With the Best of the Super Juniors Finals set for Friday (Editor’s note: It will already have happened by the time this review goes up), I thought I would take a truncated look at the final two block nights of the tour. Instead of breaking down each match individually, I’ll have the results from that night, followed by general thoughts on the show (bouts that stood out, bouts that didn’t exactly deliver, and so on). The one aspect of this tournament that really surprised me is how quickly it went by, and how much they crammed into the space of about two weeks. Part of it was (obviously) down to the fact that the last half of the tour featured both blocks on the same shows, but it was still an interesting contrast to the last several years of G1 Climax tournaments, which have been split block shows.
First up is Night 11, which took place on May 29 from the Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – Master Wato (6) def. El Lindaman (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – Titan (6) def. DOUKI (6)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – YOH (8) def. Alex Zayne (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – TJP (8) def. BUSHI (6)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Hiromu Takahashi (10) def. Clark Connors (6)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Ryusuke Taguchi (6) def. Ace Austin (10)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – El Phantasmo (12) def. Wheeler Yuta (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Yoshinobu Kanemaru (6) def. SHO (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Taiji Ishimori (12) def. Francesco Akira (6)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – Robbie Eagles (10) def. El Desperado (10)
As a whole, I would say that I enjoyed Night 11 more than Night 12. This show really continued the general theme that’s been evident throughout the tournament. While you’ll rarely get a match that would be considered great (El Phantasmo vs. Robbie Eagles has been the exception on this tour), the majority of the matches on any given night will range from good to very good. If I had to pick a worst match, I would say Ace Austin vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, but even then, I would still consider it to be one of Taguchi’s better matches on the entire tour (of course, that’s not saying much). The first half was highlighted by a great match between Hiromu Takahashi and Clark Connors, which I gave ****. This was an awesome bout that well exceeded my expectations, with loads of hard-hitting action as Connors really took the fight to Hiromu before the former multi-time Best Of The Super Juniors winner put him away. With Katsuyori Shibata at ringside, you just knew that Connors would be looking to impress, and by the time the dust settled, he did just that, despite coming up short.
In terms of the second half of the card, the main highlight was the main event, as Robbie Eagles picked up a HUGE submission victory over El Desperado to (at this point) stay alive in the B Block Standings. I went ****1/4 on this one. As you would expect, these two had an excellent contest that featured some really good action throughout, as well as the story of both men going after the other’s leg to set up their respective leg submissions. It was really nice to not only see Eagles pick up another notable win (on a bigger show, too), but it was also cool to see more than two wrestlers with a realistic chance to win the block going into the final night. The semi-main event was another exciting match as well, with Taiji Ishimori scoring a win over Francesco Akira to further cement his spot at the top of the A Block standings. I thought both men worked very well together, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch down the line. I gave this one ****, as I felt it was right on park with Clark Connors vs. Hiromu Takahashi. This tournament was the first time I had seen Akira (after hearing about his work in All Japan), and he had a number of matches that I thought were very strong. I’m definitely intrigued to follow in New Japan going forward, and if the card for the Finals in Budokan Hall is any indication, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles could be in his future.
The rest of the show featured matches that were all in the aforementioned good to really good category. El Phantasmo vs. Wheeler Yuta and DOUKI vs. Titan were both matches that I would say are solid watches, if you have the time. I went ***1/2 on both of those. Again, a largely enjoyable show from beginning to end with a couple of great matches and a number of really good ones. Another notable highlight saw Yoshinobu Kanemaru officially knock SHO out of the tournament in a bout that only lasted two or three minutes. I’ve really had a lot of fun watching these short Kanemaru matches. In terms of being the guy who could be seen as the “night off” (much like Toru Yano in the G1 Climax), Kanemaru is much….much better in that role than say, Taguchi.
Next, is the final night of block competition, Night 12. This show took place in the Toyama Techno Hall (what a name for a venue) in Toyama.
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – Master Wato (8) def. DOUKI (6)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Yoshinobu Kanemaru (8) def. Ryusuke Taguchi (6)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – BUSHI (8) def. El Lindaman (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Clark Connors (8) def. Alex Zayne (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – Wheeler Yuta (10) def. TJP (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – SHO (10) def. YOH (8)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – Titan (8) def. Robbie Eagles (10)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Francesco Akira (8) def. Ace Austin (10)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 B Block – El Desperado (12) def. El Phantasmo (12)
Best of the Super Juniors 29 A Block – Hiromu Takahashi (12) def. Taiji Ishimori (12)
Of course, the big story coming out of this particular show was the deciding matches in each block. After Robbie Eagles was officially eliminated from contention earlier in the night by Titan (in what I thought was a pretty good match at ***½), El Desperado and El Phantasmo met in the B Block final in the semi-main event. Desperado had to win to advance to the Finals, whereas all Phantasmo needed to do was not lose (a win or a draw would’ve gotten him to the Finals). This led to the opening portion of their match being on the slower side, as Phantasmo tried to stall so he could run out the clock. Once the action did get going, these two had a really strong bout with some very good back-and-forth action down the stretch (I gave it ****). The finish was super interesting, as Desperado won after hitting the Pinche Loco, followed by the CR2. It’s not every day that you see someone get pinned clean after being hit with their own finisher. I’m curious to see if that’s meant to signal some sort of change for Phantasmo in the near future.
In terms of the A Block, Ace Austin came into the night technically still alive in the block, but the scenario that Austin needed to play out would’ve resulted in an unbreakable three-way tie, which was highly unlikely to happen. So Austin coming up short against Francesco Akira was no real surprise, but it did have a very interesting finish. Akira delivered his Fireball double knees off the apron to Austin on the floor, and this led to Austin getting counted out. Now this wasn’t the usual “guy struggling to get in the ring and just missing it” type of count out. Austin was pretty much knocked out, and never even came close to recovering in time. The match itself was a lot of fun while it lasted (I went ***1/2), and I wouldn’t mind seeing these two go at it again.
The main event of this card saw Hiromu Takahashi defeat Taiji Ishimori to win the A Block and advance to the Finals. The bout itself was excellent, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. Hiromu’s previously injured leg came into play (as it has throughout the tournament since his loss to Yoshinobu Kanemaru), though he was able to overcome it, and eventually forced Ishimori to pass out while locked in the D. A strong match that I went **** on. There were some great exchanges in the closing stretch between the two. Hiromu going to the Finals marks the fourth time in five years that he’s done so. In fact, the only time he hasn’t gone to the finals in the last five years was 2019, and he was still out of action with his neck injury. While I’m confident that Desperado and Hiromu will have an awesome match, the way that things unfolded at the end of the blocks did feel a little….stagnant, at least in terms of who the main contenders were going into Night 12. It was cool to finally see some fresh faces in a New Japan tournament for the first time since the COVID shutdowns, but at least in this instance, the same old faces were still the only ones in play by the end of it.
In terms of the rest of Night 12, outside of the four matches I mentioned, there really wasn’t anything else that I would consider must-see. If you’re someone who enjoys some good technical wrestling, I’d recommend TJP vs. Wheeler Yuta. Outside of that, the only other notable match on the undercard was SHO vs. YOH, but it was for all the wrong reasons. It was easily one of the worst matches of the tournament, though in my view, the Ryusuke Taguchi vs. YOH match was definitely worse. It’s really disappointing to see YOH having two of the worst bouts of the entire tournament. He’s technically sound, but he can be just a total bore at times. The aforementioned bout with Taguchi was one of the worst singles matches that I’ve seen in New Japan in recent memory, while the SHO match on this show was just a combination of the worst of both guys in their current iterations.
To close out, here are the final standings of both blocks, with their records. Funny enough, both block results were almost identical, with two wrestlers at twelve points, two wrestlers at ten points, five wrestlers at eight points, and one wrestler at six points.
Hiromu Takahashi – 12 Points (6-3)
Taiji Ishimori – 12 Points (6-3)
SHO – 10 Points (5-4)
Ace Austin – 10 Points (5-4)
YOH – 8 Points (4-5)
Clark Connors – 8 Points (4-5)
Alex Zayne – 8 Points (4-5)
Francesco Akira – 8 Points (4-5)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 8 Points (4-5)
Ryusuke Taguchi – 6 Points (3-6)
El Desperado – 12 Points (6-3)
El Phantasmo – 12 Points (6-3)
Robbie Eagles – 10 Points (5-4)
Wheeler Yuta – 10 Points (5-4)
BUSHI – 8 Points (4-5)
El Lindaman – 8 Points (4-5)
Master Wato – 8 Points (4-5)
TJP – 8 Points (4-5)
Titan – 8 Points (4-5)
DOUKI – 6 Points (3-6)