This week saw the start of New Japan's Best of the Super Juniors Tournament, with three awesome shows that unsurprisingly gave us the majority of the best performances this week. We also got a great Triple Threat match from WWE's World Heavyweight title tournament, along with the return of AXIS in NOAH!
- Seth Rollins (Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor, WWE, 8/5)
-Rey Fenix (Rey Fenix vs Claudio Castagnoli, AEW, 10/5)
- DOUKI (DOUKI vs KUSHIDA & DOUKI vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW, 12 & 13/5)
- YOH (YOH vs Robbie Eagles & YOH vs Master Wato, NJPW, 12 & 13/5)
#10 - KUSHIDA
Even though KUSHIDA has gone winless so far in this year's Best of the Super Juniors, he is telling an important story within the tournament, while still being a highlight of the shows!
His first match was against DOUKI on the 12th and it was a master class in making the underdog babyface (in this case DOUKI) look like a million bucks even with a fluke win like with the Jorge Rivera Special that just managed to keep the Timesplitter's shoulder's down for three. The match itself was a high intensity technical showcase from KUSHIDA, and a display of DOUKI's passionate will to win and knock off one of the best juniors in New Japan history. The holds were so smooth and quick from KUSHIDA and it really made him look dominant in defeat by having a counter to nearly everything in DOUKI's arsenal.
His next match was against TJP, so I think I'll wait to talk about this one. His third match, however, was with Titan and saw a cool clash of styles. Titan's more highflying Lucha Libre style is something that KUSHDIA hasn't much experience with recently so he struggled to find an opening, and when he did manage to take it to the mat Titan wasn't out of his depth. The CMLL star's knowledge of the Mexican submission wrestling style allowed him to counter many of KUSHIDA's moves and even the former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight champion's tactic of blowing up the L.I.J member it wasn't enough to overcome the ring rust KUSHIDA still had in big singles matches since his return.
A great story driven run for KUSHIDA early in the BOSJ 30, and enough to get a pity point from me. But come on man, get some dubs!
#9 - AJ Styles
The returning AJ Styles makes the number nine spot on this weeks list by taking part in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament on Smackdown beating Edge, Mysterio, and Lashley all in one night to advance and meet Rollins in the final for the gold.
The Triple Threat match against Edge and Rey was 100% the highlight of WWE programming this week as it gave us a rarely unique match for a standard episode of Smackdown. The three men executed some incredibly inventive and innovative sequences that involved everyone at once. For example at the very beginning Edge and AJ would take turns throwing and catapulting each other onto a very unfortunate Mysterio, who took the majority of the offence throughout the match. The only thing that brought the match down for me was the awkward finish where Edge hit a terrible looking "Spear" on Rey who was coming off the top, only to get Phenomenal Forearmed by the leader of The O.C. and have his shoulder pinned for three.
Otherwise it was a great match for AJ Styles return match and was only the first step for AJ to get to the finals at Clash of Champions.
#8 - Skye Blue
Skye Blue had her career performance to date against Athena for the ROH Women's championship on Honor Club this week.
Skye came out with an updated look, and a more fierce and determined mindset when she finally got her hands on the ROH Women's champ and showed out in the ring! The Chicago native took it to Athena right off the bat with good looking technical offence like Hurricanranas and Code Reds that had Athena on the ropes. The match got progressively more brutal throughout with a nasty bump from Skye taking a powerbomb onto the ring steps. Blue really showed a better understanding of the psychology of the match and how to take it to the next level down the stretch.
Great improvement means three points for Skye this week, and hopefully many more later in the year!
#7 - TJP
Another BOSJ 30 competitor is next, with TJP getting four points in Worker of the Week and two points in the tournament after picking up a win against KUSHIDA. His other standout match was against Mike Bailey and it was one of the best matches of the tournament so far.
His match verses KUSHIDA was a great technical exchange to kick off the show for the second night of the tournament where he pinned KUSHIDA with an Inside Cradle, carrying on the story of the Timesplitter being unable to get back in the groove. Not much to say on this match other than it was a brilliant back and forth hold-off that told a compelling story even if there was a lack of any special spots or memorable moments in the match.
His match with Mike Bailey was significantly better with memorable spots and fantastic limb-work, with Perkins targeting the injured leg of Bailey after SHO brutalised Speedball's bare foot with a chair and wrench the night before. TJP kept trying to lock in the Pinoy Stretch but Bailey was too fast to catch most of the time, or when he did manage to he could either make it to the ropes or slip out before rocking him with a stiff kick. The finish was amazing too, with Speedball dodging a Mamba Splash, TJP rolling to the ropes in the opposite corner and Mike catching him in the Flamingo Driver for the three.
A couple of great showings from TJP, who will certainly come out of the tournament with an array of great matches under his belt, even if he doesn't make it to the top two in his block.
#6 - Go Shiozaki
The Ace of NOAH, Go Shiozaki, teamed up with his AXIZ team-mate for the first time since mid 2020 to take on Nakajima's former stable-mates Kenoh and Manabu Soya on Sunday's Star Navigation show in Korakuen Hall.
This was a great match filled to the brim with stiff kicks from Katsuhiko and craterous chops from Shiozaki who took it to their opponents and looked dominant for most of the match. The focus of the match was Go's recent ring rust that lead to him taking the pin in both his return match against Kongo, and this match which was his first time teaming with Nakajima in a while. I think this was a great way to reintroduce Shiozaki without pushing him immediately to the top of the card or even to the top of the tag team division. It's creating a great underdog story, similar to KUSHIDA's, that will hopefully make him even more over when the time is right to pull the trigger. Obviously Go still looked really good in the ring, especially his chops, which isn't anything to be surprised about.
#5 - Kyle Fletcher
Kyle Fletcher has had a great run in singles matches this week against Tony Deppen on ROH TV and against Action Andretti on AEW Rampage. He started the week by attacking Orange Cassidy on Dynamite and challenging him for the AEW International championship, so these two singles bouts are to build him up for that match.
Deppen vs Fletcher was a great combination of striking and grappling that got the Universal crowd hyped up more than some of the other matches, and its clear that the Aussie Arrow's abilities are starting to be appreciated more and more by the American audience (although they still can't get the "Oi Oi Oi" chants right yet). Kyle's running kicks were the highlight of the match due to the insane speed he builds up before cracking Deppen in the back of the head.
His match verses Andretti was similar in structure, but it's clear there was more effort put into the comeback of Andretti than Deppen, and Fletcher gave a lot more to Action in this one. Some standout moments were the Superplex off the top and the long range Tope Suicida from Andretti. A fun and fast paced sprint that had a good amount of back and forth to build hype for the eventual Fletcher vs Cassidy match for the title.
#4 - Robbie Eagles
A great week for Robbie going 2-1 in the Best of the Super Juniors and having great matches with YOH and Francesco Akira on night 1 and 3 respectively.
In the match with YOH there was a distinct focus on the leg from Eagles as he tried to set up for the Robinson Special that's won him so many matches. There was also the added layer of Robbie deserting YOH and CHAOS to join TMDK and that translated really well into a more passionate and driven match between the two, on top of the tournament setting. That really helped with the intensity of the match, bringing out a more ruthless and engaged side to YOH.
I personally like his losing effort to Francesco Akira more, however. Akira and Eagles went all out for twelve minutes and incorporated loads of different styles into the match that really made the match feel longer (in a good way). The technical exchanges were flawless and the counter sequences led brilliantly into the fighting spirit section of the match before Akira would finally hit the Fire Ball for the win.
His match with Connors was decent too, with Eagles kinda trolling the newest Bullet Club member down the stretch and picking up a sneaky roll-up win in a more character based match to flesh out Clark's personality in the ring.
#3 - Kenny Omega
The GOAT, Kenny Omega, makes his way back onto the list for the first time since his main event match against Vikingo. This time for his needle moving and heartbreaking main event Cage match verse his long time rival Jon Moxley.
This is what a Cage Match should be. Dangerous, brutal, and unpredictable. The energy Kenny brought to this match was different to the normal, happy-go-lucky, Omega that comes out with the humorous "NORTH CAROLINAAAA" intro. Instead he brought his all to Moxley, taking it to the next level with a barbed wire chair before Mox could even think about bringing his own gimmicks. The removal of the top rope by Jon was the tone setting event for the whole match, however. When he unhooked the turnbuckle it was not only used as a weapon, but also negated lots of Kenny's signature high spots like the You Can't Escape, and made it more difficult for Kenny to build up steam for his big strikes, bar one.
The finish to this match was what put it in the top echelon of Cage matches for me. The V-Trigger through the cage wall into the OWA and Callis turning on the Best Bout Machine was one of the best turns in recent memory and had the whole wrestling world buzzing. It was all you could want for a TV main event.
#2 - Mike Bailey
The runner-up this week is Mike Bailey who started his first ever Best of the Super Juniors this week facing Hiromu Takahashi, SHO, and TJP on consecutive nights.
His match with Hiromu is already being pegged as contender for the number one match of the whole tournament after just the first night, and for good reason! This was a perfect match for Bailey to have as his debut in a Japanese New Japan ring as his chemistry with the Timebomb was off the charts. On top of the fast paced action between the two Mike knew how to form a connection with the Korakuen crowd from his time in DDT and backed that up with exciting offence that rivaled that of Hiromu's. Bailey's counters and transitions into the kicks kept the crowd on the edge of theirs seats the whole time and his selling had them routing for him buy the end of it all.
We already talked about his match against TJP, but I do want to bring up his surprisingly fun match with SHO, where his selling hard carried the match from beginning to end. SHO would attack his foot on the entrance ramp with a chair and with the wrench, and have Mike on the back foot for most of the match. Bailey's comeback spots were great and his awareness of EVIL at ringside put him over as an intelligent babyface that the crowd can rely on to take it to the heels and overcome the odds.
A great start to Speedball's time in New Japan with an undefeated record in tournament matches so far!
#1 - Hiromu Takahashi
The Ticking Timebomb, Hiromu Takahashi, comes in at the #1 spot in this weeks WOTW list! His amazing matches with Lio Rush, Mike Bailey, and DOUKI in the first three nights of BOSJ 30 left him with a rocky starting third to the tournament with only one win out of the three.
On his end of the Mike Bailey match, Hiromu was clearly excited going into, and during the match, where he took the opportunity of lifted COVID restrictions to take the action out to the fans once again as he led Speedball up into the stands for a running dropkick along the breath of Korakuen.
The match with DOUKI was unexpectedly one-sided, but in the favour of the Just 5 Guys member! DOUKI would have Hiromu reeling, locking in the Italian stretch multiple times with Takahashi selling it like death and struggling to reach the ropes. DOUKI would try to repeat the upset he got against KUSHDIA with a roll-up, but Takahashi had it scouted and got the Dynamite Plunger and the Timebomb II for the win, but not before DOUKI kicked out of the first version of his finish!
The third match was a rematch of Hiromu's first title defence against Lio Rush. This time he couldn't outrun the lightning fast Rush, but he could throw him through a chair instead! This was a brilliant match with a breakneck pace, and I'm surprised that Lio didn't actually break his neck on those three high velocity Lowpe Suicidas that took Hiromu out of the match for some time. Hiromu was great at playing up to Lio's style while still keeping it a Hiromu style match. Another great high pace match that is the definition of a BOSJ main event!
Here's the leaderboard after week 19: