NJPW “Best of the Super Juniors” results (5/15): Vetter’s review of El Desperado vs. Bushi, TJP vs. Clark Connors, Hayata vs. Titan, Blake Christian vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Kevin Knight vs. Kosei Fujita

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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors – Night 3”
May 15, 2024 in Niigata, Japan at Region Plaza Joetsu
Streamed live on New Japan World

There are 20 wrestlers in this year’s tournament, divided into two Blocks. It is a round-robin tournament, thus, each wrestler has nine tournament matches. The top two from each Block will advance to a four-man playoff. The finals will be June 9. The four men who reached the playoffs last year were either 6-3 or 7-2. So, anyone who starts out at 0-3 has a very unlikely path to reach the playoffs. For the first time, we have just the A Block in tournament action, while eight of the 10 B Block competitors were in undercard matches.

This is a large gym and it has some sparsely attended seating areas, particularly in the bleachers/risers. The crowd was in the 500-700 range, which is about the smallest I’ve seen. We have Japanese-only commentary today.

1. “House of Torture” Sho and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Ninja Mack and Katsuya Murashima at 5:44. Sho grabbed an item from a fan in the front row and threatened to destroy it; Mack leapt onto Sho on the floor to kickstart the match (and save the fan’s item!) Sho slammed Mack shoulder-first into the ring post! Yujiro beat up Murashima, and the HoT worked over the Young Lion. Yujiro nailed Pimp Juice/leaping DDT for the pin. Mack was barely in this one. Mack hopped in the ring post-match, but Sho hit a low blow and untied Mack’s mask and stole it! The post-match stuff was better than the match itself.

2. “Just 5 Guys” Taka Michinoku and Douki defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” Drilla Moloney & Gedo at 6:27. Drilla and Douki opened. Gedo and Taka entered at 1:30 and traded comedy eyepoke offense. Douki applied the Douki Chokey/triangle choke, and Gedo submitted. A rare win for Taka!

3. “United Empire” Francesco Akira and Callum Newman defeated Kushida and Tiger Mask at 7:02. Akira and Kushida opened. Newman and Tiger Mask entered at 1:30 and Callum’s size advantage is notable. Kushida worked Callum’s left arm. Akira tied Kushida in a Tarantula. Tiger Mask hit a Tiger Driver on Newman for a believable nearfall at 5:30. Akira hit a huracanrana on Kushida, then a plancha to the floor. In the ring, Callum hit a spin kick to TM’s face for a believable nearfall, then a springboard stunner for the pin on Tiger Mask.

4. Tetsuya Naito and HIromu Takahashi defeated Dragon Dia and Tomoaki Honma at 7:04. Naito just competed in California days earlier. HIromu and Dia opened, and Dia is just so much smaller than Hiromu. Honma entered and hit some chops. Naito hit a Rude Awakening standing neckbreaker on Dia at 2:30. Honma got some offense in on Naito. However, Naito hit the Destino and tied up Honma on the mat with a leglock around the neck, and Honma tapped out.

* Okay we all know these undercard tag matches are meaningless, but kayfabe, it makes no sense that Taiji Ishimori and Robbie Eagles get a day off while the other eight guys in the B Block have matches.

5. Kevin Knight (4) defeated Kosei Fujita (2) in an A Block match at 9:04. They traded armdrags early on. Knight hit a plancha to the floor at 3:00. In the ring, Knight hit a rolling splash for a nearfall. Fujita hit a springboard dropkick for a nearfall at 5:30. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick, then a springboard clothesline for a nearfall. Fujita applied a hammerlock and grounded Knight, but Kevin reached the ropes at 8:00. Knight hit a D’Lo Sky High powerbomb for a nearfall, then his leaping DDT for the pin. That was entertaining.

6. Blake Christian (6) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2) in an A Block match at 8:41. Kanemaru attacked Blake as Blake was posing in the corner. Blake snapped off a huracanrana and a dropkick, and finally was able to remove his vest, then he hit a 619 and a springboard flying forearm. They went to the floor, where Kanemaru whipped Blake into the rows of chairs at 1:00. (Yes that all happened in one minute.) Kanemaru whipped him into the ring post and slammed Blake’s knee onto the thin mat at ringside. Blake was hobbled and limped as he got back into the ring, where Kanemaru slammed Blake’s knee again into the mat, and hit a basement dropkick on the damaged knee at 2:30 and focused on the limb.

Blake finally hit a springboard-back-spin kick at 4:30 but sold the pain in his knee. He hit a top-rope elbow drop for a nearfall. Blake missed a Stomp, and Kanemaru applied a Figure Four at 6:00, but Blake reached the ropes. The ref got bumped, and Kanemaru hit an enzuigiri. He got his whiskey bottle, but Blake avoided being hit by it, and he hit his own enzuigiri and a superkick. On the floor, Blake hit a rolling splash at 8:00. In the ring, Blake hit a Stomp to the head, then a springboard 450 Splash for the relatively clean pin. Blake is the first person to go to 3-0 (6 points!)

7. Titan (6) defeated Hayata (2) in an A Block match at 11:34. They almost immediately went to the floor, where Hayata shoved Titan shoulder-first into the ring post. In the ring, Hayata hit a spin kick that staggered Titan, and Hayata kept him grounded. Titan hit a tornado DDT at 6:00. Hayata hit an enzuigiri and they were both down at 8:00. Hayata hit a shotgun dropkick. Hayata applied a modified crossarm breaker, but Titan reached the ropes at 9:30. Titan hit a clothesline in the corner, then a top-rope doublestomp to the chest. He applied a Muta Lock and cranked back on Hayata’s head, and Hayata verbally submitted! Good match. Titan joins Blake Christian at the top of the Block at 3-0; I expected Hayata to win here to keep him in the running.

8. Clark Connors (4) defeated TJP (0) in an A Block match at 12:27. Of course, these two have been feuding in tag team action for seemingly the past year. They almost immediately brawled on the floor,, where Connors hit a Pounce, and they went over to the empty bleachers and brawled. Clark whipped TJP into the ring post at 1:30 and barked at the fans. Connors grabbed the United Empire flag and gave it an elbow drop and he was dominating early on. In the ring, Connors mockingly set up to do TJP’s signature Facewash move and he was loudly booed.

TJP snapped Clark’s arm backward at 5:00, and Connors immediately sold the pain in his left shoulder. TJP hit a DDT out of the ropes. TJP hit some rolling snap suplexes and he hit his Facewash in the corner at 7:00, then a springboard DDT for a nearfall. Connors hit a powerslam but TJP rolled through and applied the Pinoy Stretch. TJP went for the Mamba Splash, but Connors got his knees up at 8:30. Connors hit the powerslam cleanly this time. Connors set up for a spear, but TJP hit a flying knee and a Pele Kick for a nearfall.

Connors hit a spear in the ropes, then another one in the middle of the ring for a believable nearfall, and they were both down at 10:30. Connors set up for the No Chaser spike DDT but TJP blocked it. TJP hit a spin kick to the head. TJP hit a tornado DDT, then his own spear and the crowd came alive. TJP went to the top rope, but Connors pushed the ref into the ropes, causing TJP to fall and be crotched. Connors hit a second-rope superplex, then the No Chaser spike DDT for the pin! TJP starts out at 0-3! I truly didn’t expect that.

9. El Desperado (4) defeated Bushi (0) in an A Block match at 13:01. Basic mat reversals early on, with Desperado selling a leg injury. Desperado applied a modified Figure Four at 4:30. Bushi dove through the ropes and barreled onto Desperado and they were both down on the floor. Back in the ring, Bushi slammed Desperado’s knee repeatedly into the mat. Desperado hit a basement dropkick on the knee at 8:00. They got up and traded forearm strikes. Desperado applied a Stretch Muffler leg hold at 9:30, but Bushi reached the ropes.

Bushi hit a swinging neckbreaker and he went back to a leglock on the mat. Bushi hit a Lungblower to the chest for a nearfall at 12:00. He went for a second-rope Lungblower, but Desperado side-stepped it and re-applied the Stretch Muffler, and Bushi tapped out. Good match, but probably shouldn’t have been the main event.

Final Thoughts: An okay night of action. TJP-Connors was easily best and in retrospect, should have been the headliner. As I noted, they are familiar opponents and they mesh well together. Picking Desperado vs. Bushi for the main event doesn’t make sense from a kayfabe standpoint, as Desperado won his Block last year, while Bushi finished 2-7, and will likely have a similar record this year. There was no real sense that Bushi was going to score an upset in the main event. I’ll go with Knight-Kosei for third.

The B Block will be in action on Thursday featuring Robbie Eagles vs. Taiji Ishimori in the main event, Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Dia and Ninja Mack vs. Sho.

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