The Big Takeaways:
The Japanese matches were excellent and the American matches were passable as Nyla Rose, Britt Baker, Yuka Sakazaki, and Ryo Mizunami advanced.
Excalibur was joined by Taz on commentary this week after calling the previous week solo. The American matches were taped at Daily's Place in Jacksonville while the Japanese matches were taped at the Ice Ribbon Dojo in Saitama, Japan.
U.S. bracket first round: Nyla Rose (w/ Vickie Guerrero) defeated Tay Conti
This was an okay match with some sloppy moments.
Rose easily overpowered Conti early on, but Conti wouldn't back down so Rose just slammed her. Conti kicked out Rose's leg and went for a sleeper, but Rose escaped and hit a flipping neckbreaker. Conti fought back with some kicks but was countered with a dragon screw. Rose turned her attention to Conti's leg, targeting it repeatedly. A running splash from Rose got two.
Rose locked on a leg lock, but Conti struck her way out of it and attempted a kneebar. Rose stomped Conti down and went for the Beast Bomb, but Conti used a hurricanrana to escape and hit a heel kick before running into a lariat.
Conti landed corner strikes and a running knee strike before transitioning into judo throws. She then spiked Rose with a hammerlock DDT for two. They traded strikes until Rose landed an open hand slap with Conti returning the favor.
Rose escaped a dragon sleeper attempt by falling backward out of it. She pulled the turnbuckle pad off and tried to lawn dart Conti into it, but referee Audrey Edwards wasn't having it. Conti then tried to roll Rose up and got a visual pinfall, but Edwards was late.
Conti was backdropped onto the ramp and met with a death valley driver for good measure. Rose then hit the Beast Bomb to pick up the win.
Japan bracket semifinals: Yuka Sakazaki defeated Emi Sakura
This was a great match and the best of the Japanese matches so far.
Sakura tossed Sakasaki around the ring effortlessly early on until Sakazaki avoided a lariat and sent Sakura out of the ring with a dropkick. She followed it up with a nice flipping senton. As Sakura re-entered the ring, her students (one of whom is Mei Suruga, Sakazaki's first round matchup) beat down Sakazaki on the floor while Sakura distracted the official.
Sakura focused her attack on Sakazaki's neck and back, using the ropes as leverage during some cranks and stretches. She applied a great Romero Special, continuing to dismantle Sakazaki's back. Sakazaki backdropped her way out of a double underhook and landed a high knee in the corner. She followed it up with a diving back elbow and a northern lights bomb before deathlocking Sakura's legs.
After a long fight, Sakura eventually reached the ropes. Sakazaki kept up the momentum with a rope walk dropkick for two. Sakura fought out of a hammerlock carry and transitioned to a dragon sleeper, opting to spin Sakazaki out with a neckbreaker.
Sakura landed a Vader bomb for two. She placed her opponent on the top rope and raked her back, but Sakazaki had the follow up scouted, hitting a seated splash and a hurricanrana for two. After a flatliner, Sakazaki set up for the Magical Girl Splash, but Sakura had it scouted with a backbreaker. Sakura then hit a twisting Vader bomb for a close two.
Sakazaki hit a spinning hammerlock facebuster, but Sakura caught the follow up and hit another backbreaker. They traded hard strikes in the center of the ring with Sakazaki downing Sakura with a discus forearm. Sakura laughed it off and laid in chops before a cradle exchange ended with a Sakazaki kick.
Sakura avoided the sliding lariat and chopped Sakazaki down for two. She then rolled through La Magistral with a dragon sleeper applied, but Sakazaki reached the ropes. Sakura hit a stormbreaker for a great near fall as Sakazaki's foot was on the ropes.
Sakazaki fought out of the angel's wings and hit a sliding lariat for two before locking on a crucifix pin for three. Post match, Sakura and her associates attacked Sakazaki, but AEW Women's Champion Hikaru Shida ran out to make the save.
Japan bracket semifinals: Ryo Mizunami defeated Aja Kong by countout
This was so much fun even if the psychology made it difficult to suspend disbelief.
They had a strong lockup at the bell before opting for a fighting spirit shoulderblock battle. The third shoulderblock from Mizunami sent Kong to the mat. Mizunami did her rope taunt and was met with a slap for her efforts, but she then returned the favor on Kong.
Kong won a bodyslam battle, but missed the elbow drop. Mizunami took advantage with leg drops, but Kong barely kicked out at one. Mizunami applied a kneebar, but Kong was too close to the ropes. Mizunami continued to target Kong's knee with strikes and holds.
A slap and a headbutt gave Kong a hope spot, but Mizunami sent Kong back to the mat with a chop block. Kong avoided a corner tackle, sending Mizunami crashing to the floor where Kong laid in a strong right hand. Kong drove Mizunami's face into various foreign objects outside before rolling her back into the ring.
Kong grabbed her signature trash can, but the official took it away. A series of backdrop drivers planted Mizunami down hard. Kong called for the spinning back fist, but Mizunami blocked it so Kong countered with kicks. Mizunami fired up and caught one of them, turning it into a dragon screw.
A lariat and a leg drop bulldog from Mizunami got two. She then locked on the head and arm choke (the move she beat Maki Itoh with) but Kong fought hard to reach the ropes. Mizunami laid in more strikes and tried to lariat Kong down, but Kong came back with lariats of her own, sitting out on the final one for a two count.
Kong went for the top rope elbow drop, but Mizunami pulled her down and laid her out with a spear. Mizunami then landed a top rope leg drop for a close two. Mizunami tried to pick Kong back up, but Kong surprised her with the spinning back fist as both competitors were down. However, Kong didn't make the cover in time as Mizunami kicked out at two.
They both rolled to the outside as Kong tossed a trash can to Shida and sent Mizunami into it. Upon re-entry, Mizunami hit the leg drop on Kong, sending her back to the floor. Kong couldn't beat the count, so Mizunami won via countout.
Ryo Mizunami vs. Yuka Sakazaki is the finals of the Japan side of the bracket.
U.S. bracket first round: Dr. Britt Baker (w/ Rebel) submitted Madi Wrenkowski
Wrenkowski was a replacement for the injured Anna Jay. I don't know how much time they had to put this together, but this wasn't good.
Baker attacked Wrenkowski during her entrance and beat her down all over the ringside area, sending her into the barricade and choking her before the match started. Rebel got involved as well. Wrenkowski got a brief hope spot, but Baker easily regained control as the match finally started.
A sling blade sent Wrenkowski to the mat right away. Baker continued the beatdown with butterfly suplexes. There was a scary miscommunication spot where Wrenkowski went for a small package, but Baker suplexed her anyway. They had more miscommunication until Wrenkowski hit an X-Factor and a corner crossbody.
Wrenkowski hit a snapmare and a neckbreaker, but Baker's hand was on the ropes. Baker countered a corner attack with a flatliner into the turnbuckle. She tried to climb the ropes, but Wrenkowski stopped her and landed a chop. Wrenkowski went to the top rope, but whiffed on the diving crossbody and was met with an air raid crash for two.
Baker then put on the glove, hit a thrust kick, and applied the Lockjaw for the submission victory. Baker hit a curb stomp on Wrenkowski after the match as Rebel drew Thunder Rosa's paint over her face. She then applied the Lockjaw a second time for good measure.
Nyla Rose vs. Britt Baker is set for the second round.
Upcoming tournament matches:
- This Wednesday on Dynamite: Nyla Rose vs. Britt Baker in a U.S. bracket semifinal match
- This Sunday on Bleacher Report: Thunder Rosa vs. Riho in a U.S. bracket semifinal match
Also announced for the Bleacher Report special was AEW Women's Champion Hikaru Shida, Mei Suruga and Rin Kadokura vs. Emi Sakura, Veny and Maki Itoh.
Even though the Japanese matches were taped in an empty arena, it weirdly felt like they had so much more energy around them than the American side which felt closer to Dark than Dynamite in production. I felt like each winner was the right choice and am looking forward to the next round of matches.