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Pantoja’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Night 8 Review

May 22, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Night Eight Image Credit: NJPW
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Pantoja’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Night 8 Review  

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 30 Night 8

May 21st 2023 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,436

We’re close to wrapping this tournament up as there are only two shows left before the semifinals begin. It’s time to see who takes one step closer to winning it all.

A Block: DOUKI [6] vs. Titán [8]

Titán needs to win and have a LOT of help to remain in contention. These two met in last year’s tournament (***). Here, they knew not to take up too much time and make the best of it. We got early attempts at the DOUKI CHOUKI and Titán responding with fast paced offense and some aerial stuff. They just kept that up from bell to bell and that’s the kind of shit I’m looking for in this tournament. In the final few exchanges they went for several flash pins only for the DOUKI CHOUKI to get slapped on again. It looked like Titán was out but he barely made the ropes. He survived a big shot from DOUKI and then turned another pin battle into El Immortal to take this in an energetic 6:21. I am so here for matches like this. [***¾]

B Block: Clark Connors [6] vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru [4]

Another pairing who met last year (**¼). They came out trying to win early with several pin attempts. It was clearly another case of trying to get your stuff in within a short timeframe. They followed the established formula of Connors being the STRONG BOI and Kanemaru attacking the knee. Connors survived a near countout and Kanemaru grabbing his tights (and nearly disrobing him) to avoid No Chaser. He hit the Spear and pounced with No Chaser to win in 6:19. That was basically a quintessential 6/10 match and I like that Connors didn’t bullshit at the end, leading to a W. [***]

A Block: KUSHIDA [2] vs. SHO [6]

They clashed in the 2018 BOSJ (***¾) but I don’t expect this to be anywhere near as good. SHO suggested that they not even wrestle since both guys are eliminated but the crowd wanted it so they’d have a “fair fight.” That’s what we got to open this and the grappling was very good. The crowd was more into something SHO was doing than they have been in years. Of course, he had to go the stupid route as EVIL gave him some metal stuff to put in his boot, which turned the tide in his favor. I’m glad Kevin Knight showed up because far too often in these tourneys do friends not get involved. Knight helped to subdue EVIL and KUSHIDA avoided the wrench before winning with the Hoverboard Lock in 6:54. Better than I expected. [***]

B Block: BUSHI [2] vs. Master Wato [10]

A decent amount of history here with matches in the 2020 BOSJ (***), New Beginning in Hiroshima 2021 (***), 2021 BOSJ (***) and 2022 BOSJ (**¾). BUSHI is just out to play spoiler here as he could ruin Wato’s chances. These two traded chops from the start as commentary noted that BUSHI usually really enjoys beating up Wato. Things calmed down into a more traditional match after that where it was a Wato special. Technically fine but ultimately hollow. He’s getting a clear push in this tournament but it’s just not clicking. Wato hit a dropkick to avoid MX and won with the German Suplex in 8:01. That was solid but unspectacular. [***]

A Block: Mike Bailey [10] vs. Ryusuke Taguchi [0]

Can Taguchi finally get his win in a huge upset? I liked the idea in this match that Taguchi’s ankle lock hurt more than usual because Bailey doesn’t wear shoes. That makes sense to me. Taguchi was aggressive even applying the hold outside at one point but he’s a nice man so he didn’t use it to take a countout win or anything like that. Taguchi avoided kicks inside but Bailey was smart enough to wait him out and still connect on a big one. Taguchi did a move I love by faking like he took a slingshot into the ring post to goad Bailey into trying a kick there, which caught all of the post. I live for spots like that. That allowed Taguchi to get going and brought into a great closing stretch that saw the crowd believe in the Taguchi upset. However, Bailey won out of a near fall exchange to move to 12 points in 10:20. That was really good and the best Taguchi has looked all tournament, while Bailey continues to deliver. [****]

B Block: Dan Moloney [4] vs. Robbie Eagles [10]

Moloney is also looking to play spoiler but he has a separated shoulder. Right from the start, I got the feeling that I’d like this. They threw some hard chops and kicks at each other while fighting on the apron and Eagles was quickly realizing that Dan wasn’t going to be a pushover. It led to an apron backbreaker. Dan just flipping off a fan starting the ROBBIEROBBIEROBBIE chant was great. Following that backbreaker, Dan held serve for a bit. Eagles would try to make comebacks but Dan always had an answer with something big like a Spear. Eagles managed to avoid the Drilla Killa a few times and came close to winning with a pair of knees in the corner. You got the sense that this was the comeback to lead him to 12 points, especially as he went after the knee to set up the Ron Miller Special. However, Moloney countered him into the best looking Drilla Killa I’ve seen to score the upset in 11:26. A rare legit shock in this company and a hell of a match to boot. [****]

A Block: Lio Rush [10] vs. TJP [8]

No prior singles matches but they have tag team history. I liked the early goings here with TJP getting outclassed as Lio bested him in quickness and held serve technically. That got TJP a little pissed so when he took over, he added a little something behind his facewash kicks only for Lio to throw them right back at him. There was a bitterness to this that I wasn’t expected. They both found counters for each other’s signature moves with Lio getting his knees up on the Mamba Splash and TJP dropkicking Lio on his springboard stunner. They kept that going later with boots up on the Final Hour and Lio surviving the Pinoy Stretch. Lio finally hit Rush Hour and climbed up to win with the Final Hour in 12:49. Our third straight great match. This was action from start to finish with smooth wrestling throughout. [****¼]

B Block: Kevin Knight [6] vs. YOH [10]

A win for YOH moves him into a tie atop B Block. YOH has been such a fun guy to watch throughout this tournament. It’s a refreshing change of pace for him. The pace here was quick from the start until YOH targeted the leg. It didn’t slow too much but that did take away Knight’s speed. He still got off his aerial stuff, including a particularly memorable spot where he hopped up on the stands in Korakuen and hit a somersault off of it. That put Knight in control for a bit but his biggest offensive moves were cut off, keeping YOH in this. YOH won with Direct Drive at the 8:57 mark, capping another in a string of good matches on this show. [***]

A Block: Hiromu Takahashi [10] vs. Taiji Ishimori [10]

Their first match came in the 2018 BOSJ Finals (****¾) and was New Japan’s best match that year. They met again in the 2020 BOSJ (****), 2021 BOSJ (***¾), 2022 BOSJ (***¾), the 2020 Summer Struggle in Jingu (****¼), Wrestle Kingdom 15 (****½), and New Japan Road last year (****½). Hiromu must win to survive. I’ve pointed out before that some matches start slowly enough so you know it’s gonna be a long one. This was the opposite. It started hot and had a pace that told you it would be packed with action for a short time. Granted, they kept up a ridiculous pace in their 2018 final but still. They called back to it here by fighting in the crowd and doing the big dropkick spot, leading to Taiji looking for a countout win. Hiromu barely beat it but was in clear trouble once back in the ring. He survived a flurry by Ishimori that included hitting the exposed buckle. The trading of counters late was costly as Ishimori landed awkwardly on his shoulder on a reverse rana. They did a few more moves but you could tell that he wasn’t right. After a clothesline, the referee called for the bell due to injury. It went 10:31 and was really good before the unfortunate ending. [***½]

B Block: El Desperado [10] vs. Francesco Akira [8]

Akira is basically out but Desperado needs to win to keep pace with the likes of YOH and Wato. The crowd was behind Akira early on and Desperado played into it by basically disrespecting him. He didn’t treat him as a true threat and even no sold his chops and strikes despite them being pretty hard. Desperado also responded with a right hand of his own that sent Akira to the outside. Desperado threw him into chairs, smashed his leg between chairs, and even did laid back taunting while holding him in a submission. He wasn’t taking his opponent seriously. However, Akira refused to stay down and die, fighting back with everything. As this hit the 20 minute mark, I was surprised because it didn’t feel like it. Akira did a good job of selling the leg work. At times he still sprinted with bursts of energy which wasn’t great but he did things like one-legged bridges on pins. When Desperado applied the Stretch Muffler, he did so by lifting Akira and it looked extra painful. Akira still wouldn’t tap and reached the ropes. A concerned TJP threw in the towel for him but Akira grabbed it and tossed it aside, daring him to keep fighting. He could barely throw punches but still managed a rollup near fall. Alas, another Stretch Muffler ended it as Akira had to submit after 25:13. An incredible match that should help make Akira into a  major player in the division. The fighting spirit he showed after being abused was fantastic. [****½]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The best night of tournament action so far. Nothing on the show was bad and multiple matches received over ****. Just what I’m looking for from a tournament scenario and a case of New Japan being at its best.