Wrestling Review: NJPW Best of the Super Junior 29 (2022) (Night 11)

[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.]

There are only two rounds left in the Best of the Super Junior 29 tournament, as night 11 features a huge Robbie Eagles versus El Desperado match in the main event. These two have met three times in the last year, including in a Tokyo Dome main event with championships on the line, and their rivalry has become something intensely personal. For the A Block side in the semi-main event, Taiji Ishimori will get his first taste of action against Francesco Akira, in a match that Akira must win if he is to stay alive. Several competitors are already definitively eliminated – Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi, Titan, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru – and the minimum point total required at the end of this show is 6, lest a wrestler have no chance of winning. With only one event remaining after this, and while point totals are obviously important, who a competitor has defeated will become incredibly necessary as tie breakers come into effect.

+ El Desperado (10 points) vs Robbie Eagles (8 points) (B Block Match): Desperado’s match with DOUKI, and Eagles’ matches with Phantasmo were two that were better than this but this was a very clear third. Desperado has had six main events, we are told, and Eagles probably just as many second-to-last matches, so it’s no surprise both men know hot o work these big matches. The outcome here was also most interesting, and it means Tuesday’s show had a plethora of different possibilities
+ Taiji Ishimori (10 points) vs Francesco Akira (6 points) (A Block Match): aside from a horrendous but entirely unintentional low blow, this was a really fun match. Akira has been disappointing in story, but I’d say that at least his matches have been good enough, or AT LEAST this was a good learning experience. None of that is to say that Akira won or lost in particular, and Ishimori is the champion for a reason
+ Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4 points, eliminated) vs SHO (6 points) (A Block Match): I love it when ultra bad guys are the crowd favourites for one match only, and when SHO is involved, that’s exactly what his opponent becomes. Kanemaru had great underdog energy thanks very strongly to just how much the crowd dislikes SHO. I can’t wait until they can make some noise – which is allegedly soon – just to hear how much they hate SHO
+ El Phantasmo (10 points) vs Wheeler Yuta (8 points) (B Block Match): this was GREAT, and the first time that I’ve really felt Yuta was at his AEW best. ELP is the biggest jerk, and it was nice to see someone take the fight well and truly to ELP, rather than the other way around. A funny Danielson/KENTA rib on commentary about a Busaiku Knee from Yuta that got a chuckle out of me
+ Ryusuke Taguchi (4 points, eliminated) vs Ace Austin (10 points) (A Block Match): an absolutely fantastic mixture of comedy and proper wrestling, Austin proved why he is the standout, and Taguchi kept things interesting despite his own being eliminated. Good stuff
+ Hiromu Takahashi (8 points) vs Clark Connors (6 points) (A Block Match): Connors was fighting for his tournament here, and it absolutely looked like it. I didn’t give Connors much of a chance going in, but they absolute got me invested. Hiromu had some great counters to the powerhouse offence which Connors had and has used so effectively. This ended up being really good
+ TJP (6 points) vs BUSHI (6 points) (B Block Match): this was essentially an elimination match for both men, and I felt it. TJP was far more of a jerk than the ‘cool’ guy he usually is, and even BUSHI didn’t seem quite a mellow as usual. Add in their skill levels, and this was a perfectly fine showing
+ YOH (6 points) vs Alex Zayne (8 points) (A Block Match): very standard, but very clean wrestling match. There was not much in terms of flashiness or extended strike trading, as there was no bad blood between the two coming in. I enjoyed this one
+ DOUKI (6 points) vs Titan (4 points, eliminated) (B Block Match): this was do or die for DOUKI, and Titan certainly didn’t make it easy for him. Titan’s rope swing DDT might be the best non-finisher of the tournament, and I can only think of one time where it didn’t look great. I cannot stress how emotional I was for DOUKI/Despy last night, and I got the feeling the crowd really did get behind him a bit more after that war. This was good

El Lindaman (8 points) vs Master Wato (4 points, eliminated) (B Block Match): too little, too late for this match. Wato has been unimpressive all tournament, and Lindaman doesn’t shine in these less important matches.

> surprisingly, no matches on this show were between two definitely, completely eliminated competitors. Well done planning this far ahead, New Japan

Should you watch this event: With only one negative listed above – and I can freely admit some negative bias of my own there – this was another standout show for the tournament as a whole. I am always impressed at the way these tournaments unfold, as there was a clear plan from the beginning and this has worked to perfection. Gosh, Tuesday will be a big show.

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