The Sniper of the Skies discusses Best of the Super Jr. 27
After a long absence as a result of the global pandemic, Robbie Eagles finally returns to NJPW action this Sunday as Best of the Super Jr. 27 kicks off in Aichi. We sat down with Robbie to get his thoughts on his competition, Will Ospreay and the Empire, and much more.
–So let’s talk about your schedule for Best of the Super Jr. 27. It all starts on November 15 in Aichi. There are three nights on the tour where BOSJ and World Tag League take place at the same time.
Robbie: Yeah. The opening night, the last league night and the finals on December 11.
–How do you think the main events will be decided?
Robbie: It’s a good question. You could have a fan vote, or the company could just decide on their own. I think maybe the company should decide on one tournament to headline in Aichi and the other to headline in Fukuoka and then the fans can choose the main event in Budokan maybe. That seems fair.
People have been selling DOUKI short. He’s a dangerous dude
–In Aichi you face DOUKI.
Robbie: Ahh! Right away! (laughs)
–During BOSJ last year, DOUKI gave you a DDT on a chair that split your head open.
Robbie: I’m definitely looking for revenge.
–DOUKI impressed a lot of people on October 24 against YOSHI-HASHI in the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Championship match.
Robbie: Well, I knew DOUKI was dangerous last year in BOSJ. I think maybe there were so many matches that happened afterward that people tended to forget about it, but if you can split my head open you have to be pretty tough. He’s a dangerous dude. I think people have been selling him short a little bit, and he has a lot of ability in a big time match.
–He joined the tournament last year at short notice when El Desperado was hurt and went on to a 1-8 record.
Robbie: The field is so even and so competitive this year that it’s anyone’s game. I think it’s very possible DOUKI will pick up more than one win this year, he just won’t be beating me (laughs).
Wato has unique offense. There’s a lot of cool stuff we can do together
–November 18 in Korakuen, you face Master Wato. Wato debuted at the New Japan Cup finals, beating DOUKI, but he’s had a challenging time since, losing to Yoshinobu Kanemaru at Summer Struggle.
Robbie: He’s still new. I think he’s still trying to figure out who he is in the ring. He reminds me of me when I debuted in the Super Jr. Tag League in 2018. The nerves before every match are still there, and there are a lot of eyes on him, there was a lot of hype.
–There were lots of videos hyping his arrival.
Robbie: Right, so a lot of people were looking at him and wanting to see what he had to offer, and I don’t think we’ve seen all that he can do yet, to be honest. That’s a good thing; I think I can bring that out of him. He has a unique offense, and I think there’s cool stuff we can do together.
–He’s been mentored by Hiroyoshi Tenzan through this process. Is there a figure that’s taken you under their wing behind the scenes?
Robbie: Not in BULLET CLUB so much, because everyone was out for themselves, but in CHAOS, Tomohiro Ishii was really good for me leading up to that NEVER 6-Man title match we had. After every match on the tour he kept raising my arms and motioning for a belt around my waist. I felt like a small child when he was doing that to me (laughs).
–Haha! Sometimes we talk with our subtitlers that it feels like Wato is a teenage son embarrassed by his dad constantly supporting him.
Robbie: But Ishii would take me out to dinner after those cards, just me and him, or me him and Okada, and that showed that he saw something in me. He gave me a ton of advice as well, and I’m sure it’s the same with Tenzan and Wato.
Me and SHO will be like Tekken in real life
–November 20 in Korakuen, SHO.
Robbie: I’m looking forward to this. SHO and I played a lot of ‘Tekken’ against one another during the pandemic. I sent a message to SHO when the lineup was announced and said it would be just like our Tekken games.
–A real life videogame.
Robbie: I’ll be picturing health bars over our heads the whole time (laughs). But we’ve never faced off one on one before, and only two or three tag matches against one another. So I’m really excited for this. SHO is one of my favourites to watch and he’s such a good guy.
–Not unlike yourself, he’s without a tag partner at the moment, with YOH being injured, and since then he’s had a difficult middle of the year after failing in his challenge for the NEVER title at Dominion. It seems like this is a critical tournament for him.
Robbie: I think he’s a pretty determined guy, and he’ll look for a big result to really distinguish himself as a singles player I think. The way I see it, if it’s not me in the end on December 11, I want it to be SHO that wins.
I owe BUSHI some revenge
–November 23 you face BUSHI.
Robbie: There’s revenge I owe him, because the last time I was in an NJPW ring, my face was covered in mist.
–On February 6 when you, Goto and Ishii challenged LIJ for the NEVER 6-Man titles.
Robbie: All that mist got in my ring gear as well and I couldn’t wash it out. He owes me a new costume!
Robbie: Like I said before, there was a chance that match would have been the last time I wrestled in NJPW this year. I didn’t want it to end that way because I lost, it hurt, I lost the match for my team, and I looked stupid. So I don’t want to be made a fool again. In Hokkaido this year I tapped him out with the Ron Miller Special, and I want to repeat that.
When I got started he was the closest I had to an ally
–November 25 in Niigata, the main event against someone you know well, Taiji Ishimori.
Robbie: The champ, and my former partner. You know when I got started in BULLET CLUB he was the closest thing I had to a real ally.
Robbie: We’d met beforehand, and he was… maybe not fond of me, but he had the success of the team in mind.
–He had a vested interest.
Robbie: Exactly. So he was looking out for me then, but as soon as El Phantasmo joined BULLET CLUB, he forgot all that very quickly. And there’s something about the way he won the title that’s a problem with me. I don’t think he deserves to be champion.
–He wrestled a perfect match in Jingu Stadium to win the title, but it was all about a shoulder injury to Hiromu Takahashi that he did his best to exploit on the run-up to the match.
Robbie: I’d say he’s the most classical wrestler in BULLET CLUB. He does like to prove himself with his wrestling ability, and he’s a great wrestler. He didn’t need to jump Hiromu in Korakuen.
–You’d rather he wrestled on his own terms.
Robbie: I think he should be more the Taiji Ishimori I grew up watching rather than the Bone Soldier that takes influence from BULLET CLUB. And me, heh….
–He was influenced by you?
Robbie: Look at how he won, with that Bone Lock submission. He set that up with a 450 to the arm right? Is that familiar to you?
–You often use the 450 to the leg to set up the Ron Miller.
Robbie: He won’t admit it, but I think he picked up some of my tactics. So I’m going to be very careful about that match and not give him any hint about what I plan to do.
We’re 1-1. I want to prove myself with something decisive.
–November 29 in Korakuen, you and Hiromu Takahashi.
Robbie: So in falls against one another we’re 1-1.
–You pinned Hiromu on his return match last December, and he beat you during the New Beginning tour.
Robbie: And both on roll-ups. So I don’t think either one of us has proven we’re better. I need to prove myself against Hiromu with something decisive, pinfall or submission. This is a really important match for me.
It’s like human chess, but with butts
–In Osaka, Ryusuke Taguchi.
Robbie: Ah, Taguchi.
–Last year he was in great form.
Robbie: He kept winning those main events, but I’m comfortable with this match, because I think I have his number. I don’t think him alone, or with a team has beaten me very often at all.
–Certainly you beat him in Korakuen last year.
Robbie: I think that was when people’s eyes opened up when it came to me. It made me a major player in the tournament, beating ‘big match Tagooch’.
–So you’re looking forward to this match?
Robbie: I think it’ll be a great tactical match. Sometimes we call wrestling a game of human chess, and I think this will be that. Except Taguchi’s pawns are all made of butts. I want to avoid as much of the butt stuff as I can.
Desperado will be about testing my jaw
–December 5 in Sendai, you and El Desperado. Desperado has had a very strong year and he’s returning after not being in the tournament last year.
Robbie: I was looking forward to facing him last year before he was replaced by DOUKI. I think this will be about testing my jaw.
–Desperado likes to throw that right hand.
Robbie: I’ve been watching, and I know what’s happening. I know not to come off the top with him standing after what I saw happen with BUSHI.
–November 2 in Korakuen, first Desperado pulled Red Shoes Unno in the path of the MX and then he low-blowed BUSHI out of mid air.
Robbie: I’m sure BUSHI is still feeling that today. But even sneaky tactics aside, I think this will be the toughest match in the tournament for me.
I need Uemura to be at his fiercest
–Finally, after Yoshinobu Kanemaru suffered his knee injury, you face substitute Yuya Uemura last.
Robbie: He was campaigning so hard for a spot but fell short at first. If I hadn’t made it back, he would have been in the lineup from the start, so he might take that out on my in an aggressive manner. To be honest, that’s what I’m hoping for. Whenever I face Young Lions I need them to be at their fiercest so it pushes me to be better as well.
I promise you’re going to see me holding a belt or a trophy within the next year. Maybe this year!
–Usually the BoSJ final is the winner of block A vs the winner of block B, but this time it’s the top points scorers in the one block. So whomever it is in the final, it’s somebody you’ve faced in the league.
–Is there a tactical aspect to that? That you might hold something back against a tournament favourite during the league match that you can use in the final?
Robbie: That’s the kind of thing I’m good at. From my perspective, I’d almost be happier facing someone in the final that I’d lost to during the league. That way you know what you did wrong the first time and correct that. If it’s the other way around, you have to anticipate the other guy correcting and get two steps ahead. I think you’ll see the kind of final you’ve never seen before.
–There’s a cliché of being in shape not being the same as being in ‘ring shape’, and ‘ring shape’ is not the same as being in ‘road shape’. As you get back to a full tour, how do you feel physically.
Robbie: I can’t say for sure until we’re back on the road and travelling between these towns. Mentally I’m there, but physically, we’ll find out against DOUKI. I have had access to wrestling rings, and I’ve had a couple of matches in Australia, but not singles matches. So it’s going to be a test, but I’m mentally prepared.
–You mentioned earlier that you want 2021 to be better than 2020.
Robbie: I think a lot of people feel the same way (laughs)
–So what are your goals specifically moving forward?
Robbie: Winning, and championship belts. Last year I challenged for IWGP Junior Heavyweight titles, singles and tags. I challenged for the NEVER 6-Man belts, I entered Best of the Super Jr, and entered the Super J-Cup, but I didn’t win any of those. So I need to redeem myself. I’m not saying I’ll win all of them, that can be too much to attempt, but I do promise that in 2021, you’ll see me holding either a belt or a trophy at some point. I might even be holding a trophy this year!
‘I understand how he feels’ What does Robbie think about WIll Ospreay’s departure from CHAOS? Don’t miss part two!