The final night at Korakuen Hall is here. It’s been a three-show marathon that ended with one last excellent slew of tournament matches. Once again it was all block matches as the stars of A and B Block continued to try and build points. We had a main event featuring Rocky Romero and El Phantasmo, a battle of the luchadores as Titán took on Dragon Lee and the struggle of Ren Narita and TAKA Michinoku trying to make points despite being eliminated from winning. Let’s get into it.
Block A Match: SHO vs Tiger Mask
The show started with a solid opening bout between a veteran and a stand out of the tournament. Tiger Mask gave SHO a Young Lion like beating to start with before slowly being broken down by SHO’s strikes and a modified version of Shock Arrow. Despite hitting the Tiger Driver and a Buzzsaw Kick, he was unable to keep SHO down. In the end, it took a Double Knee Backbreaker and a Shock Arrow to put the Veteran down for good. It was a nice opener and Tiger Mask showed respect to SHO after the match despite fighting as salty Tiger. SHO is slowly starting to build wins again so he may finish the match with a respectable amount of points. These trainer and former Young Lion matches are always fun to watch as both the veteran and the audience can see how far a performer has come year after year.
Block B Match: Ren Narita vs Will Ospreay
Oh my, what a match. Narita seemed to have so many counters to Ospreay’s offence. He caught Will out of the air with a German Suplex, faked a roll out to hit an Overhead Belly to Belly on the floor, nearly caught him a Boston Crab and managed to wiggle out of the Stormbreaker. Narita got a hell of a showing from this as he was able to withstand Will’s strikes and keep on fighting. He showcased the level of fighting spirit that the Korakuen crowd loves. This was one of his best showings yet and even commentary couldn’t contain their excitement as Narita seemed to overcome everything that was thrown at him until Ospreay kicked him multiple times in the face to deliver the Oscutter for the win. Either way, Narita is continuing to impress by giving Ospreay a much more competitive match than he was expecting.
Block A Match: Marty Scurll vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This match was quick and dirty as two of the biggest villains in the tournament finally clashed. It started with both men trying to give the other a Suzuki Gun hello but relenting and fighting on the outside. Scurll threw a T-shirt into the crowd and soon sent Kanemaru there after it. The pair fought in the crowd for a bit and only just made a ref count. From there it was a battle of mist vs umbrella as Scurll blocked Kanemaru’s mist with his umbrella then hit Kanemaru with some of his own whiskey. A blinded Kanemaru was then beaten by the Black Plague. It was a quick match that offered a bit of fun and chaos from two of the big heels of the tournament. Even Brody King got involved to try and hold up Kanemaru on the outside. It wasn’t anything technically astounding though both men are capable of it but it was certainly a bit different and provided a change of pace.
Block B Match: DOUKI vs Robbie Eagles
Once again Eagles brings out the best in his opponent as DOUKI busted him open pretty early on, lighting a fire in the Aussie star. DOUKI ended up busting out a lot more technical acumen than we’re used to seeing from him. He brawled to start but once Eagles had him in the Ron Miller Special, he started to concentrate more on roll up and technical wrestling. Eagles did win though as he hit a Turbo Backpack and then locked in a final Ron Miller Special. It was a nice little match that once again mostly saw DOUKI getting his ass kicked. The blood on display only aided in babyfacing the hell out of Eagles and making the beatdown all the more satisfying.
Block A Match: TAKA Michinoku vs Shingo Takagi
I feel like this was a match from an earlier time as TAKA was moving faster than ever. He continuously had Shingo Takagi’s number. He had Shingo on the ropes for most of the match as he had him in a ton of submission holds and used the ring post to exacerbate existing injuries and one’s Shingo made himself during the match. It was a marvel to see TAKA moving so fast, with such fluidity and purpose. He looked to be in control but unfortunately, he was in the ring with Shingo who powered through and destroyed TAKA with two Pumping Bombers and caught him into the Last of the Dragon. It was nice to see TAKA act like his old self again and prove he really can still go at the pace of the younger juniors.
It should also be noted here that TAKA Michinoku has been pulled from his next tournament match against Dragon Lee after suffering a leg injury.
Block B Match: Bandido vs Ryusuke Taguchi
Much like Eagles, Bandido has had the ability to put on consistently good matches. He started playing into Taguchi’s comedy before turning up the serious factor for both men. Taguchi soon tried to match Bandido in terms of power and speed and hit some power moves of his own. He was able to hit some Hip Attacks, avoid the 21 Plex and managed to lock in Oh My Garankle. Unfortunately, it is not enough to keep Bandido down and he ended up eating a vicious Knee Strike and a slightly delayed 21 Plex. It was a very fun little match that just broke past ten minutes. It’s excellent to see Taguchi take the tournament seriously and give us Big Match Taguchi.
Block A Match: Jonathan Gresham vs Taiji Ishimori
What started as a battle of the spit turned into a battle for technical and power-based dominance. Ishimori was still feeling salty after his loss to Kanemaru and was looking to take it out on Gresham. The spit flew as did some strikes and submissions. Ishimori was on top of Gresham most of the match but had to fight out of the Octopus and recover from countless reversals and pin attempts. It was a relatively short match but it was packed with the mix of power and technique you’d want from these two guys. Ishimori kept himself in winning contention by beating Gresham with the Bloody Cross after two attempts failed. He also hit the Flying Taint Blaster as Juice Robinson so lovingly called the Double Knees to the corner. Gresham is now technically out of the tournament going by commentaries maths.
Block B Match: YOH vs BUSHI
The next match was two people trying to protect their winning streaks. BUSHI had defeated DOUKI and Eagles whilst YOH had defeated Romero and DOUKI. Once again YOH went for a technical strategy, targeting the knee of BUSHI for the Calf Crusher. BUSHI was being BUSHI. YOH dominated for stretch working that knee so BUSHI couldn’t high fly. It took a duo of lungblowers followed by MX to win the match. No tricks or cheating from BUSHI just surviving and fighting back. YOH is really coming into his own now as a more technical fighter whilst allowing SHO to be the powerhouse. This was another surprisingly long bout that offered a nice mix of BUSHI’s kicks, chops from both and YOH’s technical ability.
Block A Match: Titán vs Dragon Lee
This was amazing. It was fast, furious and full of lucha goodness that only two men of this calibre could provide this tournament. There were fast dives, fast strikes and fast grapples as these two flew at lightning pace. For a 14-minute match, it sure had a lot packed into it. The crowd popped for both men and Red Shoes in a mask. The two stopped to check on each other, show respect and challenge the other to tests of strength. It was fun to see them both borrow from each other and hear Juice’s exasperation trying to call the match. In the end, Desnucadora put Titan down but my god was it a fight. There was so much to enjoy here as both men gave it their all to give Japan a taste of Mexico. Dragon Lee really brought Titán into the tournament as he gave him a match he’d be comfortable performing with an opponent he knows so well. This may now be one of the stand-out matches of the tournament because of how different it was.
Block B Match: El Phantasmo vs Rocky Romero
Holy sh*t what a main event. The Ultimate Favourite in Rocky Romero broke the streak of the Ultimate Villain El Phantasmo with an Arm Bar. The match started with brawling then transitioned into technical, flippy and striking styles with different injections of sneaky style. The crowd were insanely loud in their cheers for Rocky. There were kick outs, tensions and tricks as both men nearly won on multiple occasions. The match ran 28 minutes and change with both men spent by the end. A Lawn Dart into the ring post made a target of ELP’s shoulder and eventually led to the finish of the match. We also saw Rocky pretend to be hit by the title, get thrown into Milano Collection AT and fail to replicate ELP’s dive off the Karokuen walkway. This is another must watch main event that ended in a shock victory for Romero and the first black mark against ELP in the tournament. What a shocker of a match.
So there you have it, the end of the Korakuen Hall run of the BOSJ 26 tournament. The crowd were constantly on fire, the matches were amazing and the tournament got a lot more competitive. ELP now looks mortal, Juice gave the commentary team some new fire and we have still yet to see Shingo be beaten. Today may have been the closest as TAKA had him in knots for a lot of their match. There’s now a day off but be sure to stay tuned to Steel Chair for more coverage of the tournament.
Block A Standings
Shingo Takagi – 12 (6-0-0)
Taiji Ishimori – 10 (5-0-1)
Dragon Lee – 8 (4-0-2)
SHO – 6 (3-0-3)
Marty Scurll – 6 (3-0-3)
Jonathan Gresham – 6 (3-0-3)
Titan – 4 (2-0-4)
Tiger Mask – 4 (2-0-4)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 4 (2-0-4)
TAKA Michinoku – 0 (0-0-6)
Block B Standings
El Phantasmo – 10 (5-0-1)
Will Ospreay – 10 (5-0-1)
Robbie Eagles – 8 (4-0-2)
Ryusuke Taguchi – 8 (4-0-2)
Bandido – 6 (3-0-3)
YOH – 6 (3-0-3)
BUSHI – 6 (3-0-3)
Rocky Romero – 4 (2-0-4)
DOUKI – 2 (1-0-5)
Ren Narita – 0 (0-0-6)
(All photos courtesy of njpw1972.com)