We take a look at the opening night of the Best of the Super Junior tournament, featuring Speedball Mike Bailey and Hiromu Takahashi.
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Clark Connors pinned Kevin Knight in 9:20 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Taiji Ishimori submitted Ryusuke Taguchi in 3:54 (**¾)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Dan Moloney pinned BUSHI in 7:12 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: DOUKI pinned KUSHIDA in 8:32 (****)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Master Wato pinned Francesco Akira in 7:20 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Lio Rush pinned SHO in 4:20 (**½)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Robbie Eagles pinned YOH in 13:06 (****)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Titan submitted TJP in 7:12 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Yoshinobu Kanemaru submitted El Desperado in 14:01 (***¾)
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Mike Bailey pinned Hiromu Takahashi in 16:40 (****½)
We’re at Korakuen Hall as the 30th Best of the Super Junior tournament kicked off – this tournament’s got a LOT of shows in a short space of time, so I’ll not be covering them all… English commentary comes from Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton.
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Clark Connors vs. Kevin Knight
We’ve got LA Dojo graduates kicking off the tournament, and Knight’s jump start has Connors on the back foot from the off.
We’ve no guard rails for this tournament, so Connors was able to launch Knight into the seating decks as the new Bullet Club member settled into a comfortable advantage. Knight manages to fight back, scoring with the standing frog splash for a near-fall, then a wonderful Sky High for another near-fall.
Knight’s lofty springboard crossbody keeps him on top… but an implant DDT stacks up Knight moments later as Clark Connors took home the win. A decent opener, if not a little short, but the reigning junior tag champion Knight doesn’t get the best start… ***
Post-match, Connors wears out a chair over Knight’s back – so there’s an out for Knight taking a few more losses in this tournament…
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Taiji Ishimori vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi’s promised to cut the crap out on this tournament. We’ll see how long his no-arse policy holds, as Taguchi’s dubbed himself the “King of Strange Style.” Arez is going to be making some calls…
Taguchi blitzes Ishimori with dropkicks early as he went to work on the knee, going for the Oh My & Garankle early on as he was like a dog with a bone. Bone Soldier, aha! Ishimori counters out with a Bone Lock… Taguchi got free to hit a Dodon, but him going for his big moves led to Ishimori going back with a Mistica before the Bone Lock forced a swift submission. Hey, they kept this short and sweet – just how Taguchi should be utilised these days. **¾
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Dan Moloney vs. BUSHI
This was Moloney’s New Japan debut, but his attempt at a good start was cut short as a dropkick sent him outside… only to return to land one on BUSHI for an early two-count.
Korakuen showered him in boos as he literally ripped the shirt off of BUSHI – so Dan’s been watching tapes and knew what was coming if BUSHI kept that shirt on. A blistering chop sinks BUSHI, who was able to out-manoeuvre Moloney for a while, tying him up in the ropes for a back cracker.
Moloney clips the ropes as he caught BUSHI with a baseball slide to the outside, before a Fisherman buster, a spear and the Drilla ended up making light work of BUSHI. A solid enough debut for Moloney, as we’re flying through these undercard matches. ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: DOUKI vs. KUSHIDA
Now part of Just 5 Guys, DOUKI’s in a similar role to what he was in before with Suzuki-gun, but now he’s part of a group that’s accidentally plugging a fast-food chain in the West…
This was KUSHIDA’s Best of the Super Junior return after five years away in WWE, and he looked to keep DOUKI grounded in the early going, forcing him into the ropes to break some headscissors. A cross armbreaker forces another rope break for an aggressive KUSHIDA, who was starting to get booed by Korakuen, as a Liger-esque seated surfboard proceeded to stretch DOUKI out.
DOUKI’s able to counter with one of his own, but the earlier arm work meant he couldn’t hold it, so KUSHIDA’s back to a double armbar stretch, only for a ‘rana from DOUKI to give him an opening,s parking back-and-forth pinning attempts, ending with some tight pulling from both men to end a breathless sequence without a win… before a Skayde special from DOUKI scored the upset. I freaking loved this, particularly the smooth-yet-rapid exchanges of pinning attempts that made it feel much more than “just a spot.” Get this on your lists! ****
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Francesco Akira vs. Master Wato
So far, the first man out for each match has won… that streak’s got to end, right?
Wato and Akira tried to keep the pace up from the last match, with Wato getting sent outside early, before switcheroos ended with an Akira tope into the front row. Akira’s modified grounded Octopus hold ends in the ropes, as Wato returned with a wheelbarrow German suplex… that Akira floated out of.
Akira comes close to the win with a DDT, before Wato ducked a Nova Fireball… only to get wheelbarrowed into a stomp. Recientemente’s next from Wato… and that’s enough for him to get the better of the late exchange, and start his campaign with a win. ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: SHO vs. Lio Rush
SHO’s apparently vowing to keep it clean this year – in a different context to Taguchi… and of course it’s a lie as EVIL blindsides Lio Rush on his way to the ring.
The bell sounds as SHO lands a lariat, then set up for a Power Breaker… but Rush kicks out at two. A Shock Arrow’s next, but Rush back body drops free, prompting EVIL to distract the referee with a chair. SHO unveils his wrench, but ends up clocking EVIL with it by mistake before Rush tope’d into the former champion on the outside.
A Benny Hill chase takes us back inside as a Rush low-pe keeps SHO down… more interference from EVIL knocks Rush off the top rope, while a ref bump takes us back to the spanner. Rush introduces the spanner to the House of Torture lads, then headed up top for the Final Hour frog splash, which was enough for the win. At least they kept this short, but I’ll be tired of the constant interference if that’s the motif for SHO on this tour… **½
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Robbie Eagles vs. YOH
Robbie Eagles has become part of TMDK since I last dropped by.
YOH rolls up Eagles early on, prompting the Australian to try and slow things down as they went hold-for-hold on the mat. Eagles takes control with a low dropkick to YOH, as he looked to wear down YOH’s knee for an eventual Ron Miller Special. YOH manages to fight back, taking Eagles outside for a plancha, before a corkscrew Vader bomb back inside kept Eagles down.
In response, Eagles was able to take YOH down, but misses a 450 splash to the leg, instead scoring a uranage/sitout spinebuster for a near-fall. The Ron Miller Special follows, but YOH escapes as we passed the ten-minute marker, trading forearm strikes before Eagles tried to go back to the knee.
Eagles gets slammed onto the knee of YOH to shut that all down, but Eagles was able to respond with an Asai DDT, then a 450 splash to the leg before the Ron Miller Special… got countered into a Five Star Clutch… then into a cradle as the crowd threatened to come unglued. In the end, Eagles goes back to the knee with a thrust kick, as a missile dropkick to the knee and a diving kick ended up putting YOH away. Robbie might be about to lose a tooth after all that, such was the intensity, and we’ve got two matches ready for your notebooks here! ****
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: TJP vs. Titan
The United Empire is 1-1 so far today – and TJP will be looking to make sure his group has a positive start to night one.
Titan and TJP are close to start with, trading holds and escapes in the opening stretch. Titan’s baited into a dive, evading a TJP follow-up before connecting with a tope. TJP wraps up one arm and snaps back on the other, leaving Titan in a heap, as TJPO then began to loosen the laces on Titan’s mask.
Face-washing boots kept TJP ahead, but Titan’s able to evade a senton atomico… then land a crossbody coming back into the ring. Titan gets hung up in the ropes as TJP added a Mamba Splash to send the pair to the floor… following up with a flying DDT for a near-fall. A Pele kick from Titan knocks TJP off the top rope, and onto the apron for a flying stomp, before his leap off the top was caught and turned into a Pinoy Stretch.
The ropes save Titan, who’s able to return with a swinging DDT before a Muta Lock forced the sudden submission. ***¼
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block B: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. El Desperado
These two have had four prior singles matches, with Desperado’s only win being in their most recent outing, back in 2021’s Best of the Super Junior tournament.
Kanemaru held the ropes open for Desperado in what could have been taken as a sign of disrespect… Desperado accepts it, and got jumped from behind as we ended up outside, with Desperado popping up Kanemaru into the side of the ring. Things slow down back inside with a series of side headlocks, before Kanemaru began to aim for and work over Desperado’s knee.
Eventually finding an opening, Desperado caught Kanemaru with a dropkick to the knee as he headed between the ropes, before he cradled Kanemaru in almost a Banana Split. That segues into Numero Dos, but Kanemaru’s able to escape and apply a Figure Four in return. More cracks at the Figure Four are cradled out of, before Pinche Loco was countered back into a Figure Four, with Kanemaru sinking in the hold to force the submission. That’s perhaps an upset given Desperado is among the tournament favourites – but Desperado never truly got going after the pre-match attack, and was left limping after all those Figure Fours. Cue the fightback? ***¾
Best of the Super Junior 30, Block A: Mike Bailey vs. Hiromu Takahashi
We’ve one prior meeting between these two, and it’s where you’d have least expected it – with Hiromu beating Speedball to kick off WhatCulture Pro Wrestling’s Stacked PPV back in August 2017. A match that, and I know you’ll be shocked by this, was really good…
Hiromu’s the clear crowd favourite at the bell, even after he pulled Bailey in after a handshake as the tempo quickly ratcheted up. Scissor kicks from Bailey take down Hiromu, before a running kick on the floor left Hiromu laying… and had the crowd chanting for Bailey as well. A switcheroo leads to Hiromu scoring a shotgun dropkick off the apron, before Hiromu looked to take advantage of eased restrictions… BY HEADING INTO THE CROWD!
Up in the stands, Hiromu charges at Speedball with another running shotgun dropkick, before a fairly rapid count-out forced the pair back towards ringside. Speedball goes for the throat with some chops, and got some in return, before a diving boot knocked down Hiromu. A series of kicks laid out Hiromu for a running shooting star press, which earns a near-fall, before another handspring was turned into a German suplex on Bailey.
The momentum continues to swing back-and-forth as Bailey got drilled into the corner pad, before Bailey shot back with the moonsault double knees. OW. A Buzzsaw kick almost gets the win for Bailey, who then got launched into the corner with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Speedball shrugs off the bad landing as best he can as the pair exchange blows, ending with Hiromu throwing Bailey onto the apron… where a sunset bomb’s escaped and met with the triangle moonsault on the floor.
A count-out tease ends with Hiromu getting swept onto the apron for more moonsault knees… but Hiromu rolls away because Speedball (Seemingly) Hates His Knees. Now we get the sunset bomb, before see-saw pins kept the match ticking. A WILD CROSSBODY FALLAWAY SLAM nearly wins it for Speedball, as a battle of kicks had Hiromu firmly on the defensive, eating a corkscrew kick in the corner.
Bailey heads up top for the Ultima Weapon… and that’s all as the late flurry was just too much for Hiromu Takahashi to withstand. It’s a debut win in New Japan (in Japan) for Bailey, and this was every bit the match you expected going in… and that almost surely sets up a title shot down the line, right? ****½
After one round, here’s your standings:
DOUKI, Taiji Ishimori, Lio Rush, Titan (1-0 / 2pts)
KUSHIDA, SHO, Ryusuke Taguchi, TJP (0-1 / 0pts)
Clark Connors, Robbie Eagles, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Dan Moloney, Master Wato, (1-0 / 2pts)
Francesco Akira, BUSHI, El Desperado, Kevin Knight, YOH (0-1 / 0pts)
Like I said at the top – Best of the Super Junior 30 is rattling off the shows, with Saturday and Sunday seeing action. They’re all-tournament shows as well, with ten matches on the cards, as Saturday’s headlined by Master Wato vs. YOH in Nagano, while Sunday in Aichi gets Lio Rush vs. Hiromu Takahashi on top.
A really good start to the tournament, as they avoided giving everyone equal time – which meant the undercard flew by, which in turn made the key matches stand out. There’s going to be a LOT of junior wrestling in the next two and a bit weeks, so there’ll be a lot of cherry picking… with a good couple of matches on this show alone.