The Best of the Super Juniors tournament is always a highlight of the NJPW calendar and with the biggest field of competitors in it’s history, this year’s is no exception! The mix of talent is incredible, from the current reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Dragon Lee, to Ring of Honor’s Marty Scurll, to NJPW’s own Taiji Ishimori and Will Ospreay, there are representatives from all corners of the world and all styles of wrestling.
In this weekly round-up, I’ll let those of you who don’t have time to watch three hours of action a night know what’s been going on and the must-see matches you need check out!
Night 1 kicked things off in spectacular fashion with two highly anticipated matches in Shingo Takagi v Roppongi 3K’s Sho and the rematch between former Junior Heavyweight Champ Taiji Ishimori v Dragon Lee.
Ishimori once again took Lee to the limit in a great encounter. While it didn’t quite live up to their previous epic, it’s definitely worth catching up on. Ishimori picked up the win here, solidifying his claim to a Championship match in the future whether or not he wins the tournament, which itself is also a very real possibility.
Takagi and Sho have been building up to a singles encounter for a long time now, while Sho (in fact, me as well!) would have preferred this to happen in the final, we got it on night 1 and it blew everything else out of the water. Sho came out in new gear and with new music, he’s out to prove himself as a singles competitor and beating the undefeated Shingo Takagi would be a great way to do it.
The match itself was brutal, while these guys are Juniors, they hammered each other as effectively as any fight you might find Ishii involved in. The punishment both men took is bound to affect them as the gruelling tournament schedule grinds on, but they made their mark with the match to beat. Takagi eventually picked up the win with a Pumping Bomber and finally hitting the Last of the Dragons, but Sho took everything he threw out and came the closest out of anyone so far to beating Shingo. This is a feud we haven’t seen the last of and I can’t wait for the next time they cross paths!
Before the tournament started, El Desperado and Flip Gordon were forced to pull out due to a broken jaw and visa issues respectively. One of the most interesting matches of night 2 was between their replacements, top Young Lion Ren Narita and Douki, a wrestler who’s mostly wrestled in Mexico and was brought in to NJPW by Taichi (in storyline at least, I don’t know much about him!).
This tournament is a brilliant opportunity for Narita and he deserves it, he and Shota Umino have been tearing it up in Young Lion and multi-man tag matches for a while now. Douki’s intentions were pretty clear from the start, bringing a metal pipe to the ring with him and having already allied with Taichi, it was unlikely that he’d be playing by the rules. A chairshot to Narita during the match brought that point home. This was a good match for Douki to introduce his style to the NJPW fans. While Narita put in a great effort, he’s still a Young Lion and unfortunately unlikely to score a point, Douki got the win with his finisher, the Suplex de la Luna. After the match, he and Taichi beat down Narita.
The match of the night was Rocky Romero’s return to the tournament against Robbie Eagles. The crowd was fully behind Romero and he started off the match taking it to Eagles, but Eagles turned it around and targetted Romero’s leg throughout. It was effective enough that Romero had to stop during his Forever Clotheslines spot. In the end, it became too much and Romero tapped out to the Ron Miller Special. I highly recommend watching this one, especially if, like me, you came to NJPW too late to see Romero at the height of his tenure in the Junior division.
The top match of the third night was the main event, as Sho faced Dragon Lee and once again showed that he belongs in the conversation with the top guys. Lee seemed to be influenced by Sho’s stronger style and looked to be working a lot stiffer than usual, both men were hitting each other HARD. Dragon Lee got the win with Desnucadora, but once again Sho shone in defeat after dominating much of the match.
On night 2, Rocky Romero proved that he’s still go it, on night 4, we saw just how great he is when he took on his teammate Will Ospreay. I think that Ospreay is well on his way to Heavyweight success, so I was a bit surprised to see him in this year’s BOSJ, but it’s worth it for this match alone. They put on a masterclass of wrestling and complemented each other brilliantly. Ospreay won with Stormbreaker, and while at the time I was convinced Rocky should have won, I think this was the right choice since Ospreay is one of the best in the company right now. If Rocky puts on more performances like this one, though, I think there might be another title run in him yet!
For the most part, Night 5 felt like a recovery night for a lot of the competitors. A lot of momentum was gone from the tournament matches and I think it was one to skip for the most part. It was good to see Sho finally get his first win with a Shock Arrow to TAKA Michinoku though.
The match of the night was Shingo Takagi v Yoshinobu Kanemaru. For a long time, Kanemaru just irritated me and seemed to be pretty lazy, but in the last few months he’s really started to grow on me. Whether he’s putting more effort in or I just bought into his heel persona, I don’t know! Kanemaru targetted Takagi’s knees early on, hitting him with a steel chair and dropping him through a table knees first, that seemed incredibly brutal. Later on, Taichi got involved, sliding a chair into the ring. Kanemaru tried to hit Takagi with Suntory Surprise, but Takagi shielded himself with the chair, then spit whisky at Kanemaru himself! Takagi got the victory with a Pumping Bomber followed by Last of the Dragon for the pin.
The top match on Sunday was Will Ospreay v Yoh. I was hoping Yoh wouldn’t let Sho take all of the glory this year! These two put on a great display, with Yoh targetting Ospreay’s leg for much of the match with Dragon Screws and submissions throughout. There were a few times where I thought Yoh was going to score the upset, but the more experienced Ospreay powered through and hit the Stormbreaker for the win.
I feel like I should mention Tiger Mask! How does a man his age move so well? He won his first two matches, and put on a great performance with Scurll on night 5. He’s had a few stumbles (notably almost falling over when hitting a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on Scurll), but he’s still putting on a brilliant show.
The tournament is still anyone’s to take with a lot of shows to go and points to make, here are the scores so far:
|Block A||Block B|
|Shingo Takagi||6||El Phantasmo||6|
|Taiji Ishimori||6||Ryusuke Taguchi||6|
|Dragon Lee||4||Will Ospreay||6|
|Marty Scurll||4||Robbie Eagles||4|
|Yoshinobu Kanemaru||0||Ren Narita||0|