In this article, I take a look at the Inoki Dojo’s 2004 Best of American Super Juniors Tournament featuring Bryan Danielson, Rocky Romero, Bobby Quance, X-Pac, Teddy Hart, and more. Plus Samoa Joe, Joey Ryan, Frankie Kazarian, and more in non-tournament action!
To read Part 1 of this series, click here.
For Part 2 of this series, click here.
And to read Part 3 of this series, click here.
On April 16th, 2004, the Inoki Dojo presented the first ever American Best of the Super Juniors tournament in Santa Monica, CA with the winner going to Japan to compete in the 2004 Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. While the event was filmed by the Inoki Dojo, most people saw it after a local tape dealer filmed the event and sold the event on DVD on their website. Yup. A fancam version of this event was the only way people would be able to see it as there was no official video release of the event.
One thing about this show when you watch it, is that you’ll hear a lot of comments from a group of fans who were a huge part of the SoCalUncensored.com message board at the time. A lot of you will hate the comments, but I for one found it funny to listen to. The group of fans heard in this video really made shows a lot more fun to go to at the time.
With that said, let’s get to the show.
(You can read more about the Inoki Dojo in Part 3 of the SoCal and Puroresu series)
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament First Round Match: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Sean “X-Pac” Waltman
“Yeah, crotch chop him now buddy.” Scrub
Waltman used Run DMC’s “The Kings” as his entrance and wore a Martial Arts Gi during the match. Waltman had a really good performance here. He even busted out a Tope Con Giro at one point. Danielson, despite being considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, was still making his name for himself at the time. He really came off like a star against the established veteran. This was a fun match that went under five minutes, with Danielson going over with a Butterfly Suplex followed by a bridging pin. This was one of the best under-five-minute matches I’ve ever seen.
After the match, the fans gave both guys a nice ovation, followed by a chant for X-Pac. He looked genuinely touched and humbled by the love from the fans. Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, who had trained at the Inoki Dojo and was Waltman’s girlfriend at the time, was sitting front row for the match.
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament First Round Match: Chad Collyer vs. Bobby Quance
Some people might remember Chad Collyer from the early days of Ring Of Honor. Bobby Quance might not be a name familiar to fans of today, but between 2002-2004 he was one of the best workers in wrestling before he joined the U.S. Navy. He had a really cool hybrid style of high-flying with martial arts and submission grappling mixed in. If he came around today, he’d be a huge star.
This match was a really good display of Bobby’s technical abilities. Collyer also had a good showcase of his chain wrestling ability. Both guys had some fun hold-for-hold sequences in the opening moments of the match. The match would eventually center around Collyer working over the leg of Bobby. Collyer got the win after countering a hurricanrana attempt from Quance into a Texas Cloverleaf for the submission in a short, but really fun match.
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament First Round Match: Rocky Romero vs. “Iceman” Webster Dauphiney
During his run with the Inoki Dojo, Dauphiney had a “shootfighter” gimmick and patterned his style after that. The Rocky Romero in this match is a lot different from the whacky Rocky that you see today. He had a more aggressive and serious style back then compared to now. This was a solid worked-shoot style match. I’m really not a big fan of “fake MMA” style matches like this usually, but it was cool seeing them working various techniques. I don’t recall there being any 10-count rule being announced, but there was a spot where Rocky went down from a head kick, and referee Rick Knox gave him a 10 count. The finish would see Dauphiney attempt to counter a Sleeper Hold with a forward roll, but Rocky held on to get the submission win. This was another short and fun match.
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament First Round Match: Ricky Reyes vs. Teddy Hart w/ Jill Love
At the time of this match, Teddy Hart was one of the most prolific stars on the independent wrestling scene. He had a lot of hype for his in-ring abilities and wild antics, but he had also tons of controversy surrounding him. Obviously that last part hasn’t changed in the years since this. Not long before this, Teddy was involved in an incident at a Ring Of Honor event and for having a fight with CM Punk (that several people claimed Teddy won) when the two were working for TNA Wrestling in 2004. What a time it was to be a fan.
For this match, Teddy was accompanied to ringside by his then-girlfriend, Jill Love. On paper, this match was a real clash of styles. Teddy was known for being flashy and doing spots, while Ricky Reyes was more of a technical style wrestler. Most of the match saw them chain wrestling. In the middle of the match, Teddy would hit a top rope moonsault and landed on Ricky Reyes’ head. Moments later, Ricky Reyes would deliver a nasty looking lariat. As the match went on, Ricky would hit a nasty Saito Suplex and some stiff kicks on Teddy. Teddy’s selling (assuming he was selling) of Ricky Reyes’ offense really made it seem like he was being tortured, which made the match so much more entertaining. Ricky would eventually win after hitting Teddy with a Fisherman’s Buster Suplex. This was such a fun match.
Non-Tournament Match: Frankie Kazarian & Tommy Williams vs. Eric Matlock & Joey Ryan
This match was clipped. The action in this wasn’t as good as the other matches. It really dragged as well, going well over 10 minutes. Kazarian and Williams would get the win after Frankie hit a Sunset Flip on Joey Ryan. For those who haven’t seen a Joey Ryan match prior to late 2005, this might fuck with your head as he wasn’t very charismatic or outlandish, and he didn’t do spots with his dick. I’m sure the people who hated the dick druids would prefer the old (young) and bland Joey Ryan over the one that exists today.
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament Semi-Final Match: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Chad Collyer
This was a nice technical, hold-for-hold type match. Chad Collyer would try to work over the leg of Bryan Danielson in the latter part of the match to help set up for his Texas Cloverleaf. Danielson would spend the match going after the arm of Collyer. There was a lot of good counter wrestling in this match, but the majority of this was limb work that would not hold the attention of a casual fan or people who are into spot-heavy wrestling. If you’re not someone who is really into technical wrestling, you’ll be bored by this match. With that said, fans of matches with limb work and technical wrestling will appreciate this. Danielson would get the win after countering a Camel Clutch attempt from Collyer into the Cattle Mutilation for the win.
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament Semi-Final Match: Rocky Romero vs. Ricky Reyes
At the time of this match, Ricky Reyes and Rocky Romero teamed up as the Havana Pitbulls. They worked together in promotions such as CMLL, NJPW, PWG, ROH, and were considered to be one of the best tag teams in the wrestling business. These days Rocky is in NJPW as part of Roppongi 3K, and Ricky Reyes has been part of Lucha Underground for four seasons. Although his character seems to have been killed off by Jeff Cobb’s character on the show. 2018 is wild.
This was a really good strong style type of match. I know the term has been bastardized a lot, but to me, this was a real representation of what the style should be. The match would start with Rocky offering Ricky a handshake, only for Ricky to turn his back on him. Rocky would respond to this by dropkicking him from behind. Both guys would do a really good job at working a shoot-style match. There were some really nice grappling exchanges, and there were some really stiff strikes mixed in. Rocky would eventually get the win after hitting a flying armbar on Ricky. After the match, the two shook hands and showed each other respect.
Non-Tournament Match: Samoa Joe vs. Aaron Aguilera
Samoa Joe and Aaron Aguilera were the two top heavyweights in Southern California at the time of this match. Several months before this, the two were scheduled to face off at PWG’s fifth show, An Inch Longer Than Average. On the night of the show, CM Punk would replace Aguilera to face Joe. This was a solid back-and-forth match. Joe would hit some really stiff strikes in this and came off like a monster. Aguilera had a good amount of offense in this match, but Joe was on a different level at this stage of his career. If you get a chance, go watch some of Joe’s stuff between 2003-2005. It was some of his best work ever. This match would end in a time limit draw, which got some boos from fans and a sarcastic “five more minutes” chant from some.
Like I said earlier, this was a solid match. It wasn’t must-see, but if you’re a big fan of Joe or are a longtime SoCal wrestling fan looking for a nostalgia kick, you’ll probably enjoy it.
Best of American Super Juniors Tournament Finals: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Rocky Romero
This was another worked-shoot style match with Danielson being an early aggressor and looking for a knockout. The two would exchange some really stiff strikes, and at one point Rocky hit Danielson with a stiff head kick. The kick would get former SCU writer Scrub to say “Jesus Christ.” Things would slow down for a bit with both guys working submissions on each other, with random spurts of stiff strikes thrown in. Danielson would eventually get the win with a Regal Plex.
This was such a really good match, and honestly better than most stuff that goes on today. Much like the Reyes/Romero match, this was a really good example of what “strong style” wrestling should be about. What was also really good about this match was that the submissions looked like they hurt, and the strikes sounded cool without the need for leg slaps. I highly recommend that everyone check this match out.
After The Tournament
Bryan Danielson would go on to compete in the 2004 Best of the Super Juniors tournament in Japan. Danielson would finish in 2nd Place in Block A behind Jushin Thunder Liger. Danielson would be eliminated in the semifinals by Koji Kanemoto.
The Best of American Super Juniors tournament would return a year later with Ring of Honor as the host on April 2nd, 2005 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The tournament would feature Bryan Danielson, Brian Kendrick, Matt Sydal, Alex Shelley, James Gibson (Jamie Noble), Roderick Strong, Rocky Romero as Black Tiger IV, and Dragon Soldier B (Kendo Kashin).
Rocky would go on to advance to the finals as Black Tiger IV, only to lose to Dragon Soldier B. The tournament would result in a lot of negative feedback for ROH.
The Inoki Dojo (which had become an affiliate of NWA Pro) would promote two tournaments in May of 2006. The winners of each tournament would end up getting an entry into the 2006 Best of the Super Juniors tournament in Japan. On May 14th, the Inoki Dojo presented the Super Lucha Tournament. The tournament would feature Alex Koslov, Phoenix Star, Chilango, and Shamu Jr. to name a few. It would be won by Durango Kid, who performed under the name Fuego. The event reportedly drew 10 fans.
On May 19th, NWA Pro hosted the 2006 Best of American Super Juniors tournament in El Monte. Rocky Romero, who was performing as Black Tiger IV, went on to win the tournament. The 2006 BOASJ tournament also featured Alex Koslov, T.J. Perkins as Cobra II, Jimmy Rave, Joey Ryan, Roderick Strong, Scorpio Sky, and Karl Anderson. Aaron Aguilera, Human Tornado, Scott Lost, and others were featured in non-tournament matches.
Romero, as Black Tiger IV, finished in #5 place in Block B with 4 points. Durango Kid, as Fuego, would finish last in Block A with only 2 points.
The 2004 Best of American Super Juniors Tournament was a really fun show. People who love technical or hard-hitting style wrestling will really enjoy this match. It’s also really cool to look back and see some of the biggest stars in wrestling today in the early stages of their careers.