After the best show of the tour, New Japan returned to Korakuen for more Super Junior Tag League action (there is other stuff going on, but as usual, I’m choosing to ignore it). The Super Coaches brought the house down in the previous main event with Roppongi 3K, and had a chance to do so again (on Rocky’s birthday) against Birds of Prey.
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (4-2) defeated Tiger Mask and Yuya Uemura (0-5)
Uemura and Tiger are learning, as they didn’t wait around for Suzuki-gun to get the jump on them, but made the first move. Uemura even survived a trip to the floor with Uncle Nobu, swinging around the ring post to avoid his grasp. He probably lived to regret that when Kanemaru got him outside the ring again and introduced him to his old pal the chair.
If anything, the whole situation did a great job of pissing Suzuki-gun off. They were particularly dickish in this match, isolating Uemura before Despy ripped the grumpy kitty’s mask clean off his head. The damage was so bad that Tsuji had to get him the back-up option, and Tiger wrestled the rest of the action with the old ripped one still sitting around his neck.
Despite that, it was probably Tiger’s best performance so far, as he always has good chemistry with Suzuki’s trolls. It was, once again, Uemura who stole the show, though, locking Despy in a Half Crab that had Korakuen roaring. They weren’t just buying into the idea of the kid winning, but were craving it, exploding when he managed to sit down and even throwing some boos Despy’s way when he reached the ropes. Korakuen loves Uemura, and with performances like this, it’s easy to see why.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo) (5-1) defeated TJP and Clark Connors (0-6)
TJP and Connors decided to follow Tiger and Uemura’s lead, firing out of the block and unleashing a flurry of offence on Bullet Club. It took the tag champs a while to recover from that initial assault and, like Suzuki-gun, it was when they got on their bullshit, that they managed to turn the match back in their favour.
And the story of this match was that ELP and Ishimori survived thanks to that bullshit. Time after time Connors and TJP looked to be taking the advantage, only for The Bullet Club pair to sneak away by the skin of their teeth. At one point, Ishimori had to use TJP as a battering ram as it proved the only way to get Connors to let go of a Crab.
Unfortunately, the finish didn’t go quite to plan. It looked like Ishimori was supposed to reverse a Connors’ spear with a Double Stomp, but the timing was slightly off, and it didn’t look right. Still, this was a solid little match and was decent enough while it lasted.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) (3-2) defeated Volador Jr and Titan (3-3)
SHO and YOH spent part of their excursion in Mexico, so they have a lot of experience with luchadors. They knew that the best path to victory was to stop Titan and Volador taking flight, so early on they went after the leg of Titan, trying to negate his impressive offence.
It was a good plan that worked for a bit, but eventually, this match broke down, and all schemes went out the window. At that point, it became a frantic back and forth with YOH and Titan flying about the place while Volador, wearing a very tight leotard, started to show off his talent as a beefy boy, exchanging forearms with SHO.
In the end, an insane Volador dive took out him and SHO, leaving the faster members of the teams to see us home. Titan went for a series of flash pins, getting some fantastic near falls, but YOH kicked out of each one, and a Dragon Suplex eventually did the damage, keeping Roppongi alive as we head into the final shows.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
The Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles) (4-2) defeated Super Coach (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero) (4-2)
One of my favourite New Japan tropes is when Tanahashi or Okada realise the crowd is against them and decide to play heel. They are both masters of it, and with a single arrogant pose can almost signal to the fans that it’s okay to boo them and cheer their hero. In this match, Will Ospreay was trying to do something similar, except rather than a simple pose he had to beat the crowd round the head with the fact he was heeling it up.
And look, that didn’t make this bad. Far from it, in fact. I thought Eagles and Ospreay did a fantastic job of melding their style with the comedy of Super Coach, swapping seamlessly between the silliness and the intense wrestling action. However, it does suggest to me that Ospreay isn’t quite at the level people think he is. He’s a phenomenal in-ring talent, but is that all he is? Does he have the charisma to be on top of a company like New Japan?
Anyway, this isn’t the time or the place for that discussion because we’re reviewing a match in which Will was just one wrestler. The action built in a similar way to the Roppongi main event from the night before, with Taguchi and Rocky playing the shrewd underdog veterans, using every trick in their play book to take the battle to these cocky youngsters. Super Coach have had their working boots on all tournament and these two matches are proof they can still be a vital part of this division, even if it is just to put the younger generation over.
Where it fell short of the previous night’s brilliance was the final minutes, as Will and Eagles won convincingly without the same edge of the seat action. That’s a small quibble, though, and this was another great performance.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Another fantastic set of Super Junior Tag League matches from New Japan. You know what, this has been a good tournament. Okay, it’s nowhere near the level of the G1 of BOSJ, but it was never going to be. It is, however, a massive improvement on what they’ve done in the past few years, so it gets a thumbs up from me.
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