By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best of Super Juniors – Night Eight”
May 25, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
This year’s field features two blocks, each with ten wrestlers. This is a round-robin tournament, so everyone will have nine singles matches in this two-week event. (Some nights, there will be 10 tournament matches, and other nights, there will be five tournament matches and a handful of non-tournament matches.) The winner of each block will then meet in the finals on June 3. There are ten tournament matches on this show.
Kevin Kelly are Chris Charlton provided commentary. This is the second straight night in this historic venue, and Kelly said it was packed again. It’s worth pointing out that Taiji Ishimori (4-0) is the last undefeated wrestler in the tournament.
1. Ace Austin (8) defeated Alex Zayne (6) in a BOSJ A Block match at 11:35. Quick reversals to start. These two have been posting photos nonstop together on Twitter; the commentators acknowledge they are friends, and Ace beat Zayne at a Pro Wrestling Revolver show in a prior match. Austin hit the Fosbury Flop to the floor. Zayne avoided the punt kick and he tripped Ace on the ring apron at 3:00, then he nailed his summersault kick to the back of the neck as Ace was hanging over the apron.
In the ring, Zayne hit his running corkscrew press for a nearfall. Zayne hit a gut-wrench suplex for a nearfall. Zayne hit his forward-roll-into-huracanana in the corner at 6:30, then a spin kick to the head. Ace begged off, shouting “we’re friends!” Of course, Ace got a rollup for a nearfall. They traded stiff forearms. Zayne hit a jumping knee to the chest; Ace hit a spin kick, and they were both down at 9:30. Zayne blocked The Fold (flipping overhead faceplant) and then performed the Baja Blast (sidewalk slam faceplant). Ace crotched him in the corner. Ace hit a huracanrana out of the corner and nailed The Fold for the pin. Really good opener. They hugged afterward.
2. Douki (6) defeated Bushi (4) in a BOSJ B Block match at 8:09. They started fast with Douki nailing a dive through the ropes. Bushi nailed his own dive through the ropes at 3:30. In the ring, Bushi hit a dropkick, and he dropped him hard across the ropes. Douki applied his version of the Triangle Choke, but Bushi reached the ropes at 6:00. Bushi hit a Lungblower double knees to the chest, then a swinging neckbreaker for a nearfall. Bushi came off the ropes, but Douki caught him and again applied the triangle choke, and Bushi tapped out. I will call that an upset.
3. Clark Connors (4) defeated Francesco Akira (2) in a BOSJ A Block match at 8:12. Quick reversals to start and they brawled to the floor at 2:30. Akira hit a huracanrana, sending Connors face-first into the ringpost; Connors barely got in the ring before the 20-count. In the ring, Connors hit the Monty Brown Pounce. Akira fired back with a German Suplex at 6:30. However, Connors avoided Akira’s running knee drop. Connors hit a powerslam for a nearfall at 8:00, then the Trophy Kill standing powerbomb for the pin. I’ll call that another upset, as I certainly didn’t see Akira starting 1-4. This was really good; they knew they had a short match and they squeezed a lot of offense in.
4. Wheeler Yuta (6) defeated Titan (2) in a BOSJ B Block match at 7:00. Quick mat reversals, but then they quickly transitioned to overhand chops. Wheeler hit a dive through the ropes at 2:30. Titan hit a huracanrana in the ring, then he hit a dive between the ropes, followed by another dive. In the ring, Wheeler hit an enzuigiri, and they were both down at 5:30. They traded rollup attempts, and Wheeler hit his flying clothesline into the corner. Wheeler hit his series of elbows to the side of the head, rolled him over and trapped the arms, and got the pin. Like the prior match, I am surprised to see Titan drop to 1-4. Also like the prior match, they squeezed a lot of great offense in here; this certainly didn’t drag.
5. El Phantasmo (8) defeated El Lindaman (6) in a BOSJ B Block match at 8:38. As I type this before the match starts, I’m not sure why this wasn’t co-main event. Phantasmo was still fuming about his loss to Douki a night ago. ELP hit a shoulder tackle and started his strut, but Lindaman caught him with a release German suplex at 2:00. Lindaman hit a flip dive to the floor. Phantasmo shoved him into the ring post; Lindaman got back in just before being counted out. Phantasmo nailed a brainbuster in the ring for a nearfall, then a double-knee gutbuster.
ELP hit a sitdown powerbomb for a believable nearfall at 4:00. Lindaman fired back with a reverse DDT out of the ropes, and they were both down. This crowd is hot. Phantasmo slipped on the ropes, but he “tried to pull a Douki” from last night by getting an inside cradle after botching a move. Funny callback. Lindaman hit a delayed vertical suplex. Phantasmo pretended to have a leg injury, but he suckered Lindaman in. Phantasmo hit his modified Styles Clash for the pin. Good for the time given, but this fell short of what I hoped for going into it.
6. Sho (4) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (2) in a BOSJ A Block match at 11:02. Sho attacked from behind. Taguchi hit a flying butt attack. Taguchi choked Sho with his T-Shirt on the floor and dragged him to the back. In a silly stupid spot, Taguchi was popping his head out of the curtain with Sho’s legs also visible. Taguchi emerged with his pants pulled down (why?). Back in the ring, Sho was in control. Taguchi hit his flying butt attack at 6:00, then a plancha to the floor.
In the ring, Taguchi hit more running butt attacks. They began shoving the ref back and forth between them. Taguchi avoided a spear and applied an ankle lock at 8:00. Taguchi accidentally hit the ref with the butt attack. Sho hit a German Suplex. Sho went for his wrench, but Taguich had previously replaced it with a banana. Stupid. Taguchi again went back to the anke lock. The lights went out! We could see someone had entered the ring and was choking Taguchi. When the lights came back on, Taguchi had his butt planted on Gedo. Yujiro Takahashi hit Taguchi. This allowed Sho to cover Taguchi to get the tainted win. This is easily my least favorite match of the tournament so far. Sho deserves so much better than this ha-ha garbage.
7. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (4) defeated Taiji Ishimori (8) in a BOSJ A Block match at 2:14. Kanemaru comes out fast again, just like Tuesday, and he hit a DDT. Ishimori hit a Lungblower to the chest. The announcers talked about the deep history between these two, and how Ishimori always loses. Kanemaru took a swing of alcohol, sprayed it in Ishimori’s face, got a rollup, and the pin. That felt like it was over before it began and nobody has a perfect record in the tournament anymore. The announcers said Kanemaru is now 14-1-1 against Ishimori. “He cannot get this monkey off his back; he cannot beat Yoshinobu Kanemaru,” Charlton exclaimed.
8. TJP (4) defeated Robbie Eagles (4) in a BOSJ B Block match at 12:10. Mat reversals to open and a standoff. Eagles hit a huracanrana, and TJP went to the floor. TJP applied a submission hold in the ropes, then hit a Rude Awakening neckbreaker on the apron at 4:00. TJP was now in control, and tied Eagles up on the mat. TJP hit a running forearm to the back at 6:30, and they were both down. Eagles hit a running double knees in the corner for a nearfall. The crowd was hot.
Eagles missed a 450 Splash. TJP applied an STF submission hold, but Eagles immediately got the ropes at 8:30. TJP hit a spin kick to the jaw, then a springboard roaring elbow. Eagles hit a chop block. TJP went back to the STF. Eagles reversed it and applied the Ron Miller Special leg lock. TJP hit a frog splash, then applied the STF again, and Eagles tapped out. Good match. TJP needed that win to stay in the hunt.
9. El Desperado (8) vs. Master Wato (2) in a BOSJ B Block match at 15:32. An intense lockup to start. Basic reversals, and Wato hit a spin kick to the gut at 3:00. The announcers agreed that Wato just hasn’t been able to pull everything together and click in the ring. Desperado was dominating early, tying up Wato on the mat. Wato tried a move but his left knee buckled at 7:00. Wato hit a huracanrana, then a nice flipping dive to the floor. He then hit a flying elbow in the ring.
Desperado hit a belly-to-back suplex at 9:30, and he applied the Stretch Muffler and cranked hard on the knee. Wato hit a hard knee strike to the forehead, and they were both down at 11:30. Wato hit a spin kick to the head and a German Suplex, but Wato sold his knee injury and couldn’t keep the bridge. Wato applied a headlock submission hold, but Desperado finally reached the ropes at 13:00. Wato missed a top-rope Red Arrow corkscrew press. Desperado immediately hit a chop block on the damaged knee. Desperado executed a spinebuster and a Falcon Arrow for a believable nearfall. Desperado went for his Angel’s Wings, but Wato escaped and got a rollup. Desperado then nailed the Angel’s Wings for the pin. This started slowly but was fantastic the final five minutes.
10. Yoh (6) defeated Hiromu Takahashi (6) in a BOSJ A Block match at 17:29. Kelly and Charlton speculated if Hiromu’s knee is OK after the beatdown he got Tuesday. Yoh immediately hit a basement dropkick on the knee and applied a leg lock. They went to the floor, where Yoh stomped and cranked on the left knee. Hiromu finally hit a huracanarana at 5:00, but he struggled to get to his feet. He hit a basement dropkick to Yoh’s back, then a shotgun dropkick from the apron to the floor. In the ring, Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 6:30.
Yoh hit a dropkick on the knee and got back in control, hitting two German suplexes. Hiromu hit his own German suplex, and they were both down at 9:30. HIromu hit a modified Flatliner. Hiromu hit a modified Michinoku Driver. Yoh hit a dragon screw leg whip on the right (healthy) leg. Yoh hit a second-rope superplex, then a Falcon Arrow for a believable nearfall. Yoh applied a leg lock submission hold. Hiromu eventually got to the ropes at 14:00. I fully believed Hiromu was on the verge of tapping out there.
Hiromu hit a headbutt and a superkick, then a clothesline for a nearfall. Hiromu hit another Flatliner. Yoh hit a German Suplex with a bridge for an unbelievable nearfall. The crowd is HOT. Yoh hit a neckbreaker over his knee. Yoh hit a backbreaker over his knee at 17:00. He then hit a butterfly suplex and scored the pin. The crowd seemed shocked at the pin.
Yoh got on the mic and asked the crowd if they are happy he won. Yoh said he has difficulty showing emotion sometimes. He was winded and emotional.
Final Thoughts: The main event was tremendous, but it begins with Tuesday’s show and Kanemaru’s complete beatdown of Hiromu. Here, Sho went after that damaged knee and they told a great story the whole match, even when Hiromu was on offense, he was selling. So, main event earns best match. I loved the Zayne-Austin opener and that earns second best, ahead of Eagles-TJP for third. Honorable mention goes to Desperado-Wato
My least favorite New Japan matches inevitably come from Taguchi or Toru Yano, and that was the case here. I don’t hate all comedy matches, but this was just too much. Like Tuesday’s show, the number of short matches allowed this event to wrap up in just under three hours. The tournament continues in this building on Thursday before an off-day on Friday.