By Anish Vishwakoti, Prowrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Super Juniors Finale 2018”
June 4, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Broadcast live on New Japan World
The culmination of the 2018 Best of the Super Juniors tournament saw the A Block and B Block winners, Taiji Ishimori and Hiromu Takahashi do battle for the 2018 Best of the Super Juniors victory. Alongside this, NJPW put up a card featuring some of their premier wrestlers, including Naito, Okada, Suzuki, Ospreay and others, as well as a surprise cameo by Chris Jericho.
1. Flip Gordon and Chris Sabin vs. Tiger Mask and Shota Umino. Flip and Tiger Mask started the match off with a pretty entertaining sequence of holds and exchanges. The crowd seemed to be very into both Flip and Tiger Mask, this was clearly a good choice to start the show off. Flip did a series of kip-ups and avoided Tiger Mask’s kicks while in a handstand position, before both he and Tiger Mask tagged out.
Umino and Sabin got into it, with Umino hitting a shoulder tackle to take Sabin down. They then exchanged strikes, after a Snapmare, Sabin took control and he and Flip tagged in and out quickly to maintain control of Umino. Sabin brought the pace of the match down with a chin lock, however Umino managed to escape and tag in Tiger Mask, who took control of Sabin with a Tilt-a-Whirl backbreaker.
Sabin and Tiger Mask went back and forth, with Sabin hitting a strong Enziguiri before Tiger Mask hit a Tiger bomb. They both tagged their respective opponents, and Flip took control of Umino, hitting a reverse Steamroller and shooting star press combination. Flip then kicked Umino in the head to ground him and executed a Four-Flippy Splash to earn the victory…
Flip Gordon and Chris Sabin defeated Tiger Mask and Shota Umino.
Anish’s Take: This was a really entertaining, if inconsequential opening match. All four men were welcomed by the crowd, especially Flip Gordon, who has really etched out a fanbase for himself here in Japan. Shota Umino is proving himself to be a reliable young lion, and matches like these alongside legends like Tiger Mask, and high quality wrestlers like Chris Sabin and Flip Gordon certainly help. Great way to kick off the show.
2. YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii vs. TAKA Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka and Minoru Suzuki. In typical Suzuki Gun fashion, Suzuki and co jumped Chaos before the match started and took the action to the outside of the ring. Iizuka used a chair to take out Yano, as Suzuki did the same to HASHI, also wailing on him by the timekeepers table. HASHI just made it back into the ring, only to be bitten by Iizuka.
Suzuki Gun tagged in and out quickly, with Minoru Suzuki himself raining down kicks on HASHI. While attempting a piledriver, HASHI escaped, which prompted Michinoku and Iizuka to get involved and take HASHI out using their numbers. Eventually HASHI hit a Suplex on Michinoku and a spinning heel kick on Iizuka to tag in Ishii. Ishii fended off the biting attempts of Iizuka, and managed to hit him with a Brainbuster. When trying to follow up, Suzuki smacked him from the corner, leading the two to exchange strikes and a shoulder tackle which Ishii got the better of.
Ishii then hit Iizuka with a series of chops and a powerslam, leaving both men incapacitated. Yano got the tag and managed to clean house, however Suzuki and Iizuka took control and used a double armbar to wear down Yano. HASHI and Ishii then jumped in the ring to distract Suzuki and Iizuka, allowing Yano to hit Michinoku with a low blow and a roll up to gather the victory for CHAOS.
Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, and YOSHI-HASHI defeated Taka Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka. and Minoru Suzuki.
After the match, Suzuki wailed on some of the young boys with a chair, while frothing at the mouth in anger with regards to Yano and Ishii…
Anish’s Take: A short tag match, but the crowd were into it and it continued the longstanding Chaos and Suzuki Gun rivalry. Yano continues to be one of the most entertaining fixtures in NJPW, and getting a win here by dirty means keeps him looking strong without hurting Suzuki Gun too much.
3. Hirooki Goto and “Roppongi 3K” Sho and Yoh vs TAICHI, El Desperado, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. A precursor to the Triple Threat match for Goto’s NEVER Openweight Championship defense at Dominion against TAICHI and Michael Elgin, the match started off with Goto and Taichi staring each other down. However both men tagged out as TAICHI tagged in Desperado and Goto tagged in Sho. Sho and Desperado grappled and taunted each other, with Yoh and Goto getting involved to clear hour and pose for the crowd.
Sho and Desperado continued to battle, with Sho sweeping Desperado’s legs on the apron, sending him to the floor where Sho hit a dive. From here, Suzuki Gun bent the rules, using a chair to maintain control of Sho on the outside. Desperado hit Sho’s leg with a chair, although Sho managed to limp back into the ring. Here, Kanemaru, TAICHI and Desperado distracted the referee and used double team maneuvers to maintain control of Sho. Sho sold their offense extremely well, with the crowd really espousing their sympathy for him. Goto then got the tag and single handedly took out both TAICHI and Desperado with a series of Suplexes. TAICHI fought back, hitting Goto with a Buzzsaw Kick and a Clothesline although it didn’t keep Goto down.
Goto broke Suzuki-Gun’s momentum by surprising TAICHI with an Ushigoroshi and tagged in Yoh, while TAICHI tagged in Kanemaru. Yoh used his speed to slip by Kanemaru and hit both him and Desperado with kicks. Yoh then hit a blockbuster on Kanemaru but before he could capitalize, Desperado and Kanemaru double teamed him, prompting Goto and Sho to enter the ring and break a pin up. After all six men brawled in the ring for a while, only Yoh and Kanemaru were left. When Kanemaru attempted a top rope maneuver, although Yoh reversed it and caught him in a bridging pinning combination for the victory.
Roppongi 3K and Hirooki Goto defeated “Suzuki Gun” Yoshinobu Kanemaru, TAICHI and El Desperado.
After the match, Suzuki Gun immediately jumped on their opponents and left them lying, ensuring that they ended looking strong, keeping TAICHI a credible threat in the upcoming three way match at Dominion…
Anish’s Take: A quick and fun preview for the NEVER Openweight title bout at Dominion. The crowd were still into this match, and the six men all worked hard to put on a show, especially Sho who was the stand out in this match.
4. Marty Scurll and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Toa Henare and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Scurll and Tanahashi started the match off in the ring. The crowd engaged in dueling chants for the two, as Scurll avoided engaging with Tanahashi. The two battled for control of each other’s backs, but neither came out on top. Scurll and Tanahashi engaged in an interesting grappling exchange, with both retaining control for only a few seconds. Both men then rolled away and taunted each other, Tanahashi playing air guitar and Scurll flapping his wings.
Henare and Takahashi were then tagged in, with Scurll and Takahashi taking control of Henare by using their numbers. Takahashi used a slam and a leg drop to keep Henare under his control. He then tagged in Scurll who tried to lock in a Romero special to taunt Liger. Liger broke this up however, prompting Scurll to lock in a triangle stretch. Henare managed to escape and tag in Tanahashi who used his speed and strength to leave Scurll on the mat using a dragon screw. Tanahashi attempted a cloverleaf, however Scurll made it to the ropes.
The two then swapped holds, with Scurll attempting to break the fingers. While he was unsuccessful, Tanahashi was forced to tag out, as did Scurll. Henare and Takahashi battled, with Henare being more dominant. Henare hit Takahashi with a strong Suplex, getting a two count. Takahashi bit Henare and Scurll snapped his fingers to neutralize him. Seeing this, Tanahashi entered the ring and cleared house, allowing Henare to regain control with a flying shoulder block. Scurll distracted Tanahashi and drove him away from the ring, allowing Takahashi to hit a low angle DDT on Henare and pick up the pinfall victory.
Yujiro Takahashi and Marty Scurll defeated Toa Henare and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
After the match Scurll and Takahashi wailed on their opponents, with Scurll locking in a Chicken Wing on Tanahashi, prompting Liger to get up from the commentary seats and save Tanahashi. Scurll shouted about “killing all the legends” on the outside, saying he wanted to face Liger and Mysterio. Liger picked up the mic and responded by saying that at this year’s Best of The Super Juniors Liger hasn’t been happy. Liger said that if Scurll really wants him and Tanahashi that they can do this as a three-way. Liger then took of his shirt and posed for the crowd with The Ace…
Anish’s Take: While this tag match was very basic in the way that it was executed, it told a good story, and mainly highlighted Scurll and Tanahashi. Takahashi getting the win was interesting as well, definitely in a good way as sometimes he gets neglected as a member of the Bullet Club. Henare continued to elicit a strong reaction from the crowd, as his savage warrior gimmick is really getting over in NJPW.
5. ACH, Dragon Lee, Ryusuke Taguchi, and KUSHIDA vs. BUSHI, SANADA, EVIL, and Tetsuya Naito. The crowd were into this match from the entrances, with chants and cheers for LIJ as well as all members of the opposing team, especially ACH and KUSHIDA. Before the match started Naito challenged ACH to a dance off, but took advantage of this by kicking ACH in the shoulder. BUSHI and Dragon Lee started the match off for their teams. Leaving nothing for later, they immediately went for flying head scissors and dives, prompting all eight men to brawl in the ring. LIJ took control of their opponents on the outside, with LIJ switching out to keep Dragon Lee at bay inside the ring.
While Naito and EVIL tried to double team Lee, he hit both with flying kicks and made the tag to Taguchi. Taguchi and KUSHIDA double teamed LIJ, with Taguchi making the tag to KUSHIDA who took control of EVIL inside the ring. ACH and BUSHI then tagged in, ACH hit BUSHI with a deadlift German and then attempted a top rope stomp, although he was met with a DDT for his efforts. Chaos broke out in the ring again as all eight men battled. ACH and SANADA then exchanged strikes and grapples, with SANADA repeatedly trying to lock in a skull end. Eventually SANADA locked in his dragon sleeper variant and got ACH to tap out for the victory…
Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL and BUSHI defeated KUSHIDA, ACH, Dragon Lee and Ryusuke Taguchi.
Anish’s Take: Really strong match, if not even for the wrestling, then for the character work that all of the men in the match engaged in. ACH especially received a warm reception for the crowd, and put on a good showing before eventually being defeated by LIJ.
After the match, LIJ celebrated, but were interrupted by another captioned promo from Chris Jericho, who taunted Naito calmly while stating that Naito was booted out of the main event of Wrestle Kingdom by two Gaijin in Jericho vs Omega. Jericho rationed that being in the ring with him makes Naito a bigger star. Jericho called Naito a moron and the Japanese crowd filthy animals, all to a strong reaction from the crowd. Jericho took a drink and saluted “Kanpai” to the crowd. Jericho then called Naito “F— Face” again and said that he will see Naito on June 9.
After the promo was done, Naito was laying in the ring with his mic, and taunted Jericho by saying that his promo was too long. He then said that Jericho should try making his promos shorter. He then acknowledged that Jericho is a worldwide superstar, but asked why he still uses a phone to shoot his own promos, likely a shot at both Jericho and WWE’s recent affinity for promos shot on an iPhone. Naito accused Jericho of having too much free time on his hands and said that for the fans of NJPW here and around the world, he will defeat Jericho at Dominion on June 9…
6. Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay vs. Chase Owens and Kota Ibushi. With Okada set to face Kenny Omega at Dominion for his IWGP Heavyweight title, Okada and his protégé Will Ospreay take on Omega’s partners Ibushi and Owens. Ospreay and Owens started the match off exchanging strikes and attempts of their finishing maneuvers. After Ospreay missed an Os Cutter and Owens missed a piledriver, both men tagged out, leaving Okada and Ibushi to bring the pace of the match down and exchange chin locks and dropkicks. Ibushi slowly and calculatedly tried to wear Okada down, tagging Owens in to allow himself a break before continuing to strike at Okada. However, the Rainmaker managed to catch Ibushi off guard and hit a flapjack on Owens.
Okada then managed to tag in Ospreay who hit a top rope 619 and a cross body to take control of Owens. Ospreay attempted a Stormbreaker, although Owens reversed it and hita Superkick and then a rope hung Death Valley driver, working Ospreay’s neck. Ospreay just barely managed to reverse a Superplex attempt into a Cheeky Nando’s kick, allowing him the space to tag in Okada. The IWGP Champ then hit Owens with a Neckbreaker before attempting a Rainmaker that was thwarted by Ibushi.
All four men then brawled in the ring, with Ospreay and Ibushi going at it with a flurry of uppercuts and forearms. They then exchanged kicks and flips before Ibushi sent Ospreay to the outside to hit a Moonsault. In the ring, Okada used a hip attack to take control of Owens, and then hit a quick Rainmaker to take Owens down and garner the victory, maintaining momentum right before his title defense against Kenny Omega.
Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi and Chase Owens.
After the match, Okada grabbed a mic and called out Kenny. He stated that because Omega isn’t here, he didn’t have to bring the IWGP belt, which is noticeably missing. He said that he is looking forward to fighting Kenny in a best of three falls match with no limits in Osaka on June 9…
Anish’s Take: Okada wasn’t the focus of this match, as Ospreay and Ibushi took center stage in crafting an entertaining story. However, this win enabled Okada to look strong and relentless right before facing Omega at Dominion. Chase Owens definitely put in some good work and he clearly has built up some chemistry with Ibushi after working with him so many times.
7. Hiromu Takahashi vs. “Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori in the Best of the Super Juniors 2018 Finale. The finale of the 25th Best of the Super Juniors tournament, LIJ’s Hiromu Takahashi took on Bullet Club’s new “Bone Soldier” Taji Ishimori. The two circled each other and didn’t rush anything when starting the match. They wrestled for control with a strong lockup, with Takahashi getting first blood with a dropkick, however Ishimori fought back with a head scissors, throwing Hiromu outside.
The two brawled in the crowd, far into the stands where Takahashi hit a large running dropkick. They rallied back and forth as Ishimori countered a powerbomb attempt with a huracanrana down the arena stairs. After just making it back to the ring, Ishimori used a Cravate lock, and a Snapmare to take control before whipping Takahashi to the floor. There he used a chair to weaken Takahashi before baiting him back in and using an interesting corner hung German Suplex to ground Hiromu. Ishimori locked in a chin lock multiple times to stop Takahashi from rallying any momentum.
Hiromu however fought back, and when Ishimori attempted a slingshot maneuver, he surprised the Bullet Club member with a Sunset Flip Powerbomb to the floor. This allowed Takahashi to get his groove back and he took advantage of the break in the action to lock Ishimori in a rope hung reverse hid scissors, followed by a Wheelbarrow slam to the floor and a sprinting running dropkick to the floor. Takahashi then rolled Ishimori back into the ring and set him up for an elbow drop while he was standing. Takahashi then lifted Ishimori up for a Time Bomb, however Ishimori rolled him up and locked in a Crossface, much to the agony of Hiromu and the crowd. Ishimori then stomped on Takahashi, but Takahashi didn’t give up and fought from his knees to a striking exchange with Ishimori. This was eventually for nought as Ishimori threw Takahashi to the ropes and caught him in a Tilt-a-Whirl Crossface.
Takahashi struggled for a while, and just when Ishimori attempted to transition to a body stretch, Takahashi made it to the ropes. After both men lay prone for a moment, they rushed each other attempting clotheslines, eventually resulting in Takahashi Suplexing Ishimori into the turnbuckle. He followed up with a devastating Lariat and a Death Valley driver, that resulted in a two count. Takahashi then slung Ishimori to the top rope and hit an avalanche small package. When this didn’t create a finish, Takahashi lifted Ishimori to his feet and they traded kicks and Poisoned Frankensteiners, leaving each other in crumpled heaps on the mat. The two men then sluggishly battered each other with forearms on their knees, slowly building up the pace. Eventually Ishimori landed a jumping knee and lariat combo which looked to be a false finish, however Takahashi kicked out at one, to the delight of the crowd.
Ishimori then threw Takahashi to the corner and hit a running knee strike followed by a Dodon Lungblower, only to get a two count. Ishimori then attempted a powerbomb, although Hiromu managed to catch him in a Triangle lock. The two rolled around, rallying for position, but Ishimori managed to make the ropes. From here, Ishimori was weakened to the point that Takahashi was able to play him into his hands. Ishimori attempted to lift Takahashi, but he was caught in a Death Valley Driver into the corner, followed by a Time Bomb that ultimately resulted in Hiromu Takahashi being crowned the 25th winner of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, to rapturous applause from the crowd.
Hiromu Takahashi defeated Bone Soldier (Taiji Ishimori).
After the match, Takahashi celebrated in typical LIJ style by lying on the floor and cutting a casual promo. Takahashi said repeatedly that he doesn’t “like it.” He explained that he doesn’t like being called “Best of the Super Juniors.” He then popped up and shouts the name of Will Ospreay. Takahashi then declared himself as the next challenger for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Ospreay then came out and congratulated Takahashi sarcastically. Then Ospreay declared that the BOSJ title doesn’t mean anything to him, he says that the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title proves that he’s the best and that at Dominion he will continue to prove that he is better than Takahashi.
Ospreay then left and Takahashi picked up the mic one more time and said “Thank you, meow!” as a reference to his former stuffed cat Daryl. He then asked everyone if they saw that, including the audience, everyone watching, and Liger who was sitting at ringside, and said that this was all for the Super Juniors. He says that he remembered what happened here five years ago (Takahashi lost all his matches in the BOSJ tournament) and that regardless, his goal is the same; to take the IWGP belt for himself. He ends with saying that nothing has changed and that more than ever he wants more, more, more for everybody to have some fun. The show ended with all the members of LIJ celebrating Takahashi’s victory in the ring with him.
Anish’s Take: This was an exciting and thrilling match with a clear cut story and more importantly, the culmination of two character arcs throughout this tournament. Ishimori’s introduction as Bone Soldier was met with much hype and he maintained his strong standing by having such a great match in the finals of this tournament. Takahashi continued to prove that he is one of the mainstays in the Japanese Junior Heavyweight scene, and that he can still deliver tons of awesome matches in his career to come.
Overall, a solid show, while the card wasn’t the most stacked, it did feature a lot of marquee names, and more than anything the matches that did pad the card were short and sweet, not overstaying their welcome. Before the main event, it’s worth checking out Chris Jericho’s promo and Naito’s response. The two create a unique dynamic that should make for an interesting match, and as always Chris Jericho proves why he is one of the greatest of all time with a unique promo catered to garnering attention from a Japanese audience. Even Naito cuts a solid promo, and while it was in Japanese, he does really well to ensure that you can tell what he’s saying just from body language alone.
While the rest of the show was essentially just build for Dominion, the main event itself was a very fast paced, hard hitting spectacle that any wrestling fan can enjoy. Takhashi and Bone Soldier both have a useful characteristic of being able to tell built in stories just based off their own personal motivations. You don’t need to have watched the entire BOSJ tournament to understand what both men are trying to achieve, and in the space of the match itself, they told a great story with some exciting spots that the crowd loved. If you have time, definitely check it out, as the junior heavyweight division once again proves to have some of the best action in all of NJPW.
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