After another explosive night at Korakuen Hall, we saw two competitors in Best of the Super Juniors out of contention for qualification for the final. Both the final and penultimate matches displayed the very best of Junior Heavyweight wrestling as Korakuen hall continued to blister as temperatures rose in the ring.
Match 10 – Shingo Takagi defeated Dragon Lee with a Last of the Dragon
Takagi sought to bring the match to him, refusing to play to Lee’s aerial strengths, experienced as he was in his previous career at creating effective counter-maneuvers. The young champion attempted to keep up, but this was a dragon whose power and stamina were unparalleled. However, bit-by-bit he was able to turn the tides of the match and by the 10-minute mark he managed to obliterate Takagi with a devastating suicide dive.
Lee had successfully managed to turn the tables, targeting Takagi’s sternum. Takagi attempted to use his pumping bomber to end the match, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Despite the raw strength and power of Takagi, Lee was able to persevere through sheer, bloody-mindedness and will-power. A change in tactics was ultimately necessary for Lee. He shifted into trying to counter Takagi’s power moves into roll-ups at the 16-minute mark, but after a memorable moment when Takagi kicked-out a pinfall attempt after just a single match, it was clear that Takagi’s stamina was on another level. The battle of the dragons was decided with an aptly named finishing move from Takagi.
Match 9 – Will Ospreay defeated Bandido with a Storm Breaker
The match started as honorable a match as any in the tournament. Ospreay used his modern style to great effect, combining the high-flying prowess of the lucha school with intense and powerful strikes. Bandido showed he had powerful moves of his own, as an impressive Romero-special, a tribute to Jyushin Thunder Liger, who was providing analysis ringside. Every time Ospreay seemed to gain an advantage, Bandido was right there with him. At one point, Ospreay managed to stop a leg-scissors maneuver, but Bandido transitioned into a hurricanrana. Ospreay decided to try a more tactical approach and observing how Bandido had been taking a lot of damage to the back of his head, he started targeting it.
At the 15th minute mark, he countered a 21-plex attempt by means of a sublime backflip, causing Korakuen to explode in rapturous applause. Bandido, in disbelief, came back strong with a top-rope suplex. Bandido attempted a storm breaker, but Ospreay countered, finishing the bout with one of his own.
Match 8 – Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Taiji Ishimori with a roll-up
With a long history between the two, many expected this to be a long gruelling battle between bitter rivals, but instead Kanemaru lived-up to his nickname, the heel master. Attempting a similar strategy to the previous night, Kanemaru attempted to trap Ishimori outside the ring, but this time threw a chair at the bone solider, which he deftly leapt over and managed to return in time. Kanemaru prepared his whisky mist and obstructed referee, Red shoes Unno, but Ishimori noticed and stopped it. Attempting to use the whisky himself, he was caught by Red shoes, who confiscated the bottle. As the referee was clearing the contraband out, Kanemaru used the mist and rolled-up Ishimori, much to the latter’s outrage.
Match 7 – Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Rocky Romero with a victory “Donda” roll
Romero came out with a new look, aping Taguchi’s rugby stylings with a basketball theme of his own. Taguchi was not impressed by the parody but agreed to play ball. Whilst playing around with a basketball before the bell, Romero struck. Taguchi however, came back strong with his own offense. The match went on as it started with an inherit playfulness to their moves. However, both men were not former IWGP champions for nothing as the match went on the prospect of two points proved too tempting to both men to remain light-hearted. The match transitioned into an awe-inspiring display of technical skill as both men traded victory rolls, with Taguchi winning with his special double-victory roll. A gracious Taguchi agreed to split coaching duties after the match.
Match 6 – SHO defeated Marty Scurll with a shock arrow
Scurll came out to the ring covered in bandages and hobbling on crutches, a consequence of his gruelling battle with Takagi the night before. SHO was not impressed, neither was he fooled, but got into the ring anyway. Scurll pounced, revealing the apparent injury to be a facade. Both men were desperate to get their tournament back on track and desperately needed a win. This translated into a brutal, hard hitting match as Scurll dropped his more slimy tendencies to engage in a traditional strong-style face-off. SHO must have been taking inspiration from his stable-mate Ishii as his strikes were vicious and his will unbent. Scurll, however was able to match him at every turn. In the end though, the man who needed the win more was victorious and SHO left with a second win of the tournament.
Match 5 – YOH defeated DOUKI with a Dragon Suplex
It was a brutal start from DOUKI, who saw in YOH another “poser luchador” who had spent some short time in Mexico, but never immersed himself in the culture. Symbolically, DOUKI slammed YOH’s head into the famous “East” sign in Korakuen Hall. Thanks to raucous support from the assembled crowd, the high and mighty one was able to turn the tables and go on the offensive. Making judicial use of his newest move-set, he trapped DOUKI in the calf-crusher. DOUKI, however, counter with a sadistic leg-lock around YOH’s jugular veins, and attacking him with a brutal DDT. By the 10-minute mark, YOH had fought back and used a devastating lariat to take out DOUKI and after a back-and-forth, YOH emerged victorious with a Dragon Suplex.
Match 4 – Jonathan Gresham defeated Tiger Mask
Tiger Mask came out particularly aggressive in this match. The mysterious masked warrior who has stalked the cerulean blue for many years didn’t let Gresham turn the match to his advantage. Gresham is usually adept at making his opponents play his game, but the veteran was not willing to let the octopus have his own way. In the end, Gresham proved that he was not just a one-note instrument and was able to undermine Tiger Mask’s game-plan with a serious of surprise moves.
Match 3 – BUSHI defeated Robbie Eagles with an MX
Thanks to some intuitive surprise attacks before the bell from BUSHI, he was able to get the jump on Eagles, who was never quite able to come into the match. Deftly dodging around a 450 splash from the sniper of the skies, he spent the majority of the time undermining and getting the better of Eagle’s attacks. Finally the match was ended when BUSHI punished Eagles with an MX.
Match 2 – Titán defeated TAKA Michinoku with a Titan de Japonesa
In order not to be eliminated, TAKA needed to win the match. Starting off on the ground, TAKA started very strong with an array of painful grappling moves. However, throughout the tournament, TAKA has gained the reputation of being a glass cannon, impressive in his offense, but folds easily under pressure and such was the case here.
Match 1 – El Phantasmo defeated Ren Narita with a frog splash
Once again unable to keep his grip on his bridging suplex, Narita’s last chance to win the tournament slipped away at the hands of the undefeated El Phantasmo. Phantasmo for his part impressed the crowd with a fantastic long-distance Frog splash.