Arnold Furious: June 3, 2017. I got into this tournament to begin with and thought the blocks looked awesome but I rapidly ran out of time to watch stuff and I’ve gone from night two to the end of the tournament. I got the chance to check out KUSHIDA’s win over Volador Jr the other night. KUSHIDA has been an exceptional wrestler for some time. So has Ospreay. I’m fired up to see the final. As per usual the undercard is a mess of multi-man tags.
Manabu Nakanishi, Katsuya Kitamura & Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Yuji Nagata, Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino
I can imagine Nagata and Nakanishi setting this up over a few pints. Alright, I’ll grab a couple of lads and you grab a couple of lads and we’ll have a ruck. There’s no doubting a talent gulf between the bigger Oka and Kitamura and the smaller Yagi and Umino. It looks like hosses are coming back to New Japan! Yagi looks outclassed, although it’s important to note he only looks small and weak because he’s in with Big Lads. Oka taps him out with the Boston crab. This was fine. I enjoy seeing the Young Lions, especially Kitamura who looks jacked as fuck.
Final Rating: **1/4
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Jado) vs. Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato
I hear a rumour that Kawato is eating the pin in this one. Japanese wrestling does frequently have that level of predictability that makes upset wins extremely rare and mean significantly more. Kawato seems to think he can fuck up Jado, which is delightful. The other lads run through bits of a match they’ve had thousands of times. It screams ‘house show’. While it’s a shame Ishii is wasted in this capacity, I’m happy he has minimal work to do for his Yen tonight. Kawato tries to beat him, which is a major highlight of the match with him doing Young Lion offence like dropkicks and roll ups. He even kicks out of the brainbuster before Ishii batters him back into Young Boy world with a lariat. I love seeing the Young Lions get all fired up and I like that Ishii beat him clean without being a dick about it.
Final Rating: ***
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Volador Jr
Suzuki-gun had fuck right off. The only thing of note is that Liger competed in his final Best of the Super Juniors and only won one match. It was quite sad. It would surely have made for a better story if he’d pushed for the Block win. I get the point; Liger is getting too old to wrestle in tournaments so that’s why he lost so much. There’s a logic to all this. Liger looks crisp and it never ceases to amaze me how well he’s aged. Volador Jr is in the match for a matter of seconds, and doesn’t even remove his mask, before beating TAKA with the Spanish Fly. Liger spent most of the match eating heat. He continues to be, as he has been his entire career, too generous.
Final Rating: **
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. War Machine, ACH & David Finlay
This must be a big show because Yujiro not only has the bunny girl with him but also a second valet. No expense spared by Kidani-san. The New Japan cameramen exercise their usual restrain, stopping just short of a proctology exam. New Japan have found it difficult to get a balance between War Machine being dominant and other challengers looking capable. In reality when you have a dominant team on top of your division, then the challengers should be sneaky and underhanded. GOD come flying in there head to head. They should check out some Roadwarriors feuds from NWA to see how to effectively attack a dominant tag team without making them look less dominant. Finlay looks sharp here, justifying NJPW’s decision to upgrade his status from Young Lion to regular roster member without an excursion. Meanwhile ACH hits one of the wackiest topes you’ll ever see, virtually face planting himself into the announce table in the process. There’s nothing more impressive in wrestling than raw, unshackled speed (unless it’s raw, unshackled power). Takahashi ends up planting Finlay with a short DDT for the pin. Assist from Fale. This was very solid but I like that GOD didn’t get a win over War Machine to help sell the tag title match.
Final Rating: ***
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Minoru Suzuki & Taichi
Goto and Suzuki continue their rivalry. The other two are just window-dressing. Mainly so Taichi can do his usual ring bell hammer nonsense. Suzuki is as enchanting as ever. His bullying of YOSHI-HASHI is quite wonderful. As is Goto standing up to Suzuki’s vicious forearm strikes. It’s another of those occasions where I think “if Goto can’t get over from this then it’ll never happen”. I tend to think that quite often. It’s not that he’s a noise vacuum or anything but he can’t quite get over that hill. Like Naito before Los Ingobernables. This match goes 12 minutes but it feels really long. I blame Taichi. An improbable ref bump leads to Suzuki-gun piing in there in numbers. The referee can actually see all of this happening. Where are the fucking rules in this promotion? Taichi is so useless that despite the weight of numbers YOSHI-HASHI pins him with Karma. I find it weird that nobody from CHAOS comes to help a post match beatdown and Goto makes his own save.
Final Rating: **1/4
Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Satoshi Kojima, Juice Robinson, Ricochet & Dragon Lee) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
This is a rare outing for the entire of LIJ, as they usually have at least one of their guys in a big singles match. They’re a popular group and Naito is shifting merch like there’s no tomorrow. Taguchi’s sporting endeavour amuses me and here Naito lobs the IC title into the ring, allowing Taguchi to recover the strap from harm’s way briefly. It doesn’t stop Naito slamming the belt into the desk in front of Liger. Fuck your belt! I love the punk rock vs. sports motif attached to this match. Especially as Taguchi starts a “Nippon” chant. This is Japan and it’s traditional values vs. the outside influence of music and Mexican sleaze. LIJ have always worked well as a unit but this match allows them to shine in so many different ways and everyone seems to click beautifully. The highlight is yet more Hiromu vs. Dragon Lee. That’s a feud I may never tire of. This is also a match that allows the junior style to shine. It’s quite deliberate, including a tonne of flips and the action is faster and more exciting than anything else on the card. I love Kojima lifting Tanahashi spots, as he replaced Tana on this tour. The sequences where everyone coming spilling in and spots follow at breakneck pace is fantastically entertaining stuff. Destino puts Kojima down, with Naito keen to show that Kojima isn’t on his level. This was tremendous fun from start to finish. The LIJ multi-man tags are always a highlight, even if Naito couldn’t even be bothered to take his t-shirt off.
Final Rating: ****
Post-match: Naito starts mouthing off and Hiroshi Tanahashi nonchalantly strolls out to make his presence known. He missed this tour with injuries, a commonplace occurrence of late.
Kenny Omega & Marty Scurll vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo
This is certainly not a match I expected to ever see going on second last for a New Japan show. This match exists as hype for Dominion with Okada vs. Omega II headlining that event in a few weeks. Technically Scurll is a junior so he’s supposed to pair off with Gedo in this contest. Omega is in a goofy mood, mainly because he’s wrestling with a bunch of goofballs. He never takes his shirt off but he does pull Gedo’s beard and use an umbrella to prevent a sunset flip. So there’s that. Okada spends most of the match on the apron, probably chuckling to himself about getting paid to do nothing. Omega gets in a few shots at Okada’s legs to help set up the Dominion match but it’s Scurll who gets the big pops for all his spots. Especially the finger snap ahead of the chickenwing. The crowd genuinely get freaked out by that. Well played, Marty.
Final Rating: **3/4
Best of the Super Juniors 24 Final
Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA
Ospreay won last year but didn’t win the title from KUSHIDA afterwards. KUSHIDA is trying to restore his reputation after losing in under five minutes against current junior ace Hiromu Takahashi. However you slice it, these are two of the best junior wrestlers in the world. KUSHIDA is aggressive and goes after Ospreay’s leg right from the bell, intent at grounding the Aerial Assassin. A secondary assault sees Will bleeding from the chest in the early going. The junior speedy counters are still there but there’s an intensity that takes this to another level. They are evenly matched and the crowd buy into all their flip counters.
These lead to Will bleeding from a busted lip and him encouraging KUSHIDA to him as hard as he can. It’s one hell of a scrap. I like that Will doesn’t back down and tries to batter KUSHIDA, only to get undone by KUSHIDA technically. Will sells the shit out of that leg injury while keeping the intensity that’s defined this match. KUSHIDA switches targets to the arm when his leg work doesn’t get the job done, looking to set up the Hoverboard Lock. In keeping with the tone of the match it’s super aggressive and intense. Ospreay pulls out all the stops; hitting an SSP on the ropes and a reverse rana on the apron as back to back offensive moves. Ospreay isn’t the only one putting his body on the line as KUSHIDA takes a horrific bump from the Essex Destroyer, literally flipping onto his own head. The match contains a tremendous number of modifications, move theft and tantalising near finishes. It’s excellent match planning from two guys at the top of their game. The sequence that leads into the two baseball punches is wonderful. My only issue with Ospreay is you can constantly see him slapping his thigh on moves. Which is not good work. However KUSHIDA makes amends by hitting the Back to the Future off the top rope, popping the shit out of Ricochet, and then rolling into another Back to the Future for the win. Huge finish to a terrific match. Maybe the best match of both men’s career. Full boat? Oh, go on then.
Final Rating: *****
Post-match: KUSHIDA convinces the crowd to do a Mexican wave because he’s so wholesome and pure.
Summary: Obviously the undercard has a lot of skippable content but the ten-man tag is great and don’t miss KUSHIDA-Ospreay. Definitely on the radar for Match of the Year voting. New Japan have had a ridiculous number of excellent matches already this year and we’ve not even got to Dominion yet.