NJPW – Best of the Super Junior 24 – Night Two Review – May 18, 2017

After an outstanding opening night, we’re back at Korakuen Hall for the second day of Best of the Super Junior action, with Block A taking centre stage… and a hotly-anticipated rematch between Will Ospreay and Ricochet.

356 days after their show-stealing outing here in last year’s Best of the Super Junior tournament, they had a chance to recapture lightning in a bottle – after several other promotions have tried to do the same! It’s a show of two halves, with the first half being your usual array of tag matches – with a slight change to the undercard as Hiroshi Tanahashi’s bicep injury forced him off the tour – before the second half brings us the four block matches.

Katsuya Kitamura, Shota Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Tiger Mask, Hirai Kawato & Tomoyuki Oka
I believe this was Tetsuhiro Yagi’s Korakuen Hall debut – he’d only just debuted on one of the Lion’s Gate Project shows this month, after all!

Tiger Mask gets cornered early as Yagi, Umino and Kitamura go to work on the veteran, with Kitamura landing a clothesline for an early near-fall. There’s a quick response from Tiger Mask, who kicked and slapped his way back into it, before bringing Oka into the match to try and get a pin with a bodyslam on Kitamura. I love the sheer optimism of these Young Lions in thinking they can win with a bodyslam!

Kitamura reverses a suplex and manages to get a tag out to Yagi, who succeeds with a hiptoss… for another near-fall. Oka responds with a belly to belly, then brings in Kawato to try for some near-falls with roll-ups, before Yagi almost takes off his head with a dropkick! Umino goes in next to try and slam his way to victory, before the ring filled up. Kawato lands a dropkick as he then turned over Yagi for a Boston crab, before the ring fills and clears to leave Yagi on his lonesome. From there, Oka slammed Yagi ahead of another Kawato Boston crab, and that was enough for the submission. A fun match, but Tiger Mask barely did anything, which is a worrying sign given that he’s in a tournament that’s only just started! **¼

Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Volador Jr. & ACH
Our only “pure” match between block B competitors sees Suzuki-gun come out with… a bottle of tequila?! That’s not casually racist at all!

We start with Volador and Desperado – the former tripping as he does a handspring off the ropes before Kanemaru and Desperado double team him. Volador replies with a pop-up dropkick and some headscissors, before Kanemaru tripped him en route to a dive and throws the luchador into the ringpost. ACH gets involved as Desperado throws him into some seats, before we get a weird weapon as Milano Collection AT’s iPhone is used to knock down Volador.

ACH finally comes in and backdrops Kanemaru onto the apron as he set up for a springboard leg lariat and a pair of topes! The Jushin “Thunder” Liger fan directs traffic as ACH springboards into the ring with a cutter for a near-fall, before distracting the referee to chop Kanemaru in the balls. Volador returns with a springboard dropkick as they worked over Desperado, landing a double stomp to the back for a near-fall, before ACH is left in there with the masked one, scoring with a clothesline for a two-count. In the end though, a cheapshot gets Suzuki-gun the win as Desperado grabs the ref, allowing Kanemaru to use what I think was the tequila, as a cradle keeps ACH down for the pin. Eh, it was a match – nothing too bad, but nothing that excited me either. **½

Bullet Club (Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) & David Finlay
War Machine have new music, replacing their old ROH song (you know the one, the song that started with “I want to believe…”). This one sounds a LOT like the knock-off music that Bully Ray used in TNA and WCPW. Speaking of knock-offs, David Finlay’s got lines painted across his eye like War Machine, and they jump start the match as Hanson and Rowe go after the Guerillas.

Our first impressive spot sees Rowe charge Hanson into the corner to flatten the Guerrillas, as they went for Fall Out early on Tama Tonga, only for Yujiro to make the save. From there, Rowe gets isolated as the Bullet Club cycle around their corner, stomping and choking on him, at least until Yujiro decided to pull on Rowe’s beard and took a series of elbows as punishment.

Hanson gets tagged in and he goes to work on the Guerillas, booting them into the corners for his daily cardio – those corner-to-corner lariats! An avalanche follows, before he cartwheels away from one clothesline and falls into another as the Guerillas tried to take over, but were thwarted as we got tags back out to Finlay and Yujiro.

A spear from Tama Tonga puts Finlay on the back foot, but he’s able to escape an avalanche as War Machine returned to take out Tanga Loa with a knee, before a tope from Hanson wiped out everyone but Tama Tonga. Finlay looked to keep up the pressure with a diving uppercut, but Tonga caught it and turned it into a Gun Stun for the win. That was pretty much an out-of-nowhere finish (quite apt), but this was another match that was “just there” for me. **½

Satoshi Kojima, Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi & KUSHIDA vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
Kojima was filling in for the injured Hiroshi Tanahashi here, to a good reaction. What also got a reaction was Juice’s dreadlocks, which he whipped into KUSHIDA’s eyes… be careful there Juice! Speaking of damage, Naito threw his belt around again, this time launching it into the ring steps as he seemed to be hell bent on destroying it.

The Ingobernables jumpstart the match as Taguchi led a “team talk”, and it’s straight outside as Naito again pulled on Robinson in the ropes using his dreadlocks. Juice comes back with a crossbody to take down EVIL and Naito, before scoring with a backbreaker and legsweep combo to keep the Intercontinental champion on the back foot.

A series of hip attacks keep Naito down as Taguchi tags in, and then we start the charges into the corner as Taguchi prepped to have a champion whipped into his rear end. That didn’t go quite the way they planned, before SANADA dropkicks him away and we have a spot of brawling, ending with BUSHI holding Taguchi in place for a curb stomp.

Taguchi resists, then ends up being tied in a ball in the ropes as the Ingobernables look to pick off their opponents one by one, but Taguchi tries to fight back, only to take an atomic drop as he went for a hip attack. Finally we get Kojima in to launch into SANADA, then EVIL with the machine gun chops, but SANADA kicks the rope into him as he looked to climb the ropes.

Kojima Dragon screws his way back into it before playing a little bit of air guitar, before he’s superkicked to the mat by EVIL. A missile dropkick from BUSHI keeps Kojima down, before KUSHIDA goes to work on the arm, only to take a Codebreaker as the ring filled again. Regardless, KUSHIDA was able to apply an armbar, but that sparked a parade of big moves, ending with Naito’s tornado DDT to Robinson and a handspring back elbow from KUSHIDA – just moments before he fell to a bridging backslide as BUSHI ensured that KUSHIDA’s losing run continued. A decent Ingobernables tag, but these are going to feel pointless during the BOSJ tournament aren’t they? ***½

After the match, Naito went after his title belt again – and threw it into the ringpost with such force it actually bent one of the plates. Fortunately though, that was nothing that some of the Young Lions couldn’t fix with the bell hammer…

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Taichi
We’re starting off the second round of BOSJ action with a Suzuki-gun war! TAKA and Taichi have Desperado and Kanemaru in their corners respectively, and I’m expecting shenanigans… The bell goes and of course they’re reluctant to face-off. So we get a lot of staring, and teasing of locking-up, with both men getting something out of nothing. They swing and miss with kicks and dropkicks, and I swear they’ve read that Rip Rogers tweet and are trying to troll…

Both men powder to the outside separately, before TAKA kicked the rope into Taichi as he came in for our first real bit of action. The favour’s returned, as Taichi then goes to do a Toru Yano by undoing the turnbuckle padding and goading TAKA into shoulder charging the ringpost. A missed superkick from Taichi looks to tweak his own knee, but TAKA can tell it’s a ruse… but he still gets suckered in as Taichi kicks him low then scores with a Gedo clutch for the pin. I… don’t know how to rate that. They got a LOT out of absolutely nothing, but it was fun to watch, I guess…

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Marty Scurll vs. Dragon Lee
In only his second match for New Japan, Marty’s over like a God at Korakuen Hall. Both of these men came in with 1-0 records after wins over Will Ospreay and Hiromu Takahashi respectively on night one, so something’s got to give early!

They start on the mat as Marty tries to work over Dragon Lee’s legs, only to get taken down with an armdrag as Dragon mocked the chicken pose en route to a stand-off. From there they go to shoulder tackles, with neither man budging, before Marty avoids a sunset flip and keeps wobbling as he moves to the chicken pose and another stomp to the arm. The action spilled to the outside where Marty parades Dragon Lee for some fans, and I must say, Tokyo is loving this Villain.

Back in the ring, Marty uses the tassles on Dragon Lee’s mask to tie him into the ropes for some punches, then some chops, before he runs into a snapping German suplex off the ropes. The idea of going to the outside for cover was a bad one too, as Marty fell to a tope con hilo, before returning to the ring to trade forearms and then take down the Dragon with the “Just Kidding” superkick.

A lariat knocks Dragon Lee down once more, as does an uppercut, but the luchador responds with a snap suplex into the corner for a diving dropkick. Marty counters a double stomp with a spider belly-to-belly suplex and a couple of superkicks for a near-fall, before he manages to counter the Desnucadora suplex/powerbomb with the finger snaps! Lee blocks a chicken wing, only to fall into a spinning over-the-knee brainbuster for a two-count.

The back and forth continues with Marty kicking out of a standing Spanish fly, before he grabs Dragon’s nose to restrain him on the top rope… but a superplex is thwarted as Lee punches him back, only to get the other hand snapped. Dragon Lee headbutts back though, then flies in with a double stomp off the top, and that is how you win a match with two snapped fingers! Pretty decent for a first time outing, but this felt like it was missing something special. ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Hiromu Takahashi
This was potentially Jushin Liger’s final BOSJ match in Korakuen Hall, and it was perhaps his biggest test on paper in the whole block.

Liger tried to snatch the win early with a Shotei, before throwing himself into Takahashi with a cannonball off the apron, before drilling Hiromu with a brainbuster in the aisle. Rather than take a count-out though, Liger rolls Takahashi back inside and chops him back to the mat, but almost gets caught with a sunset bomb as Hiromu decides to save his life and just powerbomb the veteran on the apron.

A diving dropkick off the apron knocked Liger down again, but by this point he’d already passed the KUSHIDA mark for having a short match. Takahashi tried to pull off Liger’s mask, as he’s want to do, before raking the mesh-covered eyes on said mask, as Liger managed to get enough separation to hit a tiltawhirl backbreaker.

Takahashi nearly grabbed the win with a slow-mo ‘rana, before falling into a Liger Bomb for a near-fall. He replied with a German suplex that Liger stood straight back up from, before trying his luck with clotheslines – and falling as Liger landed a second brainbuster… but Hiromu again kicked out just before three!

Liger set himself up for a Shotei, but it’s ducked as Takahashi instead hit a Time Bomb for the win. Pretty good given the obvious limitations of Liger at this stage of the game – they teased, but save for an apron powerbomb, didn’t do anything overly wild, which is pretty much what we’re expecting here. ***½

After the match Liger cut a promo… thanks to Chris Charlton for translating the gist: he acknowledged this was likely his last BOSJ match in Korakuen Hall, but Liger vowed to win the rest of his matches, before doing a double-take with his cosplaying fan in the front row.

Best of the Super Junior 24, Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet
Given the hype from last year’s match, this has a very high bar! Especially when you add in that Ricochet was looking to get a win that could harm Ospreay’s chances of winning a second straight BOSJ.

From the opening lock-up, Ospreay takes Ricochet into the corner before they work over with headlocks and wristlock reversals. After a stand-off, they go back to it at a higher pace, with both men leaping over each other and using the ropes for rebounds, before a pair of handsprings off the ropes led to another stand-off with the crowd going wild.

Same, same, but different, as they say – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing with these two!

They go into a brief strike exchange as I swear they’ve done a Rip Rogers, before collapsing from those forearms, and then again from a pair of running big boots. Some back-and-forth chops slow the pace down a bit, but it’s a matter of when, not if, this leaps into a higher gear – and we get a hint of that when Ricochet catches a leapfrog and turns it into a backbreaker.

In the middle of this, Milano (I assume) loudly says “fucking hell” on commentary, which is always odd to hear… Ricochet pancakes Ospreay from the bow and arrow stretch for a near-fall, before chopping and stretching Will some more, rolling him upside down into a stretch that looked like you’d pressed pause on impact from an old-school shoulderbreaker.

After fighting out of a grounded Octopus, Ospreay tried for a handspring overhead kick, only to be dropkicked in mid-flight, before he avoids a PK from a sunset flip as he finally landed that handspring overhead kick at the second attempt. Ospreay keeps up the pressure with a diving dropkick into the corner, before kicking away at Ricochet’s chest to send him back into the corner… only to run into a side elbow and eventually take a corner 619.

Ospreay blocks a Benadryller and comes back with a massive satellite DDT for a near-fall as they tease the incredible, before Ricochet shoved him to the outside during a springboard for an OsCutter. Will drags Ricochet outside with a headscissor takedown from the apron, then connects with a Sasuke Special before rolling him back inside for a running shooting star press and a spiral tap for another near-fall.

Another Benadryller is missed as Ospreay ends up being hotshotted into a leaping neckbreaker, before Ricochet’s roll-up into a suplex is turned into a Stundog Millionaire. Ricochet popped up though and just blasted Will on the top of the head with an axe kick, before the lifting reverse DDT – or the Galleria – gets a near-fall for Ricochet, who tried to follow up by going airborne, only to be caught by a slap from Will, as the pair slugged it out on the top rope… as Ospreay ended up skinning the cat and leaping into a knee strike so he could take Ricochet down with a top rope ‘rana…

Except Ricochet flipped so much he landed on his feet with the greatest of ease.

Ricochet slipped as he went for a super reverse ‘rana, but this time Ospreay landed on his feet, and now we’re into the showy stuff, as they trade knees and kicks before Will connected with a reverse ‘rana, only to get dumped with a release German suplex! We get more strikes, until a clothesline flipped Will inside out… where his choice to roll outside proved to be for the worst as he avoided a couple of flips, before attempting a death valley driver on the apron and eventually taking Ricochet’s rolling Northern Lights suplex. ON THE APRON.

My back hurt just watching that…

Ricochet pulled off Ospreay’s own Revolution kick and OsCutter for a near-fall, before heading up top for a shooting star press that he just aborted at the last moment, en route to a Benadryller that was caught and met with a roundhouse kick! It was Will’s turn to ape moves as he hits a Benadryller for a near-fall, before he gets crotched on the top rope, leaving both men down near the corner.

Ospreay grabs Ricochet on the apron and connects with a Cheeky Nandos, before he flew back in for a springboard Dragonrana – but somehow Ricochet kicked out from that flippy goodness! Some more kicks from Ospreay lead to another Revolution kick, then an OsCutter, and that’s all! A really good main event, but lacking the shock factor of last year’s outing – which isn’t a bad thing in any sense. I liked that they didn’t just serve up a straight repeat of last year’s match and threw in plenty of twists, including them aping each other’s signature moves, although I’d much have preferred that the Dragonrana have been the finish, rather than go a few seconds longer to get the designated finisher in. ****¼

After the match, Ospreay took the microphone for the obligatory post-show promo, declaring Ricochet his worst enemy and his best friend all in one. Will gave the “wrestling is an artform” speech, before vowing to make the finals and become a back-to-back BOSJ champion… but not before saying he’d go for a House of Horrors match with Randy Orton. That… may be quite the sight!

Block A: Dragon Lee (2-0); Hiromu Takahashi, Marty Scurll, Ricochet, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, Will Ospreay (1-1); Jushin “Thunder” Liger (0-2)
Block B: ACH, El Desperado, Ryusuke Taguchi & Volador Jr. (1-0); BUSHI, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0-1)

This show was never going to be able to hold a candle compared to what we saw on night one… but there wasn’t anything awful on here, and all of the tournament matches delivered – and there’s not much more you can ask for on a long tournament tour!