Don’t blink! Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi renewed their rivalry as the latest round of the Best of the Super Junior came to Osaka.
Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: Marty Scurll vs. Chris Sabin
Sabin starts on offence as the pair exchange wristlocks and takedowns until Marty’s World of Sport style series led to a few indy’riffic pinning attempts as a series of rolling crucifixes garnered a near-fall – and an an appreciative Osaka crowd.
They catch each other’s kicks as we’re firmly into comedic territory here, with them both outsmarting the other. Eventually the ref takes custody of their kicks and we have another stand-off! Scurll took advantage of Sabin saking the ref’s hand, but that’s just the cue for the match to start proper, with Sabin quickly scurrying into the ropes as Marty teased a Romero special. The WOS-style stuff continued with a Jim Breaks-like arm lift to Sabin, before an armbreaker turned into a judo-style throw… but Scurll was a little too methodical, as he leapt into the boots of Sabin, who snapped back into life with a DDT. Out of the corner a sunset flip gets Sabin a near-fall, as we get normal and inverted atomic drops ahead of another cradle pin, with Sabinb starting to take control.
A big PK from Sabin stops Marty’s roll-ups, as a brainbuster followed… again for a near-fall. Marty tried a comeback, and after his Just Kidding superkick was finally blocked, he ducks an enziguiri and hauls up Sabin into the Romero special before stomping on the knees. The Ghostbuster 2.0 follows, as the pumphandle, onto-the-knee brainbuster earned the Villain a near-fall of his own, as he began to take the upper hand. Lifting Sabin up top for a gamengiiri was all we got as Sabin shoves him down and into a Tree of Woe for a hanging dropkick.
Marty rolls outside for respite, but he’s met with an apron PK before a second one is countered with a leg sweep and an apron superkick… Sabin’s hot from that one, and starts exchanging forearms on the apron before he shoved Marty off into the ring post, and then followed through with a cannonball off the apron. Back inside, Sabin hits a tornado rope-hung neckbreaker (don’t ask) for a two-count, before an attempt at Cradle Shock was blocked when Scurll went for his fingers.
Sabin fought free, but falls to a Just Kidding superkick, then hits one of his own as Marty recoiled off the ropes with a lariat. A Future Shock’s blocked as Scurll takes him down into a Fujiwara armbar, before floating over and rolling back to their feet so he could try a chicken wing, which he can’t fully get on, allowing Sabin to get free and nearly stack him up with a cross-armed roll-up.
Marty kicked out from that as the pair exchanged more strikes, before a lifting reverse suplex out of nowhere dumped Sabin on his head for the win. This started out almost a little *too* cute for my liking, but the longer the match wore on, the more it picked up. Both men move to 1-2 records. ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. KUSHIDA
Going into this at the bottom of the block, Ryusuke Taguchi had it all to do to avoid being left stranded. Hey, why is this video so short…
From the off, the pair scramble for a waistlock on the mat before they hit stalemate, and it’s a lot of the same – looking for a hold, with KUSHIDA trying to confuse Taguchi before he showed off leapfrogs, cartwheels and duelling hip attacks! Eventually one of those gave way to a cross armbeaker which Taguchi rolled out of, before cradling KUSHIDA’s leaping DDT attempt for the flash win! Hey, in a year where almost all of the tournament matches have gone above 10 minutes, I am not going to complain about a flash win like this. Sure, it sucks for KUSHIDA, especially as he’s now part of that logjam at the bottom of the table, but you need the odd short win to keep the fans believing that matches can end at any moment.
Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: El Desperado vs. SHO
Something something, you’ll be shocked Desperado jumped the bell.
A missed dropkick from SHO ended his brief fightback, as Despy uses SHO’s shirt against him, before taking the fight into the corners… and to the outside, as Desperado then charges SHO into the crowd. A chair’s smashed onto SHO’s knee, as he’s left laying in the crowd, leading to the inevitable count-out tease.
Back in the ring, Desperado keeps putting the boots to SHO, again targeting the knee, and even kicking it away as SHO found himself on the mat more often than not. A big splash to the knee’s good for a near-fall, as Despy keeps up on the joint by wrapping SHO’s knee into the ropes. It’s very focused stuff on the same body part, but SHO holds firm and grabbed the rope to save the match as there looked to be no end in sight to the onslaught.
That’s the curse of the recapper, as SHO struggled out of a suplex tries to reverse it… only for Despy to slip behind and hit a low dropkick, before SHO nailed one of his own to finally open things up. Avalanche clotheslines into the corner follow, with SHO finally getting some steam underneath him, following in with some kicks before rolling Desperado to the mat in a cross armbreaker attempt. Desperado got to the ropes to break the hold though, and after a low dropkick took him outside, SHO looked to fly… only for another low dropkick from Desperado to put a stop to that. More dropkicks to the knee led to Desperado pulling him into the Numero Dos (stretch muffler), before working his way up into the El Guitarra de Angel for a near-fall.
Pinche Loco looked to be next, but SHO back body drops out of it, and comes back in with some rolling German suplexes before the Last Ride/Lumbar Check draws a near-fall for the former junior tag champ. Sensing the end, SHO looked for the Shock Arrow, but Desperado rolls him up for a near-fall, before his attempt to mule kick SHO behind the ref’s back falls flat. One more lariat from SHO follows, as does the Shock Arrow, and that’s all folks! After that win over Hiromu earlier in the week, this kinda puts Desperado back in place, but this was a fun match with Desperado working on SHO’s knee like an asshole only to come up short. ***½
Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee
To say these two have form would be an understatement. Going back to Hiromu’s time on excursion in CMLL as Kamaitachi, they’ve been banging heads for some time – and been really good at it. Their outing at 2016’s Fantasticamania was a real eye opener for folks who only watch New Japan, and they’ve not let up since.
So of course, Dragon Lee comes out in Hiromu’s old Kamaitachi mask to wind him up… and we’re instantly off to the races with a shotgun dropkick as Lee shoots out of the blocks… but so does Hiromu, as the pair quickly stare each other down. Chops barely faze Hiromu as they go back and forth with those, stopping only to challenge each other again as they they switch up into a battle of German suplexes.
Hiromu’s lifted onto the apron, where he countered Dragon Lee’s ‘rana-to-the-floor by just dumping him onto the apron with a powerbomb. Brutal, but effective! They clear the crowd as we’ve got another Brookes’ing, before they head back to the ring as Hiromu slowly took over with chops and lariats.
Takahashi tries to rip off Dragon Lee’s mask, but gets stopped by the ref’s count, before he pulls Dragon Lee into the ropes with a Tarantula – something Lee was tapping for, but to no avail as the rope break took precedence. They’re back outside as Hiromu dumps Lee with a wheelbarrow facebuster on the floor, before his senton off the apron was rudely halted with a dropkick as he was in mid-air, so Dragon could fly with a tope con giro!
Back in the ring again, a double underhook backbreaker and a low dropkick gets a near-fall for the luchador, who retained the upper hand despite a brief comeback from Hiromu. Lee cartwheels out of a ‘rana from Hiromu, then wheelbarrows him up for a near-fall as they cranked up the intensity, swapping German suplexes all over the place before a desperation lariat from Hiromu left both men on the mat.
Takahashi’s back up with a superkick, before he’s dragged back down to the mat in a Fujiwara armbar from Lee, rolling him around into a double armbar, then a crossface, before a rope break forced a change of tactic, with Lee taking Hiromu up top… seemingly planning on a Del Rio-ish double stomp, which Hiromu countered into a spider belly-to-belly suplex! Problem was, he couldn’t get out of the corner quickly enough, and was dropkicked to the floor by Lee, who raced after him with a dropkick from the ring to the floor, before Hiromu wiped him out with a German suplex as the hard landing looked to lead to a double count-out…
…except Hiromu pulled the referee aside and demanded the count be stopped, so he could fly off the top rope into his nemesis with a back senton into the crowd!
Another double count-out tease ensues, which they both beat as we’re back in the ring for back-and-forth chops, before a pair of bicycle knees from Dragon Lee and a reverse ‘rana took Hiromu into the ropes, only for him to rebound out into a Destroyer as both men were again left spent on the mat. They wash, rinse, repeat, this time with forearms, before Lee again lulled Hiromu into an armbar, as his latest flury led to the Desnucadora, with a woefully out of position referee giving Hiromu enough time to flail his way into the ropes to keep the match alive.
Hiromu’s right back with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, crashing Lee into the turnbuckles, before a Dynamite Plunger drew a near-fall. A top rope wheelbarrow driver looked to follow, but Lee blocks it and stomped through Hiromu’s head, all the way down to the mat for another near-fall… and the same again after a Spanish Fly, before the Dragon Driver finally put away Hiromu. This was an all-out war – it had its wacky moments, but it wasn’t anywhere near as wild as some of their prior matches, as they toned this down a little. The win puts Dragon Lee on top of the block, while Hiromu is in that pile at the bottom after successive losses. ****¼
Tiger Mask (3-0)
Flip Gordon, Taiji Ishimori, Will Ospreay (2-1)
ACH, YOH, Yoshinobu Kanemaru (1-2)
Dragon Lee (3-0)
El Desperado, SHO (2-1)
KUSHIDA, Chris Sabin, Marty Scurll, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiromu Takahashi (1-2)
After a pretty eh round, Osaka’s quarter of matches were pretty good – in their own ways. Sure, Lee/Takahashi’ll steal all of the headlines, like you’d expect, but this was a real “something for everyone line up”. If you like your upsets… we had that. If you like a body part being worn down, Despy gives you that, and if you like your World of Sport-style match, well, Marty Scurll served that up for you too.
The delayed, on-demand tournament continues today in Aichi, with Will Ospreay and BUSHI headlining. Those’ll be posted on NJPW World later on Saturday/early Sunday, while they stay in Aichi for block B on Sunday, with Hiromu Takahashi again headlining, this time against Ryusuke Taguchi.