Osaka’s the venue as block B played out their penultimate block matches, as we went into today with a four-way tie at the top.

The tour’s rolled into Osaka’s Municipal Central Gymnasium, with Kevin Kelly and Gino Gambino back on the English call.

Titan, Jonathan Gresham & Toa Henare vs. Tiger Mask, SHO & Yota Tsuji
Did Titan miss his cue, or was he intentionally out late?

Titan and Tiger start out, feinting kicks as the veteran backed the luchador into the corner, but Titan’s quickly back with a gamengiri before he flipped past Tiger Mask… then got dumped with a tiltawhirl backbreaker. I buffer a little and come back as SHO boots Titan in the back, before Tiger Mask returned to lift up Titan for a knee to the midsection. SHO’s back in as Titan flies with a ‘rana out of the corner, before Gresham came in and confused SHO and Tsuji into an accidental Dragon screw. Gresham and SHO exchange forearms for a spell, before Gresham lands an enziguiri… then had to struggle out of a Shock Arrow as an Octopus proved to be a worthy follow-up.

SHO manages to counter with a gutwrench gutbuster as tags took us to Henare and Tsuji. Forearms from Henare weaken Tsuji briefly, as he popped up from a shoulder tackle to dish out some strikes of his own, ahead of a dropkick. Tsuji rolls Henare over for a Boston crab, but the ring fills to break it up as a mini Parade of Moves broke out, before Tsuji’s momentum was rudely stopped with a clothesline.

More back-and-forth forearms between the two send Tsuji into the ropes, before a headbutt dropped him to his knees as a uranage led to the win. A bit more pacey than most of yesterday’s undercard, as I’m left salivating over SHO/Gresham tomorrow. ***

Tomohiro Ishii & Shota Umino vs. Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi)
With TAKA out of the tour, this is now a preview of the Taichi/Ishii NEVER title match for Dominion on Sunday-week.

Umino and Kanemaru start us off… but Shota’s instantly attacked from behind by Taichi, then taken outside as the Young Lion’s inexperience was highlighted straight away. Shota’s taken into the crowd as the referee tries to restrain Ishii, to the point where he didn’t see Umino getting clocked with a chair. Back in the ring, Kanemaru puts the boots to Umino, as the Young Lion was being worn down. His first offence? A flailing forearm that barely reaches Taichi. There’s a dropkick that has a little more on it, but Umino has to dish one out to Kanemaru before he could tag in Ishii, who ran into some kicks from Taichi that he replied to with… chops.

Taichi throws some more kicks, before he ripped off the trousers and almost put Ishii away with a buzzsaw kick. More chops and kicks ensue as both men were left down… tags bring us back to Umino and Kanemaru, with Shota looking for a suplex, only to get his eyes raked. Kanemaru avoids a dropkick, but can’t get Shota up for a suplex, and ends up taking a spinebuster as Shota almost caused an upset. A Fisherman’s suplex is attempted, but Kanemaru blocks and comes back with a dropkick instead, before putting away Umino with a Deep Impact DDT as Ishii and Taichi were fighting on the outside. Decent, but you have to think these beatings are going to make folks think Ishii’s winning next time they come to Osaka for Dominion. ***¼

Post-match, Taichi threatened to hang around on Japanese commentary…

Villain Enterprises (Marty Scurll & Brody King) vs. Dragon Lee & Juice Robinson
Juice seemed to be more light hearted for this match, as he was mocking Marty’s whoops throughout the match. If it was a plan to get under Scurll’s skin… it sort of worked.

Problem was, it didn’t help Dragon Lee much, as he was on the defensive early, getting his elbow stomped on. Brody King gets involved, distracting Dragon Lee from the apron before he tagged in and decked Dragon Lee with a slingshot forearm, then a back senton as Marty had the junior champion stretched across his knees. That looked like it sucked.

Dragon Lee absorbs some double-teaming before landing a superkick and a STO, giving him time to tag out to Juice… who came straight up against Brody King, who quickly took him into the ropes for a cannonball that almost ended things. Juice tries to fight back with Pulp Friction, but he gets shot into the ropes for a Black Hole Slam for a near-fall, as Dragon Lee’s attempt to make a save led to him getting thrown outside.

Juice has to escape a crucifix bomb, instead slipping out for a backslide on King, before the Left Hand of God left King laying, ahead of a Pulp Friction for the win. King looked decent, but his time on offence was pretty limited. ***

Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Gedo) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito)
Tomorrow’s main event decides the A block – Ishimori or Shingo’s going to next Wednesday’s final in Sumo Hall.

Those two start out with a tie-up into the ropes, which Shingo tried to cheapshot from, before he shot Ishimori into the ropes and took him down with a shoulder tackle. A headscissor takedown traps Shingo for a neck twist, before Shingo ducked a springboard seated senton and pancaked Ishimori. In comes Naito, who went straight for Gedo on the apron… and there’s a receipt as Naito went for Ishimori, leading to all four men going outside and into the crowd. Good luck keeping track of this one. Ishimori uses a chair on Shingo while Gedo chokes out Naito with a towel… and the A block finalists keep going, heading towards the timekeeper’s table before Shingo got posted.

The cameras miss Naito getting thrown into the English commentary table, as he’s then rolled back in so Ishimori could try and snatch a cheap win. It doesn’t work, as Naito ends up getting double-teamed, but a hiptoss and a low dropkick on Ishimori gives him some breathing room, as Shingo tagged back in. There’s a deadlift suplex on Ishimori for a near-fall, before Shingo tried to catch a springboard and turn it into Last of the Dragon. Ishimori escaped and lands the handspring enziguiri as those two continued to entice with their flurries, as tags then took us back to Gedo and Naito.

Gedo ducks an enziguiri, but can’t avoid an atomic drop, nor Combinacion Cabron, before a thrust kick out of nowhere nearly put Naito away. Ishimori distracts the ref as Gedo looked to use his brass knuckles… Naito ducks them before Shingo ended up catching Ishimori with a pop-up death valley driver for his part, before a Pumping Bomber from Shingo left Gedo down for Naito to score the elementary pin. Tomorrow’s main event is going to be suitably epic, isn’t it? ***¼

Oh hey, Taichi’s on commentary…

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Ren Narita vs. YOH
We’re just playing for pride here as Narita’s long since been eliminated… while YOH is in a similar boat.

They start on the mat as YOH looked to work over Narita’s legs, but they reach an early stalemate. YOH tries his luck with a side headlock, clinging on as Narita tries to shoot him off, and… I buffer. We’re back as YOH began to focus on Narita’s right leg with dropkicks and elbow drops, before he wrapped the leg in the corner and took him down with another dropkick. YOH follows up with a knee bar, forcing Narita to scramble into the ropes. The Young Lion struggled to offer much resistance, eventually throwing a couple of forearms before catching YOH with a dropkick. A running forearm catches YOH, with Narita seemingly struggling again ahead of a suplex that drops the junior tag champion for a two-count.

Narita goes for broke with the bridging belly-to-belly, but instead drops YOH as he went for a cross-legged Boston crab. That too doesn’t come off, as YOH headed up top… and got caught as Narita teases a belly-to-belly superplex. YOH shoves him down though, then leapt down ahead of a backbreaker/Dragon screw combo. An inside cradle looked to shock YOH as he was going for a Figure Four, before he countered out of a Falcon arrow into a Boston crab. YOH ends up pushing that off into the ropes, before he rolled Narita into a calf crusher… but Narita rolls out, then spun YOH into the middle of the ring for a cross-legged Boston crab, or a leg lace, as commentary started to call it.

YOH’s forced to pull his way towards the ropes for freedom, before Narita pulled him up for a German suplex attempt. It’s easily elbowed out of before YOH landed a superkick and a Falcon arrow for a near-fall. A Dragon suplex is teased, but countered with a roll-up as he pair exchange near-falls, before the belly-to-belly overhead suplex caught YOH off guard. Narita tries to add to that with a German suplex, snapping YOH down for a near-fall as the crowd really began to believe in a Narita upset.

Narita goes back to the overhead suplex, but YOH slips out and rolls him into a calf crusher, forcing the eventual submission. A cracking effort from Narita, but he’s pretty much nailed on to go 0-9 now after he spent too much of this match the defensive. A “what if?” moment for Ren Ren, who was visibly frustrated with this defeat. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: Robbie Eagles vs. Bandido
Eagles came into this with tie-breaking wins over Will Ospreay and Ryusuke Taguchi, and needs a win to make sure he’s still in the hunt on the final night of the block on Monday.

Bandido holds the win in these two’s only prior singles match, in PWG last year, and was instantly on the defensive as both men countered out of ‘ranas en route to the stand-off… but Bandido lands a dropkick before Eagles took him onto the apron. A 619-like leg sweep targets Bandido’s leg, taking him outside as Eagles’ tope ensured that we weren’t messing around here. The pair headed onto the stage, where Bandido ate a back body drop before he narrowly beat the count-out… then avoided a 450 splash as he looked to make a comeback. A tornillo out of the corner surprises Eagles, as does a knee strikes… but the Aussie goes back to the knee and began to kick away at the luchador’s chest.

Some back-and-forth led to Eagles taking the inverted suplex, before a Shining Wizard almost put paid to the Aussie’s tournament hopes. Eagles springboards in from the apron with a low dropkick aiming for the leg, as the Ron Miller special followed, but Bandido gets to the ropes… but has to shove away Eagles, who responded with a Shiranui-like DDT out of the corner. Back-and-forth suplexes have Eagles on the defensive, with a snap Dragon almost putting him away, before Eagles countered out of a 21 Plex and landed a nasty reverse ‘rana to spike Bandido on his head for a near-fall. Eagles tries to follow in with a 450 splash, but Bandido gets the knees up and rolled him up for a near-fall. Superkicks and enziguiri led to a Shiranui attempt… but Eagles gets hung up in a Tree of Woe, which turned into an attempt at Bandido’s fallaway moonsault.

Eagles counters out, but can’t avoid a reverse fallaway moonsault/slam… and that’s enough to all but eliminate Eagles, who needs a massive stroke of fortune to win. This was a bloody enjoyable sprint of a match, with Bandido causing what has to be the upset – at least within New Japan. ****

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: BUSHI vs. Rocky Romero
Oh hey, it’s Rocky Romero against his favourite wrestler!

BUSHI’s on the back of a relatively hot streak, which perhaps got Rocky to pull out the Black Tiger mask out of mothballs. Except the mask also covered something else: Rocky had a big mouth full of something that he sprayed at BUSHI, who quickly turned it around with a nice tope suicida to Rocky on the outside. Staying there, BUSHI posts Rocky, before he took the match inside as he began to work over Rocky’s oft-injured knee. Rocky fought back, looking to fo after the arm of BUSHI, before he threw some chops and came back in with a ‘rana. He tries to follow up off the top rope, driving the knee into BUSHI’s shoulder socket off the middle rope, before he hung up BUSHI in the ropes for a springboard stomp to the back of the head.

Going back to the arm, Rocky whips BUSHI into the corner for a Forever lariat… but an overhead kick in the ropes stopped him. They resume the battle of chops, before throwing in some rewind enziguiri, then some forearms as the pair looked insanely even. Rocky edges ahead with clotheslines, only to get caught with a dropkick as BUSHI looked to underline it all with a slingshot DDT onto the apron.

Back inside, Rocky tries to hit a tornado DDT, but instead had to make do with a Falcon arrow cross armbreaker, only for BUSHI to get free. Rocky tries for another Shiranui, but his knees buckle, allowing BUSHI back in with a Codebreaker to the arm, then another in the ropes for a near-fall, before the MX puts Rocky away. Good stuff here, in spite of this being an otherwise nothing match – and with BUSHI currently on a five-match win streak, you’ve got to think he’ll be making it six when he wraps up the block on Monday. Or will he… ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: DOUKI vs. Will Ospreay
Banana skin alert! Can Will Ospreay drag a good-to-great match out of DOUKI?

DOUKI swung for Ospreay with his pipe before the bell, but misses as the match spilled outside, with Ospreay staring down Taichi as he tried to get involved. The distraction allowed DOUKI back in… but he just gets Brookes’d before Ospreay leapt into the Japanese commentary desk to lay out Taichi. Poor Milano.

Chops follow for DOUKI back in the ring, but he ducks to avoid a dive as Ospreay ended up outside… before he tied up the referee. There’s no Taichi interference, so DOUKI just launches himself with a back senton off the top a la Hiromu Takahashi! Taichi’s back up to offer support, this time laying out Ospreay with a chair shot as DOUKI distracted the ref. At least do something different to set it up if you messed up your cue, T.

Ospreay beats the count, but gets met with a back elbow for a near-fall. Not quite a Judas Effect, then? The Axel Dieter Special followed, as DOUKI looked to force a submission, before he rolled Ospreay to the mat for a near-fall. A handspring enziguiri surprises DOUKI, as does a high kick, before Ospreay took him into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick that nearly went through the turnbuckle pads. The shooting star press nearly gets Ospreay a win, but DOUKI’s right back with a neck tie submission to force Ospreay into the ropes. A swinging Northern Lights suplex nearly led to the upset, ahead of Suplex de la Luna… but Ospreay elbows out, then wheelbarrows DOUKI for a near-fall. An enziguiri took DOUKI into the ropes, but he lariats back before the over-the-top 619 could connect. Ospreay’s able to respond though, landing another head kick before the springboard forearm took DOUKI down. Storm Breaker’s teased, but DOUKI catches some kicks and came back with a Widow’s Peak, sliding forward for a near-fall with a built-in backslide. God, I love that move.

DOUKI tries the springboard DDT, only for Ospreay to hang him in the ropes with a kick before a shooting star press brought him down for a near-fall. The hook kick followed, before DOUKI wriggles out of a Storm Breaker, following in with a snap ‘rana for a near-fall… with Ospreay rolling through into a Ligerbomb as the crowd were kept on the edges of their seats! DOUKI counters a Storm Breaker into a roll-up, but he lets go to for Suplex de la Luna… and Ospreay escapes to land another hook kick. The OsCutter’s next, but Taichi’s back to threaten interference, sliding in the pipe for DOUKI to use… but it’s still not enough! Ospreay flips out of a Suplex de la Luna, then prepares for a Hidden Blade as Taichi’s again restrained, unable to do anything as the Storm Breaker puts DOUKI away. Yep, at this point I’m confident Will can get a good match out of a broken-up broom. The near-falls and shenanigans had me thinking DOUKI could have rumbled the block with an upset, but Will gets the W and will finish today with a share of the block lead. ***¾

Best of the Super Junior 26, Block B: El Phantasmo vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
After slipping recently, ELP’s got the comfort of tie-breaking wins over Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles – but if Taguchi can win here, and against Ospreay, he’ll take the block.

Taguchi tries to restrain ELP with a wristlock early, but it’s quickly reversed as Taguchi instead looked to work the leg, forcing Phantasmo into the ropes. Headscissors from Phantasmo’s escaped via a headstand from Taguchi, before he tried a similar trick… only to get slapped in the arse by Taguchi. Phantasmo escaped, then sent Taguchi off the ropes for some endless rope running, ahead of an easy pratfall that had ELP on top. Rope walking followed, but Taguchi barely had enough strength to provide a base, so ELP just shows off with a many-springboarded ‘rana. Obnoxious.

Taguchi decides to mock Phantasmo with some rope walking of his own, but he’s got no balance and ends up crotching himself on the top rope. On the outside, ELP distracts the ref so he could knee Taguchi below the belt, before taking a swig of Red Bull. If Phantasmo gets a heavy cold, we can blame Gino Gambino for passing it on…

Back inside, Phantasmo scores with a hand-walk senton atomico for a near-fall, before he went old school with a back rake. There’s a slightly newer move, in Phantasmo standing on Taguchi’s balls in a Tree of Woe, before a standing surfboard stretch looked to work over Taguchi’s arms. An attempt to get free with a hip attack ends with an atomic drop… and again, as Phantasmo was quite rightly scolding Taguchi.

A spitty slap to the arse follows from there, before Taguchi finally landed with a hip attack after he’d sent the Canadian into the ropes. More hip attacks trap Phantasmo by the ropes, before a flying one dropped him for a near-fall as the spit-induced wet patch on Taguchi’s arse was quite noticeable. The pair follow up with duelling Three Amigos, going back-and-forth with their suplexes as Taguchi completed his set. Another hip attack sent Phantasmo to the outside for a huge tope con giro, before Phantasmo hit back in desperation, shoving Taguchi into the ring post. ELP heads up from there for a moonsault to the floor, seemingly jarring his leg on the landing. Back inside, Phantasmo went for a CR2, but Taguchi rolls through, following up with a hip attack for a near-fall, before Phantasmo got out of a Dodon and looked for his whirlibird neckbreaker.

That’s blocked too, so Phantasmo just mule kicks Taguchi was the ref was unsighted, then he hits a one-legged whirlibird for a near-fall. Taguchi’s quickly back though, landing a Gourdbuster as a set-up for the Bummer-Ye. Robbie Eagles is apparently out to watch as a Dodon The Throne lungblower drew a near-fall, before Taguchi went up top… and again got crotched. An attempted top rope ‘rana from ELP’s countered as Taguchi drops him down for Oh My Garankle, going back to it after swapping some near-falls. Phantasmo pulls himself up, but gets caught with a trapped-leg German for another two-count, before Dodon led to yet another near-fall! It’s back to Oh My Garankle as we pass 20 minutes, with Taguchi dropping an elbow before ELP tapped out! Well, that strong start faded away for ELP, who’ll need to hope for a no-contest on Monday if he’s to have any hope. ***½

So, Monday’s block B final match of relevance is between Ryusuke Taguchi and Will Ospreay – winner takes all… unless we have a double count-out or a double DQ, in which case the Robbie Eagles/YOH and El Phantasmo/DOUKI matches could prove to be unlikely complicators. Yeah, it’s not happening…

Block A Standings:
Shingo Takagi (8-0; 16pts)
Taiji Ishimori (7-1; 14pts)
Dragon Lee (6-2; 12pts)
Marty Scurll (5-3; 10pts)
Jonathan Gresham, SHO (4-4; 8pts)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tiger Mask, Titan (2-6; 4pts)
TAKA Michinoku (0-8; 0pts)*

* TAKA withdrew from the tournament at night ten, so will forfeit his final three matches, ensuring he ends 0-9.

Eliminated: Jonathan Gresham, Marty Scurll, SHO, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tiger Mask, Titan, TAKA Michinoku

Block B Standings:
Will Ospreay, Ryusuke Taguchi (6-2; 12pts)
BUSHI, Robbie Eagles, El Phantasmo, YOH (5-3; 10pts)
Bandido (4-4; 8pts)
Rocky Romero (3-5; 6pts)
DOUKI (1-7; 2pts)
Ren Narita (0-8; 0pts)

Eliminated: Bandido, BUSHI, DOUKI, Ren Narita, Rocky Romero, YOH

A much improved showing compared to Wednesday, block B’s added competition produced some extra intrigue here. We’ve one more night on the latest run – tomorrow in Ehime as we wrap up block A, before everyone gets the weekend off ahead of the block B finale in Okayama on Monday