Best of the Super Juniors: The Most Grueling Two Weeks of 2023

In the A Block preview, we noted how Best of the Super Juniors 29 felt feathery compared to the disheartening slog of G1 Climax 32. A big reason for that was the overambition disaster of G1 Climax 32 scheduling. With four blocks of seven, making the numbers fit the timeframe was tricky. Too tricky, in fact. The end result was a catastrophe. For half the the tournament, there were only four G1 Climax matches on each card… one for each block. For the other half, a fifth match was added, from any of the four pools.

As noted n the A Block preview, some wrestlers would go upwards of two weeks between matches, whereas the more traditional BOSJ29 held comfortable momentum, each show well-paced and directly carrying the consequences of the previous night. Half the tournament was single block nights, and the other half double block nights. But, critically, the blocks moved at a consistent and equal pace.

This year offers a major alteration to that schedule: this year’s tournament is entirely double-block nights, except for the two block final nights, which will serve as A and B block finals. For some, this might provoke severe hesitation, and for good reason. Those eight double-block nights will run from May 12th to May 21st. Eighty matches in ten days.

But, I have data that might assuage these apprehensions. Or confirm them. This is the night-by-night  time chart from last year:

Double block night meant an extra 40-ish minutes of in-ring action. Also, the main event times were longer in the double-block nights. The average main event of a BOSJ29 single-block night was 15:27. The average of a double-block night: 20:15! Main event lengths generally escalate as tournaments progress, but god damn. 

But the biggest difference is average match lengths. Double-block nights averaged nearly two minutes less per match, 10:35 per match to the single-night average of 12:20. Where you see the biggest difference is sub-ten minute matches. During the six double-block nights in BOSJ29, there were twenty-nine matches shorter than ten minutes, nearly half (48.33%) of the sixty total matches. In the six single-block nights, the number of sub-ten minute matches: two. That would be 6.67% of the thirty single-block matches.

And so, while the nights are longer, they often feel shorter. 

Best of the Super Juniors 30 The Participants

Best of the Super Juniors 29 Participants Not Returning:

  • Ace Austin
  • El Phantasmo
  • El Lindaman
  • Wheeler Yuta
  • Alex Zayne

Debuting or Returning Participants

  • Mike Bailey
  • Kevin Knight
  • KUSHIDA (last participated in 2018)
  • Lio Rush
  • Dan Moloney

Best of the Super Juniors 30 A Block

  • Speedball Mike Bailey (Impact Wrestling)
  • DOUKI (Just 5 Guys)
  • Taiji Ishimori (BULLET CLUB)
  • Lio Rush (CHAOS)
  • SHO (House of Torture)
  • Ryusuke Taguchi
  • Hiromu Takahashi (Champion) (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
  • Titan (Los Ingobernables de Japon, CMLL)
  • TJP (United Empire)

Best of the Super Juniors 30 B Block

  • Francesco Akira (United Empire)
  • BUSHI (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
  • Clark Connors (BULLET CLUB)
  • El Desperado (Strong Style)
  • Robbie Eagles (TMDK)
  • Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Just 5 Guys)
  • Kevin Knight
  • Dan Moloney (United Empire, Revolution Pro Wrestling)
  • Master Wato

Preview Format

There are five elements to each participant’s preview this year:

  • Current Situation 
  • Past Performance (unless debuting) 
  • Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Every night in a league tournament has a set number of matches. If you take the match number for each participant and average them, it gives you their Average Card Placement. This is a good indicator of where that wrestler stands in the division hierarchy. For instance, this year’s Best of the Super Juniors has ten matches every night (through Night 8). Suppose a wrestler was booked in match 10 every night, their Avg. Card Placement would be 10, the highest possible. Where a wrestler falls between 1 and 10 determines their booking strength, which usually correlates to tournament success. By looking at this number and a wrestler’s match-up on the final block night (Nights 9 or 10), one gets a richer base for the usual speculation and conjecture we all convince ourselves will happen. An example of that: regardless of their booking strength, if someone is wrestling say, Robbie Eagles on their final block night, it suggests that they might have some relevancy at the end. Anyway, here’s the Card Placement chart for Best of the Super Juniors 30:

  • Chances of Winning 
  • What-to-Look-For Matches

Best of the Super Juniors 30 B Block

Francesco Akira

  • 2nd entry, 2nd straight year

Current Situation: The dyspeptic Akira debuted in New Japan at last year’s Best of the Super Juniors, only 22 and coming off a three year run in All-Japan. He showed growing pains early in the tournament, but rallied in the last few matches. He then went on to have an all-time, 311 day title reign with TJP as the junior tag champs. Under TJP’s mentorship, Akira’s growth has been noticeable. He appears poised to begin his ascent to the apex of the division.

Past Performance: Akira started slowly last year, 1-4 in his first five matches, but ending up 4-5. He finished in the middle, well off the leaders, but managed to defeat Ace Austin on the final night

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Akira is 8th of 20 in booking strength this year, a respectable leap from 12th place in his debut last year. He only has one main event, ut it’s a big one, against El Desperado and it is on the final double-block night. Unfortunately, Akira faces BUSHI on the final night. Either Akira will be positioned to be spoiled by BUSHI, or Akira will be long eliminated by then. Either way, he won’t be main eventing. 

Chances to win: 25%

What to Look For:

  • Night 4 (May 16): Francesco Akira vs. Dan Moloney – Moloney was recruited into the United Empire on March 26th, after defeating Akira at York Hall in London. Ospreay’s actions appeared to be with Akira’s consent. The United Empire’s dynamics are based on fraternal bonds, but we have never seen a United Empire single match in either the G1 Climax or Best of the Super Juniors.
  • Night 8 (May 21): Francesco Akira vs. El Desperado – The main event of the final double block night, this one is a big test for Akira, and has all the conditions for a penultimate night upset. This first-time clash of dispositions should be engrossing. The frenzied, agitated style of Akira attempting to rattle Despy’s unflappably cool and methodical limbwork.


  • 11th entry, 8th straight year

Current Situation: BUSHI persists, although mainly as the pin eater of LIJ. He’s wrestled a scant amount of singles matches since last year’s super juniors, mainly focusing on his tag team with Titan. They failed to defeat Catch 2/2 in the fall, but had a good run in Super Junior Tag League. Mostly languid, his tope’s are still the best in the company.

Past Performance: As shown above, BUSHI has been in many BOSJ’s, and has not even made it out of a block once. But that lack of end results masks a respectable history of placements. From 2016 to 2019, BUSHI finished in the top 3 of his block every year. He’s settled back to the middle in the 2020-2022 period.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: BUSHI is ranked 16th in booking strength, exactly where he was last year. He’s a non-factor, though he usually scores at least one big upset a year. Where that will come is hard to determine, since his only big matches are El Desperado (8th match on Night 2) and YOH (7th match on Night 7).

Chances to win: 10%

What to Look For:

  • Night 4 (May 16): BUSHI vs. Robbie Eagles – Robbie Eagles refers to BUSHI with severe contempt, probably because he is 1-3 against the elaborately masked veteran. After defeating BUSHI in 2021, Eagles was aghast at losing to BUSHI again in 2022. BUSHI somehow manages to outmaneuver the technician. 
  • Night 7 (May 19): BUSHI vs. YOH – Loser must de-capitalize their name. BUSHI still calls YOH “Komatsu,” as if YOH was still a Young Lion (and not a 35-year old veteran). This could be dramatic or soporific. YOH is performatively languorous, but intently electrifying in bursts. BUSHI is just pedestrian as fuck. BUSHI turns it on seemingly arbitrarily in the BOSJ, hopefully he does so here. He does hold a 3-1 edge historically over YOH

Clark Connors

  • 2nd entry, 2nd straight year

Current Situation: The first student leader of the new LA Dojo, Connors has been largely adrift since his graduation two years ago. His character was a mess from the beginning, some kind of overzealous safari guide with a tragic level of alcohol dependency. He has not wrestled in Japan since Super Junior tag League in December 2022, but has wrestled across the United States. He joined BULLET CLUB in March 2023. He looks exponentially better in the BOSJ graphic above than the fluffy frat boy from last year.

Past Performance: In his inaugural tournament last year, Connors was a surprising 4-5, scoring wins over Alex Zayne, Francesco Akira, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Unfortunately, the Taguchi match led to his preposterous tag team with the Coach.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Despite the faction switch and gimmick adjustment, Connors is still near the bottom in booking strength. He is 19th, only above his reprobate former partner Taguchi. He has no main events, semi-main events, or even semi-semi main events. But, he was dead last in 2022, and seems primed to outperform his booking yet again. His final match is against Dan Moloney, which will probably be inconsequential to the standings, but a good indicator of where both men stand in their new alignments.

But Connors has a few of things which make it possible that his low booking is a misdirection: he just switched factions, the faction he switched into is BULLET CLUB, and the company released this video hyping his BOSJ entry. That significantly raises his chances. This might be a situation where someone comes in with marginal support and makes the case for winning within the tournament.

Chances to win: 35%

What to Look For:

  • Night 1 (May 12) – Clark Connors vs. Kevin Knight – Connors can define a BULLET CLUB Clark Connors immediately by how he approaches former dojo mate Kevin Knight. Having rejected the LA Dojo ethos that produced no results for him, this power vs. agility match-up should also delineate who will emerge from the lower rungs of the tournament to outperform their booking strength. Connors should win and claim a tag title shot with Ishimori as his partner.
  • Night 3 (May 14): Clark Connors vs. BUSHI – If Clark Connors wants to establish this new character, this 100 Proof Clark Connors distillation, a match with BUSHI is a prime chance. Connors has been sporadic enough in Japan that he still lacks a connection with the crowd. If he can somehow get the crowd excited for a BUSHI match, he will have turned a massive corner. 

Robbie Eagles

  • 5th entry, 5th straight entry

Current Situation: The Sniper of the Skies is the most balanced wrestler in the division, an impeccable balance of precise, erudite aerial offense and devastatingly ruthless submissions. Since unsuccessfully challenging Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Junior heavyweight title at Sakura Genesis in April, Robbie Eagles has not returned to Japan, but he has been busy. He wrestled on all three Tamashii shows that same month, headlining the tour against Shingo Takagi on night 3. He also challenged Claudio Castagnoli for the ROH World Title on April 26th. 

Past Performance: Going into his 5th Super Juniors, Eagles is still looking to make it out of a block. But he has been close. He held his own destiny in both 2021 (against Hiromu Takahashi in the block final) and 2022 (if he beat Titan, he would have won the block, but was thwarted by the luchadore).

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Eagles booking is utterly perplexing. This man just challenged for the division’s main title, just switched units, and, you know, was the actual IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion as recently as 18 months ago. And yet, Eagles is 9th in card placement after being 4th last year. He has one main event and zero semi-main events. 

This feels like the biggest red herring in the tournament; Eagles faces El Desperado on the final B block night. This feels like it will decide the block, although with a semi-finals it’s possible that both could advance. The question is the same as with Lio Rush and YOH: would they go back to Eagles so soon? 

Chances to win: 65%

What to look for:

  • Night 1 (May 12): Robbie Eagles vs. YOH – A match between two potential block winners and former stablemates. Both are methodical and flexible in their sequencing of styles. The loser will have to chase the rest of the tournament. YOH is 2-0 against Eagles.
  • Night 6 (May 18): Robbie Eagles vs. Master Wato – Eagles’ only scheduled main event, thus far. They have faced each other 4 times, each man 2-2. Their styles work well together; from the outset of Wato’s return, he has always had good chemistry with Eagles. The finish could say a lot about both; the loser might not have enough time to catch the winner.

El Desperado

  • 7th entry, 4th straight year
  • Finals: 2020, 2022

Current Situation: El Desperado doesn’t exactly feel like a junior at the moment. Since last year’s Super Juniors, he’s had as many death matches than juniors matches. He is currently feuding with Tomohiro Ishii, a heavyweight. His new faction, Strong Style, very much feels like three equals, and since the other two (Ren Narita and Minoru Suzuki) are heavyweights, Despy feels like someone transitioning out of the division. 

Past Performance: Desperado has been thwarted each of the last three years. In 2020, he lost in the final to generational rival Hiromu Takahashi in the famous De-masking Match. In 2021, he led the single-block tournament going into the final night, but lost to El Phantasmo and missed the final. In 2022, he once again lost in the final to Hiromu.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Despy is the solid #2 of the division, but he’s been #1 in the booking the last two years. Since returning in 2020, he’s been either #2 or #1 in booking strength. Last year, it could be played as block dynamics, but he’s the clear #1 again in a year where the entire tournament is double-block nights. His B block final against Robbie Eagles has all the making of a classic winner-take-all scenario. As far as potential matches against Hiromu at Dominion, Despy is still the biggest.

Chances to win: 85%

What to Look For:

  • Night 1 (May 12): El Desperado vs.Yoshinobu Kanemaru – In the semi-main event of Night 1, Despy faces off against his mentor. Desperado is indefatigable in his praise for Kanemaru. He will take this match very seriously, and crowds still pop for the former tag champs squaring off. Expect relentless leg work.
  •  Night 10 (May 24): El Desperado vs. Robbie Eagles – One of the most exceptional and fecund pairings in this division, Eagles and Desperado traded the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in 2021 in a series of immaculate matches. Each match shows particular attention to detail, yet ultimately all their matches become centered on legwork. Despy is 3-2, and will be looking to avenge last year’s BOSJ loss to Eagles in this match, which will most likely decide the block winner.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru

  • 6th entry, 3rd straight year

Current Situation: Yoshinobu Kanemaru debuted during peak All-Japan, back when Baba was still alive and the Four Pillars were at their zenith. He followed Suzuki-gun to New Japan in 2017, largely wrestling in tag matches with Taichi and El Desperado. Having formed Just 5 Guys this year, Kanemaru received his first ever title shot on April 27th, 2023. A crafty veteran, his matches break the usual New Japan formula.

Past Performance: Kanemaru’s first BOSJ was in 2017, and by that point he was already twenty years into the business. He had a chance to win the block on the final night, but lost by tiebreakers. Since then, he has finished near the bottom every single year. He was a breath of fresh air last year, though, especially his four-minute squash match of Hiromu Takahashi

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Kanemaru did not get a most-recent-challenger boost this year. Kanemaru is 14th, down from 13th last year. With two semi-main events but no main events, he will most likely be looking to play spoiler to YOH on the B Block final night. For an acrid bastard like Kanemaru, that might be as desirable as winning the whole thing.

Chances to win: 5%

What to Look For:

  • Night 4 (May 16) Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Master Wato – Master Wato’ second match back from excursion was against Kanemaru on August 29th, 2020, at Jingu Stadium. Kanemaru spoiled the moment, as he often does, handing Master Wato his first loss in seven minutes. Wato’s dynamic sincerity contrasts well with Kanemaru’s cavalier dismissiveness. 
  • Night 7 (May 19): Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Francesco Akira – Kanemaru and DOUKI challenged Akira’s Catch 2/2 for the junior tag titles back in February. It was a radiant match, but most of the match and program saw Kanemaru paired off with TJP and Akira with DOUKI. The youth vs. age factor is high here. Kanemaru thrives in thwarting sharp-tongued scamps like Akira.

Kevin Knight

  • Debut entry

Current Situation: Knight made history by graduating mid-tour during Super Junior Tag League in December 2022. He has since wrestled for numerous companies in America, and finally made his way back to Japan in April 2023 to successfully challenge Catch 2/2 for the junior tag titles. Blessed with unfathomable spring, the Jet has a bounty of momentum.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Although one half of the tag team champions, Knight is booked as one would expect for a recent Young Lion graduate. He is 16th of 20, with zero main or semi-main events. He faces Master Wato on the final night. Considering Wato’s booking strength, Knight might be well past elimination status but aiming to spoil

Chances to win: 5%

What to Look For:

  • Night 2 (May 13): Kevin Knight vs. Francesco Akira – Knight and Akira paired off for most of the Dontaku tour, with Knight’s humble self-assurance contrasting with the brazen mordancy of Akira. Knight pinned Akira to take the belts, so one would expect Akira to return the favor here. Expect this one to proceed at a preposterous tempo.
  • Night 4 (May 16): Kevin Knight vs. El Desperado – As Knight begins his ascent, it will be interesting to see how he handles a wrestler like El Desperado, with Despy’s overwhelming popularity and rigorously systematic match structure. This one will be a good chance to gauge Knight’s selling and patience as Desperado leads the way.

Dan Moloney

  • Debut entry

Current Situation: The only thing we know about Dan Maloney is that his stubble is so thick it looks like a tattoo. We turn to out good friend Neil David from the Eurograps Express:

He’s a jacked up chav who wants to fight every one he meets. Unfortunately, the BritWres scene is so starved, he’s not meeting opponents of his calibre. His initiation into United Empire was fascinating. Will Ospreay set up a series of matches meant culminate with Ospreay himself. Injury precluded that, but Maloney became more brutal than ever, leaning into the lonely warrior motif.  There’s a beautiful reality to his work that scares me, and I have no doubt he’ll captivate on this tour.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Moloney has been given a healthy position for a debuting wrestler, placing 9th out of 20. Considering that he’s never even wrestled in Japan, let alone for this company, that’s a sturdy number. Moloney has one semi-main event (El Desperado on Night 7), and Clark Connors on the final night. That’s an intriguing match between two young grapplers in new factions, but should have little bearing on the block results.

Chances to win: 5%

What to Look For:

  • Night 8 (May 21): Dan Moloney vs. Robbie Eagles – At one point, Robbie Eagles in United Empire was considered a fait accompli, or at least heavily logical conjecture. Instead, Moloney took the spot at the third UE junior, and Eagles found an even more logical home in TMDK. By this point in the tournament, Eagles should be fighting for the block win; disrupting that would be a clear sign that New Japan has ambitious ideas for Maloney.
  • Night 10 (May 24): Dan Moloney vs. Clark Connors – Maloney and Connors are both new to their units, and despite Connors head start both can be considered incipient junior heavyweight contenders. The finish here is fascinating, not merely because it will give one a leg up, but because it could, and should, plant seeds for future animosity between the two, with a harvest that could last years.

Master Wato

  • 4th entry, 4th straight year

Current Situation: Wato began the year grimly, being pinned in the four-way junior title match at Wrestle Kingdom. He then lost a rare off-title junior singles match to Taiji Ishimori. But he bounced back strongly in March, headlining the All Star Junior Festival and defeated All-Japan’s Atsuki Aoyagi. Otherwise, he’s been in multi-man tags and had a fairly drab Fantasticamania.

Past Performance: Unfortunately, Wato’s first BOSJ’s were in the crowded single-block pandemic years. Thus far, he has not had a winning record in any of Super Junior campaigns. His finishes have been progressively worse, even as his in-ring performances have evened out.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: Wato’s 4th place might be the most eye-opening of the tournament, an astounding jump from being 13th in 2022. Wato faces Kevin Knight on the final night. Usually, that would signal that Wato might be out of the mix. But combining his booking strength, his showing in the Wrestle Kingdom junior title match four-way, and the fact that he was pinned by Hiromu in the match, it makes storytelling sense that Wato could be the one to challenge Hiromu at Dominion.

Chances to win: 70%

What to Look For:

  • Night 3 (May 14): Master Wato vs. El Desperado – Desperado has been merciless to Wato in backstage comments, and currently holds a 3-1 head-to-head advantage. If Wato is going to progress to the junior title, he specifically has to overcome Desperado. A good first step: during the Incredible Tag Match on November 5th, 2022, Wato spent much of the match lighting up Desperado. Expect hard kicks vs. hard chops. 
  • Night 7 (May 19): Master Wato vs. Clark Connors – Connors was Ryusuke Taguchi’s tag team partner during Super Junior Tag League this year, taking the place of Taguchi’s usual Six-or-Nine partner Wato, who was tied up in the singles title picture. Avenging his partner and disciplining an apostate doesn’t feel like Wato’s style, but might be a necessary step to taking the division crown.


  • 6th entry, 3rd straight year
  • Finals: 2021

Current Situation: Those that gave up on YOH several months ago need to readjust their sentiments. After teaming with Lio Rush in the Super Junior Tag League 2022, YOH has been rejuvenated. His match with Hiromu on February 5th might have been the best of his career, and he is showing legitimate, eccentric charisma. He is still adding moves to his arsenal, and his fundamentals remain pristine.

Past Performance: YOH was shut out as a Young Lion in 2015; he’s done better since, although often not by much. He finished around the middle, or slightly below average, but he had a breakthrough in 2021, making it to the finals against Hiromu Takahashi. He was back to the middle in 2022.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation: YOH’s booking strength matches the recent revitalization. He is 3rd of 20, a clear sign of how the company views him at the moment… although YOH has always been booked well. His previous placements: 4th (2018) and 7th (2019, 2021, 2022). YOH faces Yoshinobu Kanemaru on Night 10: normally this would scream spoiler match, but it’s not so simple with a semi-finals. But because YOH is a recent challenger, it’s unlikely he’ll make his way to the final, even if he does escape his block.

Chances to win: 65%

What to Look For:

  • Night 2 (May 13): YOH vs. Master Wato: Incredibly, these two have only wrestled once, a YOH victory on Night 6 of the 2021 BOSJ. At the time, it wasn’t a big match-up; it was more like two underwhelming careers intermingling in an inconsequential match 2nd from the bottom. They were 7th and 9th out of 12 in booking strength. This year, they are 3rd and 4th in average card placement and this is the main event of Night 2. The company feels a certain way about both of these guys right now; at least one of them will likely advance to the semi-final, and this match might ultimately determine which.
  • Night 5 (May 17): YOH vs. El Desperado – YOH spent a good amount of time in the recent Strong Style vs. CHAOS program goading and pestering El Desperado, as YOH starts to perfect his bratty living art installation character. For the New YOH to sustain credibility, he has to defeat his longtime tormentor. The work should be nuanced and top notch, a worthy main event.

Final Thoughts

The final tally on these totally capricious Chances of Winning percentages, in order:

  • El Desperado: 85%
  • Master Wato: 70%
  • YOH: 65%
  • Robbie Eagles: 65%
  • Clark Connors: 35%
  • Francesco Akira: 25%
  • BUSHI: 10%
  • Kevin Knight: 5%
  • Dan Maloney: 5%
  • Yoshinobu Kanemaru: 5%

Because two people will emerge from the block, it’s futile to predict anything. A dark horse like BUSHI could win the block and still not make it to the finals. In that way, the semi-finals totally upends and mitigates block dynamics. That said, these are measures of who will win the entire tournament, not just advance past their block. We think this represents the most likely options to represent B Block in the final, and who has the most credible chance to face Hiromu at Dominion.

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