The story so far…
B Block – Round Four
May 25th, Komatsu City Suehiro Gymnasium, Ishikawa
Tiger Mask IV vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Kanemaru ran into the aisle to attack Tiger during his entrance, DDTing him on the floor, whipping him into chair, and cracking his head into the ringpost. The apron-hung dropkick kept him in control, until eventually Tiger retaliated with kicks. Taka Michinoku distracted Tiger long to give the advantage back to Kanemaru, who ripped at Tiger’s mask and stomped him. Tiger once more fought back with kicks, but missed with a diving headbutt, and the attempted suicide dive was spoiled by Taka. Lariat from Kanemaru for two, but Tiger escaped a backdrop and got rid of Taka before landing the Tiger Driver for a two-count. Out came Taichi to provide another distraction, and he cracked Tiger with the mic stand while the ref was occupied, then Kanemaru hit the reverse DDT followed by Deep Impact for the win.
Suzuki-gun continued to attack post-match and removed Tiger’s mask. Bastards. Tedious antics in front of a dead crowd. Avoid. *1/2
Volador Jr. vs. El Desperado
A swift lucha exchange led to stand off, then Volador landed a big monkey flip, but Desperado blocked an attempted second, sending Volador outside and tossing him into the chairs. Volador made it back in at 18, but got whipped into a turnbuckle-wedged chair for a two-count, then Desperado choked him with his own t-shirt (Bushi: “gimmick infringement!”). A hurricanrana from Volador brought some respite and sent Desperado outside. The referee caught Desperado trying to use a chair, made him drop it, and Volador wiped him out by diving over the ref and landing a tope con hilo! The crowd loved that one. Volador rolled Desperado back in and hit a springboard dropkick, superkick and lungblower for a two-count. Spinebuster from Desperado and a couple of elbow shots, but Volador tilt-a-whirled into La Mística. Desperado managed to clock the referee and free himself, but Volador countered the attempted chairshot with another superkick! The Volador Spiral (hurricanrana driver) connected out of the corner and was good for the three-count!
Good stuff. Desperado continued his strong run this tournament and Volador stepped it up in his best performance to this point. The crowd response was not what it might’ve been, but that’s not on the wrestlers. ***1/4
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. BUSHI
Bushi almost fell for Taguchi’s rope-running trick and, after a brief flurry, was sent to the floor where Taguchi landed a hip attack from the apron. More ass-based offence followed back in the ring, and the Nakamura taunt had the crowd laughing, but Bushi snuck up behind Taguchi with the t-shirt choke. Middle-rope dropkick, and Bushi went for the eyes before nailing a neckbreaker for two. Taguchi recovered to hit a Jericho-style springboard dropkick and flattened Bushi with a tope con hilo! Springboard hip attack – two-count only. A back-and-forth led to Bushi hitting a lungblower, but Taguchi rolled-through a backslide and hit the BomAss Ye for two. Bushi almost countered Dodon, but Taguchi held on to apply the ankle lock, then Bushi made it to his feet for a swinging neckbreaker and both men were down. Codebreaker and a sit-out jawbreaker earned a near-fall for Bushi, and the diving Codebreaker got the win.
Again, the lethargic crowd response didn’t reflect the effort, but this was solid match, with Bushi picking up the essential victory. ***
KUSHIDA vs. ACH
ACH got some shots in early, but Kushida replied with the handspring elbow and began to work over his opponent’s left arm. ACH finally escaped Kushida’s clutches after a third kip-up and worked the neck with a side headlock and chinlock. After sending Kushida outside, ACH landed a corkscrew plancha, then connected with his strike combo in the ring for a two-count. A messy reversal sequence allowed Kushida to get a two-count from a victory roll, then he hit a low dropkick, but ACH countered a handspring into a German suplex and both men were down. A handspring kick caught ACH up top and Kushida brought him all the way down with an armbar takedown! Too close to the ropes, however, so Kushida continued to punish the arm with kicks. He grabbed another armbar over the ropes (ala Minoru Suzuki), but ACH used his strength and lifted him up into a powerbomb from the middle-rope!
A spiked Death Valley Driver landed for two, but Kushida countered the follow-up lariat into the Hoverboard Lock. ACH fought out, and both guys, exhausted, threw elbows. A jumping DDT from Kushida looked to set-up the finish, but ACH nailed the modified Michinoku Driver to once again put both men down. A huge lariat turned Kushida inside-out and a second Michinoku Driver was enough to give ACH the three-count!
Now that is a surprise. I had fully expected Kushida’s win over Bushi to launch a run of wins, but ACH had other ideas. Had this happened in front of a hot Korakuen Hall crowd I’m sure we’d have been heading for four-star territory, but in this venue the structure was perhaps a miscalculation and only served to highlight the lack of response from a poor crowd. Again though, the match itself was good and a rematch down the line would be welcome. ***1/2
A Block – Round Five
May 26th, Nagano Athletic Park Gymnasium, Nagano
Taichi vs. Marty Scurll
If you can believe it, Taichi jumped Scurll to start, but Scurll fought back immediately with an apron superkick before taking the fight into the crowd. Some lenient refereeing allowed Taichi to reply with several chairshots and send Scurll into the ringpost, then El Desperado and Kanemaru lent a hand. With the ref distracted, Taichi used the ringbell hammer, but Scurll finally hit back with the Just Kidding superkick and chops, and a Suzuki-gun mix-up led to a roll-up for two. Enzuigiri and a head kick from Taichi, the stripper pants came off, but he was almost caught in the chickenwing before being actually caught with the Last Shot. Taichi tried an eye rake, but Scurll grabbed the finger and snapped it! The ref was bumped, missing the chickenwing tap-out, but was up in time to stop Scurll using Taichi’s mic stand. Low blow from Taichi and he rolled-up Scurll for the three-count!
More entertaining than I’d expected, with a fair bit of intensity and the heel vs. heel dynamic working well. It also didn’t overstay its welcome, which is a help with so many Suzuki-gun shenanigans. **1/4
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Ricochet
After some matwork dominance from Liger, much appreciated by the crowd, Ricochet grabbed the leg and applied the inverted Indian Deathlock into the Muta Lock, leading to a rope-break. Liger then grounded Ricochet and tied him up in the Romero Special, which saw another rope-break, then Ricochet picked up the pace and hit a 619, but was caught in a crucifix roll-up for two. The Shotei connected, turning Richochet inside-out, and the Liger Bomb followed for two! Ricochet flipped out of the brainbuster and landed a rolling elbow, but Liger’s Thesz Press got another two-count. Corkscrew enzuigiri and the Benadryller from Ricochet – two-count only! Two head kicks and an axe kick set-up the King’s Landing, which splatted Liger face-first to the mat to give Ricochet the win.
Liger is still without a win, while Ricochet keeps himself in a strong position. They seemed to cut out the entire middle portion of this match, but the crowd was invested throughout and that mostly smoothed over the rough edges. Liger’s been a blast to watch over the last few weeks – shame his efforts aren’t reflected in his points total. ***
TAKA Michinoku vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Slaps and a knockdown from Hiromu, then Taka feigned a leg injury off a leapfrog and claimed the advantage. Hiromu tried the sunset flip powerbomb, but Taka countered with an eye poke then targeted Hiromu’s legs, whipping them against the ringpost, applying a ringpost figure-four (something I haven’t seen in ages), and another figure-four on the floor. After breaking the count, Hiromu received a knee to the face and was trapped in the Just Facelock before making the ropes. He countered a charge to a pop-up powerbomb and was able to follow-up with a low dropkick and the Falcon Arrow for a two-count, then hammered away with elbows, but was again caught in the Just Facelock. Eventually he stretched for the rope-break, but a kick combo from Taka earned a near-fall, as did La Magistral and a Shining Wizard. Three pinning combinations from Hiromu earned two-counts, then he floored Taka with a lariat and picked him up
Taka’s best match since Day 1, which is no surprise given the run his opponent’s been on. The loss does, however, put him out of the running. The early legwork went nowhere, but otherwise this was a pleasantly atypical effort from Taka, and Hiromu is seemingly challenging himself to do something different in every match. ***
Dragon Lee vs. Will Ospreay
Counters and more counters at speed to begin, with Ospreay landing the first significant blow and following with a shooting star press from the apron! Back in, he cinched in the hammerlock cloverleaf, transitioning to a surfboard, but Dragon retaliated with a low dropkick and corner dropkick for two. Ospreay blocked the attempted ‘rana off the apron, but Dragon soon connected with an even more high-risk variation, leaping over the top-rope all the way to the floor! German suplex for two, but Ospreay avoided the cradle suplex and hit the handspring kick and a corner dropkick of his own. Standing SSP for two. Elbows up from the knees, and Ospreay sent Dragon through the ropes and immediately followed with a suicide dive. Ospreay reversed a crazy victory roll into a turnbuckle German, but Dragon responded with a turnbuckle suplex of his own! He eventually got Ospreay in the tree-of-woe position, nailed the double stomp, and followed the the Cradle Orange Crush for 2.9! Ospreay spiked Dragon with a reverse ‘rana, then landed the corkscrew kick and OsCutter for the win.
A high quality spotfest and no mistake. I see no reason why Ospreay needed to kick out of Dragon Lee’s two-finisher combo – complete overkill in my opinion – but nevertheless this was a fun watch and in a showcase match I’m sure they could deliver something special. Ospreay tops A Block and at this stage is looking like the favourite to make the final. ***3/4
B Block standing after Round Four
- El Desperado – 6
- Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 6
- ACH – 4
- Ryusuke Taguchi – 4
- Tiger Mask IV – 4
- Volador Jr. – 4
- KUSHIDA – 2
- BUSHI – 2
A Block standings after Round Five
- Will Ospreay – 8
- Dragon Lee – 6
- Marty Scurll – 6
- Ricochet – 6
- Taichi – 6
- Hiromu Takahashi – 6
- TAKA Michinoku – 2
- Jushin Thunder Liger – 0
Final thoughts: Two rock solid shows. B Block did their best, but the dead crowd put a low ceiling on some well-worked matches. A Block had the benefit of a better crowd, but in wrestling terms it was about even. Might sound glib, but give me an hour or two of good wrestling and I’m a happy man.
Back late Sunday for Days 9 & 10. See you then.