[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.]
After two rounds of action in the A Block, four men stand undefeated, and they face off in the a huge double main event, where four of the night’s five matches feature first time opponents. In the final match on the show, the reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Taiji Ishimori will face GCW mainstay Alex Zayne, while former three time BOSJ winner and defending two-time-in-a-row winner, Hiromu Takahashi will battle the Impact Wrestling X-Division Champion Ace Austin. Yoshinobu Kanemaru looks to get his first win against YOH, in the only match featuring competitors who have faced off before, where YOH owns a 2-0 win advantage. Finally, Rysuke Taguchi will also look for his first win against the Italian sensation, Francesco Akira, and Clark Connors and SHO will battle in the opening contest as each look for their first tournament win.
+ Alex Zayne (4 points) vs Taiji Ishimori (4 points) (A Block Match): Zayne can do some crazy athletic things, and against the more powerhouse- and technical-style of Ishimori, that made for a great fight. The way Ishimori was able to grab one of Zayne’s limbs mid-move and lock on a submission was always impressive. In the end it did probably deserve the main event spot over Austin/Hiromu, but both matches were incredible. It looked like Zayne ripped out his left lip piercing at one point
+ Ace Austin (4 points) vs Hiromu Takahashi (4 points) (A Block Match): I was adamant that this should have been the main event, and in the sense of this being a fantastic match, I was right. Ace Austin has not had a bad match yet, and I think Impact should be proud of his showing so far. Hiromu meanwhile is a madman, and I don’t think he knows how to have a bad match. Austin is getting himself over with this crowd more and more every show
+ Ryusuke Taguchi (0 points) vs Francesco Akira (2 points) (A Block Match): this was a good match between Taguchi at his big match best and the absolute breakout star in Akira. In a tournament with all good matches this was about average, but that is still a positive overall
+ Clark Connors (0 points) vs SHO (0 points) (A Block Match): this was sloppy and all over the place… which is exactly what made it great. From the outset both guys looks uncontrollable, and considering they both come in with no wins that made a lot of sense. Connors is growing on me, and SHO is always good, though I do wish he would wrestle more like he used to
+ Tiger Mask, Robbie Eagles & Wheeler Yuta vs Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, DOUKI & El Desperado): Eagles/DOUKI tomorrow is gonna be a banger, and this was a good preview for that. It seems quite apparent now, five days in, that the only important tag previews are the ones that feature the most BOSJ competitors (unless Shingo is involved). Yuta/Despy should also be really good, based on their interactions here, and I am getting really exciting for DOUKI/Desperado down the line
– YOH (2 points) vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0 points) (A Block Match): just because I personally don’t see the appeal of YOH, I can’t deny the crowd likes him. This was average overall, but I really did enjoy the ending. I also really don’t care for YOH’s theme
– Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi): Wato/BUSHI is up next, but I’m not thrilled for it after Wato showed nothing against ELP. It’s also not good when two competitors from one tema are better than both of the others, as was the case with Shingo>BUSHI>Wato=Tenzan here
– Titan, El Lindaman & Jado vs BULLET CLUB (El Phantasmo, Dick Togo & Gedo): ELP may well be the best heel in wrestling right now, as he both talks crap to Kevin Kelly on commentary, and then photobombs the good guy team photo before the match even starts. Titan is probably one of the best in the tournament right now, and I eagerly await the ELP/Titan match tomorrow. Lindaman also looked good, but the old guys stopped this form being a positive
> crowds will be allowed to make some noise starting on Tuesday’s show. Hot damn, I can’t wait.
Should you watch this event: Both of the final two matches were fantastic, and I won’t debate anyone who liked either more than the other. This was one of the better nights so far, it’s just a shame Gedo, Jado and Dick Togo are on every show.