I’m not going to waste your time. We’ve got a Takahashi vs Dragon Lee match to talk about.
Marty Scurll (1-2) defeated Chris Sabin (1-2)
As is becoming the norm in Scurll’s matches, we kicked things off with some light comedy. This was actually amusing, though, as both men kept going for cheap shots and being blocked by the other. Eventually, they handed each other’s legs to the referee for him to place them on the floor.
Once we got past that, they had a fun match with some beautiful wrestling. Scurll and Sabin looked like they’d been facing off for years as they slid from sequence to sequence. Although it has to be said that the Japanese crowd have clearly got used to the Chicken Wing having a big set-up. When Scurll transitioned into it from a Kimura, there was roughly zero reaction.
The finish saw Scurll hit Black Plague (his Reverse Brainbuster) and getting the three which was a nice touch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him win a match with that before. However, for signature moves to mean something they occasionally have to be successful and long tournaments are the perfect time to do that because the opposing wrestler has the excuse of being beaten down. All in all, a very enjoyable match.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Ryusuke Taguchi (1-2) defeated KUSHIDA (1-2)
A rare example of the very act of looking at the VOD working as a spoiler. When the entire video comes to ten minutes, you know something is going down and go down it did indeed. After a relatively fun opening, Taguchi caught KUSHIDA in a roll-up as he went for his Rolling DDT and stole the three.
I don’t have an issue with this. It would have been nice to get a full Taguchi and KUSHIDA match, but you can’t have everything in the tournament go twelve to fifteen minutes. Sometimes you have to mix it up, and after his losing start, this was a decent way to show Taguchi is still in the competition. On top of that, I don’t think KUSHIDA loses a thing because it was a freak defeat.
SHO (2-1) defeated El Desperado (2-1)
Can we all look back and appreciate the moment where I declared El Desperado as a dark horse to be the MVP of this tournament? He’s having a lovely run. His wild brawl with Hiromu is undoubtedly the highlight, but he’s also shining away from the spotlight. He has a very different style to his peers which allows his opponent to do something a bit different.
In this one, we got a classic battle of the limbs. Early on Despy began to target SHO’s leg, clearly setting him up for Numero Dos (his Stretch Muffler). In retaliation, SHO continued one of his themes of the tournament by going after Desperado’s arm, locking in armbars whenever he got the chance. He was able to change up his offence to adapt to both the limb work and Desperado’s more aggressive style.
In the end, SHO would get rolling with those vicious German Suplexes. Even Despy stopping the third wouldn’t put him off, as he clocked him with a big knee anyway. The Project Ciampa then set him up for the Shock Arrow and the win. Another fun match from two wrestlers who are getting the chance to shine.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Dragon Lee (3-0) defeated Hiromu Takahashi (1-2)
Takahashi vs Dragon Lee is my wrestling nirvana. The beautiful violence they mastermind comes from emotions that are trapped somewhere between love and hate. In another world, they are Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega, two wrestling soul mates changing the industry together. In ours? They are Batman and The Joker, driven to hatred by the very similarities that would make them the perfect allies.
Outside the world of kayfabe, they are a perfect example of what wrestling can be. The total trust Takahashi and Lee have in each other is outstanding. Neither man needs to look before they leap because they know the other will always be there to catch them. The speed they work at combined with the almost sloppy edge they bring to moves shows the respect they share. Neither man is worried the other will hurt him, he knows that they will, but never too much.
I genuinely get a bit emotional watching these men wrestle. They never cease to amaze me as they bring something new (and inevitably dangerous) to the table every time. Dragon Lee leaping from the ring to the floor to connect with a John Woo or Takahashi wrapping his hand around Red Shoes’ mouth, demanding he stops counting Lee out and let the battle continue. As Hiromu was carried through the back, exhausted, he said that ‘I’m honoured to have been born at this time so that I can keep fighting Dragon Lee.’ And I’m honoured to watch it.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
It was all about Dragon Lee vs Takahashi, and that’s how it should be. However, the other three matches were all enjoyable in their own way, with even Taguchi vs KUSHIDA having its place. The main event is the only thing you have to watch, though, and when I say have to, I mean have to.