeated SHO (0-1)
From a nothing encounter to a hell of a match. SHO and Dragon Lee have somehow managed to create a blood feud off the back of one tag. They went straight at it, throwing elbows like they despised each other and the crowd roared along with them. From there, they went on to have a fight that swang back and forth between beautifully smooth wrestling and violent strikes.
SHO made it his mission to take out the arm of Dragon Lee, attacking it with kicks in the early going and then zeroing in with an armbar in the final minutes. Lee, meanwhile, would use that explosive offence to attack at every chance he got. Using Spanish Flies, Double Stomps and everything else he could think of to put down this troublesome newly graduated Young Lion.
In the end, Lee managed to power out of the armbar and into his Package DDT finisher. I’m not going to waste too many words trying to capture the magic of this. It’s one that you need to see. If SHO keeps this up, he can join Dragon Lee and Hiromu in a three-way feud that goes on forever.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
El Desperado (1-0) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (0-1)
If SHO and Dragon Lee are new to each other, then Taguchi and Desperado are old friends. These two have shared a ring on more than a few occasions which served as the early story of this match. Neither man was able to gain momentum, as the other always knew what they were going to do. It took Taguchi three attempts to hit an ass attack, as Despy blocked the first, Taguchi faked the second and that opened Desperado up for the third. It’s the kind of storytelling these veterans excel at.
And it led to a fun match. Sure, it seemed a bit of a comedown after the wild nature of SHO vs Lee, and it featured El Desperado trying to shove a spike up Taguchi’s ass, but it’s still worth your time. Taguchi is already showing signs of getting into his Super Junior groove, and I’m betting we’ll get at least a couple of four-star matches out of both him and El Desperado by the end of this tournament.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Chris Sabin (1-0) defeated KUSHIDA (0-1)
I think this goes down as the first real shock result. On his Best Of The Super Juniors debut, Chris Sabin defeated the current holder, KUSHIDA.
Early on, it became apparent that we had two very similar wrestlers on our hands. That hybrid of high flying and technical wrestling came to the fore as they found themselves going for the same moves and naturally being able to counters each other’s offence. Then again, it might just have been that Alex Shelley was giving both of his tag team partners tips.
As usual, KUSHIDA was focusing his offence on Sabin’s arm, looking to set up that Hoverboard Lock. It didn’t take long for Chris to start selling it too. As the chess battle between these two unfolded, it looked like they were setting up KUSHIDA’s finisher to be checkmate.
Except they weren’t, because when KUSHIDA got it on Sabin managed to battle out. He not only battled out, he came roaring back. In a shocking moment, he hit the Cradleshock, and that looked to be it. However, KUSHIDA kicked out, seemingly suggesting that this wasn’t going to be an upset. A second later Sabin was hitting All Hail Sabin and getting the win.
This was a big surprise but in hindsight made perfect sense. New Japan sent Chris Sabin out on his first night with a dream opponent for him and allowed him to plant his flag in the tournament with a big victory. If this is a sign of what’s to come from him, his participation in this tournament will look like a masterstroke from NJPW.
Verdict: Four Stars
Hiromu Takahashi (1-0) defeated Marty Scurll (0-1)
Heads up, I feel like I watched a different main event from a lot of people. I’ve seen a lot of middling reviews of this. You are about to read a very un-middling review. In my opinion, it was fantastic.
And sure, they started out being a bit silly. It’s Takahashi and Scurll, who didn’t see that coming? There were bird taunts and Scurll’s daft attacks on Takahashi’s fingers (after Bobby Gunns vs Mike Bailey at 16 Carat weekend he should have retired that spot in shame), but it was all the set-up for Hiromu doing Hiromu stuff. Who doesn’t love that?
For the other story running through this match was his incessant need to hit that suicidal Sunset Flip Powerbomb to the outside. Time after time he went for it only for Scurll to block. Yet, he wouldn’t give up. Everything he did seemed to be an attempt to set up that move, and when he finally got his chance, he grabbed it. Scurll made the mistake of going for the umbrella, and as he argued with Red Shoes, he hesitated on the apron. A few seconds later he was lying on the floor in agony.
Somehow, that proved to not be enough. Marty kept coming back, kicking out of the Dynamite Plunger (Takahashi needs to start beating some people with that, no one believes it will be a finish) before reversing the John Woo to the floor into a powerbomb of his own. He followed that up with a Tombstone on the apron. Suddenly things were going his way, locking in the Chicken Wing it looked like he was going to kick things off with a win.
If there is one thing we can categorically say about Hiromu, though, it’s that he’s a nutter. Battling through the pain, he managed to fight out of the Chicken Wing. Then, he survived Scurll stomping on his head to lock in a Triangle Choke of his own. Despite The Villian lifting him up for a powerbomb, he refused to let go, and Red Shoes had no choice but to end this.
I thought this was excellent. Scurll and Takahashi started silly and eventually descended into chaos. That’s just how I like it.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Another damn good show from NJPW. Best Of The Super Juniors has got off to a great start. If they keep ramping it up, this promises to be an outstanding year for the Juniors.