Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided commentary. Great to have Charlton back in the booth. Kelly noted how all the wrestlers are beat up as we enter the final stages of the tournament, but added we hadn’t seen a single forfeit. If Korakuen Hall isn’t sold out, it is pretty close to it.
BoSJ is a 20-man tournament, with 10 wrestlers in each Block in a round-robin tournament, spread out over 12 shows in an 18-day span. So, each wrestler will have nine matches within their block. From there, we have a “final four” this year. The A Block winner will face the second-place finisher of the B Block, and the B Block winner will finish the second-place finisher of the A Block. Those winners head to the finals. Each win is worth two points. A draw is worth one each. To the show!
At the start of the tournament, I identified six wrestlers who were most likely to win it all. Five of them — Hiromu Takahashi, Lio Rush, Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado and Mike Bailey — are all 5-2 (10) points. However, the other likely winner, Kushida, sits at a lowly and entirely unexpected 1-6, and I’m still not sure what NJPW has planned there. I’ve noted how uneven the brackets are as, 5 of my likely 6 winners are in the A Block.
1. Titan (10) defeated Douki (6) in an A Block match at 6:50. Titan hit a springboard huracanrana and a dive through the ropes, just seconds into the match. Titan hit another dive over the top rope to the floor. In the ring, Douki applied the Douki Chokey modified triangle choke at 4:00; Titan teased passing out but he got a foot on the ropes. Douki nailed the Daybreak slingshot DDT for a believable nearfall. Titan applied the Muta Lock, and Douki tapped out. That was really good for the time given.
2. Clark Connors (w/Gedo) (8) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4) in a B Block match at 6:19. Kanemaru started 2-0 but has dropped five straight; this is a heel-heel matchup. They brawled to the floor in the first minute, and Connors whipped him into a ring post. In the ring, Kanemaru hit a dropkick on the knee at 2:30, and he applied a Figure Four Leglock, and they wound up rolling to the floor with the hold still locked in. Ouch! Connors barely got back in the ring before being counted out. Kanemaru missed a moonsault but landed on his feet. Connors nailed a release German Suplex at 5:00. Connors caught him with a powerslam, then the spear, then the No Chaser vertical spike DDT for the pin. I have noted this a few times now, but no one has kicked out of Connors two-step finisher combo.
3. Kushida (4) defeated Sho (6) in an A Block match at 6:53. Sho got on the mic and said they are both eliminated, so there is no point in them even wrestling. He added that no one wants to see them wrestle, drawing a crowd response. Sho changed his mind and vowed he would wrestle “fair and square.” (So great to have Charlton back for the translation!) Intense mat reversals to start and Kushida tried to apply a cross-armbreaker. (It’s truly hard to believe these two are a combined 4-10 in this tournament.) Sho rolled to the floor and we saw a metal piece lining one of his boots. In the ring, Sho hit a series of kicks on Kushida’s arm.
Kevin Knight appeared at ringside, telling the ref about Sho’s hidden weapon in the boot. EVIL hopped in the ring and he whipped Kushida into the ref! Knight also was in the ring, but EVIL beat him up too. Sho got his wrench but Knight hopped in the ring and hit a double dropkick at 6:30. Kushida applied the Hoverboard Lock on Sho; the ref woke up in time to see Sho tapping out.
4. Master Wato (12) defeated Bushi (2) in a B Block match at 7:59. Bushi dove through the ropes at 1:00. In the ring, Wato hit a leg lariat and a flip dive to the floor. Wato hit his springboard flying uppercut for a nearfall at 4:00. Bushi hit a DDT. Wato applied his submission hold around the neck. Bushi hit a Lungblower and they were both down at 6:00. Bushi hit a swinging neckbreaker for a nearfall; he went for his second-rope lungblower, but Wato caught him with a jumping dropkick. Wato then nailed his German Suplex with a high bridge for the pin.
5. Mike Bailey (12) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi (0) in an A Block match at 10:19. Is this the match where Taguchi goes to his trickery and pulls off a massive upset? I have predicted it would happen all tournament. They shook hands; Taguchi got a rollup. Bailey hit his Speedball kicks to the ribs, then a Helluva Kick in the corner. Taguchi applied an anklelock, and they went to the floor, with Taguchi targeting the ankle. In the ring, Bailey hit a missile dropkick at 4:00.
Bailey hit a running Shooting Star Press for a nearfall and a series of kicks for a nearfall. Taguchi hit a mid-ring flying buttbump and he again applied an anklelock. Bailey hit his springboard moonsault to the floor, and they were both down at 7:00. Bailey nailed some roundhouse kicks as they fought on the floor. Taguchi pretended like his face hit the ring post; he moved and Bailey kicked the ring post! Back in the ring, Taguchi went back to the anklelock.
Bailey hit a huracanrana for a nearfall; he went for his moonsault kneedrop but Taguchi got his knees up to block it. Taguchi hit a running butt bump and an enuzigiri at 9:30. Bailey nailed a superkick, then the tornado kick in the corner, but he missed the Ultima Weapon, and Taguchi went back to the anklelock. They traded rollups, with Bailey getting a rollup for the pin. That is as good as Taguchi is going to look in 2023.
6. Dan Moloney (w/Great-O-Khan) (6) defeated Robbie Eagles (10) in a B Block match at 11:34. Kelly said Moloney has a separated shoulder, which is the only significant injury of the tour and it is taped up. Charlton explained that Eagles had previously rejected an offer to join United Empire, and later joined TMDK. Moloney attacked from behind. They brawled on the floor, and Eagles hit a huracanrana. They traded chops and kicks on the ring apron, and Moloney hit a side slam on the ring apron at 2:30.
In the ring, Moloney hit a dropkick and he jawed at the crowd. Eagles hit a running elbow to the back of the head and they were both down at 5:30. Eagles hit several Yes Kicks to the chest. He hit running double knees in the corner, but he missed on a second attempt. Eagles applied the Ron Miller Special leglock and a dropkick on the knee. Moloney nailed a Gore and they were both down at 8:30. Moloney nailed a fisherman’s buster for a believable nearfall. Eagles hit his running double knees in the corner and got a nearfall.
Eagles hit a springboard dropkick to the knee. He hit a series of kicks and was fired up. Eagles set up for a mid-ring Sliced Bread #2 but Moloney turned it into a modified piledriver for the pin! That is a devastating loss for Eagles and his chances of reaching the playoffs. Once again, O-Khan was a complete non-factor.
7. Lio Rush (12) defeated TJP (8) in an A Block match at 13:00 even. Quick reversals early with neither man really able to land a blow. Lio dove through the ropes and barreled onto TJP at 5:00. TJP hit a spin kick to the jaw. Lio hit some Facewash boots in the corner. They hit simultaneous Mafia Kicks and were both down at 7:00. TJP hit a tornado DDT, and he went for a Mamba Splash, but Lio blocked it. TJP hit a Mamba Splash on a standing Lio.
Lio missed a move and crashed hard into a corner; he slipped going for Rush Hour at 10:00, and TJP applied his modified STF in the middle of the ring. These two have kept a frenetic pace. Lio hit a spear at 12:00; he went for the Final Hour frogsplash, but TJP got a foot up to block it. Lio hit the Rush Hour stunner out of the ropes, then the Final Hour for the clean pin. That was really, really good. So, whoever wins between Lio and Mike Bailey on Tuesday is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
8. Yoh (12) defeated Kevin Knight (6) in a B Block match at 8:57. Knight hit a bodyslam and a leaping splash for a nearfall. Yoh hit a dropkick on the knee at 2:00. Knight nailed his jump-up Frankensteiner but he was selling the pain in his knee. They went to the floor, and Yoh whipped Knight at the bleachers at 5:00, but Knight leapt and landed in the bleachers! WOW. Knight then hit a crossbody block off the bleachers onto Yoh on the floor. Nice spot.
Back in the ring, Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall, and they were both down at 6:30. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick to the face. Knight hit the D’Lo Sky High for a believable nearfall. Yoh caught him with a superkick. Yoh then nailed the Direct Drive double-arm DDT for the pin. That was sneaky good, too. Kelly pointed out that it is possible Lio Rush and tag partner Yoh could meet in the playoffs.
9. Hiromu Takahashi (12) defeated Taiji Ishimori (10) via ref stoppage in an A Block match at 10:46. If Hiromu loses here, he will be eliminated. They immediately went to the floor, and Hiromu hit a shotgun dropkick from the ring apron to the floor. They brawled away from ringside an up into the risers, where Ishimori hit his own shotgun dropkick. Back in the ring, Ishimori was in charge. Hiromu hit a headscissors takedown at 5:30.
Hiromu hit a Blue Thunder Bomb. Ishimori hit his sliding German Suplex at 7:30. Hiromu hit a superkick. Ishimori nailed a Poison Rana but he came down HARD on his shoulder. Hiromu hit a sit-out powerbomb and they were both down at 9:00. Ishimori was clutching at his right shoulder, and he was clearly dazed, possibly with a concussion. Hiromu hit a clothesline and Ishimori collapsed; officials hoped in the ring and checked on Ishimori. Tanahashi was named the winner via ref stoppage.
* (I rewatched the final three minutes. Kevin Kelly believes Ishimori was knocked loopy and may have a concussion. I think it is his right shoulder after that landing on the Poison Rana. The medical staff was clearly focused on the arm as he sat up.) Either way, an unfortunate finish. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ishimori now forfeits his final match on Tuesday. (I also wouldn’t rule out this is an elaborate work.)
10. El Desperado (12) defeated Francesco Akira (8) in a B Block match at 25:12. They brawled to the floor early on. Akira hit a shotgun dropkick at 3:30 with Desperado seated on a chair. Desperado hit a flip dive between the ropes to the floor. Desperado whipped Akira into rows of empty seats. He put a chair over Akira’s knee, and he hit it with another chair at 7:00. Akira hobbled back into the ring before being counted out. Desperado targeted the knee and began stomping on it.
Akira hit a huracanrana at 12:00. They went back to the floor, with Desperado still in charge. Akira hit a moonsault from the stage onto Desperado on the floor. Akira then hit a dive through the ropes, and they were down at 14:00. Akira hit a snap German Suplex. Desperado hit a Spinebuster for a nearfall, and he applied the Stretch Muffler. Desperado hit a sit-out powerbomb move for a believable nearfall at 18:00. Akira applied TJP’s modified STF! (Earlier, TJP tried using Akira’s Fireball flying double knees, so they are using each other’s moves.) Desperado reached the ropes.
Akira hit a German Suplex with a bridge for a believable nearfall at 20:30. This crowd was hot. Akira missed his flying double knees to the back of the head, and Desperado immediately applied the Stretch Muffler. Akira screamed in pain but wouldn’t submit. Desperado let go but re-applied it. TJP hopped on the ring apron and threw a towel in. Akira grabbed it and threw it right back out, saying he wanted to continue. However, he collapsed as he got back to his feet. Desperado hit some forearms. Akira caught him with a superkick for a believable nearfall. Desperado again applied the Stretch Muffler, and this time, Akira tapped out. That was really good.
* Desperado spoke on the mic and he praised Akira for not quitting.
Final Thoughts: Too bad about the Ishimori injury, and hopefully it isn’t a severe injury that keeps him out an extended time. My guess is that Hiromu was slated to win that match anyway to keep him alive. I’m going with Lio-TJP for best match, followed by Bailey-Taguchi, and the main event Akira-Desperado for third. As good as that main event was, I never thought Akira was winning, as Desperado is just the top of the B Block and couldn’t afford a loss here. That said, Akira holding on as long as he did was quite dramatic.
A Block roundup: Hiromu has now won six straight. If he beats Titan on Tuesday, he is in the playoffs at 7-2, but if he loses, he’s out, as both Lio and Bailey beat him and hold the tie-breaker. Titan could make the playoffs with a win over Hiromu, but I dont anticipate that. The winner of Bailey-Lio Rush would also finish at 7-2 and make the playoffs. I fully expect Ishimori to forfeit his final match now against TJP.
B Block roundup: Yoh, Master Wato and Desperado all won to reach 12 points. I really thought Eagles would be in the playoffs, and he still has a chance to qualify if he beats Desperado in the B Block finale.
The tournament takes an off-day on Monday, before we start the final nights of Block action, as the final five A Block matches will take place Tuesday, with the final five B Block matches on Wednesday.