The 2019 Best of the Super Juniors finals picture became much clearer after Sunday's show in Chiba.
With four shows and two tournament matches remaining for each wrestler before the finals, the field of 20 has been narrowed to six possible winners.
In the A Block, only Shingo Takagi and Taiji Ishimori have a chance to go to the final. They will meet on Friday, May 31. If Ishimori wins his match against Tiger Mask IV on Wednesday, the match on the 31st will decide the A Block winner.
The B Block is more complicated.
El Phantasmo is in the driver's seat, by virtue of his wins over Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles.
ELP has yet to face Ryusuke Taguchi, who still has an outside chance to win the block, along with Ospreay.
Eagles holds a tiebreaker over Ospreay and Taguchi, but his loss to ELP looms large.
Neither Ospreay nor Taguchi currently has a tiebreaker advantage.
Here are full results and match recaps from Sunday's show:
B BLOCK MATCH: RYUSUKE TAGUCHI DEFEATED REN NARITA
They kicked off the show with a lengthy mat wrestling sequence. Narita got some takedowns and worked on Taguchi's right leg. Taguchi tried for an ankle lock, but Narita reached the ropes. Taguchi sent Narita outside with a hip attack. He teased a dive, but Narita cut him off with a dropkick to the left leg.
Narita tried for a cloverleaf, but Taguchi got the ankle lock. Narita slipped out. Taguchi went for Dodon, but Narita escaped and applied a full crab. Taguchi rolled through the crab, then got the ankle lock. Narita used an inside cradle for a near fall.
Taguchi used the threat of a magistral cradle to work his way back to the ankle lock, and Narita tapped out. This lacked sizzle, but it was a technically sound opener.
- They announced that Dragon Lee won his scheduled match over TAKA Michinoku by forfeit. TAKA has a leg injury, and could not compete.
A BLOCK MATCH: JONATHAN GRESHAM DEFEATED YOSHINOBU KANEMARU
Kanemaru scored an early takedown, but Gresham excels on the mat and used a series of headscissors to maintain the advantage. Kanemaru hit a dropkick to the head from the floor, while Gresham was draped over the edge of the apron. Kanemaru then used a headscissors on the mat.
They exchanged strikes. Gresham came back with an arm drag, but Kanemaru hit a DDT. Kanemaru hit a top rope moonsault for a two count. Gresham hit a rana, but Kanemaru rolled through into an attempted pinfall. They traded rolling cradles for a series of near falls.
Gresham hit a bridging German for a two count. Kanemaru threw the referee into Gresham and grabbed his whiskey bottle. Gresham ducked a swing with the bottle, then locked on the octopus. Kanemaru tapped out.
B BLOCK MATCH: ROCKY ROMERO DEFEATED DOUKI
DOUKI attacked Rocky as he posed on the ropes before the bell. DOUKI posted Rocky's knee. DOUKI continued to go after the left leg. Rocky hit an enzuigiri with the right leg, but could not follow up. DOUKI worked on the left leg, then hit a double stomp.
DOUKI untied a corner pad, exposing the buckles. Rocky avoided the buckle and sent DOUKI shoulder-first into the post. Rocky fired up and hit a series of palm strikes. He landed a springboard rana, then hit forever clotheslines. They collided on a criss-cross spot, into a double down.
Rocky blocked a springboard DDT attempt. He hit a tornado DDT, into a falcon arrow, into a cross armbreaker. DOUKI stood up out of the hold and got a near fall. DOUKI used a kneebar, but Rocky rolled to the ropes.
They traded quick near falls, then exchanged strikes. Rocky used a kimura, then rolled through into a cross armbreaker, and DOUKI tapped out. This was probably DOUKI's best match in NJPW so far.
A BLOCK MATCH: MARTY SCURLL DEFEATED TITAN
Titan used a series of headscissors on the mat, then bridged out of them, which was impressive as hell. Scurll rolled outside, and Titan landed on his feet on a dive to the floor. He followed with a flying headscissors on the floor.
Back inside, Scurll used a Romero Special. He went for Titan's mask, then went after his legs. Titan hit a clothesline in the corner and flew outside. Brody King threatened to interfere, but Titan took him out with a dive. He followed with a springboard attack back into the ring, then hit a top rope rana for a two count.
Scurll used an eye poke, then hit a tornado DDT. Titan countered with a wheel kick, into a double down. They exchanged strikes. Scurll hit a half-and-half suplex, but Titan no-sold it. Titan used an inverted figure four, but Scurll made it to the ropes.
Scurll hit a pair of lariats, then used a package DDT for a near fall. He followed with Black Plague and got the pin. Another solid match. Scurll gave Titan a ton of offense.
B BLOCK MATCH: BUSHI DEFEATED BANDIDO
BUSHI offered a handshake. Bandido hesitated, and BUSHI kicked him. They did a series of flying counters and reversals. Bandido hit a jumping knee. BUSHI countered by sending Bandido to the floor, then hitting a pescado into a rana on the floor.
Back inside, BUSHI used an STF, but Bandido made the ropes. BUSHI tried for a DDT on the apron, but Bandido escaped, sent BUSHI to the floor, then hit a gigantic tope con hilo. Back inside, Bandido hit a press slam for a near fall.
They traded enzuigiris. Bandido hit a tornillo off the top, an inverted suplex, and a shining wizard, picking up a near fall. BUSHI escaped a 21 Plex and hit a dropkick. He followed up with a DDT on the apron, then hit a neckbreaker for a near fall.
BUSHI teased a codebreaker, but Bandido blocked it. BUSHI hit a Canadian Destroyer, then hit an MX for the pin. Good stuff, and it could have been even better if they had more time.
A BLOCK MATCH: SHINGO TAKAGI DEFEATED TIGER MASK IV
Tiger used a side headlock, but Shingo pushed off, into a shoulder tackle. Tiger dropped to the mat and lured Shingo in. Tiger tried for an armbar, but Shingo rolled to the floor. Tiger targeted Shingo's right arm with kicks, and Shingo again rolled outside.
Shingo pulled Tiger into the post and posted both of his legs. Shingo hit a vertical suplex for a two count. Shingo hit a dragon screw. He went for a figure four, but Tiger kicked him off. He followed with a series of kicks to the neck for a near fall of his own.
Tiger got double underhooks, looking for the Tiger Driver. Shingo backdropped out, then hit a slam. They fought on the top rope, and Tiger hit a double underhook superplex. Shingo blocked a Tiger Suplex attempt, then they exchanged strikes.
Tiger hit a Tiger Driver for a near fall. He locked on an armbar, then slipped to a triangle, but Shingo powered out. Tiger blocked a Pumping Bomber, but Shingo hit a DVD. Tiger avoided another Pumping Bomber and used a crucifix for a near fall.
Tiger used an armbar, but Shingo reached the ropes. Tiger hit the ropes, right into a Pumping Bomber. Tiger kicked out at one. Shingo hit a second Pumping Bomber, but Tiger kicked out at two. Shingo hit Last of the Dragon, and got the pin.
I don't think that anyone bought that Tiger had a chance, but they had a good match, and the last couple of near falls were great.
B BLOCK MATCH: YOH DEFEATED EL PHANTASMO
ELP attacked before the bell. He hit a suplex on the floor, then sent YOH into the crowd, wiping out several rows of chairs. They teased a countout, but YOH made it back in at 19. YOH used a quick roll-up for a near fall, then a backslide for another.
YOH went after ELP's left arm, which was heavily taped. ELP clotheslined YOH on the top rope, then hit a quebrada for a near fall. ELP made another cover and used the ropes for leverage. Red Shoes refused to count the pin.
ELP used a choke, then hit a chop. ELP tied YOH to the tree of woe and stomped on his groin. YOH hit a spider German and followed up with a flying forearm. YOH hit a bridging belly-to-belly with a high grip for a two count.
ELP hit a top rope rana. He went for a frog splash, but YOH got his knees up. YOH used a cradle for a near fall, then got an armbar, but ELP reached the ropes. They traded cradles, with both scoring a near fall.
ELP hit a superkick, then used an airplane spin for a near fall. ELP tried for CR2, but YOH sent him to the floor. YOH teased a dive, but ELP cut him off with a kick. ELP sent YOH into Red Shoes, who took a bump.
ELP grabbed his belt, but Red Shoes woke up and took it away. YOH used an O'Connor roll for the upset. Good action, but it felt like the crowd wasn't into it.
B BLOCK MATCH: ROBBIE EAGLES DEFEATED WILL OSPREAY
They locked up. Ospreay pushed Eagles to the ropes, then broke cleanly. They locked up again, then broke cleanly again. They engaged in a knuckle lock. Eagles covered, but Ospreay bridged. Ospreay monkey flipped out, then hit a dropkick to the knees.
Eagles offered a handshake. Ospreay went to accept it, but Eagles slapped him. Ospreay used a monkey flip to send Eagles outside, then hit a handspring into a pose. He followed with a plancha.
Back in the ring, they exchanged chops. Eagles hit an arm drag and a flying headscissors. Eagles hit a running knee for a near fall. Ospreay rolled to the ropes, and Eagles went after his left leg. They traded chops. Ospreay hit a handspring kick.
Ospreay hit a 619. He teased Pip Pip Cheerio, but Eagles escaped. Ospreay hit a dropkick in the corner, then used a standing Shooting Star Press for a two count. Ospreay then hit Pip Pip Cheerio, scoring a two count.
Eagles rolled outside, and Ospreay hit a Space Flying Tiger Drop. Back inside, Eagles recovered and hit a low dropkick, followed by a strike to the neck. Eagles sent Ospreay outside, then hit a flip dive through the ropes to the floor.
Back in the ring, Eagles used double knees in the corner, a 619 to the legs, and another double knees. Eagles hit a kneebreaker. He hit another, but Ospreay countered with an enzuigiri. They did an intricate series of reversals, ending with Eagles dumping Ospreay on his head with a poison rana.
From their knees, they exchanged forearm shots. Both men got to their feet, and they continued to trade. Eagles broke the exchange with a low dropkick, then hit a series of short kicks. Ospreay hit an enzuigiri. Eagles went for Turbo Backpack, but Ospreay escaped. Eagles hit a crossbody as Ospreay was up against the ropes, and they spilled to the floor.
They exchanged strikes on the apron. Ospreay tried for a Storm Breaker, but Eagles countered with a Sliced Bread on the apron. Eagles made it back inside. They teased a countout on Ospreay, but he made it back in at 19.
Eagles hit a dragon rana for a near fall. He missed a 450 as Ospreay rolled out of the way. Ospreay hit a hook kick. He teased the Hidden Blade, but Eagles dropped to the mat to avoid it.
ELP came to ringside, distracting Ospreay. Eagles applied the Miller Special. Ospreay teased tapping out, but finally reached the bottom rope. Eagles hit a dragon screw. He tried for a springboard move, but Ospreay dropkicked him out of the sky.
Eagles went for a reverse rana off the top, but Ospreay landed on his feet. Eagles got the Miller Special locked on, but Ospreay reversed into a cradle for a near fall. Eagles hit Turbo Backpack, but Ospreay kicked out at the 25-minute mark.
Ospreay hit a buckle bomb, then followed up with a sit-out powerbomb for a near fall. ELP jumped on the apron, distracting Ospreay as he went to the top rope. Ospreay hit a 450, but Eagles got his knees up. Red Shoes took a bump.
Ospreay used a standing Spanish Fly. He got a visual pinfall, but with Red Shoes out, ELP hit Ospreay with a chair. Eagles hit a 450, then used the Miller Special for the submission at 28 minutes.
ELP tried to celebrate with Eagles after the match, but Eagles wanted nothing to do with him, teasing dissension in Bullet Club.
If you know the story of Ospreay and Eagles, and how Ospreay got Eagles into NJPW, then this probably meant more to you than if you were watching without that backstory. If you watched the last match these two had in Australia, even more so.
A BLOCK MATCH: TAIJI ISHIMORI DEFEATED SHO
SHO missed a dropkick out of the opening sequence. He quickly recovered, sending Ishimori to the apron. SHO connected with a dropkick, sending Ishimori to the floor. Back inside, Ishimori established the early advantage, stomping away at SHO's arms.
Ishimori cranked on SHO's neck. SHO fired back with shots to Ishimori's neck. Ishimori went for a handspring kick, but SHO caught him. Ishimori blocked a suplex attempt, but SHO hit a spear. SHO landed a vertical suplex for a near fall. He fought for a cross armbreaker, but Ishimori rolled to the ropes.
Ishimori rolled through another suplex attempt, landing a double stomp. Ishimori missed with double knees in the corner, but connected on a handspring kick. SHO rolled outside, and Ishimori hit a golden triangle.
Back inside, SHO hit an inverted suplex, dropping Ishimori on his knees. SHO hit two rolling Germans, then bridged on the third into a near fall. SHO blocked a knee strike, and Ishimori jumped over a spear attempt. SHO hit a clothesline, into a double down.
They had a long striking exchange. They traded jumping knees. SHO landed a pair of lariats, then hit a backbreaker across his knees. He hit a second, but Ishimori kicked out.
SHO went for Shock Arrow. Ishimori powered out, but SHO eventually landed a piledriver. SHO used a sunset flip for a two count. He tried for a cross armbreaker, but Ishimori transitioned to the Yes Lock. After a long battle, SHO made the ropes.
Ishimori hit a Woo dropkick, then followed up with double knees in the corner. Ishimori hit a lungblower, but SHO kicked out at two.
SHO blocked a Bloody Cross and hit a knee strike. SHO went for Shock Arrow, but Ishimori countered into the Bloody Cross for the pin. Not a bad match by any means, but they couldn't follow Ospreay and Eagles.
A BLOCK STANDINGS
- Shingo Takagi: 14
- Taiji Ishimori: 12
- Dragon Lee: 10 (Out of contention)
- Marty Scurll: 8 (Out of contention)
- Jonathan Gresham: 8 (Out of contention)
- SHO: 6 (Out of contention)
- Titan: 4 (Out of contention)
- Yoshinobu Kanemaru: 4 (Out of contention)
- Tiger Mask: 4 (Out of contention)
- TAKA Michinoku: 0 (Out of contention)
B BLOCK STANDINGS
- El Phantasmo: 10 (Holds tiebreaker over Eagles, Ospreay)
- Robbie Eagles: 10 (Holds tiebreaker over Ospreay, Taguchi)
- Will Ospreay: 10
- Ryusuke Taguchi: 10
- BUSHI: 8 (Out of contention)
- YOH: 8 (Out of contention)
- Bandido: 6 (Out of contention)
- Rocky Romero: 6 (Out of contention)
- DOUKI: 2 (Out of contention)
- Ren Narita: 0 (Out of contention)