Previously on NJPW: Ishimori defeated ACH in an NJPW/NOAH/Naruto crossover event, Kushida and Marty trumped their slumps, and Hiromu dominated with the power of D.
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And now, the Best and Worst of Best Of The Super Juniors 25 from June 3 and the final on June 4.
The June 3 pre-finals BOSJ show felt like the last night of a high school play to me with its combination of everybody getting in fun stuff they’d been waiting the whole run to do and then getting super emotional the second it was over. Turns out this works for wrestling, and the card of eight consecutive singles matches between the BOSJ competitors who hadn’t faced each other yet went really well overall.
Best: Tiger Family Feud
ACH defeats Tiger Mask in a nudge-nudge wink-wink secret tiger battle, and all of the feelings were in attendance. Noted fanboy ACH has cited Tiger Mask as one of his favorite wrestlers, and enters in a TM mask and t-shirt, to the older wrestler’s barely restrained amusement.
Both wrestlers look so psyched for this non-canon, Christopher Reeve vs. Jesse Eisenberg-type bout between Tiger Mask and his greatest rival. They both know a good portion of each other’s moveset very well, and ACH’s expert rollup counter to the Tiger Suplex gets him the win. After the match they bow to each other and raise each other’s hands, and it’s a really nice ending to BOSJ 25 for both of them.
Best: Something To Be Said For Holding Your Liquor
Bushi and Kanemaru are both out of the tournament, so this match is just about their personal issues. They both predictably play dirty, with Bushi dropkicking Kanemaru while the ring announcer is talking and whipping him with his jacket, and Kanemaru again using Young Lions as weapons.
The finish features creatives twists on both men’s spitting gimmicks. Bushi covers the about-to-spit Kanemaru’s mouth with his hands and blasts him with Asian Mist. After another use of a trainee as a prop, Kanemaru reveals he somehow didn’t swallow whiskey THROUGH A BACKSLIDE NEARFALL and nails Bushi with the Suntory Surprise. This match was fun, and I thought everything about it worked well for its place on the card.
Best: Honorary Memphian Chase Owens
Chase Owens joined Kevin Kelly on commentary on this show and had a million corny jokes locked and loaded. He provided some old school, Jerry Lawler-esque color and while it didn’t always work, I enjoyed it a lot. Therefore, I present to you now my Top 5 Chase Owens Commentary Lines.
- “If I wanted to end my life, I would climb to the top of Ospreay’s ego and jump to his IQ level.”
- “I heard when Hattori started reffin’ the Dead Sea was just sick.”
- “I’ve heard Bushi wears that mask because he’s wanted by the cops. He steals our time every time he’s in the ring.”
- Saying Roppongi 3K has “two Marty Jannetties”
- Calling air quotes “hand quotation marks,” which wasn’t supposed to be a joke, but made me laugh
Best/Worst: The Last Stand Of The [Checks Notes] Warrior Poet?
The last time Taguchi and Sabin faced each other was an Apollo 55 vs. Motor City Machine Guns match in 2010, which was also the last time Sabin was in NJPW. The crowd is happy for him to be back, and shows it via some North American style “Let’s go Sabin”/”Taguchi” dueling chants.
This is a light-hearted, submission-based match… until Taguchi gets the ankle lock on. Once he applies that you might as well call him Burnard, because he’s all f*cking business. Both men are very emotional and serious backstage, with Taguchi putting over how competitive the tournament was and how he became a vet without realizing it. Sabin recalls those “timeless” matches with Apollo 55, and delivers the parting message, “I just want everyone to remember who I am, the warrior poet Chris f*cking Sabin.” Google results for “warrior poet Chris Sabin” yielded two pages of unique results, and they stopped being about this guy halfway down page 1, so I’ll probably just remember him as “Chris Sabin!”
Best: TFW He Messes Up Your Máscara
Dragon Lee vs. El Desperado was a first time NJPW matchup, and was immediately so much better than I had expected. And I expected it to be really good!
Those closeups on Desperado as Lee’s theme hits tells us this is going to get real. Lee enters wearing a Shibata shirt, which Desperado judges, so Lee gets to attack early to avenge the rep of the current LA Dojo coach. There’s a dive and a chair attack before the bell! That’s what mentioning-beloved-wrestler-who-nearly-headbutted-himself-to-death heat gets us!
But these two trying to murder each other with fists and/or chairs isn’t enough, and they go for each other’s masks. Desperado rips a respectable section of Lee’s, and Lee’s retaliation is almost definitely way more dramatic than originally planned. Desperado ends up having to use his long hair to cover half of his face up on the turnbuckle for strikes and getting hit with a Tree of Woe, and I have no idea how he could see. Could he see? We end up getting a glimpse of Desperado’s face, though its still partially obstructed by hair and facepaint, and you can see Lee working to shoot shield it when he has him in that sleeper hold.
After Desperado lands a cheapo win, he gets a backup mask from… under the ring? and tears Lee’s fully off. Young Lions rush to hide Lee’s face with their shirts, which results in him cutting a backstage promo looking like this:
Backstage and on Twitter, both men are extremely into a mask vs. mask match.
Where will this happen? I’d imagine CMLL if one of their big stars will be losing his mask, but you never know. More importantly, when will this happen, and can it happen like right now?
Honmania To Run Wild In Yamagata
We also got the surprise return of Tomoaki Honma this show! The tanner half of Great Bash Heel was out fifteen months with a neck injury that, before surgery, paralyzed him, so this is pretty amazing. He’ll make his in-ring return on June 23 in his hometown of Yamagata, and he’ll be tagging with Makabe and others against L.I.J. And he’s recently married, so hopefully (for her) those domestic violence allegations weren’t true!
I’m Shocked This Is A Best: I’m You, But Weaker
My body originally rejected the concept of Will Ospreay vs. Flip Gordon like a bad organ, but it ended up being really fun. They both start the match trying to one-up each other on flips, and it’s very Pointing Spiderman Meme. It establishes that both wrestlers feel the need to out-perform as well as beat each other, which gives motivation to their showboating that can feel unmotivated in other matches, especially in Flip’s case. It helps that Flip looks like the Young Boy version of Ospreay due to his black trunks. He kind of is!
Ospreay cleverly gains ground working Flip’s arm on the ground, trying to make it more of a technical wrestling match, something he knows his opponent can’t hang with. Although I hated Gordon’s acting choices (his delivery of “Give me another one!”, his shocked expression at that kickout), I think he is better at fighting spirit than he was at the beginning of BOSJ. It’s still not great or likeable at all! But there was improvement.
Backstage, the Sky King puts over how good Flip could get if he keeps coming to Japan and is influenced by the right people. He even lists him as a possible successor for greatest NJPW Junior Heavyweight (so take that however you would rank William in this division.) We’ll see where things go for Flippity Gord in this world of volatile weirdos that is pro wrestling! He seems to have all the political support one could possibly want, so success is his for the taking.
Best: Tough Tiddies
Ospreay’s defeat of the evil that was here Flip Gordon means he could make it to the finals as long as his Chaos buddy Yoh beats Taiji Ishimori. But the Bone Soldier is in a position of power here. As Kevin Kelly puts it, he’s “the only wrestler tonight who controls his own destiny without his opponent being able to capitalize.” If he beats Yoh he’ll win A Block despite having the same amount of points as Ospreay, because he beat the champ in their first match.
This match kicks off with some intensely, almost Dean Norris “sex gifs” tweet horny on main camera work, just in case we all forgot what a beautiful specimen Ishimori is. Someone needs to tell this camera person about Tinder or how to turn off SafeSearch on Google images or something, jeez.
NJPW’s two pec poppingest wrestlers both perform well, but Ishimori comes out looking much stronger. He does half a Cross Slash at one point, and shows off the power of his crossface lock. Ospreay urges on Yoh from ringside as his stablemate gets some exciting nearfalls, but ultimately submits to what I’m 90% sure is cool to call the Yes Lock because Ishimori is buds with Daniel Bryan. Ospreay’s acting can be annoying sometimes, but his depiction of the shock and horror he feels about maybe having to face the Bone Soldier again is spot on.
Worst: High Voltage Villainy
Sho defeated Marty Scurll in the one match on the June 3 card that truly did not work for me.
Scurll matching Sho in terms of power was an odd direction to go with this match. Sho always looks like he’s fighting with everything he has, and Scurll looks like someone doing wrestling moves compared to him. But Sho’s weird selling didn’t help this match either, nor did it’s place on the card. Marty winning B Block and advancing to the finals for a Biz Cliz battle would depend on him winning this match and the Hiromu vs. Kushida main event ending in a tie breaker, and the Villain sure doesn’t perform like he thinks that could end in a tie breaker. There were some entertaining spots in this match, but overall it felt like a long twenty minutes.
Best: Puss In Nike Air 2015 Kicks
Previously on NJPW, Hiromu Takahashi and Kushida have put on some bangers. Hiromu was reintroduced on return from excursion as a challenger for Kushida, and defeated him at WK11 for the Junior Heavyweight Championship. He defeated him again at Sakura Genesis 2017 in under two minutes and ate his watch. Kushida finally won the belt from the Ticking Time Bomb at Dominion 2017. These two have polar opposite attitudes towards competition, and they borderline hate each other.
This match shows the intensity of the Hiromu vs. Kushida rivalry and their equality as competitors with an extremely long lockup sequence. They keep breaking the collar and elbow and then getting back into it, and wear each other out. They keep denying each other’s moves later on. A lot of the best parts of this match are when things aren’t happening, with a lot of very tense sequences of both men exhausted, lying in the ring.
Hiromu eventually ascends to the level of crazy he needs to win and locks on the D to tap out Kushida. He barely avoids a sneak attack from Ishimori after the match, and responds to a finger gun headshot with a smile. These dudes are both super unhinged and ready to freaking go. And so are we! Ready to freaking go, that is! I’m not judging anyone!
Best/Worst: Two Hours To Kill Before The Main Event!
But before we get our Underdog Crazy Cat Boy vs. Buff Gun-Cult Skeleton final match, we have to have a bunch of other wrestling! Some of it furthered storylines for Dominion, but these were mostly low stakes tag matches that were probably more fun for the live crowd. Here are the highlights.
– Abe starts to count out Yoshi Hashi while kneeling next to his destroyed table, which was destroyed by Yoshi Hashi being thrown into it.
– Suzuki tries to choke Ishii after losing a Suzukigun vs. Chaos tag match, but is thwarted by the fact that Ishii has no neck.
– Some extremely Horny On Main closeups of Miho Abe’s chest and face, which I include here in the name of equality.
– Kelly defines the Miho Abe/Taichi relationships as “He is her muse.”
– Taichi reveals his plan to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship after he wins it.
– In a shocking twist, it is revealed that there were two different people dressing in full plague doctor bird cosplay this whole tour. I thought it was just one person with multiple costumes, but then they SAT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. The dude in black is even in trunks! That’s dedication.
– Jushin Thunder Liger, who Marty has been antagonizing this whole tour, jumps off of commentary to save Tanahashi from a post-match attack by Scurll. Scurll challenges these two and Rey Mysterio. Liger accepts and issues a challenge for a six man tag match. Also, Liger reveals that he’s SUPER BUFF NOW.
– Before the feel-good tag match of the night, Taguchi Japan (Taguchi, Dragon Lee, ACH, and Kushida) versus L.I.J., ACH does a DDR dance to Naito’s music. The crowd loves it. Naito tries not to laugh.
– Jericho has sent in another selfie promo video in response to Naito’s last response, drinking alone in a hotel, in a hoodie with no shirt. He says Naito should be heavyweight champion by now, but Jericho will make him a worldwide superstar, “you f*cking moron.” This promo felt like explaining booking to someone who doesn’t watch wrestling, or explaining losing streak angles to wrestling fans who don’t watch NJPW a lot. Naito says this promo was too long and questions if Jericho is really that much of an international superstar/a person with a life if he has time to do all these videos.
– Chase Owens does the saddest Rainmaker pose of all time.
– Okada pins Owens after a not-great V-trigger followed by a Rainmaker and sends a message to Kenny. This match also includes an Ibushi vs. Ospreay mini-showdown that could pay off in the future.
Best: Nice To Meet You
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori is, unlike the rest of BOSJ, a no time limit match, so of course they wrestle it like they’re trying to die in ten minutes or less. Hiromu brings back that John Woo dropkick from all the way at the end of the upstairs aisle from his Desperado match. He then tries to literally kill Ishimori by powerbombing him down all the stairs, but Ishimori counters out of it by hurricanrana-ing him DOWN ALL THE STAIRS.
As the match shifts back to the ring, this becomes a test of endurance. Both men show this differently, and they’re great physical and character foils to each other. The long, painful, intense Yes Lock sequences set up this dynamic. Ishimori is an absolute terminator, a machine against our misfit hero in fluffy pants.
Hiromu starts to gain some ground only for both men to be wiped out by that reverse Frankensteiner exchange. Red Shoes starts the ten count, but we know both of these character would have to be on death’s door and missing limbs to let themselves be counted out.
Hiromu gets that second wind, that mind that uses logic alien to almost everyone else over matter burst of power, during their exhausted strike exchange. He manages to counter the Bloody Cross and lock on the D. It’s been established that the D is hard to escape because it’s like quicksand: struggling only sinks you in deeper. This is intense to watch because we’re watching someone slowly get choked out by a version of shoot judo hold. But Ishimori powers out, and it’s extremely impressive and cool. When he gets put back in, he actually grabs Red Shoes to prevent him from stopping the match, which I think did a lot for his already strong character.
After a win via Time Bomb, Hiromu looks amazed at his success. Ospreay, who we are reminded is a cat, condescendingly accepts the challenge of a man he’s beaten twice before, most recently at the New Beginning in Osaka. L.I.J. comes to the ring, and Hiromu proudly shows off his trophy before calling them all in for a family fist bump.
Once the rest of the faction is gone, Hiromu realizes Naito accidentally broke the trophy and freaks out. It’s a perfect moment for his character. Of course he can’t have a normal victory moment.
Hiromu also shows us that the word “dream” is written on his tape today.
Oh, and like almost everyone Hiromu fights, Ishimori is ready to go again any time.
I’ll see you soon for the Best and Worst of Dominion, which managed to be even more emotional and hardcore than this! Holy crap, you guys, New Japan is so good right now.