REVIEW: NJPW Best of the Super Juniors & World Tag League Finals

Mark Buckeldee reviews Friday's NJPW card at Budokan Hall featuring the finals of the Best of the Super Juniors & World Tag League.

REVIEW: NJPW Best of the Super Juniors & World Tag League Finals

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report on the last night of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s World Tag League 2020 and Best of the Super Juniors 27. This event from 11th December 2020 took place in Budokan Hall in Tokyo with an attendance of 3,564. This event took place in Osaka Prefectural Gym in Osaka on 7th November 2020.

  1. Robbie Eagles, Sho & Toru Yano vs Taiji Ishimori, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale – A basic, simple tag match. Nothing special.
  2. Toa Henare, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & Will Ospreay – Some intense exchanges between Okada and Ospreay, some good fire from Henare, and an interesting post-match angle.
  3. SANADA & Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL –A short match built around setting up EVIL vs SANADA. A surprising amount of fire from SANADA.
  4. Master Wato & Kota Ibushi vs BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito – A decent match with a good finishing stretch as BUSHI tried to see how far he could go against Ibushi.
  5. World Tag League 2020 Final: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga – A very good western style heel vs face tag match. Good fire from the faces and a lot of double teams. – RECOMMENDED
  6. Best of the Super Jr Final: Hiromu Takahashi vs El Desperado – El Desperado destroys Hiromu’s leg, forcing him to rely on big bombs and strikes to try and avoid defeat. A dramatic finishing stretch interspersed with emotional flashes helps this stand out. – RECOMMENDED

Robbie Eagles, Sho & Toru Yano vs Taiji Ishimori, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale

Taiji Ishimori and Sho both narrowly missed out on reaching the BOSJ final. Now they face off in this CHAOS vs Bullet Club tag match. Toru Yano and Bad Luck Fale started the proceedings, with Fale shrugging off Yano’s corner pad attacks. Ishimori soon fell victim to Yano’s usual tricks and the pace picked up when Sho tagged in. Robbie Eagles had the upper hand over Chase Owens, mixing in kicks, high-speed offense, and moves targeting the knee. Owens would soon gain control and win with the Grenade Launcher (straight-jacket German suplex assisted by Fale’s thumb).  After the match, the Bullet Club broke Yano’s KOPW trophy.

Chase Owens pinned Robbie Eagles (5:53)

This was a basic opening tag match that stuck to established pairs. The sequences with Sho and Ishimori were the highlight but the closing stretch with Eagles & Owens was good as well. Ultimately this was a fairly forgettable affair which seemed to be building a program between Toru Yano & Bad Luck Fale.

Toa Henare, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & Will Ospreay

Of the last 9 NJPW World Tag Leagues, Hiroshi Tanahashi has finished bottom in 4 of them. Great O-Khan and The Empire’s newest member, Jeff Cobb, had a good showing in the World Tag League. This match was based around Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay, building up their upcoming match at Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom. Bea Priestley accompanied the Empire to the ring. When they are all in the ring together the Empire looks like such an odd mix of individuals.

Things started off with an intense clash between Ospreay and Okada. Tanahashi and Henare used some tandem offense and quick tags on O-Khan, but he would gain the advantage by targeting Tanahashi’s knee. The Empire worked over Tanahashi as he was manhandled by Cobb while Ospreay showed more of that intensity and nastiness. Tanahashi would make the hot tag to Okada and we got another intense, fast-paced clash between Okada and Ospreay. The finishing stretch between Henare and Cobb was particularly good with Henare bringing a lot of fire, but Cobb proved to be too much as he won the match with the Tour of the Islands. After the match Ospreay laid out Okada and Great O-Khan attacked Tanahashi’s knee with a chair.

Jeff Cobb pinned Henare (10:45)

This was a decent match to build up Okada vs Ospreay. It also suggested a program between Great O-Khan and Tanahashi. Cobb and O-Khan are growing in their roles and Ospreay is finding a great balance as a heel with his intensity. O-Khan is evolving and tweaking his act all the time and it will be interesting to see where he ends up in 6 months’ time. Everyone looked good in different ways, but this will ultimately be forgettable.

SANADA & Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL

This is the first of 3 rematches on this show, with Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL winning when these 2 teams faced off in Nagoya. The match started with a quick ambush by the Bullet Club duo. Dick Togo used his garotte to choke SANADA out near the entrance, setting up a 2-on-1 beat down. SANADA would eventually make the save and he showed a lot of fire. It was the angriest and most intense that I can remember from him as he brawled with EVIL on the outside while Takagi quickly picked won with the Last of the Dragon. After the match, SANADA was constantly attacking EVIL and they eventually brawled to the back. Jeff Cobb then made his presence known, grabbing Takagi’s NEVER Openweight Title and using that to hit the Tour of the Islands on the Champion.

Shingo Takagi pinned Yujiro Takahashi (4:58)

This match was more of an extended angle than a match. It built up to SANADA snapping and everything from that point did a good job of making you think that you might actually enjoy EVIL vs. SANADA at Wrestle Kingdom if this version of SANADA showed up. The interactions with Takagi and Cobb after the match was a good teaser for when they clash over the NEVER Openweight title.

Master Wato & Kota Ibushi vs BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito

Both Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito have rested for most of this tour, although they faced off in a 6-man tag on the previous show. This was a build-up to their IWGP Double Championship match on Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom.

The match started with a frantic exchange where Ibushi had Naito’s number before he tagged in Master Wato. The LIJ team worked over Wato and added insult to injury with some mocking Mongolian Chops. Ibushi would tag in and we had a satisfying but muted exchange between Naito and Ibushi before BUSHI was tagged in. BUSHI did a great job of keeping on top of Ibushi with big moves before Wato helped turn the tide, keeping Naito out of the way by hitting a diving European Uppercut and a Tornillo dive to the outside. Ibushi then handily defeated his almost namesake with the Kami-Go-Ye.

Kota Ibushi pinned BUSHI (10:06)

This was a fun match with a lot of interactions between Ibushi and Naito. While those exchanges did not really get out of first gear, the match had a good finish with BUSHI trying his best to beat the superior Ibushi. Master Wato was fine, but he did not have many opportunities to shine. Again, a fairly forgettable build up tag match on a show designed to establish and further programs for Wrestle Kingdom.

World Tag League 2020 Final: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs Guerillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga)

The Guerillas of Destiny lost to David Finlay & Juice Robinson on Night 1 of World Tag League.  This is also a rematch of the 2019 World Tag League final, which was won by G.O.D. In fact, G.O.D. has won 5 of the 7 matches between these 2 teams but they have only won 1 of the last 3.

Finlay tried to gain the upper advantage early on with headlocks before both teams had a staredown in the ring. Jado was sent backstage early on after he was caught trying to trip Robinson. Finlay & Robinson would isolate Tama Tonga with some quick tags and double teams but Tanga Loa eventually tagged in and used his power to turn the tide. G.O.D isolated Finlay with some good work, including a well-timed spot where Robinson was pulled of the apron before Finlay could tag out.

Robinson’s hot tag saw him hit big moves to both his opponents before the faces wheeled out the Demolition’s Decapitation elbow. The G.O.D fought back as things started to break down as both teams relied on big double team moves. Jado returned to ringside and that coincided with G.O.D nearly getting the win with the Sharpshooter and the Magic Killer, but it was not enough. Finlay managed to beat Tama Tonga in a battle of stunner/ace crusher variations but Tama Tonga kept kicking out of big double teams. In the end, Finlay was launched off the top rope while attempting the Doomsday Device and a surprise run-in by KENTA let the G.O.D win the match with a Superbomb.

Tanga Loa pinned Juice Robinson (22:15)

This was a very good heel vs. face tag team match. It felt a lot like a traditional US tag match with the clear heels & faces, the long face in peril sequence, and the vast array of double teams. In fact, the sheer variety of double teams on display made the match feel like a game of “whose move is this?” at times. Finlay did a good job as the face in peril and Robinson was great as a hot tag. It probably is not too controversial to say that Robinson works best in tag matches. I am not usually a fan of G.O.D but they did a great job here. This was action-packed and the crowd was really into it. This match was greater than the sum of its parts although the finishing stretch went on a little too long and it did almost feel like a cosplay match at times with all of the double team moves on display.

Best of the Super Jr Final: Hiromu Takahashi vs El Desperado

This is Hiromu Takahashi’s 2nd BOSJ final, and El Desperado’s 1st. On paper, Desperado has the advantage here: as El Desperado he is 2-1 over Hiromu, beat Hiromu earlier in the tour, and has never lost to Hiromu in the Best of the Super Juniors. Hiromu’s singles win over Desperado was when the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title was on the line. Even going back to their Young Lions days, Desperado had Hiromu’s number with a 16-2-1 record before he donned the mask.

El Desperado wore a stylish white version of his usual mask. A slow feeling out process ended when Hiromu stood on Desperado’s face. An early attempt at the Numero Dos by Desperado saw Hiromu grab the ropes. Desperado used dirty tricks to gain the advantage before hurling his opponent into the guardrails. When Hiromu returned to the ring Desperado worked over the back and then the left leg. It was clear that the plan was to focus on the Numero Dos, which targets both the leg and the back.

Hiromu’s attempts at a comeback were hampered by his bad leg but a flying headscissors gave him some breathing room to hit some fast high impacted offense. A wheelbarrow facebuster on the floor and a running dropkick off the apron were enough to establish Hiromu’s control but the leg was still a big factor. Desperado felt the damage in his neck, which helped Hiromu escape the Numero Dos as he kept his opponent off balance with big impact moves. A Timebomb attempt was countered into the Numero Dos. Hiromu’s leg would give way during a counter and he also missed a sunset powerbomb to the outside. This opportunity was seized by Desperado, who broke a chair on the already severely damaged knee.

Hiromu desperately fought to escape the Numero Dos so Desperado used the Guittara del Angel instead, before going back to the submission. Somehow Hiromu used his core strength to escape the Numero Dos with a Canadian Destroyer. Hiromu stumbled towards his opponent due to his bad leg, which let Desperado hit a low blow during a ref bump. The red haired LIJ member fought back with a right straight to the jaw before tearing his opponent’s mask in half out of anger. Desperado completely removed his mask and the 2 wrestlers just started laying into each other before a big slap by Hiromu floored Desperado.

The Suzuki-gun member used a right straight of his own but Hiromu would counter the Pinche Loco with a headbutt. Desperado nearly won the match with a cradle to an audible sigh from the crowd. Hiromu kept throwing out big strikes to avoid Desperado’s big moves before using the exposed turnbuckle for a Death Valley bomb in the corner. The following Timebomb felt like the finish but Desperado somehow kicked out. An unsteady Hiromu then hit the Timebomb 2 and that was enough to put Desperado away.

After the match, El Desperado got a round of applause from the crowd as Hiromu promised that he and Desperado would battle one another “until the day we retire”. Hiromu would celebrate sat down in the ring due to the damage to his leg. During the post-match promo, he announced that his next big opponent would not be IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori. Instead, it would be the winner of tonight’s Super J-Cup 2020.

Hiromu Takahashi pinned El Desperado (30:14)

This was a great match that stood out with its interpretation of the modern New Japan main event formula. It had the long match time and the move heavy main event stretch but it felt fresher and more engaging. That was down to 3 factors; Hiromu’s leg selling, the chemistry between these 2, and the use of desperate strikes and emotional beats to spread out the counters.

Hiromu’s leg selling was a great mix of solid details, flashy touches, and knowing when to sell. It felt natural for Hiromu to be able to do his impactful offense as he would soon pay the price and often looked unsteady. Desperado’s strategy was the backbone of the match, but he worked the leg in interesting ways. I especially appreciated how the big, non-leg-focused moves were often used to distract Hiromu before going back to the leg. Hiromu was great as the sympathetic guy who tries to fight back despite his body failing him. Despite that, Desperado won the crowd over here, especially after Hiromu tore off the mask. 

The pacing of the finish was interesting. On one hand, there were glaringly loud silences, but I could not work out if it were the crowd being burnt out or invested in what happened next. On the other hand, they erupted at Desperado removing his mask and there was a massive sigh when Hiromu kicked out of a cradle. Those emotional moments and the sudden burst of aggression after the mask sequence mixed things up and helped this feel fresh to me. The finish was well done as Desperado’s dirty tricks were his undoing, but not before he managed to kick out of the Timebomb.

Some people may mark this down for some obvious botches, the length, or the pacing of the finish but I loved this match and it helped sum up what is so great about Hiromu.

Show Summary

Coming into this show you expected it to be about building up matches for Wrestle Kingdom and that is exactly what we got. The undercard matches were short, but they all had a goal and they achieved that. The LIJ vs Bullet Club match had me wanting to see SANADA vs EVIL, which shocks me as I am typing this sentence. The semi-main event was a really good tag match by New Japan standards but ultimately this match was all about the main event. I can see it being polarising, but it was a great showing by Hiromu, and some may see it as El Desperado’s break out moment. It had emotional energy that has been sorely lacking in New Japan in 2020.

While it had a lot of throwaway tag matches, I really liked this show as everything built, and the right matches got the bulk of the time. It will be fascinating to see how the events from this show get turned into the matches for Wrestle Kingdom.

About Mark Buckeldee 61 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.