New Japan Pro Wrestling
Best of the Super Juniors 29 Night 8
May 25, 2022
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Best of the Super Juniors 29 hits Korakuen Hall for its second show of a triple shot run. I thought the first night at Korakuen was a great show, so I was looking forward to watching this one. One thing I’ll note before I get to the actual review is that this crowd was noticeably vocal throughout the entire show. They weren’t chanting out names or constantly yelling like normal, but there were a lot of collective gasps, laughs, and vocal reactions to spots and outcomes in practically every single match. This felt like a crowd that was just itching to be done with the COVID noise restrictions, and those moments of audible reaction helped elevate this show just as much as the wrestling did.

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
Ace Austin (8) def. Alex Zayne (6)

It’s remarkable how over Zayne and Austin already are with the Japanese fans. Zayne even got followed by Taco Bell Japan on Twitter recently and they only follow two other accounts! Much like the previous night’s opener between Zayne and Francesco Akira, this match started the night off real hot with plenty of fast-paced sequences that had both men zipping around the ring. Austin in particular looked so crisp as he typically does. A big part of this match was Zayne and Austin’s friendship and the fact that they knew each other’s moves so well. That played into moments like Zayne being the first to block Austin’s playing card paper cut spot (Austin later revealed a second playing card hidden up his sleeve, so the spot happened anyway), along with Zayne also being the first to successfully trip up Austin on the apron while the latter was showing off his sweet parkour moves. At one point, Zayne went up top for the Cinnamon Twist, only for Ace to back away, pleading with Zayne to show mercy because they’re friends. This ended up being a ruse as Zayne got suckered into a small package for a near fall. This led to the closing sequence which had some more exciting back-and-forth exchanges. Zayne hit the Baja Blast and went up again for the Cinnamon Twist, but Austin crotched him on the top rope, hit a really cool upside-down headscissors from the apron that sent Zayne tumbling into the center of the ring, then immediately spiked Zayne with The Fold to win the match. Zayne and Austin hugged afterwards. This was a great opener between two guys who have taken to Japan like ducks to water. Not only would I love to see them get brought back, I think it would be cool for them to team up in Super Jr. Tag League. ****

Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block
DOUKI (6) def. BUSHI (4)

Riding the high of beating El Phantasmo on Night 7, DOUKI dove headfirst into his match with BUSHI… literally. Early on DOUKI did a crazy suicide dive that sent him and BUSHI crashing into the timekeeper’s table, sending it askew. BUSHI paid him back later with a BUSHI Rocket. This was a fairly pedestrian match, all things considered; BUSHI didn’t even take off his t-shirt. DOUKI locked in Italian Stretch #32 a couple times, though BUSHI kept getting the ropes. After blocking Daybreak with a Codebreaker, BUSHI went up for MX, but DOUKI countered it directly into the Italian Stretch #32. This time BUSHI couldn’t escape and he verbally submitted, meaning the DOUKI Chokey actually won a damn match! Three cheers for the talented Mr. DOUKI, he’s on a winning streak and is tied for the most points that he’s ever gotten in a Super Juniors tournament. ***

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

Up to this point, I’d been a little disappointed with Connors’ run in this tournament. Not to say he’d been bad, but rather that he looked like he was trying to find his footing. That changed with this match. Clark came off like a beast here, throwing around the lighter Akira with ease. Akira, to his credit, bumped like a madman for all of Connors’ big moves, his speed acting as a good foil for Clark’s power. You could also sense Akira’s desperation in wanting to win and get past the two-point hump, even trying to get Clark counted out much like SHO tried on Night 5. Unfortunately Akira fell short again as Connors was able to put him down with the Trophy Kill. Chris Charlton on commentary noted that with still just two points, Akira’s prospects of making the finals looked rather grim, especially if Taiji Ishimori won his next match and got to 10 points. Keep that in mind for later. ***1/2

Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block
Wheeler Yuta (6) def. Titan (2)

Kevin Kelly mentioned that Wheeler Yuta was no stranger to the lucha style, having been trained in the now defunct, lucha-influenced CHIKARA (which had its 20th anniversary on the day of the show, as a matter of fact). Yuta and Titan laid into each other early on with lots of hard chops, which Yuta eventually got the better of. Titan came back with a pair of cool tope suicidas. There was hardly any downtime in the match, which was the second shortest of the night at 7:01, but not many memorable highlights either. Titan hit his corner lariat that sends him shooting through the middle rope to the outside like Chris Hamrick (it always looks so wild), then set up for a springboard move, only to get intercepted in mid-air by Yuta’s dropkick. Yuta struck Titan with the Danielson elbows, then locked in the Seatbelt for the win. This was a decent match, but both guys have definitely had better ones in this tournament so far. ***

Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block
El Phantasmo (8) def. El Lindaman (6)

“Fuckin’ DOUKI,” said Phantasmo during his entrance. This was the battle of Cheeky Good vs. Cheeky Evil. ELP tried to do his usual obnoxious schtick at the start, but Lindaman didn’t put up with his shit, including a great spot early on when Phantasmo stepped on Lindaman’s back to do the Jackie Fargo strut, only for Lindaman to pop up behind him, German suplex ELP onto the back of his head, then soar over the top rope with a tope con hilo. Phantasmo took control and used his size advantage to hit a series of big moves on Lindaman. Lindaman fought back, and a desperate Phantasmo tried to pull a DOUKI by faking a springboard botch and clutching his leg in pain. The fact that ELP was nowhere near Lindaman when he went for it was pretty comical and obvious what he was going for. Again, Lindaman saw through the bullshit, as he blocked a small package and powered ELP up into a suplex. ELP kept hobbling on his leg though, begging the ref for a time out. A frustrated Lindaman pushed the ref out of the way and immediately got hit with Sudden Death and CR-II for the ELP win. Phantasmo of course did jumping jacks after the match because he’s an absolute jackass and a master at his character. This was a pretty good match that would have been great if it maybe went a little longer. ***3/4

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
SHO (4) def. Ryusuke Taguchi (2)

On the wackity schmackity scale, this was a 14 out of 10, or rather a 69 with Taguchi in there. It’s no surprise given these two are the most hijinks-heavy wrestlers in the whole tournament. SHO in particular has basically devolved into a full blown cartoon villain with his over the top goofy faces, maniacal laughter, and constant attempts at committing nefarious deeds. He’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the scrotum. The same is true for the rest of House of Torture, really; they’re the equivalent to Judge Doom and the Weasels. Taguchi came out wearing a head lantern to anticipate HoT turning out the lights in Korakuen, which is honestly pretty smart given what happened at the end. SHO dragged him through the curtain and poked his head back through a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining (or BxB Hulk, take your pick). Taguchi then did the same thing to SHO, except this time Taguchi’s head was moving up and down in the curtain. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Taguchi was teabagging SHO, especially when Taguchi walked back out with his trunks pulled down and his underwear showing. While SHO was incapacitated, Taguchi also replaced SHO’s rolled up black t-shirt in the corner with another one. SHO took control for a few minutes, then Taguchi used his wiles (and posterior) to fight back. An errant hip attack took out the referee, which led SHO to reach for the t-shirt, but instead of finding his trusty wrench inside, it was actually a banana. SHO sold this like someone kidnapped his child, screaming and flailing like a banshee. Taguchi locked in Oh My & Garankle, but then the lights went out! Errant camera flashes in the darkness showed Dick Togo trying to choke Taguchi with the garrote, but when the lights came back on, Taguchi was sitting with his bare ass right on top of Dick Togo’s face like an Abella Danger video. This got not only the loudest vocal reaction of the night, but one of the loudest I’ve ever heard in COVID-era Japanese wrestling. As SHO distracted the ref, Yujiro slid in and walloped Taguchi with the pimp cane. SHO limped over and covered Taguchi for the win as the rest of House of Torture, including EVIL, celebrated afterwards. If you like your wacky shenanigans in wrestling, this is the match for you. If not, well, you should probably skip it. Your guess is as good as mine, folks

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4) def. Taiji Ishimori (8)

Kanemaru had a quick night at the office against Hiromu on Night 7 and an even quicker one tonight. This was a mad dash to the finish from the opening bell, with Kanemaru hitting a big tilt-a-whirl DDT and British Fall to set up for Deep Impact right away. Ishimori caught him and hit Cypher Utaki, then grabbed his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. As the ref argued with him, Kanemaru took a sip of his whiskey. Ishimori swung the belt and got a blast of Suntory mist to the face for his troubles. Kanemaru rolled up Ishimori with a casadora, then when Ishimori kicked out at 2, he applied a cross-legged version and that was enough to score the win. Kanemaru scampered to the back, giving a fist bump to a very happy TAKA Michinoku who was on Japanese commentary. At 2:07, this is the shortest match of the night and the entire tournament so far. Kanemaru extends his record over Ishimori to 13-1-1, with Ishimori’s sole win being an empty arena New Japan Cup 2020 match. Francesco Akira’s hopes stay alive. NR

Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block
TJP (4) def. Robbie Eagles (4)

Both of these men have been on top form in this tournament so far, so I was really looking forward to this one. There’s even a fun little story going in with TJP getting a good luck shoutout from fellow Filipino Manny Pacquiao, which annoyed Robbie because he’s also Filipino and didn’t get so much as a thumbs up emoji. This match reminded me of TJP’s match with El Desperado on Night 4, where there even though this was a first-time match, the style similarities between both guys created this amazing chemistry; it was like they’d been wrestling each other for years. Just when it felt like one guy had things in control, the other would pull off a neat counter. They went after different body parts to set up for their respective submission finishers, TJP attacking Robbie’s neck for the Pinoy Stretch and Eagles chipping away at TJP’s leg for the Ron Miller Special. It all came down to who was going to make that one big mistake, and this time it was Eagles, who went for the 450 Splash on TJP’s legs, only for TJP to get the knees up and lock in the Pinoy Stretch. After struggling in the hold, Robbie tapped out. This was a great match, just so smooth and fluid from beginning to end. ****

Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block
El Desperado (8) def. Master Wato (2)

I don’t know who beat up Master Wato more in this match, El Desperado or the English commentary. Kevin and Chris talked about the “great distaste” towards Wato amongst a lot of his fellow competitors and how they don’t want to help him grow as a wrestler. Charlton compared him to Wheeler Yuta, who is the same age, calling Wato a “cheap paper towel” as opposed to Yuta’s “knowledgable sponge,” being unable to suck up all these different influences and sort all the information out into a solidified game. Kelly also said the difference between the kind of match Kazuchika Okada gave El Desperado in New Japan Cup and the kind he gave Master Wato was night and day. They tried to give him some praise as well, but it was hard to ignore the greater amounts of critique. As for the match, it was standard stuff for the first half, with Despy eventually gaining the upper hand and attacking Wato’s leg to set up for Numero Dos. Wato came back with a big tornillo dive to the outside that caused a woman in the front row to fall backwards between the bench seats (she was okay). Then there was a weird moment where Wato went for his springboard back elbow, except Desperado was not in position to take it, so Wato awkwardly landed on him. Desperado immediately clutched his left arm in pain, and I thought “Wato, you absolute clod, if you injured this dude…” But the match continued without incident, and in a strange way that happy accident made it more dramatic as Desperado continued to sell the arm. When Wato put him in Vendaval and Despy screamed in pain, I bought a submission win. Desperado got to the ropes though, and after more back-and-forth, Desperado hit Wato with Pinche Loco and scored the win. Credit to Despy for taking advantage of a botch and playing up the arm injury because it turned a decent match into one that was pretty exciting by the end. ***3/4

Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block
YOH (6) def. Hiromu Takahashi (6)

There are a lot of bold, colorful personalities in this tournament; YOH is not one of them. He doesn’t have that spark that makes him jump off the page like Hiromu, like El Desperado, like El Phantasmo, hell like DOUKI even. He barely spoke at the BOSJ press conference. His merch is boring. His outfits have as much color as a bowl of plain oatmeal. YOH’s blandness has been a hindrance, and in a Korakuen main event like this against an antithesis of bland like Hiromu, there was a risk of him being outshone yet again. Thankfully, YOH turned on the jets for this one, doggedly attacking Hiromu’s left leg that was injured the night before against Kanemaru. “This is what I want to see, this is what YOH fans want to see,” said Kevin Kelly. YOH would not stop going after the leg, ramming it into the mat, hitting chop blocks and dragon screws legwhips, putting Hiromu in kneebars and the Figure Four. He was Tanahashi-like in how much he leaned into being the aggressive bully without actually coming off as a full-blown heel. Hiromu tried mounting a few comebacks, but his knee kept being an issue. Finally Hiromu fought back as we entered the final stretch of the match. There were some great nearfalls here, including a Five Star Clutch from YOH that got 2.999 and a very big gasp from the crowd. YOH went for Direct Drive, but Hiromu floated over and his leg buckled. Hiromu went for Time Bomb II, but this time YOH floated over and hit what looked like a Reverse Bloody Sunday dropped into a backbreaker. YOH followed it up with Direct Drive and scored the win, avenging his loss in last year’s BOSJ final, as well as his loss to Hiromu at Wrestling Dontaku a few weeks ago.

I thought this was the best match of the night and easily YOH’s best performance in the tournament to date. I’m not completely sold on him yet, but this did assuage some of my concerns about him. His post-match promo was also quite striking, where he admitted that he finds it difficult to express himself and his heart, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel things or love pro wrestling. That’s just who he is, and pro wrestling is supposed to be about freedom and being who you are. It was a moment of vulnerability that was more endearing than anything YOH has done in a long time. As for Hiromu, he sold the left leg very well all throughout the match. My only critiques are that towards the end, YOH switched his attack to Hiromu’s right leg for a dramatic submission attempt, even though it was the left leg that had been damaged, and that YOH’s Direct Drive looked more like a butterfly suplex than the double underhook brainbuster that it normally looks like. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

This was another really good show in what has become a very enjoyable tournament. I admittedly didn’t keep up with last year’s BOSJ, but with the influx of new talent and growing sense of hope on the horizon, this year’s tournament has been an absolute pleasure to watch so far. Massive props to the lively Korakuen Hall crowd, who deserve as much praise as the wrestlers in making this show feel exciting. I’d recommend watching the whole thing, but if you’re not a fan of the hijinks, you can safely skip Taguchi vs. SHO, I won’t blame you. On to Night 9!


A Block

Taiji Ishimori – 8 points
Ace Austin – 8 points
YOH – 6 points
Hiromu Takahashi – 6 points
Alex Zayne – 6 points
SHO – 4 points
Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 4 points
Clark Connors – 4 points
Ryusuke Taguchi – 2 points
Francesco Akira – 2 points

B Block

El Desperado – 8 points
El Phantasmo – 8 points
Wheeler Yuta – 6 points
DOUKI – 6 points
El Lindaman – 6 points
TJP – 4 points
BUSHI – 4 points
Robbie Eagles – 4 points
Master Wato – 2 points
Titan – 2 points