Apparently, no one is watching this Best of the Super Juniors, or perhaps no one is willing to admit that they are willingly devoting time out of the blip of history that they take breath to watching this tournament. Because no one on this site has been able to review any of the first three shows, here is a brief rundown and overview of the participants thus far, Night 4’s matches included.

First, the card placement averages and main event distributions. This is how strongly everyone in Best of the Super Juniors 28 is booked, and I think it gives a very clear indication of where everyone is slotted:

8 Points (4-0)

I’m not sure what else SHO can be compared to at this point; I’ve already compared his ludicrous facial expressions to Marty Feldman, and those pre-dates the defection to House of Torture. I’m sure it would be too mean to bring certain mayors into this, but it’s crossed my mind, it’s crossed all of our minds.

SHO’s selling is outrageous. In his match against BUSHI, he was tossed int the barricade and pranced and preened like some caricature on an old variety show. I guess he’s supposed to be strung out or something? Is that why he stumbles around, baffled by the imagery around him, until he feels a relentless urge to fix something and goes rummaging through his toolkit?

The matches have been adequate. I suppose the matches are secondary to SHO’s preposterous character work, and the fuckery that imbues the ending of every one of his matches. It’s heat, no doubt but Toleration Heat. One tolerates it. One doesn’t seek it out, nor have the urgency to ever seek it out. It just exists, to be vacantly watched, never absorbed, never retained. I don’t care if SHO wins or loses.

I admire his willingness to feed the face and look like a buffoon. House of Torture are definitively not selfish heels; if anything, they might want to take more. That is, up until the part where the wrestling stops and in its place emerges all the parts that demand you remember this is fucking fake. Because the first two nights, the entire House of Torture interfered in such a brutally artless way that it corrodes investment. At least, until it pays off, but even then it’s not something I yearn for. I simply accept its existence and I will enjoy the comeuppance, divorced from context and disconnected from both past and future.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru
6 Points (3-1)

Kanemaru is the proper balance of complete nonsense and highfalutin disregard. When Kanemaru walks to the ring, his face is aplomb with disdain for his opponent, for the audience, and for the concept of professional wrestling itself.

On Night 1, Kanemaru scored a hilarious decision over Ishimori, tossing a Young Lion into Bone Soldier at 19 and scrambling back between the ropes. Nobu has been working fairly hard to make it seem like he’s not working hard, clinically dismantling Hiromu’s leg on Night 3 (a brilliant precursor to Hiromu’s leg woes on Night 4). Of course, it is impossible to out-fuckface Yoshinobu Kanemaru, as ELP discovered on Night 2. Kanemaru was simply quicker on the kick-to-dick.

For his preening insouciance, Kanemaru has been working assiduously on this tour and, while one has to wonder whether he can hold up over eleven matches in a very quick month, worker boots Kanemaru is a treasure. Every match of his is worth seeking out.

Taiji Ishimori
6 Points (3-1)

I have been exhaustively laudatory towards Ishimori. I reiterate: he has been the best Junior in New Japan since the return from the initial pandemic hiatus in June 2020. Anyone that still trods out skepticism towards Ishimori’s motivation or commitment are stuck in the past and haven’t been watching. This guy is putting forth tremendous effort and has done so for a long time now.

Ishimori has been so smooth, just flawless execution with the sort of composed, logical sequencing that one appreciates the more you contemplate a match. His match with El Desperado on Night 3 of BOSJ28 was yet another brilliant bit of reversal sequence apogee, everything seamlessly circumfluent and with remarkable dexterity and inventiveness. A mesmerizing and consummately virtuosic pairing.

One thing I do have to nick him on: when Kanemaru tossed the Young Lion into him, which cost Ishimori the match… he has to lay the boots to Fujita there. There’s no excuse. If it was Suzuki, there’d be only two Young Lions left. He also broke your cool samurai mask in the pre-match aisleway attack, and now you have to wear a baseball cap and sheet like you’re Mick Jones in the Rock the Casbah video. How was Ishimori not going absolutely ballistic in the post-match? No excuses. Disgraceful. Ignominious. Opprobrious. The fuck…

Hiromu Takahashi
5 Points (2-1-1)

Hiromu has been quietly effective thus far. His slate is heavily weighted towards the middle, when he takes over from Despy for a stretch of main events. Hiromu has worked smartly, starting out with an incredible 3-minute sprint with YOH and working leg matches against the Suzuki-gun boys.

His selling has been exceptional. He carried over the leg work from the Kanemaru match to the Desperado match sensationally well. He has a distinct lack of chemistry with SHO, but he still made SHO look good enough to render another mark against the preposterous interference, which nullified Hiromu’s efforts on SHO’s behalf.

4 Points (2-2)

As I’ve said many times, DOUKI is the Prince of Korakuen (YSH-HSH being Mr. King). This held firm as DOUKI won his first two matches at Korakuen, equaling his all-time BOSJ point record.

What you get with DOUKI is sublime effort. Unfortunately, he ran into a very languid and excessively ruminative YOH, who forced DOUKI to work a pace that does not favor DOUKI (or YOH, to be honest). DOUKI needs the kind of worker that can control DOUKI with craftsmanship, and an innate sense of when to let DOUKI bust loose with his fervent panache. The match with ELP on Night 3 was a tremendous example of that.

4 Points (2-2)

BUSHI sucks.

Ryusuke Taguchi
4 Points (2-2)

Taguchi is testing the limits of extreme polarities, stretching both decency and indecency to molecular levels. On one side, the immense stupidity normally imbued within his matches has reached stunning levels of inanity. In the BUSHI match, the first FIVE FULL MINUTES was devoted to BUSHI, who sucks, running a gauntlet of ways to batter and distort Taguchi’s poor, tortured perineum. Before the SHO match, he came to the ring wearing one of those miner’s headlamps. So Ryusuke Taguchi is either very concerned about House of Torture interference, or he’s a massive fan of Geologist from Animal Collective.

On the other hand, Taguchi’s match with Robbie Eagles was fucking gear. There were moments of stupidity, yes, but those evaporated once Eagle started taunting Taguchi and slapping his head in a peremptory and demeaning manner. Taguchi went into Serious Gooch status, laying into Eagles with uncharacteristic rabidity and proffering an intense leg v. leg match.

His backstage comments have also reflected this. They’ve been forthright and intent on proving his worth in the division. He’s soberly held the undercard together.

Robbie Eagles
4 Points (2-2)

Akin to Ishimori, Eagles is a stalwart of the division and provides some much-needed vigor, and rigor, to the undercard, which is unfortunately where he’ll find himself most of the tournament.

But then again, he also has Cruella de Vil hair and literal clown pants. It took me a while to figure out the pants, when he started coming out recently with those red and blue pants, which are either new or something I just never noticed. I just couldn’t put my finger on it, then I realized: Robbie’s pants design, in that particular colour combination, are almost literally clown pants. The question: who has clownier clown pants – Robbie Eagles classic Ringling Brothers sawdust-and-vomit clown pants, or FinJuice’s more artistically European, starry and mismatched pattern clown pants?

Unfortunately for Robbie, because he is a bit too pure of a babyface the turning points of his matches are less about his own assertiveness and ability; they tend to come down to the level of savviness in his opponents. And so, Kanemaru and Ishimori have outsmarted and outmaneuvered him, while Master Wato was outclassed by Eagles’ depth and El Phantasmo was foiled by Eagles composure.

El Desperado (C)
3 Points (1-2-1)

The number is not as immaculate as one would expect for a champion, but we only need to look at the example of Shingo Takagi in the G1 Climax 31 this year to explain the dynamics here.

As with Shingo, El Desperado is carrying the load of this tournament in its early stages. Shingo main evented four of the first five nights of  A Block. Shingo walked away from a hellacious torrent of challengers (Ishii, Sabre, KENTA, Ibushi) with a 2-2 record. He then rattled off three straight wins, giving himself a plausible chance to win the block going into the final night.

Despy’s BOSJ was front-loaded as well. SHO, Ishimori, and Hiromu all in the first slate. Now he has a stream of dreck and chaff, with only Eagles a legitimate threat. He is likely to run the table until he meets ELP on the final night.

As far as carrying the tournament? Despy has main evented every night, drawing houses on par with what New Japan has been delivering at the gate this year, and he’s been putting in a ton of ringtime. More than he ever has.

Desperado is averaging 24:30 a match thus far. That’s well past the pace of anyone in the G1 besides Okada. At this rate, and considering the amount of mains and semi-mains he has coming up, he may break some BOSJ records.

Of course, he’s also putting forth excellent, razor-sharp matches.

Master Wato
2 Points (1-3)

Wato has substantively improved this year, a real gem in the endless cascade of meaningless multi-man tag matches that have bombarded our sensibilities and corroded our fidelity to this company. Wato’s kicks have been sharp and accurate, and he’s finally figured out how to execute a bridge and a jacknife without looking comically inept.

Wato’s been adequate in this tournament. He’s still exploring his persona and his in-ring demeanor. Desperado and Ishimori, predictably, danced circles around Wato, but also gave him a ton of shine. He accepted the opportunities well.

Against Robbie… he looked out of place. For some reason, Eagles and Wato decided to have a string of those blistering reversal sequences to start their match, harkening back to the cup of coffee Dean Malenko and Eddy Guerrero had in ECW, or any number of WCW Cruiserweight matches. To accomplish something this sophisticated, both wrestlers need to be at the same speed.

Wato was not at Robbie Eagles speed. Wato’s strengths are selling and kicking. He looked woefully incongruous in the exchanges. In fact, Robbie ended up looking a bit ungainly himself, but that’s almost certainly a symptom of Wato growing increasingly out of position as the sequence ripened. Still, they recovered very well. It ended up being a captivating little match. Wato’s progressing.

El Phantasmo
2 Points (1-3)

ELP’s dominant character trait at the moment is a mesmerizing knack for horrendous decision making, instigated by a baleful amalgamation of his hubris, his ambition, and his fixation on either satirizing or canonizing Kenny Omega. And so, instead of just putting Wato away on Night 1 with his loaded boot superkick Sudden Death gimmick, he abandoned that position in order to attempt…wait for it… a fucking One Winged Angel. Wato jacknife pinned the fool. Then ELP did the exact same thing against Eagles a few nights later.

Of course, that’s made up with the loaded boot, which is super over. Just a tremendous throwback. ELP plays it really well, too. As shown in the DOUKI match, the boot also hurts ELP, which explains why he doesn’t just use it all the time (he hurt himself landing on his feet attempting an Asai moonsault). It’s a great gimmick and the time invested in it has already paid off.

ELP has started on several bad notes: humiliated by Wato on Night 1, disciplined by Robbie Eagles on Night 4, outfoxed by Kanemaru on Night  2. Just a disastrous opening salvo. But, ELP faces Despy on the final night, and that just screams spoil city. In fact, despite only being one main event, ELP is actually the third strongest booked wrestler in the tournament, behind Desperado and Hiromu.

As with the G1 Climax, these things matter. This very strongly suggests that ELP is going on a strong run, as will Despy, and both will meet with pretty high stakes on the final night. If it is the main event, expect big things. Like the G1, the BOSJ final night main events usually end up being winner-take-all, the champion usually loses, etc. If ELP-Despy is the main event of Night 11, ELP is going to win and move on to the final.

0 Points (0-4)

YOH looks like one of the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange left the milk bar, got lost on the way to the author’s house, fell onto a boat, sailed to Seoul, and accidentally joined a K-pop group like EXO.

YOH’s first match, with Hiromu, was awesome. It was the wrestling equivalent of the 50m sprint in swimming. They took one breath, put their heads down, and just went ballistic for three straight minutes.

That was the end of YOH’s enchanting nature in this year’s BOSJ, as his output since has been mostly snoozefests. Whether that’s by choice is worth considering. YOH’s oddly fidgety backstage comments suggest some sort of nervous breakdown is imminent.

Whatever story they are telling with SHO, it culminates with a gigantic showdown with his former tag team partner on Night 11. If Despy-ELP screams Spoil City, this one bellows Spoil Cosmos with stertorous volume. It’s unfathomable that YOH does not get the fall there, but what will the stakes be? Does YOH gain revenge by costing SHO a spot in the final? Does SHO come in 10-0 and YOH 0-10, and YOH spoils a perfect run? Ultimately, all that matters for YOH in this BOSJ is the win over SHO. That validates everything.

Don’t fret, Team YOH. We’ve said a lot about our boy, but I still believe that he will take our lies and make them true, somehow.

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