The hardest thing about covering New Japan’s long tournaments is coming up with new intros every day. Does that count as an intro? I’m going to say it does.
Flip Gordon (3-1) defeated Tiger Mask (3-1)
Tiger Mask’s glorious undefeated run comes to an end at the hands of the surprisingly successful Flip Gordon. If you’d asked me pre-tournament who was likely to be sitting joint top after four matches, I would have guessed nearly every pairing apart from Flip and Tiger. Wrestling is weird.
Sadly, I’d also choose nearly every other pairing if you asked me who I wanted to watch wrestle. Nothing about this was exciting as after a surprisingly decent start to the Super Juniors Tiger is reverting to the mean. It was glaringly evident that he didn’t have the tank to keep up with Flip and while Gordon tried to create the movement required for a decent showing, there was nothing he could do when Tiger Mask was sitting in a rest hold bringing things to a standstill. Where was our grumpy kitty?
None of which is to say Flip himself was blameless. He is a spectacular wrestler and a joy to watch, but sometimes he needs to stop and think. There was a moment where he did a Standing Moonsault off of one leg. Why? No reason, he was just showing off. If he’d saved that for a battle where his leg had been worked over for five minutes, it would have been spectacular. Here, it was just another flashy trick.
So yea, skip this one if you’re in a rush.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
ACH (2-2) defeated YOH (1-3)
ACH’s Super Junior run has been interesting. Tactically, he’s switched up his game, using his power to bully a lot of the smaller guys in the tournament. Sure, he can still flip with the best of them (and he does), he’s just discovering that a sharp chop to the chest often works even better.
On top of that, he’s been selling his shoulder since night one and doing an exceptional job. I’ve never thought of ACH as a man who flourishes in that area of wrestling, but he’s incorporating the same subtleties as someone like Ospreay. While little moments like him wincing with pain as he raises his injured arm to escape a pin seem simple, they add a hell of a lot of realism to what he’s doing.
And it looked like it was going to prove decisive against YOH who made sure to focus at least some of his attacks in that direction. ACH was unable to get going as everytime he seemed to be on a run that shoulder would cause him to hesitate and give YOH a chance to burst out some of that exciting offence. In the end, though, ACH’s power would prove decisive as he battled through the injury to get the win. A big step up from the opener.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2-2) defeated Taiji Ishimori (2-2)
Once again Ishimori falls victim to a roll-up. After a strong start to the tournament, Bone Soldier Reborn and his magnificent abs (seriously guys, they are incredible) are faltering. However, he did get to show a different side to his in-ring work as he came up against the grumpy old veteran Kanemaru.
For this time around, Ishimori wasn’t the one controlling the pace of the match. After a quick start, he fell victim to Yoshinobu’s many antics and soon found himself struggling to get going. Suzuki-gun are so heelish at this point that they turn everyone they’re in the ring with into a babyface and Ishimori was no different. It was a predicament that they didn’t try to fight and he showed off a few flashier elements of his offence as he battled from underneath.
It worked as proof (not that anyone aware of his past-work needed it) that Ishimori will be a fantastic babyface for NJPW someday. Sadly, it didn’t quite lead to the wrestling excellence. Much like Tiger Mask, Kanemaru can’t keep up with these young studs, and you can feel that he’s holding them back. There’s no denying that he does what he does very well, it’s just not necessarily what I want to see.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
BUSHI (1-3) defeated Will Ospreay (2-2)
Talking of upsets, the IWGP Junior champion is dropping points all over the place. What are you doing, Will? Earth-shattering wrestling isn’t much use if you keep bloody losing, you idiot.
Much like ACH, Ospreay was inhibited by his injury. Unlike ACH, he wasn’t able to fight through that to get the win. He’s been selling his neck since the battle with Scurll (and if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure he has to put all of it on) and every match since has seen opponents attack it. It was only a matter of time before it would prove decisive. It didn’t matter what he did in this one; he couldn’t get going as BUSHI was always there to cut him off and go back to torturing his poor banged-up body.
A story that BUSHI has to be given credit for. This was an excellently wrestled contest, and he was a big part of that. Right from the start, he was a mean masked bastard who scented blood, attacking Will before the bell and proceeding to choke him with his own shirt. From there, everything he did was designed to cause more damage to that neck. Then, in the final minutes, as Will rallied, BUSHI was right there with him, bouncing through a thrilling final sequence and eventually getting the win with the MX.
As Ospreay matches go, this one won’t be remembered as a classic. However, that doesn’t mean it was terrible. There’s more than enough to get your teeth into with Will doing a great job on the defensive and BUSHI on the offensive. It’s not essential, but it would be a shame to miss it.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Night seven of Super Juniors lacked a show-stealing performance. Yet, it was still a very easy watch with a lot of entertaining wrestling. If you’re looking for something to throw on in the background as you tidy the house or polish your title belts, it will do the job nicely.