NJPW Best Of The Super Jr. 26 (22/5/19) Review

Flippy boys flipping. Credit: NJPW

Strap yourself in motherfuckers because this is going to be a long one. Both blocks, ten matches and twenty wrestlers. New Japan is going all in for their Korakuen Hall shows, and I am very intrigued to see how it goes.

Taiji Ishimori (4-0) defeated Taka Michinoku (0-4)

Ishimori has been selling his neck since the Scurll match, so we know how this went. Michinoku went straight after it, taking control and grinding away. There have been some suggestions this is a legit injury, and while I can’t confirm or deny, I would suggest letting someone beat on a legit injury for ten minutes isn’t smart.

It is true that the match was kept short and Ishimori did the bare minimum. He spent the bulk of the action struggling to escape Taka submissions before firing up and dropping Suzuki’s troll with a Bloody Cross. There wasn’t enough of this for it to be anything special or for it to be shit. It was just fine.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Bandido (2-2) defeated Ren Narita (0-4)

Here’s a thing, Ren Narita did not open this show! It was because they were alternating between the blocks, but it’s still a cool moment for the Young Lion to not be the one who twitches the curtain.

Narita took his bump up the card in his stride and delivered one hell of a sprint. He and Bandido seemingly decided to do the exact opposite of Taka and Ishimori as they stuffed their time full of action. Narita even went as far as Belly to Belly Suplexing Bandido on the apron, a spot that had the Korakuen Hall crowd roaring their approval.

It wasn’t to last. Narita tried to follow up with a tope, but Bandido caught him and delivered a vicious Powerbomb onto the side of the ring. Back on the inside, Narita refused to die quietly, getting his knees up on a Standing Moonsault and nearly stealing it with a couple of flash pins. However, Bandido would prove to have too much. His Twisting G4S followed by the 21 Plex put the cub away.

I honestly don’t know what more I can say about Narita. The kid is ready, and with every show of this tour, he proves it a little more. He should end this tournament, head straight out on excursion and return in time for next year’s because a Super Juniors without him would be missing out.

Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars

Jonathan Gresham (2-2) defeated Titan (3-1)

It was in Korakuen that Gresham impressed during Honor Rising and the crowd welcomed him back warmly. Those fans love that technical mastery and showed their appreciation as he and Titan danced the dance of the graps (too much? Probably too much).

And this was the story of two men that couldn’t be separated. Titan quickly realised that he couldn’t out-wrestle Gresham and tried to follow Dragon Lee’s example by out-powering him. However, Gresh refused to let the tone of the match-up change. He kept finding ways to draw Titan back into a technical battle, attacking his arm to set up for The Octopus and the submission win.

I’m a massive Gresham fan, and while he’s yet to put on a classic, he’s consistently delivering. As the New Japan Juniors adapt to his style, I think he could become to that division what Sabre is the Heavyweights, a guy who can twist anyone up and allows them to work a different style. If he keeps delivering, I can’t see how New Japan wouldn’t want to do more with him.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

YOH (2-2) defeated Rocky Romero (1-3)

Sensei vs gakusei, that’s my Duolingo Japanese coming to the fore. Although everyone knows sensei, so it’s not that impressive, is it? I also think Juice Robinson used those exact words, but I promise I knew it already.

It’s a set-up that brings with it an obvious story, and these two told it. Early on, they both seemed to have an answer to every question the other posed. It was only when they both began focusing on a limb that a gap between them began to open up. YOH went for the leg to utilise that Calf Crusher while Rocky attacked the arm to set-up his Armbar.

By the final act, all signs of friendship had vanished as these two battled for the win. Rocky had no qualms about laying a beating on one of his proteges, slapping him across the face and setting up for a big Lariat. Unfortunately, YOH out-smarted his teacher. As Rocky came flying in, he rolled into the Calf Crusher, and Romero’s night was over.

I suspect these two could have an even better match than this one, but for their spot on the card, this was a fun old showing and saw both men’s impressive tournaments continue.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Dragon Lee (3-1) defeated Tiger Mask (2-2)

Tiger Mask pulled off my favourite spot of the Super Juniors so far in this match. Dragon Lee looked to be building up a head of steam and dared to go for a Hurricanrana against the veteran. Tiger was having none of that and delivered the grumpiest looking Powerbomb of all time. I don’t know how a Powerbomb looks grumpy, but Tiger pulled it off.

It was also an excellent summing up of the story of the match. Dragon Lee kept looking to go spectacular, to do the stuff we all know he does brilliantly. However, Tiger refused to play his games. The wily veteran was always ready to move out of the way or lash out with a kick. Then, when he took control, he dived into that move-set we’ve seen a million times. You can’t argue with a Tiger Bomb.

Although I guess ultimately, Lee did argue with a Tiger Bomb. Or at least a very grumpy kitty. A couple of those running knees had Tiger reeling before Desnucadora got the three. I feel like I’m getting repetitive, but this was another fun match. While it was nothing you need to see, it was a short breezy watch. For all my worries about this ten match show being a slog, it’s been nothing of the sort so far.

Verdict: Three Stars

BUSHI (1-3) defeated DOUKI (1-3)

‘If he shoves that pipe up BUSHI’s arse, he’s got a friend in me’. The words of Juice Robinson. What a guy.

DOUKI might have been enjoying playing the prick on this tour, but BUSHI has made a career of being a bellend and came flying out the blocks, brawling with DOUKI and taking the fight to the crowd.

Annoyingly, I quite enjoyed it. In my last review, I finally decided I didn’t think much of DOUKI, but he drew me back in with this performance. He and BUSHI ditched the wrestling and had a quick, violent fight, and on a show like this, you need that variety of match styles. Brilliant graps it was not, but two grimy fucks beating each other up is fine by me.

Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars

Yoshinobu Kanemaru (1-3) defeated SHO (1-3)

SHO’s cauliflower ears had been busted open earlier in the tournament and in what might be a first, Kanemaru focused his attack on them. I can’t think of many ear matches although I’m sure there must be some.

That wasn’t his only plan as Kanemaru quickly took the fight to the outside and dragged SHO into the Korakuen stands. As they brawled on the walkway, the bastard hit a Suplex on the hard floor before heading back down the steps. Old Yoshinobu was smart, though. Rather than waiting in the ring, he lingered until SHO was inches away and threw a Young Lion into his path before rolling under the ropes. SHO, meanwhile, was forced to look on as Marty Assami finished his count.

For the same reason I enjoyed BUSHI vs DOUKI, I had no problem with this. It’s a long ass show and not every match can get all the time. If you’re going to have Kanemaru beat SHO, have him do it in the scummiest way possible as quickly as possible.

Verdict: NA

Robbie Eagles (3-1) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (3-1)

Robbie Eagles has a bit of the KUSHIDAs about him as you know exactly what he wants to do when you get in the ring with him. He’s going to attack that leg in the hopes of setting up the Ron Miller Special, and it’s up to you to try and stop him. That sits almost in direct contrast to Taguchi and his somewhat unhinged style of wrestling.

That style clash made for an intriguing match-up between the two. Robbie’s attack on the leg seemed to be paying dividends, and at one point he creamed Old Ryusuke with a Running Meteora into the corner. In the end, though, he had to rely on his wiliness, elbowing his way out of a Dodon (having just kicked out of the version that saw him dropped onto Taguchi’s knees) he managed to drag the veteran to the ground and trap his shoulders to the mat. There goes Taguchi’s unbeaten run.

I’m definitely repeating myself now, but this was another enjoyable slice of pro-wrestling. Being put in the main-event spot has forced Taguchi to work longer matches, but dropping down the card and wrestling faster and slicker seemed to do him good. Of the two generic Bullet Club white guys, Robbie Eagles is the one doing it for me, and I’d rather see him lingering up near the top than ELP.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Shingo Tagaki (4-0) defeated Marty Scurll (2-2)

There were almost two separate matches running side by side as Shingo and Marty battled it out. One I loved, the other pissed me off.

The one I loved was the match that seemed to make the most sense. Shingo is beat-up after his wars with Kanemaru and SHO, so having Scurll go out and outsmart him was the natural storyline. He attacked Takagi’s arm and had Brody Lee interfere at key moments, playing into the narrative of this beast of a man becoming the battling babyface. Usually, I’m against all kinds of screwy behaviour, but you need to convince people Shingo might lose, and that was a fantastic way to do it.

The problem was that previously mentioned other match. It was one in which Marty Scurll, yes, that Marty Scurll, was trading elbows with Shingo Takagi? In what fucking world am I supposed to buy that bullshit? He’s out there chopping Shingo in the throat and hitting his stupid Superkick to the shin and Takagi is selling it when he should have been laughing in his face. It was such bullshit that it took me completely out of the action. I can buy Marty out-villaining Takagi. I ain’t buying him out-muscling him.

Thankfully, Korakuen was molten hot which meant that nonsense didn’t completely ruin the match. Shingo Takagi also happens to be an outstanding wrestler which didn’t hurt. By the final stretch, they’d got me back in and even Marty getting his leg caught under the Noshigami (which looked sore) didn’t knock me out again. It was good, but someone needs to tell Shingo to never go blow for blow with the Marty Scurlls of this world.

Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars

El Phantasmo (4-0) defeated Will Ospreay (3-1)

El Phantasmo ended his debut tag match by pinning Ospreay, and Will was not happy about it. He flew across the ring at the bell and dropkicked ELP so hard he somehow bounced over the top rope. From there the opening of this match was wrestled at a million miles an hour and had Ospreay trying to do a murder while Phantasmo Moonsaulted off bits of Korakuen.

All of which was a lot of fun. Watching two flippy guys flip is always a laugh, and Ospreay was decent enough to have some colour on his gear so you could even tell which one was which when they were going at speed. Both men worked their arses and probably did more than they needed to in an attempt to get ELP over.

Unfortunately, I’m still not convinced by Phantasmo. I’ve always enjoyed him as a mid-card guy in the UK, working fun matches, but at this level, I think he’s being found out. He’s a GIF wrestler, someone who has perfected the spectacular moments, but not the stuff in-between. Everything from his facial expressions to his selling to his awful sleazebag character screams local indie guy.

Still, I did enjoy this match. When these two were flying around the ring doing stupid shit, it was ridiculously easy to watch. It’s wrestling porn. When it’s on, you’ll enjoy it, and it will get you where you need to go, but there is no substance there. The emotion is missing, and ultimately, it’s all the same. Satisfying in the moment, but lacking in long-term fulfilment. I think I’ve made my point? It was good, just not brilliant.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Overall Show

I was dreading this show. Ten matches is a lot, but it’s even more when they’re all singles. You can’t sit back and pay half-attention, unlike the standard New Japan multi-man tags. However, my worries proved unfounded. This show lacked anything that will be remembered in years to come, but it was a delightful watch that sped by. Everything got the time it needed, and everyone delivered.

BOSJ Best Matches So Far

  1. Shingo Takagi vs SHO (13/5/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
  2. Will Ospreay vs Rocky Romero (16/5/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars
  3. YOH vs Ryusuke Taguchi (14/5/19) – Four Stars

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

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