NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXIV: Day 1
By Big Red Machine
From May 17, 2017
BLOCK A MATCH: Jushin "Thunder" Liger vs. TAKA Michinoku - 6.25/10
Liger, the babyface, hits TAKA with a chair for no reason. He did this right in front of the referee but there was no DQ. Even with this cheating, Liger still couldn't win. Without that stuff this would have easily been a 6.5/10
BLOCK B MATCH: Volador Jr. vs. Tiger Mask IV - 7.25/10
This was a bit of a sleeper match, as Tiger Mask IV is quite underrated, but he went in there with the infinitely talented Volador Jr. and they definitely delivered here. Hopefully he can keep it up throughout this tournament, which has some pretty darn high expectations.
BLOCK A MATCH: Ricochet vs. Taichi (w/Miho Abe) - 5.75/10
Remember, like, a year and a half ago when Taichi was having great matches in NOAH? Whatever happened to that guy? Now it feels like all he's go is Miho (who is awesome) and that same stupid ring bell hammer schtik that he does in every single match and it rarely ever means anything.
Anyway, after lots of stalling by Taichi and then the standard Taichi weapon use that doesn't mean anything they started to have a match that was actually exciting. Ricochet won with a BEAUTIFUL Shooting Star Press, but will someone please explain to him that kicking the turnbuckle pad into the other guy's face actually hurts less than if he were to just kick the other guy? That spot is SOOOO stupid.
BLOCK B MATCH: ACH vs. BUSHI - 6.75/10
During this match it occurred to me that New Japan could book ACH vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Tiger Mask IV vs. Rocky Romero in a Battle of the Tiger Masks. How awesome would that be?
The match was very good and they worked well together and everything was very fluid, but it had this odd heel vs. heel vibe where neither guy came across as someone I wanted to root for. This does feel like an important win for ACH, but that's really because he really hasn't gotten any in New Japan.
BLOCK B MATCH: KUSHIDA vs. El Desperado - 7.75/10
Lots of good submission work with Desperado working the knee and KUSHIDA working the arm. They did a great job of making it feel like Desperado had a real chance here even before the foreign object was brought into play, and not in that temporary "it's a round robin tournament so upsets are inevitable" way that you get in the G1 where Tama Tonga can beat Tanahashi clean and it doesn't feel like it does anything for Tama Tonga because we all know that it only happened because the booking of the tournament required Tanahashi to lose. They had me believing that El Desperado was capable of beating KUSHIDA because he was on KUSHIDA's level.
BLOCK A MATCH: Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay - 8.5/10
It's what you'd expect from these two at this point. It rocked. I popped huge for Ospreay doing the Randy Orton "viper dance" before setting up for the Os-Cutter. The only negative here was that Scurll came across as a bit too cartoonish in the beginning.
BLOCK B MATCH: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 6.75/10
This was, in many ways, a weird match. It was really two matches: one excellent one that told a story of Kanemaru working over Taguchi's head and neck, which was, for a while, interrupted by a match in which Kanemaru worked over Taguchi's ass. Yes, his ass. I have vivid memories of Colt Cabana and Brian Kendrick doing this as a comedy match in ROH, but at last they managed to change things up a bit had did moves like an atomic drop every once in a while rather than just have one guy kick the other in the posterior repeatedly. After switching back to the head and neck story for a while, we got a finish that felt like it was from a completely different match which involved both comedy and overbooking, and somehow it still managed to work as a finish.
BLOCK A MATCH: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee - 9/10
These two already know that they hate each other's guts so they just go right to slapping the sh*t out of each other. After the intense exchange of strikes we got the usual athletic reversals to basic moves before Dragon Lee went for a flying headscissors and holy sh*t it wasn't reversed into a handspring!
From there they just transitioned into throwing metaphorical haymakers, but, aside from that one spot with the German Suplexes they did an excellent job of keeping this slow enough to make all of the moves feel like they meant something. I will be amazed if poor Hiromu didn't wind up with a concussion off of that sunset flip powerbomb to the outside. Enjoy these two while you can, because the chances of them being able to wrestle like this in a few years are very slim if they keep on taking some of these crazy bumps. Dragon Lee picked up the win and then cut what I'm told was a great babyface promo (I don't speak Spanish, so I can't really judge for myself).
An excellent start to this year's Best of the Super Juniors. This is one of the most talented BOSJ fields in history so expectations are high, but they definitely started off this year's tournament with an appropriate bang.