Time to catch up on the Best of Super Juniors, with Sunday morning’s block A action out of Takasaki!

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Ricochet
With TAKA out of the tournament, his role is pretty much limited to that of a spoiler for those who are left in… especially when the opening exchanges led to no clear advantage. However, when Ricochet turned up the pace, TAKA had little option but to get out of the way – which was how he managed to get some longevity here.

After that, TAKA managed to get in some offence, stomping on the face and choking in the corner, before grabbing a Bully choke to force Ricochet into the ropes. Eventually Ricochet mounted a comeback… then got poked in the eye, before rebounding with a neckbreaker to TAKA.

TAKA tries for the Bully choke once more, this time really wrenching back on it, but Ricochet grabs the ropes and quickly beaned TAKA with a roundhouse kick. A few more of those set up for a Benadryller, and that’s all! Short and sweet – giving us pretty much what we needed to see… TAKA offering a little resistance, but ultimately being outclassed as Ricochet pushed his claim to win the block. ***

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Dragon Lee vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
I’ve not been a fan of how Jushin “Thunder” Liger has been used in his final tournament… and given that a loss for Dragon Lee would only be an irritation, not a spoiler, I can’t really see past another loss for Liger here.

Still, Liger took the initiative here, rolling Dragon Lee with some hammerlocks for an early near-fall, before rocking in a seated surfboard to wrench back on Dragon… who somehow managed to reverse it! Liger got out of that and tried to get a Romero special, but Dragon made the ropes, and this is where the comeback began, with kicks and chops before Liger was dropkicked to the outside… dive!

Liger barely beat the count after that, and somehow was able to rebound to take Dragon Lee onto the apron with a clothesline, before monkey flipping him to the floor and following up with a cannonball! It may be too little too late, but at least Liger’s giving it a go. After Dragon Lee beats the count-out, he’s immediately planted with a Liger Bomb for a near-fall, but once Lee takes a Shotei the final sprint starts, escaping out of a superplex to headbutt Liger into position for a double stomp! All that’s left is another stomp off the top, and Liger takes another loss. Pretty good even if the result was barely in question given the way the tournament’d been booked – but at least Liger gave more of a fight than TAKA did in the opener! ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Taichi vs. Will Ospreay
Oh poor Will! Taichi’s accompanied by Desperado and Kanemaru, whereas TAKA had no back-up for his match earlier. I think it’s clear who’s on the outs in Suzuki-gun!

Of course, there’s a jump start as Taichi uses his mic stand on Ospreay, and we’re straight into the outside-the-ring nonsense. Back inside, Taichi just loves to rake the eyes, but he’s knocked outside as Ospreay tries to dive, and gets tripped by Desperado, which eventually leads into the predicted outside-the-ring mugging. When Will gets thrown back into the ring, Desperado pops up on the apron with the mic stand to distract the ref so Taichi can use the hammer, and let’s just say it’s pretty bloody obvious Taichi’s never done as much as hang a picture in the wall, given how he uses that bell hammer.

It’s also pretty clear that it did little damage as Ospreay’s able to land a handspring overhead kick, before throwing in the Shibata dropkick, as Ospreay was forced to wipe out potential interferers with dives. From there he had a clear path to lay out Taichi with some of his more expected offence, but Taichi gets back in it and rips off his pants… before seeing a Last Ride avoided.

Ospreay lands a shooting star press for a near-fall as Desperado pulls the referee out, and there’s the second part of the mugging. Somehow Ospreay survives and sidesteps a mic stand shot, before leaping into a superkick as he’s forced to kick out of a Gedo clutch. Taichi succeeds with the mic stand at the second attempt, thanks to a Kanemaru destraction, before scoring the pin with a folding Last Ride powerbomb. Chalk up a surprise win in a match that would have been alright without the Taichi bollocks… and that’s now a four-way tie at the top! ***

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Marty Scurll vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Oh, hi there Epic Encounters Rematch! These two had a really good outing not too long ago at York Hall for Rev Pro, and I’ve got really high hopes here.

A rather tense opening sequence gave neither man the advantage, before Hiromu tried for a sunset bomb… and ended up getting his hands stomped on the apron by Scurll. They brawl through the crowd, which is wonderful seeing these two ant-sized men on the fixed-camera feed, and we just about see Marty throw Takahashi’s arm into the guard railing.

Back inside, Scurll targets Takahashi’s left digits, stomping on them, but Hiromu turned things around as the pair went back and forth en route to a pop-up powerbomb for a near-fall. Scurll turned a Time Bomb into a roll-up for a near-fall, before blasting Takahashi with an over-the-knee brainbuster as the Villain looked to keep himself alive in the tournament.

Takahashi fell for a “Just Kidding” superkick, then delivered one of his own before getting dumped on his head from a clothesline. Still, Hiromu hit back with a Time Bomb for a near-fall, before a second one was avoided as the pair countered out of each other’s finishers, with another Time Bomb broken up by way of a finger snap! Just as Marty went for a chicken wing, Takahashi levelled him with a superkick, but another finger snap followed as the chicken wing was locked on.

Somehow, Hiromu managed to counter that into a Time Bomb, and that was enough for the win – putting him into joint first place whilst Marty’s debut in New Japan ended with him falling out of the running with one match to go. This was a really good outing, with a decent story being told for the time they had… I enjoyed their Rev Pro match better, but this is definitely one you shouldn’t sleep on! ***¾

Updated standings (without the headache of tie-breakers!):
Block A: Dragon Lee, Will Ospreay, Ricochet, Taichi, Hiromu Takahashi (4-2, 8pts); Marty Scurll (3-3, 6pts); TAKA Michinoku (1-5, 2pts); Jushin “Thunder” Liger (0-6, 0pts). Eliminated: Scurll, TAKA, Liger.
Block B: ACH, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Ryusuke Taguchi (3-2, 6pts); BUSHI, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask, Volador Jr. (2-3, 4pts)

So, any one of five could win the block in Wednesday’s finale, as Will Ospreay is still on to become a finalist in successive years, joining Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Koji Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Tiger Mask IV, Wataru Inoue, Prince Devitt, Kota Ibushi, Ryusuke Taguchi and KUSHIDA in having that honour. But things are even tighter in block B, as we’ll see in our review of Monday’s Korakuen show later on!