SHO Stealer: SHO’s Best of the Super Jr. 27

SHO discusses his BOSJ campaign

Best of the Super Jr. 27 is already underway, with SHO having gotten to a hot start against first BUSHI in Aichi and then DOUKI in Korakuen Hall. We sat down with the CHAOS member to discuss his BoSJ campaign. 

Watch Best of the Super Jr. 27 live and in English on demand with NJPW World! LIVE English on December 6 and 11!

I do wish YOH were here

–Well, SHO, Best of the Super Jr. 27 is finally here.

SHO: Finally! (laughs)

–Unlike prior years, this time it’s a one block tournament, with nine of the ten entrants being Japanese. Your thoughts on the structure, first?

SHO: It’s a real all star lineup. I think that it’s the very best selection that there could be. I do wish YOH were here though…

–Ahh, this would have been your chance for an all RPG3K matchup.

SHO: But that can’t be helped. I’ll put in enough effort for the both of us. 

–You do get your chance against Hiromu Takahashi, meanwhile.

SHO: Right, and it’ll be my first time facing Robbie (Eagles), and having Taguchi and Wato, who have been tagging a lot lately, wrestling one on one is exciting. 

–It’s perhaps fate intervening and preventing that match with YOH. Like destiny saying the timing isn’t right yet.

SHO: Right, that’s just the way fate works I guess.

You can never discount BUSHI

–Your first match in the tournament was against BUSHI in Aichi. (watch on NJPW World!)

SHO: He’s one of the more experienced guys in the tournament, right?

–You’re right. Although we think of him as a tag wrestler, he had an amazing challenge to Will Ospreay last year at Power Struggle.

SHO: He beat Bad Luck Fale in the past. he can beat anybody, and do it in a flash. A former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, too. You can’t ignore him when it comes to the end of the league. 

I want to see DOUKI compete on pure ability

–Then you had DOUKI on November 18, somebody who has come to fit in the NJPW fabric since appearing in Best of the Super Jr. at short notice last year (watch on NJPW World!)

SHO: I’ve had some runins with him. He’s really taken his Mexican style and brought it across pretty well to NJPW, I think. I feel that right now he’s able to do the kind of wrestling he wants to do.

–He’s spoken at length for the distaste he has for wrestlers going on Mexican excursion and having a red carpet treatment on their return. To him, you might fit in that category.

SHO: I can kind of understand that. He had to really tough things out over there, and he sees people that come over on the company’s Yen and stay for six or seven months and I think you can kind of feel ‘what are these guys really here for?’

–I see.

SHO: On the other hand, he toughed it out, having gone to Mexico when he was just 18. That’s rough, but on the other hand, you should let all that ill-will out in the ring. That’s what it’s for. That’s what I want to see from him in this tournament, DOUKI competing on pure ability, not just thinking of the worst thing he can do to his opponent at every turn.

This should be a true CHAOS junior showcase

–Your third match will be on November 20 against Robbie Eagles.

SHO: Yeah. I know he’s said the same, but I’ve always wanted to wrestle him one on one. We’ve been close since he came into CHAOS, and since we couldn’t meet because of the pandemic, we’ve been playing a lot of Tekken together.

–With your partner YOH injured and Robbie’s partner Ospreay going heavy and then leaving CHAOS, it’s really just you two when it comes to CHAOS junior heavyweights. 

SHO: Yeah. With Rocky (Romero) in the States, this is a real chance to put together a CHAOS junior showcase. I think we can really pull it off, too. Robbie’s certainly good enough. 

–Robbie will likely target your knees with the Ron Miller Special.

SHO: His knee work is really dangerous, for sure. But when it comes to technique, nobody is better than me. Power wise, and just out of sheer will, I think I can run right through anyone, Robbie included.

–Robbie’s just as dangerous with roll-ups though.

SHO: I’m most dangerous within my wheelhouse, but Robbie is a real all-rounder. That’s what’ll make this match a lot of fun; it’ll be the kind of match only we can put together.

Taguchi has experience I don’t, but I have weapons he doesn’t

–November 23 you face Ryusuke Taguchi in Takasaki.

SHO: Right. A couple of years ago I took that (half-and half) Koyama Suplex from him. A very localised move (laughs)

–So he might go to that well again here. At any rate, this is the time of year we see that tough, scary, ‘big match Taguchi’.

SHO: Right. He’s always fun to watch, but when we’re in the ring together, he flips that switch into big match mode. I haven’t beaten him one on one, by the way. 

–Taguchi is the most experienced wrestler in the tournament, so there is a target on him to an extent.

SHO: Right, and he has won the whole thing in the past. He knows everything that goes into a long league like this, and he’s pretty much always in the mix at the end of the league. He has experience I don’t, but I have weapons he doesn’t. That’s what I want to use to get past him. You never know whether he might bust out a Takasaki Suplex, or some kind of tornado butt bump, but it’s my job not to be fazed by that and deal with everything as it comes. 

As much as Desperado likes to cheat, I think he likes a real fight more

–On November 25, opponent number 5: El Desperado.

SHO: He missed the tournament last year, but two years ago, I beat him in Osaka.

–The Shock Arrow.

SHO: That match eventually led me and YOH to challenge for the junior tag titles, and it could be the same case here. Both out partners are injured right now, but I do want to be junior tag champion again.

–So emotions might be high for this one.

SHO: I don’t have that belt, but it isn’t because I lost a match. But I can’t deny how good of a team the two of them are, or how good Desperado is. 

–You both challenged for the NEVER Openweight Championship this summer, and Hiromu Takahashi challenged then double IWGP Champion EVIL as well. So you all as juniors have broken boundaries this year.

SHO: And I think we’re seeing those true born NJPW juniors really come to the fore this year.

–In prior years a lot of the focus for Best of the Super Jr. has been on outside wrestlers.

SHO: Right, so now it’s really our time. Well, I can’t speak for whoever is under that Desperado mask…

–Do you rate him as a singles wrestler?

SHO: I really do. He had an amazing match with Tomohiro Ishii this year as well. As much as he likes to cheat, I think he likes a real honest fight more. I think there’s a dedicated competitor in there. I want us to have a straight up test of who the better man is. He’ll probably say something in return like ‘any means necessary’, or ‘whoever wins is the better man’, but I want to have a good clean fight.

Of all the matches in this tournament, SHO vs Wato will really stand out

–When we come back to Korakuen Hall on November 29, you’ll face Master Wato. A first time meeting.

SHO: That’s exciting! I’ve wanted to face him for a while. I’ve been watching his matches, I like his entrance music. I dig his style.

–So you’re interested in Wato. 

SHO: I mean, I’m a big gamer, and he really seems like he walked right out of a videogame. Like he’s Martial Law in Tekken. Or maybe Forest? One of the two. That kung fu style.

–He does look a bit like Forest Law! Wato had a unique return, coming back in an empty arena setting during the New Japan Cup.

SHO: Attacked out of the gates as well. But he’s come some way since. I think Tenzan is the X factor here as well. That changes a lot of things. Like if I had Rocky Romero in my corner in every match, that would make a huge difference in how I approach things. That experience he has, and the advice he can give from the corner, that’s a big difference maker. 

–He’s a back to back G1 winner. 

SHO: Right, so he can give advice in terms of where he is in the tournament as well. Tenzan’s coaching is going to be a huge factor. 

–How would you assess his time back since returning? 

SHO: I think it’s all about the future for him. His own nickname is ‘Way to the Grand Master’. He’s on his way, not there just yet. He’s so young as well.

–He’s 23, so seven years younger than you. 

SHO: When I was his age I had only just graduated from college and started as a Young Lion. So I think he has a ton of energy to tap into, and I’m interested in his MMA experience.

–He does indeed have a background in MMA.

SHO: So that should gel well with me. I think we can have a match together nobody else can. Of all the matches in this whole tournament, ours might stand out the most. A little like the match I had with KUSHIDA a couple of years ago. 

–You talked about you, SHO and Hiromu being the current generation of junior heavyweights. It feels like Wato will belong to the next generation. 

SHO: Oh, for sure. 10 years from now he’ll still be in his prime. The age gap between me and him is about the same as it was between me and KUSHIDA. It’s weird to think that I’m in that position now, but at the same time, I remember how good it felt when KUSHIDA said he was looking forward to wrestling me that year, so hopefully Wato will know how excited I am to wrestle him and that rubs off. 

–Do you think there are any areas where he’s lacking somewhat? Hiromu has talked about how he tends to listen too much to his seniors like Tenzan or Taguchi and doesn’t have enough autonomy.

SHO: Hmm, it’s a good point, I guess. I think he needs to carry a little more of himself forward. It’s important to take the advice of someone like Tenzan and use it to benefit yourself, not just do everything he says word for word. If he can do that, he’ll really go places. Anyway, for now, I’m just looking forward to this match. 

More on SHO’s campaign in part 2!








photography by Taiko Kuniyoshi