After a few more days off, we’re into the home straight as Aichi hosted the penultimate round of block A action.

Yeah, it’s back to the split-block shows at the Nagoya Congress Center Event Hall – and we’ve a change on the card too. TAKA Michinoku’s out for the remainder of the tournament with a leg injury, so he’s forfeiting his final matches – we’ll update our standings in time rather than give someone an inflated lead. That meant that Marty Scurll got his two points today for nothing… Kevin Kelly and Gino Gambino are on commentary for this run of the tour, with Gino deflecting questions about Robbie Eagles’ Bullet Club status.

Ren Narita & Yota Tsuji vs. YOH & Tomohiro Ishii
It’ll be YOH vs. Narita tomorrow, and they start off fairly methodically, with the pair trading wristlocks and headlocks.

Narita edges ahead with a leapfrog and an armdrag before teasing that bridging belly-to-belly… but instead he drops YOH for a Cloverleaf that ended in the ropes. Tags take us to Tsuji and Ishii, which wakes up a crowd that had been silent in this cavernous hall. Tsuji tries his luck with chops and shoulder tackles, which don’t budge Ishii, who finally takes him down with a shoulder tackle. YOH’s back in after that failed exchange, working over Tsuji with forearms in the corner, but for some reason Tsuji decides to take a shot at Ishii in the corner. Yeah, that was dumb. Ishii tags in and whales on Tsuji with chops, before YOH came back and into the path of a back body drop.

Narita returns to take down YOH with shoulder tackles and a suplex, before the cross-legged Boston crab drew a blank, as we’re back to Ishii throwing forearms through Tsuji, who replied in kind. They go back to shoulder tackles, with Tsuji finally taking Ishii down, before a dropkick had no effect… allowing Ishii to go back after him with a Boston crab, almost turning it into a Lion Tamer, only for Tsuji to make it to the ropes.

A dropick from Tsuji takes Ishii into the corner as the Young Lions double-team him, finishing with a spear for a near-fall. Ishii makes one last comeback with a back suplex for a near-fall, then rolled Tsuji into a Lion Tamer for the submission. This was fine, but was lacking the usual Young Lion intensity until the final stretches. **½

Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Robbie Eagles, Gedo & Jado) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Bandido, Juice Robinson & Yuya Uemura
The Bullet Club came out together, but there’s tensions between Eagles and the rest of his team as there’s confliction there. Even when ELP’s wearing an Eagles t-shirt to try and butter him up.

Eagles is going to cost ELP in the end and it’s going to be glorious.

Eagles and Bandido start, with ELP being the obnoxious cheerleader on the apron as the Aussie’s headscissors were just rolled out of by Bandido, as the pair reached a quick stalemate. Uemura tags in to try his luck, but Jado comes into pick his shots… but the Bullet Club storm the ring to make sure that Uemura had nobody to help as he was chopped away on. Phantasmo’s in to stomp on Uemura and continue being a bit of a dick, standing on Uemura’s groin in in a tree of woe. Eagles, Gedo and Jado get involved too, before Uemura’s dropkick stopped ELP, ahead of a tag out to Taguchi. Of course, Taguchi goes hog wild with hip attacks, eventually sending ELP flying for a near-fall, ahead of the Three Amigos.

ELP slips out of the third suplex and returned fire with an enziguiri, before tags took us to Juice and Gedo. Juice pokes Gedo’s eye to stop a flurry, before some Dusty punches were cut off with a thrust kick. Gedo distracts the ref as Jado tried – and failed – with a Kendo stick shot, sparking some involvement from Bandido who laid out Eagles and ELP with a plancha, before Pulp Friction put away Gedo. Again, this was fine, but there’s nothing that’d grab your attention here outside of the Eagles/ELP interplay. **¾

We don’t get the Interrupting Knife Pervert video here, since we now know it was Jon Moxley…

Suzuki-gun (DOUKI & Taichi) vs. Will Ospreay & Shota Umino
Yeah, we’ve a jumpstart here.

Ospreay and DOUKI instantly head outside, with DOUKI throwing his opponent tomorrow into the chairs. That’s gonna be a huge test for Ospreay’s lifting abilities… Meanwhile in the ring, Taichi kicks away on Umino, before DOUKI returned to put the boots in as Umino just couldn’t get going. A running stomp to the midsection’s good for a near-fall, before Shota got the tag out to Ospreay, who started ot turn it around.

DOUKI ducks a springboard forearm, but can’t avoid a handspring enziguiri that gets a near-fall. A snap ‘rana from DOUKI shocks Ospreay for a near-fall, as does a lariat, before Ospreay slipped out of a Suplex de la Luna. Ospreay returns with a standard enziguiri,as tags take us back to Taichi and Umino. Shota manages to score with a clothesline before following up with a back elbow in the corner, then a missile dropkick, but it’s only enough for a near-fall. Taichi finds a way back in with a head kick in the corner, before ripping off the trousers… but his buzzsaw kick is ducked as Umino’s back on the defensive briefly.

Umino nearly scores with a cross armbreaker, but DOUKI broke it up… he’s quickly taken care of by Ospreay, while Umino looked to win with a Fisherman suplex. Taichi shoves that off and nearly wins with an Axe bomber, before a superkick dropped Umino for a nonchalant win. Exactly what you’d expect – run of the mill fare that just about builds up for tomorrow’s block match. **¾

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Rocky Romero & Toa Henare
BUSHI and Rocky is the match for tomorrow, and they start off by going into the ropes, where BUSHI’s cheapshot is caught.

Rocky takes him into the corner, but it’s too soon for Forever clotheslines as he instead comes back with a dropkick before Henare came in. Chops drop BUSHI, until Naito came in and tried a cheapshot. Despite Henare hitting back, Naito takes down the Kiwi as BUSHI began to rake away on Henare’s face from a chinlock.

Naito tags in to elbow Henare in the corner, before my feed glitches out and recovers with BUSHI hitting a missile dropkick. A t-shirt choke keeps Henare down, before he began to fight back with some chops and a thrust kick. Tags bring Rocky in, with him dealing with Naito with a ‘rana before finally connecting with some Forever clotheslines to BUSHI. Romero tries to force a submission with a cross armbreaker, but BUSHI got to the ropes, then hit back with a swinging neckbreaker.

We’re back to Naito and Henare, with the Kiwi throwing some chops, before taking down Naito with a leaping shoulder tackle. A Samoan drop follows for a near-fall, then a deadlift suplex attempt, but Naito slips out and comes back with a hiptoss and a low dropkick instead. Naito keeps up with a regular neckbreaker before BUSHI came in for the sunset flip/low dropkick combo. BUSHI takes care of Rocky with a lungblower as Henare had to fight back 1-on-2, eventually succumbing to Combinacion Cabron, some enziguiri and a Destino as LIJ took the win. Another decent match, but otherwise lifeless. **¾

That’s the lame duck undercard done, can we have some juice on the tournament matches? Oh right, this is the block that’s down to just two men. Taichi’s on Japanese commentary, which makes that main event ominous.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Titan vs. SHO
Titan’s coming into this with a bad wheel, and an overwhelming losing record… SHO, on the other hand, is also banged up, but is just two points better off as both men are playing for pride.

It’s a fairly slow start as SHO charges through Titan in the early going, before he ended up on the apron, where Titan looked for a suplex… but torquing the wrist gets SHO free as he pulled down Titan… only for him to kip up into an overhead kick. That took SHO to the floor, but he’s back in to kick away some hand-walking from Titan, as the luchador seemed to be struggling.

SHO kicks away the arm of Titan, which gave him a body part to aim for, but Titan’s more than just a left arm, as he leapt up to avoid an arm breaker on the rope, pulling SHO outside before he followed up with a nice tope con giro. Back in the ring, a springboard crossbody dropped SHO ahead of a modified knee-bar, which he kept on as he rolled SHO into the middle of the ring. SHO manages to get to the ropes, but he can’t avoid Titan following up with some kicks, before he blocked headscissors and turned it into a powerbomb. The pair trade forearms from there, but rapid-fire elbows from SHO looked to get him ahead… only for Titan to Matrix free of a clothesline ahead of a spinning enziguiri to take SHO back to the mat. Back-and-forth clotheslines in the corner follow, with Titan hitting his Miz-like clothesline and a Combinacion Cabron-like slingshot dropkick in the corner.

SHO hits back with a clothesline of his own to spin Titan to the mat, then a second one, before he rolled out of a powerbomb, scoring with a ‘rana-like roll-up for a near-fall. Titan keeps up with a roll-through cross armbar, pulling the arm straight as SHO needed the ropes to save himself. From there, SHO rolls out of an inverted suplex, only to run into a superkick before countering an inverted suplex into a Shock Arrow… but it’s not enough! A second Shock Arrow quickly follows, and that’s all. Decent, but this lifeless crowd is not doing much to buoy a series of matches that so far are just for pride… ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. Tiger Mask
Ishimori needs to win to keep his chances of winning the block in his hands, as he’s got Shingo on the final night of this block on Friday

There’s a jump start as Ishimori wants to end this one quickly, but he runs into a tiltawhirl backbreaker as the veteran looked to spoil the party. A Tiger Driver’s blocked, so Tiger Mask just pulls him in for a knee to the gut before looking for an armbar submission on the mat. Things switch up with a Tiger Driver for a near-fall, then a cross armbreaker as Ishimori just couldn’t get going. Another armbar looked to force the submission, but Ishimori got to the ropes and quickly found his stride, taking Tiger Mask into the corner for the running double knees for a near-fall. Tiger Mask tries his luck with a crucifix, before he countered a handspring into an armbar… but Ishimori got free and came back with some knees for a near-fall. From the kick-out, Ishimori traps Tiger Mask in the Yes Lock… and there’s the submission. A lot tricker than expected, but Ishimori keeps it short and stays alive to boot. **½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Shingo Takagi vs. Jonathan Gresham
Regardless of the result here, Takagi vs. Ishimori on Friday is the block decider… so will Gresham be able to score an upset, or will Shingo power through?

Gresham looked for a knuckle lock early, but was powered down to the mat as he had to kick Shingo away. A shoulder tackle keeps him there, before Gresham’s attempt to headscissor into an Octopus lock was easily countered with a sidewalk slam. Clinging onto the ropes looked to save Gresham, but he’s just clotheslined over the top for a nasty landing, before he had to beat Shingo for pace to get back in the ring.

That opened the door a little for Gresham, as he tried to catch Shingo on the apron, landing a dropkick before he got his legs swept out from under him. Another bad landing. Exacerbated when Shingo charged Gresham into the side of the ring before rolling him in for a slingshot knee drop. A vertical suplex dumps Gresham for another two-count, as does a forearm as the American tried in vain to fight back. He tries lis luck, leaping onto the back of Shingo, but he’s easily thrown off… before he finally got a shot in as he took Shingo’s knee out from underneath him.

Another rear naked choke attempt’s stopped when Shingo falls back on himself, but Gresham’s able to come back with a drop toe hold into the corner before a dropkick was aimed at Shingo, who rolled outside for cover. A running knee off the apron doesn’t faze Shingo, who slapped back, before he fell to a Quebrada… rolling outside as Gresham caught him in the back with a tope. Gresham goes back to the rear naked choke, hauling Shingo into the seats as he tried to choke him out for a count-out… it was a good plan, but Shingo was able to beat the count. A picturesque shooting star press lands on Shingo’s back, but he stayed on his belly to avoid an instant pinning attempt, giving himself enough time to recover as Gresham rolled him over for a near-fall.

Gresham tries to put Shingo away with an Octopus, but it’s effortlessly escaped as Gresham went to snap the arm before running into a pop-up death valley driver. Clotheslines and a Noshigami followed for a near-fall, before a Pumping Bomber folded up Gresham… for another two! All that’s left is the Last of the Dragon, but Gresham countered into a ‘rana before trying his luck with a La Magistral into a Euro clutch for a two-count. The Octopus follows, but Takagi gets free and hauls Gresham up by his trunks into Last of the Dragon… and that’s it. A fantastic effort from Gresham, who had a gameplan and eventually got to it, but the irresistible force proved to be too much here. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Dragon Lee
This was Kanemaru’s last match – since his scheduled finale against TAKA Michinoku on Friday’s off due to injury. Kanemaru’s stuttered badly since his “sneaky style” was used against him.

We’ve a jump start here as Kanemaru looked to cause a shock, but he’s taken outside with headscissors… only for Dragon Lee to change his dive as Kanemaru instead threw him into the ring post. There’s a Brookesing too, as Kanemaru looked to end this… but Dragon Lee easily beats the count, only to get lifted to the top rope as Kanemaru looked to undo the mask.

A baseball slide dropkick catches Dragon Lee while he was in the Tree of Woe, before a back body drop led to barely a one-count as Kanemaru stayed on top of the junior champion with a Boston crab. There’s a two-count out of a suplex as Kanemaru throws Dragon Lee back outside, where he tries to land a suplex on the floor… and does so! Kanemaru tries to shove Yota Tsuji into Dragon Lee to stop him from beating the count, but it’s for nought as the champion beat the count, then mounted a comeback. A dropkick takes Kanemaru outside for a tope con giro, before he rolled Kanemaru back inside to score with a rolling thunder dropkick. A butterfly backbreaker and a low dropkick barely keeps Kanemaru down though, as he began to fight back through some kicks. Dragon Lee looked to set up for a Shibata-ish dropkick, but he’s stopped with a big dropkick from Kanemaru out of the corner.

Kanemaru keeps up with a satellite DDT, then a reverse DDT onto the edge of the ring, before an attempt at Deep Impact was rudely stopped by a knee from Dragon Lee. From there, Dragon Lee tries to follow back with Desnucadora, but Kanemaru clings onto the referee before Taichi left the Japanese commentary table and pulled the referee out of the ring. With no ref, Kanemaru unmasks Dragon Lee, then tosses the mask away. Some celebratory whiskey’s kicked away as Dragon Lee needed Shota Umino to give him his mask back, but a low blow and a moonsault awaited Dragon Lee as the ref got back in to count a near-fall. Kanemaru looks for Deep Impact from there, but Dragon Lee counters into Desnucadora… but there’s still nobody to make the count!

Kanemaru tries his luck with some roll-ups for a bunch of two-counts, before Taichi gets involved again. Dragon Lee kicks him away before a running knee and a second Desnucadora put Kanemaru away. It’s a win in vain as Dragon Lee’d long since been eliminated, but at least he’s building up steam going into a title defence next week. ***½

Block A Standings:
Shingo Takagi (8-0; 16pts)
Taiji Ishimori (7-1; 14pts)
Dragon Lee (6-2; 12pts)
Marty Scurll (5-3; 10pts)
Jonathan Gresham, SHO (4-4; 8pts)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tiger Mask, Titan (2-6; 4pts)
TAKA Michinoku (0-8; 0pts)*

* TAKA withdrew from the tournament at night ten, so will forfeit his final three matches, ensuring he ends 0-9.

Eliminated: Jonathan Gresham, Marty Scurll, SHO, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tiger Mask, Titan, TAKA Michinoku

Block B Standings:
Robbie Eagles, Will Ospreay, El Phantasmo, Ryusuke Taguchi (5-2; 10pts)
BUSHI, YOH (4-3; 8pts)
Bandido, Rocky Romero (3-4; 6pts)
DOUKI (1-6; 2pts)
Ren Narita (0-7; 0pts)

Eliminated: Bandido, BUSHI, DOUKI, Ren Narita, Rocky Romero, YOH

Well, I was worried the dead crowds would be back as the tour left Tokyo… and sadly, I was right. With three shows left, there’s a lot of tired bodies on show, which led to a rather flat event here… and with quite a few seemingly saving themselves for one last push at Sumo Hall, we’re perhaps in for more of the same for these undercards until the final night. Next up, the tour rolls into Osaka, headlining with El Phantasmo vs. Ryusuke Taguchi as we try to split a four-way tie in block B.