The 24th Best of the Super Junior tournament kicked off in explosive fashion at Korakuen Hall today, with both blocks getting underway in grand fashion.
Among the feature matches were the latest chapter of the Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay feud – which branched into Japan for the first time – whilst we got another round of the Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi feud that’s produced so many memorable matches. Just the mere mention of Marty Scurll drew “whoop whoop”s at Korakuen Hall, so his reputation is clearly preceding the Villain! Ricochet drew the short straw in having to face Taichi…
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
A monster ovation greeted the start of what’s likely Liger’s final Best of Super Junior campaign, and he started on the front foot, taking TAKA into the ropes as he looked to work over his arm. Interesting, TAKA’s repping Kaientai Dojo here, as opposed to Suzuki-gun…
After resisting some submissions, TAKA tries to go for some shoulder tackles, before being thrown to the outside as Liger flew out with a baseball slide dropkick. A cannonball off the apron follows, before TAKA countered a Liger Bomb inside… and took a Shotei. Liger continues with a tiltawhirl backbreaker before a Romero special sees TAKA escape to the outside, where he’s promptly introduced to the ringpost.
Liger decides to out Suzuki-gun TAKA by using a chair on his back, before using TAKA’s own hand to hit him with. This is Liger well and truly rolling back the years, and until TAKA trips him into a crossface, this was verging on a squash match. The crowd are screaming for Liger to hold on, but TAKA rolls him back into the middle of the ring, and somehow closer to the ropes than he was to begin with… the crowd scream at the mere hint of a tap, before roaring when Liger got a foot to the ropes.
After freeing himself, Liger responded with a Liger Bomb for a near-fall, before TAKA suckered him into an armbar that was rolled over into as TAKA scored the shock, deflating win. That was an amazing way to get this tournament underway, but I’d perhaps have gone with a Liger win – if only to quell any fears of a repeat of Tenzan’s G1 flop last year. ****
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block B: Volador Jr. vs. Tiger Mask
A rather fraught start sees both men charge each other into the ropes, before a series of leg trips led to a face-off.
They stay grounded for a spell, with Tiger Mask trying for submissions, using a variety of armbars that Volador rapidly broke, before heading outside, only to roll back into a low dropkick. Out of nowhere, Volador switches it up with a headscissor takedown before throwing himself into Tiger Mask outside with a tope con hilo. Back inside again, a Volador moonsault gets nothing but knees as the luchador tried to keep the upper hand, only to fall into a Tiger Driver for a near-fall.
The hint of a Tiger Suplex sees Volador back into the corner, only for Tiger Mask to return with a tombstone – or the banned-in-Mexico martinete – but Volador rolled away from a swandive headbutt as both men were left laying. Tiger tries for a back superplex, and succeeds before trying another armbar that’s quickly broken by the ropes. Volador lands an enziguiri to stop Tiger from going up top once more, then decides to bring him up top his way for a Spanish Fly that got him the match. That landing almost saw them go into the ropes, continuing the trend of slight awkwardness throughout, but this was a shockingly good match given Tiger Mask’s recent outings. We’re two-for-two… but unfortunately Taichi is next! ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Taichi vs. Ricochet
Ricochet ignored the advances of Taichi’s valet in the early going, and as soon as the bell rang, Taichi leapt to the outside. It’s going to be one of those matches, isn’t it?
Ricochet gets bored of waiting for Taichi to return, so he flies out and lands a tope, before throwing him back inside… and Taichi just rolls to the floor again. His valet, Miho Abe, gets thrown in… and to be honest, she might put on a better match than he would. She distracts Ricochet, which allows Taichi to sneak up from behind and choke Ricochet with the mic stand as we get some of the most pedestrian “action” I’ve seen in ages.
Taichi picks up the bell hammer when he’s outside, and distracts the referee with his valet so he can whack Ricochet with it, before taking him into the corner with an eye rake. Ricochet makes a comeback with a kick to the gut before landing a 619 in the corner as a set-up for a springboard diving uppercut! Another eye rake puts Ricochet on the defensive, but he replies by hot shotting Taichi into the ropes and landing a running shooting star press for a near-fall.
The tempo picks up slightly as Taichi lands a head kick for a near-fall, as he rips off his trousers for a leg lariat… which is ducked, as Ricochet comes in with a bicycle knee. Taichi grabs the ref to block a uranage then lands a superkick for a near-fall, before he goes for the mic stand again. Ricochet ducks, then capitalises with a Benadryller and a shooting star press for the win. Well, we had the Taichi bullshit as we all expected, and it’s going to wear down on us all in the tournament, but this was fine given those limitations. ***
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block B: BUSHI vs. ACH
ACH falls for a handshake at the start and quickly gets taken down with a dropkick as we go straight into the BUSHI cheating tactics, with him choking the anime-lover in the ropes with a t-shirt.
ACH returns with an atomic drop and a leg sweep as he sent BUSHI down, only to get sent to the outside as BUSHI leapt to the floor with a headscissor takedown… dive! A rope-hung DDT onto the apron came next, almost ending the match as ACH narrowly beat the 20 count, only for BUSHI to choke him again in the ropes.
ACH is forced to crawl to the ropes to escape an STF, before he pulls a 16 Carat and distracts the referee so he can chop BUSHI in the balls. Hey, if it works, it works! An enziguiri follows, before ACH knocks BUSHI down with a springboard dropkick and… dive! A springboard crossbody to the floor (that looked more of a leg lariat) keeps the masked man down, only for BUSHI to rebound back inside with a DDT. The pair trade forearms from there, with BUSHI winning out and landing a swinging neckbreaker for a near-fall, before he sets up for the MX.
BUSHI’s forced to leap over instead, and make do with a rope-hung backcracker out of the corner. Another MX attempt is countered with a dropkick, and ACH fires back with a rolling elbow into the corner, only for BUSHI to catch him with a bridging backslide for a near-fall. ACH’s lariat gets another two, before a sit-out FIsherman’s buster gets him the win! We’re back on track here folks, a really good match as the first day of this year’s Best of Super Juniors is being knocked out of the park! ***¾
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block B: El Desperado vs. KUSHIDA
Hey, Desperado had a fan in the crowd wearing his mask! There’s always one… sadly, Desperado used a new mask for this match, with an open head rather than the old hooded design.
KUSHIDA was out with the ROH TV championship – a belt he beat Marty Scurll for over the weekend, in a match that’s not yet aired – but he was immediately double legged as Desperado tries to get an advantage. It didn’t work, as KUSHIDA quickly clotheslined him to the outside, only for Despy to roll back in as KUSHIDA looked to go airborne.
We did get a dive as a tope con hilo took out KUSHIDA on the floor, before Desperado threw him into some chairs. Desperado grabs another one and wedges it in the corner as KUSHIDA tried to get back into the ring… and KUSHIDA took a whip into that wedged chair as soon as he returned. He didn’t go head-first though, which gave the referee something to do as he removed the chair – allowing Desperado to jab KUSHIDA with a spike as the referee was busy.
Some chops followed as Desperado kept up the pressure with an uppercut, before choking KUSHIDA with his own t-shirt. A dropkick to the leg follows as KUSHIDA was tied in the ropes, and that created an opening for Desperado to work over KUSHIDA’s legs some more. Eventually KUSHIDA fought back, landing a dropkick of his own, before a handspring back elbow took down Desperado for a rolling DDT.
KUSHIDA kept hold after that and went for a Fisherman’s buster, only for Desperado to rake the eyes out of, erm, desperation. A rolling elbow from KUSHIDA’s replied to with a spinebuster as Desperado looked for the Stretch Muffler, forcing KUSHIDA to go for the ropes once again.
A handstand kick knocks Desperado off the top turnbuckle, allowing KUSHIDA to try for a superplex, before switching that up into a flying armbar that was quickly broken as Desperado got his foot on the ropes. KUSHIDA followed up with a tiltawhirl as he looked for the Hoverboard Lock, but Desperado spins him around and accidentally knocks down the referee – meaning nobody could see the frantic tapping. As KUSHIDA tended to the ref, Desperado tries to land a belt shot – and fails – before succeeding with Guitarra de la Muerta onto the ROH TV title belt for a two-count. Guitarra de Angel follows, and that’s a surprise win for Desperado in a heck of a contest. ***½
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay
It’d be fair to say there’s a lot of anticipation here for Marty’s New Japan debut – as the newest member of the Bullet Club, no less. Sadly his ring gear isn’t a Topman suit, so maybe that endorsement needs a little work?
The work between these two was extremely slick, as you’d expect from two of Britain’s finest, with the pair exchanging headlock takedowns until the inevitable square-off, and yes, this crowd were lapping it up! Especially when Ospreay mocked Marty’s chicken taunt… right into an eye poke from the Villain!
Ospreay rolls out of a ‘rana from Scurll, who flips him off as we get a lot of near-misses until a dropkick put Will somewhere near the driver’s seat… and then… dive! Or perhaps not, as Scurll took a powder away from the line of fire. An arm whip from Scurll dumped Ospreay on his head and shoulder, and the Villain kept up the pressure with an apron superkick after getting his feet up to block a shooting star press.
Scurll pulls on Ospreay’s nose as he hooked him back, but that fired up Will into a series of strikes that led to a handspring overhead kick as Will did his Shibata-esque diving dropkick into the corner. Going for the nose again though, Scurll rocked Ospreay on the top rope, but was suckered into the Cheeky Nando’s for a near-fall. Ospreay pounds the mat like he were a viper, but the OsCutter he was going for was countered as Scurll pulled him back and slammed Will into the ropes. Where’s Glen Joseph for that soundbyte?! Another Cheeky Nando’s is attempted, but Scurll kicks out and returns the favour en route to a chicken wing… but Ospreay fought it and rolled him down for a standing shooting star press. More back and forth led to a Just Kidding superkick that will get over well in Japan eventually.
Scurll blocked a standing Spanish Fly, only to get hit with a Stundog Millionaire that led him to head outside for a… dive! Space Flying Tiger Drop! Back inside, Ospreay hits a springboard forearm, and gets the Rainmaker zoom out as he looked for the Rainham-Maker… but Scurll grabs the fingers, and the crowd groaned at the finger snap.
It never gets any easier!
Another chicken wing call earns Marty an enziguiri, as Ospreay followed up with a revolution kick… but his OsCutter’s caught and turned into the chicken wing as last year’s Best of Super Junior was forced to tap! What a match! A great introduction for Marty Scurll in New Japan, and the year of the Villain looks like it’s going to roll on unabated! ****¼
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block B: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi’s got a habit of excelling in BOSJs, but he found himself on the back foot early after some goofing around… before tripping Kanemaru at the end of a long rope-running series.
Some hip attacks follow as Taguchi’s then forced to run the ropes, prompting him to plead for a time-out. Instead, he gets taken to the outside for a DDT on the floor, before he’s kicked and clubbed on the ring apron. Kanemaru makes a point of literally kicking Taguchi’s arse as he goes to choke him in the corner.
Taguchi misses a flying hip attack at first, then nails a second one as he’s left holding his funky weapon. Some more hip attacks come, as Taguchi goes to Nakamura it up… and gets dropkicked right in the head. Wash, rinse, repeat, and Taguchi isn’t learning!
Kanemaru continues with a tiltawhirl DDT, then a slam into a reverse DDT for a near-fall, before leaping off the top rope to drill Taguchi with a third variation of DDT for another two-count. From there they go back and forth with suplex attempts, until Kanemaru changes it up into an enziguiri that misses, allowing Taguchi to grab his ankle lock/heel hook submission… and now in comes TAKA Michinoku to distract the ref.
That allows Kanemaru to mule kick Taguchi… who inadvertantly kicks Kanemaru low as he fell back, before scoring the win with an inside cradle. Another fun match, with perhaps a little too much reliance on the ol’ hip attacks, but it was miles ahead of the crap we got from Taichi earlier! ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi
This cannot be anything but great… especially when Hiromu came out with a giant storybook that will provide prime material for the Wrestling Without Context Twitter…
They open up by chopping the hell out of each other’s chests, forcing each other to reel back in agony until Dragon Lee cartwheeled out of an arm whip and then again out of a ‘rana! Some headscissors from Dragon Lee lead to another headscissor takedown as he leapt from inside the ring to the floor, taking Takahashi down with a ‘rana, before we just about saw a tope con hilo as they were too busy showing us replays!
Back inside, Dragon Lee went for a Fisherman’s suplex, before switching it into a Boston crab after Hiromu tried to block it. That led us to a shotgun dropkick into the corner for a near-fall, but Takahashi replies with an overhead belly-to-belly into the turnbuckles as he looked to assert his dominance over his Mexican foe. A snapmare and a diving dropkick gets another near-fall as Takahashi tries to unmask Dragon Lee, before going into a surfboard stretch.
Lee returns fire with another snapmare and a boot, but Takahashi slides out of the ring to avoid a whip into the corner, with the resulting game of cat and mouse ending up with Takahashi taking his own sunset bomb off the apron! Takahashi narrowly beats the count-out to make it back into the ring, but his arm’s almost limp, so Dragon Lee goes for the Desnucadora (suplex into a powerbomb) and almost gets the win out of that!
Takahashi avoids a Del Rio double stomp out of the corner, as does Dragon, who’s then dumped on his head as they trade release Germans as if they were going out of fashion, staggering back to their feet for one more throw! From their knees, there’s forearms and overhand chops, before a thunderous uppercut knocked Takahashi down to the mat… but Dragon Lee takes his time going up top, which allows Takahashi to try for the wheelbarrow driver off the top rope.
Note: try! Lee blocks it and hits a double stomp to the back for a near-fall, then tries for another Desnucadora, but Takahashi countered it into a guillotine, eventually dragging Dragon down to the mat before he’s able to roll into the ropes for a break. Takahashi segues an Electric Chair into a Time Bomb for a near-fall, before rushing in with a death valley driver into the corner as he again pulls at the mask.
A Time Bomb attempt’s loosely countered out into a crucifix that saw Takahashi land on his head again, before Dragon Lee wheelbarrows him off the ropes for a near-fall. Takahashi replies with some superkicks, before he flies off the top rope into a Destroyer for another near-fall! From there, the death valley driver into the corner follows, as Takahashi tries for the Time Bomb… but Dragon Lee blocks it and awkwardly tried to wheelbarrow him, only for Takahashi to counter it into a wheelbarrow suplex!
Another Time Bomb attempt is caught as Dragon Lee counters with the death valley driver into the corner, before KILLING Hiromu with a Phoenixplex for the win. Good God almighty, this started off at a relatively sedate pace for these two, before really tearing it up by the end. Not the best they’ve had, but still really bloody good without so many of the scary spots they’ve become known for. This was also Hiromu’s first singles loss since his return last year… and even if Dragon Lee doesn’t win BOSJ, it’ll surely set him up for another title shot down the line. Which means another good match, of course! ****½
After one round of matches each, your standings for what it’s worth:
Block A: Dragon Lee, Marty Scurll, Ricochet, TAKA Michinoku (1-0); Hiromu Takahashi, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Taichi, Will Ospreay (0-1)
Block B: ACH, El Desperado, Ryusuke Taguchi & Volador Jr. (1-0); BUSHI, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0-1)
Presented for free on New Japan World (or, as the English version of their relaunched website called it, “Shin Nipples World”), this was a hell of a card to entice new fans into signing up. When Taichi’s match – your low mark for this tournament, I feel – wasn’t THAT bad, you had a blowaway opening night of one of the most loaded Super Juniors lineups in memory. Here’s to an enjoyable rest-of-tournament – with NJPW World showing six of the 14 tour dates live, and the remaining eight days’ matches being available on-delay afterwards.
If you’ve not signed up… do it. It’ll be the best 999 Yen (around £7/$7/€8) you’ll spend this month!