5/23 NJPW “Best of the Super Juniors tournament” results: Vetter’s review of Hiromu Takahashi vs. Titan, Lio Rush vs. Mike Bailey, Douki vs. Sho, and Kushida vs. Ryusuke Taguchi in A Block matches


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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors tournament”
May 23, 2023 in Osaka, Japan at Edion Arena
Streamed on New Japan World

Kevin Kelly provided solo commentary as the show began. This is a gym and the crowd is maybe 700.

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!

* Unlike the first eight nights of the tournament, this show features just A Block matches. And, we have just four A Block matches, as Taiji Ishimori suffered a neck injury on Sunday in a match against Hiromu Takahashi and will forfeit his final match against TJP. Thus, TJP finshes the tournament at 5-4 (10 points.) With the forfeit loss, Ishimori also finishes at 5-4 (10 points).

1. “United Empire” TJP and Great-O-Khan defeated Oskar Leube and Yuto Nakashima at 9:57. O-Khan, who carried his Rev Pro title belt, opened against Yuto; they brawled away from ringside to the wall of the gym, and O-Khan was working him over. TJP entered at 3:30 and tied up Yuto on the mat, and the UE worked Yuto over. Oskar finally made the hot tag at 6:30; I always compare him to a young Gunther, just from his height and pale skin. The Young Lions each applied a Boston Crab. O-Khan slammed Yuto for the pin. Basic.

2. Ryohei Oiwa and El Desperado defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Robbie Eagles and Kosei Fujita at 10:51. This serves as a preview match for the big Desperado-Eagles singles match on Wednesday, with the winner reaching the playoffs, and they opened against each other with standing switches. Oiwa entered at 2:00 and helped beat up Eagles. Fujita entered and traded arm holds with Oiwa, and they switched to stiff forearm shots at 5:30. Oiwa hit a dropkick on Eagles. Desperado made the hot tag and he hit a suplex for a nearfall on Eagles.

Eagles applied the Ron Miller Special leglock on Desperado at 8:00, but Oiwa made the save. Desperado fired back with a spinebuster, but he sold the pain in his left knee. Fujita hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Desperado, and he applied a half-crab, but Desperado reached the ropes. Desperado applied the Stretch Muffler leglock on Fujita, who submitted. Alright match and a decent teaser for Wednesday.

3) “United Empire” Francesco Akira & Dan Moloney defeated “Bullet Club” Gedo & Clark Connors at 8:53. The BC attacked before the bell and they brawled to the floor, where Connors threw Akira into a ring post at 3:00. Akira avoided Connors’ Pounce, and he hit a doublestomp on Clark’s chest. Moloney made the hot tag at 5:00 and he traded forearm shots with Connors; they switched to allowing each other to hit loud chops. Connors speared him at 7:00, and they were both down.

Akira and Gedo tagged in, and Akira hit a shotgun dropkick, then a running knee to the side of the head. Gedo applied a Figure Four Leglock on Akira. However, Akira hit a swinging neckbreaker to pin Gedo. Decent match. Connors and Moloney kept yelling at each other after the bell, as they square off on Wednesday.

4. Kevin Knight, Master Wato, and Yoh defeated “Just 5 Guys” Taichi, Taka Michinoku, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru at 9:20. Yoh and Kanemaru started, but Wato entered quickly and hit a leg lariat on Kanemaru. JFG began working over Wato in their corner. Kanemaru hit a snap suplex on the floor at 3:00. In the ring, Taichi hit some stiff kicks to the spine. Knight finally entered at 6:00 and he hit his excellent dropkick to Taichi’s face for a nearfall. Knight went for his leaping DDT, but Taichi shrugged it off.

Taichi applied an STF in the middle of the ring and cranked on Knight’s head, but Wato made the save. Taka hit a kick to the jaw. Knight hit the D’Lo Sky High on Taka for a nearfall, but the BC made the save. Knight then hit his leaping DDT on Taka for the pin. However, Kanemaru had Yoh in a Figure Four leglock on the floor and wouldn’t let go; those two will square off Wednesday. Knight and Wato also jawed at each other, ahead of their match. NJPW is doing a great job of highlighting the matches on the final day of Block action.

* Robbie Eagles joined Kelly on commentary. This is his third time joining commentary of this tour and he’s done really well.

5. Ryusuke Taguchi (2) defeated Kushida (4) in a B Block match at 11:54. Will Taguchi really end the tournament winless? I have predicted he would pull off a major upset late by going to his juvenile trickery. Kelly wondered if there will even be a spot for him next year. Mat reversals early and Kushida went for a cross-armbreaker. They mirrored each other’s moves and had a standoff at 2:30. Kelly said these two first met in a singles match in 2011. Kushida focused on the left arm. Taguchi did some comedy spots, and he hit a mid-ring buttbump at 7:30, and they were both down.

Taguchi went for a dive off the ropes, but Kushida caught him and applied a cross-armbreaker. They hit double clotheslines and were both down. Kushida hit a Pele Kick; Taguchi hit an enzuigiri at 11:00. Taguchi hit a face-first slam, and he went to an anklelock. The back of his trunks were pulled down so his butt was hanging out. “My eyes are burning!” Eagles said. Funny. Kushida tapped out to the anklelock! I was right… I predicted all tournament that Taguchi would pull off an upset at the end of the tournament by going to his ‘butt stuff’ silliness. Unfortunately, Kushida once again came up on the short end of this match.

6. Sho (8) defeated Douki (6) in a B Block match at 11:35. Sho came to the ring first, but he headed to the back. He dragged out a Young Lion dressed as Douki. Sho rang the bell (as if he has the power to start a match) and started to beat up the kid. The ref, and the crowd, could easily tell it wasn’t Douki. Seconds later, Douki ran to the ring, shaking off some tape (he had been kidnapped! Just like Hiromu Takahashi a few days ago!) They brawled to the floor, and Douki barely got back in the ring before being counted out at 4:30.

The ref got bumped. Sho immediately got his wrench. However, Douki pulled out a two-foot-long pipe! Douki knocked the wrench from Sho’s hand and he jabbed Sho with the pipe, then he hit a top-rope doublestomp for a believable nearfall at 8:00. Douki immediately applied the ‘Douki chokey’ modified triangle choke. EVIL ran to ringside and distracted the referee. Sho removed a corner pad, and Douki slammed into the bare corner. Sho hit his cross-armed piledriver for a believable nearfall; I thought that was it.

Douki got a jackknife cover for a nearfall, then the Daybreak slingshot DDT! Douki hit a Dragon Suplex with a bridge for a believable nearfall. However, the ref was down and I missed how. EVIL, pretending to be the ref, counted to three, so Douki released the hold. EVIL, and now Yujiro Takahashi as well, beat up Douki. EVIL hit his Everything is Evil (Rock Bottom), and he dragged the prone Sho onto Douki to score the very tainted pin. I would say both of these guys ended with the number of wins/points I would have expected at the start of the tournament.

* The winner of the next match is in the playoffs as the #1 seed. If Bailey loses here, he *would* still make the playoffs if Titan wins the final match via tiebreaker.

7. Mike Bailey (14) defeated Lio Rush (12) in a B Block match at 16:42. I know these two have wrestled at least once before, as Bailey beat Rush in an excellent PWG match last November. They shook hands and are both babyfaces. Lots of quick misdirection moves early on. Lio hit an Asai Moonsault to the floor at 2:00. In the ring, Bailey hit his series of spin kicks, then a double kneedrop to the chest. Bailey hit a running Shooting Star Press for a nearfall at 4:30. Bailey hit his Speedball kicks to the ribs.

Lio hit a Michinoku Driver, and Bailey rolled to the floor. Lio barreled through the ropes and onto Bailey, then he hit another at 6:00. Lio then hit a third dive, somehow picking up even more speed, and they were both down on the floor. Bailey leapt from one rope to another, then hit a twisting moonsault to the floor at 8:00. The crowd popped for that move. In the ring, Bailey hit a top-rope kneedrop to Lio’s back as Rush was lying across the top rope. Bailey applied a cross-armbreaker and was in charge. However, Bailey missed a moonsault kneedrop at 11:30. They traded forearm shots while on their knees. Lio hit a hard clothesline. They each hit a spin kick to the head, and they were both down again.

Bailey nailed a superkick to the jaw at 13:30; Lio immediately hit a spear that sent Bailey rolling to the floor. Lio hit a running Spanish Fly on the floor! They fought on the ropes in the corner, and Lio hit a top-rope Spanish Fly for a nearfall. Lio went for the Final Hour frogsplash, but Bailey got a boot up to block it at 15:30. Bailey missed the Ultima Weapon. Lio nailed Rush Hour/stunner from the ropes, but he missed the Final Hour. Bailey nailed the Tornado Kick in the corner, then he nailed the Flamingo Driver/modified One-Winged Angel for the clean pin. What a match. Definitely top five of the tournament.

* With Bailey winning, that means the winner of the final match joins Bailey in the playoffs, as Titan holds a tiebreaker over Lio Rush.

8. Titan (12) defeated Hiromu Takahashi (12) in a B Block match at 16:42. They went to the floor, where Hiromu powerbombed Titan onto the edge of the ring at 3:00. In the ring, Hiromu applied a headscissorslock. Hiromu hit a snap suplex. Titan hit a springboard crossbody block at 6:00, then a dive through the ropes to the floor. In the ring, Titan applied a leglock, but Hiromu reached the ropes at 8:00. They traded forearm shots. Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow and they were both down.

Hiromu hit a Death Valley Driver into the corner at 10:00. Titan hit a Pele Kick that sent Hiromu to the floor, then Titan hit a flip dive over the ropes, and they were both down on the floor. In the ring, Hiromu hit a swinging body slam for a nearfall. Titan hit a tornado DDT at 12:30, and he applied a Muta Lock, and he pulled on Hiromu’s hair. Hiromu eventually reached the ropes. Hiromu hit a side slam for a nearfall and a clothesline. They traded rollups. Titan nailed a superkick at 15:00. Titan nailed a top-rope doublestomp, and he again applied the Muta Lock. Hiromu tapped out! I did NOT see that coming. Wow, what a shocker.

* Titan spoke on the mic in Spanish, saying “good night to the Best of the Super Juniors.”

Final Thoughts: I never once thought Hiromu was losing here, so I am rather stunned. A huge unexpected win for Titan. I felt like Bailey-Rush was the obvious headliner going in (and it was the best match), but closing out the show with this stunner turned out to be a good move.

The B Block finale will be Wednesday with El Desperado vs. Robbie Eagles and Yoh vs. Master Wato, and the winners of those matches joining Bailey and Hiromu in the playoffs. I haven’t pulled any punches; I have repeatedly written that of the six guys most likely to win this tournament, only one (Desperado) is in the B Block.


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