Minoru Suzuki’s 2022 U.S. Tour

Well, I did this for 2021, so why not do it again for 2022?

1 - Suzuki vs. Dickinson

Minoru Suzuki vs. Chris Dickinson
GCW “Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 8” – Dallas, TX – 3.31.2022

This is Dickinson’s first match since NJPW “Battle In The Valley” where he suffered an injury. This is a rematch from Bloodsport 7, where Suzuki tapped Dickinson with a single leg crab. Suzuki also defeated Chris Dickinson on STRONG #66 with the GSP after a rear-naked choke. Suzuki went for the choke early, but then went after Dickinson’s leg. Dickinson managed to counter with a heel hook. Dickinson dodged Suzuki’s punches, and after slapping him across the face, gave Suzuki room to get back to his feet on his own. That woke up Suzuki, leading to a strike exchange and Suzuki getting on a kneebar. Dickinson overhand chopped his way out of that and got Suzuki in another strike exchange. Suzuki rocked Dickinson to the point where he dropped to his knees, but got back up and continued to strike. Suzuki rocked him again but Dicksinson got back up and knocked Suzuki down with a savate kick to the stomach. After an enzuigiri and brainbuster, Dickinson clobbered Suzuki in the side of the head until the referee called for a stoppage at 9:45. The crowd booing Dickinson was a bit surprising, just because you would think Dickinson coming back from injury victorious over someone of Suzuki’s stature would be viewed positively. I liked how this was done, but it did end somewhat abruptly, although that does fit the spirit of the type of matches Bloodsport features. **¾

2 - Suzuki vs. Busick

Minoru Suzuki vs. Biff Busick
Wrestlecon “Mark Hitchcock Memorial Show 2022” – Dallas, TX – 3.31.2022

Earlier in the day, Busick was busted open during a match with Jon Moxley at GCW’s Bloodsport event. Busick’s cut is re-opened when he escapes a grounded headscissors from Suzuki, resulting in Suzuki laughing at his opponent. He continues to laugh at Busick as he pummels him around ringside. He even bites Suzuki’s open wound when they get back inside of the ring. Suzuki twists on Busick’s arms in a kimura and a hammerlock, biting his thumb as Busick’s bloody head remains trapped between Suzuki’s thighs. After using the ropes to break free, Busick blasts Suzuki with uppercuts before finally taking Suzuki off of his feet with a half-nelson suplex. Suzuki then grabs the ropes to escape from a half-crab turned into a bulldog choke. Suzuki comes back with a PK, and kicks Busick’s head wound. Busick counters a sleeper with a half-nelson suplex, only for Suzuki to get back to his feet, but Busick is right there with him. Busick crumbles after a forearm shot connects to the cut on his head. Suzuki delayed for a few moments before dropping Busick with the GSP for the pin at 14:39. Reading what happens may make this sound like an intense match with Busick fighting back, but it didn’t necessarily work out that way. Busick more or less got rolled, and the crowd was respectful but not fully hooked into the action. I’d like to see this match run back in a GCW hotbed to see how a different crowd affects this match-up. **¾

3 - Suzuki vs. Kross

Minoru Suzuki vs. Killer Kross
NJPW “Lonestar Shootout” – Dallas, TX – 4.1.2022

As someone who did not like Kross whatsoever in NXT, him doing NJPW USA shows is a huge bummer. Suzuki spent the match tearing apart his arm. He straight up called Kross a “fucking young boy” as he scraped his boot against Kross’ face which ruled. They would trade overhand chops after this. Suzuki calls Kross a young boy again before dropping him with the GSP and pinning him at 9:48. That was bizarre but the crowd loved it, and it was maybe the most animated I’ve seen Suzuki in any of his U.S. matches these past two years. Suzuki also pulls a kid up the ramp and raises his arm in victory, so Suzuki is officially for the children. **

4 - Suzuki vs. Titus

ROH World Television Championship
Rhett Titus vs. Minoru Suzuki

ROH “Supercard of Honor 2022” – Garland, TX – 4.1.2022

Titus has been champion since 12.11.2021 and this is his second defense. Suzuki denies Titus a handshake, so Titus slaps him in the face. Suzuki slaps back and Titus attempts a single leg takedown. He eventually gets a half crab, which Suzuki grabs the ropes to break. Suzuki gets him in his rope-assisted cross armbreaker, and then on the floor sends him into the barricades. Titus gets the ropes to escape a grounded chinlock, which Suzuki holds onto as long as he possibly can. Titus attacks Suzuki’s lower back before throwing him out of a belly-to-belly suplex. A pair of big boots in the corner and a Saito suplex get Titus a two count. Suzuki rolls Titus into a kneebar and Titus gets the ropes once again. Titus escapes the GSP and lands the Hydraulic dropkick for two. A smiling Suzuki ducks a clothesline and puts Titus in a sleeper momentarily before dropping him with the GSP for the pin and the title at 6:00. Titus got in more offense than I expected, but you knew he had no chance at defeating Suzuki. It’s cool that Suzuki won his first ever U.S. title, and also a bittersweet if this is Titus’ end in ROH. **¼

5 - Suzuki vs. Effy

Minoru Suzuki vs. Effy
GCW “Joey Janela’s Spring Break 6 Part 2” – Dallas, TX – 4.1.2022

Effy looked to play mind games with Suzuki, asking for a kiss on the cheek, dropping to his knees, and asking for Suzuki to chop him around ringside, as if he liked it. There’s plenty of people Suzuki has wrestled of a similar caliber in Japan, from Toru Yano, to Stalker Ichikawa, to Michael Nakazawa, so he was immune to these mind games. What did get Suzuki’s ire up is when he was put in a headscissors against the ropes and a subsequent tarantula, as well as Effy biting his nipple and giving him a Northern Lights suplex. Effy finally did kiss Suzuki and got him dazed, but Suzuki swung underneath a charge and got in a sleeper hold. After getting Effy a little dazed himself, Suzuki slapped him in the face and dropped him with the GSP to get the pin at 9:10. This was harmless fun, not bad at all. It’s nice that GCW regulars get matches against bigger, outside names, but I am genuinely curious if their fans tire of seeing their regulars lose almost all of those big matches. **¼

6 - Suzuki vs. Barrett Brown

Minoru Suzuki vs. Barrett Brown
VIP Wrestling “Texas Mania” – Arlington, TX – 4.3.2022

Suzuki attacks Brown’s shoulder on the mat, which pays off when Suzuki is able to trap him with the rope-capture arm bar after being shoulder tackled by Brown. Suzuki attacks Brown’s right leg and back when inside the ring, and Brown hits a Sick Kick and running clothesline to score a nearfall. To say Suzuki won the requisite forearm exchange would be an understatement – he destroyed Brown’s jaw. Brown backdropped his way out of a GSP and landed the .50 Caliber Kick for a nearfall. Brown re-engaged Suzuki with forearms, but when he came off the ropes, Suzuki ducked, put him in a sleeper, and delivered the GSP for the pin at 15:07. That forearm shot that knocked Brown down will stick with me for a while, and the hot crowd made this quite enjoyable. I’m happy Brown got this match – it’s fun for me when members of the STRONG roster get to interact with higher-caliber roster members. **¾

7 - Suzuki vs. Blake Christian

Minoru Suzuki vs. Blake Christian
GCW “Paranoid” – Los Angeles, CA – 4.9.2022

Christian’s nickname of “All Heart” was fully on display. He took Suzuki’s forearm shots and gave them right back. He took the arm submission in the ropes and multiple chest kicks and kept on going. Christian fought for a Border City Stretch, and what has to be a mental victory, forced Suzuki to go to the ropes to escape once Christian began kneeing him in the face. Christian also rolled out of a sleeper attempt, double stomped Suzuki, and quickly followed up with a springboard 450 splash. Christian also escaped Suzuki’s first GSP attempt with a backdrop, but after Suzuki blocked a kick and landed a knockout forearm shot, he was able to deliver the GSP and get the win at 15:45. I was hoping with Christian being such a different competitor from Suzuki’s usual opponents that the match would also be different from Suzuki’s usual outings. It had some unique moments, and kept a way better pace than most of the other matches from this tour, but I think it’s safe to say that is Christian’s doing. My expectations may have been a tad high. ***

8 - Suzuki vs. Bailey

Minoru Suzuki vs. Mike Bailey
GCW “Devil In A New Dress” – San Francisco, CA – 4.10.2022

This was similar to Suzuki’s match with Christian, but it had much more of Bailey’s type of wrestling baked into it and he looked more formidable. This also had the advantage of it being in a more intimate room, where the hot crowd was much more audible than in the cool looking but much more open LA building. Bailey outsmarting Suzuki’s pattern of ducking his kicks to land an enzugiri and following up with a Bermuda Triangle came off as a big deal for Speedball. Sadly, that was followed up by the typical forearm strike exchange Suzuki utilizes, but Bailey changes to chest kicks which suits his style of offense much more. Bailey also was able to backdrop his way out of a GSP attempt and land a Kneecolespy to Suzuki’s chest and earned a very close nearfall with a Buzzsaw kick. Bailey misses a super Kneecolepsy, but knows that he cant get caught in the sleeper hold, and elbows Suzuki away twice when Suzuki attempts to do so. Just like he did with Christian, Suzuki rocked Bailey into a daze with a forearm shot, which gave him the room to apply the sleeper hold and get the win with the GSP at 16:31. Trim the fat and this would be even better, but it’s still a hoot as is. I am really glad Bailey was presented as a commensurate challenger for Suzuki. ***¼

9- Suzuki vs. Joe

ROH World Television Championship
Minoru Suzuki vs. Samoa Joe

AEW Dynamite #132 – New Orleans, LA – 4.13.2022

Suzuki has been champion since 4.1.2022 and this is his first defense. I was definitely excited when this was announced, but I knew to tamper my expectations. As much as I enjoy watching both of them wrestle today, I knew that based on simply their age and the wear and tear they have endured this wouldn’t meet the lofty expectations many had put on them. Fortunately, both of these guys are also very smart wrestlers. They chopped the shit out of each other for the opening minutes until both men turned red, and the crowd absolutely ate it up. Suzuki did his usual cross armbreaker in the ropes, and even though Joe had him in a crossface after the break, Suzuki was able to yakuza kick and PK Joe after using the ropes to escape. Joe is the first of Suzuki’s opponents during this tour who had a significant size advantage, which helped as Joe muscled Suzuki into a side slam when Suzuki looked for a sleeper hold. Suzuki went for the sleeper again after scoring a dropkick, but Joe backed him to the corner. Joe enzuigiri’d Suzuki after placing him on the top turnbuckle. Suzuki momentarily got him in a triangle choke, but Joe ended up bringing him down with a Muscle Buster for the pin and the title at 11:37. That was exactly the type of match this should’ve been. It’s a shame the aftermath with Satnam Singh completely overshadowed it. ***¼

10 - Suzuki vs. Blackwood

Minoru Suzuki vs. Kevin Blackwood
West Coast Pro Wrestling “Game Related” – San Francisco, CA – 4.15.2022

It’s very cute that the last time Suzuki was in WCPW, he wrestled Daniel Garcia, and now he is wrestling Garcia’s “Buffalo brother.” Suzuki and Blackwood have a sporting start, with each man backing away when their opponent was susceptible to a strike. For Suzuki, it was when he had Blackwood against the ropes, and for Blackwood, it was when he had Suzuki on the mat and was positioned above him. Suzuki’s sportsmanship went away when he got the cross armbreaker in the ropes and destroyed Blackwood with overhand chops outside of the ring, as he manipulated Blackwood’s arm and fingers back inside of the ring. Blackwood nursed his arm as he pulled off an exploder suplex. Blackwood refuses to be knocked down from Suzuki’s forearms. He even backdrops Suzuki to stop a GSP and plants him with a Death Valley Driver for two. Suzuki escaped a second Death Valley Driver and spun Blackwood into the sleeper hold. The GSP followed to get him the pin at 12:45. This was pretty much as good as the Garcia match, but with way less down time. **¾

11 - Suzuki vs. Ishii

Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii
NJPW “Windy City Riot” – Villa Park, IL – 4.16.2022

This match came about due to Suzuki challenging Ishii at “Lonestar Shootout.” Surprisingly, this is only their sixth singles match, with Suzuki leading the series 3-2. After beating the shit out of each other to start, Suzuki attacks Ishii’s left arm. Ishii can’t help himself but to continue using that arm to throw strikes and even powerslam Suzuki, and it’s clear that the pain made it difficult for him to follow up and sustain his offense. As Suzuki threw forearms at him, Ishii would use his head to push Suzuki back to the corner where he dropped him with a forearm shot. Not to be denied, three dense sounding forearms from Suzuki left Ishii a lifeless heap. Ishii awakens from a PK, and he and Suzuki knock each other to opposing corners from a forearm strike battle. Ishii fought out of a GSP attempt and blasted Suzuki with a headbutt to the jaw to buy some rest time. Suzui kicked out of a sliding lariat. Ishii blasted him with multiple headbutts and a lariat before dropping him with a brainbuster for the pin at 18:46. People love seeing these two hit each other hard, and that’s exactly what they were given. What made this different from the rest of Suzuki’s U.S. matches is Ishii got in way more offense and generally has better body language than most. This show was in desperate need of a pick me up, and Ishii and Suzuki provided it. ***¾

12 - Suzuki vs. Broner

Minoru Suzuki vs. Isaiah Broner
AIW “Eyes of the Beast” – Cleveland, OH – 4.22.2022

Dominic Garrini, who wrestled Suzuki during last year’s “tour”, is on commentary for this bout. The crowd went nuts for Suzuki, and Broner punked out Suzuki in the corner when Suzuki flinched when he moved forward. If Suzuki has a mother in law he may be in trouble. Broner shoulder tackled Suzuki to the apron, and that’s when Suzuki was able to trap Broner in the ropes with an armbar. Suzuki blasts Broner with boots against the guardrails, and even though Broner came back with strikes, in the ring Suzuki manipulated his arm in a double wristlock variation. Even with the damage to the shoulder, Broner knocked down Suzuki with another shoulder tackle and took him down with a pair of Northern Lights suplexes. Suzuki reversed a corner whip to land a yakuza kick and a PK. Suzuki rattled Broner with some forearm shots, but Broner surprised him with a lariat for a nearfall. He also got a nearfall after an F5. It took Suzuki some positioning, but he got Broner into the sleeper and landed the GSP for the pin at 8:51. This goes to show that atmosphere and some minor tweaks can make Suzuki’s formular go a long way. The AIW crowd was white hot for this whole match which helped tremendously. Broner punked out Suzuki early on, and also scored two nearfalls that the crowd bought into big time. Most of these other shows have Suzuki on as an attraction – AIW used him to elevate someone to the top of the card. This was awesome. ***½

13 - Suzuki vs. Scorpio

Minoru Suzuki vs. 2 Cold Scorpio
GCW “The Old Me” – Detroit, MI – 4.23.2022

This is a first-time singles encounter, but Suzuki (and Naomichi Marufuji) actually defeated Scorpio (and Doug Williams) for the GHC Tag Team titles back in 2005 at an FWA show. They also competed against each other in trios matches in NOAH in 2006, both of which Suzuki’s teams won. As they fight for an advantage, Scorpio goofs by giving Suzuki a headbutt. Not only does it hurt Scorpio, but it triggers something in Suzuki that ratchets up the intensity. Scorpio impressively does not back down, sending Suzuki to the floor with a dropkick after a double hand thrust to his chest. Suzuki intercepted a strike and put Scorpio in his patented rope trap armbar. Suzuki further manipulates the arm in the ring and gives Scorpio a PK, but Scorpio scores an overhead kick in the corner, allowing him to hit a flipping leg drop off of the second rope for two. He then delivers a twisting splash off the top for another two count. Scorpio misses a moonsault, and Suzuki instantly goes for a sleeper hold. The GSP then got Suzuki the pin at 13:48. Scorpios high flying added enough variety to the usual Suzuki match. It helped that the fans were really into this pairing. No mold was broken, but like the Broner match, the atmosphere elevated this match. ***

14 - Suzuki vs. Something

Minoru Suzuki vs. Jake Something
Glory Pro “The Pageant” – St. Louis, MO – 4.24.2022

I was totally perplexed by this match, as Suzuki just flattened Something. They made nothing of Something’s size advantage, and his strikes seemed pitiful in comparison. Something took him down with a body block and a suplex, and later a lariat, but it felt totally unearned and unbelievable. When Something went for a second lariat, Suzuki ducked, slapped on the sleeper, and hit the GSP for the pin at 11:46. I am baffled at how nothing this match was and how much of a non-threat Something was during almost the entirety of the match. ½*

15 - Suzuki vs. Marshall

Minoru Suzuki vs. QT Marshall
AEW Dark Elevation #60 – Pittsburgh, PA – 4.25.2022

Aaron Solo and Nick Comoroto of The Factory are in Marshall’s corner. They have been at odds with the New Japan LA Dojo of late, so there’s a modicum of rationale for this match-up. Suzuki got Marshall in his rope-capture armbar, but this allowed for Solo to grab onto Suzuki’s leg and Marshall to strike. Referee Paul Turner caught the Factory red handed and ejected them. Marshall tried to show no fear by telling Suzuki to give him his best shot, and it resulted in Suzuki knocking him out with one forearm strike. Marshall came back thanks to a thrust to the throat and a lariat. Suzuki held onto Marshall’s trunks to avoid a suplex, locked in the sleeper, gave him one more forearm shot for good measure, and then delivered the GSP for the pin at 4:12. I would’ve never predicted enjoying this more than the Something match, but I certainly did. It was far more interesting and Marshall was positioned as a much more formidable competitor. Think about that. **

Suzuki would return to Japan for a JTO show on May 6th, but returned to the U.S. for New Japan’s shows the following weekend:

16 - Suzuki vs. Brody King

Minoru Suzuki vs. Brody King
NJPW “Capital Collision” – Washington, D.C. – 5.14.2022

Although King avoided Suzuki’s rope-capture armbar, he accidentally chopped a ring post, giving Suzuki plenty to work with back in the ring. King shoved Suzuki to the corner to stop him from twisting on his wrist and arm, following up with a cannonball splash. King’s hand is too hurt for a Ganso Bomb which delights Suzuki. Suzuki even welcomes chops from King. King unwisely uses his hurt hand enough times for Suzuki to regain control. Suzuki kicks out King’s leg so he can lock in his sleeper hold. He attempts the GSP, but King backdrops his way free. King overhead throws Suzuki when Suzuki goes for another sleeper, and Suzuki manipulates King’s fingers when King tries another Ganso Bomb. King settles for a big lariat, and then two more after that, before successfully pulling off the Ganso Bomb for the pin at 9:05. The crowd seemed very surprised by this result, but the result makes perfect sense to me. It was unique from all of Suzuki’s other offerings this tour, and only second to the Ishii bout in terms of quality. ***½

17 - Suzuki vs. Deppen

Minoru Suzuki vs. Tony Deppen
NJPW STRONG #96 – Philadelphia, PA – 6.25.2022

A battle between former ROH TV Champions! This is Deppen’s NJPW debut. His former VLNCE UNLTD partner, Brody King, defeated Suzuki at “Capital Collision” – would that be a harbinger of things to come? It would not. Deppen staggered Suzuki to the ropes with a pump kick, but that only put Suzuk in position to do his rope capture armbrar. Suzuki ran down the entrance aisle to hit a PK on the floor. Deppen fought out of a GSP back in the ring and crashed into him with double knees in the corner. Suzuki reversed an Irish whip, yakuza kicked Deppen in the corner, and followed up with another PK. Deppen ends a strike exchange with a pump knee and a Death Valley Driver for two. He clobbers Suzuki with a forearm in the back of the head after blowing snot on him, and Suzuki sits up at the count of one with stoic rage in his eyes. Suzuki wastes no time putting Deppen in a sleeper, blasting him with a forearm, and then hitting a delayed GSP for the pin at 10:30. That moment of death in Suzuki’s eyes was tremendous; everything else was from Suzuki’s standard U.S. match template. **½

18 - Forbidden Door 6 Man

Minoru Suzuki & The Jericho Appreciation Society (Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara) vs. Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino & Wheeler YUTA
AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door – Chicago, IL – 6.26.2022

The winning team gets the man advantage in the Blood and Guts match on Wednesday. The fans ate up Suzuki and Kingston’s strike exchange, with Suzuki knocking down Kingston with a stiff forearm shot to end it. Suzuki had the best use of his rope capture armbar in maybe any U.S. match yet – grabbing Kingston’s arm to stop him from chopping Jericho and Guevara. Jericho then took Kingston down with a divorce court. Kingston’s shoulder and elbow were then attacked by his opposition. After catching Guevara mid-air with an exploder suplex, Kingston dropped him with an STO and tagged Umino. Umino wiped out Guevara with Finlay like uppercuts and Suzuki with a basement dropkick. After Umino cannonball senton’d onto Jericho, Guevara landed a shooting star onto a standing Umino, but YUTA and Kingston both landed dives onto Guevara. Kingston hurt his elbow in the process. Kingston blind tagged in when Guevara took out YUTA with a Spanish Fly, and surprised Guevara with a Backdrop Driver. He locked Guevara in a Stretch Plum, and nailed Suzuki with a Backfist to the Future when Suzuki looked to break the hold. Umino kicks out of the Code Breaker and gives Jericho an Avalanche powerslam for two. Guevara takes out YUTA with Feast Your Eyes on the floor. Umino gets another nearfall on Jericho with a tornado DDT. Guevara fails to save Jericho from Umino’s Walls of Jericho, but a headbutt from Suzuki does the trick. Suzuki takes out Kingston with a GSP. As Umino is fighting off Suzuki and Guevara, Jericho surprises him with the Molasses Elbow for the pin at 18:58. I am pleasantly surprised Umino was the focus of the match. He looked tough as nails fighting all of the opposition on his own in the closing moments, and unfortunately, him being pinned hurts both of his partners who are now at a deficit in Wednesday’s big match. Suzuki also slotted his usual offense in interesting, logical places. Very fun match. ***½

Similar to his first tour, AEW and New Japan USA had Suzuki’s best offerings of the tour, with one indie making it into the conversation: AIW and Suzuki’s match against Isaiah Broner. Overall, I enjoyed this more than last year’s tour, simply because it offered more variety and my expectations were lower.

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