[The annual light heavyweight tournament hosted by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) begins, as the Best of the Super Junior 29 (BOSJ) kicks off. In this tournament, 20 competitors are split into two even blocks of 10. Each competitor faces the other in their block once, earning 2 points for any win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for any loss (and both wrestlers get 0 if there is no clear winner, such as a double countout). The overall winners of each block will go on to face each other in the final, and the winner of that match will receive an IWGP Championship match against the defending champion, Taiji Ishimori at Dominion.]
In the main event of Night 1, the reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Taiji Ishimori, faces off with a former five-time Junior Tag Team Champion in YOH, while Ryusuke Taguchi will battle the former three-time BOSJ winner, and incumbent three-time winner, Hiromu Takahashi. Francesco Akira will be making his NJPW debut in the BOSJ 29, as he faces off with The House of Torture’s Murder Machine, SHO, while long time Japanese wrestling veteran Yoshinobu Kanemaru will face a mainstay of Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), Alex Zayne. Kicking off the tournament action for the year and for this first night, former Young Lion, Clark Connors, will have the unenviable task of battling Impact Wrestling’s Ace Austin. The event will also see three preview tag team contests, as wrestlers from the B Block team up with either each other or their NJPW stablemates in preparation for Night 2.
+ Ryusuke Taguchi vs Hiromu Takahashi (A Block Match): this started off with some good comedy, but eventually settled into just a good match. Taguchi often falls into the ‘Yano role’ of playing spoiler over the wrestlers with an actual chance of winning (despite Taguchi having won this before, many years ago) so it was bold to put him against Hiromu so early. Still, with two professionals in there this was perfectly fine
+ SHO vs Francesco Akira (A Block Match): this was really impressive, and probably the best match of this first night of action. I’m already a big fan of SHO and after just this one match, I can see a huge upside for Akira. SHO is arguably the one to watch in this side of the bracket, for my money
+ Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Alex Zayne (A Block Match): with a pro like Kanemaru, this was always going to be perfectly fine. I’m expecting something big from Zayne in this A Block, and while it didn’t happen here, there was more than enough to keep things interesting
+ El Lindaman, Jado & Titan vs Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku): of all the prelim tags, this was easily the best. There is a really interesting story brewing on the Suzuki-gun side of things, but Lindaman and Titan are really good (and Jado is also there…). I enjoyed this
+ BULLET CLUB (Dick Togo & El Phantasmo) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi): it was good fun to see Shingo tear it up with the juniors again, especially someone as good as Phantasmo. Phantasmo and BUSHI are two of my favourites in the B Block, and I look forward to their match. This was inconsequential, but fun
– Taiji Ishimori vs YOH (A Block Match): commentary spent much of the time talking about how disappointing YOH has been, and I always find that to be a risky thing to do, because if YOH then wins, then Ishimori looks like a geek who couldn’t even beat YOH; if Ishimori wins, then YOH just confirms all the things commentary has been saying. There was very little that stands out about this match, and the commentary only sealed the deal for me
– Ace Austin vs Clark Connors (A Block Match): this was great, but it was perfectly acceptable, though somewhat lacklustre as the tournament opener. I am hoping Ace Austin in particular can do something to really impress me in this tournament. Connors had made his mark on NJPW Strong, so it will be interesting to see if the local Japanese crowd can get behind him the way the western audience has
– Wheeler Yuta, Kosei Fujita, Ryohei Oiwa & Yuto Nakashima vs Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask), Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato: Wheeler Yuta and Robbie Eagles are the two to fight next, and both have developed a bit of an attitude lately, which makes me think the match should be pretty good. But this was a very standard tag team match, especially considering Yuta was leading three young lions, and Tenzan was on the other side
> Please note that only the early shows (I think first four nights) will have preliminary tag team matches. Soon, all A Block and B Block matches will take place on the same night.
Should you watch this event: Every year, I decide that one block is going to be nothing but bangers, and the other is going to be ‘good but not great’. The A Block this year seems to be the latter. Every year, however, I am also wrong. So here’s hoping things pick up in the A Block going forward. Keep an eye out for SHO, Akira, Hiromu and Ishimori, though.