Match of the Week Club: Hiromu Takahashi vs Dragon Lee (New Japan Pro Wrestling Best of the Super Juniors 24 5/17/17)

Every week on Place to Be Nation, a bevy of collaborators review one match from the world of wrestling that YOU as the viewer should seek out!

This match is available on the New Japan World. 

Lawrence O’Brien: 

Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi will forever be entangled in their professional lives, much as KO and Zayn are. When BOSJ competitors were announced and Dragon Lee was on the list for the first time, I think we all knew where that was going especially since Hiromu got the best of him at New Beginning.

They waste no time making this heated at the start with getting in each other’s faces and some absolute blistering strike exchanges between them. In some cases, I consider that stuff cheezy at times, but the way they did it worked because there was no real pauses between strikes, they just kept chopping each other back and forth for what felt like eternity.

The narrative of this seems to be that Hiromu isn’t just going to run roughshod through Lee like he has through the New Japan juniors because Lee KNOWS him too well. Those other guys didn’t have the benefit of the doubt of facing him 10+ times. To add to the mental gymnastics being played, Dragon Lee even stole some of Hiromu’s own maneuvers, like when Dragon Lee countered Hiromu’s sunset flip bomb to the outside and then followed up with his own version of it!

Sure could have done without the German suplex sequence where they both repeatedly no sold them. It’s becoming one of the most played out things in wrestling and does a disservice to an awesome move like the German. And also where Hiromu actually lifted himself up in the corner so Lee could stomp on his back, that move always will drive me crazy because it comes off as one of the most choreographed things in wrestling.

Dug the finishing stretch; thought the crucifix bomb counter for Hiromu’s Time Bomb move was very clever from Lee, an absolute insane second rope jumping Canadian Destroyer from Hiromu, and Lee hitting Hiromu’s corner Death Valley Driver leading to the PhoenixPlex for the finish which felt so apropos. I still personally dig their CMLL matches over their NJPW work, I think that environment was perfect for them but this was still a very good edition in their outstanding rivalry.

Ioan Morris: 

Hiromu brought his BOSJ scrapbook with him and encouraged the commentary team to take a look. He and Dragon Lee fired off with huge slaps to one another’s chests, going head-to-head before Dragon Lee swiped away a ‘rana to hit one of his own. Hiromu avoided the dive, but in getting up to the apron was caught with a leaping hurricanrana to the floor! Tope con hilo to follow from Dragon Lee. Back in, Hiromu blocked the cradle suplex but was hit with a corner dropkick for two. A belly-to-belly into the turnbuckle turned the tide, and Hiromu nailed a low dropkick before ripping at his opponent’s mask. Dragon Lee survived a surfboard submission to land a couple of kicks, then avoided Hiromu’s sunset flip powerbomb to the floor and hit one of his own! Hiromu leapt back in the ring at 19, but was out of it, and the Desnucadora (cradle suplex into a powerbomb) from Dragon Lee earned a very close near-fall. Both men missed with their attempted tree-of-woe double stomps from the top, then they exchanged a series of German suplexes. Both men down. Elbows and slaps up from the knees, with Dragon Lee nailing a vicious knee lift to floor Hiromu.

Up top, and Dragon Lee blocked Hiromu’s attempted Victory Roll Driver and instead connected with a reverse double stomp! Crazy. Another Desnucadora attempt was blocked, with Hiromu cinching a guillotine choke before Dragon Lee rolled to the ropes. Modified DVD slam from Hiromu for two. DVD into the turnbuckle and again Hiromu ripped at the mask. An ugly-looking crucifix driver earned two for Dragon Lee, then each man got a near-fall from a pinning combination. Superkicks from Hiromu and the diving Destroyer from the middle-rope connected for 2.9! Another DVD into the ‘buckle, but the Time Bomb was blocked, so Hiromu settled for a wheelbarrow German instead. Dragon Lee blocked another Destroyer, hit a turnbuckle DVD of his own and spiked Hiromu with a Phoenix-plex for the win!

Wow. A huge result – Hiromu’s first singles loss since returning to New Japan – with massive implications for the tournament. The match, while not their best, was very good indeed, with lots of clever counters and high-impact moves. Certainly not something you’d want to be involved in at the start of a two-and-a-half week tour. Not everything looked crisp, but they wrestled to the point of exhaustion and the chemistry is undeniable. Great stuff. ****1/4

Chad Campbell:

Like Misawa vs Kawada and Kobashi throughout the 1990’s, having these two match up for the next few years in a yearly match during the BOSJ isn’t the worst idea in the world. I didn’t think this hit the highs of their MOTYC from February, but it was a damn good match and it is incredible that these two have been able to produce double figures of really good to great matches in the past three years without the feud seeming stale. This had some great callbacks to people that have been paying attention to the feud as a whole including the Phoenix Plex spelling doom for Hiromu once again. Hiromu has also utilized the sunset flip powerbomb throughout this NJ run so I enjoyed Dragon Lee using that on him to gain the advantage. The other neat facet of this series though is that you could come in completely blind to this match and still be tremendously entertained just based on the athleticism being displayed. They are able to throw in just enough psychology that none of these matches wonder off into pure spotfest loony territory. Dragon Lee winning could set up a rubber match for 2017 between these two perhaps on US soil in early July. ****