The second night of B-block action kicked off in Aomori, the hometown of Young Lion Ren Narita, which hosted the previous night’s A-block event. Warmed up and primed for B-block’s finest, the Aomori crowd were fully behind the Super Juniors as the likes of Will Ospreay, BUSHI, Yoh, Ryusuke Taguchi, Rocky Romero, Robbie Eagles and newcomer El Phantasmo took to the ring. With visiting stars Bandido and DOUKI on the main tournament card, and Young Lion Ren Narita with everything to prove, B-block promises some stellar clashes and incredible spectacles, and for the most part, Night 4 delivered in spades. Let’s dive in and see what went down in Aomori.
Gedo and Taiji Ishimori def Yuya Uemura and Titan after Gedo rolled Uemura up in a Schoolboy
Brody King and Marty Scurll def Yota Tsuji and Tiger Mask after King hit Tsuji with the Gonzo Bomb
Toa Henare, Sho and Jonathan Gresham def Shota Umino, Juice Robinson and Dragon Lee following a TOA bottom to Umino
Tetsuya Naito and Shingo Takagi def TAKA Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru after Naito hit TAKA with Destino
Block B Tournament Match: Robbie Eagles def Ren Narita
A red-hot crowd made Narita vs Eagles a hype-fest. While Narita may frequently find himself overshadowed by fellow Young Lion Shota Umino, he’s quickly proving himself to be a contender in his own right. Tonight’s display against Robbie Eagles ended in defeat for hometown hero Narita, but it’s impossible to fault his hard work and energy, and despite the obvious gulf of experience between the two it was entirely believable that Narita might actually score the upset. Crisp, exciting wrestling uplifted an already compelling (if well-worn) story: the young, hungry upstart versus the established star. It’s no discredit to Narita that Eagles ultimately took him out with the Turbo Backpack. A strong start to the night’s B-Block action.
Block B Tournament Match: Yoh def Bandido
Everyone’s talking about Sho this BOSJ, and for good reason. But tag partner Yoh is no slouch either, and he’s making the most of this rare singles run to showcase what he can do. Yoh wrestles with fluidity and easy confidence, and the larger, stronger Bandido proved an excellent foil; it was very interesting to watch Yoh adapt his style to counter Bandido’s offense. The match was hampered slightly by a particularly egregious rope-hang 450 spot – Bandido took forever to get into position, leaving Yoh literally hanging, and me unable to suspend my disbelief. Despite this unfortunate blip, this was another excellent match, and Yoh’s struggle against adversity – ever the babyface in peril – was rewarded when he took Bandido out with a dragon suplex.
Block B Tournament Match: El Phantasmo def BUSHI
What’s not to love about El Phantasmo? Tons of laconic Canadian fun, a master of the spectacle, and an absolute (head)banger of an entrance theme. ELP has shone as a Rev Pro stalwart and it’s gratifying to see him make the leap to a major NJPW tournament. This was a match full of shenanigans; ELP heeled it up with glee, and BUSHI reached into his own bag of dirty tricks to counter. BUSHI spent much of the match lagging behind ELP, whose quick thinking and willingness to resort to cheap tactics kept him consistently one step ahead. Ultimately, ELP took BUSHI out with the CR2. A solidly entertaining bout.
Block B Tournament Match: Will Ospreay def Rocky Romero
Eat crow, Rocky Romero doubters, because this one was the clear match of the night. Quibbles about match length are largely irrelevant in the face of how effectively Ospreay and Romero told their respective stories. It doesn’t matter that Romero is basically a manager these days; the point is that we’ve slept on him all this time, forgetting that he’s a seasoned veteran. The man knows what he’s doing, and he proved this in abundance against Ospreay.
Ospreay, for his part, is living proof that you don’t need to be bright to be brilliant. His instinct, physicality and fearlessness add up to something incredibly special in the ring; you never know what you’re going to get from Will Ospreay, but it’s never boring. Romero’s formidable in-ring intelligence pitted against Ospreay’s relentless physicality made for an absolutely epic clash – the ‘forever clothesline’ spot was particularly inspired. If you want to see what the Juniors do best, this is the match to watch. Romero eventually lost out to the Storm Breaker, but he did not go out in disgrace.
Block B Tournament Match: Ryusuke Taguchi def DOUKI
I didn’t have great expectations for this one going in, and I say that as someone who loves the Funky Weapon and all he brings. DOUKI is certainly an interesting character, with a touch of the old-school about him – consistent heel work with the occasional high spot. It made for an interesting contrast on a night filled with spectacle. Depending on your perspective the continual shenanigans either helped or hindered this match – though surely any Taichi cameo is a joy – and I suspect Ospreay/Romero should probably have been the main event, sending the crowd home on a high. But ringside antics have always had a place in wrestling, and fortunately, the shenanigans were nowhere near as intrusive as last year’s Firing Squad soap opera. Taguchi ultimately prevailed, as is his due as our plucky hero, and took DOUKI down with a vicious ankle lock for the win.
Night 4 proved to be another strong addition to the BOSJ oeuvre, with matches ranging from ‘solidly entertaining’ to ‘downright incredible’. We’ve got plenty of fresh matchups to come, and it’s still anyone’s game as we look towards next week’s tournament card. The Aomori crowd really brought the show to life – let’s hope the rest of Japan can live up to their standard.
Will Ospreay – 4 (2-0-0)
El Phantasmo – 4 (2-0-0)
Robbie Eagles – 4 (2-0-0)
Ryusuke Taguchi – 4 (2-0-0)
DOUKI – 2 (1-0-1)
YOH – 2 (1-0-1)
Bandido – 0 (0-0-2)
BUSHI – 0 (0-0-2)
Ren Narita – 0 (0-0-2)
Rocky Romero – 0 (0-0-2)
(all images courtesy of www.njpw1972.com)