[New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual light heavyweight tournament continues. In this tournament, 20 competitors are split into two even blocks of 10. Each competitor faces the other in their block once, earning 2 points for any win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for any loss (and both wrestlers get 0 if there is no clear winner, such as a double countout). The overall winners of each block will go on to face each other in the final, and the winner there will receive an IWGP Championship match against the defending champion, Taiji Ishimori at Dominion.]
The third night will see the second set of matches for the A Block take place, as those coming off a victory look to cement their leads, and those who felt defeat look to get their first points. In the main event, Hiromu Takahashi looks to continue his history making run against the newcoming Franceso Akira, while Ryusuke Tagushi faces off with current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Taiji Ishimori. Also, SHO will seek his first tournament points against the unconventional Alex Zayne, and Yoshiinobu Kanemaru seeks to halt the momentum of Ace Austin. Kicking off the night of tournament action will be both YOH and Clark Connors seeking their first victory in the A Block, and a three-pack of preliminary tag team contests will preview upcoming B Block matches.
+ Hiromu Takahashi (2 points) vs Francesco Akira (2 points) (A Block Match): this was absolutely fantastic. Hopefully a sign of things to come, and Akira can endear himself to the local crowds the way Robbie Eagles has before him. Hiromu is still insane, and I love it
+ Ryusuke Taguchi (0 points) vs Taiji Ishimori (2 points) (A Block Match): I’m glad to say this was a really solid match, with a unique if not visually pleasing ending. Taguchi can turn it on when he wants to, and I’ve sung the praises of Ishimori for years now. The two have history, as well, which played in nicely to some pre-match entertainment
+ Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0 points) vs Ace Austin (2 points) (A Block Match): despite a few sloppy bits that appeared to be communication issues, and not anybody’s fault in particular, this was a good match. Kanemaru is a well-regarded veteran, but I think sometimes he doesn’t quite get the praise he deserves. I’m growing on Austin after this, no matter what the result was
+ Robbie Eagles, Titan & Wheeler Yuta vs Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku): Eagles, Titan and Yuta are a hell of a team against two of my Suzuki-gun favourites. Eagles and Titan had some great high flying spots, and Despy/DOUKI are continuing their intra-faction issues. I enjoyed this a lot
– SHO (0 points) vs Alex Zayne (2 points) (A Block Match): I just have no strong feelings about Alex Zayne, especially when compared to how good I think SHO could be. I really think SHO’s gimmick and House of Torture ties are holding him back, both in storyline and in real life. Zayne can certainly do some impressive things, but so far he doesn’t stand out
– YOH (0 points) vs Clark Connors (0 points) (A Block Match): I have nothing against either guy here, but this match did nothing for me. Connors didn’t get a big in coming into the tournament and YOH was the target of nothing but scorn from the commentary team on night 1, which didn’t really set him up for greatness here. I’m sure they will each do better, but this was a miss
– Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jado & Master Wato vs BULLET CLUB (Dick Togo, El Phantasmo & Gedo): in a very limited sense, I am enjoying the ‘Gedo and Togo versus Jado’ stuff, but I don’t think anybody could even pretend the wrestling is good. El Phantasmo was the only top guy in this match, and even he played comedy in this match. This was a miss, but I have strangely high hopes for ELP vs Wato tomorrow
– Tiger Mask & Yuto Nakashima vs Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa: I like Oiwa and Nakasjima, but otherwise this was exactly what you’d think. Kevin Kelly talked on commentary about Nakashima being the Young Lion who hurt his arm a while back, and I hadn’t made that connection. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen him as much as the others
Should you watch this event: This was a very mixed bag. Hiromu/Akira is a must see, but frankly the rest is take or leave – but maybe try to see even just the ending of Ishimori/Taguchi for the sheer spectacle.