We’re out of sync now because Arn is focused and organised and I’m not. But, just so we can say we did indeed get every match of this tournament reviewed on Rear View, and also because I thought this was a terrific night of action, here’s the lowdown on Best of the Super Juniors Day 8…
Marty Scurll vs. El Desperado
This felt like high end house show fare, which isn’t a bad thing considering these single cam shows are only one step removed from that. There wasn’t much fancy going on here, but it was an enjoyable exhibition of two bastards being bastards to each other until you start to feel a curious sympathy for the lesser of the two bastards. Here, Desperado threw every filthy trick in the book at Marty Scurll, only for the Villain to thwart a string of them in a cathartic finishing stretch and tap him out with the Chicken Wing at 14:40. Aside from a short lull for the usual heel control segment, this match was always moving, with a wild crowd brawl to kick it off and then that impressive focus and pace down the stretch with Scurll dodging every one of Desperado’s bullets. It felt vaguely like an early 00s WWF main event, which isn’t a bad thing in that it helped it stand out from other tournament matches. Really good fun here, albeit nothing spectacular. *** ¼.
Dragon Lee vs. Chris Sabin
Wowzers. It’s got pleasant enough reviews from other online opinion havers, but I think I might have liked this match more than anyone else on the planet. It completely sold me on Chris Sabin in the tournament; I thought he’d been decent but unspectacular so far and was unconvinced that he was on the level of, say, Dragon Lee in the year of our lord 2018. But he was awesome here, so fluid, absolutely sublime. I hope a lot of people would agree that the Motor City Machine Guns are one of the great tag teams in pro wrestling history, and this approached peak MCMG quality from him. It doesn’t really work to just describe the moves and sequences, you have to see them to appreciate them, but there were also moments that you can just imagine being spectacular, like his cannonball dive off the apron and countering a powerbomb with a Tornado DDT. He’s still top tier when he wants to be. And Dragon Lee, of course, is just as graceful and beautiful to watch in the ring, which meant there were transitions in this that approached balletic levels of grace. And special shout out to Lee’s tope drive, which was as jaw dropping as every. Right down the finishing stretch there were moments I felt they were grasping at a more epic form of drama which they didn’t need, and I’m vaguely irritated at Sabin, languishing in lower mid table obscurity, ending Lee’s undefeated run, because it feels like New Japan’s booking of the tournament is becoming obviously cynical and too convenient. Still, for me this broke four stars comfortably. Sabin put Lee away with the Cradle Shock at 13:39. **** ¼.
KUSHIDA vs. SHO
You’ve probably already heard a fair bit a chat about this. Basically, knee deep in a high quality but draining festival of high concept Jr. heavyweight wrestling, KUSHIDA and Sho decided to strip it all back and do a grappling heavy bout in which, genuinely, nobody ran the ropes even once. Sho tried once and KUSHIDA went over and handspring kicked him in the head. So, obviously, this was hardly BattlArts, but it was a gutsy change of pace and I admire them both very much for going all in on it. This style is not often my cup of tea but I’ve been known to enjoy it if it’s fast paced and full of liquid counters and transitions, and there were individual moments here that were like absolute diamonds. Still, there were also stretches that I didn’t find so exciting and the novelty wore off me for me by the end. I don’t want to rate it because I feel like I’d have to give it a low-ish rating and I feel bad dismissing a whole style on personal taste; plus, there were sort of five second stretches that I genuinely fucking loved. So I’ll go with a dignified N/R and take my figurative hat off to both guys. KUSHIDA continued the Night of Convenient Group Rebalancing by pinning Sho with Back to the Future at 19:24.
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiromu Takahashi
I really liked this a lot. While I hugely enjoyed his match with Dragon Lee earlier in the tournament, this actually felt like the first Hiromu Takahashi singles match in a while that got close to the incredible run he was having in the first part of last year. It lacked some of the absolute recklesness, there were no unnecessarily terrifying dives to the floor, but the pace was consistently upbeat and there was always something going on. There was more than a glimmer of that relentlessness that I loved about Takahashi last year. Credit to Taguchi as well, he can get by on schtick if he wants to but he kept up with Takahashi every step of the way here, and they strung some really awesome sequences together. In particular I thought their riffs on Taguchi’s Dodon were super fun, with Takahashi spinning one into a gorgeous victory roll, and then when he tried the same counter again Taguchi just sat down on him and spiked him on his head. And then the finishing move itself was great, with Takahashi spinning Taguchi down with a picture perfect huracanrana and cranking on a triangle for a tap out at 14:49. A silky smooth and hugely exciting match, a genuine banger where I wasn’t really expecting one. **** 1/4.
And these were the (some way say suspiciously) egalitarian standings at the end of the show…
Dragon Lee- M4 ,W3, D0, L1- PTS 6
Chris Sabin- M4, W2, D0, L2- PTS 4
El Desperado- M4, W2, D0, L2- PTS 4
Hiromu Takahashi- M4, W2, D0, L2- PTS 4
KUSHIDA- M4, W4, D0, L2- PTS- 4
Marty Scurll- M4, W2, D0, L2- PTS 4
SHO- M4, W2, D0, L2- PTS 4
Ryusuke Taguchi- M4, W1, D0, L3- PTS 2
An absolute logjam in mid table. Something’s got to give…