El Desperado and Francesco Akira headline as the Best of the Super Junior tournament entered its final week.
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Titan submitted DOUKI in 6:21 (***½)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Clark Connors pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 6:19 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: KUSHIDA submitted SHO in 6:54 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Master Wato pinned BUSHI in 8:01 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Mike Bailey pinned Ryusuke Taguchi in 10:20 (****¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Dan Moloney pinned Robbie Eagles in 11:26 (****¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Lio Rush pinned TJP in 12:49 (****)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: YOH pinned Kevin Knight in 8:57 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Hiromu Takahashi defeated Taiji Ishimori via referee stoppage in 10:31 (***½)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: El Desperado submitted Francesco Akira in 25:13 (****½)
We’re back in familiar ground as Korakuen Hall hosted this latest night of the tournament… and it’s a good job I tuned in on time because the English version of the New Japan website was acting like there were only four tournament matches today. In fact we are getting the full ten… naughty.
Kevin Kelly’s back at a Korakuen Hall that’s got standing room at the balcony once again! He’s alongside Chris Charlton, who almost got a bollocking right from the off. Easy now, Kevin…
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Titan vs. DOUKI
DOUKI shot out of the blocks at the bell, knowing a win would give him a record high points total in the tournament… but Titan wasn’t going to give him an easy ride, with a springboard ‘rana and a tope suicida knocking DOUKI into the crowd.
Back inside, DOUKI blocks a swinging DDT, pulling Titan into the DOUKI CHOKEY… but it’s by the ropes as we have a pretty swift break. A swinging Northern Lights gets DOUKI a near-fall, but Titan caught a follow-up Daybreak DDT and took DOUKI back outside for a tope con giro. Another crack at the DOUKI CHOKEY’s countered with a roll-up, before the pair trade Skayde Specials… and we’re back into the chokey as Titan almost went out… only to eventually make it to the ropes. Daybreak follows as Titan’s spiked for a near-fall, before see-saw roll-ups allowed Titan back in with El Inmortal for the submission. Titan snatches win from the jaws of victory, after a frantic opener. ***½
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Clark Connors vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Connors is effectively out of the tournament, while Kanemaru’s already mathematically eliminated…
This one explodes into life with pinning attempts from the off, but it’s a shoulder tackle from Connors that charges Kanemaru down. Heading outside, Connors berates the crowd, then posted Kanemaru, before Kanemaru’s low dropkick back inside took Connors to the mat. Kanemaru works over the leg from there, scoring another dropkick to the knee en route to a Figure Four leglock. Connors rolls to the ropes… then took the pair of them to the outside with a bump, but Kanemaru keeps the hold locked on as Kanemaru seemingly tried to get a count-out win… but Connors beats the count and makes it in at 19. A scooping reverse DDT lands back inside as Kanemaru went up for a moonsault… he aborts it, but couldn’t avoid Connors’ German suplex.
Kanemaru tries to go back to a Figure Four, but Connors cradles out, then almost had his trunks ripped off him as Kanemaru looked to counter the counter. A Trophy Kill spear charges through Kanemaru next, as the No Chaser DDT got the win. ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: SHO vs. KUSHIDA
Let’s get this over with…
SHO tries to beg off the match, saying there’s no point in them fighting since they’re both eliminated… but since the crowd want it, they’ll fight fairly. Of course he will. KUSHIDA gets booed as he slid outside at the bell, then began to engage with SHO as they grappled in the ring.
Korakuen’s appreciative of the grappling, as both men looked to get the mount, before we reached a stalemate. The pair try for cross armbars, but SHO lifts his way free, and landed on top of KUSHIDA, who responded by picking the leg and going for a leg lock. That quickly ends in the ropes, as SHO rolled to the floor, where EVIL handed him some metal sheets to shove inside his shin pads. KUSHIDA kicks SHO back inside, but a kick with the loaded shinpad does immense damage… Kevin Knight runs out from the back to protest, but SHO gets rid of the inserts before he took down KUSHIDA in a double wristlock. EVIL throws Knight into the ring as KUSHIDA had a Hoverboard lock in… then slid in himself to attack KUSHIDA, throwing him into the ref.
Knight’s beaten down by EVIL as KUSHIDA’s double-teamed… EVIL brings out Bobo, only for Knight to put the brakes on things, landing a double dropkick. SHO regains the wrench as Knight restrained EVIL with a Hoverboard lock… KUSHIDA adds one to SHO, who taps furiously right as the referee woke up, and this time it counts! At least they’re changing up the formula, and keeping this stuff in the undercards… ***
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: BUSHI vs. Master Wato
Master Wato came in with a share of the block lead, and we start with the pair trading chops.
A dropkick from Wato takes BUSHI outside… but BUSHI switches around to score a tope suicida as he began to kick Wato around the ring. Wato’s bulldog buys him some time, as did a leaping leg lariat, which took BUSHI outside for a tope con giro. Wato keeps going with the springboard uppercut, before BUSHI snuck in with a DDT, only for Wato to find his way back with Vendeval. The ropes saved BUSHI, who ran in with a dropkick and a swinging Fisherman neckbreaker to score a near-fall in return. A running Codebreaker flattens Wato from there, before Wato dropkicks away a MX attempt. From there, a spinning roundhouse from Wato leads to the bridging German suplex… and that’s another win for Wato, who looks almost set for a spot in the semi-finals on this form! ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Mike Bailey vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi’s still waiting for his first win – while Mike Bailey could all-but-book his spot in the semis with a win here.
Taguchi tries to surprise Bailey early on, coming close with a cradle in the opening minute before he ran into a huge kick from Speedball. Scissors kicks and an enziguiri take Taguchi into the corner, before Bailey missed the Vader Bomb knees… and had to drag himself outside to break the Oh My & Garankle. Bailey doesn’t get much solace on the floor as Taguchi drives the knee into the floor, then locked in the ankle lock once more. Back inside, Taguchi stays on the knee, tying up Bailey with a cross-legged Cobra Twist, but Speedball again makes it to the ropes for a break, before he found a way through with a dropkick off the middle rope.
That’s followed with a running shooting star press for a near-fall, then a buzzsaw kick for a similar result, before another spinning kick was cut-off with a hip attack from Taguchi. More kicks lead to another ankle lock from Taguchi, but Bailey again rolls free to take him outside… for the eventual Julep springboard moonsault to the floor. A dazed Taguchi wanders away from the ring and into the path of kicks from Bailey… and again they’re caught as the ankle lock ends up getting rolled through. Taguchi feigns hitting the ring post, then slid away as Bailey kicked the post as he aimed for Taguchi… we’re back inside as Taguchi hits a stomp off the middle rope to the ankle of Bailey, and yes, we’re back to Oh My & Garankle… but the ropes once again save Speedball.
Dodon looks to follow, but Bailey rolls away, then hit a ‘rana… then a PK before moonsault knees sees him BOUNCE OFF TAGUCHI’S SHINS. Ow my legs. Bummer-ye’s next, but Bailey cradles Taguchi for a near-fall, before a crane kick and a superkick took Taguchi into the corner. The spinning roundhouse floors Taguchi, and all that’s left is Ultima Weapon… except Taguchi avoids it! We’re back to the ankle lock, then some see-saw pins, but it’s Speedball who edged out, snatching the pin at the death. This was absolutely glorious stuff, but if you’re surprised by Mike Bailey having great matches in 2023, then I don’t know what to tell you. ****¼
Post-match, Taguchi looked on at the Korakuen crowd before heading to the back…
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Dan Moloney vs. Robbie Eagles
Commentary mentions that Moloney had a separated shoulder… while Robbie Eagles was all about showing off Kosei Fujita’s new towel.
Moloney attacks Eagles before the bell, as we have a scrap on the outside… there’s even time for Dan to stomp on Fujita. Eagles turns it back around though, only to run into a chop before Moloney pulled Eagles onto the apron. More chops and kicks there lead to a teased Turbo Backpack, before Moloney dumped Eagles onto the side of the ring with a side suplex. Eagles rolls back in at 14, but straight into the path of a dropkick from Moloney as one fan on the balcony got Korakuen chanting for Robbie. Aah, I’ve missed these sorts of crowds. Moloney took inspiration from that as he continued to batter Eagles, but Eagles chop blocks the leg and dove in with an elbow to the back of Moloney.
Dan counters a running kick, but couldn’t complete a Last Ride counter as he’s kicked into the corner ahead of some running double knees. A second set misses, with Moloney blistering Eagles with more chops, only to get caught with a uranage’d sit-out powerbomb. The Ron Miller Special follows, but the ropes save Moloney as Eagles looked to add a 450 splash. It misses, as Eagles tried to stay on Moloney’s leg… only to get drilled through with a spear in return. Moloney tries a Fisherman suplex, but it’s cradled out of… only for him to hit a superkick and a Fisherman buster for a near-fall anyway. A Drilla Killa’s next, but Eagles slips out and got chopped anyways, before a low Tiger Feint kick and some double knees into the corner almost put away Moloney.
Eagles pushes on with a springboard missile dropkick to Moloney’s left leg, but a Trigger Knee’s caught. Moloney loses grip as Eagles goes back to the knee, before a barrage of head kicks looked to lead to an Asai DDT… but Moloney effortlessly countered that into a Drilla Killa, and that’s a massive win for Moloney! ****¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: TJP vs. Lio Rush
TJP looked frustrated early on as Rush countered his opening flurry, before misdirection led to a low dropkick that took Rush into the ropes.
TJP pulls ahead with the levering armbar, which sent Rush outside… with TJP charging him into the side of the ring as he went. Knees from TJP lead to an Octopus stretch, only for Rush to get free and take TJP out with a handspring kick… while a tope suicida clipped TJP on Rush’s way out. Back inside, a running back suplex gets Rush a two-count, only for TJP to strike back with some face-washing kicks. Rush returns the favour, before duelling head kicks left the pair laying. TJP’s back with a tornado DDT, but he’s cut off as he went for a Mamba splash… Rush tries for a Spanish fly, but gets shoved down as the Mamba splash eventually lands in Lio’s knees.
A Rush Hour springboard stunner’s cut-off with a low dropkick as TJP heads back up for a Mamba splash-style crossbody. He misses a Fireball, but scores a diving knee seconds later for a near-fall, as the back-and-forth continued with Rush missing another Rush Hour… allowing TJP to capitalise with a Pinoy Stretch, only for the ropes to save Lio. Rush remained on the defensive as TJP works the arm, before he snuck in with a Final Cut… then a spear… before the Final Hour saw Rush land on the soles of the boots. From there, TJP tries to outmaneuver Rush, but can’t avoid the Rush Hour, nor a Final Hour frog splash as Lio hit the Final Hour for the win. We’ve got Rush vs. Bailey in Osaka on Tuesday, and that looks to be a decider… ****
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: YOH vs. Kevin Knight
Earlier results eliminated Knight – while YOH’s still got a shot of making the semi-finals..
We’ve got evasions early on… at least until Knight scored a way through with a scoop slam and a standing splash for a two-count. YOH pulls Knight down off the top rope, then scored with a dropkick to the knee, before a trip up top was stopped by Knight’s leaping ‘rana.
Knight misses a plancha to YOH on the outside, before Knight leapt up onto the stage… and scored a cannonball back to YOH on the floor. Back inside, Knight stays ahead, until YOH nailed a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, before he returned fire with a dropkick as YOH had been trying for Direct Drive. YOH throws away a leaping DDT as a Sky High powerbomb almost got it for Knight… who got a little ahead of himself and ended up running into a superkick. YOH had no such trouble with his version, before the Direct Drive planted Knight for three more points. This match didn’t quite do it for me, but it looks like we’re going to YOH going for the junior tag titles again based on that result? ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu’s slightly ahead in their 1-on-1 history, having won four of seven matches… but Ishimori won last time out, almost a year ago. A loss for Hiromu here would effectively eliminate him, given his two losses are against the current top-two…
We’ve got an early chase as Hiromu tries to catch Ishimori with a sunset bomb… Ishimori backflips away, only to get sent into the crowd with a shotgun dropkick off the apron. It’s time to roll back the clock from there, as Hiromu takes things into the crowd, heading up the stairways, only to get suplexed on the floor. Ishimori sprints across the building and goes for a run-up… sending Hiromu almost crashing into the walls with a shotgun dropkick. A count-out tease sees Hiromu crawl back on his hands and feet as he eventually made it back in at 19, only to get thrown shoulder-first into an exposed corner.
An overhead armbar sees Ishimori continue the focus on the arm, before Hiromu broke free and bought some time with a tijeras. Ishimori’s run into that exposed corner next, as Hiromu adds a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, only to get thrown back into the corner head of a baseball slide German suplex. The pair trade clotheslines from there, before Hiromu blocked a Mistica and muscled Ishimori up… only to get caught with a reverse ‘rana. Hiromu hits back with a pop-up powerbomb, before a Hiromu-chan bomber was the last in a series of awkward landings, forcing the referee to call for the bell as Ishimori had looked to have injured his shoulder on the reverse ‘rana… with those clotheslines exacerbating it. An unfortunate ending, and one that – injury aside – puts Ishimori in a tricky spot if he were to move forward. ***½
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Francesco Akira vs. El Desperado
Korakuen’s slightly pro-Akira to start, as we start with Desperado taking him into the ropes for a clean break.
Akira returned the favour, then came in with a dropkick to Desperado as the match spilled outside, with Akira following up with a trip to the ring post. Grabbing a chair from Great O-Khan on commentary, Akira puts Desperado in it ahead of a shotgun dropkick before the pair traded blows back inside. A right hand from Desperado sent the Italian sailing outside for a tope con giro into the bleachers. Desperado clears a part of the crowd as he proceeded to bowl Akira back towards another section of bleachers, before Desperado headed under the ring to pull out a couple of chairs… using them to smash Akira’s ankle against the floor. Back inside, Akira’s knee’s worked over in the ropes, before Desperado dropped a leg over it en route to a leg spreader.
Akira tries to set up for a tarantula in the ropes, but Desperado just grabs a nonchalant toe hold before a wheelbarrow stomp finally bought Akira some time. Despite hobbling, Akira charges into Desperado in the corner, before a tijeras took Desperado back outside… but a missed baseball slide allowed Desperado to charge Akira back into the crowd. They fight around ringside, heading back up towards a raised seating deck, which Akira’s popped up onto before he moonsaulted off it onto Desperado. Akira heads to the ring… just to dive out of it to tope Desperado, before a German suplex back inside, then a diving knee almost got the win.
Desperado’s snap spinebuster almost got the win… but he morphs seamlessly into the Numeros Dos after the kick-out, forcing Akira to claw his way towards the ropes for a break. TJP’s out at ringside to try and lend more support to his Catch 22 teammate, who shrugged off a knee breaker to return with an enziguiri. A Guitarra de Angel almost wins it for Desperado, before Akira countered Pinche Loco into a Speedfire… but that’s still not enough! From the kick-out, Akira moves into the Pinoy Stretch as he returned the favour from TJP trying his finisher earlier in the tournament… but Desperado’s able to drag his way to the ropes for a break. We pass the 20-minute mark as Akira looked to set up for a Tiger suplex, but instead he nails a pop-up German suplex, bridging on one foot to score yet another near-fall.
Akira pushes on with a Fireball… but Desperado ducks it and pulled him up off the mat with a hanging Numero Dos, ragdolling Akira around the ring… Akira tries to hold on, only for Desperado to pull him up off the mat. Desperado lets go, only to drive Akira’s knee back into the mat, then went back to the Dos… and relinquished it when it was clear no stoppage was forthcoming. TJP throws in the towel for Akira, but it’s thrown back outside by his team mate as Akira ended up getting waylaid into the ropes with a forearm. Akira still won’t give up, but his retaliatory shots have nothing on them… until a superkick and a roll-up almost stole it! Wash, rinse, repeat, but this time Desperado knocks his lights out, before another Numero Dos at the 25-minute mark finally forced the stoppage. A tremendous, fiery showing in defeat from Akira, and don’t be surprised if this sews the seeds for greater things for him down the line. ****½
How we stand with one match left…
Mike Bailey, Lio Rush, Hiromu Takahashi (6-2 / 12pts)
Taiji Ishimori, Titan (5-3 / 10pts)
TJP (4-4 / 8pts) * eliminated
DOUKI, SHO (3-5 / 6pts) * eliminated
KUSHIDA (2-6 / 4pts) * eliminated
Ryusuke Taguchi (0-8 / 0pts) * eliminated
El Desperado, Master Wato, YOH (6-2 / 12pts)
Robbie Eagles (5-3 / 10pts)
Francesco Akira, Clark Connors (4-4 / 8pts) * eliminated
Kevin Knight, Dan Moloney (3-5 / 6pts) * eliminated
Yoshinobu Kanemaru (2-6 / 4pts) * eliminated
BUSHI (1-7 / 2pts) * eliminated
We’re back on Tuesday for the first of two nights in Osaka’s Edion Arena – with block A’s final matches, but they’ll decide the main event closer to the time… Unfortunate injury to Ishimori aside, this was easily the best night of the tournament as the crew saved their best for Korakuen Hall – and set up for a tantalising pair of final block nights in Osaka later in the week.