NJPW Best Of The Super Jr. 26 (15/5/19) Review

Has anyone checked to see whether Dragon Lee is Shibata in a mask? Credit: NJPW

Coming into night three, Best Of The Super Juniors was 2-0 for great shows, and New Japan had cooked up a card with the potential to make it 3-0. We’ve got a main-event of SHO vs Dragon Lee, a technical battle between Gresham and Taka plus the continued warpath of Shingo Takagi. You’d be mad to miss it.

Jonathan Gresham (1-1) defeated Taka Michinoku (0-2)

Gresham’s fingers were strapped up after being snapped by Scurll on night one. That’s a brave move when going into the ring with Taka Michinoku because you know the grimy bastard is going straight after them.

That grime was pivotal to the story they told. Both of these guys are capable of wrestling a technical clinic, but Taka is also a dirty fucker. He wasn’t bothered about out-performing Gresham when he knew he could out-cheat him. Whether it was a poke in the eye or a stamp on those injured fingers, Taka took every shortcut available in his quest to get the win.

Gresham refused to let Michinoku get in his head, though. He had a plan, and Gresh stuck to it, attacking the arm and opening it up to the Octopus Stretch. Then, when he got his chance, he locked it on, forcing Taka to tap and picking up his first win as a single star in New Japan.

It was an utter joy to watch this match. I’ve watched Gresham wrestle countless times, and I still marvel at how smooth he is. When you put him in there with a pro like Taka Michinoku, the wrestling becomes mesmerising. Great opener.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Tiger Mask (2-0) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0-2)

On the previous day’s show, Kanemaru unmasked Tiger Mask, pissing off the grumpy kitty. That anger was clearly fuelling him as he stalked down to the ring and went straight to work, unleashing his grumpiness on the Suzuki-gun troll.

Unfortunately, Tiger Mask’s knee problems were made very clear on night one. Like Taka, Kanemaru had no qualms about using that to his advantage, grabbing the first opportunity he got to attack the knee and focusing his onslaught in that direction for the rest of the match.

It then became a matter of how much damage Tiger could do as quickly as possible. The Tiger Bomb wasn’t enough, but in return, he kicked out of a Deep Impact before crawling to the ropes to escape a Figure Four. Defiantly, he managed to roll out the way of a Moonsault, and while Kanemaru prevented the Tiger Suplex, the grumpy kitty transitioned into a cradle for the pin.

It was a result that left Kanemaru fuming as he attacked Tiger post-match and ripped another mask from his head. Not that the legend will be too bothered, he has kicked off Super Juniors hot and delivered two decent matches. You can’t ask any more of him at this stage in his career.

Verdict: Three Stars

Shingo Takagi (2-0) defeated Titan (1-1)

Matches like this justify New Japan’s decision to put Shingo in the Junior division. Few men of his stature work this well against people who wrestle like Titan. His timing on when to dominate the faster wrestler and when to give him a run of offence is perfect. He made me believe that the luchador has a chance despite logically knowing he was never winning this match.

Because for all that Shingo looked awesome, what he really did was make Titan look like a star. He gave him his moments to shine, letting him burst forward with that explosive dives while he stumbled back, shocked at the audacity of the man who dared to attack him. Takagi is so over at this point that Titan laying a finger on him makes him look like a stud even if Shingo did come in still selling the effects of his war with SHO.

And, of course, it didn’t reach the level of SHO vs Shingo. That’s a sentence I’ll be writing a lot this tournament because I’m not sure if anything will. However, for a mid-card slot it did everything it needed to do. Both men came out the other side looking better than when they came in and wrestling is never better than when that is the case.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Taiji Ishimori (2-0) defeated Marty Scurll (1-1)

New Japan seems to be glossing over the fact that Scurll never officially left the Bullet Club. I guess it’s easier to ignore it than deal with the mess that The Elite vs Firing Squad storyline eventually became.

Or perhaps the Bullet Club wanted nothing to do with him as this match was a disappointing reminder of why he’s so frustrating. It was flat and more often than not dull as there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what they were doing. These two guys looked like they were drifting through the motions, and after the year Ishimori’s had that was a real surprise. So, I’m taking the easy route and blaming Marty.

In turn, they managed to suck all the life out of this crowd. They hadn’t been particularly loud during the previous matches, but they were silent for the bulk of this, polite applause being the best Ishimori and Scurll could get even as they headed into the final act. Even Caprice Coleman threw some accidental shade as he remarked that they must be heading towards the twenty-minute mark only for the timekeeper to call fifteen minutes seconds later. Don’t worry Caprice, it felt long to me too.

The final sequence picked things up a bit before Ishimori dropped Scurll with Bloody Crosses. It was nowhere near enough to save this from being a disappointment, though. Too long and too shit equals the first match of the tour I haven’t liked.

Verdict: Two Stars

Dragon Lee (1-1) defeated SHO (0-2)

Dragon Lee and SHO fired out of the gates as Lee still seems to be determined to cosplay as Shibata. I get it, I love and miss Shibata too, but I’m not sure it’s the best use of Dragon Lee’s talents. He’s an incredible luchador and doesn’t have to work strong style.

That stylistic issue didn’t go away either. I don’t want to see either of these guys work an extended limb match, yet that’s what we got. They both went after the other’s right arm and for a long time that was all they did (although Dragon Lee did hit one insane Tope Suicida). It’s becoming increasingly clear that New Japan has got a boner over putting together epic main-events and this was the latest match to suffer from that particular stiffy. It was fucking boring.

I don’t want to shit on it because I love both these guys, and when they did ramp it up, it was great. It’s just frustrating to see something that should be fantastic, struggle for daft reasons. There is no reason for these two wrestlers to be working a twenty-five-minute main event. When they were slipping between moves working at a million miles an hour, it was all the fun. It was just a shame that they were more intent on methodically working the arm.

This wasn’t disjointed or poorly worked. Nothing Sho or Dragon Lee did looked like shit or made no sense. There was just too much of it. If you’d cut out all the faff and made this fifteen minutes, it would have stolen the show. Instead, I was left underwhelmed by something I should have loved.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Overall Show

Day three saw BOSJ have its first stumble. They started well delivering some fun action early on, but the final two matches sent me to sleep. SHO vs Dragon Lee at least had its moments, but Scurll vs Ishimori stunk. I have every faith it’s just a one-off, though, and all these guys will be back to their best soon enough. Onto the next one!

BOSJ Best Matches So Far

  1. Shingo Takagi vs SHO (13/5/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
  2. Dragon Lee vs Taiji Ishimori (13/5/19) – Four Stars
  3. YOH vs Ryusuke Taguchi (14/5/19) – Four Stars

Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/

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