By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of Super Juniors Night One”
May 15, 2022 in Nagoya, Japan at Nagoya Congress Center Event Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
This year’s field features two blocks, each with 10 wrestlers. This is a round-robin tournament, so everyone will have nine singles matches in this two-week event. (Some nights, there will be 10 tournament matches, and other nights, there will be five tournament matches and a handful of non-tournament matches.) The winner of each block will then meet in the finals on June 3.
Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provide commentary. They sound muffled; I assume they are wearing masks at ringside. Early on, Kelly said “every seat is full” in the building.
1. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Robbie Eagles, Tiger Mask, and Master Wato defeated Wheeler Yuta, Ryohei Oiwa, Kosei Fujita, and Yuto Nakashima at 10:16. This is Tenzan’s first match in perhaps months. He was a forfeit in the New Japan Cup. Yuta and Eagles opened, and Kelly praised how Wheeler has found “that spark” since teaming with the Blackpool Combat Club. Tiger Mask tagged in and Charlton said Tiger Mask is a “little salty” about not being in this year’s field because the borders havve opened back up. Nakashima and Tenzan traded some big-man offense.
Wheeler made the hot tag at 5:30 and traded offense with Eagles again. Wheeler hit a German suplex for a nearfall. The Young Lions beat up on Wato, with Fujita applying a Boston Crab at 8:30, but Tiger Mask made the save. Wheeler hit a dive to the floor on Eagles. Wato hit a springboard flying elbow on Fujita, then a flipping slam to pin Fujita. Good match. Eagles and Wheeler jawed after the match; those two had great exchanges.
2. Shingo Takagi and Bushi defeated Dick Togo and El Phantasmo at 9:14. Bushi and ELP opened, with ELP showboating and posing. Togo tripped Bushi and dragged him to the floor at 3:00. The heels began to work over Bushi, with ELP doing his signature back scratch antics. Shingo entered at 6:30 and beat up the heels. Bushi nailed a dive to the floor on Phantasmo, leaving Shingo and Togo alone in the ring. Shingo nailed the Pumping Bomber clothesline to score the pin. Basic match.
3. El Lindaman, Titan, and Jado defeated Douki, Taka Michinoku, and Desperado at 9:19. Titan and Desperado opened and traded loud chops. Taka slowed down Jado on the mat. Lindaman entered at 4:00 and attacked Douki. Douki hit a thrust jab to the throat, and he applied a Triangle Choke on Lindaman. Titan and Desperado reentered, with Titan hitting a springboard crossbody at 6:30. Desperado nailed a spinebuster on Titan.
The heels beat up on Titan. Kelly said the Suzuki-Gun heels were “a little bit off,” hinting at trouble in their faction. Titan hit a Michinoku Driver on Taka! Lindaman nailed an impressive flip dive to the floor. Meanwhile, in the ring, Titan hit a move the cameras didn’t catch to pin Taka. The commentators continued to talk about the dysfunction in the Suzuki-Gun faction.
4. Ace Austin (2) defeated Clark Connors (0) in a BOSJ match at 9:56. Kelly noted this is Austin’s first Japanese tour. Connors hit a snap suplex early and he grounded Ace. Ace hit a basement dropkick and a top-rope crossbody block for a nearfall at 4:00. Ace used a card to give Clark a paper cut. Clark nailed the Monty Brown Pounce at 6:30, then a top-rope elbow drop that is almost like a Coffin Drop.
Ace hit his punk kick while he was on the ring apron, then he nailed his Fosbury Flop dive to the floor at 8:00 and got a nearfall. Connors nailed a spear for a nearfall. Ace hit a couple spin kicks, then The Fold/flip for a pin. Good match to kick off the tournament.
5. Alex Zayne (2) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0) in a BOSJ match at 11:39. Kanemaru is 10-7 in this town in singles matches, Charlton said. Kanemaru went after the left knee immediately, and they are working at a slower pace than the prior match. Kanemaru applied a half crab. Charlton talked about Zayne’s stint in WWE (as Ari Sterling) and his good post-WWE run in New Japan Strong. Zayne hit an Asai Moonsault to the floor at 6:00.
In the ring, Zayne hit a flipping axe kick to the back of the head for a nearfall. Zayne went for a 450 Splash, but landed on his feet and he immediately sold the pain in his left knee. Kanemaru hit a dropkick on the knee and applied a Figure Four leg lock, but Zayne reached the ropes at 8:00. Kanemaru missed a moonsault. Zayne hit a clothesline and they were both down, with Zayne selling the knee injury.
Kanemaru hit an enziguri and a jackknife cover for a nearfall at 10:00. Zayne hit his flip-into-corner huracanrana for a nearfall. Zayne hit the Baja Blast flipping faceplant, then a top-rope corkscrew press for the pin. Really good match, and I’m glad to see the debuting U.S. talents (Ace, Zayne) getting off to quick starts in the tournament.
6. Francesco Akira (2) defeated Sho (0) in a BOSJ match at 12:02. TJP joined Akira at ringside. Sho attacked Akira to kickstart the match. Kelly said Akira is just 22 years old. Sho snapped Akira’s left arm over the top rope at 2:30, and Akira sold the injury. Sho got a chair but the ref and TJP stopped him from using it. They brawled on the floor, and Sho hit a chairshot to the back at 4:00. Akira got back in the ring just before the 20-count but he’s selling the arm injury.
Sho zeroed in on the arm, applying a key lock. Akira hit a cool faceplant move at 6:30. Akira hit a dropkick that sent Sho to the floor. Akira hit an Asai Moonsault. In the ring, Akira hit a swinging faceplant for a nearfall. Akira trapped Sho’s head under the turnbuckle then hit a kick to the face. Sho hit a spear, and he applied a Divorce Court armbreaker, but Akira reached the ropes at 10:00. The ref got bumped. Sho hit a German Suplex, and they were all down.
Sho went for his weapons bag in the corner, but TJP took it and walked away. Akira hit a German Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall. Akira hit a faceplant, then a flying double knees shot to the back of the head for the clean pin. “Don’t call it an upset, folks!” Kelly said. Really, really good match. Another win for another newcomer. I like it. Charlton praised Francesco for being so impressive in his debut BOSJ match.
7. Hiromu Takahashi (2) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (0) in a BOSJ match at 10:31. The announce team talked about Taguchi having a lot of “butt stuff” childish humor in his recent matches. Taguchi flopped onto the mat at the bell; is he allowing Hiromu to cover him? When Hiromu went for a one-footed cover, Taguchi tried to apply an ankelock. Taguchi hid under the ring and I’m rolling my eyes at this ‘humor.’ They went to the floor, and chased each other around the ring, then scrambled to make it back into the ring before the 20-count.
Taguchi applied an ankle lock in the ring at 5:30. They traded rollups. Taguchi pulled down his green tights to reveal his red underwear. (why?) Taguchi hit a faceplant. Hiromu hit a crossbody block for a nearfall at 9:30. Taguchi hit his flying butt attack in the middle of the ring. Hiromu got a rollup for the pin. Blah. Easily the worst match of the first night of the tournament, and I don’t recall ever writing Hiromu being in the worst match before. Taguchi is just too cartoonish for my tastes, and his silly antics are only getting worse.
8. Taiji Ishimori (2) defeated Yoh (0) in a BOSJ match at 16:18. As the current juniors champion, Ishimori gets to headline the show. Charlton talked about Yoh having a losing streak early in last year’s tournament before going on a winning streak to win the tournament. Ishimori worked over the left arm and wrapped it around the ring post, and he slammed a chair onto Yoh’s arm. In the ring, Ishimori applied a sleeper hold, and he was in total control of the match.
Yoh hit a dropkick but sold the arm injury at 6:00. They fought to the floor. Yoh hit a missile dropkick in the ring for a nearfall. Yoh hit a dragon screw leg whip at 10:00. Yoh nailed a Falcon Arrow slam for a nearfall, and he went back to work on the legs. They got up and traded stiff forearms at 13:00. Yoh nailed a neckbreaker over his knee and he was fired up. Ishimori applied a crossface, and Yoh tapped out. A bit more methodical than I’d prefer, but a solid match.
Ishimori got on the mic, and he said there is tough talent in both of the blocks this year. He said it feels good to be in this venue as the champion, and he vowed to win the tournament as the champion. (Thanks again for Charlton providing incredible, instant translation.)
Final Thoughts: A good show to kick off this tournament, and it really feels like this A Block is stacked. I will give Akira-Sho the slight nod for best match, just ahead of Zayne-Kanemaru. Outside of the Taguchi match, all other tournament matches were enjoyable.
The show clocked in at about 2 hours, 40 minutes. When we move to 10 matches a night, these will become long shows. The tournament continues on Tuesday.