The Best of the Super Junior tour continues into Aomori, as Dragon Lee looked to get on the board with a win over SHO in a thrilling main event.

The tour’s moved to Aomori’s Martial Arts Hall, but we’ve lost Chris Charlton as Kevin Kelly and Caprice Coleman remain on commentary.

Bullet Club (Robbie Eagles & Jado) vs. Ren Narita & Yuya Uemura
It’s Eagles vs. Narita tomorrow, but I’m not exactly rating these Young Lions’ chances today.

Those two start us off, with Narita working a wristlock, then a side headlock on Eagles, before a shoulder tackle knocked the Aussie down. Uemura comes in next to keep up the pressure, but Eagles distracts the referee as Jado smashed his Kendo stick on Uemura’s back. A tag brings Jado in properly, but Uemura tries to fight back, only to get knocked down with a chop as Eagles returned to keep up the pressure, scoring with a low dropkick for a near-fall. An enziguiri-like kick to the throat nearly puts Uemura away, but Ren Narita broke up the cover… and got sent outside as Eagles heads up and has to abort a 450 splash.

Uemura looked to fight back with forearms, before a tag to Narita saw him land a double dropkick to take down the Bullet Club. Eagles is right back with a spinning heel kick and some mid kicks to fire up Narita, before he ran into an overhead belly-to-belly… but Ren couldn’t hold the grip, so the pinning attempt goes begging.

A tag brings Uemura back in as he looked to capitalise with a dropkick into the corner for a near-fall on Eagles, before a release capture suplex almost led to the upset. Uemura looked to finish Eagles with a Boston crab, but the more experienced opponent got his way into the ropes… and after a miscommunication with Jado and Eagles, we get a Kendo stick shot from Jado, which meant that it was elementary as a Turbo Backpack got Eagles the win. Some good stuff as the Young Lions provided a real scare here, but in the end it wasn’t to be. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Taichi & DOUKI) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & Shota Umino
DOUKI’s out with his pipe, which will probably be battered by the end of the tour if he keeps whacking it against the ring post on every show. Interestingly, DOUKI’s out with the mask of El Desperado, who I hope he hasn’t skinned…

We’ve a jump start as Taguchi’s attacked before he even hit the ring, but the former tournament winner is able to hit back with some hip attacks to knock DOUKI to the floor. Taichi distracts the ref as DOUKI grabs a chair, and swats Taguchi’s springboard out of mid-air with it, before the match spilled properly into the crowd, with Taichi drilling Umino with a chair.

Meanwhile, DOUKI continues to chop Taguchi in the front row as the count-out continued, but Taichi prods DOUKI into returning to the ring – just in the nick of time too. Taichi tags in and unsights Taguchi by making his wear the scrum hat backwards, allowing Taichi to kick him in the arse a few times before DOUKI tagged in and tried to tap out Taguchi with the cross-leg headscissors. Umino broke it up, but got dumped to the outside by Taichi… before recovering as tags took us to Taichi and Umino, with the latter running in with forearms.

A big boot from Taichi keeps Umino at bay, before the Young Lion’s attempt to force a submission was thwarted by DOUKI. Some double-teaming traps Umino ahead of a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall… but a second one prompts Umino into a series of pinning attempts as he looked for an upset, only to run into an Axe Bomber for a near-fall before Taichi forced the submission with a Stretch Plum. Another valiant effort, but in the end Umino’s still looking for his maiden win against a non-Young Lion. **¾

Post-match, DOUKI attacks Taguchi and choke him out with the steel pipe

Rocky Romero, YOH & Toa Henare vs. Will Ospreay, Bandido & Juice Robinson
We’ve more teases for tomorrow, with YOH and Bandido getting us underway, trading holds early on. Bandido pulls YOH into a grounded surfboard stretch, getting him some air before the pair swapped armdrags as they headed to a stand-off.

A shoulder tackle from YOH sends Bandido down, before a leapfrog and a roll through saw the pace increase en route to a corkscrew forearm from YOH. Bandido replies with a press slam, throwing YOH into an on-rushing Rocky Romero, before Juice Robinson came ina nd held YOH in a stalling suplex. Ospreay’s in next to launch into YOH with an uppercut, but YOH got a tag out as Rocky comes in with a crossbody to turn the tide. Well, not for long, as Ospreay’s over-the-top 619 had Rocky reeling, until he ran into a clothesline as Romero restored order. An attempted Shiranui out of the corner’s blocked as both men head out, with Juice and Henare tagging in to trade some right hands.

A leaping shoulder tackle from Henare has Juice flying, but Bandido’s in to help his Lifeblood running buddy… only to get caught with a Samoan drop from Henare. Juice gets taken down with a deadlift suplex from Henare for a near-fall, only to get caught with a leaping leg lariat as Juice lands a near-fall… before he rolled Henare into the elevated Lion Tamer. This time, it doesn’t lead to a finish as Rocky and YOH broke up the hold, only to be taken outside for planchas from Ospreay and Bandido.

Juice tries to put away Henare with a Left Hand of God, eventually landing it before the Pulp Friction picked up the win. As soon as the bell sounds, we got the Death Rider video again, as they’re really shaking up the placing of this… and I guess that sucked the reaction out of the room as the match really was a backdrop for the latest airing of Time’s Up. **½

Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Gedo) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI)
We’re just four nights into ELP’s New Japan run, and sadly his light-up jacket’s already showing signs of wear and tear.

It’s BUSHI vs. ELP tomorrow, which should be a great clash of two dick heels, and after ELP cheapshots BUSHI from the handshake, he’s quickly finding himself stomped into the corner by the LIJ member… who quickly tags in Naito to score with a low dropkick following a rewind sunset flip. LIJ won’t let Phantasmo get into gear from the off, at least until he came in with an eye rake before distracting the ref as Gedo chokes Naito with a towel. That’s the cue for the match to head outside as ELP chokes BUSHI with a t-shirt before heeling it up with the crowd. Back in the ring, Gedo helps out with leverage on ELP’s abdominal stretch on Naito… but they go to the well too often as the referee breaks it up, just as ELP took a Naito hiptoss.

Naito keeps ahead with a suplex before tagging in BUSHI, who spikes ELP with headscissors… only for Gedo to attack BUSHI from behind. The attempted double-team is cut-off, but Gedo persists and took down BUSHI with a superkick for a near-fall. ELP’s back to distract the ref as Gedo fumbles into his coat pocket for the brass knuckles… but BUSHI ducks a shot and the tables turn as Naito hits Combinacion Cabron in the corner. The swinging neckbreaker from BUSHI keeps Gedo down, before the MX plants Gedo in the middle of the ring for the win. Huh? Where was Phantasmo? This was decent enough, but followed the tour-long pattern of the tournament match participants getting only brief moments against each other to not give away too much. ***

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: TAKA Michinoku vs. Jonathan Gresham
TAKA gets some steam “pyro” ahead of this match, which has me greatly intrigued. Cut out the shenanigans, and this ought to be a grappling masterclass.

Both these men lost their opening matches on Monday, so barring a miracle, someone’s getting on the board here. We start with TAKA taking Gresham into the corner before he patted him on the head in a rather patronising manner. TAKA eventually gets his eye poke in after baiting Gresham in for some forearms, but Gresham responds with an up kick and a feinted leapfrog before he kicked TAKA in the shin. Aomori liked that swerve there.

A hammerlock from Gresham gets an added armbar as he tried to force TAKA to give up, before he instead came in with shoulder charges as TAKA tried to fight free. Gresham blocks one eye poke, but can’t avoid a second as TAKA continued to be sneaky, throwing in some swears that caught Caprice Coleman off guard. TAKA targeted Gresham’s hand injury, standing on his hand and wrist before kicking Gresham in the shin – since the Octopus’d covered his eyes to avoid the eye poke. A step-up knee in the corner cracks Gresham, as does a running knee strike… but Gresham gets in after trapping TAKA’s arm between his legs, and mounts a comeback with an armdrag to give him some space.

A big boot from TAKA stops Gresham in the corner, but some misdirection led to TAKA getting caught in a snap La Magistral cradle for a near-fall. An attempt at the Octopus stretch sees TAKA limp into the ropes for a break, before TAKA looked for a submission of his own, with a Bully Choke almost forcing Gresham to tap as the ropes just about saved him. Gresham mounted another brief comeback, this time escaping a Bully Choke as a fluid series led to Gresham countering everything en route to a near-fall, before an Octopus stretch in the middle of the ring trapped TAKA ahead of the eventual submission. A little on the short side, but this was exactly the sort of match I was expecting – more of this please, as Gresham continues to impress in the New Japan rings. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Tiger Mask
Kanemaru came out with the mask of Tiger Mask, having stolen the hood yesterday in Sendai.

We’ve a jump start as Tiger Mask leapt into Kanemaru at the bell, not helped by having his own mask thrown at him, and this one quickly heads outside as Kanemaru’s on the back foot, taking some right hands from Tiger Mask. A trip to the ring post turns it around in Kanemaru’s favour, with Tiger Mask having been left on the mats, before the pair return to the ring as a low dropkick suggested that Kanemaru was going to target Tiger’s knee.

A single leg crab traps Tiger Mask, forcing him to the ropes, but on the mat he’s unable to defend himself further as Kanemaru wrenched away on the leg, then the mask as the offense became more targeted. Tiger Mask tries to fight back with a butterfly superplex, but Kanemaru blocks it before a desperation avalanche armdrag took Kanemaru down. Tiger Mask looked to build on that, but it was too soon for a Tiger Driver as Kanemaru goes back to stomping on the knee, only to get caught with a tombstone and a Tiger Driver for a near-fall. After the kick-out, Tiger Mask takes Kanemaru to the top rope again as the avalanche Tiger Driver’s attempted, but Kanemaru shoves him down and follows through with a Deep Impact DDT for another near-fall.

Kanemaru goes back to Tiger Mask’s leg, trapping him in the middle of the ring with a Figure Four… Tiger can’t roll over as we cross the ten minute mark, but he does manage to haul himself to the ropes to force the break. Kanemaru keeps up the pressure with a bodyslam, only to miss with a moonsault… and there’s not long left as Kanemaru looked to have escaped a Tiger suplex, only to fall to a small package. This was good stuff, and I’ve a sneaky feeling that commentary’s throwing out red herrings re: Tiger Mask potentially having to pull out of the tournament with injury. ***

Post-match, Kanemaru attacks Tiger Mask and removes the mask for a second night in a row.

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Shingo Takagi vs. Titan
We’ve a battle of folks who won their opening matches here, but Shingo’s coming in a little less than at full strength, as noticed by the tape on his right arm.

The early exchanges were all Titan as he took Shingo outside for some headscissors, as the luchador was going balls to the wall in the opening stages… including taking Shingo up top, only to see a top rope ‘rana countered as Shingo dropped him onto the top rope before clotheslining him to the floor. Shingo follows him out, charging Titan into the apron before he pulled off a suplex back inside. That gets Shingo a two-count, as he kept up the pressure, taking Titan into the corner for some stomps, before he held onto the ropes to block an Irish whip. Instead, Titan takes some chops before landing a Miz-like clothesline and a Combinacion Cabron dropkick in the corner. The pace rockets briefly as Shingo gets taken outside ahead of a tope suicida that sends Shingo into the third row.

Back inside, some kicks from Titan keep Shingo on his knees, before a Matrix escape denied Shingo a Pumping Bomber ahead of a springboard splash that almost gave Titan the W. A ‘rana from Titan’s blocked as Shingo countered it into a death valley driver, before a Noshigami attempt was countered into a Code Red as Titan fought back. There’s a La Mistica into a roll-up for a near-fall from Titan, who followed up with superkicks and a Dragon screw before pulling Shingo into a Titanic. Shingo rolls out as Titan went for Immortal, quickly countering back with Noshigami for a near-fall, before a Pumping Bomber spiked Titan on his head… and it’s elementary from there as the Last of the Dragon gets the win. A little short, but this was a hell of a fun sprint – with the question remaining: who the heck’s got a shot of stopping Shingo?! ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. Marty Scurll
The star power continues to roll through here as Taiji Ishimori takes on Marty Scurll for only the second time in his career in a singles match.

You’d have to go back to September 2006 for the last time, when Ishimori beat Marty on IPW:UK’s 2nd Anniversary weekender… in a match held for fans who’d shelled out for the meet and greet. Marty came out with Brody King by his side, and we’ve a measured start as the pair tied up in a knuckle lock, only for Ishimori to wrestle Scurll to the mat in a wristlock as they went back-and-forth. The pair tease their finishers early, but instead they end up in a staredown before Marty nailed some up kicks and a stomp to the arm.

Scurll looked to end it with a chicken wing, but of course it was too soon as Ishimori hits back with a Yes Lock, ending quickly in the ropes as Marty scurried away. A Gory stretch follows as Scurll spins Ishimori around, taking him into the turnbuckles before a superplex brings Ishimori down with a bang. The pair change places as a dropkick from Ishimori takes Scurll outside for a Golden Triangle moonsault, before keeping up the pressure back inside with a chinlock. An elbow to the back of the neck keeps Scurll at bay, before he sparked a chop battle that left the Villain on his backside in the corner, ahead of a baseball slide German suplex. A surfboard stretch from Ishimori is muscled out of by Scurll, but Ishimori just rolls through to reapply the hold… and we buffer. Ah, I’ve missed that today.

Ishimori’s back on top, stomping on Scurll in the corner, only to fall to a tornado DDT, as Marty continued to up the ante with a Violence Party of chops and forearms in the corner. An apron superkick followed as Ishimori rolled outside for respite, with some more chops sending the Bone Soldier back inside as Scurll stomped on the arm again. That looked to weaken Ishimori ahead of Black Plague, but he rolls free as we get back-and-forth pinning attempts out of a sunset flip, with Scurll almost taking the win, before he got caught on the top rope as Ishimori had a little trouble bringing him down with a ‘rana.

Marty rolls through the ‘rana and gets a near-fall too, but he’s quickly met with a shotgun dropkick and some steamrolling double knees into the corner. Scurll shoves away a Bloody Cross, and begins to kick away on Ishimori some more, before a plaintif uppercut catches Ishimori. Nevertheless, Ishimori heads into the ropes for a handspring enziguiri, finding his mark with it, before some headscissors were countered… then reversed into an awkward tombstone as Marty was jammed into the mat.

Ishimori begins to fight back with chops before he went back to the tombstone gutbuster… that lands, but is eventually shrugged off as Marty suplexes Ishimori into a chicken wing… which is rolled out of and into a Euro-like clutch for a near-fall. Scurll kicks out and reapplies the chicken wing as the crowd seemingly had lost the match because of those earlier slips. Still, they persist as Scurll chops Ishimori, before headscissors snapped Marty to the mat ahead of a Yes Lock in the middle of the ring. Scurll slips out and applies a version of the hold himself, before a transition into the chicken wing, which switched into a half nelson suplex. Missed clotheslines end with a lariat from Scurll for a near-fall, before a spin out side-slam looked to get him the win… but Ishimori comes right back with a clothesline and a Bloody Cross for the win. This was a solid semi-final, but there were some rough moments with Ishimori slipping on the ropes, then with the tombstone… and that took the crowd out of it towards the end. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block A: SHO vs. Dragon Lee
Both these guys lost on opening night, so there’s a small matter of pride to play for – in addition to sorting out whatever issue sparked these two into a brawl yesterday.

They started out wheeling into each other with right hands, before they continued in the same vein in the corners, trading forearms, headbutts and the like. Eventually SHO’s worn down to the mat for a Shibata-ish dropkick before we go back to those forearms… points for stamina, but they didn’t look as heavy as, say, EVIL and Ishii. Eventually the forearms cease as SHO took Dragon Lee outside with a dropkick, but he hesitated to follow him outside and ended up hitting the ring post when SHO went for a clothesline. SHO rebounds by powerbombing Dragon Lee onto the edge of the apron, before he wrapped Dragon Lee’s wrist around the turnbuckle irons.

Back in the ring, SHO keeps up the aggression with an omoplata variation, taking Dragon Lee into the ropes, before heading outside for a monstrous tope as SHO seemed to come down hard on his elbow, bloodying it up. Dragon Lee capitalises on that back in the ring, going for it with a Fujiwara armbar, but SHO clung on… and ended up on the mat as Dragon Lee kicked him in the chest. After avoiding a rebound German, SHO gets Cactus clotheslined to the outside by Dragon Lee, where the pair end up trading more forearms until they stopped and rolled back in at 19, realising that a double count-out would mean they’d not score a point. We’re back to the forearms in the ring, but it’s SHO who edged ahead, landing a deadlift German suplex for a near-fall, rolling through for more of them until Dragon Lee grabbed the ropes for safety.

Another lariat from SHO is ducked as Dragon Lee pulls him into a Fujiwara armbar, keeping hold as SHO’s rolled into the middle of the ring and eventually into the ropes. SHO swings back around as he teases an avalanche German suplex, only to get kicked down into a Tree of Woe for a Del Rio stomp. Dragon Lee goes for Desnucadora, but SHO countered out into a back cracker, then a cross armbreaker, almost forcing a submission as Dragon Lee barely gets a foot to the rope. From there, Shock Arrow is teased by SHO, but Dragon Lee counters out for a Desnucadora attempt, before the Shock Arrow finally lands for a near-fall! After a reverse ‘rana and clothesline from Dragon and SHO respectively, the pair look spent as they looked to fight back to their feet.

When they did, it was back to the forearms, with SHO continuing to pelt a defenceless Dragon Lee, before a big lariat knocked him down… but there’s no pinfall attempt made, as SHO instead picks up Dragon Lee for a back suplex into a back cracker… following up with a Last Ride Lumbar Check that almost caused the massive upset. Somehow, Dragon Lee kicked out, as SHO looks for another Shock Arrow, only for Dragon Lee to roll back out of it and rebound with a PK as we crossed the 25 minute mark.

From there, Dragon Lee looks for Desnucadora, but SHO rolls out into a cross armbreaker, forcing Dragon Lee away from the ropes as we all thought he tapped… but again he gets a foot to the rope. SHO doesn’t let go though, as Dragon Lee rolls to his feet and instead powerbombed SHO free, before one final diving knee leaves him laying. A second knee hits SHO flush for a near-fall, before Dragon Lee finally lands Desnucadora for the win. WOW. A very slow burner, this one got me more and more hooked the closer we got to the time limit. I wasn’t sold on the early forearm exchanges, but if you can look beyond that and give this time, you’ll be pacing around too! ****¼

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

We continue the run of good-to-great tournament matches here, but once again very little poked its head above the proverbial pulpit until the main event. Shingo/Titan was a fun sprint, but perhaps a touch too short, and ditto Gresham/TAKA for that matter. The way Scurll/Ishimori petered out was unfortunate, but on the whole this was another solid day of tournament action, as the first clutch of dates wraps up tomorrow in Aomori before they get all of a day off ahead of a pair of shows in Yamagata at the weekend and a hattrick of Korakuen shows next week.

If you watch nothing else from today, watch the main event!