BLOCK A MATCH:
Taiji Ishimori vs. TAKA Michinoku- 4.75/10
Short, but very good for the time it got. TAKA worked over the head and neck but Ishimori made his comeback and got the win.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Ren Narita vs. Bandido - 4.75/10
BLOCK A MATCH:
Jonathan Gresham vs. Titan - 6.75/10
Gresham worked the arm and they had a very fun match.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Rocky Romero vs. Yoh - 7.5/10
A great "each guy works a limb" match, plus a nice show of respect between a mentor and his student afterwards.
TIMES UP VIDEO - This time they had Juice Robinson on commentary to respond to it. When the video started to play, he noted that he didn't needs to see it because he's seen it "a thousand times" at this point. I completely agree with that sentiment. Juice's response was "get the camera out of my face" and that he's not going to respond to it. OH COME ON!
BLOCK A MATCH:
Dragon Lee vs. Tiger Mask IV - 6/10
A little move-heavy, but more than fine for the time it got.
BLOCK B MATCH:
BUSHI vs. DOUKI - 0.5/10
They both tried to attack each other before the bell and just met in the middle. They brawled on the outside for a bit while the referee made no effort to count them out. When they got back into the ring, BUSHI took his shirt off and choked DOUKI with it. Babyface announcer Kevin Kelly's response to this was to dismissively say "some fans go 'oh! That should be a disqualification!' Nah. Let 'em fight it out." If that's how you feel, Kevin, then I'll be sure to remember that the next time you complain about Jado hitting someone with a Kendo stick. They immediately wound up on the outside yet again, just DOUKI could drag BUSHI into the crowd and throw him into the "west" sign on the wall. Somewhere in here the referee decided that he should actually do his job and he started counting them out, but this happened well after they had been on the outside for much longer than it should have taken to count them out if the referee had started doing his job correctly from the moment they went to the outside. They got back in the ring and did some stuff. This stunk.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Sho - DUD!
Kanemaru jumped the bell on Sho. Sho kicked his ass for a bit until they wound up on the outside. They went into the crowd and teased moves on each other for a bit. At some point during this the referee started to count them out. Then Kanemaru hit Sho with a vertical suplex. Kanemaru headed back to the ring. Sho tried to get back to the ring as well but didn't make it. I'm glad that someone finally got counted out, but that doesn't change the fact that this match was not exciting at all and the rules were still enforced in a ridiculously arbitrary and inconsistent manner. Just because something takes a step in the right direction does not mean there aren't many other things that need fixing.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Robbie Eagles - 6.75/10
Eagles worked over Taguchi's knee, and Taguchi did very little of his annoying butt-attack gimmick, so that was a plus.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Shingo Takagi vs. Marty Scurll (w/Brody King) - 7.25/10
Well that didn't take long. Brody King tripped Shingo up, then distracted the referee so Marty could hit Shingo with his umbrella... and Kevin Kelly is upset about this. What happened to "some fans go 'oh! That should be a disqualification!' Nah. Let 'em fight it out," Kevin?
We soon got a ref bump and Brody King ran in... and instead of getting up and doing something about Brody's interference, trained wrestler and IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson just sat on his ass and complained about it. I think having Juice run in to try to help Shingo but getting laid out would have been very helpful in getting Brody King over, as I'm not sure that getting the win over the other team's designated jobber in meaningless tournament undercard matches really does too much. Also, you could use it to start the build to a US Title match, or even just a regular singles match if Juice is going to lose the title to whoever the Time's Up guy turns out to be.
As much as those particular announcing quirks bugged me, I really enjoyed this match. They actually started out with a good solid ten minutes or so of action which mostly featured Marty taking it to Shingo, and I think that establishing Marty as a real threat like that made the nearfall teases resulting from the cheating work even better. This match was a great example about how the sparsity of big run-ins like this in a tournament came make them feel very effective when you choose to use them. Turning this story into one about cheating and a numbers game also provided some nice variation of the way that Shingo's unpinned and unsubmitted streak, which has been the only real story so far this tournament, has been told.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Will Ospreay vs. El Phantasmo - 5.5/10
They charge at each other the moment the bell rings and Ospreay connects with a dropkick to the chest... and we're immediately on the outside, not getting counted out, while Ospreay throws a chair at El Phantasmo that clearly connects with him which somehow doesn't result in a DQ, either. No comment from Kevin Kelly about Ospreay's clear cheating this time, so I guess Kevin only cares when heels cheat, which makes him a colossal hypocrite.
They spent a bunch of time on the outside without getting counted out. Ospreay also seemed to be trying to top Dragon Lee's dive from a few days ago for the most perfect dive in wrestling history. He came close, relatively speaking, but nothing he did tonight was in the same tier as that Dragon Lee dive. They went into the crowd and did some stuff that was scary but also kind of creative. It would have been perfect for a no DQs match or something like that, but that's not what this match is. This is a standard wrestling match with a thirty-minute time limit.
They got back to the ring with El Phantasmo in control, leading to his dumb rope-walk spot. The match got very good for a while before we wound up with a spot where El Phantasmo gave Ospreay a Piledriver on the apron, leading to the only time that Red Shoes even attempted to count anyone out all match. I will be nice and not refer to this as a tease that no one bought, even though I doubt anyone really fell for it, but the fact that this was the only time there was any attempt at a count-out all match betrays an ignorance of what a count-out is. A count-out is not a false finish spot. It can be used as one, yes, but a count-out is a rule of professional wrestling that needs to be applied in all eligible instances, and in a consistent manner. If you only count people out in spots that are designed to be false finishes, you are betraying the fact that this is all a performance, which is immersion-breaking. Imagine a linesman in a hockey game ignoring a clear offside play, and then giving the excuse "I didn't think they were going to score, so I decided to just ignore the rule." Imagine the outrage that would cause. Count-outs should work the same way.
More stuff happened until we had spot where El Phatasmo gets angry at the referee after a false finish so he yells at him, then shoves him very hard, even after he had seemed calm. This was not a disqualification. Red Shoes responded by shoving El Phantasmo back, so El Phantasmo took a swing at him. Red Shoes ducked this. He probably should have called for a DQ right then and there, but instead decided to shove El Phantasmo into the on-coming will Ospreay, so now it's a two-on-one situation. I'm not saying El Phantasmo is in the right here (he clearly isn't) but two wrongs don't make a right.
Ospreay got El Phantasmo up for the Stormbreaker, but El Phantasmo grabbed Red Shoe's head with his legs and squeezed. Then he kicked Red Shoes in the face. Then he got free and hit Ospreay in the nuts and rolled him up... and Red Shoes, despite being a referee, was already recovered from this kick in the face enough to scramble over and count a f*cking pinfall. Forget the fact that this is a referee recovering from something that would normally put him down for a while... over the years we have seen Red Shoes refuse to count pinfalls after MUCH lesser things, including just three shows back during the DOUKI vs. Taguchi match, in which he refused a count for an infraction so minor that I couldn't even tell what it was, despite going back and watching several times. The best I could come up with was that he thought that a foot on the chest for a pin was too disrespectful. And now he's counting a pinfall for a guy who has ASSAULTED HIM MULTIPLE TIMES DURING THIS VERY MATCH?! F*ck off.
After counting the pinfall, Red Shoes, of course, collapsed, like you'll see most referees do. I'd almost be fine with this if the very next spot wasn't El Phatasmo hitting Opsreay with another one of his big moves and then going for the pin, with Red Shoes again popping up to count the pinfall again, and then being totally fine. Then El Phantasmo hit Ospreay with his finisher and Red Shoes counted the pin and El Phantasmo, the dirty cheater, won the match and is now leading in the block.
F*ck this sh*t. I am sick and tired of this moronic credo that referees should let things go because "we wouldn't want to have this tournament tainted by a 'bad' finish like a DQ or a count-out.'" Please explain to me how a tournament is more tainted if an undeserving wrestler wins a match (and thus affects the outcome of the tournament) because he/she is allowed to get away with flagrant violations of the rules for which the rulebook mandates that the offender be disqualified from the bout than it would be if an official disqualified a participant who broke the rules in a manner so severe that the penalty listed in the rulebook is a match loss, punishing the wrestler who broke the rules and rewarding the wrestler who played fair?
You can't, because there is no logical argument that allows such a thing without just dumping the concept of morality out the window... and if you are willing to dump morality out the window then you shouldn't give a sh*t if the tournament is "tainted" in your view or not!
This a huge problem in this company. There was a spot earlier in this match where El Phantasmo went to hit Ospreay in the nuts right in front of the referee. The only possible kayfabe explanation I can come up with is that he knows that the referee in New Japan is so sh*tty that he wouldn't be penalized for doing so (and even the announcers all agreed that Red Shoes would have disqualified him for such an offense). The only other explanation is that he doesn't give a sh*t if wins or not, which totally buries the tournament. The inaction of New Japan's referees kayfabe encourages cheating. How does that lead to a "less tainted" tournament?
So Ospreay gets f*cked out of a win and out of first place in his block because Red Shoes is the worst referee in the history of professional wrestling (at least Tirantes is getting things wrong on purpose), and President Harold and everyone at Bushiroad don't give a sh*t if their product has any integrity or not. Since there is apparently no penalty for abusing referees, if I'm Will Ospreay, before I leave this ring I'm going to grab Red Shoes by the hair, pull back for the Hidden Blade, and try my best to knock his head into the second tier of seats.
I'm not trying to say that there weren't great parts to this match. The fact that there were actually makes it more frustrating because we got glimpses of what the match could have been if they had a f*cking wrestling match instead of insisting on running all over the building and doing this stupid sh*t with the referee. Also, Juice Robinson's commentary SUCKED.
EL PHANTASMO PROMO - Instead of seeing Ospreay reap righteous vengeance upon the moron referee who cost him this match, we got to hear El Phatasmo cut a generic heel promo.
A pretty bad show from New Japan. The fact that someone actually got counted out for the first time in what might well be years, along with Rocky vs. Yoh and Scurll vs. Shingo were the only bright spots, and even the last of those was tainted by Kevin Kelly's infuriating hypocrisy.