We’re down to the wire as block A was wrapped up in Osaka as any of five men could win through to Saturday’s tournament final…
Dragon Lee, Will Ospreay, Ricochet, Taichi and Hiromu Takahashi were all in with a shout of winning – and with Ospreay vs. Takahashi our main event today, you’d have to expect that that will be the decider.
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. ACH & Volador Jr.
Not your typical opener, as there’s nary a Young Lion in sight, but we did get our daily dose of Suzuki-gun shenanigans with Volador Jr. getting tripped as he measured up for a dive early on.
Volador gets thrown into the crowd – and these aren’t folding chairs he’s flying through either! – as Desperado chokes away on him using some of those chairs, all whilst ACH just stood and watched from the apron. That’s a tag partner I wouldn’t want! Back in the ring, Volador gets pulled off of the top rope as Desperado picked up a near-fall, but a Mistica gets Volador back in to tag ACH.
ACH comes in like a house of fire with stomps and dropkicks to Kanemaru, before Volador returned with a flying ‘rana to Desperado. The good guys worked together in tandem to get a near-fall on Kanemaru with a German suplex, but Volador crashed and burned on a plancha as he hit a chair that Desperado’d put in place.
Kanemaru grabs the ref for a distraction so he can mule kick ACH, which led to the finish as he turned a tiltawhirl into an inside cradle for the win. A basic, decent opener, but not something you’d remember… unlike the teased attacks between Desperado and Kanemaru afterwards, as they looked to get whatever advantage they could ahead of tomorrow’s tight-as-hell finale. **½
Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi & KUSHIDA vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA)
There’s a nice touch in the intros as KUSHIDA ran away from Juice’s dreadlocks – remembering that time he got flicked in the eyes by them. KUSHIDA went to work on BUSHI early, which led to him and Juice frustrating Taguchi as they both worked over the masked man’s arm… leaving Taguchi all on his lonesome on the apron. When Taguchi comes in, he hands KUSHIDA the arm of BUSHI… but that just leads to an accidental spot later as KUSHIDA unwittingly hangs Taguchi’s arm on the top rope after EVIL played a switcheroo.
Things settled down from there as the Ingobernables took over, with BUSHI knocking down Juice with a tope, before Robinson was hung through the ropes using his own dreadlocks. Juice recovered with a powerbomb and brought in Taguchi for some hip attacks, which of course ended up missing as SANADA just sidestepped one.
Taguchi takes a beating from there, but somehow withstands it all and shocks BUSHI with a La Magistral for the win… prompting the Ingobernables to mug him some more afterwards. This match did nothing for me I’m afraid, but I did like how they were caught on the hop and lost to a roll-up that barely registers most times. **½
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. David Finlay & War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)
Poor David Finlay… this time he talked his way into starting off with Fale… before taking a shoulder tackle and immediately tagging out. That’s probably for the best!
After War Machine clotheslined the Guerrillas to the outside, Fale attacked the pair from behind and took Hanson into the timekeeper’s table. Everyone else followed, as someone rang the ring bell again to confuse Fale… so the Tongan just throws Hanson into some chairs for the hell of it. Hanson’s forced to level Tama Tonga with an enziguiri as a count-out was teased, but he made it back into the ring as we finally had a semblance of a match.
The Guerrillas double team Hanson for a bit, scoring a near-fall from a leaping legdrop, before dropkicking Hanson as he tried to cartwheel away from trouble. He succeeds with a sit-down splash in the corner, before bringing in Rowe to lay into Fale, then ultimately levelling Tonga with a knee strike. Fale’s targeted again with a series of avalanches, before Finlay’s flapjacked onto the giant Tongan as a set-up for a version of the Fall-Out… but the Guerrillas make the save as Finlay falls onto his back for a near-fall.
Finlay tries to stay in the game with some uppercuts, but it’s just a matter of time before Fale caught him with a Grenade for the win. Another basic outing, but with so many wins over the War Machine (and friend) team, I’m wondering if they’ll actually end up retaining those tag titles at Dominion… **¾
Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo
Okada didn’t have his Tekken mask with him this time, and it’s pretty clear which big match this is a preview for.
Yep, I can’t wait for Gedo vs. Yujiro!
We actually open with Yujiro and Okada, but it’s Okada who of course takes the upper hand as Omega thought it’d be best to watch from the arena floor instead of on the apron. Some underhanded tactics see Gedo grabbed by the beard as Omega finally enters the fray for a brief moment. The tables turn when Gedo tags out to Okada, and yes, we get a sequence between Omega and Okada – crisp and swift as ever, including a nice bit where Omega escaped a neckbreaker slam, only to fall into an STF.
Omega hits back with a snapping ‘rana before landing a Kotaro Krusher that helped Yujiro land a near-fall. Gedo comes back with a superkick for a near-fall as Okada unusually restrains Omega on the outside, but in the end it’s Omega who’s doing the restraining as Gedo fell to a Pimp Juice short DDT as the Bullet Club took home the win. A decent, albeit unremarkable outing, but that’s okay since this was really just window dressing ahead of the block finals! **¾
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Taichi vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
This is Liger’s final Best of Super Junior match, and after a disappointing tournament, I wouldn’t be shocked if he went out on a loss. As always, Liger was beloved, but he got attacked before the bell as Taichi used his mic stand… whilst Desperado and Kanemaru had their shots too.
Taichi gets the mic and I guess mocked Liger, saying that he’d retire him tonight. More Suzuki-gun beating followed as Taichi threw him into the ringpost, before mockingly stomping on Liger’s back. That might not be such a good idea…
They headed outside again where Taichi choked Liger with a camera cable, then into the crowd were Liger got thrown into some of the floor seats. That gave us a tease of a count-out loss, but Liger managed to get back in at the count of 19, just in time for Taichi to show that he can’t use a hammer. Taichi then tried to unmask Liger, to no avail, before Liger missed a Shotei in the corner as it looked like Taichi would be en route to victory. A superkick almost gets Taichi the win, but Liger mounted a comeback from there, connecting with a Shotei, before taking out the referee with a second… and there’s the cue for yet more Suzuki-gun mugging.
Yet again, Taichi tried to remove Liger’s mask, and ended up ripping the mouth out of it as the referee finally got back into the ring… so Taichi throws Liger into him for another ref bump. More mugging, and now Taichi produces some scissors to start cutting off Liger’s horns… and body suit.
Bloody hell, Liger’s actually in really good shape for someone in his 50s…
Finally some help comes from the back in the form of KUSHIDA and Ryusuke Taguchi, but Taichi’d gone to get a chair… which Liger Koppo kicked into him before connecting with a Shotei and a powerbomb! One brainbuster later, and Liger did it! He ended with a win, and although the match was riddled with run-ins, this was a hell of a story as the legend went out with a win. ***
That win, of course, eliminates Taichi thanks to the Takahashi/Ospreay main event guaranteeing that someone’ll end up on more than 8 points.
After the match Liger got the microphone and (thanks again to Chris Charlton for the gist) told the crowd that the tournament would be hotter without him next year, and after thanking Taguchi and KUSHIDA for helping him get the win, mentioned he’d be watching from the commentary table, wanting the next generation to get him excited.
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Dragon Lee
Everyone shakes referee Red Shoes’ hand, but that just suckered Dragon Lee into getting poked in the eye as TAKA took him to the outside and as far away from the ring as possible so he could try and get a count-out win.
Dragon Lee barely beat the count though, and slid back into a Bully Choke before TAKA tried to rake the eyes through his mask. Lee rebounds by chasing TAKA to the outside… just to throw him back in, where he’s caught as TAKA kicked the rope into Dragon as he re-entered the ring. Yeah, it’s underhanded, but it works. Even if TAKA’s looking to try and not finish joint bottom now!
A tope sent TAKA into the front row as Dragon Lee turned things back around, trading knees in the corner until landing a wheelbarrow roll-up for a near-fall before going to an armbar. That’s switched up into a crossface, then a grounded Octopus, but TAKA holds on and rolls into the ropes to force a break.
TAKA avoids a double stomp, but had no answer as he was dropkicked in the corner, before he scored with an eye poke and a superkick to get him close to a win. A La Magistral got another near-fall, but Dragon Lee quickly turned things back around again, only to fall into a Michinoku Driver as TAKA picked up the shock win. Yes, TAKA’s not finishing bottom, and Dragon Lee’s not making the finals! ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Marty Scurll vs. Ricochet
I feel like a broken record here, but Marty had a really good match against Ricochet for OTT last December in Belfast – and I’m expecting nothing less here!
Marty jumped Ricochet at the bell, perhaps enraged that all he can do here is play spoiler… however, Ricochet dropkicked Scurll to the outside and flew into him with a tope and a Fosbury flop to knock down the Villain.
A springboard into the ring ended badly as Ricochet fell into a Chicken Wing, but he was able to make the ropes as Scurll was forced to change plans. We get a taste of Marty trolling the crowd by faking out throwing Ricochet into their seats, before pulling Ricochet into a Romero special in a bid to force a submission. When that didn’t work, Marty went all out with chops, before eventually taking a 619 in the corner as Ricochet snapped into life!
The comeback continued with a neckbreaker and a standing shooting star press as Ricochet looked to have some say in who made the finals… only to fall to the Just Kidding superkick! Ricochet flipped up into a superkick as they went back and forth, ultimately taking an over-the-knee brainbuster as Scurll almost eked out the win. Scurll took too long calling for a chicken wing and almost fell into a Benadryller, before Ricochet flipped over another Just Kidding superkick and rolloed up with a roundhouse kick to leave both men laying!
Ricochet looked for the uranage flatliner, but instead has to counter into a Northern Lights suplex… which Scurll countered on impact and rolled through nicely into a chicken wing, only for Ricochet to pull off the suplex/brainbuster combo for a near-fall. Unfortunately, Ricochet crashed and burned from a shooting star press, and quickly took a short piledriver for a near-fall as Scurll looked to be on the ascendancy, hitting a second piledriver before deciding to just snap the fingers anyway.
Somehow Ricochet blocked a superkick and responded in kind, before Scurll countered a Galleria into another chicken wing, which Ricochet then looked to counter into a Benadryller… but an eye rake gets that free. The end came not long after when Ricochet got an O’Connor roll, only for Marty to kick-out and flip Ricochet into another chicken wing, forcing the eventual submission! Absolutely wonderful stuff, and a great way for Marty to close out his BOSJ debut – firmly putting him right in the discussion (if he weren’t already) for best foreigner in this tournament! ****¼
Hey, what do you know? It all comes down to the final… winner takes it all!
Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi
After winning it last year, Ospreay’s looking to join an elite group of folks who’ve made it to the finals two years in a row. All he needs to do is beat a man he’s never squared off against until today.
They start off all guns blazing as Ospreay tries to put his foot through Hiromu before launching himself into a tope on the outside. The front row gets some use again, as Takahashi’s sat down there as Ospreay launched himself with a Shibata-esque dropkick as he then just sat down and waited for his foe to recover.
Things quickly swing the other way as Ospreay’s forced to abort a dive, and instantly took a sunset bomb to the floor. Ospreay’s able to beat the count-out though, and returns to take a clothesline in the corner as Takahashi tries to end things quickly, landing a back suplex for just a one-count. Some vicious offence followed as Ospreay had the rope kicked into his throat, then his knee dropkicked away as Takahashi tried to make sure he couldn’t either breathe or stand up, which is a decent way to prevent a flyer from getting any offence in!
A Dragon screw continues to keep Ospreay down, as does a modified figure four, and whilst that did weaken Will’s knee, he’s still able to fire back with a handspring overhead kick to knock Takahashi down. Another Shibata dropkick follows for a near-fall as Ospreay started to feel that knee, before a pop-up powerbomb and a Falcon arrow put the champion right back in it.
Ospreay nearly takes the loss after a wheelbarrow driver off the top rope, but he’s able to shove out of a Time Bomb and set up Takahashi for a Cheeky Nando’s. An OsCutter’s blocked in the ropes as Takahashi instead drops Will with a pair of German suplexes for a near-fall, before the pair headed to the apron for back-and-forth forearms which segued into another Sunset Bomb attempt. Except this time Ospreay freed himself and just booted Takahashi off the apron.
A shooting star press off the apron leaves both men laying, before Ospreay tried for a corkscrew star press back inside, but that crashed and burns into Takahashi’s knees for a near-fall. Still, Ospreay’s able to escape a Time Bomb and land a Essex Destroyer DDT before an imploding 450 almost earned him the win! Where that failed, an OsCutter seconds later did not, and Will Ospreay is going back to the finals! ****¼
What a main event – and given that it’s a win over the champion, I fully expect to see a re-do of this match at some point in the not too distant future… with the gold on the line!
Block A Final: Will Ospreay (5-2; 10pts); Dragon Lee, Marty Scurll, Ricochet, Taichi, Hiromu Takahashi (4-3, 8pts); TAKA Michinoku (2-5, 4pts); Jushin “Thunder” Liger (1-6, 2pts)
Block B: ACH, BUSHI, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi, Volador Jr. (3-3, 6pts)
An underwhelming first half was more than made up for with the final block A matches, with Liger, Scurll and Ospreay having memorable finales. So… who will Will Ospreay face on Saturday? We’ll find out tomorrow as all eight men in block B remain open – but given how block A played out, it could well create a big queue for Hiromu Takahashi, as he now has three ready-made challengers for his IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship after taking losses against Ospreay, Dragon Lee and Ricochet.