After Thursday blew off everyone’s socks, the week at Korakuen ended with yet more Best of the Super Junior action…

We’ve still got the trio of Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Juice Robinson on commentary.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: SHO vs. Tiger Mask
Both men come into this with 2-3 records, with a loss putting them closer to the proverbial bubble. Is Tiger Mask shot, or will he be able to get back on track?

Tiger Mask started with a monkey flip to take SHO down, but he’s quickly watching SHO scramble into the ropes. A takedown attempt from SHO is stuffed and turned into a crucifix-style armbar, but he’s back in the ropes as Tiger Mask showed some early aggression, throwing kicks as soon as SHO got out of the ropes.

SHO cuts him off with a spear, following up with a suplex for a near-fall, before a cross armbreaker saw Tiger Mask back on the defensive. There’s a jumping knee that catches Tiger Mask, who has to punch his way out of a powerbomb as he looked to hit back with a Tiger Driver.

SHO tries to escape, but just gets met with a knee as the Tiger Driver plants him… and almost gave the veteran two more points. A Tiger Suplex looks to be next, but SHO switches out into Shock Arrow… but he can’t go for the cover after dropping Tiger Mask. After getting back to his feet, SHO manages to score with a clothesline, before a crucifix pin out of nowhere almost led to the win!

From there, SHO comes back with a back suplex/lumbar check for another near-fall, before Shock Arrow stuffs Tiger Mask for the win. A very fun sprint to get us going, as SHO continues to hit form while Tiger Mask is all but done this year. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Ren Narita vs. Will Ospreay
Ospreay’s had a knack of drawing out big performances from his opponents here – and while on paper this is a gimme, this could also be a hell of a banana skin for the former tournament winner.

Ospreay seems almost shocked that the crowd were cheering for Narita, even more so when Narita was able to go move-for-move with him in the early going. A shoulder tackle from Narita’s kipped up out of, but an elbow doesn’t get quite the same response as Ospreay hits back with an over-the-top 619.

A slam and a knee drop has Narita down for a two-count, but the Young Lion fought back countering a handspring into a German suplex to bounce Will off the mat. He keeps up with shoulder tackles and suplex for a near-fall, before he teases the overhead belly-to-belly, only for Ospreay to scramble to the ropes.

A leg sweep traps Narita for a huge Shibata-ish dropkick, before a running shooting star press drew another near-fall on Ren-Ren. The springboard forearm follows, but Narita rolls to the outside… only to be in the path of a plancha, which he avoided, before countering back with the belly-to-belly on the floor! That led to a double count-out tease, but Will barely got in in time as Narita keeps up with forearms, only to run into an enziguiri from Ospreay.

The Robinson special follows, before Narita avoids an OsCutter and looked for a Boston crab, rolling Ospreay into the middle of the ring before turning him into a Cloverleaf! Can he do it?! Narita has the crowd believing, but Ospreay’s able to dive into that bottom rope to force the break.

Narita again goes for the overhead belly-to-belly, but Ospreay flips out of it as Ren couldn’t hold his grip. One roundhouse kick later, and Narita’s flat out… except he slips out of a Storm Breaker and scores a backslide for a near-fall. More kicks rock Ren, before an OsCutter puts him away. Lots of heart from Narita, but in the end the gulf in class was way too big. ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Marty Scurll
Who is going to be the more underhanded here?

We have a stand-off from the off as Scurll swings with his umbrella, while Kanemaru goes for his whiskey. They disarm as Kanemaru throws Scurll outside, but Marty’s wise to his tricks and comes back in before heading onto the apron for a superkick.

Scurll then grabs Kanemaru and heads into the seating decks, as they brawl on the concourses that we’re becoming far too familiar with on this stretch. An accidental elbow from Kanemaru takes down the ref… before Marty does the same and almost shoved him down the stairwell. I hope the danger money is good here!

The pair exchange uppercuts in the crowd as the referee decided to head to the ring and start the 20-count. That’s the cue for Kanemaru to head back to the ring… but Marty is sneaking too, and we almost had things backfire as Brody King tried to stop Kanemaru from beating the count!

Back in the ring, a moonsault from Kanemaru misses as another ref bump happens. A satellite DDT drops Scurll as the Young Lions check on the ref… and that’s the cue for Marty to go for the umbrella. Kanemaru goes for his booze, and of course Scurll uses the umbrella to block it.

They switch places, but after the referee removes the umbrella, Marty sprays the whiskey before Black Plague gets him the win. Payback is a something something for Kanemaru, whose tactics didn’t quite pay-off here. Fun for what it was. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: DOUKI vs. Robbie Eagles
DOUKI’s got new gear, and hoping for a change in fortunes here.

Eagles was wise to DOUKI’s jump start, ducking it and hitting him with dropkicks in the opening moments. DOUKI ducks as Eagles charges, sending himself to the outside as he’s then thrown into the ring post. A DDT onto a chair looked to cost Eagles the match as he barely rolled back into the ring, all bloodied, but he’s able to come back with springboard dropkick before he threw up his own X.

Some kicks from Eagles get a near-fall before he took down DOUKI with a pair of running knees in the corner. Still, Robbie keeps up with a 450 splash attempt, but DOUKI avoids it and comes back with the neck tie submission attempt. Eagles gets to the ropes and comes right back with a Ron Miller Special, forcing DOUKI to drag himself to the ropes for his own break.

DOUKI keeps up with a forearm from the apron, before the springboard DDT from the apron finally landed clearly for a near-fall. Eagles lost his bandanna from there, which led to the blood flowing again, but he’s able to counter a Suplex de la luna before he almost fell to a butterfly roll-up.

More wacky pinning attempts nearly got DOUKI the win, but Eagles kicks his way back, only to get dropped with a clothesline. From there, Eagles counters a Suplex de la Luna into a Turbo Packback for a near-fall, before a 450 splash onto the leg set up for the Ron Miller Special, and that’s a quick tap. Considering how badly this could have fallen apart after the DDT early, they rescued something half decent out of this – and luckily they have a day off tomorrow for Robbie to get tended to! ***

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Shingo Takagi
Well, if Ospreay vs. Narita was a banana skin, this is probably a slightly bigger one.

On commentary, Juice Robinson put a wager on TAKA losing in short order, but TAKA starts with an eye rake and some headscissors, sending Shingo outside… where he went to work on Takagi’s arm, throwing it in the ring post before using an armbreaker.

Back in the ring, a Dragon screw takes Shingo down as TAKA took him into the ringpost for a figure four. A superkick off the apron keeps it going, as does an Orihara moonsault as TAKA was rolling back the clock in his effort to score an upset. From there, they had into the crowd, where TAKA lands a superkick, before the Just Facelock in the stands looked to restrain Shingo as the ref was counting away.

TAKA lets go too early as Shingo beat the count, but he’s quickly caught in a series of near-falls, then another Just Facelock as everyone was expecting the worst… could TAKA be the first man to beat Shingo in New Japan? Not yet, as Shingo gets a foot to the rope before he caught TAKA with a swivel lariat… which got turned into another Just Facelock!

Chris Charlton wins his ¥1000 as the match passes the 5 minute mark, with Shingo again having to scramble to the ropes. From there though, Shingo burst into life with a suplex throw, following in with a barrage of forearms and some clotheslines. One Pumping Bomber later, and TAKA’s down… with one last attempt to sucker Shingo backfiring as a Last of the Dragons put Michinoku away. Hey, this some great subversion as we saw TAKA fighting for his life… and almost doing it too. It gives the rest of the block hope. ***¼

We’re halfway through, so time for the Interrupting Knife Pervert video!

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Bandido vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
We start on the mat, with headlock takedowns and escapes as Taguchi proceeds to shoot Bandido into the ropes for some impromptu cardio.

Bandido eventually begs off, then demands Taguchi do the same… but it’s a rib as he just catches Taguchi with a superkick for a near-fall. There’s a wow moment as Bandido flips over Taguchi from the ring to the apron for a sunset bomb into the ring post, before he returned to the ring for a nice tope con giro into the crowd.

Back inside, a springboard crossbody drops Taguchi, who’s left sitting for a dropkick to the back of the head for a near-fall. Taguchi tries to fight back, but his hip attack’s countered repeatedly, before a low dropkick countered a sunset flip and bought Taguchi some time. Bandido heads outside, but can’t avoid a flying crossbody as Taguchi finally connects with a springboard hip attack… then a tope con giro to the outside!

Taguchi rolls Bandido back in for the Three Amigos, but it’s not enough as Bandido comes back with an inverted suplex and a hip attack of his own for a near-fall. Another hip attack’s countered with a roll-up as Taguchi went for Oh My Garankle instead, before a Dodon is rolled through back and forth for a bunch of near-falls.

The hip attacks almost cost Taguchi again as a springboard hip attack’s turned into a German suplex for a near-fall, before Taguchi countered a 21 Plex with a lariat. Another Dodon’s countered into the torture rack GTS, before Bandido struggled to rebound off the topes with a 21 Plex for the win. A solid performance, finish aside, as Taguchi’s campaign looks to be on thin ice, while Bandido still has a chance… but he needs to stay consistent. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. Jonathan Gresham
With Shingo Takagi running away at the top of the block, Ishimori needs to keep racking up wins to have any sort of a chance.

Gresham charged at Ishimori at the bell, taking him down and spat… at the spot where he was. Except seconds later, Ishimori’s tricked into falling into that spot, before Gresham ended up eating a baseball slide German suplex, as the Bone Soldier began to put a beating onto the Octopus.

An Irish whip into the corner sees Gresham take it almost collarbone-first for a near-fall, before a cravat restrained Gresham… until he slammed his way free. Headscissors and a hiptoss took Ishimori outside as a flying knee has Ishimori down on the outside, before a crossbody back inside led to a near-fall as Gresham tried to pick apart Ishimori, before a series of standing witches took Gresham into a Euro clutch for a near-fall…

But from the kick-out, Ishimori goes for a Yes Lock, only for Gresham to make it to the ropes. Another wacky roll-up gets Gresham a near-fall as he tied up Ishimori in knots, following up with an Octopus stretch, trapping the arms only for Ishimori to fall back to break it up. A massive shotgun dropkick propels Gresham into the corner for the running double knees for a near-fall, before Bloody Cross puts him away. This felt brief again, coming in at just over five minutes, but on the whole a real good outing for Gresham whose recent resurgence unceremoniously ended. ***½

We’ve had a lot of short matches… that tells me that one of our last three is going LONG.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: BUSHI vs. YOH
We’ve a hot start as BUSHI leaps into YOH at the bell, taking him outside for a tope, where BUSHI looked to go to his usual playbook, whipping YOH around ringside with his belt.

Back inside, a STF from BUSHI traps YOH, who escaped and began to exchange chops, eventually ripping off BUSHI’s shirt so they could continue. BUSHI edges ahead, avoiding a dropkick from YOH, who came back with a corkscrew leaping forearm. A dropkick from YOH connects, but BUSHI issues a quick response by the ropes.

Dragging YOH through the ropes, BUSHI went for the leaping DDT onto the apron, only to get dropkicked to the floor where he was met with a tope con giro. A missile dropkick back inside lands, as YOH rolls BUSHI into a calf slicer, forcing BUSHI to crawl towards the ropes.

Back on his feet, BUSHI catches YOH with the overhead kick in the ropes before he went up top… but YOH stops him with a superplex, rolling it through into a Falcon arrow for a near-fall. From there, YOH goes for a Dragon suplex, switching it into a bridging German for a near-fall, only to get caught in response with a swinging neckbreaker.

The pair exchange forearms and elbows as they tried to wear the other down with strikes, then with enziguiri, only for BUSHI to catch him with a pair of lungblowers, then a Destroyer for a near-fall, before planting YOH with a MX for the win. This was fine, but nothing overly spectacular… perhaps a cooldown for what’s to come, as both men sink to 3-3 and largely are out of it now. ***

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Titan vs. Dragon Lee
A first-time meeting in New Japan, but Dragon Lee’s won both prior singles meetings.

Red Shoes Unno referees in a Kamaitachi mask, which is cool as hell to see, as we start with Titan taking Dragon Lee into the ropes before backing away. Takedowns and dropkicks follow as the pair reached a quick stalemate, before the ref took off the mask and got booed. Hey, those things are hot as hell!

More lucha sequences see Titan score with some swinging headscissors, before he got taken out for a tope con giro! Titan’s rolled back in ahead of a grounded abdominal stretch, before he’s cracked with a chop in the corner. Ow.

Titan comes back with a Miz-like clothesline and a Combinacion Cabron dropkick as he stomped on Dragon Lee in the corner, before he got met with a dropkick in the opposite corner. Retaliation from Titan sees a dropkick target the knee, before he popped up on the apron and dragged Dragon Lee outside with headscissors!

A springboard moonsault from Titan keeps Dragon Lee down on the floor, but he rolls Dragon Lee back inside rather than take a count-out win. Titan tries to follow up off the top rope, but he just leaps into a bicycle knee before the pair decided to go back to trading shots. Forearms rock both men, before they both Matrix out of clotheslines, trade superkicks… and end up with Titan Dragon screwing Dragon Lee into a modified Figure Four.

After getting to the ropes, Dragon Lee catches Titan up top where he sparks another forearm battle, leading to Titan knocking Dragon Lee back before he sits up and hits a spider suplex. He repositions himself, but eats a backflip kick before Titan’s step-up avalanche ‘rana is caught and turned into a Del Rio stomp! An attempt at Desnucadora follows, but Titan slips out and plants Dragon Lee with a satellite DDT for a near-fall!

Dragon Lee comes back with a snap German suplex and a pair of knee strikes, sandwiching those between Titan’s insane monkey flip Destroyer, before another Desnucadora’s countered into a Samoan driver for a near-fall for Titan! Another satellite DDT’s shoved off as Dragon Lee lands another knee, then a sheer drop brainbuster for a two-count… following up with a reverse ‘rana and another bloody knee strike for a two-count, before Desnucadora finally landed for the win. Marvellous stuff, with the sequences not being too insane, nor too sloppy as lucha can be. Exactly what you expected out of these two! ****

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: El Phantasmo vs. Rocky Romero
A rematch from Rev Pro’s Global Wars last year, as the undefeated El Phantasmo (“the undisputed pillock”) was the man that Rocky Romero needs to beat to stay alive.

Rocky catches Phantasmo with a dropkick at the bell, taking him outside for a tope suicida, before he chased him around ringside with chops… but ELP’s back as he clears the crowd and trolls them with a Brookesing. Rocky’s back with a water spray as the pair go deeper into the crowd, and up into the concourses, using the seating deck as a makeshift stairway.

Problem was, by the time they got up there, Phantasmo had gotten ahead, throwing Rocky into the entry tunnel… but Rocky disappears to avoid a moonsault, and suckers Phantasmo with an uppercut from behind… because HE wants to do a dive. In the form of a leaping knee off the sloped bits.

From there, he throws ELP into a wall before frogmarching the Canadian back towards the ring, but the tides turn when ELP dumps Rocky on the apron, knee-first. Knee drops to the left leg, then a DDT to the leg has Phantasmo ahead, with a single-leg crab continuing the focus. When Rocky gets to the ropes, he’s quickly hung up on the top rope before a Quebrada gets Phantasmo a near-fall – and it’s back to familiar territory for ELP.

An Irish whip sees Rocky get hurled into the corner, as Phantasmo began to trash talk some more, before he took Rocky upside down in a Tree of Woe so he could stomp on the groin. Yup. Some boots follow as Phantasmo followed up with some rope walking… before he got way too arrogant and got shoved to the floor amid a series of springboard jumps for a ‘rana.

Rocky charges after him outside with a plancha, but an attempt at a running knee comes up short as Phantasmo dodges, with Rocky sending himself into the ring post. With Rocky down, Phantasmo pulls up the padding on the floor, teasing a CR2 on the exposed floor, only for Rocky to back body drop his way free, with ELP landing with a thud. Romero tries to add to that, lawndarting Phantasmo into the ring post as this was getting more violent, with Rocky adding a flip senton off the top rope into ELP and some Young Lions on the floor.

Finally back in the ring, ELP pleads for mercy, but gets none as Rocky unleashes with some kicks, then chops, before hanging ELP in the ropes for a springboard stomp. Romero follows off the top rope with a knee drop to the left arm, before he crotched Phantasmo as the Canadian tried to make a comeback. Rocky gets some payback too, pulling ELP into a Tree of Woe… but he refused to stand on ELP’s balls and instead peppered him with backheels.

Rocky joins ELP up top, eventually scoring with a tornado DDT and a Falcon arrow/cross armbreaker. An ankle lock from Phantasmo’s short lived as Rocky went back to the cross armbar, only to get powerbombed away as the pair begin to trade forearms from their knees. In the background, we hear the 20 minute time cue as ELP edges ahead, hauling up Rocky for a whirlibird neckbreaker.

Rocky escapes ands a rewind enziguiri, before his Shiranui’s stopped, forcing him to elbow ELP away before he instead landed the Asai DDT off the top rope! When Rocky could roll over for the cover, he’d given Phantasmo enough time to recover as we get a kick-out two, before some Forever lariats keep ELP in the corner.

Phantasmo again gets free and traps Rocky in the corner with a superkick, before he lifted him up for a whirlibird neckbreaker… but again Rocky escapes with a backslide, only for ELP to roll through, land a superkick before connecting with the whirlibird neckbreaker, with Rocky rolling outside to save himself.

Phantasmo follows him outside as Rocky gets thrown into the Japanese commentary team, aiming him squarely for Milano Collection AT. Beating the count-out tease, Rocky avoids a big splash from Phantasmo, who’d been waiting for him, then mounted a fresh comeback with a series of clotheslines for a near-fall. We’re into the final five minutes, with Rocky connecting with a running shiranui for just a one-count?!

The kick-out sees ELP take out the ref, but he fails with a low blow as Rocky goes for the cross armbar… forcing Phantasmo to tap, knowing full well there was no ref. He capitalises further with a low blow and a small package, but Rocky kicks out at two before ELP headed up for a big splash… again for a near-fall! Again, ELP crashes into the ref after the kickout, then heads outside for his Rev Pro title belt, which Rocky ducked before he outsmarted Phantasmo mid-Eddie Guerrero. The crowd roar as they sensed a phantom DQ, but while ELP protested his innocence, Rocky comes back with a small package… then a backslide as he inched closer to victory.

Somehow, Rocky ‘ranas out of a CR2 and gets a near-fall, and as we got another time check he burst into life. Leaping knees, a Shiranui into a small package… only good for a two-count, before he caught ELP with a cross armbreaker, throwing some kicks for good measure before ELP meekly tapped out. Holy God, that was tense, as Rocky beat the time limit with Korakuen roaring for Rocky’s win! While perhaps a little flat at times, especially if you were one of those down on ELP’s run so far, there’s no denying that that final flurry had the crowd on the edges of their seat as Rocky Romero squashed Phantasmo’s unbeaten run. Fantastic stuff to close out the show! ****¼

SHO and YOH come out to celebrate with Rocky, who had one more battle – this time with a dodgy microphone, for the show closing promo.

There’s a lot of folks who are eliminated on tie-breakers, but we’ll stick with just the mathematical impossibilities at this point!

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

Eliminated: TAKA Michinoku

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

Eliminated: DOUKI, Ren Narita

While it was always going to be tricky to live up to the highlights of the last two nights, this show topped off in fine fashion with a struggle of a win for Rocky Romero – and one that blows block B wide open. Which is just as well really, since both blocks having runaway winners would have made this tournament become a struggle to get invested in in the later stages.

The tour’s got a day off before returning in Chiba for another ten block matches, headlining with SHO vs. Taiji Ishimori… then it’s some more time off before another Wednesday/Thursday/Friday swing in Aichi, Osaka and Ehime as we’re well and truly in the business end of things.