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NJPW Best of the Super Jr. 25 match recommendations: Nights 9-14

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We’ll get into it with as little preamble as possible, but if you missed them, you can check out our recommendations for nights 1-4 here and nights 5-8 here.

As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

Night 9 (May 29, A Block)

Taiji Ishimori vs. Tiger Mask IV (3): Ishimori jumps Tiger during his entrance and starts putting a beating on him. The new model Bone Soldier remains cocky even in the face of TM’s comeback and the fight spills to the floor for a while where Taiji takes his time beating the veteran up. A big backbreaker gets Tiger Dad back into it and grumpy as ever, laying vicious kicks in and the match heats up from there, big moves through to the finish.

Overally your pretty standard good Tiger Mask BOSJ match, nothing exceptional (although Ishimori’s cockiness does make the grump that much more effective), but a good time if you’ve got the time.

ACH vs. BUSHI (2): BUSHI with the t-shirt choke in the feeling out, cutting ACH down to size, swapping between the arm and the neck to exploit ACH’s existing injury while also softening him up for MX. ACH gets his comeback but BUSHI feigns being worn out and staggered to avoid the worst of it as we proceed into our final act.

Like all of ACH’s tournament matches this year, this is quite good, but there’s something about it that just didn’t quite come all the way together for me. Could just be the repetition of the tournament setting in in the final third here, but I’m going a little bit lower on this than I might have otherwise all the same.

Flip Gordon vs. YOH (4): Wasting no time, right into the lucha libre action, jockeying for position, right in sync with each other, trading brief periods of advantage and YOH pulls ahead far enough to start trying to grind Gordon down with submissions. That doesn’t really work, Flip goes aerial, action to the floor, back in, trading big moves and getting shockingly epic as they head to the finish.

This was really fun, not least because at this phase of the tournament, matches are getting kinda samey and so a match like this where they just hit the gas right from the jump and go hard is very welcome. Maybe not a match that will pass the test of time, but here and now, it’s very much worth giving a shot unless you’re really pressed for time.

Will Ospreay vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (3): Kanemaru hot out the gate in the Suzuki-gun style, but the champ cuts him off with some high flying! On the floor, Yoshinobu absolutely batters Ospreay with chairs and presses the attack back inside, targeting the neck with holds and strikes alike. And so it settles into the usual Ospreay match, comebacks are cut off until he scrapes the determination together to outmaneuver Kanemaru and start a-rolling.

Hot start aside, this is probably the weakest of Will’s matches in the tournament this year but it’s still quite good and worth making some time for if you’re not totally pressed.

Night 10 (May 30, B Block)

Dragon Lee vs. Marty Scurll (4): Mat grappling early, soon heating up into a bit of the lucha libre. Scurll pulls the advantage out of that, going after Lee’s arm to set up the chickenwing. A trip outside and a beautiful tope con giro change things for the CMLL star, putting him in control for a good long while. Things escalate further, back and forth, hard striking, big bombs, and overall this is just a damn good match that’s worth tossing on your pile.

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. SHO (3): Shockingly business-oriented in the feeling out, Taguchi wanders into some butt kicks, but SHO eventually hurts his leg on one and now the silliness begins as he shoots imaginary arrows at the Funky Weapon. Hip attack gets off, Ryusuke presses the attack but SHO is wily and sends him to the floor with a basement dropkick. SHO targeting the arm and now we’ve got a story, folks!

SHO stays attacking the arm, trying to set Shock Arrow up, Taguchi gets some valiant comebacks, and all in all, this one’s hardly essential (it runs a little long for what it is, for one) but it’s a good solid enjoyable match. Watch accordingly.

Chris Sabin vs. Hiromu Takahashi (3): A little too much sportsmanship at the jump, as Hiromu refuses to break a handshake and uses it as pretext to jump Sabin. The pace remains hot through a trip to the floor as Chris gains his sea legs and fights back into things, but is eventually taken out with a powerbomb into the apron. Back and forth, Takahashi cutting corners to maintain his lead, but he can’t quite keep Sabin down, and the match proceeds from there.

A good match with some fine escalation in the back half, but despite Hiromu doing Hiromu things, this one didn’t quite click with me.

El Desperado vs. KUSHIDA (5): Desperado in hot but KUSHIDA straightens right up and we got us a slugfest! Out and back in, the Time Splitter beating on the Suzuki-gun man but some quick thinking with Marty Asami lets Despy take things outside and commence with the nigh-traditional Suzuki-gun nonsense. A cart gets involved, it’s a whole thing, and KUSHIDA comes out of the ordeal with a bum leg, setting the tone for the rest of the match.

Anyway, shock, a heated match built around KUSHIDA selling a body part turns out to be quite good. Unprecedented, to be sure. Sarcasm aside, this one totally capitivated me (rare, for a single-cam match!) and is absolutely worth putting in your queue, folks.

Night 11 (May 31, A Block)

BUSHI vs. Flip Gordon (2): Flip using his namesake early to try and fake BUSHI out, but the Ingobernable man is able to take things to the floor and choke Gordon out. This, naturally, leads to an extended control segment, but you can’t keep a good Flip down. Comebacks and cutoffs, trading highspots, and so on to the finish.

This is a solid match but it’s a bit by the numbers and so it’s not a hard pass, but it’s likely a pass.

ACH vs. Taiji Ishimori (4): Not a lot of feeling out here, fast-paced and right into the action, but of course Ishimori goes after the shoulder and pulls ahead. ACH, perhaps tired of getting beat on in every match in the tournament, turns the gas right up and keeps it from being an extended rout. And really that’s the story here, ACH digging deep, desperate to keep Ishimori from putting him away and willing to go to whatever lengths his failing arm will let him to do so.

Anyway, this is really good, maybe a hair shy of essential but these dudes tell a neat variation on the story ACH has been telling all tournament and throw in some cool spots in the process. Good stuff.

Tiger Mask IV vs. Will Ospreay (4): Bit of mat grappling, Tiger Dad’s already grumpy and throwing stiff kicks to tender areas within the first minute, but of course Ospreay’s not gonna just sit there and take it. Tiger gets a Tombstone off, Will’s in screaming agony, and you folks know how this one goes. This is, of course, really good, and while I don’t think I’d quite call it one of Will’s best of the tournament, Tiger’s grumpiness makes it one of my favorites. Watch it!

YOH vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (3): Kanemaru attacking out the gate in the Suzuki-gun style, and he proceeds to just absolutely beat the hell out of YOH, DDTs on DDTs, standing on his head, headscissors, but nothing he can do wears the Chaos man down. YOH cracks the door open, gets his comebacks in, gets cut off and DDTed time and again but damn he will not stay down!

So, this match is a little frustrating to rate. The story told is a great one, legitimately-- the young lion (in the proverbial sense, not the NPJW “trainees in black trunks” sense) getting beaten down by the old lion but gritting his teeth and refusing to lose is a classic and with good reason. But something about the execution, with Kanemaru’s tons and tons of DDTs, just didn’t work for me here. So, I can’t rate this too low, nor too high, but rather just split it down the middle and leave it to you folks.

Night 12 (June 2, B Block)

Chris Sabin vs. El Desperado (2): Desperado here attacks Sabin on the ramp, in case you were wondering if Suzuki-gun were planning on not today. At this point in the tournament, in the final stages of single-camera induced delirium, I have decided that Despy is my best friend, because he always fights deep enough into the crowd to get the roaming camera.

Anyway, this is a pretty standard Suzuki-gun pattern match, brawling and control early through to comebacks and some highspot trading late. Not bad by any means, both guys definitely do their best to elevate it but it doesn’t stand out near enough to recommend, watch accordingly.

Marty Scurll vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (4): Scurll stalling a bit to start but soon enough we’re into the introductory grappling. Marty pulls ahead but as a large ham himself he’s wise to Taguchi’s comedic attempts to create openings and is able to remain in control and start picking the Funky Weapon’s arm apart. Sooner or later, of course, the butt must land true, and Ryusuke’s able to claw his way into the match.

Trading highspots, at one point Taguchi notably just dragging Scurll off the apron with Oh My & Garankle, the match is maybe a tad bit on the long side but it’s got an awesome finish. Not quite essential, but really good and worth putting on your list.

Hiromu Takahashi vs. SHO (4): Coming at each other even-handed from the bell, trading strikes with gusto, but eventually the action goes outside and Hiromu gets his powerbomb off to create an imbalance and we move into trading bombs. And oh, the bombs we do trade! This is just nutso back and forth goodness in the same vein as (albeit a bit tamer than) Takahashi’s matches against Dragon Lee and it’s really good stuff.

Dragon Lee vs. KUSHIDA (4): Mat grappling into a bit of light lucha libre and then a stalemate, and KUSHIDA redoubles his grappling efforts to try and crack Lee’s defense. Dragon turns to striking, creating an opening to try and go hold-for-hold with arguably the junior division’s finest submission expert. The match only intensifies from there, including a slugfest on the floor so intense that they almost take the double countout and a piggyback surfboard that KUSHIDA has to break by biting the ropes.

But that brings me back to my problem with these middle stages of the tournament, because the hard camera only nature of these really hurt a lot of what a guy like KUSHIDA does to make a match great. Biting the ropes to break a hold is a hell of a spot, but it’s rather less effective when it’s half-blocked by our view of the turnbuckle pad. Bottom line, this is a great match rendered very good by the production, and that’s a bummer, but... it’s still worth watching.

Night 13 (June 3, A & B Block)

ACH vs. Tiger Mask IV (3): ACH playing mind games pre-match, wearing the Tiger Mask himself, bravado covering for what a significant portion of his body is taped up here. To the floor after the feeling out, ACH feeling frisky and he chops his good hand hard into the post! Tiger Dad capitalizes in his usual grumpy, vicious fashion but ACH isn’t letting up that easy on the last night of block action.

So, no surprises on the storytelling front, but both dudes are really on-point here. I want to especially shout ACH’s facials out, because he was really killing it. Not the longest or most epic version of this match possible, but worth a look.

BUSHI vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (3): BUSHI beats Kanemaru to the jump but the Suzuki-gun man pulls Tomoyuki Oka in the way of a dive and uses the young lions as weapons! Back inside, clawing and tearing, employing his usual attack on the head and neck, complete with multiple DDTs, but eventually BUSHI gets a dive off at great cost to himself!

This is two of a kind with the Kanemaru/YOH match, but what a difference a hot Korakuen crowd and good production makes! It’s not such a huge gap that I’m going to rate this one differently, but if you’re only going to watch one of them, make it this one.

Chris Sabin vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (3): Fast-paced early, Sabin a dynamo on the attack before settling into a grind. This gives Taguchi a chance to get into it in a real way for the first time since the feeling out, hip attacks, a huge plancha, and the comeback evens up things so thoroughly that both men end up down and out after a double lariat exchange. Exhausted, slugging it out forearm for forearm, and it’s a question of which guy runs out of gas first.

A good solid classical match and a nice reminder of how good Taguchi is when he’s hot and ready to go.

Dragon Lee vs. El Desperado (5): Dragon Lee’s repping Shibata here, very nice. Anyway, hot start, big dives, an extended sequence with chairs on the floor puts Desperado in charge. Sooner or later that morphs into a slugfest and Dragon is able to regain the lead with a bit of that Shibata spirit. Bigger and bigger as the match grows more even-handed and we go to a finish.

This ruled. A hot crowd, torn masks, violence and flips, great stuff, go watch it!

Flip Gordon vs. Will Ospreay (4): Feeling out gives way to Flip being impressive and they stalemate trading missed dives! This one quickly differentiates itself from most of Will’s tournament matches, as he’s firmly in charge and Gordon can’t get anywhere near his neck. In fact, Ospreay works the arm over something fierce and it’s Flip who has to crawl and scrape his way out of it.

Unsurprisingly, this is quite good, and you should watch it.

Taiji Ishimori vs. YOH (4): This is an interesting one, because with Ishimori having the block won, it’d be easy to make this an afterthought, but here it is with the top billing out of A Block matches on this night. Good news, YOH and Ishimori have crafted a story that takes advantage of the matchup given here. YOH is the rookie of the block, it’s his second BOSJ but he’s only been a “grown up” junior for a year or so, and he knows he has to bring his A game against the new hotness that came in and knocked the champ off on the first night of the tournament.

YOH is all heart, Ishimori gets increasingly frustrated at his refusal to know his role and just stay down, it’s a good match.

Coming into this I felt like YOH was struggling to find his identity as a wrestler. Especially compared to his tag partner SHO, who’s a bonafide grappling machine badass (who incidentally I’d love to see in Evolve sometime if wrestling politics ever allow), YOH comes off a bit aimless. Well, here it coalesced, and he IS that guy who doesn’t quite have it together yet, and he knows it, and he won’t let that stop him from giving his best effort.

Marty Scurll vs. SHO (4): Intense grappling early, Scurll is able to pull ahead after “catching” the Shock Arrow taunt and using it as a pretext for a cheap shot. Continuing with the submission grappling, SHO gets a comeback shortly after breaking a wicked arm-trap cloverleaf, and Marty uses his control segment as a sign that he needs to escalate to the head drops.

Scurll switching back and forth through armwork and head punishment but SHO won’t stay down! This is excellent, and a very strong counterpart to Ishimori/YOH just previous. If you watch one, definitely make a point of watching the other.

Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA (5): The lockup to kick things off here is so intense it took me aback a little. Finally Hiromu goes for his sunset flip powerbomb but it’s blocked and KUSHIDA’s able to take the lead! Working the arm over, but another trip to the floor gets Takahashi out of it. From slugfests to highspot to submission exchanges, I’m not gonna wax poetic but this match has a little bit of everything and is definitely worth the watch and a worthy conclusion to the block portion of BOSJ.

Night 14 (June 4, Finals)

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori (5): Okay, so this is the finals. No matter what I say here, if you’re reading this post, you should probably go watch this match. Hell, because I’m a little late on catching up, you may even have already watched this.

That being said, here’s all you need to know-- after the feeling out, these madmen fight into the crowd and Ishimori reverses a powerbomb into a Frankensteiner that sends Takahashi DOWN THE CONCRETE STEPS OF THE ARENA. It’s kind of like Undertaker and Mankind in Hell in a Cell. The rest of the match is great for sure, but you’re going to boot up NJPW World and watch because of that spot.

There you have it, folks

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.

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