Hello! I’m Jack. I’m starting to chip in around here whenever there’s a big old Japanese round robin tournament to cover, and Best of the Super Juniors definitely fits the bill. The first couple of nights offered some fine action from Korakuen Hall- we’re going on the road for the first time for Night III, emanating NOT LIVE from Numazu, Shizuoka, Japan. It’s a stripped back, two camera effort from the New Japan technical crew. Hopefully the wrestlers don’t take the hint. Tonight we’re focused on Block A, marginally the weaker of the two, but ooft, if they’re up for it that Ospreay-ACH main event could be pretty rockin’…
YOH vs. Tiger Mask IV
This was about what I was expecting. It started with a Tiger Mask control segment that felt terribly long and had nothing of note happen in it, so that was bad. But things picked up a little during the finishing stretch- YOH’s comeback provided some much needed energy, and then they had Tiger Mask unload some big moves on YOH only for him to determinedly kick out at 2 ½, which gave the match some proper momentum and structure. I wish they’d just do a five minute match when they only have five minutes worth of ideas, because Tiger Mask ambling around the ring delivering a half hearted beating to kill time was completely pointless. He picked up the win eventually (at 13:33) with a Tiger Suplex, and is off to a strong start indeed! * ½.
Flip Gordon vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This was a fair deal better. They only shaved three and a half minutes off the run time but it felt a significantly brisker affair, and while the majority of the match was just watchable, there were a couple of nice sequences and moves. Flip Gordon is good fun if you can separate the man from the wrestler, and I enjoyed him hurling wild kicks at Kanemaru who was desperately ducking and diving out the way. Kanemaru missed a pretty moonsault as well. Flip secured the win with the horrendously titled Four Flippy Splash at 10:03. ** ¾.
Taiji Ishimori vs. BUSHI
This was a really nice little match. Nothing special, but it had the weirdly enjoyable vibe of, like, a high end WWE Cruiserweight Championship match from 2005 or something. There were, of course, some slow moments, but particularly with Ishimori you’re never too far away from something spectacular either. And they did a good job of presenting an even, 50/50 contest, timing the swings in control so that they always felt natural and satisfying, rather than just random and irritating. A good effort from two broadly underrated wrestlers. Ishimori continued his fine start to the tournament, and life in New Japan, by impaling BUSHI with the Bloody Cross at 12:02. ***.
Will Ospreay vs. A.C.H
This was an outstanding match, off the top of my head better than anything from the single camera shows last year. It had flashes of genuinely dazzling athleticism, and built to a series of terrific near falls. The pace was unsurprisingly a step slower than it might have been had it taken place at Korakuen Hall, but there were very few moments of stasis. There’s at the very least something more authentic about going slow to preserve your body than because you think it represents melodrama, which I thought Ospreay-Ishimori veered dangerously close to at times on the 18th. This was just a completely excellent, unpretentious pro wrestling match. Maybe they could have shaved a minute or two off- Ospreay countering ACH’s brainbuster into a stunner was the moment where I thought all the twists and counters might have gone too far, but hey, they kept the momentum up juuuuust long enough for a darn fine ending, with Ospreay landing the Storm Breaker at the second attempt for the win at 16:50. GOOD STUFF! **** ¼.
And so, here’s how the block stands at this (still very early) stage…
Taiji Ishimori- M2, W2, D0, L0- PTS 4
Tiger Mask IV- M2, W1, D0, L0- PTS 4
ACH- M2, W1, D0, L1- PTS 2
Flip Gordon- M2, W1, D0, L1- PTS 2
Will Ospreay- M2, W1, D0, L2- PTS 0
YOH- M2, W1, D0, L1- PTS 2
BUSHI- M2, W0, D0, L2- PTS 0
Yoshinobu Kanemaru- M2, W0, D0, L2- PTS 0
A perfect start for Taiji Ishimori, with Will Ospreay, the group’s only other serious contender, keeping in touching distance with his win over ACH. Tiger Mask IV’s super form is surely not going to last. Who’s going to be the best of the rest in this group outside Will and Taiji?
The big advantage of the way New Japan upload these BOSJ B-shows is that it’s so easy to pick and choose individual matches. If you ask me, Ospreay vs. A.C.H is a must watch, while Ishimori-BUSHI might be worth it if you’ve got time. Overall, a really decent Night III, capped off by an outside bet for Match of the Tournament…