JUNE 3, 2018

Watch: NJPW World

It’s the final block matches for a thoroughly enjoyable Best of the Super Juniors, with both A Block and B Block on the show. This is, of course, very unfair because it means those fighting later will have the advantage of knowing exactly what they need to do to progress, so the only fair way to solve this would be to have eight rings crammed in Korakuen, with all eight matches happening simultaneously. But they didn’t do this. GEDO OUT. The order of the matches places Ishimori v YOH after Ospreay v Flip, which surely signals an Ishimori victory. Or does it? Hiromu and KUSHIDA main event with the fate of Block B in their hands. We have an added bonus of English commentary tonight, with Kevin Kelly, Chase Owens and Jango on hand for translation. Here we go!

A.C.H. (6) DEF. TIGER MASK (6)

A perfect opener. Fun, short and high-paced, a bit like the wrestlers themselves. A.C.H. was paying homage to Tiger Mask throughout, including wearing a tiger mask himself during his entrance. This is the first of a long string of ‘equaliser’ matches that balance the points in the blocks to make everybody look relatively competitive. A.C.H. has looked great throughout this tournament and I hope he gets a permanent deal. Tiger has impressed everybody, despite his four-match losing streak, and I don’t think anybody will be rolling their eyes at his inclusion next year. The two wrestlers hug it out afterwards in a touching show of mutual respect. ***½


I expected the worst from two of the weakest competitors in the tournament, but this was surprisingly watchable. Kanemaru is again using Young Lions as weapons, and BUSHI seems to be putting in extra effort with some more high-flying spots. This was a bit sloppy at times, but had a fun finish with some whiskey v mist shenanigans. I don’t mind the usual spots if they’re mixed up and used creatively as they were here. I suspect this puts a bow on the Suzukigun v L.I.J. juniors feud. ***¼


There’s a bit of comedy to start, but it turns into a really good serious wrestling match by the end, one of Taguchi’s best of the tournament. Sabin has presented a very watchable mix of power grappling with a touch of high-flying and he’s meshed really well with his opponents. He’s a great foil to the comedy of the likes of Scurll and Taguchi, and has been a welcome addition this year. Rating: ***½


Hey, look! Both guys end up with six points! Dragon Lee was in full Shibata tribute mode here.

This match was fantastic, like a heated grudge match that came out of nowhere. Their chemistry was off the charts in their first ever singles match as they worked an intense lucha-style bout that ended with Despy’s mask all but ripped off his head. He worked the last few minutes almost one-handed, covering his face with his a mixture of his hands, hair and opponent, which added a great layer of drama as he desperately (excuse the pun) tried to balance hiding his face with winning the match. It seems like we’re going to get another match between these guys, possibly mask v mask. Both guys have been excellent in this tournament and deserve a big singles match. We’re 4/4 for matches delivering so far – they seem to have got the perfect pairings to get the best out of everybody. ****1/4

In a big surprise, Tomoaki Honma appears, looking tanned and jacked, and announces he will make his return on June 23rd in Yamagata during the Kizuna Road tour. He wants to team with Togi Makabe and has thrown out an open challenge. In another note, Chase Owens commentary is very very bad. It’s like Jerry Lawler at his worst, just bad Christmas cracker gags.


Listen. I couldn’t care less what Flip Gordon likes to eat and what shape he believes the Earth is. I don’t like his wrestling. The combination of his goofy emoting, his overly-choreographed acrobatics and his cheesy trash-talk make him look like one of the Power Rangers. He’s got a move named Kinder Surprise, for fuck’s sake, probably named after his favourite meal. I don’t think the high spots compensate for the gaping flaws in his basic technique. That said, Will managed to get an exciting match out of him here, which I enjoyed after turning my brain off. It was by far Flip’s best match of the tournament and played to his strengths, being a flippy-do spotfest. I still think he’s lacking the fundamentals to be able to keep up with most of the guys in this division and I don’t think he deserves a spot in the BoSJ, but like a Kinder Surprise, a little taste now and then won’t be too difficult to swallow. Just be careful not to choke on the toy, Flip. Ospreay continues to be brilliant, and now needs his heel faction CHAOS teammate YOH to do him a favour and beat Taiji Ishimori. ***3/4


This match now had an added dramatic caveat, as mentioned above. YOH played the consummate plucky underdog here in an exciting match, getting some incredibly close and believable near falls before ultimately falling short. Ishimori wins with what looked suspiciously like a Yes Lock, perhaps a message to Bryan Danielson to not sign da ting. A cracking match with a thrilling closing stretch. Ospreay was tremendous at ringside, yelling support to his teammate YOH and doing a great job selling his disappointment at the result as a triumphant Ishimori loomed ominously behind him. One of the few occasions when his screaming actually improved a match, actually. ****


Another first-time singles match between these two. A win for Marty would give him an outside chance of winning B Block if KUSHIDA and Hiromu go to time limit draw. However, nobody was buying that or the prospect of a Scurll v Ishimori all-Bullet Club final, so I think they made the right call in giving SHO the upset win and establish him as a future junior ace. Scurll is massively over with the Japanese fans and has been established as a big player in the division, so this is a real feather in SHO’s cap. It seemed that SHO wouldn’t be able to set up the Shock Arrow due to his broken fingers, but he powered through and got a signature win. This match was a bit too long for my liking, but was solid enough and saved by a hot closing stretch. ***1/2


This match started with a slow and methodical pace that I wasn’t expecting, but delivered in the end. In previous matches, KUSHIDA has outgrappled Hiromu and caused him problems with the Hoverboard Lock, but today the roles are reversed as KUSHIDA chokes on Hiromu’s D. (Sorry.) The monstrous Butterfly Piledriver to set it up was truly frightening. I didn’t like this as much as their previous matches at Wrestle Kingdom or Dominion last year, as this took a while to get going, but was a really good match nonetheless. Hiromu faces Ishimori tomorrow having wrestled 45 minutes longer than Bone Soldier over the past month. ***3/4


Top to bottom, this was a fantastic show, as you’d expect with eight singles matches. Dragon Lee v Desperado is must-watch, Ospreay v Flip was #actuallygood, and there wasn’t a bad match on the card.