Review: NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 2018 (May 29 thru Finals)

May 29

Tiger Mask vs Taiji Ishimori Kind of unremarkable, and the crowd seemed to be sitting on their hands quite a bit, so to speak. They woke up eventually. Not a bad match, but barely a good one. ***

ACH vs BUSHI This was fine, but even less remarkable than the previous match. Half-way through this match, I started to feel like “well, this is this block’s virtual day off, I guess”.

Flip Gordon vs YOH This was the most energetic-feeling match so far on this show, with good action for the most part. There’s a nice pace to this match, overall. ***1/2

Will Ospreay vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru Excellent match, but not Ospreay’s best of the tournament. I liked Ospreay outsmarting Kanemaru regarding the whiskey spot; he made a pretty charming face in reaction to it. There were some great spots after that, too. ****

May 30

Dragon Lee vs Marty Scurll Very good action, especially over time. The first few minutes felt pretty unsurprising to the point of being so-so, but they eventually did some great work here. The finish—while interesting—felt a little flat, however. ***3/4

Ryusuke Taguchi vs SHO I really liked the start to this, which featured some feeling out, near-misses, as well as some pretty effective comedy (though the funny spots will make Jim Cornette-ish purists vomit). Even with that comedy, this was a very competitive-feeling match that Taguchi “put on his working shoes” for. Very good stuff, with a lot of slick reversals and interesting situations. ****

Chris Sabin vs Hiromu Takahashi I continue to really like Sabin’s performance in this tournament, and—against Hiromu—there was just such a high ceiling on this matchup’s potential. I don’t think it achieved everything that it possibly could, but it was very good. ***3/4

KUSHIDA vs El Desperado A very brawl-oriented match with some interesting spots outside the ring. Good intensity throughout, but not the most exciting matchup until the final few moments (which were fantastic, depending on how much you can forgive a somewhat weak referee bump). ***3/4

May 31

Flip Gordon vs BUSHI An amusingly flamboyant bout at the beginning, and it turns into one of Flip’s best psychological performances that I’ve seen. Both guys put in well-above-solid performances here, in a pretty action-packed match. ****

ACH vs Taiji Ishimori A pretty spectacular opening to this match, with a lot of athleticism on display. As with the previous match, there was lots of great psychology in play here. In fact, this was one of both guys’ best matches of the tournament to date. Really good stuff. ****

Tiger Mask vs Will Ospreay Lots of intensity, and good (if almost overplayed) neck selling by Ospreay. Tiger Mask can only keep up with Ospreay to a certain degree, though, so this wasn’t the latter’s best match of the tournament by any means. A very good bout, though! ***3/4

YOH vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru This wasn’t bad, but—even just on paper—I don’t understand why one of the two previous matches didn’t main event instead. But again, this wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great, but the crowd was extremely hot and there were some good near-falls towards the end. ***1/2

June 2

Chris Sabin vs El Desperado I sometimes get a little tired of Suzuki-gun crowd brawling, and when this match started that way I was impatient for it to get back in the ring. Once it did, I liked this match a lot more (but not a ton, ultimately). ***1/4

Ryusuke Taguchi vs Marty Scurll Hilarious theatrics from Scurll, Taguchi, and even Red Shoes early on. The match kept being really funny without being 100% goofy or Cornette-enraging. They really did strike a remarkable balance between serious wrestling and comedy. But for as much as they achieved that, I don’t think this match ever got past “very good” territory. It’s definitely a uniquely fun one, though. ***1/2

SHO vs Hiromu Takahashi Good action but perhaps a slightly too rushed pace. I just didn’t like this as much as I feel like I could have. ***1/2

KUSHIDA vs Dragon Lee Competitive feel with lots of flying and good striking, but something about it felt rote to me for a lot of its duration. The final few minutes were really good, though. ***1/2

June 3

ACH vs Tiger Mask A hot crowd and competitive action makes this a really good opener. Great fire from both guys. ***3/4

BUSHI vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru Well-heated start to this, with Kanemaru using Young Lions as weapons in amusing ways. Good action follows. Very cool finish. ***3/4

Chris Sabin vs Ryusuke Taguchi Entertaining, fast-paced action. Lots of slick mat-based stuff in a pretty varied display. ***1/2

El Desperado vs Dragon Lee Dragon Lee really comes out on fire from the very beginning in this crisp matchup. It gets predictably brawly on the outside once El Desperado turns things around. Lots of heat here in a mostly satisfying matchup, as the finish was a bit annoying. ***3/4

Flip Gordon vs Will Ospreay Absurdly spectacular athletic display by these two. Really wonderful stuff that really never got into psychologically bankrupt spotfest territory. Everything both made sense and looked amazing. I’m pretty sure this needs to be considered a star-making performance for Flip. ****3/4

YOH vs Taiji Ishimori It was going to be really hard to follow Flip/Ospreay and this match did a great job doing just that. Awesome drama in this, with a hot crowd to match. ****

Marty Scurll vs SHO Great psychology and pacing for this from both guys, and SHO continues to emerge as a fantastic singles wrestler. ****1/4

Hiromu Takahashi vs KUSHIDA A great match, but something about the pace just didn’t work perfectly for me. ****

June 4

Tiger Mask & Shota Umino vs Chris Sabin & Flip Gordon I’ve watched a lot more ROH than this website would suggest, and—despite that—I keep seeing new tricks from Flip Gordon. This match had some really fun spots, but on the whole it was a pretty standard opener. Far from bad. ***1/4

Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, & Taka Michinoku (Suzuki-gun) vs Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, & Tomohiro Ishii (CHAOS) Always “nice” to see Suzuki terrorizing the Young Lions. I feel like it’s been a while since he’s been on my screen. Overall, this was really just another solid undercard match, but not as good as the previous. ***

Taichi, El Desperado, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Suzuki-gun) vs SHO, YOH, & Hirooki Goto (CHAOS) Not bad, but I think this was the weakest of the first three matches. Seeing two consecutive matches of Suzuki-gun brawling wears a little thin. This match definitely had some good stuff outside of that though, especially for the Goto/Taichi and YOH/Kanemaru pairings towards the end. ***

Marty Scurll & Yujiro Takahashi (Bullet Club) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare Fun theatrics between Scurll & Tanahashi. Really not the best wrestling match, but kind of fun anyway. ***

KUSHIDA, Dragon Lee, ACH, & Ryusuke Taguchi vs EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI, & Tetsuya Naito (Los Ingobernables de Japon) ACH with some hilarious antics pre-match. After the bell rings, it’s a pretty action-packed eight-man with a lot of cool spots. ***1/2

Chris Jericho Pretaped Promo (w/ Naito Response) This promo is wonderful, and very different from Jericho’s previous promo against Naito. Way less goofy and super exciting. Naito’s response was funny (which fits his character, of course, and doesn’t undermine the program at all). ****1/2

Kota Ibushi & Chase Owens vs Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay Really great action from the very beginning, with Owens in particular really getting a chance to show off his best stuff. There are just a ton of great spots in this match, including an awesome face-off between Ibushi and Ospreay. Plus, the finish was pretty poetic. ****1/2

Best of the Super Juniors Finals: Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori There were some absurdly spectacular spots, nearly from the opening bell. After that, things slowed down quite a bit, to the point of being a bit dull (though the crowd stayed plenty excited for it). They worked this very well to make this feel like the big match that it needed to be, but I can’t say it was my favorite match of the tournament, overall. ****1/4

Ospreay & Hiromu Takahashi Promo Really not bad and I think they both did a good job hyping their Dominion match, but I didn’t find this super memorable (except for Hiromu’s parting shot at Ospreay). ***3/4

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