I like the funny intro bit they did with the commentator and Kotetsu Yamamoto, which sort of resembled the old WWF skits with either Lord Alfred Hayes or Gorilla Monsoon with Bobby Heenan, and this case when had the commentator guy trying to analyze the semis of the BOSJ and Yamamoto is busy eating instead! The commentator picks Kanemoto to win it, whereas Yamamoto picks Kakihara.El Samurai & Toru Yano VS Tatsutoshi Gotoh & Hiro Saito
Not a lot to this one other than the standard veteran schooling the young lion match. Samurai got some good offense in and sold Gotoh’s backdrop finisher to make it look more brutal than it really was.Match Rating: 1/2*
Jushin Thunder Liger, Jado & Gedo VS Tiger Mask, Masayuki Naruse & Ebessan
I really miss the original Ebessan, and it was great seeing him here having some fun at the future CTU’s expense. The crowd popped for him even more when he was serious and hit his trademark moves like the Shining Ebe-zard and the Kankun Tornado. Kudos to Liger for playing along with his gags. Naruse is another guy I’ll miss since he was a seriously underrated junior heavyweight, and it was good seeing him in action here. Fun little match overall, with Ebessan dropping the fall in the end to the Gedo-clutch, which received almost ZERO reaction from the crowd.Match Rating: *
Shinya Makabe & Minoru Fujita VS Dan Devine & Stampede Kid
Devine looked ok playing the tough shooter gaijin here, though he seemed to be acting too much like Ken Shamrock for my taste. Things only pick up near the end when they start busting out the big moves, and Makabe scores the win on Kid with a big short lariat.Match Rating: *
Best of Super Juniors Semi Final: AKIRA VS Masahito Kakihara
This was rather surprising as AKIRA dominated Kakihara for most of the match, targeting his leg with multiple figure-four attempts and ankle-locks. AKIRA really wanted this one, but one slip up lead to Kakihara hitting a pair of leg lariats, followed by the Kaki-Cutter and a modified head-and-arm ground submission lock for the big upset win.Match Rating: **
Best of Super Juniors Semi Final: Koji Kanemoto VS Takashi Sugiura
Now THIS was loads of fun! Back and forth action with both men bringing the big guns. Kanemoto stiffed Sugiura all over the place with kicks and knees, and Sugiura tossed him around like salad with multiple suplexes. Both men had the same idea targeting the legs with ankle-locks though, and Kanemoto sort of lucked out in the end countering an Olympic Slam into a ground ankle-lock with Sugiura’s foot twisted in a sick position causing him to submit to the pain.Match Rating: ****
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Osamu Nishimura VS Rick Steiner & Perry Saturn
Seeing Saturn here, he looks like Mini Giant Bernard.
Whole lot of back and forth brawling between Tenzan & Steiner, while Nishimura & Saturn mixed it up on the mat. Steiner seems like he can’t do anything other than a Steiner-line, and Tenzan seemed to mock him by hitting him with one of his own! It was sort of sad seeing Saturn, one of the best grapplers at one time, reduced to being a slow paced brawler due to the mass he’s put on. He did managed to bust out a springboard dropkick as well as a springboard Asai-moonsault though. Tenzan had really limited offense here, mostly just Mongolian Chops, but it was enough leading up to the finish where he spiked Saturn with the TTD for the win.Match Rating: *
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yutaka Yoshie VS Yoshihiro Takayama & Scott Norton
This was a ton of fun, mostly due to watching Yoshie & Norton go at it. Yoshie is big, but Norton is till HUGE compared to him, and the two went at it throwing power moves at each other like they were trying to one up each other! Takayama had some good exchanges with Tanahashi, as well as taking some double team offense from the young duo. But the Norton/Yoshie stuff was definitely what made this a lot of fun to watch, and it’s awesome watching Norton actually powerbomb Yoshie at the end for the win.Match Rating: **1/2
Yuji Nagata, Takashi Iizuka & Shinsuke Nakamura VS Manabu Nakanishi, Enson Inoue & Blue Wolf
This one was pretty much forgettable other watching Nakanishi trying to be a bad ass shoot fighter while teaming with Enson. It was fun watching Nakanishi actually do an Exploder to Nagata after Nagata had given him one, and funny watching Nakanishi call out for help from Enson everytime he got caught in a submission near the end. He does manage to pick up the win for his team with a cross-armbreaker though.
Incidentally, watching Nakamura in the rookie black gear made him look like a jacked up Kaz Hayashi.Match Rating: 1/2*
2003 Best of Super Juniors Finals: Masahito Kakihara VS Koji Kanemoto
A whole lot of support for Kakihara right at the start of this one, and both men quickly target each other’s bad knees as they grapple all over the mat, reminiscent of old Battlarts style shoot matches. Kanemoto takes control after a cheapshot kick, and follows up with even more brutal kicks. Kakihara remembers Kanemoto’s bad leg, and once he had an opening, he jumped right at it with an ankle lock, and when Kanemoto was able to escape, Kakihara was able to transition it to an armbar, and to a headlock, and back to the armbar! Kakihara was like a submission machine here! Kanemoto was able to battle back again with his arsenal of kicks and knees, and thought he was going to put away Kakihara with his trademark ground ankle-hold that put away Sugiura earlier, but Kakihara was resilient enough to get to the ropes. Kanemoto tried for the moonsault, but landed on a pair of knees, giving Kakihara the opening to hit a leg lariat to the back of the head followed by a big time release German suplex and a head kick for a near fall. Both men struggle to their feet and exchange strikes, and Kanemoto gets the better of it but rebounds off the ropes right into a leg lariat! Kakihara quickly follows up with a Shining Wizard for a 2.9! Everyone was sure Kakihara had it there! Kakihara drags Kanemoto to his feet and gives him a Kaki-Cutter, followed by a second more sick looking Kaki-Cutter to finally put him away and win the 2003 Beat of Super Juniors!
This was a really good match, and made even better by all the underdog crowd support Kakihara was getting.Match Rating: ****
This show was easily the highlight of Kakihara’s career, and it’s a shame NJPW couldn’t do better with him when they had him and he had to retire earlier this year. I’ve actually been a fan of Kakihara’s since first watching him in AJPW, and the finals he had here was easily one of his best performances ever. Definitely recommended if you’re a fan of Kakihara, as well as wanting to check out some good singles junior heavyweight action.