By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors tournament”
May 26, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Yoyogi 2nd Gymnasium
Streamed on New Japan World
The round-robin portion of the tournament has now concluded, and we have four remaining wrestlers in the tournament. So, this show is headlined by A Block winner Mike Bailey vs. B Block runner-up Master Wato, and B Block winner El Desperado vs. A Block runner-up Titan. In good news, several wrestlers who appeared on the NJ Strong show in California last weekend are back in Japan and on this show.
This venue is small arena; there is an upper deck but it is sparsely filled. Attendance is maybe 1,000. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided commentary.
1. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Robbie Eagles and Kosei Fujita defeated “The Bullet Club” Clark Connors and Gedo at 6:42. Connors charged at Eagles at the bell and they brawled on the floor. The BC worked over Fujita. Eagles hit a plancha to the floor on Connors at 5:00. Fujita applied an armbar on Gedo, and Gedo teased tapping out but Connors made the save. Eagles hit a basement dropkick on Connor’s knee. Fujita got an O’Connor Roll to pin Gedo! A rare victory for a Young Lion! Kelly and Charlton referenced how Fujita is learning from Zack Sabre Jr., and that finish was right of ZSJ’s playbook.
2. “United Empire” Great-O-Khan and Aaron Henare defeated Toru Yano and Tomoaki Honma at 5:01. Henare and Honma opened by trading stiff forearm shots. Yano entered and immediately removed a corner pad. Henare hit Sheamus-style blows to Yano’s chest. Honma hit a double DDT, and he hit a Kokeshi falling headbutt on each UE member at 3:30. O-Khan hit an assisted running stunner on Honma for the pin. That ended quickly.
* Charlton and Kelly talked about the recent injuries to Taiji Ishimori and Mercedes Mone. While they said the injury to Ishimori was “scary in the moment,” they stressed he is recovering at home from his neck injury and will be okay.
3. “United Empire” TJP, Francesco Akira, and Dan Moloney defeated Ryusuke Taguchi, Kevin Knight, and and Kushida at 8:39. Taguchi’s team went a combined 5-22 in this year’s BoSJ (and that includes Taguchi’s lone win by beating Kushida!) Knight and Akira opened, and Knight hit his leaping splash for a nearfall. Knight hit a Stinger Splash on TJP at 2:30. The UE began working over Knight in their corner. Moloney hit a snap suplex for a nearfall at 4:00. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick to Moloney’s face, and they were both down.
Kushida tagged in for the first time and hit a series of kicks on Akira, then a running crossbody block and a Pele Kick. Knight hit a springboard crossbody block on Akira at 7:00. Taguchi entered and hit a mid-ring buttbump, then running buttbumps in the corner. However, Akira and TJP hit simultaneous kneestrikes to Taguchi’s front and back, and Akira covered Taguchi for the pin. Akira and TJP made it clear to Knight and Kushida they want their junior tag titles back.
4. Yoh and Lio Rush and “Bishamon” HIrooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Sho, and Dick Togo at 8:52. The HoT attacked at the bell and all eight brawled. The HoT began working over Togo in their corner. Yoh entered at 5:00 and brawled with former teammate Sho. Lio hopped in and he dove through the ropes onto Sho. Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow on Sho for a nearfall. Togo got his wire at 8:00 and he choked Yoshi-Hashi with it. Goto hit his neckbreaker over the knee on EVIL. Bishamon hit their Shoto team slam to pin Togo. Fairly basic.
5. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tomohiro Ishii defeated Shota Umino, Oskar Leube, and Bolten Oleg at 9:25. Oleg is a thick beast; like Oskar, he wears the generic black trunks. Okada and Shota started with a hesitant feeling-out process. Okada hit a Mafia Kick at 1:30. Hiroshi tagged in and traded forearm shots with Shota. Shota took a cheap shot at Okada, who was standing on the ring apron, and Okada was livid, going to the floor and grabbing the guardrail; he set it down before using it. Tanahashi hit a basement dropkick on Oleg’s knee. Ishii entered and he traded stiff forearm shots with Oleg at 4:00.
Leube tagged in and hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Ishii, then a suplex for a nearfall at 6:00. Okada and Umino got back in, but this time they immediately traded stiff midring forearm shots. Okada hit a dropkick. Ishii hit a running shoulder tackle on Leube. Shota and Okada went to the floor, and Shota whipped Okada into rows of chairs. In the ring, Umino’s team beat up Ishii. Oskar nailed a Hogan Legdrop on Ishii for a believable nearfall at 8:30. Ishii hit a German Suplex on Leube for a nearfall. Ishii applied a Boston Crab on Leube, and he sat down for pressure, until Oskar finally tapped out. Really good match.
6. “Just 5 Guys” Sanada, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Douki defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, Bushi, and Shingo Takagi at 7:55. LIJ attacked before the bell and all eight brawled. Douki hit a huracanrana on Hiromu. Taichi hit some Kawada Kicks on Naito at 3:30. Taichi and Shingo hit simultaneous clotheslines. Kanemaru applied a Figure Four Leglock on Naito. Naito escaped and hit a basement dropkick on Kanemaru’s knee at 5:30. J5G began working over Bushi. Sanada applied a Skull End dragon sleeper and did a Giant Swing. Douki dove through the ropes onto several LIJ members. Bushi eventually tapped out to Sanada’s Skull End.
7. Master Wato defeated Mike Bailey in a BoSJ semifinal tournament match at 16:41. Kelly called Bailey the MVP of the tournament, and that’s hard to disagree with. Both men finished 7-2 in Block competition. Some feeling out kicks to each other’s thighs early on. Wato applied the Vendival head submission hold at 2:30, then he hit a hard kick to the spine and some Yes Kicks. Bailey fired back with his Speedball kicks, sending Wato to the floor. As he tried to re-enter the ring, Bailey kicked him back to the floor, then Bailey hit his Triangle Moonsault to the floor at 4:00.
Back in the ring, Bailey was in charge, hitting a jumping double kneedrop for a nearfall. He nailed a Helluva Kick in the corner at 6:00, then a Vader Bomb-style kneedrop for a nearfall. However, he missed the running Shooting Star Press, and Wato immediately hit a bulldog. Wato hit a flip dive to the floor at 8:30. Wato went for a springboard flying forearm, but Bailey caught him and applied a mat hold. As we hear the 10-minute notice, Kelly reminds us there isn’t a time limit in this match. They traded rollups and Wato re-applied Vendival submission hold.
Bailey went to a cross-armbreaker, but he missed a moonsault kneedrop, and Wato went right back to Vendival, but Bailey reached the ropes, and they were both down at 12:30. Bailey hit a stiff superkick, but Wato caught Bailey as he went for the Tornado Kick. Wato got his mousetrap double-arm pin attempt for a believable nearfall. They fought on the ring apron,, where Bailey snapped his arm across the shoulder. Bailey hit a series of kicks to the chest. Bailey nailed his moonsault kneedrop on the ring apron.
In the ring, Bailey nailed the Ultima Weapon second-rope moonsault kneedrop, but Wato kicked out at 15:00, and the crowd went nuts for the kickout. Bailey set up for the Flamingo Driver, but Wato escaped and hit a tombstone piledriver move for a nearfall. Bailey hit more spin kicks, and he went for the Tornado Kick, but Wato blocked it. Wato then hit the German Suplex with a high bridge for the pin. Good match, but I am shaking my head in disbelief that Wato is getting this superman push.
8. Titan (w/LIJ) defeated El Desperado in a BoSJ semifinal tournament match at 21:43. Desperado finished 7-2 in B Block action, while Titan finished 6-3 and made the playoffs via tiebreaker because he beat both Lio Rush and Hiromu Takahashi, who also finished 6-3. A feeling out process and standing reversals early on. They went to the floor, where Desperado slammed Titan’s knee into the thin mat at 3:30. Desperado whipped Titan into rows of empty seats. Back in the ring, Desperado was in control. Titan hit a spin kick to the face at 6:00, then a springboard huracanrana, then a dive through the ropes to the floor.
Titan whipped Desperado into the rows of empty chairs. Titan went into the second deck and he hit a crossbody block to the floor — perhaps 15 to 20 feet down! — onto Desperado on the floor at 8:00. That was an insane move. Desperado barely dove back into the ring before being counted out. Titan immediately applied an Indian Deathlock leglock, but Desperado reached the ropes at 9:30. Titan switched to a Figure Four. Desperado hit a spear at 12:00.
Desperado hit a back suplex for a nearfall, and he applied the Stretch Muffler, wrapping Titan’s knee behind Desperado’s neck. Titan hit a tornado DDT, and they were both down at 14:00. Titan set up for a dive to the floor, but Desperado cut him off. Titan hit a flip dive to the floor, barreling onto Desperado, and he was fired up. Titan missed a top-rope doublestomp to the floor; Charlton compared it to Mercedes Mone breaking her ankle. Desperado rolled Titan into the ring and he re-applied the Stretch Muffler, with Titan screaming in pain before reaching the ropes at 16:30.
Desperado hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. He set up for the Angels Wings faceplant, but Titan fought free. Desperado hit a spinebuster for a nearfall at 18:30 and went back to the Stretch Muffler. Titan hit a Canadian Destroyer and they were both down. Titan hit another tornado DDT. Titan nailed a top-rope doublestomp to the chest but he was slow to make the cover and he got a nearfall at 20:30. Titan tied Desperado in the Muta Lock and cranked on his head, and Desperado tapped out. “Titan has done it!” Kelly shouted. Charlton said if they had conducted a straw poll of the crowed who would be in the finals, 9 of 10 fans would have said Bailey and Desperado. (They would have said that because it would be a far better match and one fans wanted to see.)
* Wato came out and climbed in the ring and stood across from Titan. Titan spoke on the mic in Spanish, saying he was going to win for everybody. Wato made a motion with his hand, then turned and left without saying a word.
Final Thoughts: Congrats to Erik Watts, I mean Master Wato, for getting pushed far beyond where fans see him. The match was good, but I just don’t see Wato in the top tier. But, NJPW needs some fresh guys in that mix, and I guess it makes sense to push a full-timer into that spot. Likewise, Titan’s win is a surprise to me. I admittedly didnt’ have either Wato or Titan finishing in the top tier of their Blocks.
A day off on Saturday, with the finals on Sunday. Outside of the BoSJ finale, the rest of the card will be announced later.
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