NOTE: Thank you all for your patience as I’ve been working to adapt to a hectic schedule lately. For the BOSJ Finals, I have covered the full event below – however, instead of full play-by-play, I will be posting results, rating and commentary on each match. I know this is already late to begin with, and this format is allowing me to get this out as quickly as possible so you can have your LOP BOSJ coverage ASAP. Thanks for reading!
New Japan Pro Wrestling
BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS 26
Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall, Tokyo
Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton & Gino Gambino on commentary.
DRAGON LEE, TITAN & SHOTA UMINO
JONATHAN GRESHAM, BANDIDO & REN NARITA
by pinfall via exposed knee strike by Dragon Lee
JAY’S RATING: 3.25 out of 5
This was a fun and action-filled way to start the event, with (almost) everyone getting a chance to show their stuff. I say “(almost)” because I feel like Jonathan Gresham was woefully underutilized in this match compared to the others. Nonetheless this was a strong way to open the night. Titan in particular was really on point tonight with his agility and precision, which I mention because I didnt feel like I could always say that during the tournament itself. Dragon Lee had a nice Shibata moment, as he came out in a Shibata t-shirt and hit a nice Shibata hesitation dropkick in tribute. Bandido also looked incredible, surprising no one (he’s ridiculously mature as a performer at his age), and his team got in a GREAT rope hung 450 (Bandido), shooting star press (Gresham), bridging German (Narita) combo for a nearfall. But in the end Dragon Lee scored the win with a stiff and sharp knee strike, taking the W as champ over the Young Lion Narita, which was a good call. Well done all around.
BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori/El Phantasmo/Robbie Eagles)
ROPPONGI 3K & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI
by pinfall via CR2 (after stealing the cover from Eagles after his 450)
JAY’S RATING: 3.25 out of 5
Another strong match early in the night, with lots of intrigue involved. We saw pieces of Eagles not liking the BC tactics and ELP’s attitude during the tournament, and that dissention deepened here, coming to a peak with finish that saw Eages hit a great 450 but ELP tagging himself in to steal the pinfall. The post-match took it further, with Eagles confronting ELP and storming out after ELP also took the Jr Tag belts and handed one to Taiji, totally boxing out Eagles. This is a good move overall, I feel, especially with BC feeling a little bloated and unfocused lately in my opinion (having Taiji, ELP AND Eagles in BOSJ really made me feel like they didnt have a clear plan for their juniors division, and that started to clarify a bit here). Eagles also looked great here, and showed that with a break from BC he could hold his own as a singles competitor in the juniors division. Everyone looked good here, with ELP continuing to show INSANE rope agility and finding some more fire overall. (Also the smelly thumb-in-the-bumb spot between ELP and Taguchi was absurd in the best way.) Interested to see where this BC dissention goes.
After the match, ELP parades around with the Jr. Tag straps, handing one to Taiji and leaving Eagles out of it. Eagles then gets right in ELP’s face, we get tension there before Eagles leaves in a huff, continuing his tease at an on-coming face turn.
TOMOHIRO ISHII, TORU YANO, YOSHI-HASHI, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER & TIGER MASK IV
(Minoru Suzuki/Taichi/Zack Sabre Jr/Yoshinobu Kanemaru/DOUKI)
by pinfall via Karma
JAY’S RATING: 2.75 out of 5
Suzuki-Gun DIDNT attack before the bell, surprising EVERYONE. However, they did resort to their usual tactics overall, spilling chaotic action to ringside and Taichi getting a low blow on Ishii as those two build to their NEVER Openweight Title match at Dominion. We also got more tension building between Liger and Suzuki, who brawl post-match in the lead up to Liger’s retirement. DOUKI also continues to be a bit of a weak link, almost missing his dive to the outside completely. Outside of that Suzuki-Gun had some nice team moments, but ultimately fell with HASHI picking up the W over DOUKI, which unfortunately lacked drama in the finish for me. Also, we got a tease of HASHI challenging ZSJ for the Undisputed British Heavyweight title, which… honestly I dont really care about. ZSJ looked good here, locking in a nice flying octopus hold at one point, but ultimately this was fairly strong but missing something to really push it to a more exciting place.
After the match, we get tension and/or fire from Taichi/Ishii, HASHI/ZSJ but most of all from Liger and Suzuki who just start tearing into each other all the way out of the arena. I wonnder if they will save the singles match for Liger’s retirement at WrestleKingdom weekend. Time will tell.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito/SANADA/EVIL/BUSHI)
KOTA IBUSHI, TOGI MAKABE, TOMOAKI HONMA & TOA HENARE
by pinfall via Magic Killer
JAY’S RATING: 3.25 out of 5
I dont know how I feel about SANADA’s new look, only because he looked so BADASS before. It almost feels like an attempt to make him more mainstream… maybe that means they are starting to more seriously eye him for the main event picture? I dont know, but I’m missing some of the edge. Regardless, this was a very solid match, built on the foundation of Naito and Ibushi going head to head at Dominion for the IC title as Naito continues his pursuit of being a double champ (with Naito delivering a nice post-match beating). Naito and Ibushi both looked great here, with Naito getting under Ibushi’s skin early with a quick Tranquilo sequence and later spiking him HARD with a sick tornado DDT. LIJ’s teamwork was also on point as usual, and while Team Ibushi put in a good effort, this felt like LIJ’s match at the end of the day. I also appreciate how explosive Henare is becoming, and BUSHI feels like he’s starting to evolve bit by bit following a great 6-match win streak to close out his BOSJ. Really strong work all around.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada/Rocky Romero)
VILLAIN ENTERPRISES (Marty Scurll/Brody King)
by pinfall via Rainmaker
JAY’S RATING: 3 out of 5
The crowd was firmly behind Okada the entire match, and he looked great picking up a fairly quick but strong win with a Rainmaker on Brody. There wasnt really that much to this match, and it lagged a little in the middle bit, but it started and ended strongly enough and the somewhat decisive victory leads well into Okada’s upcoming match with Chris Jericho. Rocky also looked great again, using his experience and quickness to keep Marty and Brody on their toes. Marty and Brody looked good as well, with Brody in particular impressing (he hit a rope-agility sequence that was NUTS for someone his size, while also continuing to be a BEAST in the ring). VE also continues to gel as a team (I LOVE that sunset-assisted German spot). Overall, a strong match to carry us into our “triple main event” of sorts.
After the match, we get a video from Chris Jericho telling Okada to “come out and play.” He’s calling himself the Painmaker, which honestly works. Okada takes the mic afterward, says this isnt a toy to be played with, and asks what the hell a “Painmaker” is. The only think NJPW needs is a Rainmaker, and with that he leaves. The video was fairly quick, but REALLY well done and effective (nice editing work), and got the crowd even more behind Okada especially after his mini-promo. It didnt need much more than this – the match kind of markets itself, and even if I dont have much faith in Jericho taking the belt, I do look forward to what could be an awesome outing between these two.
by pinfall via a rollup
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
This was a great match between these 2, and I didnt really mind the Gedo interference and low blow either given Tana fighting fire with fire (hitting a low blow himself) in a great spot of storytelling. And Jay winning clean I feel is a perfect choice as well as he continues to build his “new era”. Tana is great, and may even be champ again whether he needs that to add to his legacy or not. Its clear that he still has the It factor. But Jay White proves time and time again that he is one of the future true faces of this company, and did so again here with a truly great showing. His Switchblade persona is so organic its not even funny. So building him back to the main event picture by having him go over the Ace here is the ideal choice in my opinion. The chemistry between these two is incredible, with GREAT counterwrestling sequences (that Sling Blade/Blade Runner piece was great), and Tana using his legs to hit a dragon screw when his arm was too weakened was BRILLIANT. The crowd was SUPER behind Tana, but it just wasnt enough to overcome the overall momentum, viciousness and aggressiveness (which was on FULL display here) of Jay White. Outstanding match all around, both delivered great story and character here, and I’m all for Jay White working his way back into the IWGP Title picture. Great great work.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
JUICE ROBINSON (c)
by pinfall via an elevated Death Rider (Dirty Deeds)
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
Welcome back, Jon Moxley. This was an utterly great way for Mox to make his first post-WWE in-ring appearance, and not just because he now holds gold right out of the gate. Rather, he just seems renewed and refreshed in a way that so many were hoping for. He and Juice locked into each other right off the bat with a hot and fast start, and delivered a total tooth and nail brawl filled with chairs, tables, crowd spots, Mox working like hell to bust Juice open with closed fists, the Lions getting pushed around, and holy hell Juice diving off the tron onto Mox and the Lions below. Mox also showed that while he is still a wild brawler, he’s got the mat skill to back it up too with a solid submission game and a clean pinfall with an elevated Death Rider to take the title. Rejuvenated Mox is a fucking awesome Mox, and I can’t wait to see more from him now that he’s found his voice as a performer again. And this takes nothing away from Juice – Red Shoes let them really go at it and I’m so glad they booked it that way because Juice went point for point with Mox in terms of violence and delivered by far his best title defense so far, even in loss, with the crowd behind him along the way. While there really wasnt any post-match angle to speak of, something is telling me we havent seen the last of this rivalry. That’s my hope at least.
After the match, Mox bows to the crowd, showing that he still isnt a full heel – he’s just JON FUCKING MOXLEY.
Best of the Super Juniors 26 Finals
by pinfall via Stormbreaker
JAY’S RATING: 4.8 out of 5
Well holy shit that was a BOSJ Final!!! And in the running for MOTY for NJPW if not overall this year. While I may feel like Shingo would have benefited more from a win here than Ospreay, who has been to the top of this mountain before, I cant complain too much given the match both put on here, with the crowd STRONGLY behind Will for most of the match (and even booing Shingo at times, who has also been getting some crowd love over the course of BOSJ). The journey of this thing was BEAUTIFULLY parsed out, with an incredible series of spots and moments throughout (Will reversing a Psycho Driver only to have the OsCutter reversed into Noshigami, Will reversing Pumping Bomber into an insane Liger Bomb, and – my favorite – a shooting star senton onto Shingo’s back while standing!!!). Shingo also ended up losing nothing here in loss by virtue of a truly stellar performance, and given that he holds a win over current Jr Champ Dragon Lee from the tournament, he’s already in line for a title shot – so that as well helps me understand the choice to crown Ospreay once again. This was a near perfect affair on pretty much every level, and a match I look forward to rewatching at least another couple times over the next weeks. This is definitely a drop-everything-and-watch-this affair. Brilliant work all around and congrats to Ospreay and Shingo for delivering on what were already off-the-charts expectations going into the match.
This was a GREAT way to cap off the 26th Best of Super Juniors at Sumo Hall. Every match was at minimum solid, and the final three were all nothing short of stellar. Dragon Lee gets to keep momentum as champ with a strong win at the opener, and lots of storylines kept moving forward on a number of fronts. Jay White starts to reestablish himself as a main event talent with a vicious victory over Tanahashi, who is still delivering on all cylinders. Moxley’s US title win excites me because of what it means in terms of Mox’s future in NJPW, and given how AEW is allowing folks to work wherever they want providing AEW gets first dibs on dates, the potential there for him is huge. And as Mox’s post-WWE return match, he showed how versatile he can be while still proving to be what everyone expected him to be – an off-the-wall brawler and take-no-prisoners competitor who will storm full speed ahead at his obstacles. The electricity he showed blew me away, and he brought out one of my favorite performances from Juice yet. But the real meat of this whole shebang was the main event, and DEAR GOD IN CHRIST did it deliver. I still have a bit of an issue with Ospreay going over here – New Japan definitely sees him as an investment, but with a match like this, Shingo could have gone over and it could have been a torch-passing as Will officially graduates to Heavy. That story would have worked just as well, and I dont know that I’m as excited about Ospreay/Dragon Lee to be honest. Not that it wont be a great match, I’m sure it will be – I just feel like looking ahead to the future of the division, Shingo/Lee is way sexier. But nonetheless both of them pulled out all the stops, told a great story together, and Shingo is still in line for a title shot anyway. (Maybe Will takes the title one last time from Lee, to then drop it to Shingo in BOSJ finals rematch? I could TOTALLY get behind that long game if so…) I recommend watching the full card as there is lots to chew on throughout, but make the final three matches a priority. Congrats to everyone involved.