wrestling / TV Reports

Pantoja’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 30 Semifinals Review

May 26, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Best of the Super Junior 30 - El Desperado vs. Titan Image Credit: NJPW
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Pantoja’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 30 Semifinals Review  

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 30 Semifinals

May 26th, 2023 | Yoyogi National Gymnasium #2 in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,330

This tournament has caused me to fall behind on STARDOM reviews. I was going to use yesterday to do one but with these semifinals, the finals, Flashing Champions, Night of Champions, Double or Nothing, and Battleground this weekend, I’m just gonna start fresh again with STARDOM Flashing Champions.

Also, with Hamilton (likely) covering the Finals tomorrow, that will be the last of three reviews I have to do tomorrow with Flashing Champions and Night of Champions going up first.

Anyway, we’ve got to figure out the last two men standing in this tournament.

Best of the Super Juniors Semifinals: Master Wato vs. Mike Bailey

The A Block winner (Bailey) vs. the B Block runner-up (Wato). A friendly handshake kicked this off followed by some lucha style offense and some fighting on the outside. Despite that outside action, it never felt overly violent or like two guys who had an issue with each other which made sense. Bailey kind of dominated the first section of this match to the point where Kevin Kelly though he had won after 5 or so minutes. Wato had to dig deep to start a rally and once he did, we got a more level match that saw Wato nearly take it via submission only for the damage already done to him to cause him to have to let go. A battle on the apron ended when Bailey did his moonsault knees there and looked like h landed HARD on Wato’s check. Bailey followed with Ultimate Weapon for one of the better near falls in recent New Japan memory. This is why finishers should be protected because nobody had kicked out of it in this tourney so the fans bought it as a finish. Wato slipped out of the Flamingo Driver and hit a Tombstone for his own near fall. Wato pounced with a kick to the head and added his German suplex to score the upset in a fantastic 16:43. That was easily the best singles match I’ve seen from Wato after an underwhelming tournament run and the most I’ve enjoyed him since the Tokyo Dome this year. [****¼]

Best of the Super Juniors Semifinals: El Desperado vs. Titán

There’s a prior meeting in last year’s tournament (***½) but obviously the stakes are higher here. LIJ boys, including Hiromu, were at ringside in EL IMMORTAL shirts. Though he’s the entire tournament to show out, this really felt like a Titán showcase at points. He overwhelmed Desperado early with some of his high flying antics and quick offense. Desperado, ever the wise veteran, waited patiently and caught him outside, driving his knee into the floor. That set the stage for a fight throughout the arena including Titán saying FUCK IT and doing a dive off a section of the arena. My only problem with the spot was the camerawork which showed Desperado patiently waiting for him to do the move. Once back in the ring, things evened out with back and forth strikes and things like that until Titán missed a double stomp outside and had a bit of a rough landing. There were a few awkward moments after that but it picked up again down the stretch with moves like a Destroyer and a swinging DDT. Despite the bad ankle after the landing outside, Titán hit the double stomp and went into El Immortal. With Desperado trapped and staring down his rival Hiromu at ringside, he was forced to tap out, giving us our second upset in 21:44. Back-to-back bangers and though I liked the previous match more, this ruled. High octane stuff that helped Titán look like a star. [****]

I would never have picked Wato/Titán as the finals but here we are. I must reiterate that even though Gedo isn’t picking the dudes I’d push (SANADA, Wato), at least he’s doing something different and basically anything fresh is more than welcome in New Japan.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Only two matches reviewed here but both were fantastic and should find themselves on my year-end top 100 list. Or not, it’s a loaded year already. Still, great stuff and a fresh feeling for this company.