The story so far…
Here we go…
B Block – Round Two
May 20th, Matusaka City General Gymnasium, Mie
ACH vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
After a brief flurry from ACH, Kanemaru pushed him to the outside to inflict some damage. Back in, the camel clutch was applied, then Kanemaru tied ACH up in the ropes before dropkicking him back out to the floor. ACH broke the count at 19, fired up, hit the Jericho-style dropkick and a suicide dive, and followed with a slingshot cutter for a two-count. A nice snap German earned another two, but he tweaked his knee on a missed springboard and Kanemaru went for it. Desperation lariat from ACH, however, so Kanemaru grabbed the ref to stop the count and nailed a tilt-a-whirl DDT. A low blow and reverse DDT got two, then Deep Impact spiked ACH to give Kanemaru the win.
This warmed up nicely after a fairly boring opening few minutes and that’s largely thanks to ACH. He’s been doing well in getting crowds into his matches and that continued here. Shame about the result. **3/4
Tiger Mask IV vs. KUSHIDA
Kushida outwrestled Tiger in the early stages, first on the mat, then by using his speed to score a low dropkick, and at that point started the armwork to set-up the Hoverboard Lock. Despite the respite of a rope-break, Tiger was immediately back under pressure, with Kushida cinching in a Muta Lock. A tilt-a-whirl backbreaker did eventually stop the rot, but Kushida hit back with the handspring elbow before his moonsault missed the mark. Tiger’s diving crossbody was reversed into the double-wristlock then an armbar, but he scrambled to the ropes and then managed to counter Kushida’s attempted Hoverboard Lock into a tombstone! Another handspring elbow was blocked by Tiger, whose Tiger Driver connected for a near-fall, and the Tiger Suplex dumped Kushida onto his neck for the three-count.
Kushida’s fall from grace goes on as he fails to put opponents away despite dominating matches. Might a new tactic be required, a different finishing manoeuvre perhaps? Good effort here and it really came across that both men wanted to get a win on the board after losing their opening match. ***1/2
El Desperado vs. BUSHI
Bushi smartly attacked from the off, nailing a missile dropkick before blatantly choking Desperado with his t-shirt, but Desperado met Bushi’s suicide dive with a chairshot (while the ref was getting rid of the t-shirt) and whipped him out into the crowd. Back in, Desperado had a go at removing Bushi’s mask, then dropkicked his rope-trapped leg for a two-count. Bushi survived a modified Indian Deathlock, sent Desperado to the outside, and followed with a slingshot hurricanrana to the floor! He earned a couple of two-counts back in the ring, but Desperado landed a spinebuster and transitioned into the Stretch Muffler forcing Bushi to the ropes. Guitarra de Angel was countered to a backslide for two and Bushi capitalised with a Codebreaker and Destroyer for a near-fall! Enough of this, thought Desperado, so he pushed the referee away, ripped off Bushi’s mask and rolled him up to steal the win. The fight continued briefly post-match, but Desperado again took Bushi’s mask to put an end to that.
Bushi joins Kushida in losing his opening two matches, giving added importance to their match at Korakuen Hall on Monday. He and Desperado have been on good form so far this tournament, working with intensity and generally showing me a lot more than I had expected. This was a solid back-and-forth effort, with Bushi a near-babyface thanks to Desperado’s constant cheating. ***1/4
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Volador Jr.
After a humorous ass-based opening exchange, Taguchi tried to trick Volador into some exhausting rope-running only to be hoist by his own petard. He sent Volador outside, though, and followed with a lovely tope con hilo, then a trio of hip attacks got two and he set about working on Volador’s right leg. A ‘rana turned the tide for Volador and a suicide dive followed, then a diving crossbody and frankensteiner connected in the ring, but Taguchi countered a sunset flip and hit several more hip attacks – including the springboard variety – for a two-count. The BomAss Ye was blocked and after a messy back-and-forth Volador nailed a lungblower for two. Taguchi blocked the moonsault and this time the BomAss Ye was unleashed! Two-count only. The Dodon smashed Volador face-first into the mat and Taguchi picked up the win.
I don’t know if Volador is still jet-lagged or something, but as with his match against Tiger Mask he got real sloppy late on. Could be poor cardio, but in any case it was notable and hindered the flow of the match as it reached its climax. Still, there was some fun stuff in there from both men, and the dive from Taguchi was pleasant surprise. **3/4
A Block – Round Three
May 21st, Kira Messe Numazu, Shizuoka
Will Ospreay vs. TAKA Michinoku
Ospreay spammed the kip-ups and threw elbows, to which Taka responded with an eye poke, then after a dive fake-out by Ospreay they went for a wander out in the crowd. The Englishman sprinted to get back in before the count only to get caught in the Just Facelock, then a step-up knee from Taka got two and the front facelock had Ospreay scrambling to the ropes. Taka bent the rules as far as he could, before Ospreay fired up and landed the handspring kick. Big corner dropkick and a standing shooting star press for two. Taka reversed a charge into the Just Facelock once more, Ospreay escaped, but a thrust kick had it locked in for a third time. Ospreay eventually stretched for a rope-break, then recovered for the springboard elbow. Corkscrew kick followed by the OsCutter and Ospreay wins.
Nothing to see here. Taka dominated for most of the match, then Ospreay’s three-move comeback put him away. Moving on. *1/2
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Marty Scurll
After a stalemate in the opening minutes, Liger tricked Scurll into running outside and used his dive feint to wind up the Bullet Club member. Back in, a sunset flip could not take Scurll down (he milked it) and he stomped Liger’s left arm and mocked his pose. Finally taking the match seriously, Scurll went to town on Liger’s arm, but the veteran managed a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker before placing Scurll on top and hitting a super frankensteiner for two. A short reply was curbed by the koppu kick, but Scurll persisted in attacking the left arm and was able to partly locked in the chickenwing. After Liger made the ropes, Scurll headed up top, but was brought down hard thanks to a superplex. The Shotei was caught, however, and Scurll snapped the finger! Liger’s O’Connor Roll attempt was countered into the bodyscissored chickenwing and this time he had no choice but to tap.
Liger goes 0/3 and his last Best of the Super Juniors is close to being a wash. The match was decent enough, but as with the Dragon Lee match on Day 2 I thought Scurll’s nonsense went on for too long, despite things picking up at the midpoint. There’s not much in the way of sentiment in New Japan, but please can Liger get a win! ***
Dragon Lee vs. Taichi
Taichi, as is his wont, attacked Dragon with the mic stand and his second, El Desperado, continued the beatdown. Dragon was able to find an opening to hit back and a springboard dropkick followed, only for Taichi to attack with the ringbell hammer while the ref was distracted. Some mask ripping was next and Taichi became the latest man to test a referee’s patience, but then Dragon Lee freed himself to hit Taichi with a suicide dive and flatten Desperado with a tope con hilo! Corner dropkick for two back in the ring. Taichi amusingly (honestly) rolled himself and the referee away from a top-rope move, but Dragon stayed on top with a turnbuckle suplex and German suplex. The cradle suplex was blocked, though, and Desperado was back to deliver a chairshot before Taichi’s low superkick got a near-fall. A nice Last Ride powerbomb dumped Dragon high on his back and Taichi picked up the win!
Taichi ripped off Dragon Lee’s mask post-match, just like his second did to Bushi last night. A surprise result, but Dragon Lee was plenty protected in loss thanks to a whole lotta cheating from the Suzuki-gun boys. That typical cheating aside, this was solid. **3/4
Ricochet vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Ricochet was a step-ahead in the early minutes, and that dominance culminated in flipping out of Hiromu’s attempted sunset flip powerbomb to the floor and following with a suicide dive. Hiromu rallied and countered a charge into a turnbuckle belly-to-belly, nailed a low dropkick and generally slapped his opponent about before locking in the modified figure-four. Ricochet made the ropes, then Hiromu invited him to take a open shot, something he soon regretted thanks to a hard dropkick. The 619 and springboard elbow landed, but the standing SSP hit the knees and it was back to square one. A big pop-up powerbomb earned two for Hiromu, then the Falcon Arrow got the same! Ricochet recovered for a spin-out powerbomb and this time the standing SSP did connect for a near-fall. Some rope-running led to a hard double crossbody to put both men down. They really smacked into each other there. Elbows up from the knees, and a sequence of reversals led to Hiromu’s double Germans for two! Modified Death Valley Driver – another near-fall! Ricochet ducked the follow-up and dropped Hiromu right on his head with a German before spiking him with a leg-hook Michinoku Driver! One, two, NO! Three head kicks from Ricochet, and the King’s Landing landed to give him the three-count!
Quality main event here, great crowd heat throughout, and almost as good as their title match at the end of April. I’m sure some people will complain about Hiromu now having lost two matches, but (1) it’s a tournament and (2) both losses were to previously unsuccessful challengers to his Junior title, i.e. high-quality opponents. Anyway, despite this being a single-camera show, they really didn’t hold back here, though I’m not sure Hiromu knows how! ****
B Block standing after Round Two
El Desperado – 4
Ryusuke Taguchi – 4
ACH – 2
Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 2
Tiger Mask IV – 2
Volador Jr. – 2
BUSHI – 0
KUSHIDA – 0
A Block standings after Round Three
Dragon Lee – 4
Will Ospreay – 4
Marty Scurll – 4
Ricochet – 4
Taichi – 4
TAKA Michinoku – 2
Hiromu Takahashi – 2
Jushin Thunder Liger – 0
Final thoughts: B Block provided a solidly good bunch of matches, with Tiger Mask and KUSHIDA’s bout the highlight, and the results mean that tomorrow’s main event is near enough make-or-break. A Block wasn’t much to shout about, but then came the main event, which I’d very much recommend you see. Onwards!
Back tomorrow for B Block’s live show from Korakuen Hall. See you then.