NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 30 has concluded, and it was a spectacular tournament whether or not you could follow the preposterously dense tempo. This tournament had a profundity; the field was replete with living legends and incipient talent, and the scheduling replicated two concepts from the recent past: a playoff final format, and clustered double-block nights. Turning back the clock to 2014, the Super Juniors this year presented 70 matches in the first seven days of the tournament.

And it was all worth the torment, as actual progress in the division was achieved. Master Wato has emerged as a legitimate contender for Hiromu Takahashi’s Junior Heavyweight title, giving the performance of his life in the final. There’s a youth movement fomenting in each division, and both will converge at Dominion.

Assessing NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 30

To assess Best of the Super Juniors 30, we’re going to hand out traditional letter grades, the once infallible concept that has come under intense scrutiny in pedagogical circles as Ed.D echo chambers and parasitic education consulting firms pass off things like “standards-based” grading, or “proficiency-based” grading, and bury professionals under a mountain of rubrics. 

Attempting to eliminate human, contextual personal interpretation from grading is futile. Grades are a conversation. A rubric asks the assessor to consider the difference between, say, “exemplary” and “satisfactory.” And what is that difference? The same as with a fucking letter grade: personal judgment.

It’s just one facet of the attempt to commodify education and treat it like a business, with all the catastrophes concomitant when the Cult of Efficiency tries to graft itself onto humanities. 

Anyway, we’re going to keep things simple:

  • A = 90+ = Advanced
  • B = 80-89 = Proficient
  • C = 70-79 = Approaching Proficient/Needs Improvement

No one was below a C level, so we’re not even going to try and conjure the edu-babble for D level and below.

Because assessing twenty people results in an overabundance of words, even with restraint, here’s the grades for everything up front:

The Grades

Overall Assessments

  • The Tournament: A-
  • Ringwork: A-
  • Attendance: C+
  • Booking: B+
  • Scheduling: B-

The Wrestlers

  • Master Wato: B+
  • Titan: B+
  • Mike Bailey: A+
  • El Desperado: A
  • Hiromu Takahashi: A+
  • Lio Rush: A+
  • Robbie Eagles: A
  • TJP: A-
  • Francesco Akira: B+
  • Ryusuke Taguchi: B+
  • DOUKI: B
  • KUSHIDA: B-
  • YOH: B-
  • Yoshinobu Kanemaru: B-
  • Clark Connors: C+
  • Dan Moloney: C+
  • Kevin Knight: C
  • SHO: C
  • BUSHI: C-
  • Taiji Ishimori: NG

Main Stats Referenced
CP Rank, CM Rank, and Over/Under Indicator
.

Card Placement Rank measures a wrestler’s booking strength. For instance, if a wrestler was placed at the 8th match of the card every night, their CP Avg. would be 8. Their rank is how they compare to other wrestler’s CP Avg. Higher numbers equate to main eventers, lower numbers equate to prelim guys.

Cagematch Rank is self-evident. It takes the Cagematch rating for each match a wrestler had during the tournament and averages them out. Again, the rank is how they compare to the other wrestlers. This used to be the GRAPPL rank, but sadly GRAPPL is no more. Cagematch sorta sucks because they do not allow rating for matches under 5 minutes, which makes things so much more difficult than it needs to be.

Over/Under Indicator measures whether a wrestler performed above or below their booking. For instance, Titan was 10th in CP Rank and 8th in CM Rank. Thus, his indicator is +2. He outperformed his booking. On the other end, YOH was 3rd in CP Rank and 13th in CM Rank. He underperformed his booking by -10. 

This is the basic form of the O/U Indicator. Other methods account for starting CP Rank, so as to not penalize those with high booking strength. We’re sticking with the basic version for this article.

One final note, these numbers only apply to the league matches. We do not factor in the semi-finals or the finals into these stats.

The Grades (for Real)

The Tournament As a Whole – A-

Last year, Best of the Super Juniors was more exuberant and delightfully inspired than the G1 Climax. It seems likely that might repeat itself again this year, and Best of the Super Juniors 30 took the strengths of last year’s tournament and improved upon them.The effervescence of Best of the Super Juniors 29 was replicated and concentrated into a manically scheduled two weeks, and the field tightened. It was a joy to experience, and an exemplar of the scope and depth of talent on display. Its the wrestlers who made it work.

Ringwork – A-

Overall Total Ringtime 

  • 2023 – 14:51:57 
  • 2022 – 16:45:08

Overall Avg. Match

  • 2023 – 0:10:01
  • 2022 – 0:11:10

Overall Matches <10 min

  • 2023 – 56 (out of 89 – 62.22%) 
  • 2020 – 33 (out of 90 – 33.33%)

Best of the Super Juniors 29 was a superb tournament, as it gave ribbons of hope that the pandemic doldrums were evaporating. The work was excellent, though somewhat hindered by the number of novel match-ups. That provided intrigue, but the lack of familiarity made many matches a bit reserved.

This year, the level of intrigue was maintained, and the congruency of the participants leveled up. Apart from the veterans of the division, the less experienced wrestlers still competed with a high level of comfort. Having wrestled each other in the Super Junior Tag League, or on Strong, or simply from being some of the greatest wrestlers to ever live, the field was magnificent.

Match length was down considerably from last year, a welcome consequence from running so many double-block nights. Best of the Super Juniors 30 averaged over one minute less per match, down to 10:01 this year from 11:10 last year, but the matches actually felt more robust.There seemed to be a concerted effort to tell richer, more thorough and complete stories in the matches this year. 

Cagematch.net raters preferred last year by a slight margin. The average match rating for Best of the Super Juniors 29 was 6.712. For Best of the Super Juniors 30, the average match rating was 6.601. That .111 is hard to parse, but after studying the numbers for far too long, we’ve determined a simple answer: the double-block nights.

Best of the Super Juniors 29 had six single-block nights and six double-block nights. Best of the Super Juniors 30 had eight double-block nights and two single-block nights. Single-block nights are generally rated higher than the double-block nights. With such a dense concentration of double block nights this year, many matches conflated to the viewing public desperately attempting to keep pace.

Attendance- C+

The numbers are attached to the end of this article, since they are onerously long. Simply put, the tour drew well in the usual locations, and poorly everywhere else.

They went to two locations that they had not ventured into before: the Nagano Budokan and the Akita Budokan. Those were the two worst shows of the tour in every manner, with largely observant crowds and empty seating around the floor. Here’s a screenshot from Night 4 that shows a healthy amount of people on the floor, but a vacancy above:

Two standard venues, Sendai Sunplaza, and Yoyogi, were also disappointing. Sendai drew roughly one-half of what the tag leagues drew in fall 2022, and Yoyogi had wide swaths of sections empty. Here’s Clark Connors throwing Robbie Eagles into an empty expanse of chairs. This was not a section that had been cleared. It was already empty:

That said, they also drew impressive numbers. Their Korakuen Hall numbers were spectacular. Nights 1 and 8 were the top New Japan draws at Korakuen 2023, and two of the top five draws by any company at the building this year. The Ota City Gym number was huge, their largest attendance at the venue since the pandemic, even outdrawing most of the pre-pandemic numbers put up by other companies. Likewise, the double bill in Edion #2 were two of the three highest numbers at the oft-run arena in 2023.

Booking – B+

Any tournament of this kind will automatically receive a higher grade, upon completion, simply for the accomplishment of completion. The intricacy of these round-robin tournaments is astounding in hindsight. This year’s Best of the Super Juniors was not as confoundingly labyrinthine as say, 2017’s B block in which every participant was tied going into the final night, but this one was laid out splendidly.

For instance, Lio Rush main evented Nights 3 and 4 in succession, winning against both Hiromu Takahashi and Taiji Ishimori. While Rush did not win the block nor advance, that two-night stretch was his Best of the Super Juniors peak. Later, booking El Desperado vs. Francesco Akira as a Korakuen main event was a masterstroke. The placement was immaculate, considering Akira’s primacy in the division’s future.

The greatest achievement of the booking was the final. While we did give Master Wato and Titan good chances to win the whole thing (70% for Wato – 3rd overall, 50% for Titan, 7th overall), the concept of a Titan-Wato final was inconceivable prior to the first night. Or even prior to the 11th night. 

Scheduling – B-

This one will vary. The schedule for the first week was intense, a throwback to the pre-World G1. The first eight nights took place from May 12th to May 21, with eighty matches stuffed into a nine-day stretch. The first seven days only had one day off and seventy matches. It was grueling for both fans and wrestlers.

For most, this was arduous and slightly deflating. Their bleary-eyed attempts to keep up with the relentless torrent of matches simply resulted in each night becoming an indistinguishable blob. As noted above, we’re pretty confident that this effect explains why matches lacked both buzz and higher ratings.

For us, the schedule was galvanizing. As the days progressed, we found ourselves increasingly energized. The quality of the matches and the digestible length allowed us to watch them in batches, stealing matches during work, during break times, during workouts, and legitimately excited to return home and finish whichever matches were left over. 

The other aspect of the scheduling we find less inspiring: the semi-finals format. They last ran this format in 2014, and while the matches themselves were tremendous, we’re still not convinced this is a superior format to the one-match final. We’d rather have seen Titan and Wato outright win their blocks to advance. Yes, the semi-finals gave them a bit more legitimacy heading into the final, but that could have been accomplished on a block final night. Furthermore, the two losing semi-finalists, Mike Bailey and El Desperado, presented a significantly more enticing match-up.

Ultimately, Titan and Wato proved the concept correct by having an exceptional final match.

The Wrestlers

Those That Escaped Their Block

Winner: Master Wato – B+

Results:

  • 14 Points (7-2), 2nd in B Block
  • CP Rank: 4th
  • Cagematch Rank: 14th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-19th

Wato is a prime example of how critical it is to finish strong. As noted in our preview, Wato’s year-to-date made him one of the favorites to win. But coming out of the blocks, he didn’t feel like a Best of the Super Juniors winner. He was tied for dead last in O/U Indicator. Besides the Eagles match, Wato’s slate of contests were largely innocuous. 

He won most of his matches, which did an excellent job getting his Tsutenkaku German over as a finish. What hindered that process: he also fucked it up, most notably against Dan Moloney on Night 5, where he lost the bridge and had to float over to pin the Drilla. 

In the final, he lost the bridge to the Tsutenkaku German and also lost his grip on the Recientemente finish. But, compare this to Wato’s 2020-2022 period. Part of the reason he’s losing these holds is the impact of his delivery. That Recientemente was phenomenal. It actually helped that he lost the grip.

YOH and Wato both came into this tournament primed to take the next step and challenge the Hiromu-Despy-Eagles-Ishimori tetrarchy. Wato’s the one to move forward. With a stronger league campaign, he’d be an A+.

Runner-Up: Titan – B+

Results:

  • 12 Points (6-3), 2nd in A Block
  • CP Rank: 10th
  • Cagematch Rank:8th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-7th

Titan started slower than expected, a notch below his incredible performances at Fantasticamania. 

All Titan needed was time to adjust. As he noted in one of his backstage comments, he came into the Super Juniors after a hectic April in CMLL. The comment itself was stunning, because it offered actual insight from one of the least illuminating backstage commenters. Almost every Titan comment is fairly prosaic: thanks to God, thanks to CMLL, thanks to New Japan, thanks to LIJ. They are delightfully earnest, but not exactly profound.

For instance, El Desperado eloquently previewed their semi-final match-up by recounting his time in Mexico on excursion. He fondly recalled how Titan welcomed Despy into Titan’s home, when Titan was still in his very early-20s and severely impoverished. 

Titan’s follow-up after defeating Desperado in the semi-final? Thanks to:

  • God
  • CMLL
  • New Japan
  • LIJ

Titan was #1 in Over/Under last year, 18th in CP and 5th in GRAPPL. This year, he was booked in the mid-card, and that’s where he ended up, performance-wise. Stiffer competition and time constraints hurt him (beyond his jet lag and fatigue). Although a remarkable sprinter, Titan did better in longer matches.

But all of his matches were adroit. The match against Mike Bailey was one of the best matches of the tournament. Titan escalated his intensity as the tournament went on, finding second and third legs, and delivering an exquisite performance in the final.

Semi-Finalist: Mike Bailey – A+

Results:

  • 14 Points (7-2), 1st in A Block
  • CP Rank: 7th
  • Cagematch Rank: 1st
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank:  T-3rd

Mike Bailey came in with the highest current power or pound-for-pound ranking, 4th place for Most Outstanding Wrestler in the 2022 Observer Awards. That’s the highest placement for anyone in Best of the Super Juniors 30. Incredibly, only Hiromu (8th in 2020) and KUSHIDA (6th in 2017, 10th in 2016) have ever placed from this exceptional group.

He met those expectations. He averaged 7.54 per match on Cagematch, a full point above the total wrestler average. 

He kicked off the tournament with a phenomenal main event against Hiromu, but he had great matches all over the card. His match against Titan on Night 5 kickstarted Titan’s tournament; from that point on, Titan was tremendous. The only blemish on the record is Bailey’s match against SHO, one of the more jejune SHO matches.

Bailey even had a killer final multi-man tag match on Night 12, developing a overzealously affectionate and exceedingly haptic friendship with El Desperado:

Semi-Finalist: El Desperado – A

Results:

  • 14 Points (7-2), 1st in B Block
  • CP Rank: 1st
  • Cagematch Rank: 4th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: 15th

Here’s an old story from the fencing world, related to us by a coach reminiscing about his college days. One day, the coach’s friend and teammate was having trouble learning the “flick.” 

It’s hard to describe the concept of the flick in word; this video explains it well visually. Basically, you snap your wrist so the blade bends.

He let this guy flick on him for hours. Back in the locker room, the coach took off his gear and heard an audible gasp from another teammates. She could see his back shoulder, and it was gruesome. The flicking had worn away all the skin. He had to peel his shirt off because it had stuck to his shoulder and back due to the coagulated blood and rawness of the flesh. He knew what his friend needed and did whatever it took for him to achieve it.

That’s essentially what El Desperado did with Clark Connors and Dan Moloney. Both of those guys were adrift, lost in establishing new personas (Connors) or orienting to new environments (Moloney). Despy let them unload on him to get back on track. Both matches were fervent, malevolent brawls in a tournament bereft of those kinds of matches.

He came across a legitimate ace, a true star. Alongside Eagles, Despy was the class of the division. B Block was a project block, and it was on Desperado to guide these guys towards something grander, more exultant. His match with Kevin Knight was a clunker, which is why we can’t give him an A+, but otherwise his sagacity and tenacity carved a path for this new generation. 

Advanced: The A Students

Hiromu Takahashi – A+

Results:

  • 12 Points (6-3), 4th in A Block
  • CP Rank: 2nd
  • Cagematch Rank: 3rd
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: 12th

This tournament had effectively two goals:

  1. Cultivate as many future Hiromy title defenses as possible, in their frantic sprint towards Heat’s title defense record
  2. Elevate Mater Wato to the top of the division

Hiromu could only affect the first one, and it seems like a mission accomplished. Trips to Impact to avenge his loss to Mike Bailey and CMLL to avenge his loss to stablemate Titan are both delectable. His loss to Lio Rush appears to have been more about balancing out Rush’s loss to Hiromu in the spring (and, unfortunately, possibly a deferent send-off to Rush).

Hiromu was in the semi-main or main event nearly every single night. He equaled his booking strength by Cagematch numbers and we personally had him 3rd in our rankings. Hiromu, therefore, accomplished the most difficult task of any wrestler in these tournaments: with nowhere to go but down, he stayed level.

In a block filled with stentorious personalities, Hiromu willed himself to remain the most exuberant and defiantly raucous. 

Lio Rush – A+

Results:

  • 12 Points (6-3), 3rd in A Block
  • CP Rank: 5th
  • Cagematch Rank: 2nd
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: 5th

This is indeed a sullen grade if Lio Rush’s backstage comment on Night 12 is more than just abstruse subterfuge:

The tragic aspect is just how rapidly, pervasively, and profoundly he has oriented Japan. From his very first match in the Super Junior Tag League back in November 2022, it was clear that Lio Rush is preternaturally congruent to the Japanese presentation of professional wrestling. 

And the crowds have responded accordingly. They are smitten with Rush: his self-assurance, his sincerity, and his blistering speed and equally monumental ambition. Check out the response when he told Nagoya that he considered them his family:

Pujoshi voice: LIOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It was also clear that the time away from his actual family had a significant avoirdupois on Rush, but not a detrimental one. All of his matches were captivating. Rush and Bailey were the most reliable wrestlers in the tournament to deliver a stunningly great match within the double-block format.

There’s still so much for him to do in this division, but if this was Lio Rush’s swan song, it was a substantial one. 

Robbie Eagles – A

Results:

  • 10 Points (5-4), 4th in B Block
  • CP Rank: 8th
  • Cagematch Rank: 6th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-7th

The burden was on El Desperado and Robbie Eagles. The B block was replete with projects and repackages, so it was imperative that the two of them consistently deliver spectacular performances every night, while also guiding the young prospects within their group.

They both delivered immaculately. In fact, we’d estimate that Eagles did so more ecumenically than Desperado, producing the best match for several of his fellow B Block wrestlers. 

Cagematch was not as kind to Eagles, ranking him 9th; we have him ranked sixth, though Eagles is second only to Despy in B Block. 

We rank Eagles an A and not an A+ simply because Eagles did not have anything as ostentatiously impactful as Despy’s aforementioned three-match stretch which galvanized Connors, Moloney, and Akira. But make no mistake, Eagles was equally vital to that block; he brings a sturdy eclecticism few can match.

It does need to be noted that Eagles’ backstage comment after the Desperado loss was remarkably great. Eagles is very clever in backstage comments, but he’s rarely produced something this majestic, an agonizing lament:

TJP – A-

Results:

  • 10 Points (5-4), 5th in A Block
  • CP Rank: 11th
  • Cagematch Rank: 5th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-3rd

TJP was in a stacked block and pieced together the most eclectic slate of performances in the tournament. With his shapeshifting prowess and demeanor seeped in ataraxia, TJP matched the strengths of every opponent he faced, challenging the speed of Lio Rush, the technique of KUSHIDA, the audacity of Hiromu, the kitchen sink lucha of DOUKI, and the stupid fucker of SHO.

Robbed of contextual amplification, the Fil-am Flash had one main event and no semi-mains. And so, he didn’t peak in match buzz as high as some of the other A Block legends. But looking at the Cagematch ratings, TJP has the 5th, 7th, and 12th ranked matches. Thus, he outperformed his booking strength considerably, and provided a robust foundation for his block.

Proficient: The B Students

Francesco Akira – B+

Results:

  • 8 Points (4-5), T-5 in B Block
  • CP Rank: 8th
  • Cagematch Rank: 7th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-9th

He is doing advanced work above his grade level, to extend the metaphor. Incredibly, Akira is still only 23. He is beyond precocious; he is a legitimate prodigy. 

Like Wato, Akira peaked at the end of his run, and because of that his tournament was a resounding success. His match against El Desperado was a mesmerizing, aggressively histrionic spectacle, a theatrical examination of the limits of human obstinance. 

A year ago, it might not have worked. Akira took most of Best of the Super Juniors 29 acclimating himself. After teaming with TJP for a year, he’s ready. The match with Desperado was a triumph and a proper culmination to a superb tournament in which Akira’s explosive offense and high-strung personality assured that every match was interesting. He has an arsenal of moves for any situation. 

Ryusuke Taguchi – B+

Results:

  • 2 Points (1-8), 10th in A Block
  • CP Rank: 20th
  • Cagematch Rank: 12th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: 1st

Ryusuke Taguchi, in his 20th Best of the Super Juniors, and 18th straight year, finished dead last in his block, and dead last in points overall.

But he deserves a B+ because he provided vitality and substance to the bottom of the card. No one outperformed their card placement more than Taguchi. He ranks 12th by their numbers but 8th in ours. Going by our ranking, his +12 would be the highest O/U Indicator in our data set, eclipsing the +11 Bandido put up in 2019.

But, as we noted in our A Block preview, Taguchi works as well as his concepts, and his “I’m just a humourless man that wants to win matches” gimmick worked beautifully. Whereas in the past several years he was good for one or two good matches, every one of his matches this year was good to great. The apex was a sensational bout with Mike Bailey that had the Korakuen crowd vociferous with delight.

DOUKI – B

Results:

  • 6 Points (3-6), 8th in A Block
  • CP Rank: 17th
  • Cagematch Rank: 10th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: 2nd

As shown in the metrics, DOUKI was 2nd in the Over/Under, outperforming his booking position for the fourth straight year. And, amazingly, placing 2nd in O/U Indicator all four of those years.

With a new stable and coming off a competitive program with Tetsuya Naito, six points is disappointing, even if it does align with his puzzlingly low booking strength. DOUKI found himself firmly entrenched in the lower mid-card, but every bout was gripping and surprisingly mature, focused mainly on setting up his Italian Stretch #32. For his shortest matches, that skeletal arrangement left things feeling awfully sparse. But for everything else, it was a nice counterbalance to his avalanche of moves and dynamism.

DOUKI embodies the spirit of Best of the Super Juniors30 more than anyone else. He averaged only 8:50 per match, 13th overall, but he made the most of those minutes. His matches told full-bodies stories by staying lean, forward-propelled, and held together by his ubiquitous submission hold. 

KUSHIDA – B-

Results:

  • 4 Points (2-7), 9th in A Block
  • CP Rank: 12th
  • Cagematch Rank: 9th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-5th

KUSHIDA was booked weirdly for a former ace of the division, but he wrestled like one when the stakes were highest. His match against Hiromu, a legendary rivalry in the recent history of the New Jan Juniors, was one of the matches of the tournament, the rare instance where a count-out is a satisfying finish. Their brawl outside of the building was a singular moment in Best of the Super Juniors 30, which had a paucity of sustained crowd brawling (in the A Block, at least)

KUSHIDA appears to be resuscitating Old KUSHIDA, who has been completely absent since KUSHIDA’s return one year ago. His grappling, his striking, his impeccable match structure… all of it was showing signs of rejuvenation. 

That said, he also disappeared for stretches in the tournament, with some matches ending in perplexingly abrupt ways (the Titan match in particular). 

YOH – B-

Results:

  • 12 Points (6-3), 3rd in B Block
  • CP Rank: 3rd
  • Cagematch Rank: 13th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T19th

YOH’s booking strength placed him in the same conversation as Desperado and Hiromu. But YOH’s tournament was not intent on establishing his position, or even attempting to nudge him into the upper echelon of the division.

No, YOH’s tournament was about establishing a new character. One that amplified YOH’s inherent weirdness to cartoonish levels. And by that, we mean literally reenacting sequences evocative of Daffy Duck:

YOH had great matches against great opponents, namely Robbie Eagles and El Desperado, but against the newer, nascent opponents, he did not heighten the moment. This was partially due to the character work; the overwhelming commitment he has to this persona is why he earned a B-. 

Kanemaru – B-

Results:

  • 6 Points (3-6), 9th in B Block
  • CP Rank: 14th
  • Cagematch Rank: 15th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-12th

This was a tricky one, because Kanemaru largely disappeared for most of the tournament. As he did last year, he accounted for more sub-5 minute matches than anyone else in the field, which is part of his charm. Who in their right mind would want to go longer than two minutes with BUSHI, anyway?

Kanemaru’s 2022 campaign was revelatory, establishing Kanemaru as one of the top wrestlers in the company for the first half of the year. He distorted expectations, particularly with his four minute squash of Hiromu. This year, he didn;t reach those peaks, but his best work was still fundamentally magnificent.

Progressing: The C Students

Clark Connors – C+

Results:

  • 8 Points (4-5), T-5 in B Block
  • CP Rank: 19th
  • Cagematch Rank: 18th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-9th

The Cagematch ratings, which ranked him 18th, do not tell the whole story. Neither do our ratings, which had him 15th. Connors was purely focused on projecting the aura of his character: a temperamental survivalist at the Heavy metal Parking Lot. This meant a lot of sniping at the meekest looking fans on the way to the ring, and obliterating opponents with chairshots after the match.

It wasn’t until a wild brawl with El Desperado that he finally added a key missing element: a brazen intensity. He viciously whips Desperado into a sea of chairs, which was awesome. But it was the way he took that move himself, recklessly flinging himself several rows deep.

That was the moment. The denouement was the even wilder brawl against Dan Moloney on Night 10, a fitting final showcase and testament to the growth both men showed during the tournament.

Dan Moloney – C+

Results:

  • 8 Points (4-5), T-5 in B Block
  • CP Rank: 12th
  • Cagematch Rank: 17th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-16th

Moloney spent much of the tournament using the United Empire hand gesture as a substitute for a personality.

The Desperado match was the turning point. Moloney was allowed to brutalize poor Despy, and let Despy provide the sinews and emotional thrust of the match. Relieved of that, Moloney shined, and he carried that forward. Eagles provided a similar function, allowing Moloney to showcase more speed and technique. 

Moloney’s finishing stretch was so strong, one can’t help but be hopeful. He may look like Murdoc from Gorillaz, but he’s still in his mid-20’s and primed to be a key player in the division.

Kevin Knight – C

Results:

  • 6 Points (3-6), 8th in B Block
  • CP Rank: 16th
  • Cagematch Rank: 16th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: 11th

Kevin Knight had the least rigorous expectations: finish all nine singles matches. Even as a champion, demanding any more from Knight at this stage in his career would be malfeasance. Consider this: coming into Best of the Super Juniors 30, Knight had 32 singles matches in his entire career. He upped his career singles compendium by nearly a third in one week.

Knight’s trademark burst diminished as the arduous week progressed, but he adapted well. The Kanemaru match was an excellent example. To sell his leg, he jumped slightly less. Still higher than anyone else, but slightly below his standards. That’s an impressive skill

The desire, intent, and panache are there. Enduring tours like these is the key to refining it all.

SHO – C

Results:

  • 8 Points (4-5), 7th in A Block
  • CP Rank: 15th
  • Cagematch Rank: 20th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-16th

SHO was 20th in Cagematch ratings, and it wasn’t close. He was next a half-point behind number 19, which was BUSHI. When you’re trailing BUSHI, there’s no doubt: you’re fucked. This now stands as the second of the last three years where SHO was dead last in match quality.

But this year, SHO was aided immensely by the presence of EVIL. Because SHO’s wrench-kink nonsense usually falters in a vacuum, the addition of a second party was assuaging. A highlight of the tournament was EVIL’s brief stint as referee of the SHO vs. Taguchi match. 

Averaging only 7:50 per match, 18th overall, and generally staying in the lower half of the card all tournament, SHO’s gleefully performative chicanery was an innocuous pleasure… when it worked. A few times it did not, and the results were excruciating. 

BUSHI – C-

Results:

  • 4 Points (2-7), 10th in B Block
  • CP Rank: 17th
  • Cagematch Rank: 19th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank:  14th

This year, BUSHI seemed hurt. His mobility in the early stages of the tournament did not feel like the usual brumation and torpor of a normal BUSHI. It didn’t look like lethargy, either. It just looked like he couldn’t move at the speed that he wanted. Like something was nagging. This improved, and while it was thoroughly anodyne, BUSHI’s performances were satisfactory.

NG: No Grade

Taiji Ishimori

Results:

  • 10 Points (5-4), 6th in A Block; withdrew after Night 8
  • CP Rank: 6th
  • Cagematch Rank: 11th
  • Over/Under Indicator Rank: T-16th

We cannot grade Ishimori. His tournament was robust, but behind a number of others. His match with Hiromu possibly could have elevated him several steps. It certainly appeared on pace. One of the moments of the tournament was Ishimori doing the full spring Korakuen dropkick on Hiromu, as Hiromu did to him in the 2018 final.

But Ishimori was injured in the match, damaging his cervical spine. Thankfully, he simply walked to the back (after, incredibly, wrestling for another two minutes). Because he had to withdraw from his final match, he gets a NG and we hope his recovery goes smoothly.  

Best of the Super Juniors 30 Attendance Figures

For this section, we went back either one year (2023), five years, or ten years, depending on the frequency of wrestling running the venue.

Night 1: Korakuen Hall – 1401

Night 8: Korakuen Hall – 1436

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 4/3/23 RT SG- 902
  • 4/2/23 RT SG- 1298
  • 3/17/23 NJC N9 – 1351
  • 2/5/23 NJC N1 – 1371
  • 2/28/23 FM N6 – 1383
  • 2/27/23 Fantasticamania Night 5 – 1384
  • 1/25/23 NJPW Road To The New Beginning Night 2 – 670
  • 1/24/23 NJPW Road To The New Beginning Night 1 – 705

Other Promotions’ Numbers (Min. 1000)

  • 5/14/23 STARDOM Last JUmbo Princess – 1509
  • 5/11/23 DG HG N5 – 1101
  • 4/29/23 NOAH Star Navigation Night 3 – 1028
  • 4/14/23 STARDOM – 1013
  • 4/5/23 DG Gate of Passion Night 3 – 1087
  • 4/2/23 STARDOM Cinderella Tournament Night 3- 1295
  • 3/21/23 DDT 5 Hr. – 1138
  • 3/9/23 NOAH Star Navigation Night 3 – 1310
  • 3/2/23 DG Rey De Parejas Night 13 – 1186
  • 3/1/23 All-Star Junior Festival – 1381
  • 2/19/23 AJPW Excite Series 2023 – Night 2: Pro-Wrestling Day MANIAx – 1405
  • 2/17/23 STARDOM Triangle Derby I in Korakuen Hall – 1126
  • 2/3/23 DG Rey De Parejas Night 1 – 1198
  • 1/12/23 DG Open The New Year Gate Night 5 – 1022
  • 1/4/23 TJPW Tokyo Joshi Pro ’23 – 1111
  • 1/3/23 AJPW New Year Giant Series 2023 Night 2 – 1041
  • 1/2/23 AJPW New Year Giant Series 2023 Night 1 – 1055

Night 2: Nagano Budokan – 702

No NJPW data pre or post-pandemic

————————–

Other Promotions’ Numbers

8/7/22 STARDOM 5Star N4 – 275

Night 3: Nagoya International Conference Hall Event Hall – 1599

New Japan Prior Numbers – Pandemic

  • 6/28/21 Kizuna Road N9 – 665
  • 5/22/21 Road to Wrestle Grand Slam Night 1 – 937

New Japan Prior Numbers – Pre-Pandemic

  • 1/13/20 Fantasticamania Night 4 – 1534
  • 9/11/19 Road to Destruction 2019 Night 6 – 1385
  • 5/29/19 Best of the Super Junior Night 11 – 1363
  • 2/7/19 Road to New Beginning 2019 Night 6 – 1347
  • 9/5/18 9/11/19 Road to Destruction 2019 Night 1 – 1368
  • 5/27/18 Best of the Super Junior Night 8  1841
  • 5/26/18 Best of the Super Junior Night 7 – 1831
  • 1/12/18 Fantasticamania Night 1 – 1554

——————————-

Other Promotions’ Numbers

  • 12/5/21 NOAH The War Road 2021 In Nagoya – 618
  • 9/4/21 DDT Dramatic Survivor 2021 – 220
  • 4/29/21 NOAH The Glory 2021 – 718
  • 8/10/20 Dragon Gate The Gate Of Adventure 2020 Night 3 – 476
  • 2/24/20 NOAH Pro Wrestling NOAH 20th Anniversary ~ NOAH The Chronicle Vol. 1 – 812
  • 12/2/19 AJPW Real World Tag League 2019 Night 15 – 891
  • 8/25/19 WAVE Golden Grampus ~ JAN DARA RIN – 582
  • 3/3/19 STARDOM World In Nagoya – 675
  • 10/8/18 AJPW Raising An Army Memorial Series 2018 Night 3 – 708
  • 9/30/18 STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix 2018 – Tag 10: Grand Champion Carnival (Evening Show) – 315
  • 9/30/18 STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix 2018 – Tag 10: Grand Champion Carnival (Afternoon Show) – 515
  • 8/19/18 BJW Death Mania VI – 626
  • 8/19/18 OZ Academy Plum Hanasaku 2018 ~ OZ No Kuni In Nagoya – 850
  • 4/1/18 STARDOM Dream Slam In Nagoya – 1020

Night 4: Akita Budokan – 762

No prior data. Unsure of New Japan’s set-up, but it reportedly can hold around 2500.

Night 5: Sendai Sunplaza – 1075

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 12/14/22 World Tag League 2022 and Super Junior Tag League 2022 Night 17  2031

Prior New Japan Numbers – Pandemic

  • 5/18/22 Best of the Super Juniors Night 3  936  
  • 6/26/21 Kizuna Road Night 8  937
  • 12/18/20 Road to Tokyo Dome Night 3  897

Prior New Japan Numbers – Pre-Pandemic

  • 6/25/19 Kizuna Road Night 10  1763
  • 5/14/19 Best of the Super Juniors Night 2  1293 
  • 5/13/19 Best of the Super Juniors Night 1  1630
  • 1/30/19 Road to New Beginning Night 4 2345

—————————–

Other Promotions’ Numbers

  • 12/18/22 Dragongate The Gate Of Origin 2022 – 882
  • 8/17/22 NOAH N-1 Victory 2022 Night 4 – 505
  • 1/16/22 NOAH Bumper Crop 2022 In Sendai – 633
  • 11/27/21 Dragongate The Gate Of Origin 2021 – 787
  • 7/24/21 STARDOM Cinderella Summer Tour In Sendai – 319
  • 7/11/21 NOAH Cross Over 2021 In Sendai – 658
  • 11/28/20 Dragongate The Gate Of Origin 2020 – 686
  • 11/15/20 STARDOM Sendai Cinderella – 508
  • 9/1/19 Dragongate The Gate Of Origin 2019 – 1486
  • 9/28/18 Michinoku Pro Showa Pro Wrestling Festa In Sendai – 1578
  • 9/9/18 Dragongate The Gate Of Origin 2018 – 1596
  • 6/24/18 Michinoku Pro Jinsei Shinzaki 25th Anniversary Show – 1888
  • 4/7/18 AJPW Champion Carnival 2018 Night 1 – 1290

Night 6: Iwate Prefectural Gymnasium – 1004 

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 1/30/23 Road to New Beginning Night 5 –  1150 

Prior New Japan Numbers – Pandemic 

  • 10/21/22 Battle Autumn Night 6 1240 
  • 2/19/21 Road to Castle Attack Night 5 935

Prior New Japan Numbers – Pre-Pandemic 

10/22/19 Road to Power Struggle Night 5 2203

  • 6/24/18 Kizuna Road Night 8 2272
  • 6/24/17 Kizuna Road Night 6 1862
  • 10/27/16 Road to Power Struggle Night 4 1192
  • 3/13/14 NJPW Strong Style 42nd Anniversary Tour – Night 4 – ca. 1400

————————-

Other Promotions’ Numbers

  • 1/11/19 BJW Great Kojika Produce ~ Ryuji Ito 20th Anniversary – 234
  • 11/22/17 AJPW Real World Tag League Night 3 – 606
  • 8/23/17 NOAH Summer Navigation 2017 Vol. 2 – Night 6 – 270
  • 11/3/14 BJW Ryuji Ito Iwate Triumphant Return – 463
  • 11/4/13 Michinoku Pro JJJ Series ~ In The Top Of November – Night 4: Michinoku Pro 20th Anniversary In Morioka – ca. 2000
  • 10/30/13 NOAH Global League 2013 Night 5 – ca 580
  • 8/28/13 BJW – 158
  • 3/15/13 WJP Hold Out Tour 2013 Night 5 – ca. 800

Night 7: Maeda Arena (Sub Arena) – 1196

Nothing for this as the sub arena, but for Maeda Arena proper:

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 10/23/22 Battle Autumn Night 8 1530
  • 5/21/22 Best of the Super Juniors Night 6 1720
  • 7/13/21 SS N1 1008

Prior New Japan Numbers – Pre-Pandemic

  • 1/29/20 Road to New Beginning Night 4 1766
  • 9/16/16 RTD N8 1002
  • 3/12/16 New Japan Cup Night 6 2919

Night 9: Edion Arena Osaka #2 – 831

Night 10: Edion Arena Osaka #2 – 819  

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 4/23/23 Road to Dontaku Night 3 – 881
  • 11/3/22 Battle Autumn Night 15 – 745
  • 4/22/23 GFS N4 – 683

——–

Other Promotions’ Numbers

  • 5/9/23 STARDOM Golden Week Fight Tour 2023  Night 6 – 519
  • 4/30/23 AJPW CC N8 – 814
  • 4/22/23 TJPW Climb Over ‘23 – 335
  • 3/5/23 DG Champion Gate In Osaka Night 2 – 528
  • 3/4/23 DG Champion Gate In Osaka Night 1 – 455
  • 1/15/23 STARDOM Triangle Derby I in Osaka Night 2 – 454
  • 1/14/23 STARDOM Triangle Derby I in Osaka Night 1 – 406
  • 1/8/23 GLEAT Ver. 5 – 502
  • 1/7/23 DG Open The New Year Gate 2023 – ca. 500

Night 11: Yoyogi National Gymnasium #2 – 1330

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 6/3/17 Best of the Super Junior Night 14 – 3454
  • 6/7/15 Best of the Super Junior Night 14 – 3250

————————–

Other Promotions’ Numbers

  • 4/15/23 STARDOM Cinderella N4 – 1049
  • 3/4/23 STARDOM Triangle Derby – 1919
  • 12/19/23 JTO 50th – 1258
  • 12/1/22 Fujinami 50th – 2150
  • 11/23/23 NOAH The Best 2022 – 872
  • 9/12/22 JTO 30th – 1940
  • 11/27/21 STARDOM Tokyo Super Wars ~ Tokyo Super Women’s War – 1119
  • 4/16/14 RJPW Strong Style Returns Project ~ Former Sumo Sekiwake Takatoriki Pro-Wrestling Debut – 3917

Night 12: Ota City General Gymnasium 3312  

Prior New Japan Numbers

  • 3/6/23 NJPW 51st Anniversary Event & New Japan Cup 2023 Night 2 – 2020
  • 1/5/23 New Year Dash!! – 2713

Prior New Japan Numbers: Pandemic

  • 7/24/22 G1 Climax 32 Night 5 – 2518
  • 7/23/22 G1 Climax 32 Night 4 – 1919
  • 5/29/22 Best of the Super Juniors Night 11 – 1890
  • 3/7/22 New Japan Cup Night 3 – 777
  • 9/24/21 G1 Climax 31 Night 4 – 816
  • 9/23/21 G1 Climax 31 Night 3 – 1284
  • 3/6/21 New Japan Cup Night 2 – 1410
  • 1/23/21 Road to New Beginning Night 5 – 1325

Prior New Japan Numbers – Pre-Pandemic

  • 1/6/20 New Year Dash!! – 4078
  • 7/14/19 G1 Climax 29 Night 3 – 4074
  • 7/13/19 G1 Climax 29 Night 2 – 4074
  • 7/15/18 G1 Climax 28 Night 3 – 3826
  • 7/14/18 G1 Climax 28 Night 2 – 3907
  • 3/6/19 NJPW 47th Anniversary Show – 4000
  • 3/6/18 NJPW 46th Anniversary Show – 3864

———————-

Other Promotions’ Numbers

  • 5/27/23 STARDOM Flashing Champions 2023 – 1759
  • 5/7/23 AJPW Champion Carnival 2023 Night 10 – 2437
  • 3/21/23 AJPW Dream Power Series 2023 Night 3 – 1776
  • 9/19/22 Dragongate Dangerous Gate 2022 – 1790
  • 8/20/22 DDT Wrestle Peter Pan 2022 – ca. 1250
  • 7/30/22 STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 – Night 1: Opening Round #1 – 1527
  • 7/9/22 TJPW Summer Sun Princess ’22 – 1130
  • 6/19/22 AJPW Champions Night 4 ~ 50th Anniversary Tour – 1398
  • 6/4/22 ZERO1 Osu Premium One Team ZERO1 Shinjiro Otani Aid! Get Up As Many Times As You Want – 1150
  • 5/28/22 STARDOM Flashing Champions – 1871
  • 5/21/22 NOAH Dream On 2022 Final – 924
  • 4/29/22 STARDOM Cinderella Tournament 2022 Final – 2017
  • 3/21/22 AJPW Champions Night 3 ~ 50th Anniversary Tour – 1319
  • 11/13/21 Ice Ribbon New Ice Ribbon #1157 – 518
  • 11/3/21 DDT D-Oh Grand Prix 2021 2 In Ota-ku – 775
  • 10/16/21 AJPW Champions Night 2 ~ All Japan Pro Wrestling 49th Anniversary – 1242
  • 10/9/21 TJPW Wrestle Princess II – 914
  • 9/25/21 STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix 2021 Night 17 – 1539
  • 9/20/21 Draongate Dangerous Gate 2021 – 1510
  • 6/26/21 AJPW Champions Night ~ From The Land Of The Triple Crown Unification Flight To The 50th Anniversary – 1480
  • 6/13/21 GAEAism Decade Of Quarter Century – 1500
  • 6/12/21 STARDOM Tokyo Dream Cinderella Special Edition – 1240
  • 9/21/20 Dragongate Dangerous Gate 2020 – 996
  • 11/15/19 Kyohei Wada & Fumihito Kihara Produce The Destroyer Memorial Night ~ White Masked Demon King Forever – ca. 2500
  • 8/24/19 Dragongate Dangerous Gate 2019 – 3394
  • 7/15/19 DDT Wrestle Peter Pan 2019 – 3798
  • 3/21/19 W-1 WRESTLE WARS – 1484
  • 9/24/18 Dragongate Dangerous Gate 2018 – 3177

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