Our third night of B-Block action took us to Yamagata. Fun fact: Yamagata is Japan’s biggest producer of cherries and pears. Our last stop before we return to Tokyo’s famous Korakuen Hall, this was an opportunity for the B-Block competitors to climb up in the rankings before the tour peaks in intensity. Would Taguchi continue to stand tall? Would Ren Narita finally score a well-deserved upset? And would inter-faction clashes between CHAOS and Bullet Club members cause discord in their respective camps? Here’s what went down on Day 6 of the Best of the Super Juniors in Big Wing, Yamagata.
Yuya Uemura, Shota Umino and Jonathan Gresham def. Yota Tsuji, SHO and Titan after Umino pinned Tsuji with a Fisherman’s Suplex
Juice Robinson and Tiger Mask def. Toa Henara and Dragon Lee following Pulp Friction on Henare
Taichi, TAKA Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru def. Jado, Gedo and Taiji Ishimori after Taichi hit Jado with a superkick
Tetsuya Naito and Shingo Takagi def. Brody King and Marty Scurll after Naito hit King with Destino
Block B Tournament Match: Ren Narita vs Rocky Romero
On my Night Four review I mentioned that Narita is proving himself to be a contender, and he continued to give a strong account of himself in Yamagata. Though crafty veteran Rocky Romero had this match pretty under control, Narita never really emerges disgraced in defeat; he’s playing his part to perfection, the promising Young Lion who is just not quite ready for how rigorous a competition BOSJ has turned out to be. Both competitors badly needed a win here, and what might have been a scrappy, underhanded affair turned out to be a pretty solid match, with Narita demonstrating great potential. Ultimately, Romero – riding high off the back of his show-stealing match with Will Ospreay – took Narita out by submission with an arm bar.
Block B Tournament Match: Bandido vs DOUKI
Of all the BOSJ B-Block competitors, these two have impressed me the least thus far. DOUKI never seems to step out of second gear, and Bandido shows flashes of great promise but seems something of a fish out of water at times, as though he’s not entirely comfortable with the NJPW style. This match, however, brought the best out of both competitors. Aggressive and hard-hitting, this semi-grudge match was set in tone by a tope suicida from Bandido in the opening seconds. Exciting and brutal, both Bandido and DOUKI came out of this one looking far, far better than they had previously. Let’s hope they can maintain this energy throughout the rest of the tournament. After struggling to hit it all tournament, Bandido finally scored the 21-plex for the win.
Block B Tournament Match: El Phantasmo vs Robbie Eagles
With both competitors yet to take a loss, Bullet Club compatriots ELP and Eagles came into this match with nothing to prove, but everything to lose. ELP is an excellent wrestler who seems still to be adjusting to the New Japan style. Eagles, on the other hand, seems to have it down: he’s thrilling to watch, whip-quick and intelligent, running rings around ELP (though he has had a head-start with his World Tag League run). He’s able to transition between mat-based offence and a more lucha-influenced high-risk style, making him brilliantly unpredictable. Against fellow high-flyer ELP he was in full ‘sniper of the skies’ mode. Not a flawless match, but with plenty of high spots and clever sequences. Despite their camaraderie, ELP was not afraid to pull out the dirty tricks to secure victory, yanking Eagles’ bandana over his eyes and incapacitating him long enough to hit the CR2. Post-match, Eagles grudgingly reciprocated ELP’s ‘Too Sweet’, but it was clear that he was far from pleased about ELP’s tactics. Trouble in Bullet Club already…?
Block B Tournament Match: Will Ospreay vs YOH
I spoke highly of YOH after Night 4’s match against Bandido. Tonight, he and Ospreay put on the match of the night, and as with Ospreay’s match against Romero, it was very much a two-man effort. A cleverly put-together match in which YOH’s intelligence and technical prowess saw him target Ospreay’s knee, attempting to ground his bigger, stronger opponent. YOH’s dogged persistence is something he shares with tag partner SHO, but one thing this year’s BOSJ has successfully proved is that both Roppongi 3k boys have their own individual merits. YOH luring in Ospreay multiple times to counter with a calf crusher demonstrates tactical intelligence.
Ospreay, meanwhile, continues to do what he does best: heart over brains, persisting in his high-octane offence even as his leg receives more and more punishment. You might fairly criticise Ospreay here for underselling – he seems to forget his bum knee when the time comes to pull off the big moves – but in context, it’s a minor quibble. This match told a great story in an engaging and exciting (and quite homoerotic) way, and both Ospreay and YOH came out looking like stars. Once Ospreay hit the Stormbreaker, though, it was all over.
Block B Tournament Match: Ryusuke Taguchi vs BUSHI
For what it was, this was a fairly decent match. BUSHI is notorious for idling along in the early stages of any tournament, and while he wasn’t exactly effusive and dynamic, he was solid enough, and Taguchi brought his usual butt-based offence to the table. Overshadowed by the two previous matches, this one never really got out into gear, but it was an enjoyable enough encounter with some fun moments – BUSHI’s chair antics were a nice heelish touch. The Funky Weapon is on a roll, though, and BUSHI was no match for his patented ankle lock. It’s refreshing to see Taguchi taken seriously, for the most part; it’s easy to forget that under all the butt attacks and filthy jokes he’s actually a pretty good wrestler.
Night six lived up to B-Block’s growing reputation for delivering never less than solidly entertaining matches. The main event felt like a bit of a let down compared to Eagles/ELP and Ospreay/YOH, but it was not without merit. Ospreay continues to smash it with each match, but Taguchi remains our unlikely B-Block hero. Things are getting crowded at the top of the table, though, and with an intense run of matches ahead, we’ll soon separate the cream of the B-Block crop from the rest of the pack. Roll on Korakuen Hall.
Will Ospreay – 6 (3-0-0)
El Phantasmo – 6 (3-0-0)
Ryusuke Taguchi – 6 (3-0-0)
Robbie Eagles – 4 (2-0-1)
DOUKI – 2 (1-0-2)
YOH – 2 (1-0-2)
Rocky Romero – 2 (1-0-2)
Bandido – 2 (1-0-2)
BUSHI – 0 (0-0-3)
Ren Narita – 0 (0-0-3)
(all images courtesy of www.njpw1972.com)