5/16 NJPW “Best of the Super Juniors tournament” results: Vetter’s review of Lio Rush vs. Taiji Ishimori, Hiromu Takahashi vs. Sho, Kushida vs. Mike Bailey, Douki vs. TJP, and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Titan in A Block matches, Master Wato vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado vs. Kevin Knight, Francesco Akira vs. Dan Moloney, Bushi vs. Robbie Eagles, and Clark Connors vs. Yoh in B Block matches

By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors tournament”
May 16, 2023 in Akita, Japan at Akita Prefectural Budokan
Streamed on New Japan World

Kevin Kelly provided solo commentary to begin; Robbie Eagles joined in later. The lights are low; there is a second deck but it appears all fans are seated on the floor. We’re between 700 and 1,000 in attendance.

BoSJ is a 20-man tournament, with 10 wrestlers in each Block in a round-robin tournament, spread out over 12 shows in an 18-day span. So, each wrestler will have nine matches within their block. From there, we have a “final four” this year. The A Block winner will face the second-place finisher of the B Block, and the B Block winner will finish the second-place finisher of the A Block. Those winners head to the finals. Each win is worth two points. A draw is worth one each. To the show!

1. Yoh (4) defeated Clark Connors (4) in a B Block match at 6:43. Yoh avoided a charging Connors, and he removed a corner ring pad. (Does he think he’s Toru Yano?) Connors took it and beat Yoh with it. They brawled to the floor and Connors whipped Yoh head-first into a ring post at 2:00. In the ring, Connors was in control and grounded Yoh. Yoh hit a summersault off the ring apron onto Connors on the floor at 4:00. In the ring, Connors nailed a spear to cut Yoh in half. He missed a second one, and Yoh immediately hit a superkick and got an O’Connor Roll for the pin!

* Connors was livid and beat Yoh up with the corner pad, then he hit his spike DDT. He got a chair and slammed it over Yoh’s head!

2. Titan (6) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (0) in an A Block match at 9:22. PredictionTaguchi is going to keep ‘playing it straight’ and he will keep losing. By the end of the tournament, he’ll go back to his juvenile shenanigans and pull off a big upset or two of one of the Block leaders. They ran the ropes to open until Taguchi collapsed in exhaustion. Taguchi hit a plancha to the floor at 2:00, then he hit a springboard buttbump into the ring for a nearfall, and he began twisting the left leg. Titan nailed a springboard crossbody block at 4:30, then he dove through the ropes onto Taguchi, and they were both down.

In the ring, they traded leg holds. Taguchi hit an enzuigiri. Titan nailed a superkick. Taguchi hit a dropkick and they were both down at 6:30. Taguchi went to an anklelock. Titan hit a series of kicks. Titan went for a top-rope doublestomp but he hurt his ankle upon landing! Taguchi hit a running buttbump. Titan nailed a tornado DDT for a nearfall at 9:00 and he was fired up. Titan applied a Muta Lock and Taguchi immediately tapped out. Titan continued to sell the pain in his ankle after the match. Solid match.

3. Robbie Eagles (6) defeated Bushi (0) in a B Block match at 9:09. Quick reversals to open and Eagles dove between the ropes inside the first minute. In the ring, Bushi took control and tied up the left leg. Eagles hit a back suplex at 3:00, then some stiff Yes Kicks to the chest. Eagles nailed a running double knees in the corner for a nearfall. Bushi hit a dropkick at 5:30 and they were both down, and the crowd came alive.

Eagles applied the Ron Miller Special leglock on the mat. Bushi hit a rewind kick to the jaw and a swinging neckbreaker for a nearfall. Bushi slammed Eagles with a DDT move in the ropes, but Bushi sold a knee injury. Eagles hit a series of kicks and scored the pin out of nowhere. I didn’t see that last kick as a finisher, so I’m a bit surprised that won the match. Also surprised that Bushi is 0-4 and essentially eliminated.

4. TJP (4) defeated Douki (2) in an A Block match at 8:29. TJP hit a baseball slide dropkick as Douki stood on the floor! Douki rolled in the ring and TJP hit the Mamba Splash for a believable nearfall! Kelly said we nearly saw a pin in three or four seconds. TJP went for another Mamba Splash, but Douki caught him and applied the ‘Douki Chokey’ modified triangle choke. Doukey dove through the ropes onto TJP, and they brawled up the ramp at 1:30. TJP nailed a snap suplex on the ramp!

TJP charged at Douki, but Douki caught him and hit a Northern Lights suplex onto the ramp; Kelly wondered why the ref wasn’t counting. (We clearly are well past a 20-count on the floor!) They got back in the ring at 4:00, and Douki nailed a top-rope doublestomp for a believable nearfall. Douki nailed the Daybreak slingshot DDT for a nearfall, and he was fired up. TJP hit a modified Crucifix Takedown, and they were both down at 5:30.

TJP hit his Facewash kicks in the corner and a superkick, and a Helluva Kick. TJP went for the Mamba Splash, but Douki got his knees up, and he again applied the Douki Chokey. TJP nailed a spin kick to the face. TJP hit a running basement dropkick for a nearfall, then the Mamba Splash frogsplash for the clean pin. Good match. I loved the tease of a quick finish.

* Robbie Eagles joined Kevin Kelly on commentary.

5. Francesco Akira (6) defeated Dan Moloney (4) in a B Block match at 8:27. I believe this is the only matchup in the whole tournament between members of the same faction, as Moloney recently joined the United Empire. (TJP is representing UE in the A Block.) An intense lockup to begin; they traded shoulder tackles and this has started as a friendly battle. Kelly pointed out that Moloney beat Akira in England in March to earn his spot in the United Empire. Moloney hit a dropkick and a suplex for a nearfall at 2:30.

Akira hit a running head-scissors takedown and a plancha to the floor at 5:00. In the ring, Akira hit a top-rope crossbody block for a nearfall. In the ring, Akira hit a nice Poison Rana. However, Moloney nailed a spear for a nearfall at 6:30. Moloney nailed a fisherman’s buster for a believable nearfall; the referee checked on Akira, who was acting loopy and struggled to stand after that move. However, Akira hit a running kick to the face, then the running double knees to the back of the head for the pin. “I didn’t see that coming at all,” Eagles observed. Good match.

6. Kushida (2) defeated Mike Bailey (6) in an A Block match at 9:28. Kushida is on the verge of elimination here, and he wore new trunks, which Kelly pointed out. They traded kicks early on with some fast-paced reversals. They applied simultaneous leglocks on the mat; they rolled to the floor while still tied up at 2:00. They traded blows on the floor, but Bailey accidentally kicked the ring post! They got back in the ring and Kushida targeted kicks at the damaged left leg, then a diving chop block on it. They traded kicks. Bailey hit his Speedball kicks to the ribs at 4:30.

Bailey went for his running Shooting Star Press, but Kushida caught him and applied a Hoverboard Lock. Bailey nailed a kick; Kushida barely got to his feet before a 10-count. Bailey nailed the moonsault kneedrop to the chest and he immediately applied a cross-armbreaker, but Kushida reached the ropes at 7:00. Kushida tied Bailey in a mid-ring Octopus hold. Bailey hit more stiff kicks, then the Tornado Kick in the corner. However, Bailey missed the Ultima Weapon. Kushida hit a small package driver for a believable nearfall at 9:00. Kushida applied a heel hook on the mat, and Bailey tapped out. Really good match, but it feels like they just scratched the surface of what they can do.

* Kushida walked over to Kevin Kelly and asked Kevin to give him Scott D’Amore’s phone number. Intriguing…

7. El Desperado (6) defeated Kevin Knight (2) in a B Block match at 8:41. Fast reversals with Knight getting to show off his incredible jumping ability. Knight hit a plancha, and they fought on the floor. In the ring, Desperado hit a shoulder tackle at 3:00, and he began working over the left leg. Knight hit some punches to the gut and a Stinger Splash, then a jumping dropkick as Desperado was seated on the top turnbuckle. Knight then hit a nice flip dive to the floor on Desperado at 5:00.

Desperado hit a springboard crossbody block for a nearfall; it was an awkward-looking move, and Kelly wondered if Knight had hurt his shoulder on the landing. Knight nailed the D’Lo Sky High powerbomb for a a nearfall, and he was fired up. Desperado locked in the Stretch Muffler leglock, but Knight reached the ropes at 6:30. Desperado got a spinning Blue Thunder Bomb and they were both down. Knight got a series of rollups for nearfalls. Desperado got the Angels Wings faceplant for the pin. That was entertaining.

* At the conclusion of Sunday’s show, we saw Sho attacking Hiromu backstage, so we’ll see how beat up Hiromu is here. EVIL walked to ringside and got booed. Sho then walked to ringside separately and he read a note, which the commentary team believes is a made-up letter from Hiromu saying he is forfeiting. Eagles noted he hadn’t seen Hiromu all day and wondered if he was okay.

8. Hiromu Takahashi (4) defeated Sho (w/EVIL) (2) in an A Block match at 8:18. Sho wanted the referee to start counting. However, Takahashi ran to the ring, covered in tape, and he hit a shotgun dropkick on Sho. They got in the ring and the bell sounded to officially begin, with Hiromu breaking free of most of the tape. EVIL tried to sneak up on Hiromu with a chair, but Hiromu avoided it. The ref got bumped; Sho and EVIL began beating up Hiromu. Sho hit several chairshots across the back, then a series of standing powerbombs for a nearfall at 2:30.

Sho applied a Boston Crab; Eagles pointed out that Hiromu still has tape around his mouth. Hiromu nailed a Falcon Arrow, and they were both down at 5:00. Hiromu tried to hit a Sunset Flip Bomb to the floor, but EVIL jabbed HIromu in the exposed ribs with the chair. In the ring, Sho hit a cross-arm piledriver for a believable nearfall. Sho applied a modified Triangle Choke. With EVIL distrating the ref, Sho got his wrench but Hiromu took it from him. Hiromu did the ‘Eddie Spot’ pretending he got hit! Hiromu hit the Everything is Evil uranage, then the Time Bomb II slam, then the Time Bomb, for the pin. Fun match.

9. Master Wato (4) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4) in a B Block match at 9:34. Wato hit a head-scissors takedown, and Kanemaru stalled on the floor. Kanemaru slammed the left knee and began working him over. Wato rolled to the floor and clutched at his left ankle. In the ring, Kanemaru kept Wato grounded as he worked the leg. Wato hit a sling blade slam and they were both down at 6:00. Wato leapt off the top rope, and he sold pain in his leg upon landing. Kanemaru applied a Figure Four leglock.

Kanemaru missed a moonsault, and Wato immediately hit a springboard flying forearm, and they were both down at 8:30. Wato hooked both arms and got a mousetrap rollup for a believable nearfall. Wato hit a spin kick to the head and he was fired up. He hit a German Suplex with a bridge for the pin. A bit dull.

10. Lio Rush (8) defeated Taiji Ishimori (6) in an A Block match at 16:39. The winner of this will be 4-0 and in the pole position for the rest of the tournament, especially with Bailey having lost earlier in this show. An intense lockup to begin, and they traded chops at 2:00. Lio hit an enzuigiri. They fought to the floor, where Ishimori slammed Lio’s left shoulder onto the ring post. In the ring, Ishimori was in control. Ishimori hit his sliding German Suplex in the ropes and got a nearfall at 5:30. Lio dove through the ropes and barreled onto Taiji, and they were both down on the floor.

In the ring, Lio got a Falcon Arrow for a believable nearfall at 8:00. He went for Rush Hour but Ishimori blocked it, and Ishimori hit a handspring-back-enzuigiri. Ishimori slammed Lio’s shoulder into a corner, then he hit a shoulder breaker over his knee. Ishimori snapped in the Bone Lock/modified STF. They hit simultaneous clotheslines and were both down at 11:00. They traded forearm shots while on their knees. Lio caught Ishimori with a spin kick to the head and a hard clothesline, then an F5 Slam at 13:00. Lio went for the Final Hour frogsplash, but Ishimori got his knees up to block it.

Ishimori hit a Lungblower to the chest for a believable nearfall. Lio hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a nearfall at 14:30. Ishimori hit a sideslam for a nearfall, and he was frustrated that didn’t get the win. Lio got some sort of flipping piledriver move. He hit the Rush Hour stunner out of the ropes, then the Final Hour frogsplash for the pin!

* Lio got on the mic and pointed out little kids in the crowd, saying “this is what it’s all about.” He said his babies are at home right now, watching him be undefeated. (I hope not! This match probably aired at 5 a.m. or so in the U.S.!) He walked over and picked up a newborn in the front row. “He is almost literally kissing babies,” Eagles said.

Final Thoughts: Predictably, the main event — the battle of the last undefeated wrestlers — earned top match. Lio looked great here. I still see this block coming down to Lio and Bailey. But, Titan and Ishimori are also 3-1, and you can’t count out 2-2 Hiromu.

Second place goes to Bailey/Kushida. Sure, I wish they had gone 15-20 minutes, but they put in a good match for the time given. Desperado/Knight gets a distant third place, with TJP/Douki for honorable mention. In the B Block, pre-tournament favorite Desperado moved to 3-1, along with Akira and Eagles.

This is a fast-and-furious tournament and will be back in action Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the next off-day on Saturday.


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