Monday evening saw the Best of Super Junior tournament blocks come to their conclusion, with Sendai playing host to the final round robin matches.
Everyone in block A and block B was in action, with block A realistically coming down to one from KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi and Matt Sydal, whilst Ricochet, Will Ospreay and Volador Jr were the favourites from block B. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino were providing English commentary for the finals of the block stages,
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block B: Beretta  vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger 
Neither man can make the finals, so this was a bit of a dead loss. Beretta cheapshotted Liger at the bell after a handshake, but got chopped to the floor as Liger blocked a springboard, before following up with a plancha off the top rope.
After getting back into the ring, Beretta was met with a Ligerbomb for a two-count, but Beretta fired back with a dropkick, and got a near-fall with a DDT. Liger fought back with a few chops, before almost shocking Beretta with a sunset flip out of a super hurricanrana attempt.
Beretta sent Liger into the crowd barriers with a tope, but was cut off as he slingshotted in, before turning a Ligerbomb into a Dudebuster for the win. This felt lacklustre, but given that neither man had anything to fight for, it was what it needed to be. **½
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block B: Bobby Fish  vs. Tiger Mask 
Bobby Fish apparently had an outside chance of winning this block, but it would have needed an extraordinary set of circumstances. Fish started by catching Tiger Mask in a rear-naked choke, and it looked like we’d have an early tap out, only for Fish to release the hold and go for a pin, getting a two-count in the process.
The pair trade simultaneous kicks, meeting with a head kick at the same time, knocking the other to the mat. Fish kept up the offence, drilling Tiger into the turnbuckles, then hitting an exploder suplex for another near-fall. Tiger Mask knocked down Fish with an enziguiri, then landed the Tiger Driver for a two-count on Fish.
Tiger tried to repeat the move off the top rope, but instead went for a butterfly superplex, getting a two-count, then going for an armbar, which Fish broke via the ropes. Fish rolled Tiger Mask into a heel hook that was quickly broken via the ropes, but after a Falcon Arrow got Fish a two-count, the ROH TV champion went back to the heel hook and earned the win by submission. A solid match, but the crowd didn’t buy Fish as a block winner, so this felt like just an exhibition match. ***¼
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block B: Chase Owens  vs. Ricochet 
The proverbial wheels have come off of Ricochet’s tournament challenge, and Owens could play spoiler here, as a loss for Ricochet ends his tournament chances, given his losses to Volador and Ospreay.
Yujiro Takahashi’s out with Owens, so going by prior tournament matches, this means interference-a-plenty here. Owens took the fight to Ricochet early on, but he had little answer for the high flying offence of the block leader… and there was plenty of interference from Takahashi as the referee got distracted.
Takahashi got involved again, yanking Ricochet down from a springboard after a 619, and that almost led to Owens scoring the win from a running knee as Steve Corino made the pizza analogy to defuse the now-extinguished argument around the Ospreay/Ricochet match. Out of nowhere, Ricochet hit a flip dive to the outside to take Takahashi out of the picture, but a brief comeback ended with Ricochet rolling out of the corner and into a gutbuster by Owens for a two-count.
Ricochet fought out of a package piledriver, and knocked Owens down with an enziguiri, then a Regalplex for a near-fall. A 450 Splash should have gotten Ricochet the win, but Takahashi pulled out the referee – and was ejected from ringside for it. Owens hiptossed Ricochet onto his knee for a near-fall, before going for another package piledriver… but again, Ricochet fought free.
After a back suplex, Owens went under the ring for a chair, but missed Ricochet with it and took a kick to the head. Ricochet went for the chair himself – and in the distraction, Owens was able to grab a roll of quarters out of his tights, and punch Ricochet with them. That only got a two-count, as Ricochet put Owens down with a Benadryller. The pair trade forearms and uppercuts, before Ricochet landed a suplex that rolled into a brainbuster for a two-count.
Yujiro returned to the ring but got kicked off the apron by Ricochet, who went to miss a corkscrew shooting star press, as Chase Owens took advantage with an O’Connor roll, with an assist from Takahashi as Chase upset Ricochet to knock him out of the tournament! Good match, even with the liberal interference ***½
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block B: Will Ospreay  vs. Volador Jr. 
After the earlier results, the winner of this takes the block: anything but a loss for Volador will do it for him, whilst a win for Ospreay will see him take it on tie-breakers, having beaten Ricochet already (plus the win over Volador that’d give him the crucial two points here).
Volador took his mask off at the opening bell, as he’s wearing what I can only describe is a Kane-inspired red bodysuit, and they started out on fire, with athletic flips that led to a stand-off in the early going, at least until Ospreay was sent rolling to the floor courtesy of a satellite headscissors. Both men teased a dive early, with Ospreay being the first to connect, with a shooting star press off the apron, which led to our first count-out tease of the day.
Back in the ring, Ospreay tied up Volador in an Octopus hold, then rolled him through for a two-count, before going for a double arm-crank which he leant back onto for a near-fall on Volador. Ospreay did a hand spring off the ropes, but fell into the path of a superkick from Volador as the referee started the standing ten-count.
After getting back up, Volador nearly landed on his head as he tried to flip himself over the ropes and onto the apron, but the Mexican was able to clothesline Ospreay out of the ring and follow up with an Asai moonsault – this time not ending with Volador taking an accidental tombstone!
Volador drilled Ospreay with a lungblower for a near-fall, but Ospreay fired back with a moonsault into a DDT after Volador tried to slingshot him into the corner. Ospreay got caught with an enziguiri on the top rope, and Volador took him down with a super hurricanrana, but only was able to get a two-count from the move.
The finish came in sensational style, when Volador went for the Spanish Fly off the top, but Ospreay landed on his feet, and responded with a springboard Ace crusher, which was enough to get the win and the block for the Englishman! Will Ospreay’s confirmation as the winner got a loud reaction from Sendai – and given the slow start he had, a true comeback from the Aerial Assassin! ****
Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & EVIL
Our only non-tournament match of the day is a six-man tag with CHAOS and Los Ingobernables de Japon reprising their never-ending feud. More fun with Milano here, as he ignored Naito by… reading his notes! So Naito got into it with Steve Corino on commentary, and we had our jump start, with the usual suspects pairing off against each other.
YOSHI-HASHI hit a couple of bodyslams on SANADA, who replies by choking him with a baseball bat on the outside as they went back to the floor, whilst Kevin Kelly tried to restrain Corino as Naito offered up Okada for him. Naito and EVIL tried to double-team YOSHI-HASHI, but Yoshi countered with a suplex neckbreaker on the champion, before bringing in Okada to keep on top of Naito.
A diving uppercut gets Okada a two-count, before Naito returns with his legsweep into a slingshot dropkick, but Okada blocks Gloria once more. Okada catches Naito with the Heavy Rain, before tagging in Goto to take on EVIL, with Goto just about winning their first war of clotheslines.
EVIL avoided the ushigoroshi, then dropped Goto with a swinging neckbreaker for a two-count, before nailing a Fisherman’s buster. YOSHI-HASHI came back in and hot shotted SANADA into the ropes, but SANADA caught his foe with a springboard dropkick off the apron, before trying for the Skull End. Goto broke that up, as the ring started to fill-up, ending with YOSHI-HASHI landing a neckbreaker on Naito, before hitting a superkick on SANADA.
SANADA countered with the TKO for a near-fall, but then locked YOSHI-HASHI in the Skull End as Okada and Goto were kept at bay. Goto finally came into break it up, but was turfed out by EVIL, as the ring filled and cleared once more, ending with SANADA landing a moonsault onto YOSHI-HASHI for the win. A fun match, although I must admit I’m more than ready for these to splinter into the singles matches ***½
More Milano baiting after the match as Naito kept going after Naito,
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: Rocky Romero  vs. Kyle O’Reilly 
Block A started with realistically only KUSHIDA, Matt Sydal and Ryusuke Taguchi able to win, but Rocky Romero could play spoiler here. If O’Reilly wins here, then the tie-breakers mean that KUSHIDA is eliminated before he even wrestles.
We start out simple enough, with O’Reilly targeting the still-taped shoulder of Romero, but Romero forced O’Reilly to dive to the outside as he hooked himself in the ropes, then moved aside as O’Reilly charged. Romero followed up with the Shinsuke knees in the corner, but got caught in the ropes as O’Reilly tied him up in a triangle armbar.
O’Reilly snatched a near-fall with an armbreaker, before tying up Romero in a wrist-lock, then an armbar which immediately sent Romero into the ropes. They rolled outside, as O’Reilly went to kick Romero, who ducked, meaning O’Reilly struck the ring post hard, before Romero dived off the apron with a jumping knee strike. Romero kept on top of O’Reilly with the Forever clotheslines, but quickly found himself blasted to the mat courtesy of a knee to the head.
A victory roll almost sealed the win for Romero, but O’Reilly fought back with a Regalplex for a near-fall, before utilising the armbreaker again. O’Reilly caught Romero on the top rope with an armbar, but that had to be broken, but Romero returned the favour with a jumping armbar off the top, with O’Reilly making the ropes for a break.
Romero blocked a rebound lariat, but found his effort at a Shiranui blocked and eventually turned into a brainbuster for a near-fall. O’Reilly then wrapped up Romero in a series of armbars, eventually forcing a rope break. They went back to trading strikes, with O’Reilly flooring Romero with a slap, before Romero knocked out O’Reilly’s mouthpiece with a jumping knee, and a running Shiranui for another near-fall. One more knee was enough though, as Rocky Romero wrapped up the win that eliminated Kyle O’Reilly from the tournament following a solid technical match – a direct contrast to the evening’s B block matches. ***¾
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: Matt Sydal  vs. David Finlay 
This should be academic, no? In what Kevin Kelly kept calling “the race to ten”, Sydal’s got the easiest tie here, but he found himself fighting out of an early headlock before overcoming Finlay with armdrags and headscissors.
Sydal blocked an early schoolboy effort by kicking Finlay’s arm, but found himself grounded again as Finlay hooked away at Sydal’s mouth. Another good reversal saw Finlay block a hurricanrana and turn it into a Stretch Muffler, but Sydal quickly reached for the rope break, as Finlay started to target Sydal’s left leg.
Sydal retaliated with a variant of an Indian deathlock, before continuing to chop away on Finlay with kicks, getting a near-fall in the process. Finlay nearly snatched the win with a uranage backbreaker, but found himself on the mat courtesy of a leg sweep, with Sydal following into a standing moonsault for a two-count.
Finlay countered a roll-up and nearly got a win, but Sydal landed the Here It Is driver for a near-fall of his own, before Finlay caught him on the top rope, trying to bring him down to earth with a super Finlay roll. Sydal wriggled free and brought him down with a hurricanrana instead, then landed on his feet from a shooting star press as a deadlift German suplex got Finlay a two-count.
A jumping knee and a head kick sent Finlay crashing to the mat, and in perfect position for a shooting star press as Sydal claimed the win. A solid match, but nothing spectacular as Sydal gets to ten points, but with losses to KUSHIDA and Taguchi, he’s going to need a special set of results to clinch the block. ***¼
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: Gedo  vs. Ryusuke Taguchi 
Ryusuke Taguchi’s theoretically got an easy path to knock Sydal off the top spot here, and he’s going into it as serious as he usually does, aping Gedo’s attire for his ring entrance. I’ll go for six hip attacks here, and Taguchi gets kicked in the midsection before the opening bell, before Gedo rips off Taguchi’s shirt and uses it to choke him with.
Gedo goes for the timekeeper’s hammer and uses it on Taguchi, smashing him in the back of the neck with it (but no DQ…), before Taguchi gets rammed onto the timekeeper’s table as well. Taguchi gets slingshotted into the ringpost as they stay on the outside, as Gedo tears apart the ring padding just in case things come into the ring.
Taguchi twice gets whipped into the exposed turnbuckles, before taking a neckbreaker for a near-fall. We get our first hip attack of the day as Taguchi leaps off the ropes to avoid going into the turnbuckles, before the second hip attack comes as he flies off the apron. Three more hip attacks follow, as Gedo gets stunned into the ropes, where he takes two more, then a leaping hip attack off the floor, as we reach number eight.
Taguchi’s rolling suplexes get countered by Gedo, who locks in a crossface, but Taguchi manages to reach Gedo’s foot and go for the ankle lock to break the hold. A roll-through gets Gedo a two-count, before he superkicks an onrushing Taguchi. A ninth hip attack counters Gedo’s Rainmaker attempt, as Taguchi’s effort goes wrong too, before an attempt at the Dodon facebuster ends with Gedo rolling free.
Another ankle lock sends Gedo reaching for the ropes, before Gedo mule kicked Taguchi after a ref bump. Gedo went for the Gedo clutch, but Taguchi blocked it, and got the pin on Gedo to overtake Sydal at the top of the leadership board – with only KUSHIDA able to overtake him. A fun semi-final, even if there was an abundance of hip attacks! ***½
Best of Super Junior Tournament, Block A: BUSHI  vs. KUSHIDA 
It’s simple – if KUSHIDA wins, he wins the block. Any other result means it goes to Taguchi.
BUSHI dropkicks KUSHIDA before the bell, and immediately takes him to the outside, ramming his head into the arena wall. KUSHIDA beats the count back in, but gets spiked with a DDT on the apron, and we get another count-out tease. KUSHIDA manages to take down BUSHI with a springboard dropkick back into the ring, before kicking out the arm as BUSHI waited on the mat. BUSHI found himself taken down with a wrist clutch, as KUSHIDA worked on the left arm of his foe, setting up for an inevitable Hoverboard lock.
A standing moonsault earns KUSHIDA a near-fall, but it’s not long before BUSHI dropkicks his way back in, only to be sent to the outside with a rolling heel kick, as a flip dive from KUSHIDA sees him land on top of his rival. KUSHIDA lands on his feet from a moonsault, and blocked a gutbuster from BUSHI and turned it into a Hoverboard lock – albeit briefly.
KUSHIDA kept going after the arm breaker, but his return to the ring saw him land in a codebreaker as BUSHI made a comeback of sorts, but ran into a roaring elbow. A Pele kick downed BUSHI once more, as a Penalty Kick sent BUSHI flying into perfect position for a Hoverboard lock.
That got turned into an armbar, which led into a ref bump as BUSHI pulled the ref aside in a bid to free himself. As that didn’t work, we just got a blast of mist from BUSHI, who followed up with the MX (lungblower from the top rope) for a near-fall, before a second MX did the job and spoiled the party. A fine main event – perhaps not the best match for a main event, but it told the story perfectly. ***½
We now have a final between Ryusuke Taguchi and Will Ospreay tomorrow night!
All in, a fine day’s action, with a good mixture of scientific junior action and high-flying action as both blocks built to a satisfying crescendo. Well, satisfying unless you deeply loathe Ryusuke Taguchi. Away from the tournament, we now have a veritable laundry list of challengers for KUSHIDA, with Romero and BUSHI adding their names to the list alongside whomever wins the finals tomorrow.
So, the final block standings ended up being:
Ryusuke Taguchi (5 wins, 10 points – wins via tie-breakers)
Matt Sydal (5 wins, 10 points)
BUSHI, KUSHIDA, Kyle O’Reilly, Rocky Romero (4 wins, 8 points)
David Finlay, Gedo (1 win, 2 points)
Will Ospreay (4 wins, 8 points – wins via tie-breakers)
Bobby Fish, Ricochet, Volador Jr. (4 wins, 8 points)
Beretta, Chase Owens, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask (3 wins, 6 points)
So only one half of my prediction came true, but it was from block B that ended up as tight as it could get… I’m still going for Ospreay to win the tournament though.
If you’re looking to join up to New Japan World for the remainder of the tournament, here’s the remainder of the live shows, with the block and tournament finals both having live English-language commentary courtesy of Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino.
Tournament Final – Tuesday June 7 – Sendai Sun Plaza, Sendai @ 1830 JST; 1030 BST; 0530 EST; 0230 PST
We’ll have reviews of the tournament finals early on Wednesday morning (UK time).