New Japan Pro Wrestling
Best of the Super Juniors 27 – Night 4
November 23, 2020
G Messe Gunma
Takasaki, Gunma, Japan

Watch: NJPW World
The Best Best of the Super Juniors 27 Preview: https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2020/11/11/njpw-best-of-the-super-juniors-27-preview-schedule/

We have a Big Five in the Best of the Super Juniors 27, and this is key to understanding what is unique about this show. Here’s how it works:

One-third of the way through Best of the Super Juniors 27, four participants are head-and-shoulders ahead of everyone else. Hiromu Takahashi is alone in the top tier, first in both card placement and GRAPPL averages. The next tier includes El Desperado/Despy, SHO, and Robbie Eagles. “Next tier” is generous, though, as Hiromu is so far above these guys that there are probably several uninhabited tiers between them.

El Desperado is second in both card placement average and GRAPPL average, and SHO is third in both. As for Robbie Eagles, he is once again outperforming his booking, with some chatter out there considering him the MVP of the tournament thus far. Taiji Ishimori is therefore the odd-man-out. He’s the champion, but he’s very clearly behind these four. He occupies a third tier with DOUKI, the Super Junior’s lovable Horatio Alger (and the true MVP, any other take is DEFICIENT). But because Ishimori is the champion, and because his ceiling is so incredibly high compared to the rest of the field, we are going to include him in our Big Five of Best of the Super Juniors 27.

We can fairly easily determine the strength of a card based on the number of match-ups between those five competitors.  We have five nights with one match-up between two of the five (Nights 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8) and two nights with two such match-ups (nights 5 and 7). Only one card, of the nine, has zero match-ups between two of these men. There is only one card in which their extraordinary aptitudes are spread out across the entire card. 

That would be this show, Night 4.

If you’re wondering why World Tag League feels superior to Best of the Super Juniors the last few days, that is the reason why. Do a quick audit of the schedules and check back in a week. Especially after Night 7, which is going to be awesome.

Night 4 saw the baffling main event of El Desperado vs. Master Wato. In another example of rarity, this is the only show with Wato in the main event (unless the azure son of a bitch wins the damn thing). It was not a battle of respect; Despy, in his recent interview with the New Japan website, savagely wondered whether New Japan could get a refund from OKUMURA on Wato. The question for this card was simple: could the Super Juniors deliver without a big-time match-up. The answer was very much affirmative.

We pick things up in Gunma at the G Messe Gunma convention center, which has apparently spent the last seven months serving as that endless blank void John Oliver has done his show from, because look at this fucking place! After several nights at Korakuen Hall, this big giant empty room looks like a bubble universe.

TOMOAKI HONMA & SATOSHI KOJIMA DEF. GABRIEL KIDD AND YUJI NAGATA

Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata have 419 CageMatch entries together, the first being a singles match that occurred on September 17, 1992! Three days into Nagata’s career! The match took place on night 7 of the NJPW Battle Autumn, and it is the only match listed. What a treat that could have been for the Tottori Industry Pavillion, which has no other CageMatch entries besides that one. You will not find this one on New Japan World.

This was the standard fare, made slightly more frenetic due to Kidd’s continually disproportionate brazenness as a Young Lion (though his backstage comments have tempered quite a bit since the G1 Climax). The best stuff here was, as hinted before, between Kojima and Nagata, over 28 years after their first encounter. Honma looked significantly less spry than either, despite being several years younger. **1/4

TAIJI ISHIMORI (6) DEF. YUYA UEMURA (0)

Ishimori was coming off a slightly disappointing battle with DOUKI on Night 3, his worst match in quite a while, but what followed that match was his best backstage comment in… well, basically ever. He obliterated El Desperado, who had tried to stick up for Ishimori but, being Despy, inadvertently insulted Ishimori’s promo skills. Ishimori basically claimed that El Desperado focuses on promos because he knows that he’ll never win the title. Ishimori did the shocked face, like he couldn’t believe what he just said, in another example of Ishimori trying to be a heel and coming off like an even more adorable babyface.

This alacrity didn’t necessarily transfer to this match, but the sharpness did. This one started with a lot of groundwork, with Ishimori attempting several kimuras and Fujiwara’s.  At this point, two things are noticeable, and both deal with size. The first is that Uemura is significantly bigger than Ishimori. The second is this goddamn venue is so sterile and empty and the crowd seem like they are miles away from ringside. There’s so much blank, empty space. What is this, a Clyfford Still?!

There is a lot of arm work and Uemura sells it beautifully throughout. There are some nice fake-outs, and many reversals, though the highlight came when Uemura just straight up slapped Ishimori three times. The other highlight: after the match, Ishimori literally baited Uemura with the Junior Heavyweight belt, dropping it on the mat and pulling it away when Uemura reached for it. 

El Desperado promised to buy Uemura ice cream if he beat Ishimori. Uemura’s vigor did even better, as it stimulated Ishimori to come out strong and hold that consistency throughout. This is what Ishimori is capable of when he maintains that resolve. If you can’t have a good match with Uemura, something is wrong. And that leads us to the next match. ***1/2

Best of the Super Juniors 27
BUSHI (4) DEF. ROBBIE EAGLES (4) 

Which will prevail: two masks or two bandanas? I swear, there has never been a match-up between two busier outfits. The amount of things these guys wear for a 45 second walk is absurd. Eagles’ vest has more layers of security than the Pentagon. Did you see how many things he has to unfasten or unzip to get this fucking thing off?

But on the subject of BUSHI: BUSHI did not have a good match with Uemura. This itself is an outrage, but he followed that with a flat main event against Hiromu Takahashi, a seemingly implausible circumstance but, sadly, true. The match had a breathtaking Final Five, but absolutely zero momentum before it. On this night, BUSHI faced the unimpeachable Robbie Eagles. The results were above BUSHI’s standards and below Eagles’. 

Eagles’ matches have impeccable logic. It cannot be stressed enough: Robbie Eagles matches make sense. They just do. The closer you look, the better they appear. This comes with the potential of banality, but Eagles is still a novel return. This match featured some wonderful leg work filled with gloriously reasonable sequences as Eagles ran through the gamut of his leg-targeting arsenal. Every time BUSHI seemed to turn the tide, Eagles had an answer, whether it be his 5-kick combo or a Turbo Backpack. The only illogic was BUSHI taking his shirt off to choke someone who already has a piece of cloth tied around his neck.

But sometimes things can make too much sense. It seemed a bit obvious that BUSHI would win when Eagles put a Ron Miller Special on fairly early, did all the tactics he usually breaks out to get a tap, and BUSHI made the ropes. BUSHI’s special game-changer was a nicely executed Canadian Destroyer, which was followed by the MX. Mainly good, but BUSHI is not looking fresh. He’s lacking crispness and it all seems a bit jejune with him right now. ***1/4

Best of the Super Juniors 27
HIROMU TAKAHASHI (6) DEF. DOUKI (0)

DOUKI had this to say about facing Hiromu Takahashi, after his match with Ishimori on Night 3: “I’ve been looking forward to this since the day you came to Mexico.” When informed of this later in the night, Hiromu responded by feigning sleep, and walked off without comment once woken up by the reporters.

In their phenomenal interview with the New Japan website in July, El Desperado and DOUKI very clearly stated that Hiromu was not a true luchadore, despite his time in Mexico. More specifically, El Desperado noted this about the legendary Kamaitachi-Dragon Lee feud: “They made their rivalry in Mexico, but what they created got over all over the world, and the reason they were able to do that was because it wasn’t lucha. It was pro-wrestling.” DOUKI’s addition: “See me, I only ever knew lucha.”

Thus, we have a legitimately deep-seated bit of animus, built through supplementary materials, for a first-time match between the clear superstar of the tournament and the tournament’s biggest overachiever. Needless to say, I was excited for this match. And god damn did they deliver.

They started out hot, and it became instantly apparent that we might have an issue with the venue, which is just a big convention center room with a hard concrete floor. Anyone that has gone to a convention of some kind at a place like this knows that just walking on these floors can be painful. In this case, the issue is indeed with us, not these two demented motherfuckers. Within the first minute, Hiromu went for that flatback dropkick from the apron and missed, landing right on the small of his back, which is weird because he usually lands right on his tailbone. DOUKI landed a DOUKI Bomb, and when Hiromu took control back he tossed DOUKI to the outside and hit that flatback dropkick, this time making damn sure to land right on his bloody tailbone, correcting the earlier miscalculation.

Hiromu’s overhead suplex into the corner truly woke the crowd up for the first time in the night. We got a few Italian Stretch #32 spots, and then a strike exchange that got a crowd really pumped, the hottest they would be the entire card. DOUKI hit a huge lariat and a brutal elbow, and then hit a modified Doton that I have down in my notes as “What the fuck was that?????” There’s a lot of firing up, but Hiromu hit a huge lariat and Time Bomb to end it. Afterwards, Hiromu gave DOUKI an earful, but Hiromu’s enigmatic expression leaves one wondering if the words were praise or scorn.

One thing you might have noticed is the balanced simplicity of the things I described. These two pulled out cool moves and literally crippling risks, but it was the intensity of their bravado, and the sincerity of their barbarous chemistry, that made this a memorable match.  Cut the brakes on DOUKI. ****

Best of the Super Juniors 27
SHO (6) DEF. RYUSUKE TAGUCHI (4)

Looking at these two at the start, their complexions and builds side by side, I figured that if I had to choose between the two I wouldn’t mind seeing Sho’s bare ass for a few moments. And yet I knew that Taguchi’s bare ass is the one that we would see for several minutes before this one was over. Thankfully that intuition was incorrect, but just barely. No, that is not a pun.

It seemed like we would get serious Taguchi, as the start involved serious grappling, replete with passed guards, rolls, and methodical feints. Taguhi switched to comedy quickly, but SHO abandoned the tsukkomi role and ruthlessly attacked Taguchi’s arm. Taguchi returned fire with the first of many ankle locks, and we had ourselves a traditional arm v. leg match.

There was some action on the outside, followed by Taguchi doing the thing where he rolls from one side of the ring to the other. It looked like he was just going through the checklist, and thus it looked like we were absolutely going to see Taguchi’s whole ass very soon. It wasn’t much better on the other side, as SHO worked over Taguchi’s arm with the googliest of googly eyes. 

The end result of all of this is that Taguchi tried to pull his pants down and drop his upper buttock fold onto SHO’s face for the pinfall, but SHO managed to push Taguchi’s tights back up, which seemed to legitimately offended the Coach. Taguchi’s outer tights did indeed come down, and he tried the hip attack, but SHO moved. SHO hit a lariat, that piledriver that looks better than his actual finisher, and then his finisher. All of this was done with Taguchi’s red panties showing. 

The juxtaposition of Taguchi’s jocularity and SHO’s zealously intense sincerity could make for a great match, but here they simply seemed to co-exist but not really intermingle. The work was smooth and would have benefitted from a better alignment of personalities, or a stronger vision, but even then it was a very good outing. I suppose all of this together is what the league format is all about. ***1/2



Best of the Super Juniors 27
MASTER WATO (6) DEF. EL DESPERADO (4)

El Desperado was characteristically indelicate when assessing this match-up in his interview published two days ago on NJPW1972.com: 

–So, harsh words for Wato, but you’re wrestling him in the main event on November 24.

Desperado: That’s a main event? Jeez. To put it politely, that’s the company testing me. To put it bluntly, he shouldn’t be shoved in the main event like that.

–You think you’re being tested to bring Wato to a main event level?

Desperado: yeah. Except I hate that brat. I might just punch him in the face in 38 seconds, knock him out and take the DQ loss.

–What irritates you about him? 

Desperado: It’s a case of a little knowledge, and no application. He’s done a bit of kickboxing so he tries to do kicks. He’s rolled about a bit so he tries to grapple. There’s no logic behind anything that he does other than ‘I can kinda sorta do it, so I’ll do it in the ring’. 

–He’s doing things in the ring that he isn’t ready for.

Desperado: Right, and that shows. I hate that. He’s half-assed, I have no time for it.

The biggest task of the entire tournament was whether or not El Desperado could pull off a main event with Master Wato. He did, but it wasn’t immaculate.

El Desperado came out to more merch than I expected, since the crowd shots throughout the night seemed a bit more barren in this regard.  Korakuen was bursting with El Desperado merch, but Gunma had a respectable amount. I counted nine Despy scarves, a mask, and several shirts in one shot, and more as he walked to the ring. 2020 had paid off for the Hooligan Luchadore, and basically no one else.

El Desperado spent much of the match taunting Wato and, especially, Tenzan. According to Chris Charlton’s translation, a lot of it mocked Wato for relying on his “dad.” The trash talking was indeed relentless, and meathead Tenzan was easily goaded, which put Wato at a disadvantage early.  Wato came back with kicks, and we have to dispel this idea that Wato’s kicks are underwhelming or look awful. This just simply isn’t true. Wato’s kicks are very good. They are crisp and accurate and look great. Do not conflate them with the rest of his blundering.

El Desperado went through his roll call of leg moves, but Wato overcame this and did some cool dives which I’m sure will infuriate the selling quantifiers. El Desperado returned to the leg and locked in the Numero Dos very early, which seemed to portend the unfathomable notion of Master Wato cutting a New Japan Pro Wrestling go-home promo. At this point the ten minute call was made, and they really did an astounding amount of work in those ten minutes. This match was all action.

The match was sub-fifteen minutes, though, and will almost certainly be the shortest main event of the tour. El Desperado tried all of his tricks, and they worked, but Wato ended up doing a pretty smooth spinning pin thing with a jack-knife that put El Desperado down for the three. El Desperado is incensed as he walks to the back; Wato was practically done with his address to the crowd by the time Despy made it to the curtain. 

For all of his dismissive savagery, El Desperado could not solve the Way to the Grand Master. In the end, the beauty of being an El Desperado fan is that it feels equally satisfying when he loses because he works just as hard for that loss as he does for the wins. This match had the structure that a Wato match desperately needs, and an opponent that provides two more things Wato requires: someone who can really sell for his stuff and make it look good, and someone exceedingly detestable to make Wato agreeable in contrast. El Desperado accomplished that both here. This wasn’t the limits of a Wato match as things stand now, but pretty close. ***¾

Final Thoughts

A recommended show. An easy two hours (and even less if you skip the opening tag). Even though on paper this show seemed weaker than others on this tour, each match featured hard work, logical sequences, and a general absence of the nonsense that seems to be corroding the enthusiasm some have had for the promotion. Hiromu-DOUKI is a must-watch, and the opener and main event are worth a watch as well.