After an electric run of shows at Korakuen Hall, it’s almost a shame that New Japan had to move on. However, it’s only fair that the rest of the country gets to appreciate some fantastic wrestling and they rocked up in Chiba for what was supposed to be a ten-match show, but thanks to an injury to Taka, was reduced to nine as Dragon Lee got an automatic victory. Now, onto the action.
Ryusuke Taguchi (5-2) defeated Ren Narita (0-7)
It is easy to forget among all the silliness that Taguchi is an accomplished wrestler, but he used a rare opening spot to remind us. He and Narita kept the bulk of this match on the mat, grappling and working submissions. It would eventually lead to Taguchi getting the win with the Oh My & Garankle.
Your mileage with this one will vary depending on your tastes. For some two wrestlers trading holds is the definition of boredom, and for others, it is wrestling in its purest form. I’m somewhere in the middle, but I enjoyed it. It was nice to see both men work a different style of match and show-off what they can do.
Verdict: Three Stars
Jonathan Gresham (4-3) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2-5)
The scumbag vs the wrestler, this was always going to be a question of who was able to delve into their bag of tricks first. The answer turned out to be Gresham as he avoided a shot with the whiskey bottle and locked in The Octopus for the submission victory.
You can chart Gresham’s progress through this tour and see his confidence rise as he goes on. His personality is starting to emerge, and he’s shining because of it. Moments like him and Kanemaru going through a Rolling Cradle before both coming up dizzy are genuinely funny, and it is helping him get over. Now let’s hope that he gets to work a more competitive contest before we’re all done so that he can show off that side of his game too.
Verdict: Three Stars
Rocky Romero (3-4) defeated DOUKI (1-6)
What I said about Gresham’s confidence rising as the tournament went on is even more relevant in the case of DOUKI. After a dodgy start, he seems to have settled into New Japan, and his matches have improved dramatically. He’s not out there putting on classics, but he’s raised his performance levels to the extent that he doesn’t stand out (for the wrong reasons) in these mid-card bouts.
With that, we’ve seen an improvement in the layout of his matches. He worked Rocky’s leg in this one, attacking it and trying to take advantage of Romero having wrestled the longest main event of the tournament only 48 hours before. That was perfect as it put Rocky on the back foot and let him continue his battling babyface run, before eventually getting the win with that Armbar.
DOUKI vs Romero wasn’t a masterpiece or something you have to see, but it was a solid match that was perfect for its spot on the card. No complaints.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Marty Scurll (4-3) defeated Titan (2-5)
There isn’t that much to say about this, it was a fun back and forth match that made both men look good. The wrestling was clean as Scurll and Titan shared the spotlight, working the clash between Scurll’s villainous ways and Titan’s lucha libre.
Marty has had a weird tournament. He had an absolute stinker against Ishimori and has done some stuff to piss me off, but he’s actually been quite good. For a while, I only wanted to see him wrestle Will Ospreay, but in these middle of the card slots when he’s up against talented wrestlers, he’s doing alright. While I know that he’s off to AEW, I’d be quite happy for him to stick around in this spot if he did randomly decide not to team up with his friends.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
BUSHI (4-3) defeated Bandido (3-4)
I’m sorry, but I am fed up of BUSHI. His matches have been doing nothing for me recently, and this was no different. I watched it within the last hour, and I am already struggling to remember anything that happened, which is quite a feat when he was in there with someone as exciting as Bandido. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood, but I can’t be arsed trying to will up the enthusiasm to write anything else.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Shingo Takagi (7-0) defeated Tiger Mask (2-5)
The most impressive thing about Shingo Takagi’s Super Junior run is not his unbeaten streak, but the fact he’s managing to convince you that people might beat him. He was in there with Tiger Mask, a man who is not going to end that run, yet there were still moments where I thought he might be about to pull it off. The Crucifix towards the end was the perfect example of this as for a second Chiba, and I, really believed it might be about to happen. The big man is able to both look like an absolute beast and show weakness, falling back from attacks and letting himself be hurt. That’s a hell of a combination.
As for Tiger Mask, it’s like he saves his energy throughout the year so he can go all out in this tournament. He’s been much better than a man his age should be as he throws himself into these matches. It makes up for any lazy performances he gives on Road To shows and is a good reminder that these old guys are great wrestlers. Well done him.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
YOH (4-3) defeated El Phantasmo (5-2)
Fucking hell, this was dull. After Phantasmo attacked YOH before the bell, a lot of this match just happened. I’m pretty sure I watched it because I remember the feeling of it being on, but I couldn’t tell you what they were doing. My brain refused to engage. I don’t like continually being down on a wrestler, and Phantasmo doesn’t completely suck, but he should not be working these long matches in which he is controlling the bulk of the action.
We didn’t even get the joys of a hot YOH closing stretch as he snuck the win with an O’Connor Roll. This is the first Super Junior match for a while that I’m going to recommend you skip.
Verdict: Two Stars
Robbie Eagles (5-2) defeated Will Ospreay (5-2)
Robbie Eagles entered the wrestling world’s conscious outside of Australia after wrestling Will Ospreay for the first time. I don’t think you have to be a bosom buddy of Will to know that he will have wanted to go out and do that again in Japan. Both men in that ring were trying to get Robbie Eagles over.
Sadly, I want you to look good is not a wrestling story, so instead, they went with Eagles attacking Will’s leg while Ospreay showed an unwillingness to hurt his friend. There was a moment where he hesitated before going for a Hidden Blade and let Robbie back into the action, giving up his advantage. We also got the classic tale of two men who know each other inside out and have an answer to everything the other does.
In fact, there was a whole lot of narrative in this match as the finish brought some to the fore too. There have been hints of an Eagles face turn, but in the final act, Red Shoes took a bump leading to Phantasmo blasting Will’s leg with a chair. While Robbie looked conflicted about it, he still took advantage, hitting the 450 Splash and locking on the Ron Miller Special to get the win. I’m generally against any interference in a tournament setting, but they’re clearly laying the blocks for something, and it gives them a reason to go back to this match.
Which was really good by the way, have I mentioned that? They’re both fantastic wrestlers and pulled off some incredible stuff. I got slightly frustrated at Will selling that leg all match only to then hit loads of move that involved the leg (even Juice raised it in a kayfabe sense on commentary), but it’s a minor quibble. They went out and put on a show, and while I’m not sure Eagles is a made man, it certainly laid the foundations for him to become one.
Verdict: Four Stars
They’ve been playing the Time’s Up video all tour (it’s never felt like it needed to be mentioned), but they went a bit further tonight with Juice snapping and cutting a promo into the camera. He said that he thinks he knows who it is and told them to bring their ass to Ryogoku before leaving the commentary desk and heading to the back. (Over night it was revealed that the video is in reference to Jon Moxley, I’ll blab about that in the future).
Taiji Ishimori (6-1) defeated SHO (3-4)
Ishimori has been working short matches with there being suggestions that he had genuinely hurt his neck. That put a question mark over a main-event that before the tournament you would have put down as a surefire great match.
And while this was a good match, there was a feeling that they were holding back. It was wrestled at quite a methodical pace, neither man pushing themselves to hit full speed. Not everything needs to be balls to the wall action, but there were parts when it dragged, and on another day, these two would have done everything they did here in fifteen minutes rather than twenty. It didn’t help that just as the finishing sequence seemed to be getting good Ishimori hit the Bloody Cross and got the win. It’s been a recurring theme in this tour that his victorys come slightly out of the blue and that was the case once again.
Still, I don’t want to dump on it too much because it was still a very strong performance from both men. They’re the kind of wrestlers who at half speed are still better than 99% of people, so it’s fun to watch them even if you do get the impression they could do better. Ishimori is the only person in the block who can catch-up with Shingo, and they face each other on the final day, so let’s hope he’s feeling 100% for that, and they hit the level they are almost certainly capable of doing.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
We’re at the point in the tour where the blocks are starting to get interesting. In A Block it’s a straight shoot out between Ishimori and Shingo, with Takagi in control heading into the final two matches. B Block is a bit more complicated as Eagles, Ospreay, Phantasmo and Taguchi are all on 10 points while YOH and BUSHI are still involved with 8 points each. There are numerous tie breakers factoring into how likely each one is to win, but arsed going into that now.
Anyway, this was a solid show, that didn’t sparkle like those from Korakuen, but was still very watchable. Best Of The Super Juniors continues to be a delight and I can’t wait to see how everything plays out over the last four shows.
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/