6/9 NJPW Dominion PPV report: Wells’s results & analysis of Moxley vs. Evil in a Lumberjack Deathmatch, El Desperado vs. Taiji Ishimori in the final of BOSJ 2024, more

by Kelly Wells, PWTorch Contributor

NJPW Dominion matches announced
PHOTO CREDIT: Tokyo Sports


JUNE 9, 2024

Announcers: Walker Stewart, Chris Charlton

The show opened with the usual rundown of the card. It was announced well ahead of time that the Best of the Super Juniors final would main event this show, but it’s still a major development for the Junior Heavyweights to main event a show like this. Hiromu Takahashi has been stumping for this to be on the table for years, and it’s finally happening (though without him involved in the match). Charlton also teased some big G1 news and said we’ll have to rethink everything we think we know about the tournament.


Naito has lost two straight singles matches, and this is likely a chance for him to take a small step forward again. Newman booted Naito off the apron during his entrance, drawing early boos. Newman beat down Naito outside the ring using the environment, then entered the ring to get the opening bell. Newman dragged Naito into the ring and the two exchanged reversals early, and Naito put Newman on the apron and hit him with a neckbreaker there, then dropped to the floor and casually removed his entrance gear as Newman regrouped on the floor. Naito choked out Newman with his shirt as the referee attempted to keep it clean. Naito rolled Newman into the ring and hit him with an armdrag and a basement dropkick to the back of the head, then transitioned to a head scissors per his usual routine.

Newman fought from underneath, throwing some rights and lefts. Naito snapped on a cravat, released at the rope, and then spit on Newman, drawing some boos, which he’s never shied away from. Newman woke up and dropkicked Naito in the corner and then hit another, going for the cover for two. Newman got the crowd into it. Naito took over again with an Irish whip, then hit a Frankensteiner out of the corner. Naito ran at Newman, who hit a Spanish Fly for two. Newman went for an OsCutter and Naito fought it off. Newman evaded a Destino. Naito hit a running Destino for a long two. Naito brought Newman to his feet, but he couldn’t stand anymore. Newman tried some very weak back elbows, and Naito hit some strong ones of his own. Newman fired up with a series of rights and then missed a tornado kick. Naito hit Destino to finish.

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito at 6:06. (**)

(Wells’s Analysis: Good action as it got going, though brief. Naito gets a much-needed win heading to G1 season, while Newman – who is also in the heavyweight division and has been announced to be in his first G1 – gains some credibility before the tournament, which is a good thing as he’s largely been a fall guy for the United Empire despite some impressive ring skills)

(2) TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr. & Robbie Eagles & Kosei Fujita) vs. BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney) & LJ CLEARY

LJ Cleary is an Irish wrestler currently on excursion in Pro Wrestling Noah as part of the Good Looking Guys stable, and is currently in a relationship with recent WWE callup Lyra Valkyria. This is his New Japan debut and feels like a one-off.

Things broke down before the bell as all six brawled. Connors and Fujita, who had a very strong match in the Best of the Super Juniors, paired off early. TMDK used frequent tags to wear down Connors. Connors took over as Moloney tripped Eagles from the outside, and Cleary tagged in for the first time and he preened and posed, then slapped ZSJ from the apron. Moloney worked over Eagles, who was now firmly playing face in peril. Eagles got back into it with his speed and he and Moloney had a strong sequence before tagging Fujita and Connors back in. Fujita, who’s taken a lot of falls in TMDK losses, was well over with the Osaka crowd. Cleary tagged in and he and Fujita had a strong style exchange. For a third time, Cleary took a cheap shot at Zack on the apron, and Zack got an intense look in his eyes and he made the tag and worked over Cleary. The War Dogs made the save on a cross arm-breaker by Zack and things broke down again. The crowd oohed and aahed at some spots outside the ring that for some reason, the production didn’t catch. Cleary and Sabre had a good series of grapple reversals. Sabre hit a German suplex and a Zack Driver to finish.

WINNERS: TMDK at 9:41. (**1/4)

(Wells’s Analysis: Some good one-on-one action in between the breakdowns here. Fujita and Connors might be in line for a rematch at some point after Fujita stunned Connors in BOSJ. Cleary showed out here, though he was unsurprisingly the fall guy in this situation)

(3) YUYA UEMURA (c) vs. GREAT-O-KHAN – provisional King of Pro Wrestling 2024 match – “Storm Catch” rules

There are no strikes allowed – the wrestlers are limited to grapples and catches. You have two chances to leave the ring or go for a rope break, but if you use a third, you lose. Just fifteen minutes are on the clock. While the first two years of the KOPW title were used as a vehicle for Toru Yano’s comedy act, it has recently given us a lot of interesting match types (while occasionally still incorporating oddities like an eel-eating contest as part of a best-of-three series).

Khan removed his entrance jacket to reveal gear like an MMA fighter, complete with sponsorships, drawing a small “ooh.” Uemura won an early grapple and forced Khan to use one of his rope breaks early. Shortly thereafter, Khan returned the favor, so both men only had one break allowed from there. The two reversed a lot and Uemura hit a body slam. He started staggering back but he likely had to fight the instinct to sell by leaning on the ropes, which would have burned his other rope break, even with the two not making contact – I think? It’s nebulous there. Khan tried to force a rope run on Uemura, who fought it off. Uemura did indeed lean on a rope to sell for a moment, so I guess that didn’t burn his other allowed break. More grapples and pin attempts on the floor. Uemura hit a belly-to-belly to dump Khan from the ring, which counted as a break, so Khan has no breaks left, and Uemura can win the match simply by dumping Khan again. Uemura couldn’t exit the ring to work Khan on the floor, because it would burn his other rope break, so he stood in the ring and waited for Khan to return.

Khan hit a uranage suplex, called out as Hiroshi Hase-style by Charlton. Khan worked a sleeper and the ref checked on Uemura, who fought it off. Khan tried a Dominator but Uemura reversed to a cross arm-breaker. Khan instinctively went toward the ropes, but the referee reminded him he’d lose in that situation. Khan bridged to try to alleviate pressure, then reversed to a rollup for two. Uemura went for his Deadbolt suplex but Khan rolled through and Uemura took the brunt of it. The reversals continued until Khan hit GFO and then a Super Dominator to score the pin and regain the provisional 2024 King of the Ring Championship.

WINNER: Great-O-Khan at 10:39. (**3/4)

(Wells’s Analysis: This was a fun diversion from the norm that added drama to the match in new ways. This particular match type could sustain an entire division if they wanted, but it’s certainly not like they need another championship. These two simply mesh well together and had another nice outing)

(4) HIROSHI TANAHASHI & TORU YANO & BOLTIN OLEG (c) vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Yota Tsuji & Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) – NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship match

The champions had matching long black entrance overcoats. Tsuji called on Takahashi to open the match with him, drawing respect. The audience was way into this, and there was a big “Yota” chant for the man who won the New Japan Cup tournament in March. The two had a very slight exchange before Takahashi and Yano tagged in. Yano immediately removed the turnbuckle pad in his own corner. Bushi worked on Yano’s arm and tagged Tsuji, who continued wrenching, and finally Hiromu tagged in to batter the arm some more. Hiromu hit a corner lariat and a basement dropkick. Tsuji slammed Takahashi atop Yano for a two count. Takahashi fought off a charge to the exposed corner and Yano hit an inverted atomic drop to get back into it. Oleg and Tsuji tagged in. Oleg hit the splash that Charlton calls the “Flying Body Sausage” for two. Oleg did his rotating deadlifts of Tsuji to cheers.

Oleg and Tsuji exchanged more impact shots. Tsuji hit a Falcon Arrow for two. The two slowed down and worked an exchange of hard forearms and palm strikes. Oleg won the exchange with a hard dropkick. Tana tagged in and worked his usual ground game and set up a middle rope senton. Hiromu broke up a pin attempt. Tana and Tsuji exchanged some shots and Tsuji put Tana on the mat with a headbutt. Tsuji set up a three-point stance and Yano held his leg in place and got rare boos. Tanahashi missed High Fly Flow as Tsuji moved. Tsuji immediately speared Tana with the Gene Blast and got the victory. After the decision was rendered, Oleg got into Tsuji’s face, teasing a singles match between the two. Even after initially leaving, Oleg reentered and he wanted a handshake to make a match official. Tsuji was typically tranquilo about it and refused again, and Oleg left unsatisfied.

WINNERS: Los Ingobernables de Japon at 8:32. (**3/4)

(Wells’s Analysis: This is Hiromu’s first tag championship in his career and Tsuji’s first championship ever. Oleg and Tsuji should make for a strong hard-hitting affair, likely in the G1 next month. Tanahashi continues to provide value as he’s not a major player anymore, but there’s still something to be gained for those who score a pinfall on him)

(5) TOMOHIRO ISHII vs. JEFF COBB (c) – TV Championship match

The audience gave a respectful “ooohhh” as the match graphic went up on the video screen. The announcers mentioned that there would be a big G1 announcement after this match. Charlton mentioned that the two haven’t gone one-on-one in four years, when Cobb beat Ishii in the G1.

The two collided a few times early with neither man giving an inch. Eventually, Cobb put Ishii on the mat briefly. Cobb hit a splash from a rope run, then surfed on Ishii’s back and posed to the camera. Ishii hit a block that put Cobb down after a few more stalemates. After some grappling gave neither man the edge, Cobb blocked Ishii to the mat again. Cobb absorbed some Ishii chops and begged for more. The two reversed a few times and Cobb launched into a strong back elbow in the corner on Ishii. Ishii sold on the mat as the crowd chanted for him.

Cobb booted down at Ishii, asking for more. Cobb threw some forearms and Ishii gave him his terrifying dead stare. Ishii absorbed a few more shots and hit a suplex to get some separation. Both guys missed some quick impact spots but Cobb hit a German suplex (“right on the no-neck of Ishii, as Walker said). Cobb set up Ishii on a turnbuckle and hit a deadlift superplex. Incredible. Ishii popped up with some fighting spirit and Cobb elbowed him down again. Both guys sold for a moment. Ishii fired up in the corner and hit a back suplex. He ran the ropes but Cobb caught him for a belly-to-belly, and then a lariat for a long two. Cobb hit a headbutt and a shooting star press for another long two. Ishii hit a lariat and Cobb kicked out at one for his own fighting spirit spot. Cobb hit a uranage and dropped an elbow on Ishii, who also kicked out at one. Ishii hit a hard forearm, putting Cobb on the mat. Ishii couldn’t capitalize as he crumbled in the corner. He eventually managed a sliding lariat for two.

Ishii went for teh vertical drop brainbuster, but Cobb fought it. The two exchanged suplex attempts, and Cobb finally hit a suplex. The announcer called out that there were five minutes remaining. Cobb hit an F-5 with a high release that Walker called an “F-5000.” Cobb hit Spin Cycle to set up Tour of the Islands, which Ishii fought off. Ishii jumped up and impossibly hit a Frankensteiner and then a hard lariat for a long two. The crowd was nuts for this one. Ishii once again went for the vertical drop brainbuster, but Cobb fought it, and put the match to rest with Tour of the Islands.

WINNER: Jeff Cobb at 11:49. (***3/4)

(Wells’s Analysis: Charlton wanted more of this right into his veins, and so do I. These two always match up beautifully and do some of their best work opposite one another. Ishii continues to be a wildly beloved figure who generates huge pops as he falls just short of singles championships. It’s tempting to say I want one between these two to go ten minutes longer, but big meaty fights like this do feel like they should be right around this length)

-Chris Charlton live-translated the G1 news. We’re returning to a 20-man, two block format in news that should deeply please some fans who felt the four-block format with two men advancing from each block sort of killed the tournament’s early going. Eighteen men will be announced next week in Sapporo, while the final two spots will be determined through a play-in tournament taking place of June 22nd and 23rd, and July 3rd and 5th. Matches will return to 30-minute time limits. Opening weekend will be in Osaka with both nights holding nothing but league matches. The top points scorer will receive a bye to the semifinals while the next two in each block will meet in a playoff tournament to advance there. The finale will be on August 18th. Dates for other leagues and shows were also given.

(6) BISHAMON (Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi) vs. GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo) (w/Jado) (Strong c) vs. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) (w/Zack Sabre Jr. & Robbie Eagles & vs. BULLET CLUB (KENTA & Chase Owens) (IWGP c) – Tornado Elimination match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship and the Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship

This isn’t being billed as a unification match, but both championships will end up with the same team, so I’m definitely hoping that ends up being the case as there’s no reason for the Strong Openweight Tag Championships at this point.

Upon the bell, several of the competitors exited the ring underneath the bottom rope while GOD and TMDK paired off inside the ring. Eventually GOD headed out while both members of Bishamon entered, so at least early on, they’re keeping the action simple to follow. Bullet Club tossed GOD from the ring, through the ropes, and paired off with Bishamon next. Bullet Club isolated Phantasmo while keeping Hikuleo outside. On the outside, almost everyone was doing literally nothing besides watching the action inside. Hikuleo broke free and entered, hitting a lariat on both members of Bullet Club. We ended up with a Hikuleo-Mikey Nicholls showdown for a short time, and when Nicholls couldn’t get anywhere, Shane Haste entered and got himself in trouble as well. GOD and TMDK went at it again and Phantasmo hit a moonsault from the top rope to the mess of men near the ramp. GOD were able to isolate Haste but he fought them off and Nicholls got involved again. TMDK hit their finisher on Hikuleo and pinned him just six minutes into the match (is he headed to WWE too?). GOD were eliminated.

Bullet Club hit schoolboys on both members of TMDK and they both got two counts. Hikuleo was losing his mind on the outside and he and Phantasmo were apparently having a disagreement about how their elimination came about. Kenta was giving hard kicks to Haste’s chest inside. He hit a DDT on Haste also. On the ramp, Hikuleo and Jado left Phantasmo on the ramp as they exited, and the announcers said they’d check on that situation in post-show comments. Bishamon entered the ring and Goto was on the wrong end of the Chaos drums from Bullet Club, drawing boos. Owens put Goto up for a package piledriver, but Goto fought it off and the two paired off. Owens hit an enzuigiri, but Goto caught the Z-Trigger and Yoshi-Hashi hit a superkick. Bishamon put Kenta to the outside and the two hit their team finisher on Owens, eliminating Bullet Club, guaranteeing new champions in both cases.

Bishamon and TMDK exchanged rights. Yoshi-Hashi and Nicholls ended up on the outside as Goto and Haste went at it in the inside. The two exchanged reversals until Hashi hit the ring and Bishamon was able to double-team Haste for a moment before Nicholls recovered and hit the ring also. TMDK hit the Olivia Newton Bomb on Goto, and Hashi flew in at the last moment to save Goto. Hashi and Nicholls exchanged forearms and palm strikes. Hashi ended up between both members of TMDK, but Goto recovered and the teams exchanged big shots for a moment. Bishamon set up their finisher on Nicholls, but Haste broke it up with a superkick. Haste hit a high dropkick on Goto and they set up Goto for their finisher, and he fought it off. TMDK hit Power Bottom and Hashi broke up that one as well. Walker cheekily said “The Power Bottom could’ve gotten it done in the end.” Hashi was isolated and TMDK hit the Tank Buster. Hashi kicked out at the last moment, so Haste went up the ropes and the duo hit a Super Tank Buster to finish and win all the gold.

The two final teams exchanged some respect after the match, with Hashi continuing to lay on the mat selling the finish. Haste and Nicholls sat on the apron and draped their four belts over their shoulders after the match.

WINNERS: TMDK at 16:25. (***)

(Wells’s Analysis: Tornado matches aren’t my usual cup of tea, but they all told a story that was easy to follow with teams pairing off inside with the extras hanging back outside the ring until they picked their spots. TMDK and Bishamon had a strong sequence, leading to TMDK winning their first IWGP tag championships (they held the Strong Openweight championships just before GOD).)

(7) HENARE vs. SHINGO TAKAGI (c) – NEVER Openweight Championship match

Henare does his best work opposite Takagi and Takagi does his best work opposite anyone, so this should be strong just like all their affairs. A video package showed some of the hard-hitting action from their previous matches. Charlton put over Henare’s style by saying he was inspired to join NJPW not because of Tanahashi or Okada but because of the NEVER Openweight battles between Tomohiro Ishii and Togi Makabe. Walker pointed out that Shingo Takagi can set a record with his eighth defense of this championship if he wins tonight.

The two sized each other up early before locking up and rolling on the ropes for a bit until they broke in a corner reluctantly. Takagi made a clean break, then laid in a big chop. The two skipped the lockup and exchanged forearms, slowing down to put more mustard on each one. Takagi hit a corner lariat, then laid in rights and chops in the corner. Henare switched with Takagi and laid in some kicks. The two went forehead to forehead in the center of the ring and moved on to some headbutts. Henare’s head was presented as the harder one. Takagi fell to the mat and Henare gave him a wicked kick to the back, and then one to the front, but Takagi popped up for a lariat that left both on the mat.

The two went for stereo headbutts in a spot that always look ripe for disaster, and again Henare got the better of the exchange, but Takagi hit a powerbomb out of the corner and hit a sliding lariat. Henare hit a basement dropkick and both of them sold on the mat. Henare charged for Rampage but Takagi caught his head and hit a DDT. Henare hit Rampage but fell to his back and couldn’t make a cover.

The two got to their feet and exchanged more strikes. Again they slowed down to lay in their strikes with more impact, and begged for a shot from the other to prove they could absorb them. Stiff kicks to the chest and lariat attempts followed. Henare absorbed some lariats and laid in some strong kicks. Henare hit a kick from the second turnbuckle and Takagi surprised him with a quick Pumping Bomber. The two collapsed on opposite sides of the ring and sold there again.

Takagi hit a corner lariat, then managed a series of strikes as he laid out Henare with a stiff lariat. Shingo wanted Last of the Dragons but Henare widened his base to put a stop to it. The two made quick reversals and Henare hit Streets of Rage, but again he sold the work on his neck and spine and couldn’t cover. Both guys went for suplexes unsuccessfully. Henare exposed his knee and went up for a loud knee lift in the corner. He went for a rugby kick but Takagi caught his leg and hit Last of the Dragons, but this time, he was the one who collapsed and couldn’t cover.

The two sold for a good while, and hit their feet together. They slowly laid in lariats and forearm combinations. Takagi worked up some speed but missed a few. They exchanged rough kicks and moved on to palm strikes. Henare staggered Takagi, who came back with a hard forearm that crumbled Henare to the mat. Henare popped back up and they went for headbutts again. Lariats were next. Henare hit a headbutt and both guys laid on the mat again. The crowd chanted for Henare, still an essential underdog despite some successes over the past couple of years. Marty Asami counted both men to the mat for the very rare draw outside of tournament season. Charlton pointed out that after the match, Henare was the one who got back up quickly while Takagi was still laid out. Henare raged after the match, stopping just short of going after Asami.

DRAW at 14:32. (****)

(Wells’s Analysis: This was the strong, mean, violent affair you’d hope for with these two opposite one another. Nobody’s going to get excited about a draw, but it builds Henare just that much more as a realistic challenger while promising another match between the two. I remain convinced that Henare will be the one to dethrone Takagi)

(8) JON MOXLEY (c) vs. EVIL – Lumberjack Deathmatch for the IWGP World Championship

Evil got in the face of the owner of New Japan and spray painted his face as members of the House of Torture held him in place. He led a chant of “go home” and got some support as Charlton called it a very complicated situation with Moxley being IWGP Champion.

Moxley’s lumberjacks were Shota Umino, Tiger Mask, Yuji Nagata, Togi Makabe, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. The House of Torture lumberjacks all jumped Moxley early and a brawl got going on the outside with everyone involved. Marty Asami tried to get the competitors inside so he could call for the bell, and succeeded, though I doubt they’ll be in there for long. Moxley took the early advantage with a neckbreaker and some back elbows and kicks. Sliding lariat got two. Moxley went for a cross arm-breaker but Evil locked his arms and got to the ropes for a break. Evil got back into it with an eye rake, drawing boos. The two ended up on the outside and Moxley temporarily neutralized all the House of Torture guys. Moxley took Walker Stewart’s chair and sat Evil in it by the barricade and booted him out of it.

Action went inside and Moxley worked a figure four. Evil fought his way to a rope to break. The two jockeyed for position in a corner and Evil charged Moxley from the apron to the barricade, where he draped over to the announce table. The House of Torture worked over Moxley with boots, and the babyface lumberjacks broke it up. Evil choked out Moxley with a t-shirt to boos while Asami was tied up with the complaining lumberjacks. Evil threw some chops in the corner and then dumped Moxley, who peppered his back with shots from their belts (the kind that hold your pants up, not championship belts). Moxley entered again and we got a shot of the welts already forming on his back. Evil worked a figure four and Moxley got to the rope to break.

Evil chopped Moxley in a corner and set him up on the second buckle. Moxley fought off a superplex and he raked Evil’s back with his nails. Moxley headbutted Evil to the mat. Moxley missed but landed on his feet, and the two exchanged some forearms. They moved on to chops and Evil was staggered. The two worked slowly as they got back into an exchange of chops and strikes. Moxley managed a flurry that put Evil in a corner. Moxley hit a corner lariat, and Evil reversed and hit one also. Moxley hit a running lariat and both guys sold on the mat.

Moxley worked over Evil in a corner with rights, then hit a piledriver in the center of the ring for a long two, but nobody in the crowd bought into the false finish here. Evil regrouped with the House of Torture on the outside and Moxley hit a tope suicida. Moxley ripped one of the belts away from HoT and he worked over Evil with it for a minute before tossing it aside. Moxley went under the ring to grab a table. There was a “We want tables” chant in English, something I’ve heard very rarely on a New Japan show. Moxley wet for a powerbomb, but Dick Togo showed up and threw powder into his eyes (much of it sailed past Moxley and presumably into the first couple of rows). Evil did his spot with the chair around the neck of Moxley to take control.

Action went inside again and Evil brought Moxley to the very top and hit a superplex. He covered for two. Evil worked an Anaconda Vise in front of Hiroyoshi Tenzan, who uses it regularly. Moxley hit his feet and worked a sleeper. Moxley tried a suplex, but Evil held onto referee Marty Asami. Asami tried to strike Evil to break the hold, but Evil ducked and Asami struck Moxley in the face. Moxley grabbed Asami by the collar, which gave Evil the opening to snatch him up and hit Darkness Falls for two.

Moxley continued to sell the effects of the powder in the eyes as he fought to his knees. Evil went for Everything is Evil, drawing some oooohhhs as we’ve now gone long enough that a finish feels somewhat possible. Moxley fought it and reversed a rope run into Nagata Lock 2. Evil teased a tap while on the outside, Yuji Nagat fought with House of Torture members who were trying to interfere. Nagata and Yoshinobu Kanemaru fought in the ring and Asami got between them and took a bump (very awkwardly) to one of Nagata’s kicks. It was bonzo gonzo as the lumberjacks fought to give the competitors a breather. The babyface legends snapped on their finishing holds on House of Torture members to cheers. Moxley went for the Death Rider, but Ren Narita charged in and struck Moxley with a 2×4, allowing HoT to dominate again. They took Moxley outside and Evil teamed with Narita to powerbomb him through the previously established table.

Evil hit his own Death Rider on Moxley inside and Asami recovered to make a slow count that almost got three. Evil went for Everything is Evil again, but Moxley reversed and hit his own, which Charlton called “Everything is Violence.” Moxley gave double birds to the downed Evil, then grabbed Sho’s wrench. He tossed the weapons away to show he didn’t need them, then went to the outside and under the ring again, this time producing a barbed-wire wrapped bat to a big reaction.

Moxley entered the ring and took out HoT members as they attacked one by one. Evil took the timekeeper’s pen and bashed it in Moxley’s eye. He took the bat and missed as Moxley speared him. Moxley grabbed the bat once again and battered Evil with it, then hit a Curb Stomp. Moxley hit a Death Rider on the bat, and that was good to finish.

WINNER: Jon Moxley at 25:01. (***3/4)

After the match, Umino offered a heating pad to Moxley, which of course he didn’t accept. The House of Torture members helped Evil to the back as Moxley posed in the ring after his fourth successful title defense. The Moxley lumberjacks all entered the ring and shook hands with Moxley, then held up their arms in a line for a good photo opportunity. The lumberjacks exited and Moxley remained in the ring, and he talked trash into the camera, dropping his share of f-bombs.

Moxley grabbed the mic and said any (effing) body, any (effing) place, any (effing) time, he means it. He asked for a challenge right now, and we got a wide shot of the ramp, which remained empty until Tetsuya Naito showed up to cheers and a chant for his name. Naito took his time getting to the ring, as usual, and then took the mic that Moxley threw on the mat.

Naito said that if no one else was going to come out, how about me? He said it’s his fault that the belt was lost, so it’s on him to take it back at Forbidden Door. He made the challenge in English to Moxley, who said something we couldn’t hear that was clearly an acceptance. Naito tossed the mic and took his leave.

(Wells’s Analysis: I probably should’ve seen the Naito challenge coming when he was the one who lost the title to the outsider, but for whatever reason, I didn’t think it would happen – at least this soon. This type of match is tough for me to rate because it’s not my style at all, but it stopped way short of getting into garbage territory and they ended up having a strong brawl that didn’t rely on blood flowing as a result of some transition move. Evil can still really go when he’s asked to, and the two had some good wrestling sequences between the necessary “messier” spots. They definitely got what they needed out of Evil as a challenger)

(9) EL DESPERADO vs. TAIJI ISHIMORI – Best of the Super Juniors final

This year’s Best of the Super Juniors was a strong one with multiple believable winners, though my own money would’ve been on Desperado. Ishimori always ends up with a strong win-loss record but he I thought was something of an underdog to make the finals this year.

As Charlton was putting this moment over as huge for Junior Heavyweights, Ishimori tripped while jumping up to the apron. What timing. I’m sure the announcers will tell this story as well, but for as much as these two are figures near the top of the Junior Heavyweight ranks year after year, neither has won the tournament, although both have lost in the finals (both to Hiromu Takahashi).

The two soaked up the moment for a bit. Ishimori was wearing colored contacts that made his eyes pop in a jarring manner for those of us who have seen him a lot. Mat grappling and quick reversals to open. They worked their way to their feet, still exchangng grapples, and Desperado worked Ishimori’s knee. The two jockeyed for position in a corner and Ishimori hit a springboard huracanrana, and then a splash to the outside. Ishimori darted Despe into a ringpost, then hit the ring and removed the blue corner pad for later. Referee Red Shoes Unno reached a count of ten before Despe got back in the ring. Ishimori immediately charged him into the exposed turnbuckle, drawing the annoyance of Unno.

Ishimori worked a wristlock with Desperado grounded. He dropped a knee into the small of Desperado’s back, then grappled his way into a headlock on Desperado. They reached a rope and Red Shoes counted, breaking the hold. Ishimori yanked Desperado by the arm to the mat and Despe sold agony in the early going. The two exchanged some back elbows and Desperado caught Ishimori for a back suplex. Ishimori bailed to the outside and Desperado hit a beautiful tope suicida con giro that got the rare replay from production.

Action moved back to the ring and Desperado hit a corner lariat and a vertical drop suplex for two. The two grappled again and Ishimori tied up Desperado in the ropes and hit his German suplex where he slips to the outside afterward. Ishimori missed a 450 but rolled through, then hit a lung blower for two. Desperado fought off a move with a back body drop and then hit a back suplex. Dragon screw by Desperado. Ishimori again drove Desperado into the exposed turnbuckle to take control. Shoulder breaker by Ishimori.

Desperado rolled through a la mistica attempt and went for #2, which Ishimori fought off. Poison rana and a spinebuster by Desperado. Both guys sold on the mat. Desperado hit a sitout knee breaker, then worked a stretch muffler, but Ishimori rolled him up for two, then wrenched Desperado’s shoulders with his legs as the announcers sold that he was setting up the Bone Lock. La Mistica by Ishimori set up the Bone Lock, and he rolled backward to continue hanging on. Desperado growled through the pain and foughts slowly to the ropes. Ishimori rolled him to the center again, but Desperado rolled farther and snapped on Numero Dos. Ishimori repositioned and broke the hold with a Canadian Destroyer.

After some more selling by both guys, Ishimori hobbled on his worked legs over to Desperado, who surprised him with a crucifix pin for two. Red Shoes got distracted and Ishimori hit a low blow, then trapped Desperado in a Gedo Clutch for as long a two count as you’ll ever see. Ishimori tried to set up Bloody Cross but Desperado laid him out with a right before crumbling to the mat himself.

The two crawled and met in the middle of the ring for an exchange of rights. Ishmori got the better of it as Deperado fell to his knees, but the exchange continued and Desperado pasted Ishimori with a huge forearm. Desperado ran the ropes and Ishimori caught him with a flash knee, allowing both guys to sell once again. Desperado hit a slam and a spear followed by Pinche Loco for a long two count. A frustrated Desperado insisted it was three. Ishimori hit a kind of spinning face breaker that Charlton couldn’t help me to identify, but it was cool. Reverse Bloody Sunday by Ishimori got another very long two.

Ishimori went for Bloody Cross, but Desperado drove him into the exposed turnbuckle. Desperado hit a reverse Tiger Driver and held on. Pinche Loco once again, and this time, Desperado got the win and the title of Best of the Super Juniors.

WINNER: El Desperado at 23:35. (****1/2)

This doesn’t happen a lot with Bullet Club on either side, but Desperado went in and congratulated Ishimori on a great match after it was over. The usual pomp and circumstance with the flag and the trophy followed. Normally a winner’s faction would come out to share the moment in some capacity, but Desperado is one of the only men on the roster with no running buddies. Ishimori stayed at ringside for a while, looking in at the scene.

Desperado got on the mic and said Ishimori is great and it’s not fair that he’s never won the tournament, but it’s true what Ishimori said – the winner is the strongest.

Sho sauntered down the ramp to ruin the moment. He said we should do the tournament over again because he’s clearly the strongest, as he beat Desperado for the championship. The two did some rapid-fire banter and Charlton called it a translator’s nightmare. The two were drawing some laughs for their trash talk. It devolved into playground insults and they finally got to the business of talking about the upcoming championship match. Desperado said if Sho really wants to make this a one on one, then they should put this in a steel cage. Sho was visibly distressed. He freaked out and ran back up the ramp and out of view. The streamers exploded into the scene and Desperado soaked up the moment a little more.

(Wells’s Analysis: A pretty easy match of the night here as the BOSJ final was excellent, as always. It was wise to use a Bullet Club member to do the job to give Desperado an unmitigated happy moment at the end of the tournament, as an opponent like Hiromu Takahashi would have split the crowd. The two had a very strong technical affair and they knew when to slow it down and when to build to a crescendo. There were no Bullet Club shenanigans, thankfully, that detracted from the match.)

FINAL THOUGHTS (9.0): I’m not sure there were any all-timers on the show, but there wasn’t a single clunker in the bunch, and I’d strongly recommend at least four matches on the show, the main event chief among them. The news of the G1 returning to two blocks is a welcome sight, though I’ll see what I think of the playoffs allowing six of the twenty to move on to knockout rounds. Jon Moxley and Tetsuya Naito had a good post-match segment that built a lot of anticipation for Forbidden Door, especially for fans of primarily New Japan, while Desperado and Ishimori more than warranted their spot at the top of the card with an excellent main event when the Juniors were finally called upon to have one. The Despe Invitacional special PPV event happens tomorrow, which was perhaps a hint that he’d be winning the tournament, but I think his show works whether he had won the tournament or not. With that, one of the very best active NJPW Junior Heavyweights never to win the tournament has now won it. Strong recommendation.

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