NJPW “Super Jr. Tag League 2023” results (11/2): Vetter’s review of Sho and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Master Wato and El Desperado, Kushida and Kevin Knight vs. TJP and Francesco Akira

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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Super Jr. Tag League 2023”
November 2, 2023 in Osaka, Japan at Edion Arena Osaka
Streamed live on New Japan World

The venue is a very small room but it was packed, with maybe 800 to 1,000 spectators. Walker Stewart (who is taking the reins from Kevin Kelly) and Chris Charlton provided live commentary from ringside.

As the show begins, Master Wato and El Desperado are alone in first place at 6-2 (12 points) but four others are at 5-3, so neither playoff spot is locked in yet. The top two finishers today will meet (for a second time) on Saturday to crown the champions.

1. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Hiromu Takahashi and Yota Tsuji defeated “Bullet Club” Taiji Ishimori and Gedo at 6:07. Hiromu and Ishimori charged at each other at the bell and traded rollups. Yota tossed Hiromu onto Gedo. Ishimori hit a handspring-back-spin kick on Yota at 2:00 and they brawled to the floor. The heels worked over Yota. Yota nailed his Rollins-style Stomp to the head to pin Gedo. Acceptable opener. Hiromu has a 24/7 title belt, and he was nearly pinned twice on his way to the back.

2. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, and Dick Togo at 8:00 even. The HoT attacked at the bell but the babyfaces worked together to drop them. The HoT worked over Ishii early on. Okada made the hot tag at 4:30 and hit a DDT on EVIL for a nearfall. Tanahashi tagged in and hit a flying forearm on Yujiro. Togo hit his knife-edge chop on Hiroshi’s groin as Tanahashi was being held upside down at 7:00. However, Tanahashi applied a Texas Cloverleaf, and Togo tapped out. Charlton wondered who would face this all-star team next.

* Right on cue, Zack Sabre Jr. appeared in the second-tier and perhaps he is making a challenge to the NEVER Six-man tag champs.

3. Shota Umino and Ren Narita and Oskar Leube and Boltin Oleg defeated “United Empire” Will Ospreay and Callum Newman and Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb at 11:44. So great to have an Ospreay appearance here. O-Khan and Oleg opened with fast mat reversals; it looked like an amateur wrestling bout. Oleg hit a running splash. Everyone started fighting on the floor, with Ospreay tossing Shota into a wall; those two will fight on Saturday. In the ring, O-Khan had Leube tied up, but Oskar reached the ropes at 3:30. Ospreay entered for the first time and hit some chops on Leube. The UE took turns working over Leube in their corner. Cobb hit a standing moonsault for a nearfall at 6:00.

Leube finally hit a bodyslam on Cobb. Ren made the hot tag. Cobb hit a Spin Cycle swinging bak suplex on Ren at 8:30. Shota tagged in and battled Newman. Ospreay and Shota traded forearm strikes and chops. Ospreay hit a half-nelson suplex at 10:30 but he couldn’t hit the Hidden Blade. Shota hit an Oscutter on Ospreay! Umino hit a pop-up European Uppercut on Newman, then a Hidden Blade forearm strike to pin Newman, while glaring at Ospreay, who was too late to break up the pin. Umino has done that all week. A much better match than the first two.

* As the tournament matches began, Charlton pointed out we could have a five-way tie. (My guess is we have some upsets that drop a few teams to 5-4 and we wind up with just one team at 6-3.) The first match is the only one without playoff implications.

4. “Just 5 Guys” Taka Michinoku and Douki (4) defeated The DKC and Ryusuke Taguchi (4) in a tournament match at 9:29. Taka and Taguchi opened, with Taguchi applying an anklelock. Douki entered and applied the Douki Chokey triangle choke on Taguchi at 3:30, but Taguchi reached the ropes. DKC entered and hit his mid-ring cannonball. DKC hit his knife-edge chops to Taka’s chest. Douki hit a Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge on DKC for a nearfall at 6:30. Douki nailed the Daybreak slingshot DDT for a believable nearfall on DKC, but Taguchi made the save. DKC hit a Crucifix Driver on Douki for a nearfall. Taka hit a superkick on Taguchi. Taka hit a superkick on DKC while Douki was hitting a Dragon Suplex on DKC for the pin. Solid match, and both teams finish at 2-7.

5. Yoh and Musashi (8) defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Titan and Bushi (10) in a tournament match at 10:10. Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and Yota Tsuji grabbed chairs and sat in the front row as a sign of solidarity. Titan and Musashi opened. LIJ began working over Yoh. Titan accidentally hit a dropkick on Bushi at 5:00. Musashi immediately hit an Exploder Suplex on Titan, then a plancha. Titan nailed a flip dive onto both men on the floor at 8:00. Titan nailed a springboard frogsplash on Yoh. Titan went for his springboard doublestomp, but Musashi cut him off. Yoh and Musashi hit superkicks on Bushi. Musashi hit a frogsplash on Bushi, and Yoh nailed the Direct Drive double-arm DDT to pin Bushi. As I surmised, LIJ lost here and were eliminated at 5-4.

6. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Kosei Fujita and Robbie Eagles (6) defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” Drilla Moloney and Clark Connors (10) in a tournament match at 3:46. The BCWD came out second, and Fujita nailed a flip dive on them to open the match! In the ring, Eagles applied the Ron Miller Special Leglock on Moloney, and I really thought Drilla was on the verge of tapping out in the first minute, but Connors made the save. (We never had a shockingly short under-five-minute match this whole tournament.) The BCWD began working over Eagles, and they hit their front-and-back spears, and they set up for Full Clip, but Fujita blocked it. Eagles rolled up Moloney for the pin! Hey, there is the shockingly short match, and it also eliminates BCWD, as they also finish 5-4. (The official time is even shorter, as I start my stopwatch at first contact on that dive to the floor.)

* With the results of the last two matches, the next two have become “win and you’re in” to the playoffs. No more messy tiebreakers. (Which is what I surmised when I looked at the lineup.)

7. “Catch 2/2” TJP and Francesco Akira (12) defeated Kushida and Kevin Knight (10) in a tournament match at 10:39. Again, Kushida and Knight were 2-7 last year at the conclusion of Knight’s rookie year. All four fought at the bell and Knight hit a huge dive over the ropes onto both C22. In the ring, Knight tied TJP in an Octopus at 1:30. Kushida tied up TJP, and for the second straight day, grabbed Knight’s hand for leverage. (A very heelish move and a bit surprising!) TJP hit a tornado DDT on Kushida at 4:00. Akira tagged in and hit a huracanrana on Kushida. Akira hit a basement dropkick on Knight’s face as Kevin was tied in the Tree of Woe. Akira hit a top-rope crossbody block on Kushida for a nearfall at 5:30.

Kushida hit a Pele Kick on Akira. TJP and Knight tagged back in and traded forearm strikes. TJP hit an inverted DDT and the Mamba Splash for a nearfall at 7:30. Knight hit a double Pele Kick. Knight went for his jump-up Frankensteiner but C22 blocked it. Moments later, Knight hit the jump-up Frankensteiner on Akira. Knight nailed a coast-to-coast missile dropkick, then the D’Lo Sky High powerbomb on Akira for a nearfall at 9:30. This has been non-stop. Knight hit a springboard double clothesline. C22 hit their team X-Factor Faceplant. Akira nailed a swinging neckbreaker. C22 hit their front-and-back kneestrikes to pin Knight! That was really good, but I didn’t sense we were about to wrap up. At 6-3, Akira and TJP advance to the finals!

* TJP and Akira already beat Wato and Desperado, so if HoT win the final match, HoT advances and Desperado and Wato are eliminated via the head-to-head tiebreakers.

8. “House of Torture” Sho and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (12) defeated El Desperado and Master Wato (12) in a tournament match at 19:15. Desperado and former teammate Kanemaru opened against each other, with Kanemaru grabbing at the mask. (These two were in Suzuki-Gun until the end of last year when that faction disbanded.) Wato and Sho entered at 2:00. They brawled to the floor, where EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and Dick Togo helped beat up Desperado away from ringside. Back in the ring, Kanemaru hit a leg lariat on Desperado at 5:30. Desperado hit a back suplex and they were both down.

Wato tagged in at 8:00 and hit a leg lariat, then a flip dive to the floor on both heels. In the ring, Wato hit a springboard flying forearm for a nearfall. Kanemaru applied a Figure Four Leglock at 10:00. Togo reached into the ring and choked Wato, too. Desperado applied the Stretch Muffler on Sho at 12:30, tying up his leg behind Desperado’s head. Desperado hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Sho for a nearfall. Sho nailed a spear and they were both down at 14:00. Sho nailed a Lungblower over his knees for a nearfall. Sho got his wrench, but Desperado avoided it. Wato hit a flying forearm on Sho.

Desperado hit a spinebuster and he made the hot tag at 16:30. Wato hit his double-armbar slam for a believable nearfall on Sho. Wato shoved Sho onto EVIL, who was on the ring apron, and Wato hit a German Suplex for a believable nearfall. Wato again hit his double-armbar slam for a nearfall, but the ref was pulled from the ring. EVIL, Yujiro and Togo jumped in the ring and helped beat up the babyfaces. EVIL hit the Everything is Evil uranage on Wato and they pulled Sho on top of him. The ref was thrown into the ring and made the three count! I’m shocked; I never once this entire match thought House of Torture was winning.

* TJP and Francesco Akira walked into the ring. The House of Torture gathered on the ground, and Sho told them they were going to beat them in two days. TJP got on the mic and vowed they would win, concluding by saying “Catch 2/2 is not dead.”

Final Thoughts: You could hear the air leave the building when Sho pinned Wato. No one in the building wanted that outcome. I would argue that TJP and Akira vs. Desperado and Wato from earlier this week was the best match of the whole tournament, and I really thought we were headed toward an epic rematch. With the tag titles held by heels (the BC War Dogs), it is hard to fathom Sho and Kanemaru win the tournament and face them in a heel-heel matchup… but who knows because I truly never once thought House of Torture was winning tonight.

Catch 2/2 vs. Knight and Kushida easily earns best match as it was a 10-minute sprint. Yoh and Musashi vs. LIJ earn second place. New Japan Pro Wrestling is back in action on Saturday with the finale plus a variety of other big matches, including Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori, and Will Ospreay vs. Shota Umino.


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