[New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual light heavyweight tournament enters the home stretch. 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 there will receive an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match against the defending champion, Taiji Ishimori at Dominion.]
We’re into double digits, as day ten of the Best of the Super Junior 29 tournament kicks things into the final gear. In the main event, stablemates collide as El Desperado defends his equal top of the table position against the wildman DOUKI; Desperado has made no secret that he thinks DOUKI has underperformed of late, so it is certain that DOUKI will be looking to prove Desperado wrong. For the A Block, Hiromu Takahashi will enter the semi-main event still injured against the foreign standout Alex Zayne. As always, the eliminations will come harder and faster than any time previously, and with two men already eliminated — Ryusuke Taguchi in the A Block, and Titan in the B Block — anybody sitting on only 4 points by the end of this event will be mathematically eliminated from winning.
+ El Desperado (8 points) vs DOUKI (6 points) (B Block Match): this has tied Eagles/Phantasmo for me as match of the tournament. DOUKI is the underdog hero we never knew we wanted, but we always deserved, and Desperado is my boy forever – but he was a terrifying final boss of the Juniors in this match. One inside-out dive was almost deadly (perhaps literally, depending on just what they were meant to do) and I sat upright on my couch because I thought at least one guy was dead. This was incredible
+ Hiromu Takahashi (6 points) vs Alex Zayne (8 points) (A Block Match): this was really, really good. I have completely turned the corner on Zayne in the last few matches, and Hiromu is always at his best when you think he is going to win, and he kills himself for it anyway. There were two sick powerbombs in this match, one from each guy, and I am al for it. Zayne, you have won me over and I was a fool to have doubted you
+ Master Wato (4 points) vs Wheeler YUTA (6 points) (B Block Match): this was easily Yuta’s best match, but mostly because he was just demolishing Wato for 90% of the time between the bells. Wato has flashes of good stuff now and then, and Yuta is at his best when there is a story behind his matches, so something like ‘scratching and clawing to make the finals’ against Wato’s ‘will do anything to remain in contention’ was compelling enough
+ SHO (6 points) vs Ace Austin (10 points) (A Block Match): I didn’t like Austin’s chances going into this one, as SHO is back at his House of Torture best, and Austin already got the lucky(ish) win over Ishimori. I was therefore pleasantly surprised at the way this match went – win, lose or draw for either competitor – and it has reinforced my thoughts that Ace Austin has been the absolute standout of this tournament
+ Taiji Ishimori (8 points) vs Clark Connors (6 points) (A Block Match): this was a good match that would have been great if it had some more time. Connors got to really show off his power, and Ishimori had that aggressive streak to play with after his recent tournament results. Clark is still so new, but I really can see him in the mix for this junior title down the road
– Robbie Eagles (6 points) vs El Lindaman (8 points) (B Block Match): I’m ready to be proven wrong, but I just couldn’t get into this for the simple reason that I don’t believe either guy will win the block. Both guys already had their big showings against Desperado or ELP (or both), but I just truly think the finale will come down to those two, Despy or ELP. Watch me get proven wrong by this time tomorrow
– TJP (6 points) vs El Phantasmo (8 points) (B Block Match): I can’t believe I’m saying this about an ELP match, but this was hella boring. ELP looks absolutely destroyed after his match of the tournament against Eagles, and TJP is just not on ELP’s level as a character. I wish I liked this, but I didn’t
– Ryusuke Taguchi (2 points, eliminated) vs YOH (6 points) (A Block Match): it’s that time, where we get the matches where one competitor is already eliminated, and that means I just don’t care. There was a lot of comedy here, but neither man stood out in any meaningful way
– BUSHI (6 points) vs Titan (2 points, eliminated) (B Block Match): Titan has been a standout in terms of in ring action, but as clear from his points total, his role was never to win the matches. BUSHI is sort of the same in general, rather than just this year, which meant that this was a really good match that you never truly believed either man was going to win (but obviously one of them had to)
– Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4 points) vs Francesco Akira (4 points) (A Block Match): as an elimination match I expected more. Akira has lost some steam for me in his past few matches, and Uncle Nobu’s win over Hiromu came too late in the piece for my liking. This never clicked
> this show was coming from the Makuhari Messe International Conference Hall 3, as according to njpw1972.com, and I have to say it was a visually unappealing location for it. It just looked like a big empty warehouse – which I guess technically it was
> the nature of tie breakers means that anybody on 4 points at the end of this show is definitely eliminated, but most of the people on 6 or below are also eliminated as they have (most likely) lost to those above them. There are always loopholes, so it’s best not to get into those scenarios just yet
Should you watch this event: It was a very split sort of show, with the good matches being good, and the poor matches being poor. The two main events are well worth your time, as is SHO/Ace Austin and Ishimori/Cnnors, but otherwise you can just read the results.