NJPW “Best of the Super Juniors” results (5/18): Vetter’s review of Hiromu Takahashi vs. Sho, El Desperado vs. Kevin Knight, Francesco Akira vs. Taiji Ishimori, Blake Christian vs. Titan, Kushida vs. Robbie Eagles

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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of the Super Juniors – Night 5”
May 18, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan at Esforta Arena Hachioji
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 is 0-4 after today is all but officially eliminated.

* This is a gym and fairly small. There is a second tier but it is largely empty. The floor does appear to be at capacity. Walker Stewart and Chris Charlton provided live ringside commentary; it has been Japanese-only commentary the past two events. At the end of the show, Charlton said the crowd was 1,635, which seems a bit high based on what I’m seeing.

* The show opened with a ceremony in the ring with an elderly man and Hiromu Takahashi. As Hiromu was leaving, he was attacked by Sho! Sho handcuffed Hiromu and stomped on him!

1. Kosei Fujita (4) defeated Clark Connors (4) in an A Block tournament match at 9:15. Fujita hit a huracanrana at the bell. They went to the floor, where Connors whipped him into the ring post, then he stole a shirt from a fan and used it to choke Fujita on the floor. He whipped Kosei into rows of empty chairs at 2:00. Kosei barely got back into the ring at the 19-count. In the ring, Connors was in charge. Fujita hit a spin kick and they were both down at 5:00. Kosei went for a springboard move, but Connors cut him in half with a spear! Connors hit a powerslam for a nearfall. He hit a spear for a nearfall, but he pulled Kosei up before the three-count!

Connors applied (Robbie Eagles’) Ron Miller Special leg lock! Fujita reached the ropes at 7:00; I really thought he was tapping out there. Connors went for the No Chaser spike DDT but Fujita blocked it, and Kosei hit a German Suplex with a high bridge for a nearfall! Connors nailed the Pounce. He hit another spear for a believable nearfall; again I thought that was it. Kosei tied up Connors on the mat and cranked back on the head, and Connors tapped out! A highly watchable opener.

2. Drilla Moloney (4) defeated Dragon Dia (0) in a B Block tournament match at 4:14. This has to be the biggest weight difference of the tournament, as they always stress that Drilla cut weight to get under 220 pounds, while Dia is listed online at 5’6″ (probably closer to 5’4″) and 156 pounds. Charlton talked about what I noted above — a fourth loss is essentially an elimination. They locked up and Drilla easily shoved him to the mat. They brawled on the mat. Back in the ring, they traded chops, and Dia hit a dropkick, then an enzuigiri at 3:00. He went for a 619 but Drilla blocked it. Seconds later, Dia hit the 619 and an Asai Moonsault to the floor. Back in the ring, Dia hit a huracanrana. Drilla hit a powerbomb and a Drilla Killa swinging piledriver out of nowhere for the pin. That momentum switch happened quickly. Charlton said the Drilla Killa “has to be the most devastating finisher in the business.”

3. Hayata (4) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2) in an A Block tournament match at 8:46. Hayata came out first but Kanemaru attacked him from behind and I start my stopwatch at first contact. Kanemaru slammed Hayata’s face on a table, then slammed him knee-first on the ground. They got in the ring and we officially started at 1:30 but Hayata was selling the pain in his knee, and Kanemaru targeted it. He applied a half-crab at 3:00. Hayata fired up and hit some forearm strikes, then a tornado DDT for a nearfall at 5:30.

Kanemaru hit a basement dropkick on the knee and applied a Figure Four Leglock. Hayata hit a dropkick at 7:30, then a DDT for a nearfall. The ref got bumped! Kanemaru hit an enzuigiri, and he got his whiskey bottle. He went to spray it in Hayata’s face, but Hayata blocked his mouth. Kanemaru went for a low blow but Hayata avoided it and Hayata hit his own low blow kick! Hayata hit a DDT; the ref awoke and made the three count! Again, official time is closer to 7:25.

4. Douki (4) defeated Ninja Mack (4) in a B Block tournament match at 7:47. Charlton said these two have wrestled in the past under different names. They shook hands at the bell and they traded lucha moves, and Ninja Mack flipped into a ‘superhero landing pose’ at 2:00 and they got a nice pop. Douki hit a DDT. Mack hit a flying forearm in the corner. Douki set up for Daybreak, but Mack blocked it. Douki applied the Douki Chokey at 5:30; Mack did a headstand to push Douki’s shoulders to the mat for a nearfall! Nice! Mack hit a Sasake Special to the floor. In the ring, Mack hit a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. Mack hit a Frankensteiner, but Douki rolled through it and got a nearfall. Douki again applied the Douki Chokey, and Mack passed out. That was fast-paced and fun.

5. Bushi (2) defeated TJP (0) in an A Block tournament match at 2:55. Both men are winless, so whoever loses here is all but eliminated. TJP ripped off Bushi’s shirt and threw it into the crowd. Bushi came off the ropes but TJP caught him with a dropkick, and TJP just looks focused and determined. Bushi set up for a dive to the floor, but TJP cut him off with a clothesline. TJP hit a baseball slide dropkick to the floor at 1:30, and he whipped Bushi into the ring post. In the ring, TJP accidentally kicked the ref while hitting a tornado DDT. Bushi went to spray mist but TJP blocked it; TJP sprayed mist but Bushi ducked it. Bushi then sprayed mist in TJP’s eyes, rolled him up, and scored the pin!

6. Robbie Eagles (4) defeated Kushida (6) in a B Block tournament match at 11:18. Charlton said Kushida has never started 3-0 before, even in the two years he won the tournament. Standing switches and a feeling-out process early on. Eagles tackled Kushida’s knee at 2:30 and began targeting it. Eagles slammed the knee on the ring apron and was now in charge. Charlton said for as experienced as these two are, this is only their second-ever meeting. Eagles grapevined the leg on the mat as the 5:00 call was spot-on. Kushida leapt off the apron and stomped on Eagles’ left arm at 6:30. In the ring, Kushida hit a handspring-back-elbow.

Kushida hit some spin kicks, then he applied a crossarm breaker on the damaged left elbow, but Eagles reached the ropes at 8:30. He hit a dropkick on the damaged arm. Eagles hit a straight punch to the jaw. He went for a Sliced Bread, but Kushida escaped. Eagles hit a series of kicks to the head. Kushida hit his Back to the Future small package driver and they were both down at 10:00. This has been really good. Kushida hit a running penalty kick on the elbow. Eagles hit a Turbo Backpack and slammed Kushida to the mat to get a nearfall. Eagles hit a running kick to the chest for the pin! Kushida is undefeated no more. This will be on the list of best non-main event matches of the tournament.

7. Blake Christian (8) defeated Titan (6) in an A Block tournament match at 7:22. Whoever wins this will be the sole person in first place of the Block. This is a first-ever matchup; they traded fast reversals at the bell, and Blake hit a Fosbury Flop to the floor. In the ring, Blake kicked out the left elbow. Charlton again talked about the Blake Christian-Will Ospreay match in Warrior Wrestling from a few years ago, and how it gave Blake so much confidence. He hit a knee drop on Titan’s damaged elbow. Titan hit a spin kick to the face at 3:00 then a springboard dropkick, then a flip dive to the floor.

Back in the ring, they traded chops and forearm strikes. Blake hit a rolling stunner; Titan hit a Pele Kick, and they were both down at 5:00. Blake hit a spear into the corner. Titan nailed a top-rope double stomp to the chest for a nearfall. Blake hit a spin kick to the jaw. Titan hit a tornado DDT. Blake hit a flying knee to the chest, then a springboard 450 Splash for the clean pin! That was great; it was a sprint, and Blake won cleanly. Also, at 4-0, Christian is the first competitor to reach eight points.

8. Francesco Akira (4) defeated Taiji Ishimori (6) in a B Block tournament match at 8:35. Charlton talked about Ishimori’s great winning percentage in BoSJ but he’s never won it, and only reached the finals once. Quick reversals and Akira hit a huracanrana, and they went to the floor, where Ishimori shoved him into the ring post at 1:00. In the ring, Ishimori applied a crossarm breaker, but Akira reached the ropes. Akira hit a neckbreaker over his knee at 3:30. He hit a plancha to the floor, then a top-rope crossbody block into the ring for a nearfall.

Ishimori shoved Akira shoulder-first into the corner, then hit a shoulder breaker over his knee at 6:00. Akira missed a Fireball running double knees. Ishimori applied the Bone Lock/modified crossface. Akira got some rollups for nearfalls. Ishimori went for Bloody Cross, but Akira got a rollup for another nearfall. Akira nailed the Fireball to the back of the head for the clean pin! That was a fast and furious final two minutes. With Ishimori’s loss, it means Blake Christian is the last undefeated man in the tournament.

9. Kevin Knight (6) defeated El Desperado (4) in an A Block tournament match at 11:59. Standing switches and a feeling-out process. These two were both in B Block last year when Desperado won the Block at 7-2 while Knight finished 3-6, and Desperado’s win over Knight is their only prior meeting to this one. Desperado applied a half crab while seated on the turnbuckle, and Kevin sold the pain in his leg. Knight hit a dropkick, then a plancha to the floor at 6:30. In the ring, Knight hit an F5 face plant for a nearfall.

Knight went for his leaping DDT but Desperado blocked it, and Despe locked in the Stretch Muffler and Knight writhed in pain but reached the ropes at 8:30. Desperado set up for Angel’s Wings but Knight blocked it. They traded forearm strikes as the 10:00 clock was spot-on. Knight put Desperado on the turnbuckles and hit a Pele Kick. Knight hit his jump-up Frankensteiner! He hit a Cameron Grimes-style Cave-in stomp to the collarbone for a believable nearfall! (Incredible height on this one!) Knight hit his leaping spike DDT for the clean pin! That’s a shocker and definitely an upset. “You can see the goosebumps come up on my arm,” Charlton said. “That is a career-defining victory, no doubt about it.”

10. Hiromu Takahashi (4) defeated Sho (4) in a B Block tournament match at 18:29. This is Hiromu’s hometown. Sho came out first with an 8×10 photo of Hiromu in his arms. Sho had the ring announcer read a letter that stated Takahashi was forfeiting. Sho demanded his arm be raised. Hiromu ran into the ring, still handcuffed in front of his stomach! He hit a shotgun dropkick and he choked Sho with the handcuffs. He hit a crossbody block, then a shotgun dropkick from the apron to the floor. Hiromu was wearing a shirt with Japanese symbols on it; Charlton said they were disgusting. (They are implying Takahashi was actually taken to jail.)

They brawled in the crowd. Charlton said the shirt says Hiromu is a “maggot.” Sho bodyslammed him onto the thin mat at ringside at 3:30. They ran around the floor, around the seating area, and this was a lot of comedy. Sho hit Hiromu with a chairshot. Young Lion Katsuya Murashima ran to ringside and took Shoma Kato backstage with him; Charlton and Walker Stewart said they are trying to find a key or bolt cutters. In the ring, Sho applied a Boston Crab, but Hiromu reached the ropes at 7:00. Hiromu hit a huracanrana. A Young Lion ran to ringside and has the key! Hiromu was freed from the handcuffs at 9:00! (They couldn’t do that in the two hours and nine matches before this?)

In the ring, Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall, then the Death Valley Driver into the corner. Yujiro Takahashi ran to ringside and attacked Hiromu! Sho went for a cover at 11:00 but the ref refused to make a count. Sho got his wrench; Hiromu did the Eddie Spot and claimed to the ref he had been struck. Sho hit a low blow, then he shoved Hiromu onto the ref. The ref was down, so Yujiro hopped in the ring and helped beat down Hiromu. Yujiro hit a Wassup-style falling headbutt to Hiromu’s groin for a nearfall at 13:00. Sho nailed a piledriver for a nearfall. Hiromu applied a Triangle Choke, but it appears Sho bit at Hiromu’s groin! “That’s a new low!” Charlton shouted.

Hiromu applied a triangle choke as the 15:00 call was right on. Sho hit a Buckle Bomb into the corner and they were both down. Hiromu hit a clothesline. Hiromu hit a low blow uppercut! He shoved Sho onto Yujiro. He hit a faceplant for a nearfall at 17:00, then another clothesline and a Time Bomb for a believable nearfall, but Yujiro pulled the ref to the floor. Bushi ran in! He brawled with Yujiro. Hiromu nailed the Time Bomb 2/modified Air Raid Crash for the pin. Good match; more comedy than I prefer and the usual House of Torture antics hurt it as well.

* Hiromu spoke on the mic afterward.

Final Thoughts: A strong Eagles-Kushida match in the undercard takes best match. The Blake-Titan sprint was a blast for second place, and Knight’s big upset of Desperado takes third. I don’t get the booking of TJP, who had just scored a big win over Titan and had secured his spot as leader of the United Empire. I thought he had a chance of winning this tournament, but instead he is 0-4 and all but mathematically eliminated. As I noted, the main event was fine but more comedy and House of Torture cheating than I care for.

The tournament reaches its midway point on Sunday with both A and B Blocks in action, headlined by El Desperado vs. the undefeated Blake Christian and Robbie Eagles vs. Sho.


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