BLOCK B MATCH:
Chris Sabin(4) vs. El Desperado(4) - 5/10
El Desperado came out and did his entrance, then hit behind the entrance set-up to attack Sabin when Sabin came out. If Suzuki-Gun are going to jump their opponents to start their matches off, it's nice to at least change up the way they do it. Unfortunately this led to the standard "referee won't call for the DQ even when the heel shoves him down and then does exactly what the referee told him not to do anyway" crap spot we get in most of these matches. They actually tried to make a bit more of a brawl out of it than usual, which was a nice change of pace on the one hand, but on the other hand made me all the more frustrated because of their obsession with having this crap always lead into that stupid count-out tease that no one ever buys and requires the referee to ignore the rules" spot that they do all the time. Usually you don't ring the bell to start the match unless both guys have been in the ring at some point, which didn't happen here El Desperado attacked Sabin on Sabin's way down to the ring. If they hadn't rung the bell at the start of the attack then they actually could have had El Desperado hit Sabin with a chair right in front of the ref and it make perfect sense for once... but of course they didn't do that because if the match hadn't started then they wouldn't be able to do their stupid count-out tease spot.
Like every other time, Sabin doesn't get counted out. El Desperado then whipped Sabin into a chair he had set up in the corner, which was also not a DQ. The referee also was not strong enough to dislodge the chair on his own, so El Desperado had to do it for him. El Desperado just dropped the chair on the ground in the corner, and when the referee was done checking on Sabin, he saw the chair laying there so he went over to the corner and... moved the chair about two inches, leaving this dangerous weapon right within reach of the wrestlers. Then again, consider that he couldn't dislodge it on his own, either, maybe he was just too pathetically weak to move it any more than this.
El Desperado proceeded to then choke Sabin with the ropes, and followed that up by biting him. I think he's just trying to see what he can get away with now. Maybe he'll invite Kanemaru out to help him beat Sabin up, or maybe kick Sabin in the groin or stab him with a sword next. I doubt the ref would call for the bell.
They wound up on the outside with no count-outs yet again. Sabin sat El Desperado down on a chair and did a HUGE senton body block off the apron, flattening El Desperado, though he appeared to have hurt his own back, too. Yeah, his back was what was getting worked over before, but it looked like he landed more on the concrete part of the floor than on the matted part. Count-outs are back now, so Sabin rolls them back into the ring. They did a bit more stuff, El Desperado tried to use a chair but it backfired and Sabin got the win. Another match brought down by El Desperado's non-sense.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Ryusuke Taguchi(4) vs. Marty Scurll(6) - 6.75/10
We started off with some comedy, with even the referee getting involved. Scurll got upset and went to the outside, and even though they don't apply count-out rules correctly most of the time in New Japan, they somehow managed to do so in this comedy segment. Then again, he seemed to forget them the rest of the match, so maybe that was just part of the comedy? With these terrible referees, who knows?
Scurll grabbed a wristlock and started to work the arm. They transitioned from that into some classical British style spots, which they worked in a comedic manner that still never lost the seriousness of the situation: this is an important match that both men need to win if they are going to have a real hope of winning the tournament (especially in Taguchi's case). In my opinion, this is pretty much the ideal way to handle comedy in wrestling, especially if you want to do a match that isn't a total farce or you're in a "serious" wrestling company like the big three in Japan (well... the big three of the previous decade, okay?), ROH, EVOLVE, etc. You'll notice how they were even able to transition back and forth between true serious and spots with comedic overtones rather smoothly because while they were doing comedic spots, the spots all made sense within the premise that this was an important wrestling match that both men were trying to win.
That being said, I can totally see an argument that they did too much comedy in this match because the crowd basically started responding to 85% of the match as if it was supposed to be comedic, even if it's not something we would normally think of as a comedy spot. For example, they laughed when the ref got bumped because he got squished in the corner, or Marty's boot coming off in ankle lock, which actually happened because Marty loosened it specifically so that would happen, with the result being a spot that was supposed to put over Marty's smarts instead just making people laugh. It was a very interesting crowd reaction, and I'm quite curious to hear people's takes on it (both from people in the business and outside of it).
(As far as the comedy of this match fitting into the premise, the only thing I didn't like was the spot where Marty pushed the ref and the ref pushed him back, into Taguchi's school boy. I rarely like seeing a referee get shoved or seeing a referee shove a competitor, and the execution of it here was way too over the top.)
BLOCK B MATCH:
Sho(4) vs. Hiromu Takahashi(6) - 8/10
Sho continues to impress with yet another awesome match here. Not that Hiromu doesn't deserve a lot of credit as well, but I expect this greatness out of him. Sho is tag team guy, and a relatively new one at that, so seeing him deliver in these singles matches is a pleasant surprise. Hiromu definitely seems to be toning his matches down in terms of the craziness and focusing more on good, solid in-ring work, which is definitely the best thing for him in the long run.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Dragon Lee(6) vs. KUSHIDA(6) - 8.5/10
KUSHIDA wanted a handshake at the beginning but Dragon Lee turned it down. This match felt like a Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu match with KUSHIDA in Hiromu's place and thus the aggression turned down due to the lack of heated rivalry. It was a lot of big moves and head-drops, and it was very well paced, but the finish felt a little abrupt.
The result was, unfortunately, not really ever in question to me, because if you want to find out who has a chance at winning a block in a Gedo-booked round-robin, just check who is scheduled to be in the final match on the last day of competition in that block, because almost every single Gedo tournament comes down do whoever wins that match wins the block and all of the other matches that day are irrelevant, with basically everyone else having no chance at winning on the final day, no matter how all of the results go. In this case it was KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu, so of course going into the final day the only way the block won't go to the winner of this match is if they draw AND Marty Scurll wins (they both have the tiebreaker over Marty so even if Marty were to win, he would need neither of them to get the win in order to advance).
A very good show from New Japan. While I am definitely disappointed with the lack of complexity or-well, anything interesting at all, really- in the booking of this block, the wrestlers in it mostly delivered (unless El Desperado was involved). Thankfully Block A actually had a little story or two and is actually pretty wide open going into the final day of block competition, so hopefully that will lead to an exciting night of action in at least that one block (I think theoretically Ospreay, Yoh, Flip, and Ishimori can still win, but Flip or Yoh winning would require a four-way tie and then either they would have another match because both of them would be 2-1 against the four-way field, or Flip would get it because he has the tiebreaker over Yoh. I'm not totally clear on how tiebreakers work with that large of a tie. But I honestly don't think Gedo has bothered to think that out either, which really just leaves Ishimori and Ospreay, and considering that Ospreay is the champ and Ishimori made his big debut last month by attacking Ospreay, it seems by far most likely that Ishimori wins the block, goes on to win the tournament and faces Ospreay at Dominion. Either that or they're got the champion in the finals, which they're not going to do so... it's still predictable, but I at least appreciate the kayfabe possibility that it's more open than just coming down to who wins that one final match with basically no one else having a mathematical chance going into the final day).