Imp’s NJPW Adventure
Best of the Super Juniors 26 (2019)
Do you like flips? Reversals of flips? Countering with other variations of flips?! Then the Best of the Super Juniors is for you!
The 26th iteration of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual Junior tournament, where 20 of the greatest high-flyers in the world colli- wait, what? What do you mean Shingo and SHO are not only in the tournament, but are together in the same block? And they faced each other on night ONE?! Right then, well, I guess this year’s Best of the Super Juniors has been injected with a strong dose big boy variety.
This year’s BOSJ is more than just displays of incredible athleticism, 2019’s got some serious depth! Yes there’s ‘big boys’ Shingo & SHO, but there’s also a technical wizard in Johnathan Gresham, a baseball bat wielding heel in DOUKI, a veteran Taguchi seemingly main eventing every B Block show, an ROH main eventer in Marty Scurll, a new British scene dickhead in El Phantasmo (I say new because they’ve had Will Ospreay for years) and that’s all on top of the New Japan names you already know and were expecting to participate.
However, I can easily see that keeping up with a tournament where there’s a next set of matches taking place every day might be a tad too mammoth a task to maintain for normal people. Luckily for you, I’m not normal and need a distraction from the reminder I’ve got to a write another WWE-Saudi Arabia column next week.
So here I am! Bringing you all the matches I personally feel you need to check out from the first week of the 26th Best of the Super Juniors tournament. I’m going to try and be somewhat brief, only broad strokes so you can and check out the matches yourselves without really being spoilt. But with enough information so you at least know what you’re tuning in to, I’m not going to trick you into watching Rysuke Taguchi vs DOUKI.
I have no idea how that main evented.
First off some honourable mentions, aka matches that I enjoyed but you don’t NEED to immediately check them out. I know there are people out there that loved some of these matches, so they are down to personal taste:
May 13th – Marty Scurll vs Johnathan Gresham – A fantastic technical clash between the British and American styles, the wrestler’s wrestling match if you will. A top notch introduction to Gresham if you’ve not seen him before.
May 14th – YOH vs Rysuke Taguchi – The main event of the first night of B Block, both men were hometown heroes and in response the crowd ate up every moment of this. A fun watch, if anything it’s a great showcase for YOH as a singles star, something he seems to be relishing as his tag partner SHO is somewhat stealing the competition over in A Block.
This was just the start of Taguchi’s BOSJ main event run, easily the best as well. Both guys elevated each other to a genuinely great match.
May 16th – YOH vs Bandido – Another really fun match, it’s like YOH is the MVP of the entertaining mid-card bout this year. With both guys seemingly set to have strong mid-table runs, it’s a match where the result really was in the air and could have gone either way. If YOH was elevated with his first match, his second here absolutely continued that momentum. They really play off us not knowing who was going to pick up the win, we really got to see what both men can do.
May 18th – Shingo vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru – The one where Twitter immediately went, “Now that is how you do a ‘Baddie Focuses on the Leg’ match, a lot of people really highly rated this one. For me though, yeah it was good but I’m not going to say it’s a must watch. Shingo has had an amazing tournament and Kanemaru really stepped up in the main event, he really took it to the LIJ man.
The Suzuki-Gun alcoholic didn’t break from his game plan and the undefeated Shingo genuinely seemed to struggle, a chink off the armour if you will.
SHO vs Shingo Takagi
With his new theme video game inspired theme and dark hair showing a sign of serious determination, SHO has looked to take this tournament by storm. And Jesus, the race for MVP of Week 1 wasn’t even close. SHO’s BOSJ so far has been of an outstanding quality, he’s easily become the one to watch.
With his first match against Shingo though, they opened in style… strong style. The two beat the living crap out of each other, the most NEVER feeling Strong Style Junior match I think I’ve seen. Two big strong boys throwing everything at the other. Seriously, it is without doubt the best match of the tournament so far, in fact I’d rate it as one of favourites of the year. A coming out moment for SHO, he arrived with this match. His status as a future star confirmed.
A classic New Japan main event with Shingo driven on hitting his Last of the Dragon finisher and SHO doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen. Counter after counter, stiff strike after stiff strike; an incredible showing of the will of both of these athletes. The determination to get back up again and again, each time somehow hitting their moves with even more force than the last.
A match that builds and builds till an amazing ending sequence where both buys are desperate to hit that killing blow.
SHO may be the MVP, but don’t be mistaken, this is Shingo’s tournament. Coming in to the tournament undefeated in New Japan, he’s looked incredibly impressive in every match of this tournament so far. The Roppongi 3k man is having top notch matches, but Shingo is the one to beat.
Dragon Lee vs Taiji Ishimori
Man, bloody hell is A Block stacked.
The champ versus the former champ, a luchador of honour versus a Bullet Club Junior of victory by any means. A match with both men upping the ante, spiking each other with more and more devastating moves to seemingly no effect. Similar to their match from Wrestling Dontaku shortly before, except Dragon Lee had proven his might and Ishimori entered with a new tact.
The Bone Soldier took it to the champion, giving him no respite, showing he’d learnt from their last meeting. No stutter, no cheek, straight forward trying to wear down the champion enough to create an opening to hit his Bloody Cross finisher. Something harder said than done with Dragon Lee countering you at every turn, but eventually Ishimori was able to counter back into the Bloody Cross.
However that same feeling reared its head again as Dragon Lee kicked out. This was the real test for the Bullet Club man, last time he lost his temper and with it his focus on his opponent. Was he able to keep focus this time? Or did Dragon Lee show the same ability to fight back if given even just a slither of a chance?
Well you’ll have to watch to find out!
El Phantasmo vs Bandido
Did… did El Phantasmo just flip off a baby? Yes, yes he did. I ask, when is it ‘too early’ to don a man as a legend?
One of the more athletically impressive displays of the tournament so far, Bandido whipped out his awesome Moonsault Press and the newest Bullet Club hire payed him in kind with his own ‘rope-a-dope’ manoeuvres. Although this ultimately was about a strong first showing for Phantasmo, getting over his ‘good but he’s a right dickhead about it’ character along with his outstanding ability.
Bandido impressed back in April with the Madison Square Garden triple threat, but here he did a great job playing off of ELP’s cheeky tricks. The Mexican did his best against the relatively unknown opponent, how do you prepare when you’ve got no idea what you’re going to be faced up against?
No spoilers, but Bandido should probably tie his mask on a bit tighter. You’d think luchadores would have cottoned on to this by now.
Dragon Lee vs SHO
SHO bringing Strong Style to the Junior division and I’m here for all of it. Over 25 minutes of two Junior lads beating the crap out of each other. The Roppongi 3k man has started to build somewhat of a reputation, it may be in defeat but he’s been putting on some incredible matches.
Not to down play the display of his opponents, the champion was damn on form for this match. A great example being an absolutely insane tope from Dragon Lee, hit with so much force both men went flying into the first 3 rows or so. Both guys brought it and the ante once again built and built, how far are you willing to push yourself to get that win? On night 2… of 9… then there’s the final.
This was on full display towards the end, with stiff, no nonsense, bare-boned knees from Lee in an, “I’m done with this shit,” attempt to completely take him out of the match. Kind of similar to SHO’s battle with Shingo, the question become whether the champion was finally able to nail his Suplex Powerbomb finisher or not.
Seriously, at this point, just watch every match with SHO in it.
Rocky Romero vs Will Ospreay
Bloody hell, this one caught me by surprise. Rocky would simply never give up, countering and kicking out fooreeever.
It’s like with him taking a step back, doing more supporting manager and commentary work, we’d somewhat let it slip from our minds how damn great a wrestler Rocky Romero is. Well, was that ability ever on display in this! A damn fantastic match, the two made one hell of a statement that they should have main evented this show.
If SHO and Shingo are the MVP and man to beat in A Block, I’ve got to say that Will Ospreay is without doubt both of those things for B Block. He feels like the biggest deal, but he’s also delivering in a manner that makes him feel worthy of the moniker. Stepping up and winning the NEVER Openweight Championship on January 4th has made him one of the biggest deals in this tournament, arguably the only man who matches him in that regard is Shingo.
On the other hand, here Ospreay just couldn’t keep Rocky from slipping out of moves if his life had depended on it. The fellow CHAOS man constantly found a way, even catching the Essex man with multiple sudden role ups to nearly win the match himself. Truly showing his veteran knowledge, being able to almost win in a surprise instant.
That’s why they call him the King of Sneaky Style, genuinely surprises with one of the best matches of the tournament.
YOH vs Will Ospreay
And finally, here we are with a bout between a resilient, rising talent versus one of most successful Juniors of this generation. Another CHAOS vs CHAOS clash aka yet another fellow stablemate for Will Ospreay to figure out how on Earth he’s going to stop them countering him. If the BOSJ matches didn’t already have enough impressive counters, now there’s a butt load of contests between folk in the same stable and therefore know each other’s moves almost to a T.
Like the Romero match before it, this was yet another case of wrestlers stepping up to B Block’s ‘Man to Beat’. YOH had an impressive showing against Taguchi, but I feel here is where he really arrived. Just as with his tag partner SHO, when up against the top man of the Block he was able to ‘show’ us the depths of his determination and ability. Showing us that surely the future of this division is in safe hands when not one, but both of Roppongi 3k are ruling the town.
Hell, there’s no reason to assume they’ll stop there. Look at how high the likes of Naito have climbed since splitting from his super popular Jr Tag Championship winning team, that’s how highly I rate these guys. The talent feels so on display in this Best of the Super Juniors, both are impressing so damn much.
So yeah, 100% check out this match, arguably this Block’s equivalent to SHO vs Shingo. Just with more boob flexing.
Seriously, YOH’s tit flex game is out of this world. Automatic 10/10 Cagematch.net rating.
And that brings me to the end! What were favourite matches from the week? Is SHO really the MVP? Who do you think is walking away as the overall winner?
The BOSJ tournament continues Wednesday at the famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, with a straight of shows entirely formed of matches from both blocks.
Toodles chaps, assen na yo.
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