NJPW Best Of The Super Jr. 26 (23/5/19) Review

Dragon Lee hanging out. Credit: NJPW

Our second ten match show has a lot to live up to as the first night delivered a fast and breezy watch. If night two could do the same, that would be much appreciated, Gedo-san.

El Phantasmo (5-0) defeated Ren Narita (0-5)

Will it piss people off if I say that I preferred this to Ospreay vs Phantasmo? Working a simpler style with Narita curbed the worst of ELP’s tendencies. They kept to the straightforward story of a fiery Young Lion catching a cocky prick off-guard and coming agonisingly close to getting the win as Korakuen roared him on. The Tokyo crowd will always support a rookie, but Narita is sealing his place in their hearts.

Post-match, ELP slammed an exclamation mark on his victory with a CR2 to the already defeated Narita. He might not be working for me, but he’s getting heat from the crowd, and that’s (probably) more important than what I think.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Titan (2-3) defeated Taka Michinoku (0-5)

Taka Michinoku might not be picking up the wins, but he’s been gloriously Taka Michinoku-like. It’s all eye pokes, kicks to the shin and general scumbaggery. You’ve got to love him.

He wrestled this match the only way he knows how, as he attempted to ground the high-flying Titan. For the most part, he was successful, to the extent that he got confident enough to go for a Moonsault of his own, landing on his feet when Titan rolled out the way. While the luchador was able to get the occasional burst of offence, it felt like he never got up to speed.

It was a feeling made worse by the botched finish. Titan hit what was basically a Michinoku Driver (out of a Fireman Carry position) before trying to transition into a bridging pin. Unfortunately, he and Taka’s legs got tangled up, and it looked shite. Realising it had gone wrong, Titan moved to break the pin, unfortunately, he did that just as Marty Assami counted three, rendering the final seconds of this match a total fuck-up and knocking it down a peg or two.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

BUSHI (2-3) defeated Robbie Eagles (3-2)

BUSHI is very economical in his use of entrance attire. Every bit of it gets repurposed to break the rules and hurt his opponents. You can’t fault the guy’s planning.

After an initial flurry from the LIJ man, Eagles came back into this and turned it into a leg match. It worked for a bit too, unfortunately, it then stopped. Eagles hit the ground hard when BUSHI avoided the 450 Splash to the leg and ate an MX seconds later.

Everything about this was the definition of a three-star match. It was a solid wrestling contest with nothing to make it stand out and nothing to make it shit. If you’re in a rush, skip it.

Verdict: Three Stars

Jonathan Gresham (3-2) defeated Tiger Mask (2-3)

Tiger Mask must have looked at this card and groaned. He came into BOSJ with a busted-up knee, and the injuries have only been exacerbated since. Gresham is an honourable chap, but some temptations are too big to ignore.

Unfortunately for Gresham, his technical mastery pissed off Tiger, and the grumpy kitty came to the fore. For a couple of minutes, he had tried to wrestle with The Octopus, but he quickly realised that kicking him was a lot more effective. I loved Gresh’s selling of that onslaught. He was coughing and gasping for breath as Tiger’s boots came crashing into his ribs, lungs and stomachs.

You can never count someone with Gresham’s skillset out, though. Tiger pulled him over into what looked like a simple headlock, but Gresh twisted out of the way, locking Tiger’s shoulders to the mat. I loved that finish. It came out of nowhere and sells the idea that Gresham can beat you from any angle. He’s starting to pick up the points, and it’s great to see.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

YOH (3-2) defeated DOUKI (1-4)

DOUKI brawled his way back into my good books on Wednesday’s show, but he’ll scum his way right off the page if he makes attacking my boy YOH from behind a regular tactic. Then again, part of Korakuen fucking loved it. They were roaring in approval as he dragged YOH through the crowd to drive his head into a sign. Unlike BUSHI, YOH is not a man who wants to ditch wrestling to fight, and he was caught off guard by the onslaught.

For a long time, it looked like YOH was going to struggle to adapt to that style. He kept trying to wrestle DOUKI, and it wasn’t working as the bastard refused to have that match. It was only when YOH fired up and showed a bit of grit that he got into the action. Bouncing back from a DOUKI blow he spiked him with a Dragon Suplex and got the three.

As a random aside, DOUKI needs to ditch that Slingshot DDT he does. He fucks that move up more than he hits it with both his failed and successful attempt at doing it in this match looking like shit. Anyway, I enjoyed this without loving it, and I’m pre-disposed to love YOH. They never quite clicked and giving DOUKI that amount of offence is a mistake. He’s not going straight back into the bad books, but he’s hovering above them.

Verdict: Three Stars

SHO (2-3) defeated Marty Scurll (2-3)

Marty came out doing some ridiculous over-acting which was supposed to convince us that he was still hurting from the day before. Instead, it made SHO look like a dope for being caught off-guard by Scurll throwing off the bandages and attacking him before he was ready.

Thankfully, SHO is having a fucking badass tournament, so he can absorb that nonsense. Juice Robinson has been selling the idea on commentary that the more you hurt him, the better he gets, and there was a fantastic moment that played into that. Having had his neck worked over by Marty, SHO ate that Superkick Scurll does from the apron. Rather than go down, he stumbled around before coming roaring back and demanding a second. That one also failed to take him off his feet and when the third came in SHO caught Scurll’s leg, suddenly he was coming forward.

From there, this was a great back and forth match, that made SHO look like a warrior. He’s on the brink of it being mathematically impossible for him to win the block, but he refused to die. With the Tokyo crowd shrieking his name, he took everything Scurll threw at him from finger snaps to attacks on his busted ear. Then, when he got his chance a thunderous pair of Lariats followed by a Lung Buster and a Shock Arrow got the three as he fought to die another day.

Verdict: Four Stars

Ryusuke Taguchi (4-1) defeated Rocky Romero (1-4)

It was coach vs coach and Rocky brought a basketball to the ring to combat Taguchi’s rugby ball. That lead to Taguchi demanding they have a shoot off at which point Rocky threw the ball at his head. Off we go.

What made this work is that while it was silly, it was silly in a competitive way. Both men were working surprisingly stiff (note the word surprisingly, it wasn’t Ishii vs Shibata), and they wrestled through that silliness into a decent match. Eventually, it became two great wrestlers putting on an entertaining show.

The finish saw Romero move to attack Taguchi’s arm, trying to set him up for the Armbar and it might have been what let him roll through from a Dodon and try to steal the win. Unfortunately, Taguchi wasn’t hurt enough, they’d roll between pins for a few seconds, but it was eventually Rocky who ended up with his shoulders on the floor and Taguchi cementing his spot as the head coach of New Japan.

Except, we all know Taguchi is a generous soul, and post-match he agreed to split coaching duties with Rocky. The final image was the new brain trust posing together before leaving the ring.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2-3) defeated Taiji Ishimori (4-1)

I’m still sceptical about the theory that Ishimori is actually injured, but these matches are making me doubt myself. They didn’t pass the five-minute mark and a fair few of the minutes they did wrestle featured Ishimori lying in the stands before he crawled back to the ring. Although he was smarter than SHO, jumping over the chair Kanemaru tried to trip him with on-route.

It was to be a reprieve rather than a save. Not long later Ishimori was in complete control, but as he went for the Bloody Cross Kanemaru had a plan. Grabbing the ref, he blocked the move before throwing Red Shoes into Ishimori, DDTing the Bone Soldier, spraying the whiskey and rolling the fucker up. Simple.

After losing his first three matches, Kanemaru is suddenly on a roll and being presented as someone who can pin anyone with his dodgy tactics. Much like Kanemaru vs SHO, this wasn’t great wrestling, but it did what it needed to do.

Verdict: NA

Will Ospreay (4-1) defeated Bandido (2-3)

If you want to watch someone get over in a new country, watch as Bandido captures Korakuen’s hearts in this match. He and Will had a wild bout that saw him not only show off his agility but his incredible power too. The kid looked like a star.

And, as usual, props to Ospreay. Will is the master of making people look good, and for the second day in a row, he went out intending to make someone look like a billion bucks. He let the luchador run through his best stuff and possibly saved his life off that insane Springboard Shooting Star Press. If Will hadn’t taken a couple of steps back, that was going very wrong. It still looked fucking awesome, though.

Not that the match was perfect. At the start, I thought they were doing an excellent job of grounding it through Ospreay’s selling of his neck, but twice he went for a Cattle Mutilation variation which, of course, has him bridging on his neck. While that might be nitpicking, it’s the kind of thing that prevents me from putting Ospreay up as the best in the world. He tends to forget about the little details.

Still, for me, this was the match that everyone else thought Ospreay vs Phantasmo was. An insane thrill ride that had me on the edge of my seat begging for Bandido to beat Will and make himself a star. He’d ultimately come up short on the beating part as Will backflipped out of the 21 Plex and eventually hit Stormbreaker for the win, but as Korakuen chanted his name, he was already a star.

Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars

Shingo Takagi (5-0) defeated Dragon Lee (3-2)

At what point do we wrap up wrestling and give it to Shingo to keep? Around the moment he plucked Dragon Lee out of the air when he went for his ‘Rana off the apron, I was happy to hand it over. The guy is a fucking Kraken of a human being. Or a dragon, I guess, that would make more sense.

On the other side of the ring, I’ve been a bit down on Lee’s Shibata cosplay, but it fucking worked here. Well, from an entertainment perspective. Going blow for blow with Takagi is fucking lunacy, no matter how good you are at hitting a running knee. Still, it made for the awesome moment where he rocked the big man before following up with a Tope Suicida which had the emphasis on the Suicida.

Having played the battling underdog (excellently) in his last two matches, this was Takagi going back to what he does best, being a fucking monster for someone to conquer. Lee threw everything he had at him, enough that every other fucker in this tournament would have keeled over not because they were selling, but because they were genuinely dead. Shingo, meanwhile, still had enough in him to power out of Desnucadora and hit the Last Of The Dragon. How? Because he’s a beautiful motherfucker. What a match!

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Overall Show

Korakuen has been fantastic over the last two nights. It puts the old ‘wrestling has to be a variety show’ argument to shame as New Japan has given the Tokyo fans great matches, and they’ve roared their approval. At no point did they seem in need of in-ring promos or backstage skits. Anyway, I don’t think this had the consistency of yesterday’s show, but it peaked higher, so I’ve no complaints. Onto the next one!

BOSJ Best Matches So Far

  1. Shingo Takagi vs SHO (13/5/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
  2. Shingo Takagi vs Dragon Lee (23/5/19) – Four And A Half Stars
  3. Will Ospreay vs Rocky Romero (16/5/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars

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

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