Better late than never – we’re back for a look at the first night of the Best of the Super Junior tournament, as we continue the road to WrestleKingdom…

Quick Results
Ryohei Oiwa and Yuto Nakashima went to a 10:00 draw (**¾)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – DOUKI pinned BUSHI in 10:53 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Yoshinobu Kanemari defeated Taiji Ishimori via count-out in 5:37 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Ryusuke Taguchi pinned Robbie Eagles in 16:17 (***½)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Master Wato pinned El Phantasmo in 13:52 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – Hiromu Takahashi pinned YOH in 3:55 (***¼)
Best of the Super Junior 28 – SHO pinned El Desperado in 25:11 (***)

Unlike last year, we’ve no “super shows” kicking off the tour, as this year’s format sees both tournaments go through one big block, leading to a finale between the top two teams in Ryogoku Kokugikan next month. We’re in Korakuen Hall for this one, but if you’re following along, not every round of this tour is going to be streaming live, or with English commentary.

Yes, I’m watching this on a day’s delay. Throw in my wife’s birthday alongside a slammed weekend and a general malaise about a lot of stuff, and I’m playing catch-up! Here’s a quick look…

Ryohei Oiwa vs. Yuto Nakashima
It’s our first time seeing Nakashima on tape since he blew out his shoulder seconds into his debut match back in February.

As you’d expect, they kept it on the mat early as the cameraman followed their exchange all the way through to a shot of the referee’s arse. A leglock from Nakashima’s broken up as Oiwa went for a cross armbar instead, then a side headlock on the mat as the pair continued to look for an advantage. Nakashima gets to the ropes from the side headlock, but is quickly pulled down into an armbar, before a double wristlock forces Nakashima to fight back towards the ropes once more as Oiwa predictably targeted his shoulder. Firing back, Nakashima blasts Oiwa with elbows, before a leg lock ended with Oiwa in the ropes. Stomps target the knee as Nakashima went back to a leg lock, then with a half crab as the focus remained on the knee, but again… it ends in the ropes.

We head into the final minute of the time limit with Oiwa landing a dropkick… but it aggravated his knee, as we would wind out the clock with frantic pinning attempts. It’s a draw after ten minutes, and a decent return to action for Nakashima, whose elbow selling is always going to have a little more to it after that unfortunate debut. **¾

Best of the Super Junior 28: DOUKI vs. BUSHI
After that warm-up, the Best of the Super Junior gets underway with perhaps the “bottom” guys in their respective factions.

BUSHI pulled ahead early with some headscissors, then with some more after slingshotting to the outside. A trip to the guard rails was returned later by DOUKI, who returned things to the ring for a chinlock, before BUSHI countered a vertical suplex into a back suplex. More headscissors from BUSHI have DOUKI down, as did a missile dropkick to the back, only for a DOUKI CHOKI to subdue BUSHI. DOUKI lets go and rolls back into the middle of the ring to reapply the stretch, before he followed up with a Daybreak springboard DDT for a near-fall.

From there, BUSHI fights out of a Suplex de la Luna, running back in with a Codebreaker for a near-fall, before he headed up top for the MX… only to get stopped with a thrust to the throat. DOUKI pushed back with a torture rack into a spinning side slam for a near-fall, before Suplex de la Luna drew the shock win. I say “shock,” BUSHI’s the only non-Young Lion that DOUKI’s beaten in singles matches, and I don’t expect that to change in this tournament. ***

Best of the Super Junior 28: Taiji Ishimori vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Kanemaru jumped Ishimori through the curtain, and the bell goes as Ishimori reverses a whip into the guard rails…

Stomps from Ishimori follow in the ring, before he tried to roll Kanemaru into a Yes Lock… but Kanemaru rolls to the outside for respite. Ishimori tries to jump him, but instead he’s sent into the rails as a double count-out tease ensured. Both men beat the count, as Ishimori again goes back to the Yes Lock, this time trapping Kanemaru in it in the middle of the ring, before a rope break gave Kanemaru fresh impetus. Ishimori eats an enziguiri, then countered back with Cipher UTAKI for a near-fall, before we ended up on the outside again, with Kanemaru and Ishimori fighting to stop the other guy getting back in… a suplex struggle winds down the clock some more, before Ishimori got posted, then had a Young Lion thrown at him as Kanemaru rolled back in to take the win. Hey, we’ve all done it in video games – and for once, the count-out tactic worked here. ***

Best of the Super Junior 28: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Robbie Eagles
Eagles’ first match back after losing the IWGP junior title to El Desperado at Power Struggle… and this could be a banana skin for him.

Eagles tried to ground things early on, but he ends up being made to run the ropes before Taguchi slid out of the ring as the favour was returned. A hip attack took Eagles off the apron amid a game of cat and mouse, before Taguchi froze as he couldn’t figure out an Aussie-related dance to do. Back in the ring, Eagles drops a knee over Taguchi’s knee as he proceeded to work over the legs, before they headed outside with Eagles chopping Taguchi as he went. Running knees back inside are kicked away, so Eagles hits a 619 to the back of the knees, then ran in with more knees for the hell of it.

Taguchi looks for a hip attack, eventually wiping out Eagles with a leaping arse, ahead of a crossbody plancha from the ring to the floor. Another flying arse back inside gets a two-count, leading to the Three Amigos that eventually put down Eagles for a near-fall. An ankle lock’s next, but Eagles pushes away… then sidestepped another flying arse and returned with a springboard dropkick to the knee. A seatbelt pin from Eagles nearly wins it, while Taguchi cradled out of a Ron Miller Special and into Oh My Garankle… Eagles rolled out of a Dodon, but back into the ankle lock, before Eagles rolled free. They trade forearms, but it’s Taguchi who pulled ahead, eventually catching out Eagles with Dodon to the Throne for a near-fall.

An Asai DDT from Eagles gives him new hope, before a 450 splash landed in Taguchi’s knees for a near-fall. In the end, Eagles goes for a Turbo Backpack, only for Taguchi to counter back with a Dodon for the win – a good, competitive match with Eagles getting caught out by Serious Taguchi. ***½

Best of the Super Junior 28: El Phantasmo vs. Master Wato
Phantasmo’s back in Japan, having lost the junior tag titles on his last appearance here, back in September. A lot feels likes it’s changed since then…

ELP grounds Wato with a side headlock early on, before a push off earned Wato a shoulder tackle. Wato’s flurry of kicks gets him in, as a tijeras took Phantasmo outside for… nothing, because he avoided Wato’s charge into the ropes, as Wato instead mocked the ELP taunts. They trade chops before a snapmare and a kick from ELP seemingly woke up Wato, who replied in kind, only to eat a springboard crossbody as Phantasmo turned the tide. On the outside, Phantasmo threw Wato’s arm into the apron before we busted out the back rakes. A whirlibird neckbreaker from Phantasmo’s good for a two-count, while a springboard enziguiri took ELP off the apron as Wato crashes into him with a corkscrew tornillo. Back inside, a roundhouse enziguiri nearly puts away Phantasmo, as did Recientemente and a buzzsaw kick…

Phantasmo shot back in with a Sudden Death kick to the gut, but Wato slips out of a One Winged Angel before he jack-knifed Phantasmo for the pin. A big ol’ upset there, as Phantasmo got caught out pratting around with the Ode to Bullet Club Past stuff. ***

Best of the Super Junior 28: YOH vs. Hiromu Takahashi
This was YOH’s first match since he lost to SHO at the MetLife Dome in September… and it’s a hell of a challenge for him. Hiromu’s got his tournament scrapbook, but I’m having to dive towards Chris Charlton’s Twitter for a translation of what’d been said for YOH: “seeking true friendship.”

YOH clearly took offence as he dove on Hiromu with a plancha and a tope con giro at the bell, before knocking down Hiromu with a forearm in the ring. A Falcon arrow lands for a near-fall, before a rebound German suplex and a clothesline from Hiromu had both men laying. Hiromu kicks out of a roll-up and plants YOH in the corner with a death valley driver, before YOH went back to roll-ups… eventually finding a way through with a Dragon suplex before the Direct Drive’s slipped out of… then countered with a pump handle cradle as Hiromu snatched the win in short order. Fun and sprinty while it lasted, as YOH’s attempt to end things quickly backfired big time. ***¼

Best of the Super Junior 28: SHO vs. El Desperado
If you’re saving Hiromu vs. Desperado for later in the tour – and you really should – this is perhaps one of the better choices for a Korakuen main event…

SHO plays silly buggers to start, melting into the ropes as Desperado headed his way, then headed outside. When SHO did engage, he’s taking Desperado outside, only to get dropkicked onto the apron as Desperado looked to be going after snake skin SHO’s knee in the early going. Desperado wrapped the leg around the ring post for good measure, but then gets sent into the rails as SHO wrapped his arm around the bars, kicking the rails in time to the ref’s count. Back inside, SHO wrenches back on Desperado’s arm, then choked away on him in the corner. A battle over a suplex ends with SHO just going back to the arm, slapping it away before a Kimura countered a bodyslam attempt. On the outside, SHO waffles Desperado with chairshots, which didn’t yield a DQ, before Desperado kicked the ropes into SHO as he got into the ring.

Desperado followed SHO back outside with a dive as he then grabbed what was left of the chair, smashing it off of SHO’s knee. Again, not a DQ. Trips to the guard rails follow before Desperado went back to the knee with a dropkick, softening up SHO for a DDT to the knee, then a Numero Dos… even if that ended in the ropes. They trade right hands, as SHO inched back with a knee strike, before he punted away Desperado’s arm. That’s an instant cue for another Kimura, which Desperado tries to block, before he too needed to back into the ropes for a break.

A back body drop gives Desperado some freedom, but he’s quickly dropped by SHO’s spear, before a Guitarra de Angel drew a near-fall for Despy. Pinche Loco looks to follow, but SHO’s right back with the Kimura, which he then moves into a triangle choke that ends with Desperado sliding to the ropes. SHO goes for Shock Arrow, but Desperado floated out and headbutted his way free, following with a Guitarra de la Muerte for a near-fall… only for SHO to sneak back with a snap Shock Arrow for a near-fall. From there, SHO reaches into his jacket for a spanner, while Dick Togo distracts… of course, SHO ends up hitting Dick with the spanner as Desperado pushes free, before Despy teases using the spanner himself.

It’s chucked aside though as Desperado ends up getting shoved into the ref. A low blow’s blocked as Desperado returned with Numero Dos, prompting SHO to go for the ropes again. That’s also the cue for Yujiro to pull out the referee as Dick Togo capitalises with the garrote wire. Wait, do I have to see this shite in TWO tournaments at the same time? SHO uses the spanner, and with the House of Torture lads gone, he hits a Shock Arrow for the nonchalant pin. Decent until the finish… ***

After one round of the Best of the Super Junior, here’s your standings…

DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, SHO, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiromu Takahashi, Master Wato (1-0 / 2pts)
BUSHI, El Desperado, Robbie Eagles, Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, YOH (0-1 / 0pts)

Sunday’s show is the start of the World Tag League, also at Korakuen Hall, with Tetsuya Naito returning from injury as he teams up with SANADA in the main event.

A solid, if not spectacular start to the tour, as it’s looking like New Japan aren’t quite going back allowing their crowds to be vocal just yet…and hey, at least I got this review up before the New Japan English site actually listed this show in their results page!