After two days off, Best of the Super Junior begins a three-day run at Korakuen Hall – and both blocks are in action on this stacked card!

There’s no undercard tags here, just ten matches in the tournament. Thirty in the next three days. Strap in, it’s going to be a ride… Commentary’s from the three-man booth of Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Juice Robinson. Who doesn’t get interrupted for a change.

Before the show, there was a ten bell salute in honor of the late Silver King, following his tragic passing at a show in London a little over a week ago.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Taiji Ishimori
TAKA’s going into this with no points, and he starts with a cheeky eye poke after taking Ishimori into the ropes… but he’s straight in with Just Facelock attempts as that Bully choke looked like it was going to be spammed once more today.

Some headscissors from TAKA break the spamming as he has Ishimori on the mat, but an eye rake forces the ref to break it up as TAKA proceeded to corner Ishimori and snapmare him down for a running knee. Ishimori mounts a comeback with his misdirection in the ropes, only for TAKA to out-maneuver him and hit a springboard spinning heel kick for a near-fall.

It’s back to the Just Facelock, but Ishimori slithers into the ropes for a break before rebounding in a handspring enziguiri. A Bloody Cross is blocked by TAKA, who comes right in with a thrust kick for a near-fall before he turned a slam into a spike DDT, then a Bloody Cross for the win. A vicious finale, and a more laboured victory for Ishimori than you’d expect. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Ren Narita vs. Bandido
On paper, this is a gimme for Bandido, whose tournament hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts.

After a handshake, he jumps Narita, who was wise to the rebounds as the Young Lion took down Bandido with Firemans carry takedowns. A dropkick’s next, but Bandido makes a comeback with a pancake on Narita for a near-fall. There’s a back elbow and a low dropkick too as Bandido was making this one-way traffic, but Narita escapes with an overhead belly-to-belly for a near-fall.

Bandido’s back with a gamengiri on the apron, but Narita caught it and looked to turn it into a bridging belly-to-belly suplex back into the ring… only for the counter to see the luchador lift the Young Lion onto the apron with him. It backfires, as Narita spikes Bandido with an overhead belly-to-belly on the apron, which got the crowd going, before Narita’s attempt to follow up with a plancha was countered into an ugly apron powerbomb. Well, there’s his spot gone.

Narita somehow gets up to beat the count-out, but Bandido continues to light him up with kicks before a running shooting star press landed in Narita’s knees. A bunch of pinning attempts can only get Narita near-falls before a clothesline, a modified Go To Sleep and the 21 Plex put him away. Fantastic heart from Narita, who’s really breaking through on this tour, even if the results are painfully familiar. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Jonathan Gresham vs. Titan
Gresham’s tour so far has been summed up with a crisis of confidence, as his performances haven’t yielded results. Both guys come into this with 1-2 records, and a loss would likely all but end their campaigns.

We start with a handshake as the match began with Gresham working a wristlock… and Titan countering out. It’s the usual, fluid stuff from Gresham, which Titan matches, leading to the pair being tied up in their legs and upside down. Pinning attempts from Titan force Gresham to bridge, then wheelbarrow into a series of armdrags as the offence was pleasing if not productive.

Titan takes down Gresham and looked for a La Magistral cradle, but he kicked out… then got trapped in the ropes as the luchador sparked a chop battle. That’s switched up into corner-to-corner charges, before Titan Matrix’s out of a clothesline before clocking Gresham with a roundhouse kick.

Gresham tries to fight out of a Romero special, but to no avail as Titan hauls him up… but Gresham gets free and stands up out of it before he began to go after Titan’s arm. A La Mistica follows, before a series of forearms saw Titan try to break some wrist control. It doesn’t work, as Gresham snaps the arm, before almost losing to an O’Connor roll.

Titan keeps up with a kip up enziguiri as Gresham was on the apron, before Gresham pulled the luchador into the ropes. He took too long following up off the top rope, and had to fight out of a superplex, only to get dropped onto the turnbuckle as we almost had the end right there. A powerbomb from Gresham led to some roll-throughs for near-falls, before a modified La Mistica nearly put Gresham away.

Gresham goes back to the arm as an Octopus stretch forces Titan towards the ropes, before he’s pulled down into a pinning attempt. After the kick-out, Titan’s pulled into another Octopus, and finally Gresham’s graft gets results. A little patchy in places, this was our usual sublime slice of wrestling from Gresham, who’s slowly starting to come good. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: YOH vs. Rocky Romero
It’s student vs. teacher here, sort of, as we have perhaps the forgotten member of Roppongi 3K against the coach.

We start slow here, with YOH looking to work the arm, only to get taken into the ropes by Rocky. YOH refuses to fall for Romero’s mind games though, and comes in with headlock takedowns en route to a stand-off, before some neat sequences led to a low dropkick from YOH that sends Rocky flying.

YOH keeps up on Rocky’s left leg, but his coach begins to chop back, then block a Dragon screw as a cross armbreaker forces YOH into the ropes. Rocky keeps up the pressure by climbing the ropes as he drove YOH’s right arm into the mat, as both guys were continuing to focus on a body part. Forever lariats are blocked by YOH, who ends up falling to a Divorce Court as Rocky proceeds to hang him in the ropes… but YOH avoids a flying stomp and instead pulls Rocky through the ropes with a Dragon screw.

Staying on Rocky’s knee, YOH looked for a Figure four, but a small package proved to be an adept counter as Rocky gets a near-fall, only to get caught off the top rope with a Dragon screw. A leg grapevine looked to keep Rocky in trouble, but he’s able to counter out with a cross armbreaker as YOH again had to struggle into the ropes.

Rocky and YOH go back and forth, with a rewind enziguiri sending YOH out to skin the cat… as Rocky kept up with more clotheslines. A running Shiranui’s next for a near-fall, while YOH retaliated with an elbow-assisted reverse DDT for a two-count of his own. YOH keeps the momentum building with a German suplex, bridging for a near-fall, before a Dragon suplex got countered into a wheelbarrow… as we’re back to the cross armbreaker as Rocky ended up getting rolled up for another near-fall. Some neat sequences here, but this crowd’s really undecided on who to back.

In the end, YOH catches Rocky in a calf slicer for the submission to end the keenly-fought match… but for me, this was just missing a certain spark. YOH wins, but he’s still being portrayed as the Marty Jannetty of this team. ***

Now Juice Robinson gets interrupted. Time’s up, and it’s still not Chris Brookes. “Cut it” is a ironic choice of phrase to use on the new knife pervert.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Tiger Mask vs. Dragon Lee
This could be a clash of styles, especially if Dragon Lee’s forced to slow down too much.

Tiger Mask starts on the wrist, but he’s too close to the ropes as the junior champion gets a quick break. The tempo’s upped as Tiger Mask took Dragon Lee outside, meeting him on the floor with a flying body press off the top rope, then again with a crossbody back inside as Dragon Lee caught and rolled him through.

A tiltawhirl backbreaker shocks Dragon Lee, who’s then lifted back up top… he countered a superplex with an attempt at a Del Rio double stomp, but Tiger Mask just hung himself in a Tree of Woe for a dropkick. The Shibata-ish dropkick follows, as does a butterfly backbreaker and a low dropkick with Dragon Lee coming close.

Tiger Mask blocks Desnucadora and comes back with a spiking tombstone, before a Tiger Driver almost led to the upset. A Tiger suplex attempt is blocked, but Tiger Mask sits down on Dragon Lee for a near-fall before going through some submissions. First a sleeperhold, then an armbar forces Dragon Lee to the ropes, but there’s a turnaround as a STF has Tiger Mask on the defensive, eventually scurrying to the ropes to break it.

Dragon Lee goes to the arm, but has to roll out of a backslide before cracking Tiger Mask with a knee for a near-fall. Another running knee catches Tiger Mask, and from there it’s elementary as Desnucadora gets the win. This was fine, but there was something about this match that just didn’t work for me. I think we can safely say that Tiger Mask’s good start is over. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: DOUKI vs. BUSHI
Juice Robinson gets in the “dookey” pronounciation early, as both these men are close to being eliminated. BUSHI’s yet to get a point, which is underperforming by even his standards.

DOUKI jumps BUSHI at the bell, but gets taken outside with headscissors as a flying ‘rana from BUSHI caught him on the floor. In the ring, BUSHI goes to his usual playbook as he chokes DOUKI with his shirt, before a dive goes bad as DOUKI ducks, allowing BUSHI to sail outside where he got thrown into the ringpost.

DOUKI drags BUSHI into the crowd, with DOUKI getting thrown into the West sign. Back in the ring, DOUKI keeps up the pressure, countering a BUSHI neckbreaker into a suplex for a near-fall, following up with the neck-tie submission attempt. BUSHI gets to the ropes, frustrating DOUKI who shoves down the ref, before BUSHI made a comeback.

An enziguiri stunned DOUKI briefly, as he replies with a stiff clothesline for a near-fall. BUSHI hits back again with a leaping DDT onto the apron before he headed up to the corner for the MX… which lands, and that’s all folks. A dominant finish, but BUSHI had to endure a scare as DOUKI is starting to come into his own here. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. SHO
Kanemaru jumps SHO at the bell, desperate to get his first win… and it shows as he tried to tear away at SHO’s ears before getting met with a dropkick.

SHO counters back with a low dropkick to knock Kanemaru off the apron, following up with a PK as the Roppongi 3K man was fired up… but that ear was clearly causing issues, not helped when Kanemaru grabbed him by it and threw him into the crowd.

The pair wander up the seating decks next, but a clothesline from SHO stops Kanemaru in the stands. He tries for a piledriver, but instead makes do with a kick before Kanemaru threw him into the wall. A suplex from Kanemaru lands as he slowly begins to head back to the ring as the referee was counting… but Kanemaru waited on the outside, suckering SHO in as he threw a Young Lion into him at the count of 19, then beat the count himself, and that’s the match! A flash win, but that’s Kanemaru on the board finally as he lived up to the master part of his nickname. **¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Robbie Eagles vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi came into this with a share of the lead, while Eagles wasn’t exactly pulling up trees with his run so far.

We start with the pair trading wristlocks as the feeling out process saw both men go to ground, trading headlocks, headscissors and escapes. Taguchi suckers Eagles in for a low dropkick, and evades the Aussie by rolling away as he comes in with hip attacks and chops, before lifting Eagles onto the apron… where a missed hip attack left Taguchi stuck in the ropes.

Eagles took the initiative and began to go after Taguchi’s knee with a springboard dropkick, then with a simple kick to the back of the joint for a near-fall. Taguchi’s kept on the defensive with chops, before he countered a leap into the corner with a Blue Thunder bomb. He followed Eagles outside with a crossbody press, before a springboard hip attack back inside led to a near-fall.

The Three Amigos finally connect on Eagles, as did a Gourdbuster, before Taguchi played too long and got dropkicked in the arse. An Asai DDT’s next for a near-fall as Eagles began to make a comeback, again going for the knee as a Figure Four is pushed away, with Taguchi trying for Oh My Garankle. That’s avoided, as Taguchi tries for a Dodon, before Eagles rolled through into a Ron Miller special, forcing Taguchi into the ropes.

Eagles keeps up the pressure with running knees into the corner, crashing into Taguchi’s head in the process, but after a spot of buffering we’re back with Eagles in Oh My Garankle. A counter comes when Eagles stands up into a Turbo Backpack for a near-fall, before a thrust kick’s replied to with an enziguiri as Dodon to the Throne from Taguchi nearly got the win. The end comes when Taguchi goes for another Dodon, but Eagles slips out and rolls him up… and there’s your upset! A cracking back and forth match, but Eagles nicking the win puts him on top of the group… for now. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Shingo Takagi vs. Marty Scurll
Can Marty Scurll do the unthinkable and give Shingo his first loss in New Japan?

The opening tie-up is fought over as Scurll eventually took Shingo to his knees… only for the pair to reverse roles as Marty had to fight back before eventually taking Shingo outside for an apron superkick. A stomp to the hand opens the offense on Takagi’s digits, as a series of chops and forearms keep Shingo in the corner.

Yelling at Shingo just wakes him up as he fired back with some speedy forearms and chops in the corner, before a clothesline just decked Marty with ease. A sliding clothesline keeps Marty down for a near-fall, before a second one’s ducked and turned into a half nelson suplex by Scurll.

Shingo fights free on the top rope as Marty looked for a superplex, headbutting him away before Scurll came back with a leaping uppercut and a superplex as he hauled him down to the mat. A back body drop from Shingo stops Marty’s offence, before he came back in with a slap… but Scurll decides to try for clotheslines, and ends up succeeding with a thrust kick after catching Takagi with a superkick.

We’re back to forearms as the pair looked to keep the other one down, as running forearms ended up leading to interference as Brody King blatantly tripped Shingo. The ref admonishes King as Marty uses his umbrella and a clothesline to almost put away Takagi. We’ve another ref bump as Shingo gets caught with a swinging Bossman slam from King, as Scurll was having to take all the shortcuts before a powerbomb almost put away the LIJ member.

Yet another ref bump comes when Scurll backed into the referee as Shingo tried to avoid Black Plague… but this time, King’s clothesline misses as Marty’s taken down. A Pumping Bomber gets rid of Brody, before a wheelbarrow roll-up almost led to the upset. Marty keeps up the pressure before he ran into a Noshigami… followed up with a Pumping Bomber for a near-fall. From there, the Last of the Dragon dumps Scurll, and that’s another win for the runaway train that is Shingo, who continues his monstrous run. I wasn’t so crazy on the interference, but if this is the start of a direction for King and Scurll here, then why not? ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: El Phantasmo vs. Will Ospreay
Hey, the ELP entrance really does look better in a darkened room. These two are 1-1 in prior singles meetings, with Ospreay winning at Rev Pro a little over a year ago while ELP got his win back in Defiant (of all places) last October.

Both men shoot out of the locks, as Ospreay took Phantasmo outside for a proper Brookesing. Right in the crowd. Phantasmo tries to put distance between himself and Ospreay, but ends up taking a tope into the crowd, before he caught an apron PK and pulled Ospreay onto the edge of the ring.

Smartly, Phantasmo heads under the ring for an ice pack for himself… which he then used to… threaten to teabag Ospreay. Will kicks away the prop comedy and hits a nice flip senton off the apron, and from the “whistling bumhole”, we head into the crowd again. Right into the seating decks, where ELP begged for mercy.

Ospreay ignores him to tease a piledriver, but he’s kicked away as ELP headed onto the top of an access tunnel and moonsaulted into Ospreay, with so much momentum he nearly spilled down the lower half of the seating decks! ELP kicks Ospreay down the stairs, back towards the ring, finishing with a flying forearm off the railings as he mocked Ospreay some more.

We finally get them back in the ring as Phantasmo put the boots to Ospreay, following up with some chops ahead of a rope-walk and a double-jump ‘rana that had Korakuen on its feet. It’s only enough for a near-fall as Chris Charlton smartly put that over as him “rubbing it in Ospreay’s face”, as some elbows and chinlocks continued to wear down the former tournament winner.

Phantasmo begins to get a little arrogant though, and eventually gets caught with a handspring enziguiri as Ospreay begins to fight back. An over-the-top 619 also connects, but ELP stops Ospreay with a thrust kick before he was taken into the corner, and dropped for the Shibata-ish dropkick. A shooting star press is next for a near-fall as Ospreay continued to build momentum, but ELP’s right there with a springboard crossbody and a Quebrada for a near-fall of his own.

Chops from Ospreay looked to set up for a Storm Breaker, but it’s blocked as ELP hit back with a superkick, before a step-up enziguiri from Ospreay left the Canadian on the outside. Ospreay follows him outside with a corkscrew moonsault off the top, taking ELP back inside as he teed up for a Robinson special. An OsCutter’s blocked and eventually turned into a backslide for a near-fall as Ospreay finally connects with a hook kick… then went for a Storm Breaker, which ELP countered with a Code Red for a near-fall.

Phantasmo adds pressure with a springboard moonsault for a two-count as he bemoaned a slow count, and that looked to have distracted a little as he got caught with a head kick from Ospreay moments later. ELP avoids a Cheeky Nando’s kick, but can’t avoid an Essex Destroyer as Ospreay remained a step ahead, this time connecting with the Cheeky Nando’s… throwing in some more cheeky kicks as there were extra servings on order.

Ospreay keeps up by lifting ELP into an Electric Chair position, then lift him to the middle rope… but a modified avalanche Iconoclasm ends up landing anyway as ELP somehow kicked out. A Hidden Blade is narrowly avoided as ELP instead looked for a low blow… Ospreay blocks it and instead comes back with kicks. Phantasmo spits back and gets kicked some more as Ospreay’s latest attempt at an OsCutter ended with him getting shoved onto the apron.

Ospreay joins him on the apron, teasing a Spanish Fly to the floor, before he ran into a right hand as Phantasmo laid him out. A CR2 is teased, as ELP instead just drops Ospreay onto the apron with a piledriver, as they tease another count-out finish, with both men narrowly diving in at the last second to break the count… except ELP had headed up top and met Ospreay on the way in with a big splash for a near-fall.

ELP gets up to mock a Rainmaker, but Ospreay flips over into a Ligerbomb instead for a near-fall, before an OsCutter was countered into a whirlibird neckbreaker as we entered into the last five minutes. Phantasmo shoves Red Shoes Unno for another slow pin – in his mind – but the ref shoves back before knocking Phantasmo into a Spanish Fly as Ospreay came close. A shooting star off the top’s next, but ELP kicks out… and is Ospreay running out of time?

Phantasmo grabs hold of the referee with his legs to avoid a Storm Breaker, meaning nobody saw the low blow as a roll-up nearly put Will away. Another whirlibird neckbreaker follows as ELP stays close to the finishing line, before the CR2 lands to get the victory. That’s a huge win for Phantasmo, who’s having a run that I doubt anyone expected him to have here – and a win over Will Ospreay instantly cements him in the top tier of the junior division, regardless of the tactics used. ****¼

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

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

The first “all tournament match” show was a real banger. Pardon the pun, given the main event. On paper, SHO/Kanemaru ranked low, but the quick match really worked well in the sea of lengthy matches as it felt like everyone raised their game for Korakuen. A place for everything and everything in its place, as they say…

The early doubts over DOUKI are slowly being dispelled by recent performances, and while there are those questioning El Phantasmo’s place… well, while nobody gives him a shot at getting past Shingo Takagi (whom many feel is nailed on to win this), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a solid number two in a division that’s been revitalised in this tournament.