Block B had their first match as Korakuen Hall completed the kick-off for this year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament.

Shota Umino vs. Yota Tsuji
Tsuji was a late replacement for Ren Narita, who broke his nose yesterday… he started out of offence against Umino as the pair exchange wristlocks, before ending up in the ropes, where Tsuji didn’t exactly break cleanly.

Umino responded with some aggression, dropping Tsuji with a back body drop for a near-fall, before rolling him into a single-leg crab. Tsuji manages a rope break, but gets chopped back down by the more experienced Young Lion, only to reply with a dropkick as he went for his own Boston crab… but Umino’s able to get to the ropes too.

Another dropkick from Umino helps to turn the tide, as his spinebuster picks up a near-fall, before Tsuji’s forced to withstand another Boston crab… eventually getting to the ropes at the second time. Such great facial expressions there had Korakuen on his side… but he’s right back up into a missile dropkick as Umino reapplies the Boston crab, and it’s a bridge too far as Tsuji was forced to tap. Fantastic selling for something so utterly basic… I think Yota may be the stand-out from the latest crop of youngsters, you know. ***

ACH, Tiger Mask & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Will Ospreay, YOH & YOSHI-HASHI
Your random A Block mix-and-match tag, with YOSHI-HASHI looking gutted they didn’t use his music today…

ACH and Ospreay start out, instantly going to the ropes where Ospreay ducked a chop attempt before wrenching on ACH’s arm in the ropes. A nice series with leapfrogs and the like lead to the expected stand-off, as Oka and YOSHI-HASHI got in – with the Korakuen crowd massively behind the Young Lion. It’s a distraction as Ospreay pulls ACH down to throw him shoulder-first into the ring-post, which gave Oka more of a disadvantage as he had to outstand YOH’s grounded headscissors.

Ospreay’s back in as he keeps up on Oka’s arm, but in truth the CHAOS trio were just cycling tags at this point. Eventually, Oka gets some freedom with a belly-to-belly on YOH, before bringing Tiger Mask back in with a crossbody… but Ospreay tries to capitalise instantly, only for Tiger to shove him away and take down YOH with a Tiger Driver for a near-fall. YOSHI-HASHI broke that up and got turfed outside for his worries, but YOH still struggled as he took a crucifix that Tiger Mask floated into an armbar, with Ospreay barely coming in to break it up in time. Will gets the tag and went for the Shibata-ish dropkick on Tiger, who got out of the way in time and returned fire with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, as ACH returns and ran into an Ospreay elbow.

A stomp and a low dropkick puts ACH right back in it though, as the pair quickly turned up the pace, with an OsCutter getting countered into a German suplex by ACH. Oka wants back in, as does YOSHI-HASHI, and those two go back at it. Oka tries to win with a modified camel clutch, only for Ospreay to kick that apart as he paid for it with a leaping kick to the throat from Tiger Mask as the ring fills and cleared… just in time for Oka to hit a Stinger splash and a Slingblade-ish neckbreaker on YOSHI for a near-fall. The Bunker Buster neckbreaker turns it back around though, before YOSHI-HASHI went to the Butterfly hold for the eventual submission. Decent enough, although you do sense that Korakuen over the last two nights were holding out a feint hope that Oka would beat YOSHI-HASHI. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Flip Gordon & Toa Henare
Having sorta gotten past Tomohiro Ishii, the “Toa Henare Has a Death Wish Tour” rolled on as he’s going to be in tags against Minoru Suzuki for the entirety of this tour. Lucky thing!

Yep, we had jump starts, with the expected pairings matching off, as Suzuki laid waste to Henare in the early going with kicks and boots. Henare manages a shoulder tackle, forcing Suzuki to tag out as the tournament boys came in, with Gordon living up to his name with an early tope con giro! Kanemaru tries to fight back, low bridging Gordon to the floor as Suzuki decides to go after Henare again, jamming a chair into his midsection, while Flip gets Brookes’d.

All the chair shots follow as Henare was left for dead, but Flip and Kanemaru return to the ring, where Flip’s neck tape was ripped off. It got worse for him as Suzuki got the tag, throwing some chops as Gordon looked to be bleeding from his back. A wacky submission ended with Gordon getting a foot to the rope, before he finally hit back with a Pele-like kick to Kanemaru, ahead of a tag out to Henare, who brought the fire to Suzuki and Kanemaru.

Henare got his spear at the second try, before heading up for a flying shoulder tackle that gets a near-fall on Kanemaru… who finally brings Suzuki back in for some hard elbows. Things turned around briefly when Flip returned to help double-team Suzuki, wiping him out with a corner dropkick before a Samoan drop from Henare and a standing shooting star press from Henare gets a near-fall as Flip did an awful job of stopping Kanemaru interfering.

A plancha from Flip wipes out Kanemaru eventually, but it left Henare on his lonesome as his uranage was countered out into a knee bar, then the inverted figure four. Henare barely makes it to the ropes, and got into a strike battle with Suzuki… which usually ends only one way. Rear naked choke, Gotch piledriver, and Suzuki gets the win. Decent enough, although these undercard tags usually telegraph the result before the bell goes. Still, at least Suzuki killed some more Young Lions. **¾

Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI)
Chase Owens attacked BUSHI from behind as they tore a page out of the Suzuki-gun playbook, but BUSHI’s able to overcome it with a double ‘rana!

Another headscissor takedown gets Ishimori off his feet as BUSHI threw him into the corner and tagged in SANADA, who sends him stratospheric with a back body drop. We’re outside again as Chase dumps BUSHI onto the apron with a back suplex, before tagging back in as the Bullet Club pair seemed to be firmly in control.

A fireman’s carry gutbuster gave BUSHI an awkward landing as Chase nearly wins the match. Ishimori’s back to rip apart BUSHI’s shirt and twist his neck, ahead of a rolling death valley driver and a PK combo, but BUSHI’s right back in with a swinging Fisherman buster. More tags out saw Chase push out of a Paradise lock, before trying one of his own and instead getting frustrated… he stops to get advice from Milano Collection AT on commentary, but he’s a putz and instead tried a figure four as Milano waved his hands in dispair.

SANADA nearly wins with some rolling roll-ups, before Chase Flair flopped to the mat… and gets put in the Paradise lock himself as Milano gave the thumbs up.

Owens gets free and takes SANADA down with a sliding Flatliner, before a PK-like knee drew a near-fall. Chase teases a package piledriver, but BUSHI makes a save as he built up into a tope suicida on Ishimori… leaving Owens alone as SANADA leaps into a Skull End for the submission. This was decent in parts, but a little inconsistent… although I can really get into Milano coaching wrestlers from the commentary table. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: SHO vs. Dragon Lee
So, our first tournament match of the day starts with SHO and Lee pelting each other with elbow shots, before doing shoulder tackles. Uh… small lads wrestling?

They quickly turn up the pace as SHO’s ‘rana is cartwheeled out of, before he lifts up out of a ‘rana from Lee as we headed to a stalemate. A test of strength gives the cameraman a reason to zoom onto Lee’s six-pack, but SHO wanted none of that as he goes for an armbar, forcing the luchador into the ropes.

A leg sweep sends Lee onto the apron ahead of a low dropkick as he’s sent to the floor… and you know what that means… no dives yet! Instead, SHO works over Lee’s arm on the apron, before tying him up in an abdominal stretch… but Lee escapes and after a snap ‘rana, we get our first dive of the match, with a tope con giro to send the crowd wild.

Lee’s back inside, rushing in with a double underhook backbreaker before going for an armbar. YOH escapes and slows down the pace of the match, starting another elbow exchange, before having to resist a rebound German suplex as a Cactus Jack-like lariat from Lee took both men back to the floor. More elbows followed outside the ring as the referee counted them out… but at least they stopped to get back inside at the count of 19… and resume strikes. They hate each other, but not enough to both get counted out for it!

SHO sparks a series of German suplexes that the other guy popped up from, before chaining them together as Lee hits back with a standing Spanish Fly for a near-fall. A back cracker from SHO seemed to counter a Desnucadora attempt, but another armbar’s broken in the ropes… so SHO keeps up on the arm, only for Lee to counter with a Fujiwara-style armbar, then a crossface, but the transition rolled SHO too close to the ropes as the hold’s broken.

Lee keeps up on the arm, using the ropes for an armbreaker before SHO stuffed an inside-out ‘rana to the floor, instead powerbombing the luchador back inside ahead of a Lumbar Check with a rude landing for a near-fall.

That gave SHO a bit more impetus as he looked for the win with the cross armbreaker again, but Lee gets to the ropes once more, before he was taken up top for a superplex… Lee fights free and knocks YOH down, crushing him with a hanging double stomp. SHO countered a lariat, but his armbar’s countered into the Desnucadora suplex/sit-out powerbomb, and finally that’s enough! My word, both guys brought fire and intensity… and we’re keeping up the thread of at least one good tournament match a day. Yeah, it’s only day two… ****¼

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: El Desperado vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Desperado was looking under the ring on his way out, which is making me think shenanigans. Probably arse-related shenanigans.

Despy leapt into Taguchi with a low dropkick at the bell… and of course he’s met with hip attacks eventually as Taguchi choked him with his new polo shirt. Mini Shoteis rock Desperado, before a bunch of drop downs eventually tripped a running Desperado, en route to more hip attacks in the ropes, and a… 619? A second 619 was stuffed when Desperado pulled up the ropes, as we head outside as Desperado jammed a chair into Taguchi’s butt cheeks and uses a chair to drive it in deeper.

In among that, Desperado adjusted the turnbuckle pad, giving the referee a distraction as Desperado… tried to sodomise the Funky Weapon. From there, Desperado aims a little lower as he worked over Taguchi’s legs in a bid to force a submission, before Taguchi’s forced to block Pinche Loco, as he instead hits a Blue Thunder Bomb as a counter.

A springboard plancha to the floor helps Taguchi keep the upper hand, as he springboards in with a hip attack, sending Despy to the other side for a tope con giro that the Young Lions just about caught. Back inside, Taguchi scores a low dropkick as he tried to get the win with an ankle lock, but Desperado rolls out and returns fire with a spinebuster for a near-fall, before the Numero Dos (stretch muffler), forcing Taguchi into the ropes.

Back-and-forth chops follow, before Desperado went for a Gory special… Taguchi slipped out and looked for a Dodon, before instead going for a Gory special of his own that sort-of transferred into the Dodon facebuster. From there, the Bummer-ye diving hip attack followed for a near-fall, before Taguchi blocked a low blow and worked back into a Dodon, rolling through a roll-through for another near-fall!

An enziguiri decks a running Desperado as Taguchi stayed in it, before another Dodon ended with Desperado shoving away the referee to hide a low blow, as a rolling clutch earned him the win. A sneaky finish to a match that got real good after the initial sodomy comedy. I didn’t mean that to rhyme… ***½

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: Chris Sabin vs. KUSHIDA
There’s history here – with both these men having been IWGP junior tag champions with Alex Shelley at one point. Perhaps not so shockingly, this was Sabin’s first singles match in New Japan… and we start with KUSHIDA keeping things on the mat.

Headlock takedowns are quickly escaped as Sabin begged off, but to little avail as KUSHIDA grounds him, working into Cattle Mutilation, before his bid to change tactic backfired as Sabin dropkicks him mid-handspring. That took the match outside briefly, but Sabin keeps it on the mat with a grounded Octopus-like stretch, forcing KUSHIDA into the ropes.

Sabin keeps on top with some stomps and a snap suplex, before using a Cattle Mutilation to flip over into… the Axel Dieter Special! The former TNA champion’s in full control here, at least until KUSHIDA slipped in a Flatliner into the turnbuckles, sparking a comeback that featured a spiking ‘rana as KUSHIDA got a near-fall out of Sabin. Back-and-forth strikes ended with a superkick from Sabin en route to a La Magistral cradle, before another sequence led to KUSHIDA locking in a Hoverboard lock.

Eventually, Sabin got to the ropes to break the hold, so KUSHIDA returns fire with a cravat and some knees, a la Chris Hero, ahead of a punt kick to the arm! Sensing defeat, Sabin teases Cradle Shock, but KUSHIDA escapes, only to eat a tornado DDT as another Cradle Shock was teased. Again, KUSHIDA escaped, and follows in with a handspring knee to send the Motor City Machine Gun to the floor… but KUSHIDA takes too long to go up top that Sabin rushes in with a German superplex, before Cradle Shock earned him a near-fall! From there, Sabin goes one step further with the Future Shock – cross-legged brainbuster – and that’s the win as the other block favourite perhaps stumbled out of the gates. A solid match, but not one that won over Korakuen… then again, this was never going to be the “dive dive dive” style of junior wrestling here. ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 25, Block B: Marty Scurll vs. Hiromu Takahashi
There’s form between these two, although shockingly their first encounter didn’t happen until April last year – where Hiromu beat Scurll at Rev Pro’s Epic Encounter. Hiromu’s got a 2-1 lead in straight-up singles matches, so… is this going to be 3-1?

Umbrella Man is back, and we start with a tie-up of sorts as Hiromu gets taken into the corner. He quickly rebounds with a dropkick to put Marty on the apron, as the sunset bomb is teased… but Scurll and his leopard-print boots escape by stomping on Hiromu instead. They head into the crowd from there, as Marty makes full use of the fact there’s no guard rails here, before continuing the work over Hiromu’s right hand back inside the ring. Uppercuts and the like keep Hiromu in the ropes, before mocking Chris Jericho with a cocky pin that referee Red Shoes refused to count.

Hiromu reverses a surfboard, but gets met with a back cracker instead, as the pair descended into elbow strikes, before Marty powdered away from a strike… only to eat a shotgun dropkick off the apron! Back inside, Takahashi lands a back senton off the top into a standing Scurll for a near-fall, before falling for the Just Kidding superkick… and rebounding with a pop-up powerbomb to cover his shame a little.

Back-and-forth strikes in the corner follow, as does a low dropkick, before a lariat from Scurll dumped Hiromu on his head… only to get met with an instant Falcon arrow as the contest remained finely poised. A reverse superplex edges Scurll ahead, as his pumphandle’d version of the Blackheart Buster – the Tomorrow Driver, I believe Andy Quildan keeps calling it – got the Villain another near-fall.

Scurll heads outside for his umbrella, but Red Shoes is not keen on him using it, and that’s the set-up for Hiromu to capitalise with a nasty sunset bomb to the floor!

That led to a double count-out tease, with both men barely breaking Red Shoes’ count at 19, before Hiromu looked for a Time Bomb… hitting it perfectly for a solid two-count. In a bid to follow-up, Hiromu went for a flying ‘rana/back senton off the apron, but just gets splatted with a powerbomb, before he’s eventually pulled back onto the apron, where Scurll decides to add in the head dropping with an apron tombstone.

Back inside, Scurll yelled at Hiromu that he’d never win Best of the Super Juniors, before looking for the chicken wing… and despite Hiromu back bumping “to freedom”, Marty holds firm before grabbing the fingers for the ol’ finger snap. Another superkick keeps Hiromu down, but Scurll has to roll through another Time Bomb, then a ‘rana as Hiromu looked to switch things up. A triangle armbar follows, but Marty’s powerbomb doesn’t break it up as Takahashi hung tightly… eventually forcing a ref stoppage as Marty passed out. A bit of a surprise ending to a match that got real good before a change of tactic won out. ****¼

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

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

Well then, the tournament matches on night two easily eclipsed night one, after a show that in my mind, just about edged it out. Block B was the more loaded of the two, at least in terms of names, and with KUSHIDA and Marty Scurll taking losses on their first round, we’ve a pair of “come from behind” stories here if either of them are to make it to the finals next month. Next up, the tournament rolls into Shizuoka on Sunday – for a round of matches that’ll drop on the VOD sometime late on Sunday night/early Monday morning (which we’ll review in due course) – before it’s back to Korakuen Hall for another live show from the B block, headlining with Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado.