After a day off, the Best of the Super Junior resumed in the city of Otsu, as block A took centre stage.

It’s another VOD-only show, so prepare for fixed cameras and maybe a roving camera if they turn it on in time!

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block A: BUSHI vs. Tiger Mask
BUSHI, who came into this 0 for 2, jumped Tiger Mask before the bell, dropkicking him off the top rope during his entrance.

A tope suicida followed as the bell went anyway, with the mobile camera on the flow showing us that the Urakuchan Arena had plenty of empty seats in the upper deck. Still on the outside, BUSHI jabs a chair into Tiger Mask’s throat, before they all went into the ring for more of the same. Tiger Mask got free and started to deck BUSHI with some right hands, only for BUSHI to return with a neckbreaker as he started to go after the mask. Some headscissors followed on the mat, but Tiger Mask is able to get a break in the ropes… so BUSHI takes off his t-shirt and chokes him with it until the referee disarmed him.

BUSHI’s back to the mask, and shoves down the referee as he unlaced and tried to reveal Tiger Mask’s true identity, before draping him across the top rope and connecting with a dropkick for a two-count. A STF forces Tiger Mask to drag himself towards the ropes for another break, and from there Tiger manages to make something of a comeback, trapping BUSHI in a key lock, before switching to a scissored armbar.

After getting to the ropes himself, BUSHI’s back in with an enziguiri and leaping knees in the corner, before a missile dropkick finally knocked down the veteran. The swinging Fisherman’s neckbreaker’s enough for a two-count, before Tiger Mask popped up to block BUSHI on the top rope, going for a butterfly superplex before getting crotched on the ropes.

Tiger Mask returned the favour, crotching BUSHI and shoving him down, before missing a swandive headbutt as both men were left on the canvas. BUSHI’s up second, but he’s able to land a lungblower for a near-fall, before his ‘rana’s turned into a powerbomb as a Tiger Driver picked up another near-fall as the momentum began to swing once more. From there, Tiger struggles to put BUSHI on the top rope as he looked to finish things off, finally connecting with a butterfly superplex, then a Tiger suplex for the win. This was fine, but felt distinctly flat compared to other tournament matches. It was exactly what you’d expect out of Tiger Mask in 2018. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block A: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. ACH
After ACH’s relatively short involvement in their warm-up tag on night four of the tour, I was expecting this to be brief… but that was not to be the case.

You’ll be stunned to learn that Kanemaru jumped ACH in the aisle, throwing him into the ring post before putting the boots to ACH by ringside. When they hit the ring, ACH fought back with forearms, before crumbling to the mat as he tried to cartwheel by Kanemaru, as we saw even more tape on ACH, with his thighs and shoulders covered in the stuff. The match headed back outside as Kanemaru throws ACH into the crowd – all of this off-camera – before ACH’s shoulder gets worked over again back inside, as that adhesive was becoming a clear bullseye that Kanemaru took great pleasure in targeting.

A hammerlock of all things forced ACH into a pinning predicament, before the AAW champ was able to wriggle into the ropes for a break. Some eye raking followed as Kanemaru keeps ACH on the mat, using an armbar to force him to the outside… and you know what we’re back to. The ring visibly shook when ACH was thrown into it shoulder-first, and it almost led to the count-out as he had to leap in at the last possible moment to keep the match alive.

With his good arm, ACH began to chop Kanemaru, before sidestepping a low dropkick to splash the Suzuki-gun member… but it was ill advised as the impact jarred his shoulder and left both men writhing on the mat. ACH is back up for more chops though, putting Kanemaru right back down, before sidestepping another low dropkick to hit Kanemaru with one of his own. A bridging German doesn’t come close as ACH’s shoulder was too weak, and Kanemaru’s right back in it with a tornado DDT for a near-fall, before an attempt at a flying DDT is caught and countered into a release Northern lights. Despite throwing a lariat with his bad arm, ACH is able to knock down Kanemaru for another near-fall, before getting thrown into the middle rope as Kanemaru got back to his feet.

ACH blocks Kanemaru with a forearm and slingshots back into the ring with a cutter for a near-fall, before ripping off his tape and lifting Kanemaru up to the top rope. It was a bad ideas a Kanemaru kicks ACH away, before he’s caught with a nice springboard overhead kick in the corner that cracked throughout the arena as only a rope break denied ACH the win.

From there, ACH heads up top, but his 450 splash sees him crash and burn as Kanemaru slyly rolled into the corner for his bottle of whisky, and after shoving the referee aside, he sprays it in ACH’s eyes before landing a brainbuster for another two-count. ACH is still unsighted though, and he can’t see the Deep Impact DDT coming as Kanemaru claimed his first win of the tournament. Decent match, with ACH’s taped-up shoulder and knees again playing a part – that’ll be the ongoing story of his tournament, and could well see him near the bottom of the block by the time we’re done in June. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. Flip Gordon
Coming into this with two wins so far, Ishimori had been solidifying him as the block favourite… can Flip upset him?

He started by taking Ishimori into the corner, before backflipping away in a clean break. Ishimori did the same, but instead of flipping, he just cheapshotted Gordon, who returned the favour in a rather fraught opening spell that quickly broke down into a battle of elbow shots. A dropkick takes Ishimori to the outside, where he’s eventually hit with a back kick off the apron as Flip flew with an Orihara moonsault off the top rope.

Back inside, Gordon gets a near-fall from that moonsault, before Ishimori uses some trickery around the ropes before flying in with a seated splash to turn things around. A simple cravat keeps Flip at bay, before a snapmare and a Zack Sabre Jr-esque neck snap left Gordon in pain as the new Bone Soldier drew a near-fall. We’re back to the cravat, with Ishimori rolling Gordon to the mat in the hold, before getting free and sending Ishimori sailing to the outside with a dropkick.

A wild tope was next from Flip, as he crashed into Ishimori, before taking him back inside for a springboard Blockbuster out of the corner for a near-fall. Things swing back around quickly as Flip’s caught in the ropes for the baseball slide German suplex, as Ishimori followed up with a rolling German suplex and a PK for a near-fall. Gordon resists any more, and returns fire with a spin-out Falcon arrow as you sensed the end was in sight… but the springboard 450’s aborted as Gordon instead comes back with the reverse Finlay roll.

Gordon misses a standing shooting star press and gets pulled into a crossface as Ishimori looked for the submission… but instead Gordon stands up and bucklebombed Ishimori, following up with a springboard back leg kick to take the new Boner down, and then head back up top for a 450 that saw him land squarely in Ishimori’s knees. Taiji looked for the Bloody Cross, but Gordon flips out and took Ishimori into the ropes for an O’Connor roll – and there’s your upset! A surprise victory for Gordon in a match that never really threatened to break into that proverbial upper gear. Solid, but not spectacular – pretty much what you’d expect on a spot show. ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block A: YOH vs. Will Ospreay
An all-CHAOS match, with both men coming in on a 1-1 record – so unless we have a draw, we’ll be ending with a three-way tie for second place behind Tiger Mask.

Ospreay and YOH shake hands, but YOH kisses it for the sake of… and it seems like he’s got quite a following in Otsu. Either that or Roy Johnson’s fan club found their way there. YOH takes Ospreay into the ropes as he broke… almost like Tetsuya Naito, by putting his head into Ospready’s chest before rolling back. A few have commented that YOH’s bearing a few of the hallmarks of a “Naito tribute act”, and stuff like this is only highlighting that further…

They keep it simple in the early stages, with YOH and Ospreay trading leapfrogs, then armdrags before the standard indy dropkick stand-off had a twist, as YOH kept going and connects with Ospreay anyway. Having learned from everyone else, YOH began to put the boots to Ospreay, but Will comes back with an enziguiri and an over-the-top 619 before resting in the ropes (literally) as YOH shook it off.

Ospreay retained control from there, dumping YOH with a backbreaker for a near-fall, before pulling him into an armbar… but they were too close to the ropes and a rope break was inevitable. YOH quickly returned fire with a gamengiri off the apron and a slingshot into a double stomp as the match remained delicately poised, with YOH tripping Ospreay into the ropes for a kick on the apron coming next as the Roppongi 3K member seemed to be getting the upper hand.

Just like that though, Ospreay thought he’d snuffed things out with an O’Connor roll, only for YOH to kick out and go straight to a Dragon sleeper, but again it ends in the ropes as Ospreay clung on to avoid any further punishment. That didn’t work as YOH keeps targeting his neck with forearms, before the eventual whip led to a handspring enziguiri as YOH was taken outside for a Sasuke Special!

Back inside, a springboard forearm gets Ospreay a near-fall, before he teases a Storm Breaker, only for YOH to escape as Ospreay instead kicks him to the outside. A quick spot of cat skinning gets YOH back into the ring as that breathless series ended with the pair superkicking each other to the mat, before they resume an exchange of elbow strikes. Those elbows wore down Ospreay’s neck enough to the point where just running the ropes was a chore, allowing YOH a way back into the match… Except Ospreay elbows out of a Dragon suplex attempt before turning a vertical suplex into a Stundog Millionaire. The revolution kick followed, as did an OsCutter attempt, but YOH blocks it and turned it into the Final Cut for a near-fall. Going up top yielded nothing for YOH as Ospreay fights back, only to get dumped with an awkward snap superplex and a Falcon arrow for a near-fall. YOH goes back to the Dragon suplex, but Ospreay grabs the ropes… and gets whacked anyway before a take on the O’Connor roll got Ospreay another near-fall.

YOH shrugs off a hook kick to lariat Ospreay back down to the mat, but when they’re back to their feet Will catches him with a standing Spanish fly as those two-counts rack up… and it’s straight to the Storm Breaker as Ospreay picked up the win. A fun match, a lot better than their flashes in the tag tag outing suggested, but again, this felt like a preview of a much bigger match that they have in them for when it’s not just “a stop on a tour”. ***¾

Block A:
Tiger Mask (3-0)
Flip Gordon, Taiji Ishimori, Will Ospreay (2-1)
ACH, YOH, Yoshinobu Kanemaru (1-2)
BUSHI (0-3)

Block B:
Dragon Lee (2-0)
El Desperado, Chris Sabin, KUSHIDA, SHO, Hiromu Takahashi (1-1)
Marty Scurll, Ryusuke Taguchi (0-2)

All in all, the fifth round of the Best of the Super Junior tour was fun but unspectacular. Tiger Mask continues to confound at the top of the block, but with Flip Gordon, Taiji Ishimori and Will Ospreay nipping at the veteran’s heels, you get the sense that lead may not last.

We’re still in with the VODs – Friday saw block B take stage in Osaka, with Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi almost surely stealing the show, while block A returns on Saturday in Aichi, with Will Ospreay vs. BUSHI headlining. As ever, those matches will be posted on NJPW World about a day later…