NOVEMBER 25, 2020

Watch: NJPW World
The Best Best of the Super Juniors 27 Preview:

As Thanksgiving week rolls on towards a thoroughly disillusioning modified nothing on Thursday, New Japan continues to fill that void with a relentless string of shows. Tonight, the Juniors conclude their northwest diagonal slash across Japan from Tokyo as they come to us from Niigata today.

In the review of Night 4, we noted how there was a Big 5 and used that to evaluate card quality. In the process, we made note of Ishimori’s placement according to our indicators:

“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…”

That was calculated language for a very calculated purpose. The mention of DOUKI was meant to subtly credit the lovable scamp. That introduction was written before the Night 4 show began, with the assumption that DOUKI and Hiromu Takahashi were going to deliver an excellent match. We underestimated just how motivated these two rogues were, because a consequence of that brilliant goddamn match is that the Big 5 has now become a Big 6. Let’s take a look at one of our indicators, GRAPPL ratings, and see how the rankings are playing out roughly half-way through this Best of the Super Juniors:


  1. Hiromu Takahashi   3.938
  2. DOUKI    3.438
  3. SHO        3.413
  4. El Desperado    3.403
  5. Robbie Eagles     3.395
  6. Taiji Ishimori  3.370
  7. BUSHI     3.135
  8. Ryusuke Taguchi   2.978
  9. Yuya Uemura   2.940
  10. Master Wato     2.808

Holy fuck, DOUKI is in second place!!! Comfortably! 

And it must be noted that GRAPPL users have been incredibly fastidious with their ratings this year. DOUKI is doing so well he’s making the arms-folded at the back of the venue concert-goer crowd actually acknowledge something. I should know how hard that is to flip; I once watched Chromeo open for The Unicorns in a club basement, and you better believe I spent the entire 40 minutes in the back of the room with my arms crossed tighter than Taichi’s trunks. 

Another takeaway that you might notice is that Uemura is not 10th place; that placement is firmly held by Master Wato. The Azure Stumble has been competent, but has been hampered by a severe lack of coordinated momentum. Or is it a lack of momentum in coordination? Unfortunately, Wato unfortunately displayed both tonight. 

Night 5 looked significantly better than Night 4 on paper, with two marquee match-ups: the former-partner match-up of Taiji Ishimori and Robbie Eagles in the semi-main event slot, followed by the main event of long-standing Junior Tag rivals El Desperado and SHO. Ultimately, while on paper Night 4 was inferior, the chemistry of the match-ups was far superior and it ended up being the better of the two nights. That said, Night 5 was a successful show that still delivered some excellent material. Unfortunately, it also delivered some true drivel as well. 

We find ourselves at the Toki Messe, which looks like every other massive convention center or prefectural gymnasium.


Compared to the last match, Kidd was a bit cheekier, at one point doing the machine gun chops on Kojima, and throwing in a few slaps. At one point, Kidd screamed, “Brainbustaaa!,” and one could only think of that time Archibald Peck announced that he was going to execute his finishing move, babbling on until he was finally rolled up for the pin. I didn’t see much difference in that regard.

Compared to Tsuji, I would say that Kidd looks better in several regards, particularly the crispness of his moves and his movements. Tsuji has Kidd beat in the spirit intangibles, but also in the bumping, at least the bumps they have been taking for Kojima’s lariat. Last night, Tsuji took an awesome bump, almost like a delayed, floating flip where he seemed to hang in the air. It was great. Kidd just sort of dropped. Two nights ago it was quite a thud, this one had less impact. **1/4

Best of the Super Juniors 27

Uemura concludes his trilogy with the current top three of the division, and probably in reverse order: El Desperado, Taiji Ishimori, and now Hiromu Takahashi. The match with El Desperado was great,  a very intelligently structured and fun heel-face match. The match with Ishimori was more strategic, with the champion dissecting the Young Lion methodically, and was even better on rewatch. 

This match was a puree of both of those matches. Hiromu had the intensely sour disdain (and baffling willingness to take thudding bumps on concrete for Young Lions) of El Desperado, with the clear dominance that Ishimori exhibited.  Hiromu spent a lot of the early going stalking and taunting Uemura, so whereas El Desperado’s disdain had a flair of bitterness, Hiromu’s disdain was imbued with conceit. When Hiromu hit a bodyslam, there was a distinct sense that this was in mockery of the Young Lion restricted moveset.

This paid off beautifully when Uemura finally hit a dropkick on Takahashi.  Hiromu had tricked Uemura into attempting a dropkick multiple times, with sublime condescension. Shockingly, Uemura hit the Kannuki suplex, but inexplicably did not cover, and Hiromu recovered to finish him with a Boston crab, returning to the pointed Young Lion derision. After the match, Hiromu gave Uemura a seemingly eccentric earful, and Uemura took so long to leave that they played his music again.

This was well paced and tremendously worked, though it lacked the guiding focus on the other two matches mentioned above. It stands somewhere in the neighborhood of the Uemura-El Desperado match and well behind the Uemura-Ishimori one. ***1/2

Best of the Super Juniors 27

This is a return to Master Wato’s return program, which resulted in a categorically adequate blowoff at the New Japan Cup Final show. Almost every match tonight has some kind of history to it, and this one had the most recent, so you would have expected it to be the most fresh and raw. That was not the case. It was defined by debacle. 

This match was brimming with pipe action. DOUKI piped Wato to start the match pre-bell, and of course the ref calls for the bell in the midst of the chaos. Unfortunately, there’s a  lot to say about Marty Asami in this match. DOUKI gave Hiroyoshi Tenzan the business with the pipe on the outside, then choked Wato as the DOUKI’s self-satisfaction was just beaming. DOUKI does a remarkable job conveying emotions through his eyes.

This match became cursed by miscommunication. To set the scene, the match had an anodyne and uneventful period of DOUKI working over Wato, but Wato fought out of it and hit some cool dives. The crowd started to make some robust clappy noise as Wato fought off his aggressor, and DOUKI grabbed Wato’s wrist. At first, Wato positioned himself to be whipped into the ropes instead of the corner. When they met shoulders, DOUKI had to readjust Wato and start again, whipping him at the corner. We say “at” because “in” would be the wrong preposition here; when DOUKI released Wato, Wato turned instantly and was stuck at center ring for a split second. That forced Wato to awkwardly stumble backward to the corner. Devoid of smoothness and, sadly, this prance had more to go.

DOUKI charged in with a boot, and Wato moved out of the way, but clumsily late as DOUKI’s foot caught him right in the liver as he went by. Thus, this is Bas Rutten’s favorite match ever, but we’re starting to check out. Wato hit DOUKI with a nice looking punch and some forearms, and then there was a  pause, a pause that revealed that no one knew what the fuck they were supposed to do right then and there. DOUKI trash-talked and they traded forearms to correct the course.

This sequence was, thankfully, overcome. DOUKI hit some cool moves, Wato fired up, and the crowd was legitimately into large portions of this match. But you cannot forget that sequence, because an even worse progression of errors occurred later in the match, and this is where we have to bury Marty Asami.

During the G1 Climax 30 this fall, Marty Asami reffed a match with YOSHI-HASHI where YOSHI-HASHI’s opponent kicked out strongly, and as a result YOSHI-HASHI lightly landed besides Asami and rolled into him a bit against the ropes. ASAMI SOLD THE CONTACT. HE ACTED LIKE HE WAS HURT. This had nothing to do with the match, mind you. It wasn’t a planned spot, he just got back up and counted the next pinfall attempt WHILE SELLING HIS PAIN. It was preposterous. Tragically, his performance in this match’s ref bump was even more egregious. It’s crazy to spend so many words on this essentially meaningless league format match, but this one also deserves a light play-by-play. 

Wato went for the TTD and DOUKI slipped out behind him. Logically, DOUKI would have pushed Wato into a cornered Asami for a strong ref bump. When DOUKI pushed Wato, however, Wato came up short on Asami and held him up. So far, this was a fine ref bump fake-out. As Wato turned and walked to the center of the ring, DOUKI dropkicked him. Once again, the foolish enterprise of logical thinking suggested that Douki’s kick would propel Wato into Asami in the corner, the ref bump finally realized. 

INSTEAD, Wato started to fall backwards, IN PLACE, like he was taking a back bump. He then pushed off his legs as he was falling, apparently remembering mid-fall that he was supposed to take out the goddamn ref. The problem was that Asami had already turned around. The end result was that Wato fell onto Asami’s bent left calf, a situation that shouldn’t hurt in any way. But remember, this fuckface sold a guy brushing up against him despite it having absolutely no relevance to the match. Here, Asami tried to fall forward into the corner pad, somehow MISSED by coming up short, and yet still dropped like a sack of fucking potatoes and sold his head and neck. THE FUCK.

I mean, THE FUCK. The domino effect of suck that took place here was mind-numbing but hilarious, and amplified because PEOPLE ARE TURNING ON THIS PROMOTION DUE TO THE AMOUNT OF REF BUMPS. This is even worse than EVIL literally pulling Unno into the corner after a botched ref bump attempt; at least with that one they literally lampshaded the thing in real-time. This one was just like if someone at a haunted house tried to scare you and tripped on their gown. It’s funny, but stings when the disappointment sets in. I mean, why would Asami arch himself away from the corner pad? It’s a pillow and he’s done it dozens of times. THE FUCK.

This leads to more DOUKI giving Wato more pipe, some countering, and Wato finishing DOUKI with a well-executed TTD and even better RPP. Because the work was good outside of the two comically putrid gaffes, it’s hard to go lower than 3, and that is mainly because the crowd did seem into this. I want to root for Wato and the times where he is competent he looks like someone you could do something with, a nice physique with a cool moveset and a seemingly innate ability to connect with a crowd. Worth watching for those two sequences. ***

Best of the Super Juniors 27

My arms are spent after burying the geek gimmick and the geek ref in the last match. I gave that match three stars, as I rarely go below three stars. For me to go lower, below what I consider 60% and a D-, it would have to be a match of alarmingly disjointed misalignment, guileless structure, irritating dispassion, and insufficient chemistry, probably coupled with some kind of unsavory, odious, or unpleasant conceit running through the match. 

In other words, this match.

In this match, I had to keep track not only of the amount of times Taguchi’s ass came out, but the PROPORTION of ass that was out. At one point, Taguchi did the new trick he unveiled for this tour: allowing himself to be sunset flipped, then taking his whole ass out to sit down for the pin. In this case, Taguchi could only manage a 3/4ths ass counter, and BUSHI kicked out. Taguchi soon followed with a 3/4ths ass-out hip attack, and a 1/4th exposed buttocks plancha. His pants were up and down the rest of the match, at one point executing a 1/3rd indecent exposure roll-up sequence. 

Every great episode has an A-plot and a B-plot, and the B-plot here was equally repellent. The only conclusion you can come to is that BUSHI has some sort of complex about Ryusuke Taguchi’s grundle, because BUSHI’s most focused and successful offensive actions targeted that area, that area between one thing and another. First, BUSHI did the thing where a wrestler sends an opponent into the corner, slides outside, grabs their ankles so that they faceplant, then pulls them grundle first into the post. But that wasn’t enough for BUSHI; he worked it in with demented glee. Later, BUSHI had Taguchi grounded, grabbed Taguchi’s ankles, and grinded his boot into Taguchi’s grundle with a ferocity you wouldn’t expect from a geek that didn’t even take his shirt off for the match. And yet, THERE’S A THIRD EXAMPLE of this perineum assault , as Taguchi later crotches himself on the top rope, which BUSHI exploits by grinding it in yet again. 

These guys went a full minute less than Uemura-Hiromu but it felt like an eternity in comparison and by the end one begs for them to go home. Unfortunately, the ending was a weak-looking MX. The highlight of the match is how many times the Japanese commentary said the word “undertights.” **1/4

Best of the Super Juniors 27

The final two matches had some really subtle stuff going on, and they require rewatches to appreciate them fully. One thing to keep in mind when evaluating this match is Eagles’ interview with, which really frames things nicely:

Robbie: I think he should be more the Taiji Ishimori I grew up watching rather than the Bone Soldier that takes influence from BULLET CLUB. And me, heh…. 

–He was influenced by you? 

Robbie: Look at how he won, with that Bone Lock submission. He set that up with a 450 to the arm right? Is that familiar to you? 

–You often use the 450 to the leg to set up the Ron Miller. Robbie: 

He won’t admit it, but I think he picked up some of my tactics. So I’m going to be very careful about that match and not give him any hint about what I plan to do

On first view, the initial impression one might have had of this match is that they didn’t really play up the “former partners” aspect, even though the team wasn’t very long lived. But these are two methodical wrestlers that sprinkle athletic intensity throughout their strategic offense. And, as the quote above shows, the underlying story here was that they both knew each other intricately. That interview gives you a perspective that helps you see just how much these two mirror each other in the match. 

A smart aspect to this match was the symmetry of the two opponents. They both went for their submission finishers, and both went for them after working the relevant limbs, the arm for Ishimori and the leg for Eagles. But they both failed because they went for the submission too early, each time ending in a rope break. They each jumped the gun and went for their finishing hold without being thorough enough in the preparation. The fact that both did it suggests they both wanted to end it early out of respect for the other one’s technique and ability.

Likewise, they each failed on 450’s. This plays directly into the comments above. Eagles went for his 450 to the leg, but the risk backfired as Ishimori raised his knees as Eagles landed. There was GREAT selling by both guys on that. Ishimori hit a shoulder breaker immediately afterwards and went to the top himself to attempt his own 450, but Eagles flipped and raised HIS knees. It was great!

This match had some awesome back-and-forth counter exchanges that looked smooth but very natural. The Bloody Cross finish was a bit flat, though. It seemed like they had a few more movements left in this match, but the story of two technicians mirroring each other’s mistakes was an interesting twist. ***3/4


Best of the Super Juniors 27

Once again, the recent NJPW1972 interviews play a very helpful supplementary role in expanding the story of the match. While Despy might have scorched Master Wato out of existence in his, he also had this to say about SHO:

Desperado: So when I talk about him being inefficient, it’s all a lot of wasted motion. He hasn’t worked on how to move around effectively, he looks awkward. Now you look at a power guy like Manabu Nakanishi, and SHO’s maybe that type. But Nakanishi was able to move with a lot more grace, so when he used that power, it stood out. SHO doubles down on the power stuff and does all he can to wield that, and it doesn’t work. In a different way to Wato, Tanaka’s half-assed as well.

And yet it was SHO’s interview that provided the key clue to this match, especially considering El Desperado’s post-match promo. Here’s SHO on Despy:

–Do you rate him as a singles wrestler?

 SHO: I really do. He had an amazing match with Tomohiro Ishii this year as well. As much as he likes to cheat, I think he likes a real honest fight more. I think there’s a dedicated competitor in there. I want us to have a straight-up test of who the better man is. He’ll probably say something in return like ‘any means necessary’, or ‘whoever wins is the better man’, but I want to have a good clean fight.

Well, SHO, El Desperado very much does like to cheat, and he did so here to get the win. And this is what he said afterward (credit to the NJPW English twitter):

“The champion, albeit the tag champion is going to give you a crap of praise here, don’t leave. You can hang, you aren’t weak. You fought to the very end, but no matter. It’s the winner that’s always strongest.”

In the review of Night 4, we noted how wins and losses don’t matter as much to a Despy fan, because he puts so much heel effort into a loss that one admires those losses as much as the wins. Here’s another great thing about El Desperado: he actually puts effort into his cheating. That played out here, as Despy turned Unno around in order to hit his closed-fist straight right punch, followed by an exquisite Pinche Loco. It’s the turning of the ref that makes this so great. We see other wrestlers, particularly Shingo Takagi, use that straight right in clear view of the referee. Being New Japan, the referee will scowl disapprovingly, shake their head in disgust, and provide absolutely zero consequences. 

Therefore, Despy doesn’t need to turn the referee for this action, and yet he HAS to. El Desperado only works as a rule-breaker by having established rules to break. He means nothing in miasma; El Desperado needs structure to survive. In the sometimes lawless New Japan judiciary, a bad guy like El Desperado has to present the illusion of rule-breaking, because otherwise everything he does is an empty gesture. Even as everyone else disregards the rulebook and the impotent officials, El Desperado makes it seem like it is IMPERATIVE that his chicanery go unseen by the authorities.  In this way, no one in New Japan respects the rules more than El Desperado.

Now that I’ve praised him, let me acknowledge a fault. As John Caroll correctly pointed out on their Patreon (if you are able to swing $5, you certainly get your money’s worth), El Desperado’s selling is very loud and vocal. It’s a lot of screaming. Coupled with SHO’s tendency to do everything with his eyes bugging cartoonishly out of his goddamn head, this could have been a very grating match. Thankfully, it was not. 

The match aligned with what was said in the website interviews quoted above. Even though he mocked SHO’s aimless power, in this match SHO was too powerful and technically sound at first for El Desperado to find an opening, but that when SHO did leave an opening Despy pounced with inherent viciousness, especially to SHO’s left leg. The personality clash was very amusing; El Desperado is very much in the ZSJ vein where he has 100% self-satisfied confidence when things are going his way, and is 100% shook the second anything goes against him. SHO is fiery earnestness and fighting spirit personified. It’s a great juxtaposition.

Selling Quantifiers might look suspiciously at the closing stretch, as SHO powered through El Desperado’s attacks, storming at him several times and hitting not only a backbreaker, but that Last Ride backbreaker thing he does. Obviously, this should affect his knee. On first watch, it seemed like SHO forgot the knee entirely. BUT watch again. When you look closely, SHO actually IS selling the knee the whole time, the camera just doesn’t totally catch it. In fact, he’s selling it very well, and the knowledge of that selling adds quite a bit to the closing stretch, which ends with the aforementioned punch and pinche loco. I was thinking 3.75 on this, but when I rewatched the last 7 minutes I was so impressed that I’m bumping it up. It was great. If the rest of the match had been a bit tighter it could have been one of the matches of the tournament. ****


Mildly recommended, without a must-watch match but with some enriching matches at the top and bottom of the card. At 1:11:05 of ring time, it’s still shorter than any of the 19 G1 Climax shows this year. While it does not have the consistent excellence of Night 4, Night 5 of the Best of the Super Juniors delivered two subtly smoldering matches to close the show. It may take a little contemplation to piece everything together in those matches, and they definitely require the rewatching of some sequences to fully appreciate, and maybe even some reading of the supplementary materials on the website (though I suppose this review has done all the work for you), but they are indeed worthy show closers.