NJPW Best Of The Super Junior Night Eleven (31/5/18) Review

‘This is my best angle.’ Credit: NJPW

Most of you now know who has won this tournament. So what you want to do is go back and read about a show headlined by Kanemaru vs YOH, don’t you? I knew it!

BUSHI (3-3) defeated Flip Gordon (3-3)

While I can enjoy the work of both of these men, this match was a perfect example of why neither of them is a great performer.

Let’s start with BUSHI, who went out with the goal of sending the crowd to sleep. The bulk of his offence revolved around choking Gordon, and while I’m sure there were plenty of people watching who would love to do that, that didn’t make it interesting. Wrestling a methodical style should not instantly equal boring. With BUSHI, it often does.

Then there’s Flip, who I find incredibly frustrating and not because of his inability to locate grilled chicken in Japan. He frustrates me because watching him wrestle essentially amounts to watching a man do stuff. There’s no denying it’s spectacular, still just stuff though, isn’t it? Flip Gordon is what people that don’t watch The Young Bucks and Will Ospreay accuse them of being. There is no substance to his wrestling.

There was a perfect example of what I mean here. Flip missed a spectacular twisting attack from the top rope and acted as if he’d jarred his knee on impact. My first thought was ‘great, that’s set up the story for the rest of the action.’ It didn’t. BUSHI would dropkick Flip’s knee in the build-up to the MX, but that was five minutes later, and he hadn’t bothered to sell it in between those points. If Flip is to reach his potential, he needs to learn to tell stories in the ring as well as do spectacular things.

Verdict: Two Stars

Taiji Ishimori (4-2) defeated ACH (2-4)

All the substance missing from Flip’s game might have slipped into ACH and Taiji Ishimori’s. Here are two men who understand how to tell a story in the ring and how to construct an attack that looks like it hurts.

They built this around the story that has followed ACH through Super Juniors, his injured shoulder. Once again, the fact he was unable to go for the kill quickly would prove to be his downfall. He had Ishimori in position for the 450 but by the time he’d pulled himself to the top rope, ripped off the bandages on his shoulder and got round to hitting the move, Bone Soldier Reborn had recovered and rolled out of the way.

From there it was a remarkably simple route to victory for Ishimori as he slipped into his finishing sequence and saw it out cleanly. However, I don’t think it hurts ACH at all. For one thing, he’s been outstanding all tournament. When you throw in the injured shoulder, he can walk away with his head held high.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Will Ospreay (4-2) defeated Tiger Mask (3-3)

After going missing for a few matches, the grumpy kitty returned with a snarl against the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion. Will made the mistake of chopping Tiger Mask out of a break which set the ageing feline off. A Tombstone allowed him to zero in on Ospreay’s neck and Will suddenly had a tough night on his hands.

In fact, he had a really tough one because this became a fight. They were smart enough to have Tiger Mask not even attempt to keep up with Ospreay. Instead, he worked over the neck and kicked him a lot. Then, Will started hitting back just as hard, and the crowd was having a lovely time. Unless you only came for the flips of course.

Will would eventually get the win with Stormbreaker. However, it was nice to get another reminder of what Tiger can do. He started this tournament strong before fading off a bit. When he’s motivated, though, he’s still an asset to the Junior Division.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

YOH (3-3) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2-4)

What a weird choice for the main event, and about halfway through, I couldn’t help thinking they’d made a mistake. A sizable part of this dragged as they went more than four minutes longer than anything else on the card. There was only so much Kanemaru bullying YOH that I needed to see.

There is a key takeaway from its positioning, though. It’s a small sign that New Japan has a lot of faith in YOH. They not only gave him his first main event, but they did it against someone who no-one is calling a draw. Sure, you can argue the Super Juniors’ brand is what sells this tour. That doesn’t change the fact it was a show of faith in a young wrestler.

On top of that, he kicked out of a lot of Kanemaru’s stuff, including Deep Impact. He also continues to be a total delight to watch. When YOH is on the attack, I am having fun. Everything he does looks effortless, and I love watching him fly around the ring. The finishing sequence in this one was fantastic, as they ramped everything up a notch and almost made up for the slow pace of the early going.

Look, as you’ve probably figured, we’re in the part of Super Juniors where everyone is taking it a bit easier. YOH, however, wanted to impress and that made all the difference. This was a big performance from him and, while it won’t go do as a classic, it was a lot of fun.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Overall Show

As I said above, people are taking it easy at this point. I don’t blame them either. Plus, the shows are still easy to watch, and that’s all I’m bothered about. Nothing here was unmissable, and only BUSHI vs Flip was actively bad, so don’t go out of your way to either watch it or avoid it.

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