5/19 NJPW “Best of the Super Juniors tournament” results: Vetter’s review of Hiromu Takahashi vs. TJP, Taiji Ishimori vs. Mike Bailey, Kushida vs. Lio Rush, Titan vs. Sho, and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Douki in A Block matches, El Desperado vs. Dan Moloney, Yoh vs. Bushi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Francesco Akira, Kevin Knight vs. Robbie Eagles, Master Wato vs. Clark Connors in B Block matches

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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors tournament”
May 19, 2023 in Aomori, Japan at Maeda Arena
Streamed on New Japan World

Kevin Kelly provided solo commentary as the show began, and he talked about how “we are in the closing stretch.” This venue is a small room with a really high ceiling; it might be the smallest room I’ve seen NJPW use, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is considered a sellout. The crowd is maybe 800.

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. Master Wato (10) defeated Clark Connors (6) in a B Block match at 6:09. Basic offense early on. Wato hit some spin kicks at 2:30, then a headscissors takedown, then a springboard back elbow to the chin for a nearfall. Wato went for a plancha, but Connors caught him and whipped him into the ring post at 4:30. In the ring, Connors hit a spear, and he set up for the “No Chaser” spike DDT, but Gedo ordered him to punish Wato more. Connors hit a second spear, but Wato avoided a third spear. Wato then hit a high German Suplex with a bridge for the pin out of nowhere. Ok match. At 5-2, Wato is really in the running for one of the playoff spots.

2. Douki (6) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (0) in an A Block  match at 7:44. I will again predict that Taguchi scores a big upset this week by resorting to his “butt stuff” and juvenile trickery. Quick lucha-style reversals to open and Taguchi hit a dropkick. Douki hit a DDT on the floor at 1:00. Kelly agreed with me, saying it looked like action from Arena Mexico. Taguchi hit a plancha to the floor. In the ring, Taguchi hit a springboard buttbump, and he went to an anklelock, but Douki quickly reached the ropes at 4:00.

Douki applied the Douki Chokey modified Triangle Choke; Kelly noted that Lio Rush has already lost to the move. Taguchi again applied an anklelock. Douki again went to the Douki Chokey; Taguchi got close to the ropes, but Douki rolled back to the center of the ring. Taguchi escaped and again applied an anklelock! Douki hit a Gory Bomb, then a Dragon Suplex with a bridge for the pin. That was good. I’m actually enjoying Taguchi ‘playing it straight’ without his cartoonish antics, even though he keeps coming up short.

3. Robbie Eagles (10) defeated Kevin Knight (6) in a B Block match at 8:45. This is a first-time meeting and they had an intense lockup to begin and traded rollups. Knight hit his plancha to the floor at 2:30. (If I haven’t written it, he gets a lot of air on it.) In the ring, Eagles hit a dropkick on the knee. Eagles hit some Yes Kicks. Knight fired back with his stellar dropkick, and they were both down at 5:30. Knight hit a diving clothesline and a leaping splash for a nearfall. He went for his DDT (it has won a few matches here) but Eagles blocked it.

Eagles went for the Ron Miller Special but Knight avoided that. Knight hit a superkick. Eagles hit another dropkick to the knee at 7:30. Knight went for his jump-up Frankensteiner, but as Eagles hit the mat, he applied the Ron Miller Special leglock! He pulled Knight to the center of the ring, and Knight tapped out. That was really good. For those who have watched the entire tournament.. these two saw the big moves and finishers being tried by both men, and them being blocked. Eagles indicated to Knight he wants a shot at the Junior Tag Team titles.

4. Sho (w/EVIL) (6) defeated Titan (8) in an A Block match at 8:16. Sho attacked on the floor before they got in the ring. EVIL sat in a chair at ringside, seemingly washing his hands of Sho. In the ring, Titan hit a dropkick. They went back to the floor, where Sho powerbombed him onto the ring apron. In the ring, Sho began removing Titan’s mask at 2:00, earning some vocal boos; he shoved the ref away. Sho tossed Titan to the floor but EVIL sat back. “He can’t even interfere right!” Kelly said. Funny.

Titan hit a springboard moonsault to the floor. Pretty move. In the move, Sho got his wrench, but he missed Titan, and Titan hit a superkick for a nearfall at 6:00. Titan applied a Muta Lock! EVIL suddenly jumped on the ring apron; the referee missed seeing Sho tap out as he dealt with EVIL. Titan hit a Pele Kick on EVIL, then a series of kicks on Sho.

Titan missed a top-rope doublestomp, but he hit a tornado DDT for a nearfall at 7:30. EVIL hit Titan in the head with a chair, allowing Sho to get a rollup for a believable nearfall. Sho immediately hit the cross-arm piledriver for the tainted pin. Sho removed Titan’s mask after the match; Sho and EVIL hugged and they put the boots to Titan and Ryohei Oiwa, who got in the ring to try to help.

* Robbie Eagles once again joined Kelly on commentary.

5. Francesco Akira (w/Great-O-Khan) (8) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4) in a B Block match at 4:15. This is the first time we’ve seen O-Khan this tournament; Kelly said it was a good decision to have him here because of Kanemaru’s cheating. Kanemaru attacked before the bell and took charge early on. He applied a leglock in the center of the ring but Akira reached the ropes at 2:00. Akira nailed a superkick, and he got a rollup out of nowhere for the pin! O-Khan wasn’t needed and never got involved. Kanemaru started 2-0 but has dropped five straight, including two quick ones.

6. Lio Rush (10) defeated Kushida (2) in an A Block match at 8:38. Kushida may only be 1-5 but he’s dangerous, and Lio started 4-0 but has dropped two straight and can’t afford a lose here, either. They avoided each other’s big moves early on. Lio hit a huracanrana and an enzuigiri at 2:00. Kushida applied a cross-armbreaker in the ropes, then a kneedrop on the left elbow off the ring apron to the floor. Eagles wondered if the 40-year-old Kushida is past his prime in singles matches. Kushida hit a basement dropkick at 5:00. Lio nailed a dive through the ropes to the floor, but Kushida applied an armbar on the floor, and they were both down.

In the ring, Kushida hit a Pele Kick. They traded hard punches and were both down at 7:00. Kushida went back to the cross-armbreaker. Lio hit a top-rope crossbody block; this move was awkward. Lio immediately hit the Final Hour frogsplash for the pin. This was really good until we suddenly went to the underwhelming finish. Kushida clutched his ribs as he rolled to the floor.

7. Yoh (10) defeated Bushi (2) in a B Block match at 8:10. Yoh was in control early. Bushi applied a leglock around the head; Yoh reached the ropes at 2:30. Yoh hit a summersault splash off the ring apron to the floor on Bushi. In the ring, Yoh hit a dropkick and a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 5:00. Bushi hit a dropkick and they were both down. Bushi began targeting the left knee and an enzuigiri, then a swinging neckbreaker for a believable nearfall. Bushi went for his second-rope lungblower but Yoh avoided it.

Yoh hit another superkick, and they were both down at 7:30. Yoh hit a second-rope lungblower! (Bushi’s move!) He nailed the Direct Drive double-arm DDT for the pin. That came out of nowhere. Kelly said “it’s getting crowded at the dinner table and only two of you can eat,” to Eagles, as several guys are now tied at 10 points atop the B Block.

8. Taiji Ishimori (10) defeated Mike Bailey (10) in an A Block match at 10:27. Ishimori caught him with a running knee and went for a Bone Lock just seconds in the ring, but Bailey avoided it. Bailey hit a dropkick, then his Speedball kicks to the ribs. They went to the floor, where Bailey hit more Speedball kicks. Ishimori shoved Bailey shoulder-first into the ring post, then he whipped Bailey into rows of empty chairs. In the ring, Ishimori tied up the left leg, but Bailey reached the ropes at 3:30. Bailey went for a handspring-back-move but Ishimori kicked at the damaged left arm as Bailey was upside down.

Bailey hit a hard kick to the chest and the crowd came alive. Bailey hit a series of kicks and a running Shooting Star Press, but he clutched at his sore elbow. Ishimori shoved Bailey’s shoulder into the corner post, then he hit a shoulderbreaker over his knee at 6:00. They traded hard forearm shots. Bailey missed the Ultima Weapon, but he hit more Speedball kicks. In a cool spot, Bailey hit a double-jump springboard corkscrew moonsault to the floor at 8:30! In the ring, Bailey hit a missile dropkick, he set up for the Flamingo Driver, but Ishimori blocked it. However, Bailey hit a moonsault kneedrop!

Bailey went for the Ultima Weapon, but Ishimori moved. Ishimori applied the Bone Lock, but Bailey escaped. Bailey missed the tornado kick, and Ishimori hit the Bloody Sunday sideslam for a believable nearfall. Ishimori went back to the Bone Lock, and Bailey tapped out. That was tremendous. “The biggest win of the tournament for Taiji Ishimori,” Kelly said.

9. El Desperado (10) defeated Dan Moloney (4) in a B Block match at 9:33. Moloney hit a shoulder tackle seconds in, then a back suplex for a nearfall. Kelly again talked about how Moloney has dropped weight to qualify and he’s the biggest guy in the tournament. They traded hard chops on the floor; these were deafening. They got back in the ring at 2:30 with Moloney in charge. They hit more HARD chops. “How do they get louder?” Eagles wondered. Funny. Desperado hit a suplex to end the stiff exchange. Desperado hit a back suplex at 4:30, and he began targeting the left knee, applying a Stretch Muffler.

Moloney hit a dropkick and they were both down. Desperado hooked both arms and got a rollup for a nearfall at 7:00. Moloney hit an enzuigiri. Desperado hit a spinebuster. Moloney hit a doublestomp to the chest, and they were both down. Moloney hit a Gore for a nearfall at 8:30; Eagles thought it was a pin. Desperado went back to the stretch muffler, and Moloney tapped out. All four on the leaderboard in the B Block won tonight. “I don’t want anymore chairs at the table!” Eagles shouted. Funny.

10. Hiromu Takahashi (10) defeated TJP (8) in an A Block match at 20:44. An intense lockup to begin and some methodical reversals early on. Hiromu laid on the mat and taunted TJP to come get him. TJP applied an Octopus in the ropes at 5:00. Eagles said at the pace they are going, they could go to a 30-minute draw. TJP snapped the arm backward, and Hiromu sold the pain in his left shoulder. TJP hit three consecutive snap suplexes for a nearfall at 7:00. Hiromu hit a head-scissors takedown.

Hiromu hit a basement dropkick, but TJP rolled to the floor. Hiromu hit his shotgun dropkick off the ring apron to the floor. In the ring, Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 9:00. TJP fired back with a superkick, then a spin kick to the jaw. TJP hit his running Facewash in the corner, but he missed a Mamba Splash. Hiromu immediately hit a Death Valley Driver into the corner, and they were both down at 12:00. Hiromu hit a shotgun dropkick; TJP hit a shotgun dropkick in return.

Hiromu applied his modified Triangle Choke but TJP reached the ropes. Hiromu hit a clothesline and they were both down again at 14:30. TJP nailed a Mamba Splash to the back as Hiromu was draped over the top rope. TJP nailed a running double knees to the back of the head for a believable nearfall at 16:30 and he was fired up. TJP missed a top-rope Mamba Splash, and Hiromu caught him and applied a triangle choke. TJP reversed it and applied the modified STF; Hiromu finally reached the ropes at 18:00.

TJP hit a DDT. Hiromu hit the Dynamite Plunger sideslam for a believable nearfall, and he was fired up. “An absolute great one tonight!” Kelly said. Hiromu hit a sit-out powerbomb and a clothesline, then the Time Bomb for the pin. That is definitely in the top six or seven matches of the whole tournament.

* Hiromu got on the mic and spoke to conclude the show.

Final Thoughts: Hiromu-TJP easily had besst match of the night. I’ll go with Bailey-Ishimori for a strong second-place showing, and Rush-Kushida for third. However, Eagles-Knight was sneaky good for honorable mention.

A Block roundup: After starting 0-2, Hiromu Takahashi has won five straight and is tied on top at 10 points. Mike Bailey, Lio Rush and Taiji Ishimori also are all at 10 points. While TJP and Titan are right behind at 4-3 (8 points), it is hard to imagine they leapfrog into the two playoff spots.

B Block roundup: Robbie Eagles, Master Wato, Yoh, and El Desperado all won their matches here, all improving to 5-2 (10 points). While I still consider Desperado the likely winner and Eagles the likely other wrestler making the playoffs, anything could happen now. Akira is close behind at 8 points but I can’t fathom him leapfrogging three guys to reach the top two.

I am mystified with what they are doing with Kushida at 1-6. Kushida and Knight finished the junior tag tournament in December in last place at 2-7, did nothing all spring, but somehow received a title shot and knocked off TJP and Francesco Akira to win the titles. It just is a bad look for the tag champ to lose over and over again.

The tournament has just its second off-day on Saturday but will be back in action on Sunday.


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