New Japan Pro Wrestling
Best of the Super Juniors 29 Night 3
May 18, 2022
Sendai Sun Plaza
Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

The second night of A Block action in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors takes us to Sendai, where Francesco Akira is headlining a New Japan show for the first time against Hiromu Takahashi. As always, here’s a look at what took place on the undercard:

– Tiger Mask & Yuto Nakashima def. Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa
– Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jado, & Master Wato def. Bullet Club (Dick Togo, El Phantasmo, & Gedo)
– Robbie Eagles, Titan, & Wheeler Yuta def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, El Desperado, & Taka Michinoku)

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
YOH (2) def. Clark Connors (0)

The first tournament bout of the night featured two men who were looking to get their first points on the board after falling short on Night 1. In the end, YOH would manage to pick up the win after hitting Clark Connors with the Direct Drive. A minute or two could’ve been shaved off this one (it clocked in at around twelve minutes), but as a whole, this was a fine contest. Connors would once again show off his power, while YOH was able to feed off the reactions (clap crowd reactions, but still) of the crowd in his home Prefecture as made his comeback. We got some solid back and forth down the stretch, which included Connors hitting his Pounce, which is apparently called the Jeep Flip (cool name for that move). YOH eventually went on an offensive flurry before hitting the aforementioned Direct Drive. Again, this was perfectly fine for its spot on the card, though not exactly memorable. ***1/4

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
Ace Austin (4) def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0)

Ace Austin came into this match looking to be the first wrestler in the tournament to reach four points, while Yoshinobu Kanemaru was just looking to get on the board. Kanemaru tried to jump Ace before the bell, but the X-Division Champion was ready for him. They brawled for a little bit on the floor before Kanemaru managed to take control. The middle portion of the bout revolved around Kanemaru trying to keep Ace in a side headlock. Eventually, Ace was finally able go on the offensive, and it became a move even affair in the second half. While Ace managed to hit his Fosbury Flop to the floor, Kanemura responded with a Satellite DDT and a beautiful moonsault that only managed to get a two count. That proved the last gasp for Kanemaru, however, as Ace Austin went on a final offensive flurry before hitting The Fold to secure the win. A pretty solid match from start to finish. Nice to see Ace Austin have a strong start to the tournament, though that probably means he’s going to eat some L’s on the back half of the tour as we get closer to the finals. Likewise, Kanemaru’s 0-2 start will probably set him up as a guy who will score some upsets, so keep an eye out for that. ***1/4

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
Alex Zayne (4) def. SHO (0)

For the second match in a row, we got some action before the bell even rang. Alex Zayne tried to go after SHO straight away (I believe Kevin Kelly referenced something that SHO did in one of the multi-person tags on the previous show), and he managed to drop him right on the apron as the bell finally rang. Zayne really controlled the early portion of the bout, which continued the story of SHO’s opponent taking the fight to him right from the jump so that SHO doesn’t have the opportunity to cheat. It’s actually a pretty nice story, and I hope they keep it going throughout the tour. SHO was finally able to turn the tide after using a chair on Zayne while the referee was checking on a young lion that SHO had attacked. SHO then started to work over the arm, but Zyane was able to fight back, and it became a more back-and-forth affair until….sigh….Dick Togo showed up. Fortunately, his presence in this one didn’t last long, as Zayne was able to thwart both Togo and SHO’s wrench in one fell swoop (killing two birds with one stone on that one). This set up the final stretch, which eventually saw Zayne put SHO away with the Taco Driver. A little surprising to see SHO start off 0-2, though like I mentioned previously with Kanemaru, this is probably setting up SHO for a big run of wins late. The match itself was solid, though a slight step down from the previous two bouts on this show. There was some good action, though there were also a few rough points (particularly a moonsault to the floor from Zayne). I’m very thankful that the House Of Torture nonsense has been kept to a miminum so far, though I’m worried that this won’t be the case for long. ***

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
Taiji Ishimori (4) def. Ryusuke Taguchi (0)

For the third straight match, we had one wrestler moving to 2-0 while the other suffered their second straight loss. This time, it was Taiji Ishimori who got his second win, while Ryusuke Taguchi once again came up short. I thought this was a much more tolerable Taguchi bout compared to the one he had with Hiromu on Night 1….for the most part (I’ll get to that in a second). The bout got off to a clean and lighthearted start as we got a pretty basic opening exchange followed by Taguchi getting Ishimori to do a little bit of his Sailor Boy dance, which was actually pretty funny (Ishimori’s reaction really sold it well when he realized what Taguchi got him to do). The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion didn’t let that moment last though, as he went right on the attack. He utilized the ring bell hammer once they spilled out onto the floor, and added insult to injury by sending Taguchi balls first into the ring post. Taguchi finally got in some offense when he hit a big high cross to the floor after avoiding Ishimori’s sliding German Suplex.

The rest of the bout featured the usual back-and-forth offense you would expect from the closing stretch of a New Japan match, and it had the potential to finish on a strong note…..until the finish. Ishimori tried for a sunset flip, and Taguchi responded by pulling his pants down in (I guess) an attempt to put his bare ass in Ishimori’s face. Ishimori countered into another pin and managed to sneak away with the win, though it looked like he had his hands right on Taguchi’s crack. Kevin Kelly’s reaction to this finish on commentary was very appropriate. Ew. A good match, but the finish definitely put a damper on it. ***1/4

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
Hiromu Takahashi (4) def. Francesco Akira (2)

Believe it or not, this main event was the only tournament match on the entire show with two wrestlers who had already scored points. This was a big moment for Francesco Akira. His first main event in New Japan, and it’s against the guy who’s been (aside from that long period of time he was out due to his neck injury) at the top of the Junior Heavyweight division for a number of years. At seventeen minutes, this was the longest match of the entire tournament so far, but I thought they did a really good job filling that time. The two went right after each out at the start, and they immediately got into a strike exchange. From there, the duo continued to exchange moves at a pretty quick pace until Akira gained the advantage and started to slow things down a bit. Hiromu was finally able to connect with a running headscissors, and from there, the pace picked back up. Akira once again utilized Will Ospreay’s Cheeky Nandos kick (which he’s now calling Brutta Faccia or Ugly Face), while Hiromu busted out some of his usual big match offense. It looked like Akira was on a roll late in the bout (connecting with moves like his wild twisting neckbreaker and a poison rana), but when he went for the Fireball, Hiromu avoided him, and piled on some offense of his own before definitely putting Akira away with Time Bomb 2.

These two had a great match that was easily the best bout on the entire show (it really wasn’t even close). Even for a bout that was seventeen minutes long, it felt like there was nonstop action throughout, and it kept me engaged the whole way through. Hiromu, to the surprise of nobody, delivered again in a big spot. As for Akira, I thought he had a much better showing here than he did against SHO on Night 1 (though that isn’t really hard when you consider the House Of Torture stuff). He got to test himself against one of the top junior heavyweights in New Japan, and I thought he did a really good job. We’ll see how the rest of his tournament goes, but this bout will definitely be a highlight for Akira regardless of where he eventually finishes in the final standings. ****

Final Thoughts

If I had to rank the three Best of the Super Juniors shows thus far, I would place Night 3 firmly in between Night 1 and Night 2. It was definitely a better show than Night 1 as a whole (having an awesome main event certainly helped), though Night 2 was easily the most consistent show with regards to match quality. Hiromu Takahashi and Francesco Akira put on a great main event that’s definitely worth checking out. In terms of the undercard tournament bouts, none of them were bad by any means, though at the same time, none of them really stood out. For me, at least, they all floated around in that ******1/4 range. If you’re a fan of any of the wrestlers involved, or if you’re just a completionist who has to see every bout in the tournament, then I’m sure you will have reasons to check out the other bouts. However, if you’re pressed for time, the main event is the only thing you need to see.

A Block standings as of Night 3

Ace Austin – 4 Points
Alex Zayne – 4 Points
Hiromu Takahashi – 4 Points
Taiji Ishimori – 4 Points
Francesco Akira – 2 Points
YOH – 2 Points
Clark Connors – 0 Points
Ryusuke Taguchi – 0 Points
SHO – 0 Points
Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 0 Points