The Best of the Super Juniors tournament began Monday in Sendai with matches from the A Block, headlined by IWGP junior heavyweight champion Dragon Lee taking on Taiji Ishimori.
The English commentary team consisted of Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton, and the debuting Caprice Coleman. I felt Coleman did well in the role. I can see people being turned off by his level of excitement where he starts screaming, but personally, I felt it added a lot to SHO’s near falls in the match with Shingo Takagi. The three meshed well together with their distinct roles.
Kelly did state that the winner of the tournament will challenge Dragon Lee at Dominion on June 9th in Osaka.
*Tiger Mask over Taka Michinoku in 11:01
*Titan over Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 11:01
*Marty Scurll over Jonathan Gresham in 12:24
*Shingo Takagi over SHO in 25:08
*Taiji Ishimori over Dragon Lee in 18:33
In the first tournament match, Tiger Mask defeated Taka Michinoku with a Tiger suplex. Michinoku controlled most of the match and they emphasized his submission skills as a trickle down from Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. They explained Tiger Mask is dealing with a minor knee sprain, so Michinoku worked on the knee and even did the Bret Hart figure-four around the post. For a match with minimal expectations, this exceeded those.
Titan defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru in an average match. Titan hit a tope con giro and kicked out of Deep Impact. Kanemaru tried to spray whiskey, but Titan ducked and used a dragon screw leg whip and Titanics for the cover. Titan should have better performances later in the tournament, this was fine for what it was. Really, my takeaway was that this match and the opener were the identical lengths, which sounds like an indictment of the match.
Marty Scurll defeated Jonathan Gresham with the Black Plague, which is what Scurll has re-named Graduation. I enjoyed this a lot. Gresham is going to have a tremendous tournament. His pinning techniques are so unique to watch because of the minor elements he incorporates. On a backslide he hooked the ankle; on a bridge, he took control of the wrist and the announcers are so clued in and point these things out to further enhance the match. Scurll yelled, “Booyaka, bitch” as he hit the 619 and won after a lariat and the Black Plague.
In the show-stealing match of the show, Shingo Takagi defeated SHO and tore down the house. SHO is back to having his regular black hair color for the tournament. This match was the story of Takagi being a bully and not respecting SHO, who gave Takagi his toughest fight to date in New Japan and nearly ended his unbeaten streak. SHO never used the Shock Arrow on Takagi but used a bridging German and powerbomb onto the knees for near falls. SHO attacked Takagi’s right arm and kicked away at it to weaken for the kimura. The place was electric down the stretch, culminating with a final Pumping Bomber and Last of the Dragon by Takagi for the win.
This was the defining match of SHO’s young career and established this rivalry as a long story with SHO coming so close while Takagi remains unbeaten. This was one of the better matches this year and has set the bar high for the match of the tournament.
The main event saw Taiji Ishimori pin IWGP junior heavyweight champion Dragon Lee in a rematch from Wrestling Dontaku.
Unfortunately, they could not follow the last match and didn’t come close to matching their performance in Fukuoka. This never hit the next gear and the audience was spent from the prior match. Ishimori went after Lee’s mask early on. Lee tried to win by countout after landing a dive onto the floor and racing back in. Lee hit a pair of snap German suplexes and Ishimori landed a Canadian Destroyer in response. They trade reverse huracanranas and ended with Ishimori hitting the double knees and the Bloody Cross to win the match.
It was a flat ending in the sense no one was expecting the match to end when it did. Given their recent main event and who was involved, I found it to be a disappointing follow-up.
Here are the matches for Tuesday’s B Block card in Miyagi:
*Ren Narita vs. Douki
*Rocky Romero vs. Robbie Eagles
*Bandido vs. El Phantasmo
*Will Ospreay vs. Bushi
*Ryusuke Taguchi vs. YOH