We’re still in Aomori as the Best of the Super Junior continues as we get DOUKI in the main event. Insert your joke here.

A slightly different venue as the Industrial Exhibition Concourse hosts the block B action, but we’ve kept Kevin Kelly and Caprice Coleman on commentary.

Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Gedo) vs. Titan & Yuya Uemura
There’s something wacky going on with both feeds here – the picture’s a little too zoomed in. Ah well!

We’ve a jump start as Uemura’s suckered in with a handshake, but Titan makes a save with a springboard cross body as my feed buffers horribly. Ishimori goes after Uemura, throwing him into the English commentary table, before he’s rolled back into the ring as Gedo wore him down. Commentary brings up how Ishimori may not be at 100% after some nasty landings yesterday, but it’s not quite an issue now as Gedo raked Uemura’s eyes after a hard chop.

Ishimori comes in to keep up the offence, only to run into a high dropkick that gives Uemura time to tag in Titan. The Miz-like clothesline sends Titan sailing through the corner before a Combinacion Cabron dropkick left Ishimori in the corner. Titan Matrix’s away from a clothesline before a leaping back kick connects, as tags take us back to Gedo and Uemura, with the Young Lion being stopped with a poke to eye.

Another dropkick from Uemura looked to get him back in it, but Gedo blocks a Boston crab, only to get caught in a half crab that Ishimori easily broke up. Titan makes the save there to send Ishimori outside, leaving Uemura on his own as Gedo bit him in the ear ahead of a small package for a near-fall… before a schoolboy and a big handful of tights got the win. This felt a little lethargic, but with Ishimori perhaps a little rocked from yesterday, it’s understandable. **½

Villain Enterprises (Marty Scurll & Brody King) vs. Tiger Mask & Yota Tsuji
I have a feeling Yota’s shoulders will become familiar with the canvas here…

Tsuji gets into a shoving fight with King before the bell, but we start with Tiger Mask and Scurll as you’d expect the latter to go for Tiger’s bad wheel. Instead, they trade wristlocks and hammerlocks, before headlock takedowns and the like led to a stand-off. King and Tsuji come in next, with Tsuji standing his ground before King took him down with shoulder tackles.

Scurll tags himself in there as he looked to pick apart the downed Young Lion, but he just hits a slam before tagging in Brody to hit a big splash for a two-count. More buffering means I miss a minute, but it seems nothing’s missed as King and Scurll exchange frequent tags to keep Tsuji down… until Marty runs into a bodyslam. Tiger Mask tags in, but finds himself in trouble as he runs into an uppercut, before he caught Scurll with a Tiger bomb… but he doesn’t go for the pin, and tags take us back to Tsuji and King. Yota tries to fire up with forearms, but King’s chops wreck him, as does a clothesline, which flipped Tsuji inside out for a near-fall, only for a Gonzo Bomb (sit-out death valley driver) to get the win. By the numbers, but impressive stuff from Brody King, who made very light work of Tsuji. **¾

SHO, Jonathan Gresham & Toa Henare vs. Dragon Lee, Juice Robinson & Shota Umino
SHO’s new music is really growing on me…

Toa Henare demands to face Juice instead as we start with those two… after the Death Rider video interrupts us once more. I like how they’re switching up the placement. The video took the wind out of Juice’s sails, so it’s SHO and Dragon Lee who pick up where they left off last night, spinning out of front facelocks before SHO blocked a wheelbarrow roll-up, only to run into a ‘rana from Dragon Lee.

Shota Umino tags in next to slam SHO for a near-fall, before Juice came in for a stalling suplex that SHO manages to slip out of, returning the favour with a folding German suplex. Dragon Lee’s back, but SHO dropkicks him and makes a tag out to Gresham as we get a tease of that match for Saturday, with Gresham and Lee spinning away from waistlocks before a La Magistral snuck in a near-fall for Gresham. Dragon Lee stops Gresham with a STO, before tags got us back to Henare and Umino, as Shota takes down Henare with a forearm. A suplex is good for a near-fall for Umino too before the ring filled up for a brief Parade of Moves, ending with another Umino dropkick. Shota tries to nick a win over Henare with a suplex, but instead he runs into a spear takedown for a near-fall.

Henare looks for a uranage, but Shota elbowed free, only to get cracked with a headbutt as the uranage got the win. By the numbers, but I’m salivating again for that Lee/Gresham match at the weekend. **½

Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito)
It’s Shingo vs. Kanemaru on Saturday, as the Dragon is almost nailed on to continue his undefeated singles run in New Japan.

We start out dirty with Kanemaru raking Shingo’s eyes before he went for shoulder tackles. You can guess how that went. More dirtiness as Kanemaru pulls Shingo’s hair before some big boots just sent Shingo into the ropes for a shoulder block that landed flush. Naito’s in to take Kanemaru into the corner, but a Combinacion Cabron’s missed as Kanemaru tags out to TAKA, who is in with an eye rake before he held Naito through the ropes for a Drive By dropkick from Kanemaru.

Some more double-teaming leaves Naito down for a near-fall from a camel clutch/dropkick combo. Naito gets his feet up in the corner, but Kanemaru fights back before a back elbow and a low dropkick from Naito finally has him laying. Tags bring us back to Takagi and Kanemaru, but Shingo slams TAKA too for good measure, before he countered a tiltawhirl from Kanemaru and turned it into a suplex for a two-count. Another rake to the eye from Kanemaru looked to slow Shingo, but a couple of low dropkicks do the trick instead before a Flatliner/DDT combo has Suzuki-gun on the back foot. Naito’s back to lay into TAKA, catching him in the ropes with a backbreaker, then a neckbreaker for a two-count.

The tables turn as TAKA and Kanemaru work together as a running knee lays out Naito for a near-fall, before TAKA connected with a superkick to force Shingo to break up the pin. Can we get an upset? TAKA goes for a Michinoku driver, but Naito escapes with an enziguiri, before a flying forearm and a Destino puts TAKA away. This was fine, but Naito was barely on half speed here – which dragged the match down somewhat. **½

Post-match, Kanemaru laid out Shingo with a chair, as Suzuki-gun looked to weaken him ahead of Saturday’s match.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Robbie Eagles vs. Ren Narita
This was Narita’s first big feature match in his home town, and he was given a fine reception as the Aomori crowd had placards ready for him. What a sight.

We get going as Eagles took down Narita with a shoulder tackle, only for the Young Lion to try and come back with a side headlock. Eagles shoots him off for another shoulder block, before getting a receipt as Eagles began to target Narita’s legs, chopping out the knee as a grapevine sent Narita into the ropes for cover.

Chops from Eagles keep Narita in the corner, but he fights back with some forearms before a bodyslam has Eagles on the back foot. A dropkick keeps the Aussie down, but Eagles is able to push away from a Boston crab, before Narita teased hitting that overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Eagles fights free and instead springboards off the apron with a low dropkick to Narita’s knee. Another crack at that suplex is stopped as Eagles turned up the tempo and rolled into a chop block for another two-count, before a small package nearly led to the upset. Narita comes even closer when he countered a Turbo Backpack into a backslide, before another try for that bridging belly-to-belly came off… only to lose the grip as he could only pick up a near-fall.

The Boston crab followed as Aomori thought they’d see an upset, especially when Eagles was rolled into the middle of the ring, but the Aussie’s able to haul himself to the ropes to force a break – and perhaps end Narita’s chances. Undeterred, Narita looks for a vertical suplex, but ends up getting peppered with kicks before some forearms knocked Eagles down for a near-fall… only for Eagles to snap back with a Turbo Backpack for the win. Narita almost had it, but again experience and the inability to keep the grip on that belly-to-belly costs him. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Bandido vs. YOH
Bandido came up short in round one, as did YOH, so someone here’ll be breaking their duck.

We start out slow here with YOH taking down Bandido in a hammerlock, but the pace quickens after Bandido got free, hitting some handsprings before he gorilla press slammed YOH into a Falcon arrow. YOH replies by tripping him into the ropes for a low dropkick, before he began to work over Bandido’s right leg.

Bandido replies with a nice tornillo off the top before dropkicks forced YOH to the outside, where a headscissor takedown took the junior tag team champion down to the floor. A high Asai moonsault sees Bandido keep on top of him as they spring back into the front row, before they returned to the ring where Bandido headstands away from a clothesline, before a duel led to YOH hitting a backbreaker/STO combo.

The pace starts to rise as Bandido barely clears YOH with a backflip off the top… and runs into a superkick as both men were left laying. Bandido recovers with a 450 splash as YOH was dangling off the ropes, but YOH’s quickly back on top as he looks for a superplex. He has two tries at it as he took Bandido down, then floated over into a Falcon arrow for a two-count, before Bandido rebounded with a torture rack Go to Sleep. A follow-up clothesline nearly puts YOH away, before a Dragon suplex spikes Bandido on his head… YOH hits a second one, bridging Bandido in the process, and that’s enough for the win. I’m surprised Bandido’s gone 0-2, but I have a feeling this was cut short a little as that finish came relatively out of nowhere. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: El Phantasmo vs. BUSHI
I’m being facetious, but I’m wondering if that light-up jacket will finish this tour in one piece…

BUSHI tries to out-psyche ELP with a finger gun… but the Canadian bites it as the pair looked for an early advantage, cartwheeling out of headscissors before Phantasmo lands an early dropkick. He mocks the Aomori crowd’s shouts for BUSHI, then looked to head up top for a rope walk, which wows the crowd (when does it not??) before BUSHI shoved him off. A dropkick takes Phantasmo to the floor for a slingshot ‘rana on the outside, before ELP used BUSHI’s shirt against him for an assisted neckbreaker. The ref refuses to count the pin though because of it, so Phantasmo takes BUSHI into a Tree of Woe and stands on his groin in the corner.

BUSHI fights back with a flying ‘rana, but a too sweet eye poke proved to be a slight delay as BUSHI keeps up with a missile dropkick to take ELP into the corner. A whirlibird neckbreaker from Phantasmo has BUSHI spinning for a near-fall, ahead of a Quebrada as Phantasmo looked to be cruising. A charge into the corner sees BUSHI lift ELP onto the ropes, where he’s crotched ahead of another flying ‘rana, before an attempt at MX was cut off with a superkick that sends BUSHI to the outside. ELP followed that up with some topes ahead of a big splash back in the ring for a near-fall. BUSHI comes right back with a spiking DDT on the apron – almost like a Cherry Mint – before the swinging neckbreaker ended with BUSHI getting shoved into the ref.

With no ref watching, Phantasmo low blows BUSHI before the CR2 got the win. It’s a win, but this was a more low-key match than usual, with this one lacking much of a buzz. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Rocky Romero vs. Will Ospreay
We’ve got an intra-CHAOS match for the semi-main event, and it started out respectfully with a fist bump.

Back-and-forth arm wringers led to a quick standoff, before Rocky did an Okada-like mockingly-clean break in the ropes. A charge back from Ospreay ends with a knee to the gut, before the pair began to evade each other, leading to Rocky hooking himself in the ropes… which baited Ospreay into a dive to the outside as Rocky followed in with a baseball slide to the floor.

Back inside, Rocky charges a shoulder into Ospreay before scoring with a low dropkick, but Will gets back in with an over-the-top 619 as he hooked himself in the ropes a la Romero. It led to a delayed pinning attempt, but we’re way too early to get a finish. Rocky cuts off an exchange as he pulls Ospreay into an Octopus stretch, forcing Will into the ropes before he pulled the arm back to prevent a break, but Ospreay escapes and began to edge his way back into it.

A snapmare and a knee to the back led to a chinlock that wore down Romero, before a huge chop took Rocky into the corner… only for the veteran to respond with a big satellite DDT. Rocky keeps up the comeback with some more chops, before he kicked away the arm as Ospreay went for a handspring. A springboard ‘rana takes Ospreay outside as Rocky followed up with a tope suicida in the aisle, before he caught Ospreay in the ropes again for some kicks to the chest as a set up to a springboard dropkick that snapped Will back inside for a near-fall. Finally Ospreay connects with the handspring enziguiri to give him some breathing room, following that up with a springboard forearm to take Rocky outside for a Sasuke special.

Ospreay takes it back in the ring as the pair begin to trade forearms, with Will trying to fire up Rocky… before he took him down with a head kick. An OsCutter’s called, but countered into a cross armbreaker as he tried to make the earlier shots to the arm count, but Ospreay looks to stomp his way free before he desperately rolled into the ropes. A rewind enziguiri from Romero looked to set up for a lariat, but Ospreay returns with a regular enziguiri. The forever clotheslines looked to follow, but neither man can keep much of an advantage until Romero spun Will with a big Forever lariat, following quickly with a Shiranui as Caprice Coleman lost his mind on commentary.

Ospreay hits back with a buckle bomb, then an implant reverse DDT for a near-fall as we’d long since passed the 20-minute mark. Romero escaped a Storm Breaker and almost won with a backslide… then with a roll-up… before another Sliced Bread was caught and countered with a hook kick, as the Storm Breaker ends up getting countered into a ‘rana for another close near-fall.

The pair begin to trade elbows, but it’s Ospreay who looked to have landed a death blow… only for Rocky to come back up with palm strikes. An uppercut from Ospreay takes Rocky down, but he ducks a Hidden Blade before cracking into Ospreay with a palm strike. A head kick from Ospreay looked to get him back in, but Rocky jumps right in with a cross armbreaker as he looked to be within seconds of victory… except Ospreay powered up into a sit-out powerbomb to break the hold and get a near-fall. From there, a shooting star press gets Rocky a near-fall as the draw was looking surprisingly likely, only for a snap Storm Breaker to drop him for the win.

Bell-to-bell this was real good, but you could tell the crowd couldn’t get invested in this one too much. Upsets are always a thing, especially this early in the tournament, but Rocky’s been away from the singles ranks for too long to really be able to buy into the chances of him winning. As the match wore on, a switch flicked in the crowd’s mind that there might be a chance, but even then, this was more in line with your “classic, long New Japan match” than anything that’d signify a late career resurgence for Rocky. ****

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: DOUKI vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
DOUKI jumps Taguchi before the bell – and we’re quickly outside as this main event threatened to have the slow pace of a throwaway Suzuki-gun undercard tag.

On the outside, DOUKI slams Yuya Uemura onto Taguchi, before he repeated the trick with Shota Umino ahead of a flip senton of the top rope into the pile on the floor. That looked to lead to a count-out tease, but Taguchi rolls back in at the count of 19 to keep the match going.

Back in the ring, DOUKI stomps on Taguchi in the corner, who at least was wearing his scrum hat to offer some protection… and man, this is dragging and it’s only five minutes in. I get the “DOUKI’s mad at the system who pamper the dojo trainees while he starved on his own path”, but as a fan… why should I care about a bad guy? Taguchi tries to fight back, but his eyes get raked before DOUKI choked him by the ropes.

Finally, Taguchi hits back with a hip attack before he misses a plancha on the outside. That opens the gate for DOUKI to suplex Taguchi, before he ran him into the ring post as the referee was still down following an earlier bump. Taguchi tries to turn it around, but a hip attack of the apron is just swatted away by a chairshot from DOUKI, who then hurls Taguchi deep into the crowd. The match returns to the ring, where DOUKI lands a double-stomp to Taguchi’s gut for a near-fall. An Irish whip takes Taguchi into the corner, before an attempt to fight back ends with him finally landing a leaping hip attack, then a low dropkick as DOUKI rolled outside for cover. A springboard plancha to the outside sees Taguchi hit his mark, as the crowd woke up briefly, ahead of another springboard hip attack back in the ring.

DOUKI kicked out from that, as Taguchi shifted into the Three Amigos… eventually landing the hattrick, before Oh My Garankle and a Dodon led to a near-fall. Another Dodon’s rolled through, but Taguchi sits down on DOUKI for a near-fall before going back to Oh My Garankle, dropping an elbow on the knee before DOUKI distracted the ref… so Taichi could leave Japanese commentary and drop Taguchi with a Saito suplex to break it up.

Eventually DOUKI gets back to his feet, and with Taguchi still out, DOUKI lands a modified Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall. From there, DOUKI springboards in from the apron with a DDT, before Taguchi slips out of a Suplex de la Luna… only to get caught in a neck-tie headscissors. Taguchi manages to get free, but DOUKI just rolls back into the middle of the ring to reapply the hold, sending Taguchi to sleep, but the former junior champion got to the ropes. From there, DOUKI charges in with a lariat, before another crack at Suplex de la Luna gets rolled up into a wheelbarrow for a near-fall, as Taguchi followed it up with a Blue Thunder Bomb to get himself a breather.

A strike exchange ensues as Taguchi ends up answering an uppercut with an enziguiri, before an errant flying hip attack squashed Red Shoes in the corner. Taichi tries to make the most of this as he comes in with a chair, sliding it to DOUKI, who swings and misses. With the chair still live, Taguchi drops DOUKI with a Gourdbuster onto the chair, before a Bummer-ye landed for a near-fall. Undeterred, Taguchi hits a Dodon, and while the Young Lions restrain Taichi, Taguchi goes back to Oh My Garankle for the submission. Hey, after a slow start this got pretty good… nowhere near main event calibre mind you, and I can tell I’m going to be pig sick of this Taichi/DOUKI combo by, ooh, the halfway mark? ***¼

So, after two matches apiece, here’s where the blocks stand:

Block A Standings:
Taiji Ishimori, Tiger Mask, Shingo Takagi (2-0; 4pts)
Jonathan Gresham, Dragon Lee, Marty Scurll, Titan (1-1; 2pts)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, SHO, TAKA Michinoku (0-2; 0pts)

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

On paper, this was a low-key round of action, with nothing in the tournament action particularly standing out – and it mostly played out as such in the ring, save for the Ospreay/Romero match. Granted, a poor crowd didn’t help these matches one iota, especially as they seemed to sleep through most of the Ospreay/Romero match.

We’ve finally got a day off… but just the one, as the tour has a double-header in Yamagata this weekend, with block A on Saturday (headlining with Shingo vs. Kanemaru) and block B on the Sunday (topped by Taguchi vs. BUSHI).