We’re back at Korakuen Hall for the eleventh day of Best of Super Junior action, and it’s block A taking centre stage for the first of four live cards on New Japan World as this year’s tournament draws to a close, with an unexpected (and unwanted) surprise in the middle of the card.
Going into today’s action, Gedo, BUSHI and David Finlay were already eliminated, but could play spoiler, as Matt Sydal could conceivably wrap up block A with a win over KUSHIDA – as long as BUSHI beats Ryusuke Taguchi, and David Finlay beat Kyle O’Reilly. Yeah, that’s not likely… especially as KUSHIDA needs a win over Sydal to keep his tournament alive!
Tomohiro Ishii, Beretta & Will Ospreay vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Ricochet & Volador Jr.
Before any tournament action though, we start with mixed tag matches featuring guys from block B. Ospreay starts by taunting Volador, and mocking him when he slips on an armdrag, but otherwise, good lucha-inspired stuff to start out with, with Volador catching Ospreay in a Boston crab to end the sequence.
We move onto Ishii and Tenzan, and it’s as bruising as you’d expect, with Tenzan delivering stiff headbutts and Mongolian chops, whilst Ishii replied in kind. The pair tried for deadlift suplexes on each other, with Ishii winning that battle, as Ospreay and Beretta knocked Ricochet and Volador off the apron to keep the two big guys going in the ring for a while longer. Beretta came in and scored a one-count off a jumping knee-drop as Ricochet tried to save Tenzan, only for Ishii and Ospreay to drag the veteran back to their corner.
Ospreay came back in and was forced to eat humble pie, after declaring “this is easy”… and had his head taken off by a Tenzan lariat. Ricochet finally came in and took down Ospreay and Beretta with an Ace Crusher, hitting a 619 on Ospreay then a tiltawhirl slam for a near-fall.
Ospreay blocked a Benadryller, but then caught Ricochet with the Spanish Fly, before Volador and Beretta came in. Lucha headscissors from Volador here, who hit an Asai moonsault to the outside, before Ricochet caught Ospreay with a flip dive over the turnbuckles (a la Essa Rios) and into the crowd. Volador got a two-count on his dive, before landing a back cracker, only for Beretta to sit down on a sunset flip from Volador to get the win. A fun opening tag, in spite of a few buffers here and there! ***¼
Katsuyori Shibata, Bobby Fish, Juice Robinson & Jay White vs. Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Manabu Nakanishi
Usual stuff here, with Shibata and Nagata starting us off, as Shibata caught Nagata in a sleeperhold that needed interference from Liger for the break to be made, before we switched to Fish and Tiger Mask. Stereo kicks sent both men down, with Fish being taken down with a corkscrew kick after some forearms when he’d gotten back to his feet.
Juice Robinson and Jushin Liger then got tagged in, and they ran a few shoulder block spots, with Liger eventually getting the better of the former CJ Parker, flooring him with a clothesline. Nakanishi got tagged in to go flying with a cross body off the top, getting a two-count on Robinson, before a Polish hammer got him a similar result. Nakanishi hoisted up Robinson for a torture rack that not even Jay White could easily break, but Robinson did take him down with a side suplex, before White was properly tagged in to take on Nagata. White nailed the NEVER champion with knees to the head and a dropkick in the corner, before scoring a two-count from a butterfly suplex.
Shibata rejoined the fray to exchange strikes with Nagata, and then dump him on his head with a German suplex. Nagata returned fire with an armbreaker, wrenching back on Shibata’s arm until Bobby Fish made the save. A dropkick from Shibata downed Nagata, before Jay White returned to take on Nagata, scoring a missile dropkick for a two-count, and surprising Nagata with a crossface. Nakanishi ran into break up that crossface as the ring cleared out, with Nagata hitting big boots on White and Shibata, then getting the win over Jay White with the backdrop hold. This was pretty similar to their match on the last live New Japan World show, and served only to build up the Nagata/Shibata match at Dominion in just over two weeks. **¾
Post-match saw Shibata jump at Nagata, and the pair brawled with a few pull-aparts until Shibata left the ring and was herded to the back.
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: Kyle O’Reilly  vs. David Finlay 
Finlay’s just playing for pride (as the cliche goes), but he starts off grappling with O’Reilly, taking him down with a dropkick then a bodyslam into the ropes (insert obligatory PROGRESS/Rick Martel line here), as a Stretch Muffler is quickly broken via the ropes.
O’Reilly’s knee looked to be bothering him for a while, but he was able to ground Finlay and work some bodyscissors in with some strikes, before moving onto an armbreaker and a grounded hammerlock. O’Reilly stretched back Finlay’s arm so far a submission hold turned into a pinning predicament, as Finlay looked to be getting some receipts for that earlier bodyslam into the ropes.
Finlay powered back with uppercuts, then a Finlay roll and a corkscrew diving uppercut for a near-fall. O’Reilly caught Finlay in a leg grapevine, then enjoyed a slapping match before turning it over into a Sharpshooter, and was dragged back into the middle of the ring as he almost made the ropes. Finlay fought his way to the ropes for a break, before elbowing out of a Regalplex.
They traded kicks and forearms for a while, before a weird looking spot saw Finlay take an enziguiri and fall into position to lock in another Stretch Muffler. Reversals back and forth followed, with Finlay almost snatching an upset with a deadlift German suplex, before O’Reilly got a two-count from a rebound lariat and again with a brainbuster. The end came when O’Reilly stomped away on Finlay’s head, then locked in a triangle choke, forcing a submission from the youngster to end a good, if not flashy match. O’Reilly’s win means that we’ll not have a block winner crowned today (thankfully!) ***¾
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: Gedo  vs. Rocky Romero 
Rocky Romero comes into this as good as eliminated, as he needs to win both his remaining matches and hope that Sydal and Taguchi lose theirs. Beretta accompanied him at ringside for support, with Gedo openly questioning him (“are you bullshitting me?”) as we get a three-way shoving batch between Romero, Gedo and Beretta, before all three CHAOS members hug it out.
Gedo promises a gift for Rocky, and it looks like he’s going to lay down for him… the bell rings, Gedo lays down, and promptly rolls up Romero for a two-count from a small package. Great comedy to start!
Gedo begs Beretta to help him on the outside, but instead pokes him in the eyes as they play cat and mouse, with Beretta getting another slap as Gedo passed by. Romero hooks himself in the ropes, before moving as Gedo dives at him, and now Beretta takes his cheap shots, apologising after each one.
Back inside, Romero chops Gedo, before teasing his Shinsuke knee, instead kicking Gedo in the arm, and then going to a rear chin-lock. Romero avoids the Gedo clutch, hitting a low dropkick instead for a near-fall, before getting superkicked as he went for the “Forever!” clotheslines in the corner. Gedo apes the same move, including a clothesline to take down Beretta on the apron, who then gets brought into the ring, with Gedo using a leg-sweep to have Beretta dropkick his own partner.
Romero breaks up a double chickenwing on Beretta, but falls into a crossface, only for Romero to worm his way to the ropes for the break. A rewind enziguiri dazes Gedo, who then removes the turnbuckle padding as he’s met with the Forever clotheslines. Another crossface is applied to Romero, who gets a two-count as he rolls out of it into a cover, but the referee gets bumped, giving Gedo a chance to kick Romero low, and then connect with Rainmakers to both members of Roppongi Vice.
With the referee back on his feet, Romero hits a jumping knee and a Shining Wizard to secure the win and keep his faint hopes alive. The three CHAOS members hug each other after a good comedy outing in what was essentially a throwaway tournament match… hell, we even got Rocky Romero making a cheap plug for Roppongi Vice shirts during intermission! ***
After intermission, Hiroshi Tanahashi is in the ring to speak to the crowd – my Japanese is non-existent, but from reports, Tanahashi announced that he was pulling out of his Intercontinental title ladder match with Kenny Omega due to injury, and is aiming to return for July’s G1 Climax. Tanahashi’s shoulder/arm has been legitimately injured for months, and apparently doctor’s orders (and the fact that he cannot move his left arm) has forced this withdrawal. Speaking only for his health, I’d wish Tanahashi gets surgery, rather than let things heal “just enough” and gut it out.
Kenny Omega’s out to retort, along with the rest of the Bullet Club. Omega kicks Tanahashi low, and we end up with our first match of the second half…
Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs.Satoshi Kojima, Michael Elgin, Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan
Elgin starts the match hot with a somersault plancha on the guys outside, but when everyone comes in, Omega sidesteps Captain New Japan, only to go straight into some fast chops from Kojima in the corner.
This felt like a parade of spots – more so than usual – with Elgin coming in to take a jumping knee and some clotheslines from Omega, before Chase Owens cleared the apron and took an enziguiri from Elgin, followed by a release German suplex. Takahashi drops Yoshitatsu with a jawbreaker, before Captain New Japan takes a superkick from Owens. Elgin returns to give Owens a bucklebomb into Takahashi, before a sit-out powerbomb secures the win for Big Mike. I’ll be honest, I was distracted for a lot of this match, and it felt like the Korakuen Hall crowd were really deflated after the Tanahashi announcement. *¾
Post-match, Elgin grabs the ladder and climbs it to make his challenge… Omega rejects the challenge, so I guess we’ll be waiting until the last day of the Best of Super Junior tournament for confirmation.
Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & EVIL
Naito circled around Milano Collection AT like a shark, continuing the very long build between these two which has to end with something by Milano, right? YOSHI-HASHI starts off by taunting SANADA (there’s another Dominion match right there), and launches into the former TNA guy when the bell goes. Some headscissors take down SANADA, and we end up with EVIL and Goto for some more fun and games between the two.
The action spills outside with everyone pairing off, and we see Goto take the EVIL chair spot into the corner (ah, good times!) whilst Okada and Naito went into the crowd. Back inside EVIL chops away at Goto, and we get the return of the buffering. When my feed returns, I see SANADA leapfrogging over Goto, as Naito and EVIL combine with a snapmare and a low dropkick to Goto for a near-fall.
More buffering skips an STO attempt by EVIL, and we’re back to see Goto knee Naito in the head, and finally Okada gets the tag in, as the former champion clears house, at least until Naito uses the ropes for a tornado DDT. On the outside, SANADA has YOSHI-HASHI grounded, as Naito tries for Destino, before blocking a Heavy Rain, and eventually dropping Okada with a rolling wheel kick. Okada returns fire with a dropkick, and we’re to YOSHI-HASHI and SANADA, with SANADA escaping a suplex/neckbreaker, and eventually hitting a springboard dropkick from the apron.
SANADA and EVIL team up against YOSHI-HASHI, with an EVIL side slam and a standing moonsault from SANADA getting a near-fall, as SANADA follows up with a Saito suplex for another two-count. YOSHI-HASHI rolls up SANADA for a two-count after countering the Skull End, as the ensuing melee sees Okada and Goto drop Naito and EVIL with death valley drivers and planchas, before YOSHI-HASHI almost took the win with a power-bomb on SANADA. The end quickly came though, as YOSHI-HASHI was shoved into the ropes, with SANADA turning a roll-up into the Skull End, earning the win for SANADA by referee stoppage as Goto and Okada were held at bay outside the ring. ***¼
Post-match we get the usual melee between all six guys, with Naito kicking Okada low after several of the young boys were laid to waste.
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: BUSHI  vs. Ryusuke Taguchi 
BUSHI gets to play spoiler here, as a win over Taguchi could kill the latter’s chances of winning the tournament. Taguchi comes out in a glittery gold suit, with a silver skull mask and green lipstick, aping BUSHI mercilessly. By the way, my hip attack target here… is five.
The mocking continues with Taguchi adopting BUSHI’s pose in the middle of the ring, and BUSHI returns fire. Ah, if only Taguchi had painted his fingernails as well as the lipstick…
Hip-attack one as BUSHI comes off the ropes, before Taguchi lodges himself into the ropes a la Rocky Romero, and gets sent to the outside, where he’s met with a tope from BUSHI for good luck. BUSHI crotches Taguchi on the top rope, then pulls him into the ring post three times to try and see that we can’t get any baby Taguchis in the future.
Back inside, BUSHI rakes Taguchi’s face in the ropes, before a crossface forces an eventual rope break from the “Funky Weapon”. Taguchi tries to make a comeback, missing with a springboard hip attack out of the corner, before dropping BUSHI with a dropkick. Hip attack two sends BUSHI off the apron and to the floor, before Taguchi joins him outside with a flip dive over the top rope.
Two more hip attacks and a stink-face follow, before Taguchi breaks my barrier with a pair of running hip attacks (that’s six now), and a leaping dropkick to the apron. Taguchi hits the rolling suplexes, before transitioning into an ankle lock that sends BUSHI scrambling for the ropes. BUSHI pops-up Taguchi over him and kicks him low on the way down, before using the referee to block a backslide, and then score a two-count from a backslide of his own.
Another ankle lock from Taguchi sends BUSHI sprawling to the ropes, but Taguchi scissors the leg, cinching in the hold some more and dragging BUSHI to the middle before he finally grabs the bottom rope. BUSHI slips out of a Dodon and rolls him up for a near-fall, causing a referee bump in the melee, before spraying the mist in Taguchi’s eyes. BUSHI followed up off the top rope with the MX (top-rope codebreaker) to score the popular win and put a sizable dent in Taguchi’s chances of winning the tournament. As much crap as I give Taguchi for his comedy act, he can pull out a good match – it’s just the over-reliance on comedy that infuriates me. He’s like Grado to me, but with talent… ***½
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: Matt Sydal  vs. KUSHIDA 
So, the stakes here are clear – a win for Matt Sydal, and he all but seals the group… a loss creates a four-way tie at the top of the group going into Monday’s final matches.
Tentative stuff at first, with Sydal grounding KUSHIDA with body scissors and a wristlock, but without getting any advantage. Sydal uses a headstand to get out of a wristlock, as KUSHIDA tried to keep Sydal grounded, but when they did leave their feet, it was still neutral, thanks to flips out of headscissors in a sequence that wasn’t a million miles away from last week’s somehow-controversial Ospreay/Ricochet stuff.
Sydal countered a sunset flip by dropping a knee onto KUSHIDA’s leg, and transitioning into an Indian Deathlock, forcing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion to the ropes. KUSHIDA then blocked a sunset flip of his own, this time with Sydal scurrying into the ropes after finding himself in a Hoverboard lock, before pulling out Bryan Danielson’s old Cattle Mutilation variant of the double chickenwing.
KUSHIDA caught a headscissors attempt and turned it into a Liontamer-esque Boston crab, before getting a couple of near-falls from a bodyslam (of all things!). Sydal fires back with kicks to the leg, and a spinning back kick to KUSHIDA, before springboarding off the turnbuckle with the double knee press. Sydal went for “Here It Is” (aka Mark Haskin’s “Made In Japan”, or the pumphandle half nelson driver), but ended up switching around and landing up with the reverse DDT/legdrop instead for a near fall.
A roaring elbow from KUSHIDA dazed Sydal, and he was sent to the outside courtesy of a handstand kick. KUSHIDA followed up with a senton bomb to the floor, wiping out Sydal and a couple of the young boys, before Sydal takes another dropkick in the ring. KUSHIDA misses another dropkick, and gets dropped with the Here It Is for a near-fall, then leaps up for the headscissors to KUSHIDA, who rolls through into a sunset flip for a two-count.
Sydal kicks away at the legs of KUSHIDA some more, and that leads to the pair kicking each other simultaneously, before Sydal Matrix’s out of a clothesline, only to take a leaping knee. More kicks from KUSHIDA follow, as he handsprings and stumbles into a reverse ‘rana from Sydal, who lands on his feet from a shooting star press, before KUSHIDA hits a flatliner into the turnbuckles.
Another Hoverboard lock is attempted by KUSHIDA, but Sydal is blocking it and looks to be too close to the ropes. He frees himself and connects with some more kicks, but KUSHIDA grabs the Hoverboard lock and rolls through once more, giving Sydal no choice but to tap-out – and we have a four-way tie at the top! Another excellent tournament match to close out the Korakuen Hall show ****
This show will probably be remembered more for the Hiroshi Tanahashi announcement than the action, but there was still some really good stuff on here – all of the tournament matches were really good (even the comedy match where nobody had anything to play for!). Nothing against David Finlay either, but even his match with Kyle O’Reilly was way better than I was expecting going in.
Block out three hours and watch this show! But make sure you skip past the Bullet Club match…
With one match remaining, Block A looks like this:
KUSHIDA, Kyle O’Reilly, Matt Sydal, Ryusuke Taguchi (4 wins, 8 points)
BUSHI (eliminated), Rocky Romero (3 wins, 6 points)
David Finlay (eliminated), Gedo (eliminated) (1 win, 2 points)
Our remaining block A matches take place on Monday’s finale from Sendai, with David Finlay vs. Matt Sydal, Kyle O’Reilly vs. Rocky Romero, Gedo vs. Ryusuke Taguchi and BUSHI vs. KUSHIDA.
Realistically, we’re down to either Matt Sydal or KUSHIDA winning block A after tie-breakers (head-to-head results) are accounted for.
With two matches left, Block B looks like this:
Ricochet (4 wins, 8 points)
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Volador Jr. (3 wins, 6 points)
Beretta (eliminated), Bobby Fish (eliminated), Chase Owens, Tiger Mask (eliminated), Will Ospreay (2 wins, 4 points)
Block B is back on Sunday, in Takasaki, with Beretta vs. Tiger Mask, Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Will Ospreay, Bobby Fish vs. Chase Owens and Ricochet vs. Volador Jr. Finally, Monday’s block matches finale in Sendai has block B bouts as Volador Jr. vs. Will Ospreay, Chase Owens vs. Ricochet, Bobby Fish vs. Tiger Mask and Beretta vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger.
With all this in mind, I’m going for KUSHIDA to complete his comeback and win the block, keeping to my earlier pick of Will Ospreay from block B, with Ospreay taking the overall crown.
If you’re looking to join up to New Japan World for the remainder of the tournament, here’s your schedule for the remaining dates:
Block B – Sunday June 5 – New Sunpia Takasaki, Gunma @ 1600 JST, 0800 BST; 0300 EST; 0000 PST
Both Blocks – Monday June 6 – Sendai Sun Plaza, Sendai @ 1830 JST; 1030 BST; 0530 EST; 0230 PST
Tournament Final – Tuesday June 7 – Sendai Sun Plaza, Sendai @ 1830 JST; 1030 BST; 0530 EST; 0230 PST
We’ll have reviews of all of the live shows as soon as we can – schedules permitting!