There are a lot of quietly great match-ups on this card. Despy vs Scurll? Taguchi vs Takahashi? Dragon Lee vs Sabin? KUSHIDA vs SHO? Fuck, that’s all them. They’re all good! Let’s get on with it.
Marty Scurll (2-2) defeated El Desperado (2-2)
Despy continued his brawling ways as these two vanished into the crowd to beat on each other. El Desperado even threw himself down a flight of stairs which – considering this is not a particularly big show – is a mental thing to do. Save those bumps for when it matters!
When they returned to the ring, they shifted gears, going from a fight to a battle of the limbs. Desperado was looking to set up Numero Dos by bashing Scurll around the leg with various chairs (the ref was apparently cool with that) while Marty went for his usual tricks to prepare Desperado’s arm for the Chicken Wing. I do have a slight complaint about this section and, in particular, Scurll and his shtick. When he’s firing, he’s fantastic. However, there were moments here where the gimmick was taking precedence over the story. If he focused on what he was doing, The Villian would be twice the wrestler he is.
The final few minutes were a hell of a lot of fun as both men dived into their bag of tricks in an attempt to cheat their way to victory. Low blows, chairs and umbrellas, you name it, they used it. In the end, though, Scurll got that Chicken Wing locked on and we had Grilled Despy for dinner.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Chris Sabin (2-2) defeated Dragon Lee (3-1)
Dragon Lee’s perfect start was brought to an end by Chris Sabin’s savvy wrestling. In doing so, they put on a match that summed up Sabin’s tournament. In other words, it fucking ruled.
And it shouldn’t be surprising, because we had two exceptional wrestlers in the ring and yet for some reason it was. Sabin and Lee went out there and aimed to steal the show as after a technical start they took off and never stopped. I don’t tend to bother describing individual moves, but Sabin hit a Missile Dropkick that was so beautiful I have to mention it. The guy is bringing it this tournament. His combination of technical ability and high-flying talent is perfect for New Japan, and my fingers are crossed that this won’t be it for him in NJPW.
Dragon Lee, meanwhile, needs no further praise, although I’ll give him some anyway. The man is perfect. I’ve no idea what he looks like yet I’d bet everything I own he’s beautiful. Bastard. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him put on a bad performance. He is a joy to watch in the ring and in there with someone as talented as Sabin he was only ever going to create magic. These two could have put on a decent match in their sleep. Here, they went for it so you can guess how good it was.
Verdict: Four Stars
KUSHIDA (2-2) defeated SHO (2-2)
Here’s a change of pace. KUSHIDA and SHO went out there and put on a technical masterclass. Both men have trained (and in KUSHIDA’s case competed) for legit fights, so they employed every bit of that skill here, adding just a sprinkle of wrestling magic to create the perfect combination.
All of which means a big old warning sign should be placed on it. If you’re not into grappling or have ever described someone like Zack Sabre Jr as boring, then we can’t be friends. You should also avoid this. They spend at least their time on the floor, both men trying to place pressure on the other’s arm to set up the Armbar and Hoverboard Lock. If the idea of two men grappling for control makes you groan, skip right past it.
If, however, you love that shit, you’re in for a treat. The escalation of this match was timed to perfection as SHO and KUSHIDA slowly made their way off the ground to their feet. From there, they became exchanging strikes then, before you knew it, SHO was flattening KUSHIDA with a Triple Powerbomb. The crowd were electric as these two slugged it out and KUSHIDA eventually hit Back To The Future for the win. This was a bit special.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Hiromu Takahashi (2-2) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (1-3)
We got a spot in this one that made me laugh out loud. Early on (after Takahashi had run away from the man he believes is a pervert) they found themselves in the stands. Perhaps having seen Takahashi’s epic John Woo to Desperado, Taguchi decided to try something similar, taking a run-up he went for a Lariat only for Takahashi to duck out of the way causing Taguchi to run straight into a wall. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s also comedy gold.
Don’t worry too much, though. Taguchi wasn’t phoning this in with bad (or genius) comedy. We got the real deal here from the Coach as he brought it to Takahashi. After surviving an initial onslaught, Taguchi began flying all over the place, diving to the outside and giving Hiromu as good as he got when they got down to slapping each other. Both of these men have unorthodox styles which shone even brighter when facing off with each other.
The final sequence was dictated by Taguchi locking on the Ankle Lock and getting within seconds of victory. Although Takahashi escaped, it was clear he was struggling, so he began trying to steal the win. Roll-up after roll-up saw Taguchi kick out until he got trapped in the Triangle Choke that Hiromu used to defeat Scurll. While the wielder of the Funky Weapon tried desperately to make it back to his feet, he didn’t have enough left and was forced to tap.
Verdict: Four Stars
From top to bottom, this might be the best show yet. Every match brought something unique to the table. Christ, it’s not often you watch four bouts and three of them are at four-stars or above. Lovely stuff.