So far Korakuen and New Japan have combined to give us two fantastic wrestling shows. It’s been well-booked and packed with exciting matches that have been an absolute breeze to watch even with ten of them on each card. If they can keep that up for the final day, then this run will go down as one of the best.
SHO (3-3) defeated Tiger Mask (2-4)
SHO might not be a Young Lion any more, but you know Tiger Mask still sees him as the bright-eyed young cub that wandered into the New Japan Dojo years ago. He relished the opportunity to give him a good kicking and remind him that Tiger will always be his sensei.
That led to them flipping Tiger Mask’s formula around, as it was SHO taking the beating before relying on his high impact offence to get back in the match. A Piledriver evened things up before a Lariat put him in control. Tiger had one last gasp with a Crucifix Pin, but the Shock Arrow ultimately proved decisive.
A solid opener that saw SHO survive his beating to put away his former teacher. That makes it impossible for Tiger to win the Block and keeps SHO in contention provided you believe in miracles.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Will Ospreay (5-1) defeated Ren Narita (0-6)
Thanks to Chris Charlton I now know that Ren Narita is an expert fisherman. If that doesn’t get him a spot on Captain Kazu’s boat, nothing will.
I am loving everything that Narita is doing, and this match was no different, but at what point do the more experienced wrestlers start to look stupid for taking him lightly? Nearly every bout has revolved around that story, and you’d think by this point that Ospreay would be expecting a tough contest coming in.
Still, my nitpicking aside, this was another pacey match from the cub, where he was allowed to impress. Narita even graduated from hitting his Belly to Belly on the apron to the floor coming very close to getting Will counted out. While he ultimately fell to the Oscutter, this continues to be a fantastic tournament from the rookie.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Marty Scurll (3-3) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2-4)
The Villian vs the Heel Master was everything you’d expect it to be. Poor Marty Assami probably took more bumps than they did as he ended up being thrown into the stands and flopping around for the two cheating pricks.
It was all relatively fun and had some amusing spots as Scurll blocking the whiskey spay with his umbrella proved the highlight. It’s nothing I would want to see again, but I enjoyed it enough while it was on.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Robbie Eagles (4-2) defeated DOUKI (1-5)
Robbie Eagles’ post-match promos have been ticking over into the babyface spectrum. I’d love to see him go full blues eyes and ditch the shitty Bullet Club adjacent gimmick.
My favourite moment in this match was DOUKI cleanly hitting the Slingshot DDT and doing a little fist pump to celebrate. He knows he’s been fucking that up all tour. Although perhaps he hit it too cleanly as seconds later blood started seeping from Eagles’ head (I don’t think he was bleeding before, but the bandanna might have hidden it). Either way, it was the cherry on the top of the smoothest match the grimy fuck has wrestled so far.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t need blood in my wrestling, but when it comes, it can add a lot to a match. Eagles firing up and fighting back would have been fine, but him doing it with red staining his hair was instantly ten times cooler. This wasn’t a great match, but that and DOUKI finally seeming to relax into his New Japan role elevated it beyond merely being alright.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Shingo Takagi (6-0) defeated Taka Michinoku (0-6)
Taka Michinoku brought the fucking fight to Shingo Takagi. He even hit a Tope before dragging Shingo into the stand, Superkicking him, locking on the Just Facelock and making his escape back to the ring in an attempt to get Takagi counted out. It was a beautiful example of that Michinoku cunning, and he had Korakuen chanting his name.
Of course, he was never going to win. Eventually, Shingo had enough of this shit, caught a Taka knee and hoisted him into the air before bringing him sharply back down with Last of the Dragon. Still, Taka gave him a scare and continues to shine.
Verdict: Three Stars
Bandido (3-3) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (4-2)
After that wild match with Ospreay, Bandido will never again lack for fans in Korakuen. Taguchi is as reliable a babyface as you can find, yet the crowd were firmly in Bandy’s (stealing Juice’s nickname for him) corner. Even Bandido convincing Taguchi to run the ropes and then catching him with a sneaky Superkick didn’t turn them against him.
Bandido and Taguchi had a decent match without ever hitting the level I suspect they are capable of. There were a few awkward moments (the set-up for Bandido hitting a Reverse Suplex was ugly as sin), and you could tell they weren’t going all out. I’m not blaming them for that, though. You can’t go all out every night on a tour like this without ending up in a wheelchair.
Plus, there was still stuff to enjoy. Taguchi repeated the finish of his match with Rocky which was a great near fall while Bandido hits some insane moves. Sadly, the 21 Plex that proved to be the finish was botched, which knocked it down a bit right at the end.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Taiji Ishimori (5-1) defeated Jonathan Gresham (3-3)
Ishimori spat on Gresham before the match started, so Gresh spent the first few seconds humiliating the former Junior champ in revenge. It was a clever way to let him show a bit of personality, and Korakuen expressed their appreciation.
Ishimori is having an uninspiring tournament. There was some good wrestling here, and I enjoyed it while it was happening, but the finish came out of nowhere as they didn’t even go seven minutes. While I expect more from him, I also suspect he isn’t 100% and is being protected.
Verdict: Three Stars
BUSHI (3-3) defeated YOH (3-3)
The start to BUSHI’s matches is getting a bit formulaic. We know he’s going to pull out the sneak attack before slowly removing his clothes and using every item to punish his opponent. Wow, that sounded kinky.
Unfortunately, that played into my problem with this match as I have always struggled to connect with BUSHI. Now and then one comes along that does something for me, but this was flat. You got the impression that these two could have danced through it in their sleep as they never pushed themselves beyond their base level. Again, I don’t blame guys for taking it easy during a long tournament, but it’s hard to get enthused about it. It wasn’t bad. It was just there.
Verdict: Three Stars
Dragon Lee (4-2) defeated Titan (2-4)
Titan had to view this as a big moment. It was a chance for him to get into the ring with another luchador (who he knows well) in Korakuen Hall. He will have no better opportunity to get over in Japan and show what he can do because while he hasn’t done anything wrong in this tournament, he has also failed to generate real buzz with his performances.
Until now, that is. Within five minutes of this starting Korakuen was chanting Titan’s name, and I had a huge smile on my face. There are few things as joyous as watching someone get over, and Titan was putting it all out there against a guy he is clearly comfortable wrestling. It was that unbridled, fast-paced lucha that sees both men spend as much time in the air as they do on the ground, and there is nothing better.
Not that it was all flippy shit, after sharing a moment of solidarity these two resorted to elbowing each other in the face. It was two friends pushing each other, seeing how far they can go and almost being willing to hit even harder than usual because of that friendship. If you can’t punch your best mate in the face, who can you?
Dragon Lee would eventually get the win, dropping Titan with a Descunadora (did you know that’s just the lucha name for a Powerbomb? Dragon Lee is apparently not an inventive man) and at least mathematically staying in this fight. However, this match proved to be what I said it needed to be as Titan delivered something worth talking about. Good on you, lad.
Verdict: Four Stars
Rocky Romero (2-4) defeated El Phantasmo (5-1)
Have I mentioned that I ain’t buying El Phantasmo? Can you imagine how I felt about him going twenty-nine minutes? Does Gedo read my reviews? If he does, he’s a spiteful wee fuck, isn’t he? Gosh, that was a lot of questions in a row.
Large parts of this match were boring, and it confirmed my feelings about Phantasmo being a GIF wrestler. He can do the spectacular, but when asked to work a long heat section, he struggled. It was hard work staying focused on it as he ran through some rather uninspiring offence.
Thankfully, Rocky is a fantastic battling babyface, and he drew me back into the action. Watching him throw himself from the top to the floor in desperation was fantastic fun, and while I probably wanted him to beat ELP for the wrong reasons, I can’t pretend I wasn’t cheering him on. I loved him listening to Red Shoes’ demand that he was not to stand on Phantasmo’s balls only to go all Ibushi and start heeling ELP in the face while he hung in the Tree Of Woe.
It also built to an incredible final stretch as Rocky, in his first ever singles main-event at Korakuen Hall, refused to die. With Juice Robinson screaming him on from the commentary desk, Romero was a warrior, staggering onwards exhausted as the time ticked into the last five minutes and he desperately searched for something that could let him end Phantasmo’s streak. Those final seconds had Korakuen on the edge of their seats as Rocky somehow found another gear. He twisted and turned, locking on the Armbar in the centre of the ring and leaving Phantasmo no choice, he had to tap.
I’m very conflicted about this match. I loved Rocky’s performance as it was up with the best I’ve seen him give, and the moment afterwards when Roppongi 3K ran into the ring to embrace him was beautiful. However, I can’t ignore the fact there was a big stretch where it was very dull. Was it worth it for that finish? Maybe. Ah, fuck it, for Rocky.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
What a run of shows from New Japan. Three nights in front of an incredible crowd with thirty awesome wrestling matches. If all wrestling was like that, I would never moan. Alright, that’s not true, but I’d moan a bit less. This was awesome, Best Of The Super Juniors is awesome. I love wrestling.
BOSJ Best Matches So Far
- Shingo Takagi vs SHO (13/5/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Shingo Takagi vs Dragon Lee (23/5/19) – Four And A Half Stars
- Will Ospreay vs Rocky Romero (16/5/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/
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