This year’s Best of Super Junior tournament wrapped up on Tuesday in Sendai, with a sensational final between Ryusuke Taguchi and Will Ospreay.
After thirteen nights of action, Taguchi clinched block A with ten points, whilst eight points was enough for Ospreay to make it – as both guys needed to make use of tie-breakers to secure their path to the final. The winner of today’s main event gets a title shot against KUSHIDA – who found himself in action earlier on the card in a six-way match featuring other competitors from the tournament. But first… our undercard!
David Finlay vs. Jay White
Now young David is done with the tournament – where he came second bottom of block A (thanks to a tie-breaking win over Gedo), he can go back his perennial feud with Jay White.
After taking a near-fall, Finlay erupted back at White with a dropkick into the corner, as these two turned things up a notch. Finlay sent White shoulder-first into the turnbuckles for a near-fall, but White was able to make a comeback, courtesy of an uppercut into the corner, a suplex and a missile dropkick, earning the New Zealander a near-fall.
White went for a Boston Crab, but Finlay scurried to the ropes before the hold could even be locked in, and Finlay decked White with a diving uppercut. The pair started trading forearms from the ground, continuing after getting to their feet, but after being decked by an uppercut, White suckered Finlay into a small package and picked up the win from there.
That was a true “out-of-nowhere” finish, but this match was a lot better than their usual fare ***
If you’re fed up of this match after nine outings, then you may be pleased to hear that both men are looking likely to depart New Japan on “learning excursions”, with Jay White tipped for a run with Ring of Honor, whilst Finlay’s future is undecided.
Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan
Fresh off of being the spoiler for Ricochet last night, Chase Owens teamed up (for once, legitimately!) with Yujiro Takahashi, to take on the makeshift pairing of the “Hunter Club”: Yoshitatsu and Captain New Japan.
After Yoshitatsu and Captain New Japan did their Triple H water-spit, they were jumped by Owens and Takahashi, who teased taking the match to the outside, but instead rolled them back inside. Basic stuff early, with the Captain doing a comedy spot that confused Yujiro and sent him crashing into Owens, but the Bullet Club took advantage quickly after the match went to the outside.
Owens and Takahashi worked well together, keeping the Captain in the ring, but it wasn’t very entertaining in fairness, particularly with Takahashi’s half-hearted motions, including an awkward bump from a shoulder tackle. Things picked up a little when Yoshitatsu came in to do his Triple H routine, hitting some jumping knees, then a spinebuster on Owens, and finally a Blue Thunder Bomb.
Captain New Japan got the tag back in, but quickly found himself distracted by Owens, letting Takahashi hit a short-DDT for a near-fall. A roll-up nearly got the win for the Captain, as did a uranage, and the Captain actually hit a swandive headbutt for a near-fall as Chase Owens came in with a chair, leading to a ref bump.
Yoshitatsu quickly dispatched Owens, but Yujiro low blowed the Captain as the referee recovered, before landing the Miami Shine (modified death valley driver) to score the win. This was a take-it-or-leave-it match, and for me, I’d rather have left it – it didn’t stink, but it was unremarkable. **¼
Katsuyori Shibata & Juice Robinson vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
Well, you can guess how this one started – the NEVER champion Nagata and his opponent in a little under a fortnight Shibata made a beeline for each other, laying into each other with strikes and holds.
Robinson tagged himself into the match, but Shibata wouldn’t stop laying into Nagata in the corner, and Robinson found himself renewing rivalries with Manabu Nakanishi – as he has been doing throughout the tournament. Nakanishi tried a deadlift suplex, but Robinson worked himself free and got a near-fall after hitting a back suplex on the veteran, before teasing a super brainbuster… and you can probably imagine how well that went. Nakanishi shoved Robinson to the mat, then connected with a cross body block off the top, before we went back to more fun and games with Shibata and Nagata.
After a dropkick and a butterfly suplex, Shibata earned himself a two-count as Nagata began to fire back, but Shibata quickly grounded Nagata in a sleeperhold, then deadlifted him for a German suplex. Nagata caught Shibata in an armbar, only for Robinson to break it up, so we got the veterans in against Shibata, with Nakanishi spearing Shibata out of his boots.
Nakanishi scored a two-count from a lariat on Shibata, then hoisted him up into the Torture Rack, which was broken up by Robinson. Nakanishi tried for a chokeslam, but got taken down with a rear naked choke, as Shibata laid him out with the penalty kick for the win. A pretty good match with these teams – and I’m more than curious to see how well a Robinson/Nakanishi feud would play out. ***¼
Tomohiro Ishii and Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan and reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)
After being in opposing blocks, we finally get the first Roppongi Vice vs. reDRagon match of this tour, as they’re paired up with Tomohiro Ishii and Hiroyoshi Tenzan – a feud that already has my interest on paper!
In fact, the Sendai crowd roared when they got Tenzan and Ishii together, and it was like two proverbial bulls, with neither man budging from shoulder blocks or chops. Rocky Romero felt the full force of Tenzan, when he tried to attack him from behind, and Beretta suffered a similar fate. After getting tagged in, it was more of the same for Beretta, who tried chopping Tenzan, but with little end result, before he was taken down with a spinning wheel kick.
Bobby Fish came in and speared Beretta into the corner, but quickly found himself getting double-teamed by Ishii and Romero. A Samoan drop gave Fish a way back into it, tagging O’Reilly in, who ducked out of the Forever clotheslines and took down Romero with an armbar, as Romero took a double team backbreaker/diving knee off the top for a near-fall, before O’Reilly and Fish hit the Chasing the Dragon (brainbuster/kick) combo on Romero for the win. A decent tag match, but the big story seemed to be the potential Ishii/Tenzan feud that woke up the crowd. ***
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Volador Jr. & Tiger Mask vs. KUSHIDA, Matt Sydal & Ricochet
This looks like a fun trios match on paper, as all three IWGP junior champions formed a team.
Good stuff early on as KUSHIDA and Tiger Mask neutralised each other, before we got Volador and Ricochet, who again couldn’t find an advantage, so we moved onto the last pairing of Liger and Sydal… and we actually saw someone get an edge, with Sydal knocking Liger down, before Liger took down Sydal with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, followed by a surfboard.
Tiger Mask came in and hit a Tiger Driver on Sydal for a near-fall, before Volador and Liger came in to pick up where Tiger left off. KUSHIDA came in and took down Volador and Tiger off the apron with a handstand kick, before he went to work on Liger, landing a backbreaker before opting to dive to the outside rather than keep up the pressure on Liger.
The champions team triple-teamed Liger for a spell, leading to a two-count from KUSHIDA, who transitioned to the Hoverboard lock as Liger reached for the ropes. Volador and Ricochet came in for a brief flurry, before a Shotei from Liger sent Ricochet inside out as the match broke down a little, culminating with stereo planchas from Liger and Tiger. A wheelbarrow roll-up on Ricochet almost got the win for Volador, as did a lungblower, but Ricochet managed to get the W, shoving Volador off the top rope and landing a 630 Splash for the three-count. A fine showcase from the tournament entrants, and well worth watching. ***¾
Post-match, Ricochet and Sydal found themselves confronted by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, with reDRagon noting that they’d never been beaten for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight titles. O’Reilly challenged Ricochet and Sydal to a title match for Dominion, but before we could get a reply, Rocky Romero and Beretta came out to get Roppongi Vice added to the match as they cashed in their rematch clause. So we have a three-way title match for June 19 – that should be quite the match, I feel!
Michael Elgin & Satoshi Kojima vs. Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale
Elgin’s quest to be confirmed as the Intercontinental title challenger continued here, whilst the Bullet Club came out with Chase Owens and a ladder. Kenny Omega had taped two brooms back to back, but the Club’s attempt at a jump start went awry and Kojima and Elgin ducked the pair.
Kojima started with the unenviable task of working against Fale, before Elgin was tagged in to take down Fale with a shoulder tackle off the top, then taking down Omega with a stalling suplex. Omega tripped Elgin from the outside, as Fale nearly took a win, before Omega launched a ladder into Elgin whilst Fale and Kojima brawled in the crowd.
Kenny Omega spent too much time posing to the crowd, and ate a pump kick from Elgin for his troubles, but Omega retaliated by choking Big Mike against the bottom rope. Omega took down Elgin with a Finlay roll, but Elgin found himself dropped by Fale before he could continue the comeback.
Elgin wriggled out of a bodyslam from Fale, but again couldn’t avoid the double-team, at least until he sidestepped a charging Fale as Omega was shoved into the barriers. Omega returned and accidentally caught Fale with a trash can lid, but ended up using it to shield himself from a Kojima chop.
A Koji cutter downed Fale as Kojima got his way back into the match, bringing Elgin back in with a slingshot tope into the ring, before hitting a roaring elbow and a roaring lariat for a near-fall on Omega. In spite of that, Omega replied with a flip dive over the top to the outside on Elgin, and the ladder came back into play, as Omega looked to dive off the ladder in the ring to the floor… except he got cut-off as Elgin came in and superplexed Omega off the ladder for a near-fall.
Chase Owens came in to try and distract, and that allowed Omega to use the ladder on Elgin, before trying for the One Winged Angel onto the ladder, but Elgin worked free and powerbombed Omega onto the ladder, bending it in half. Another powerbomb ended up being enough as Big Mike scored the win. Okay, it might just have been to build up Dominion, but this was a heck of a tag match ***½
Post-match, the inevitable was confirmed: the ladder match at Dominion will be Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin for the Intercontinental championship.
Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Gedo vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & EVIL
More Milano baiting here, as KUSHIDA (on commentary) holds up his IWGP Junior Heavyweight title like some kind of shield.
Los Ingobernables de Japon were attacked from behind as we had another jump start, with the match immediately spilling outside the ring, with Okada sending Naito into the ring post, as EVIL and Goto butted heads in the ring. A side slam from EVIL dropped YOSHI-HASHI, who was then thrown outside so he could be beaten with SANADA’s baseball bat, with a BUSHI missile dropkick waiting for him after going back to the ring.
Tetsuya Naito plodded around the ring as BUSHI forced YOSHI-HASHI to grab the ropes from the STF, before SANADA came back in to punch away on YOSHI. SANADA saw a Skull End blocked with a hiptoss, then with a suplex neckbreaker as YOSHI-HASHI fought to stay alive in the match.
Okada and Naito found themselves in the ring together, with Okada getting a near-fall or two against the man who beat him for the title, before EVIL came in to flatten Okada with a clothesline. A Fisherman’s buster put paid to Goto as he tried to level things up, but EVIL was unable to prevent Okada from connecting with the Heavy Rain on Naito.
Goto repaid EVIL with an ushigoroshi, before Okada missed a Rainmaker then ducked a tornado DDT off the ropes as they looked to wrap things up. Gedo came into the match for the first time, and nearly shocked BUSHI with a small package, then a roll-up and a Gedo clutch. SANADA dropped Gedo with a TKO, and that left the veteran in place to take a MX from BUSHI, as Los Ingobernables de Japon sealed the win from a great semi-final match. ***¾
Post-match saw Tomohiro Ishii come in to try and break up the Los Ingobernables beatdown, only to take some BUSHI mist. BUSHI ended up taking a tombstone from Naito before the IWGP champion and his challenger had a staredown.
Best of Super Junior Tournament Final: Will Ospreay vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
After 13 days of action, and seven matches each, it all comes down to this. A no-time limit match between Will Ospreay and Ryusuke Taguchi, with the winner getting the Best of Super Juniors trophy, and a title shot at KUSHIDA. With the lack of time limit, I’m expecting the Funky Weapon to go all-out on the hip attacks.
A cagey start saw both men go into the ropes and break cleanly, but Ospreay utilised his kip-ups to get out of a wristlock before Taguchi hit his first hip-attack of the match. Back in the ring, they cancelled each other out again, before Ospreay faked a dive to the floor and mocked Taguchi after a dropkick had sent the “Funky Weapon” to the outside.
Ospreay kept Taguchi at bay for a while with a cravat, then snapmared him to the mat, before going for an Octopus hold with some extra torque added to the hold, but Taguchi was able to make the ropes. However, Ospreay’s knee started to give when he landed awkwardly from a back flip, and Taguchi smelled blood – kicking Ospreay to the outside, and going for the injured leg with a Dragon screw.
Back inside, Taguchi kept on at the left knee of Ospreay, folding him up with a leg grapevine into a cobra stretch, which rolled through into a pinning predicament for Taguchi. We got a unique variant of the mounted punched in the corner, with Taguchi hitting ten hip attacks whilst on the top rope, before Ospreay pulled off a one-legged handspring into a kick to send the block A winner to the mat.
A Phenomenal Forearm sent Taguchi down as the one-legged Ospreay followed up with a standing corkscrew press for a near-fall, but Ospreay was unable to follow up with as many kicks as he’d have liked, with his leg not being able to stand up to the force of his own kicks. A Rainmaker attempt was blocked by a hip-attack and a roll through into a near-fall, as Taguchi followed up with an ankle lock, but Ospreay elbowed himself out of it it, before a lengthy reversal sequence saw Taguchi land a Blue Thunder Bomb.
Two standard hip-attacks follow, before Taguchi landed a Pele kick from the floor, then a diving hip attack off the top rope (and I’ve lost count here), as his onslaught continued with a flip dive to the floor. Our first count-out tease of the match saw Ospreay just beat the count to make it back in, but straight into the path of some rolling suplexes, and a reverse powerslam as Taguchi hit a shining wizard for a near-fall. Taguchi followed up with a Dodon, but Ospreay rolled through for a two-count, before the pair traded kicks. Another Dodon attempt saw Ospreay switch it up into a hurricanrana, before clotheslining Taguchi to the floor, where he connected with a corkscrew moonsault dive to the floor. Ospreay landed on his feet from a 450 Splash, tweaking his injured right leg again, before adding more damage with a double stomp, then a corkscrew diving kick.
Taguchi countered a springboard Ace crusher with an ankle lock, dragging Ospreay away from the ropes several times, before finally connecting with the Dodon for a two-count. Another ankle lock followed, with Taguchi cinching in the hold, then scissoring the leg, but Will rolled through, and landed a one man Spanish Fly for almost-a-three!
After dragging himself to his feet, Ospreay climbed up to the top, but got caught up there by Taguchi, only for Ospreay to slip out and drill him with a superkick. Ospreay went back up top, but seemed to be looking for a moonsault (or a Vader Bomb?)… before getting another near fall with what Steve Corino called “what the hell was that?” (an imploding 450 Splash, which had to be seen to be believed). In the aftermath of that, Ospreay quickly followed up with a springboard Ace crusher, and that was enough for Will to become the first Brit to win the Best of Super Junior tournament. What. A. Match. ****¾
Ospreay received a standing ovation from everyone in Sendai afterwards, as Jushin “Thunder” Liger, who had been cornering Taguchi, helped Ospreay ice his ankle in a show of respect. Will received the trophy, before challenging KUSHIDA for the title at Dominion… and got his shiny streamers in celebration! In one tournament, Will Ospreay became a star in Japan. Mission: accomplished!
What. A. Show. At around three hours long, there wasn’t a single bad match on this show, with the second half of the event being among some of the best wrestling I’ve seen this year. The final of the Best of Super Junior tournament was perhaps the best match of the whole tournament – and when you consider that that includes Ricochet vs. Ospreay, KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O’Reilly and last night’s Ospreay vs. Volador Jr. match, that gives you an awful lot of good wrestling!