Following a day-off, Best of the Super Junior 26 rolled into Chiba for another show full of tournament action.

Held in the Makuhari Messe International Conference Hall, we’ve commentary from Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Juice Robinson. We’re down a match today too. A leg injury to TAKA Michinoku meant that he had to withdraw from the show – he’s forfeited his match, rather than have a replacement, so Dragon Lee technically starts the day joint top… albeit with one more match in the books.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Ren Narita vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Narita doesn’t fist-bump Taguchi before the bell, instead looking to take down the rugger-bugger, taking him into the ropes with an early Boston crab attempt.

The pair scramble on the mat, with Narita looking for Taguchi’s leg, rolling for a pinning attempt before Taguchi got to the rope once more. A cravat from Narita led to a chinlock and another rope break, as Taguchi seemed to be underestimating the Young Lion.

That latest rope break opened the door for Taguchi, who went for an armbar, but again… right by the ropes, so we get a break. A low dropkick snuffs out the Taguchi comeback, but after escaping a Boston crab, Taguchi locks in Oh My Garankle before Narita neatly pushed free and looked to counter into a Cloverleaf. He rolls Taguchi into the middle of the ring too, but we counter, counter and counter into a roll-up by Narita for a near-fall. Taguchi misses an enziguiri as Narita goes back to the Cloverleaf, but Taguchi’s able to capitalise on Narita’s lack of stability, rolling free into another Oh My Garankle, before a small package led to a near-fall for Narita. From there, a low dropkick from Taguchi takes us into a La Magistral… but wait, he fakes it out and goes back to the ankle, finally forcing the submission. A heck of a performance from Narita, but in the end, we all know he’s an excursion away from being able to get wins. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Jonathan Gresham
Kanemaru’s own brand of sneaky style finally backfired on Friday… and there’s something very odd about people going up and down escalators in the background during entrances.

Gresham, who was selling his ribs coming out, keeps Kanemaru on the mat early with a wrist clutch following a headlock takedown, making sure the “Heel Master” couldn’t get far. Tricking Kanemaru on the mat, Gresham clicks his heels to jam Kanemaru’s thumbs, before an armdrag misses, allowing Kanemaru to come back with a kick before some grounded headscissors kept the Suzuki-gun man on top.

Gresham’s in the corner, getting choke on as Kanemaru’s all methodical here, but Gresham slips free with a sunset flip before going for Kanemaru’s arm. Now we get the armdrag, only for Kanemaru to rebound with a satellite DDT before he went up top for a moonsault… which lands flush for a near-fall. Another swing in momentum sees Gresham go for the arm before a ‘rana’s rolled through for back-and-forth pins, with both men rolling around to troll the ref, leading to an eventual two-count as Kanemaru got dizzy. Gresham seemed to be less affected by it though, as he hauled him up in a nice bridging German suplex for a near-fall, before Kanemaru just shoved the ref into Gresham.

That’s the cue for whiskey, but Gresham ducks a bottle shot. The ref disarms Gresham but we don’t get the “ref puts the bottle away and misses some cheating”, as instead he shoves the bottle aside and is there for Kanemaru tapping. ***

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: DOUKI vs. Rocky Romero
Pretend to be shocked at this, but DOUKI jumped Rocky before the bell. He’ll never learn.

DOUKI throws him outside and into the ring post, before charging Rocky knee-first into the same said post. Back in the ring, DOUKI exacerbates it by wrapping Rocky’s leg around the rope, then by standing on the knee while Rocky was in a Tree of Woe.

DOUKI does a Yano by removing a turnbuckle pad, but he ends up missing a shoulder charge as he eats the ring post. Rocky makes a comeback from there with a flying ‘rana, then some Forever lariats before DOUKI escapes and lands a low dropkick of his own. The pair exchange shots, before Rocky blocks a springboard DDT and countered with a tornado DDT… following through into a Falcon arrow/cross armbar attempt. Rocky can’t get the win though, as DOUKI comes back, catching a floatover into the corner, turning it into a Gory special… which became a Widow’s Peak and a folding pin for a near-fall. A lariat’s good for another two-count, as the pair continue to trade pinfall attempts, before Rocky’s satellite headscissors into a Kimura’s blocked… but Rocky gets the cross armbreaker for the win nevertheless. Solid stuff, with the knee work on Rocky continuing to play into things. DOUKI’s coming good, but he’s been way too inconsistent for my liking. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Marty Scurll vs. Titan
In his banter with the commentary team, Marty said he’d try lucha tonight. Oh boy.

The opening exchanges are rather measured, with Scurll trying to take Titan into his own style, but the grounded stuff just played into Titan as he used headscissors on the mat before a lucha armdrag sparked some brief pinning attempts… until he ran into Marty with a dropkick to the mush.

Titan leaps to the outside for some headscissors on Scurll, before rolling across the ring to avoid Brody King as he stayed on top of Marty. Back in the ring though, Scurll turns it around with a rolling Romero special, as he looked to target the luchador’s legs, before he teased peeling off Titan’s mask. Titan rebounds with his Miz-like clothesline in the corner, before Brody King grabbed him to stop a springboard. It backfires as Titan just leaps onto him, before a springboard crossbody back inside led to a near-fall. A tornado DDT catches Titan, who’s right back with enziguiri, before back-and-forth forearms led to a half-nelson suplex from Scurll… who then ran into a superkick.

Titan drops him with an inverted Figure Four, but Scurll pulls himself to the ropes for a break, and comes right back with a backslide before Black Plague was avoided by Titan. A lariat’s avoided with a Matrix, but a rebound lariat from Scurll finally takes him down before a package DDT dumped Titan for another near-fall as Black Plague finally gets the win. Not quite Lucha Marty, but perfectly good stuff nevertheless as Titan looked to have aggravated his knee throughout. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: BUSHI vs. Bandido
BUSHI offers a handshake at the bell, but just boots Bandido instead as we start with flippy dos, with Bandido cartwheeling out of headscissors.

A knee cracks BUSHI in the mouth, but he recovers, getting his feet up to block a splash in the corner before taking Bandido outside for some flying headscissors. BUSHI’s looking for something under the ring, eventually finding a chair that the referee instantly takes away. After a t-shirt choke, BUSHI lands a neckbreaker for a near-fall, before he went to the STF, forcing Bandido to crawl his way to that bottom rope for the break. BUSHI looks to follow with a DDT through the ropes, but Bandido counters with another gamengiri before a dropkick took BUSHI outside for a tope con giro right into the gap between the commentary tables. It led to an impromptu count-out tease as we crossed the five minute mark.

Back in the ring, a gorilla press’d Falcon arrow gets Bandido a near-fall, before he cracked into BUSHI with a springboard tornillo. The inverted suplex is next, but BUSHI blocks a 21 Plex before he spikes Bandido on the apron with the lifting DDT. A swinging neckbreaker followed for a near-fall, adding a nasty Destroyer for another two-count, as the MX looked to be a sure-fire thing… …and sure enough, it was as Bandido ate another L. BUSHI is hitting form, but perhaps a touch too late as he’s more than an outside bet for the block. Really fun stuff as this tournament continues to deliver. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Shingo Takagi vs. Tiger Mask
Apparently a win here for Shingo kills block A for everyone but Takagi and Ishimori. Who’ll meet on the final night.

We start with Tiger Mask having to stick and move as Shingo took him into the ropes for a chop. Shingo won out with shoulder tackles, before he charged Tiger Mask into the ropes for a knee – sending the veteran crumbling to the floor. Tiger Mask comes back by peppering Shingo’s arm with kicks, sending him to the outside, where he suckers Tiger Mask into the ring post as he took Tiger’s legs into the steel. Back inside, a snap suplex drops Tiger Mask for a two-count, but Tiger’s back with a series of kicks as “salty Tiger” looked to shoot his shot, heading up top as he looked for a butterfly superplex… eventually hauling down Shingo!

Shingo shot back with a right hand, which promoted Tiger Mask into landing a Tiger Driver for a near-fall… then a cross armbar… but Shingo got free and quickly dumped Tiger Mask with a death valley driver. A crucifix pin sees Tiger stay hot, as does an extremely grounded armbar/abdominal stretch, but Shingo gets to the rope. His Pumping Bomber gets just a one-count… so he runs back in for a second… but Tiger Mask kicks out at two, before Last of the Dragons got the win. That means block A is a two-horse race now… ***

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: El Phantasmo vs. YOH
ELP’s ditched the light-up jacket as he’s feeling a little sore after losing to Rocky Romero on Friday.

Phantasmo ran into YOH before the bell, booting him to the outside as the match began with Phantasmo laying a beating to the junior tag champion. A part of the railings are used, as was a fan’s shoe, before SHO took a big suplex on the floor. YOH gets Brookes’d into the crowd next, before ELP taunted Liger on commentary. As he crawled back to the ring, YOH showed a slight cut under his eye, before he beat the count and looked to shock Phantasmo with some pinning attempts. A dropkick took ELP into the corner for some choking as the Canadian looked to fight back.

Phantasmo lands a Quebrada for a near-fall, before a playful poke to the eye and an Irish whip into the turnbuckles led to a near-fall… because the ref spotted ELP with his feet on the ropes. So Phantasmo decides to mock YOH (and by proxy, Rocky Romero) with some Forever “standing on balls”, before YOH stopped the tomfoolery with a spider German suplex. YOH makes a comeback with some clotheslines, a leaping corkscrew forearm before a nice bridging facelock suplex almost got him the win. ELP cracks YOH with a forearm on the top rope, then again with a step-up enziguiri before he ‘ranas YOH off the top. Phantasmo leaps up for a big splash, but YOH gets his knees up and rolls him up for a near-fall, before the cross armbreaker threatened to give ELP flashbacks to Friday.

Phantasmo rolls to the ropes quickly, before some back-and-forth roll-ups led to near-falls. A superkick from Phantasmo looks to set up for the whirlibird, which drops YOH with ease for a two-count as we cross the ten-minute mark, but he goes for a CR2 which YOH counters with a backdrop to the floor. YOH teases a dive from there, but ELP hits a gamengiri to stop him before he teases a suplex to the floor… before he just shoved YOH into the ref. That’s the cue for Phantasmo to go for his belt… but the ref grabs hold of the strap to stop him, before an O’Connor roll proved to be enough for YOH to nick the win! Well, with block A sewn up early, block B needed to be made lively… it’s just a shame the match was flat until the finish. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Robbie Eagles vs. Will Ospreay
This was the match that got Robbie Eagles his New Japan gig… so needless to say there’s high expectations.

Eagles threw a Japanese flag at Ospreay – the same flag from Ospreay’s old gear that he gave him in an earlier match. Remember when Ospreay’s gear resembled an episode of Fun With Flags?

We start off relatively methodically, as monkey flips took us into a sunset flip by Eagles, before Ospreay just bulldozes through him. A dropkick stops a leapfrog before both men swing and miss en route to a stand-off, and Chiba’s appreciative of it all! Eagles slaps Ospreay before he ran into a retaliatory monkey flip, sending him outside as Will fakes out a dive, then followed through with a plancha. Back in the ring, some forearms only annoy Eagles, who sparks a chop battle. Which he lost. Eagles uses misdirection to sidestep Ospreay on route to a snap ‘rana, before he followed up with some chops as he proceeded to hang Ospreay’s leg in the ropes and… kick his leg out of his leg.

God bless them.

Eagles started to go after Ospreay’s left knee, stomping it down from a Lasso from El Paso position, but he manages to land the over-the-top 619 before a stomp back inside missed. Will’s slightly limping, but he’s still able to catch Eagles with a Shibata-ish dropkick, then a standing shooting star press for a near-fall, before he took Eagles outside for a nice Sasuke special… except Ospreay’s knee buckled on impact. Back inside again, there’s standing switches as Eagles again goes back to the left leg, taking Ospreay to the outside again for a tope con giro that so earned an Excalibur “tope con hello” call from afar! More shots to the left leg has Ospreay in the corner for some running double knees for a near-fall, before some knee breakers wore down that body part some more. An enziguiri looked to give Ospreay a breather, and a window back in… which Eagles quickly slammed shut with a reverse ‘rana.

From their knees, Ospreay and Eagles trade forearms, with the intensity increasing before Eagles went back to ol’ faithful, going for the leg before he began to kick away at Ospreay’s chest. Another enziguiri stops Eagles though, but he can’t get the lifting reverse DDT off as a head kick has to make do ahead of an Eagles crossbody that took both men over the ropes to the floor a la Cactus Jack. The pair fight up to the apron, where Ospreay boots out Eagles’ mouthguard, only to get caught with a Shiranui on the apron, folding Will in half on the way down to the floor. Ospreay barely beats the count-out tease, but is instantly caught with a Dragonrana for a near-fall, before he rolled away from a 450 splash to the leg. Ospreay mounts a comeback with a hook kick, before he hesitated for a Hidden Blade… as Eagles collapses anyway.

That seemed to be the cue for El Phantasmo to come down to lend, ahem, “moral support”, as Eagles caught Ospreay in a Ron Miller Special… forcing him to crawl to the ropes, only for Eagles to drag Will back in the middle of the ring. Eventually Will gets to the rope, but can’t avoid a Dragon screw. Eagles measures up Ospreay again, but a springboard dropkick to the left leg’s stopped by a dropkick of Will’s own, which allowed Will to lift Eagles into the corner for barely a Cheeky Nando’s. More like a snack. He tries to follow up with the avalanche Iconoclasm, but the leg gives way… and again when he tried to counter out of a top rope ‘rana.

That opened the door for Eagles to land the missile dropkick to the leg, but the Ron Miller Special’s countered as Eagles has to keep going. A Shiranui’s pushed away, but Eagles lands a Turbo Backpack for a near-fall. Again, Eagles goes to the knee as Ospreay manages to hit back with a Ligerbomb for a near-fall. Ospreay heads up top, but has to boot away El Phantasmo’s attempt at interference.. It gives Eagles time to recover as he gets the knees up to stop a shooting star press, before Ospreay pushed Eagles inadvertently into the ref to counter a Ron Miller Special. Ospreay keeps up with a Spanish Fly, but there’s no ref… so ELP’s able to land a chairshot to stop an OsCutter, and seemingly hand a win to Eagles. From there, the 450 splash to the knee lands, as the Ron Miller Special followed up as Ospreay’s forced to tap. A bit of a dirty ending, but ELP’s doing anything he can to stay alive as his form falters… Ospreay and Eagles have better in them, but this was good. ****¼

Phantasmo tried to rally Eagles afterwards, but the Aussie was clearly sore at the interference as he thought he could have beaten Ospreay solo. Bullet Club is Fine.

Knife Pervert Video Time! This time Juice gets mad and cuts a promo to camera for this as he throws down his headset and walks off into the DayGlo night. It’s a long walk.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. SHO
Ishimori needs to keep winning to be in with any kind of shot of winning the block…

We’ve a steady start as Ishimori looked to go after SHO, but he’s quickly lifted onto the apron, then dropkicked to the outside as SHO’s follow up had to be rather lower-profile, going for Ishimori’s arm and wrist rather than anything flippy.

Ishimori takes to the skies with a springboard seated senton, sending SHO down before a cravat restrained the junior tag champ. Knees to the neck looked to neutralise SHO, as does a ZSJ-style neck twist. A handspring off the ropes is caught though, with Ishimori forced to elbow free before he ran into a spear from SHO. SHO keeps going with a vertical suplex for a near-fall, before the cross armbreaker looked to force a submission. Ishimori gets free and cracks YOH with a wheelbarrow stomp instead, and after missing the running knees in the corner, YOH gets sent outside with an enziguiri as commentary reassembles their table to prepare for a Golden Triangle moonsault from Ishimori… which landed flush.

Back inside, the pair fight for a gutwrench suplex at the same time, with SHO dangling Ishimori as he ended up scoring with a Dominator instead. German suplexes follow as SHO goes for a full nelson, then turned it into a German suplex for a near-fall. There’s another turnaround as SHO has to slide under a double stomp from Ishimori, before a bit lariat sent the Bone Soldier spinning to the mat. The pair exchange forearms, then leaping knees before another SHO clothesline took Ishimori down. A clothesline, then a back suplex lumbar check wrecks Ishimori, before SHO looked for a powerbomb… but instead hits a regular lumbar check for a near-fall. Ishimori flips out of Shock Arrow, but can’t avoid a cross-armed piledriver as SHO keeps on pushing.

SHO’s back with a cross armbreaker, which Ishimori tried to roll out of, eventually trapping him in a Yes Lock, rolling SHO back into the middle of the ring before SHO successfully squirmed to the ropes. A shotgun dropkick takes SHO into the corner for the wrecking ball knees, following up with a tombstone gutbuster for a near-fall. A Bloody Cross attempt is just about countered out of, but SHO can’t lift him up for a Shock Arrow… and instead waffles him with a knee. One more crack at Shock Arrow is flipped out of, and turned into a Bloody Cross… and just like that, Ishimori gets the win. Cynical me here can’t help but wonder- did anyone buy SHO winning and having multiple A-block shows being all but entirely pointless? This had its moments, but the over-thinking part of me is going to make the last few block A matches a little elementary. ***½

On the whole, today’s card in Chiba was fun, but very much an “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” after the three days at Korakuen. Is the tiredness of the longer tour setting in? Perhaps, but it’s saying something when a slight dip in quality means that these are “just good” shows!

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

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

So we’re pretty much down to the last knockings here: block A is Shingo or Ishimori, with those two facing off in Friday’s block A finale. We’re back to split block shows here, with Wednesday in Aichi being headlined by Dragon Lee vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (at least at time of writing), before Thursday sees block B have their penultimate night in Osaka, topped by El Phantasmo vs. Ryusuke Taguchi.