We’re back at Korakuen Hall for the next Best of the Super Juniors matches, headlined by an intra-LIJ match as BUSHI took on Hiromu Takahashi.

Quick Results
Kosei Fujita and Ryohei Oiwa went to a draw in 10:00 (**½)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Master Wato pinned Ryusuke Taguchi in 12:09 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – YOH pinned Robbie Eagles in 13:49 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Yoshinobu Kanemaru pinned SHO in 8:08 (***½)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – El Desperado submitted DOUKI in 15:20 (***½)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – El Phantasmo pinned Taiji Ishimori in 15:53 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Hiromu Takahashi pinned BUSHI in 21:16 (***¾)

They’re breaking up the alternating pattern of shows as this is the first of two consecutive BOSJ shows on the tour. We’re in Korakuen for this one…

Ryohei Oiwa vs. Kosei Fujita
At this rate the Young Lions will be drawing more games than Sunderland last season…

The pair start off aggressive, with Oiwa and Fujita going to ground with headlock takedowns and escapes, before they switched from cross armbreakers to crossfaces. Oiwa looked to pull ahead with a leg lock, forcing Oiwa to crawl back into the ropes… a half crab’s next as Fujita nearly tapped, but ended up getting to the rope just in time.

A dropkick frees Fujita , who looked to fight back with a hammerlock takedown into a double wristlock, which ended in the ropes. A Fujiwara armbar’s next, before a back body drop gets Fujita back in it, with dropkicks and shoulder tackles next for a near-fall. We’re in the final two minutes, so we get Oiwa in with Boston crabs to while away the time, as we get our ninth Young Lion draw in a row on this tour. **½

Best of the Super Junior 28: Master Wato vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Who’s your pick? Six or Nine?

We open with wristlocks before Taguchi charged down Wato with shoulder tackles and uppercuts. Hip attacks follow to Wato, who then had to defend a toe hold that Taguchi turned into a cloverleaf… although Wato was fortunately by the ropes, even if Taguchi “had trouble breaking”…

Elbow drops to Wato’s knee soften up for another leg lock, but Wato’s in the ropes instantly as Taguchi was showing either selective hearing or a mean streak in not letting go. It’s getting deliberate as he rolls Wato into the ropes for a Lion Tamer, before a slingshot seated splash drew a two-count.

Some headscissors and a dropkick take Taguchi to the outside, where he’s crashed into with a tornillo, before Taguchi’s attempt at a hip attack back inside ended with him getting stuck in the ropes as Wato returned with a springboard uppercut. Eventually Taguchi finds a way back with a springboard armdrag that took Wato outside, while a body press keeps him there, before Taguchi went back to the hip attacks.

A Bummer-ye followed from Taguchi for a near-fall, before an ankle lock was cradled out of for a near-fall. Taguchi goes low with a dropkick as Wato keeps going for roll-ups, before the pair resorted to trading elbow strikes. A head kick from Wato leads us to Recientemente, which nearly wins it, before the Tenzan Tombstone Driver and the RPP gets Wato the win. This was a nice, competitive match between tag partners, but you didn’t get the feeling that either would be in the hunt at the end of the tournament. Still, Wato’s slowly shedding that inconsistency that’s plagued him in his rookie year, which is a good thing. ***

Best of the Super Junior 28: YOH vs. Robbie Eagles
The Direct Drive’s been YOH’s downfall all tournament long – which is saying something when it’s his own damn finisher! Apparently YOH’s last singles win was against Robbie Eagles, some 30 months ago…

We’ve a tentative start as YOH took down Eagles, but that early exchange leads nowhere as YOH grabbed an armbar, then wrung the Aussie’s arm, before Eagles escaped and missed a knee drop. YOH comes back in with a low dropkick before Eagles tried to laugh off an Irish whip attempt.

Eagles countered with a springboard armdrag, then with headscissors to send YOH powdering to the outside. Returning, YOH takes Eagles outside with a dropkick, then followed with a plancha before a chinlock keeps Eagles down. Elbows break that grip, but YOH uppercuts Eagles in the ropes to take him back outside, only for a leg lariat from Eagles to turn the tide as he scored with a tope con giro.

Eagles crashed hard into the barriers with that dive, taking the brunt of it on his quads. He manages to shake it off and take things back inside though, as an early attempt at the Ron Miller Special was pushed away. YOH builds back with leaping forearms, before a high kick from Eagles knocked him back down.

YOH throws some elbows, which Eagles returns in kind, before Eagles kicked out his leg… leading to more elbows in return. A superkick from YOH leads to Eagles skinning the cat and landing more kicks, before YOH tried to block a turbo backpack, eventually breaking the hold with a hook kick.

Eagles flips out of a Dragon suplex then hit a 619 to the knee… a springboard missile dropkick continues the assault, but YOH rolled up Eagles out of a Ron Miller Special set-up, bridges back… and snatches the win! This was another good competitive match, with the result coming literally out of nowhere as YOH looks to be Robbie Eagles’ bogey opponent. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 28: SHO vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Our only match of the day that isn’t between guys in the same unit… and it’s a test against the “Heel Master” for SHO. A Heel Master that SPRINTED across Korakuen Hall to attack YOH in the entrance way so he could get the spanner and throw it away!

Kanemaru takes it to ringside as SHO takes the guard rails, then the match starts with Kanemaru scoring a swinging DDT, then a scooping reverse DDT (which I swear commentary called a “British fall”) for a near-fall. A Deep Impact attempt’s blocked as SHO fell back and had Kanemaru land on his knee, before we headed outside with Kanemaru getting taken into the barriers.

SHO then wanders back towards the entrance way and finds his spanner… dusting it off too, because I guess the Korakuen floor is dirty. A drop toe hold from Kanemaru stops him in his tracks though, before a knee breaker and a Figure Four had SHO in trouble back in the ring. SHO clings on, but makes it to the ropes for a break, with Kanemaru staying on SHO with stomps.

A spear turns it around though, as SHO then kicked Kanemaru in the thigh, then rolled him down for a Kimura. The ropes save Kanemaru, who then floats out of a Shock Arrow and returned with a brainbuster. SHO kicks out at two from there, before he shoved Kanemaru into the ref… they play pass the parcel with the ref, with Kanemaru avoiding a ref bump, before a shock roll-up hands SHO his first loss of the tournament! This was a fantastic sprint of a match, with the urgency from Kanemaru setting up the story throughout – while perhaps underscoring that SHO can only get it done with shenanigans… ***½

Post-match, an enraged SHO tries to attack Kanemaru, but instead gets low blowed then doused with whiskey. At least, I hope that bottle had whiskey in it…

Best of the Super Junior 28: DOUKI vs. El Desperado
After Sunday’s time limit draw, Desperado might well be hoping for some favours here to help him get back on track.

We start out brightly, with DOUKI and Desperado trading armdrags, leg sweeps and what not until headscissors took Despy outside. Back inside, an overhead armbar has Desperado down, before Despy escaped a hammerlock… but gets sent outside seconds later. Desperado pulls DOUKI onto the side of the ring as he then grabbed DOUKI’s pipe… the ref stops him though, so we head back inside as Desperado looked to target DOUKI’s knee.

Back outside, DOUKI’s taken into the rails as we get a count-out tease. DOUKI’s back in at 18, but Desperado stays on the knee, trapping DOUKI in a deathlock as the ropes offered some, albeit brief, respite. DOUKI manages to fight back, but his Gory bomb’s countered into a Gory special as Desperado looked for the stoppage, before DOUKI managed to power back into a sunset flip.

DOUKI’s back with the backsliding Widow’s Peak for a near-fall, before he headed onto the apron and tried a Daybreak… only for Desperado to dropkick him to the floor first. A dive from Desperado’s kicked away by DOUKI, who meets Despy on the floor with an Asai moonsault instead.

Returning to the ring, DOUKI lands his Daybreak DDT for a near-fall, before Desperado snuck back in with a spinebuster. He rolls that through into a Guitarra de Angel for a near-fall, before DOUKI monkey flipped Desperado into the DOUKI CHOKI! Desperado manages to counter it out into a Numero Dos, before DOUKI cradled him for a near-fall.

A Dragon screw on the mat keeps DOUKI in trouble though, as Numero Dos was reapplied… and that leads to the eventual submission. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 28: El Phantasmo vs. Taiji Ishimori
Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team squares off here, as I feel like I may need to throw in a “self proclaimed” somewhere there. ELP’s not brought his light-up jacket for this…

After admiring (and removing) their Tapla-designed t-shirts, we get going with quite some degree of tentativeness. They eventually lock-up, struggling into the ropes before ELP grabbed a side headlock… got pushed off, then came back with a shoulder tackle. Ishimori returns the favour as the pair kept on sparring, leading to the double dropkick and kip-up stand-off.

Ishimori shakes ELP’s hand… then stomped on his foot, which ELP sold like he’d had it driven over. Phantasmo asks for no back rakes, but instead he gets his nippled tweaked… then returned the favour before Ishimori kicked him in the gut, seemingly having borrowed ELP’s Sudden Death boots?

Phantasmo beats the count-out, but gets hung up in the corner for a Gas Pedal as Ishimori continued to use ELP’s usual tricks against him. The pair begin to pick up the pace, with ELP’s springboard crossbody and Quebrada landing for a near-fall, before a Manhattan drop and a slam left Ishimori laying for a forearm off the middle rope.

Phantasmo calls for a superkick, but Ishimori cradles him for a near-fall before taking ELP into the ropes for a baseball slide German suplex. A springboard Codebreaker has Phantasmo down, but he moved away from a moonsault before he returned with an attempted whirlibird neckbreaker… with Ishimori escaping to hit a handspring enziguiri instead.

Ishimori builds up with ELP’s own whirlibird neckbreaker for a near-fall, before a teased CR2 was back dropped out of, with ELP rolling through into a Styles Clash instead. He followed that up with Ishimori’s own Cipher UTAKI for a near-fall, before Ishimori ‘rana’s out of a CR2. Phantasmo cracks Ishimori with an enziguiri, then a V-Trigger, before a One Winged Angel was countered with a reverse ‘rana for a near-fall.

ELP goes for another Cipher UTAKI, but Ishimori countered by spiking him with a ‘rana, for a near-fall as ELP gets a foot to the rope. From there, Ishimori goes for a Sudden Death superkick, but stopped himself because he didn’t want to hurt ELP… only to get cradled for the sudden win. Some folks won’t like this, but this was a pretty enjoyable “opposite day” match as the regular tag partners tried to beat their opponent with their own moves, only for Ishimori’s own conscience to cost him in the end. ***¼

Tetsuya Naito headed to ringside for the main event so he could provide commentary…

Best of the Super Junior 28: BUSHI vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Our final match of the day sees an intra-LIJ match – and one that’s only occurred twice in the past, with Hiromu winning in last year’s Best of the Super Junior tournament, while BUSHI got the win back in 2012, when Hiromu was a Young Lion.

Hiromu and BUSHI start off pretty quickly, with an eye rake taking BUSHI into the ropes before a low dropkick had BUSHI stalling. A tijeras takes BUSHI outside, where he’s sent into the railings… but recovered to hit a dropkick on Hiromu, who’d had to abort a dive to the outside. Some t-shirt choking perhaps gives away that this isn’t going be a “friendly” match, as BUSHI took Hiromu outside… but faked out a dive as Hiromu crouched by the ring.

Staying outside, Hiromu dragged BUSHI into the ropes for a Drive By dropkick that gets him a near-fall, before BUSHI took over with elbows and some flying headscissors that led him into a snap DDT. A missile dropkick to Hiromu followed in the ropes, but an attempted slingshot DDT on the apron is stopped as Hiromu instead countered back with a sunset bomb, only for BUSHI to ‘rana out of it on the floor.

BUSHI ups the ante with a tope suicida afterwards, before Hiromu dragged BUSHI into the D, rolling him away from the ropes to keep the hold on for longer. Eventually BUSHI gets a foot to the ropes, before he got decked with a clothesline as Hiromu looked to push ahead. A Fisherman screw from BUSHI stops that, but his follow-up MX is avoided as Hiromu countered with an overhead belly-to-belly into the corner.

Second time’s the charm as Hiromu lands a sunset bomb to the floor, which almost caused a double count-out, only for Hiromu to take things back into the ring. A death valley driver jams BUSHI back into the corner, before a struggle sees BUSHI escape a Victory Royal before he hid behind the ref and spat black mist at Hiromu for a near-fall. I think that’s the first mist in New Japan since Covid… it’s been a while!

A running Codebreaker flips Hiromu over as BUSHI keeps trying for the win, but a MX is blocked as Hiromu gets his knees up as BUSHI nearly crotches himself. Both men eventually get back to their feet as they trade shots, with a rewind kick from BUSHI and a regular superkick from Hiromu leading to a Dynamite Plunger. Victory Royale’s next for a near-fall, before a BUSHI roll almost led to the win.

Hiromu’s up at two and clotheslines BUSHI twice in return, before the Time Bomb II finally gets the win. A pretty good main event with BUSHI digging into some forgotten tricks, but in the end it’s Hiromu who snatches the win as the tournament field looks to be finally splitting. ***¾

We’re five matches deep in the Best of the Super Junior tournament, and here’s how things stand…

Yoshinobu Kanemaru, SHO (4-1 / 8pts)
Hiromu Takahashi (3-1-1 / 7pts)
Taiji Ishimori (3-2 / 6pts)
El Desperado (2-2-1 / 5pts)
BUSHI, DOUKI, Robbie Eagles, El Phantasmo, Ryusuke Taguchi, Master Wato (2-3 / 4pts)
YOH (1-4 / 2pts)

We’re back with another Best of the Super Junior show on Saturday, with Kanagawa getting Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori as a main event.

The Best of the Super Junior portion of the tour is really hitting its stride now – with today’s card perhaps being the most rounded so far. Much like the G1, Best of the Super Junior this year is turning out to be a solid tournament with some good bright spots – but the general malaise and perceived stale line-up isn’t helping with any “floating voters.”