Arnold Furious: We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall for the opening night of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament 2017. I’m all fired up for this tournament because the field is all kinds of great.
TAKA Michinoku vs. Jushin Liger
This is how the Best of the Super Juniors begins – with two of the oldest participants. This is Liger’s final BOSJ so he’s an obvious crowd favourite. That and TAKA is a dickhead and has been for years. The two veteran performers are a good choice to open the show as they’re both eager to show they can still go. It’s the opposite of the usual ‘young guys’ opener, where they’re trying to prove they belong but with the same mentality to hard work. The effort is certainly prevalent. Combined with these guys established psychology and moves. I’m particularly pleased with Liger making TAKA poke himself in the eye. They also do a good job of establishing Liger’s age and his reluctance to submit. He knows it’s his last go around so tapping out is bad but at the same time he can’t get too badly hurt as it’ll prevent his chances of winning the Block. It’s a veritable sprint too, not even making it to ten minutes before TAKA thumbs Liger in the eye and rolls him up for the win. Generally people who are successful in BOSJ start off by losing matches to give them a hill to climb. I’m especially pleased that TAKA didn’t involve Suzuki-gun here. That bodes well for the tournament as a whole.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Volador Jr vs. Tiger Mask IV
With Tiger Mask W running around, is there any point to Tiger Mask IV anymore? Volador gets everyone excited by bouncing around and handspringing off the ropes and TMIV is all ‘heeeeey, let’s slow it down a bit there, kid’ and he starts hooking armlocks and shit like that. Give the people the flips they desire Mask 4. You’re just a shit Kanemoto anyway. I can only assume Shit Kanemoto is working heel as there’s no other reason for his insistence at working an assortment of rest holds while Volador almost exclusively does flipz. Maybe he’s a Rip Rogers fan. He’d be the only one. Volador keeps the match ticking along with his mad lucha moves and almost kills the referee with the Spanish Fly at the finish.
Final Rating: **1/2
Ricochet vs. Taichi
Ricochet does a spectacular job of completely ignoring Taichi’s girl. The crowd then do a solid job of counting Taichi out when the ref is a bit slow on the uptake. There aren’t many wrestlers in the world who can have a bad match with Ricochet. It’s almost like a challenge. He’s so naturally gifted that you would have to go out of your way to have a bad match. That’s exactly what Taichi goes for, bailing at every opportunity and attempting to get paid a honest days work for doing fuck all. Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with heels cheating to win matches but I have a massive problem with heels not bothering to conceal their illegal activity. Taichi can’t be bothered to position the referee and can’t be bothered to put any effort into his heel persona because he’s a lazy prick. It’s a far cry from certain heels positioning the opponent between himself and the ref to allow a sneaky punch to be unseen. There’s none of that. It’s just lazy and he’s been doing the same shtick for years so it’s not even clever. The only reason the match isn’t a total dud is that towards the end Taichi wants to prove he’s not a massive pile of shit and can manage a couple of sequences without cheating in front of the referee. Ricochet promptly flips onto him for the pinfall win. Hooray for Taichi losing!
Final Rating: *1/2
BUSHI vs. ACH
At least one of these guys is really into anime. I’m really happy for ACH. He’s a born entertainer who lights up rooms just by walking into them (“sup bitches”). He belongs in this field and I’m sure he’ll leave a lasting impression. Part of that lasting impression is on BUSHI’s groin after ACH pulls the “hey, what’s that?” distraction punch to the nuts. The great part about that is it distracts the referee too. ACH gets over his personality and his love of flippy moves in the match and BUSHI is nice about putting all of it over. BUSHI is an established talent and ACH is the new guy. Sometimes the new guy gets met with hostility. ACH hits a massive lariat and rolls to his feet to hit the Michinoku Driver for the win. This was an ideal outing for ACH and I know he’s thrilled at getting the chance to wrestle in Japan again.
Final Rating: ***1/4
El Desperado vs. KUSHIDA
I don’t have high hopes for Desperado, or any of Sukuki-gun, in BOSJ but KUSHIDA is exceptional so, like Ricochet, it’s very tough to have a bad match with him. Unlike Taichi, Desperado wants to showcase his skills in the ring, rather than with faux psychology. Despy isn’t past doing a bunch of flipz and dives, while acting like a dick to maintain his heel persona. Desperado looks driven and determined. It’s something I’ve not seen from him since he turned heel and joined Suzuki-gun. Before that he was playing an angry tweener who entertained me a great deal. He’s got that energy back again here. Looks a bit like a zombie too. While Desperado brings his intensity to the dance, he runs into a dance partner who’s as intense and focused as you can be without makeup. KUSHIDA has that laser beam vision for an arm assault and spends the match systematically taking Desperado apart. The finish is the only major flaw in the match with an awkward referee bump allowing KUSHIDA to get a visual submission before Desperado uses KUSHI’s ROH belt against him and hits Guitarra de Angel for the pin. This would have been pushing four stars if that ref bump wasn’t so lame.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay
It’s weird hearing Marty’s music ring out around Korakuen Hall, along with Japanese people yelling “woop, woop”. He gets a rousing reception from the locals. It helps that he’s making his debut opposite his old rival Will Ospreay, who he’s had many tremendous bouts with. This isn’t like those bouts. It starts out playful with flipping, counters and defined heel/face work. It’s a goofy version of their cavalcade of hits, with Greatest Hits moments scattered throughout. There’s a definite intent of making Scurll a character, instead of having him blow people with his first match. Ospreay needed a blowaway first match when he debuted, and he delivered it, Scurll feels it’s more important to get his character over and he’s right. Will does an excellent job of selling every one of Scurll’s big spots as brutal. Ospreay throws in a little Randy Orton tribute, due to their Twitter interactions regarding Rip Rogers and selling….dive. Scurll is in no mood for fucking around and routinely cuts Will off and shuts him down. It’s the kind of urgency you need from a debut but it’s also a base for his character work. While the match is never the thriller that they had in Rev Pro, or the storyline match they had in Progress, it’s nevertheless entertaining throughout. I’m particularly happy with the selling on big dives and commentary remarking on Marty’s “just kidding” shtick. The finger snap spot in particular gets a huge reaction and Ospreay sells the shit out of that. They weave a whole load of storytelling into the match before eventually going back to the move that Scurll always catches Will with; the Chickenwing to block the Oscutter. This was great fun, watching a match I’ve enjoyed for a couple of years making the transition into Japan and getting over.
Final Rating: ****
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Oh well, they can’t all be bangers I suppose. This is daft too with Kanemaru forcing Taguchi to run the ropes to wear him out. Wrestlers aren’t big on physics when it gets in the way of comedy. It develops into a good back and forth match until TAKA decides to involve himself. That backfires with the heels colliding and Gooch picks up the win. I was eating my dinner during this so I didn’t make a lot of notes.
Final Rating: **3/4
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee
Oh my. This is a feud that rocked Mexico and has extended into Japan on a few occasions. Hiromu is a fan of props and for BOSJ he has a big scrapbook that he reads out of his way to the ring. Why? I have no idea. He’s a bit of a loon. He gives it to Milano for safekeeping. It’s filled with childish drawings. Next to Dragon Lee he’s scribbled the word “love”. This rapidly becomes a war of attrition with both guys slapping each other across the chest with overhand chops. When that gets both of them nowhere it’s time for flipz. That diving rana off the apron, from inside the ring, that Dragon Lee does will never get old. It’s just sensational. I keep thinking one of them is going to hurt themselves doing it but here we are, nailing it once again in front of a rabid crowd. Also the powerbomb off the apron with Hiromu’s head bouncing off the arena floor. Like Scurll-Ospreay there are elements of the match that feel like a Greatest Hits compilation but they do enough straight up fighting, like the German suplex war, in between to make it feel like a natural occurrence. One of my favourite new things is Dragon Lee double stomping Hiromu off the buckles and landing on the back of his head, thus driving Hiromu’s face into the mat. It looked spectacular. Dragon Lee loses so much of his mask during this mask that I could probably pick him out of a police line up. The match gets nuttier than squirrel shit down the stretch and Dragon Lee picks up the huge win with the Phoenixplex. He absolutely planted Hiromu with it too. Given their recent history and Lee’s total lack of wins over Hiromu in Japan, this was essential for Lee.
Final Rating: ****
Summary: People were salivating over this show because of the Scurll-Ospreay and Lee-Hiromu matches, even though they’ve seen them many times beforehand. The idea being that two classic feuds would have another chapter on the same show. I must admit I am more excited for some of the other potential clashes that are brand spanking new. It’s almost as if New Japan wanted to get that historical business out of the way before moving on to something new. Which is true of night two where Ricochet vs. Ospreay is the main event.