The 25th Best of the Super Juniors tournament kicked off Friday at Korakuen Hall.
The tournament will go until June 4th and the winner will receive a future shot at the IWGP junior heavyweight championship, which is held by Will Ospreay.
CHRIS SABIN & REN NARITA VS KUSHIDA & SHOTA UMINO
Narita’s nose was busted open during the match. The audience reacted loudly when he landed a big dropkick onto KUSHIDA.
Sabin hit a running kick off the apron to KUSHIDA and then hit the Cradle Shock onto Umino for the win.
WINNERS: CHRIS SABIN (pinned Shota Umino) & REN NARITA AT 9:41
The audience was into the match and everyone got a few key sequences. Umino and Narita are continuing to improve greatly and the crowd was into their exchanges with the established stars.
SHO TANAKA & YOSHI-HASHI VS DRAGON LEE & TOMOYUKI OKA
Lee is dealing with a right quad injury and it was heavily taped for the match.
Lee and SHO had a big exchange with a flying knee and release German executed by Lee. The audience was hot for the exchange between the two.
Lee sent SHO to the floor with a huracanrana but was cut off with a lariat from Yoshi-Hashi before he could dive. Yoshi-Hashi hit a reverse neck breaker onto Oka, who kicked out and the audience was loud. He applied the Butterfly Lock and Oka submitted.
WINNERS: YOSHI-HASHI (submitted Tomoyuki Oka) & SHO TANAKA AT 11:47
If Dragon Lee stays relatively healthy, he will have a great tournament and the interaction with SHO was the strongest of the match.
MINORU SUZUKI & EL DESPERADO VS RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & TOA HENARE
Suzuki threw Henare into the seats on the floor and attacked the young boys. Desperado and Taguchi were also brawling on the floor and Taguchi was thrown into a section of chairs. Taguchi just beat the count into the ring.
Henare got some shine on Suzuki before the match concluded with Suzuki’s rear-naked choke into the Gotch piledriver and pinned Henare from the mount.
WINNERS: MINORU SUZUKI (pinned Toa Henare) & EL DESPERADO AT 8:11
This has been a great audience at Korakuen for the first three matches. Henare is improving a lot and working with Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii is going to significantly speed up that improvement.
MARTY SCURLL & CHASE OWENS VS HIROMU TAKAHASHI & EVIL
Takahashi and Scurll had some early comedy with each doing Scurll’s taunt.
Scurll gave the middle fingers to EVIL, who avoided Scurll by hopping off the apron.
Owens missed Takahashi and booted Scurll off the apron. EVIL applied the Banshee Muzzle onto Owens and he submitted.
WINNERS: EVIL (submitted Chase Owens) & HIROMU TAKAHASHI AT 9:22
The rest of the card featured the A Block tournament matches.
YOSHINOBU KANEMARU VS TIGER MASK
The two immediately went to the floor and Tiger Mask was run into the post.
Back in the ring, Tiger Mask attacked the left knee of Kanemaru. Kanemaru responded by dropkicking Tiger Mask’s knee and trying to undo his mask.
Tiger Mask hit a double underhook suplex off the top and then transitioned to an armbar with Kanemaru making it to the bottom rope.
On the floor, Kanemaru took one of the young boys and scoop slammed them on top of Tiger Mask. He took another one and tossed him from the ring onto Tiger Mask, who just beat the count.
Kanemaru went for a superplex, he hit it but Tiger Mask cradled Kanemaru and caught him for the pin.
WINNER: TIGER MASK AT 10:17
Kanemaru was furious and attacked Tiger Mask after the match.
The match was average and focused on placing Kanemaru as a poor’s man Minoru Suzuki in the tournament as the big bully.
FLIP GORDON VS ACH
ACH hit a backbreaker into a bridging German suplex for a two-count early in the match. The audience was chanting for both men.
ACH missed Gordon and chopped the ring post on the floor.
Gordon hit a springboard somersault dive off the top to the floor and this was an incredible dive.
They fought into the bleachers with Gordon going on top of a balcony and hitting a high cross onto ACH. Somehow these two were not counted out during this extended leave.
Gordon hit a corkscrew dive from the top and missed. ACH has been selling his arm since the post spot on the floor so he deadlifted Gordon with one arm and hit a German suplex and followed with his Big Bang Attack to pin Gordon.
WINNER: ACH AT 15:30
This was the best match of the show so far with some good dives and flying from Gordon while ACH focused on his arm and paid off with the final sequence utilizing his healthy arm.
BUSHI VS YOH
Bushi worked him over applying an STS and YOH fighting to the bottom rope.
YOH was tossed over the top to the floor and Bushi killed him with a suicide dive at tremendous speed.
Bushi connected with a top rope ‘rana and got a two-count. He followed with a Lightning Spiral and then attempted the MX but was met with a superkick from YOH.
Bushi dropkicked the knee and hit a Canadian Destroyer for a near fall as the audience tried to rally behind YOH.
Bushi ran at him to hit the MX, was blocked and YOH applied a cradle and caught Bushi.
WINNER: BUSHI AT 15:19
Bushi stomped YOH after the match. I was impressed with Bushi throughout the match as he worked harder than usual and typically that is the case when he’s put in a singles spotlight and not a random participant in a tag match.
WILL OSPREAY VS TAIJI ISHIMORI
Ishimori debuted as Bone Solider at Dontaku earlier this month, attacking Ospreay and joining The Bullet Club.
Ospreay was aggressive attacking Ishimori as soon as the match began. Ospreay was Irish whipped on the floor, leaped over the chairs and came off the stage with a somersault dive, which was flawless in execution.
Ishimori stomped at Ospreay’s neck and took over the match. Ospreay rolled to the floor clutching his neck. Ishimori applied a crossface and Ospreay got his foot on the bottom rope.
Ospreay made his comeback after connecting with a superkick.
He draped Ishimori on the top rope and landed a shooting star press from the top turnbuckle. Ishimori blocked the Storm Breaker and hit a reverse ‘rana. Ishimori ran the ropes and into a standing Spanish Fly, he attempted the OsCutter, but it was countered with Ishimori countering with the Bloody Cross and pinned the champion.
WINNER: TAIJI ISHIMORI AT 13:48
This was a very good main event, they didn’t go long but it got Ishimori across as a major deal right away with the establishment of the Bloody Cross as his finish, pinning the champion and winning such a high-profile match. This should set up a future title match and places Ishimori as one of the favorites to win the tournament.
I would recommend the main event and the ACH vs. Flip Gordon matches if you missed the card. It was a fun start to the tournament.