Best of the Super Juniors 25 preview: Block A
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2018 Best of the Super Juniors preview: Block A

May 17, 2018
By: Lou Pickney

The 25th installment of New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament begins soon, and this year's event will feature some new faces along with the usual cast of high-end junior heavyweight wrestlers.

This is part one of a two-part preview; the Block B preview is now online.

As for abbreviations, the X/4 indicator reflects the order of the tournament matches on a given show (e.g. 1/4 for the first tournament match of the show up to 4/4 for the main event), with the exception of the final night (June 3) in which eight matches will take place with an order still to be announced.


Block A

ACH

Age: 30 (Born on December 7, 1987)
Hometown: Austin, Texas, United States
BOTSJ History: 2017 (3-4)

Entering his second consecutive BOTSJ in 2018, ACH returns from a 2017 tournament where he upset KUSHIDA and had good matches with BUSHI and Tiger Mask along with a great match with Volador Jr.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 2/4) -- Flip Gordon
This will be their first-ever match. With this also being Gordon's BOTSJ debut, you would figure he is going to pull out all of the stops in front of the responsive Korakuen Hall crowd.

May 20 (Shizuoka 4/4) -- Will Ospreay
Ospreay never takes a night off, and in the main event slot you know both wrestlers will go all out, especially with this being ACH's lone main event match of the tournament. Ospreay pinned ACH in a 2016 match in London, England for RevPro in their lone previous meeting.

May 24 (Shiga 2/4) -- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Kanemaru pinned ACH in last year's BOTSJ, and most recently they faced off when ACH and Ryusuke Taguchi beat Kanemaru and El Desperado in the semifinals of the 2017 Super Junior Tag Tournament.

May 26 (Nagoya 2/4) -- YOH
This will be their first singles match, though ACH and YOH faced off in the final of the 2017 Super Junior Tag Tournament, a match won by Roppongi 3K.

May 29 (Tochigi 2/4) -- BUSHI
BUSHI won their lone previous match, which took place on opening night of the 2017 BOTSJ.

May 31 (Aomori 2/4) -- Taiji Ishimori
Ishimori defeated ACH in the semifinals of the 2017 Impact Super X Cup in Orlando, Florida. But they were teammates in their most recent New Japan appearance together, the 2016 Super Junior Tag Tournament, where they beat the Young Bucks and David Finlay/Ricochet before losing to Rocky Romero and Beretta in the final. Prior to that, Ishimori and ACH teamed up in the 2016 Pro Wrestling NOAH NTV G Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Tiger Mask
In last year's BOTSJ, Tiger Mask pinned ACH at Korakuen Hall in a surprisingly good match. Most recently, they teamed up in some New Japan six-man tags in November 2017.


BUSHI

Age: 35 (Born on April 5, 1983)
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2012 (3-5), 2013 (3-5), 2014 (4-3), 2016 (4-3), 2017 (4-3)

If nothing else, BUSHI has been consistent in the BOTSJ. Two years at 3-5 (when the tournament had nine participants per block), then three years at 4-3, only missing the tournament in 2015 while recovering from a severe neck injury suffered in late 2014.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 3/4) -- YOH
Opening night will pit BUSHI against Yohei Komatsu as they build on their rivalry from the Junior Heavyweight tag team division. BUSHI won their only previous singles match in October 2014, when Komatsu was still a young lion.

May 20 (Shizuoka 3/4) -- Taiji Ishimori
This will be their first-ever match. Their only previous in-ring encounter was being on the same team in an 8-man tag at the All Together 2011 charity show at Budokan Hall.

May 24 (Shiga 1/4) -- Tiger Mask
This will be their third BOTSJ match; Tiger Mask won in 2013, while BUSHI was victorious in 2017. BUSHI also beat Tiger Mask in their most recent singles match in July 2017 for What Culture Pro Wrestling (now known as Defiant Wrestling) in Manchester, England.

May 26 (Nagoya 4/4) -- Will Ospreay
This will be their first singles match in New Japan, though they have faced off in dozens of tag matches over the past two years. Their only previous singles match was an Ospreay win in November 2016 at York Hall in London, England on a RevPro show. This is BUSHI's only scheduled main event match in the tournament.

May 29 (Tochigi 2/4) -- ACH
BUSHI won their lone previous match, which took place on opening night of the 2017 BOTSJ.

May 31 (Aomori 1/4) -- Flip Gordon
This will be their first singles match. Their only previous encounter was being on opposite sides in a tag team match (BUSHI & Hiromu vs. Flip Gordon & Taguchi) in night two of this past February's Honor Rising shows at Korakuen Hall.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen)- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
While they have faced off in plenty of tag team matches, BUSHI and Kanemaru have only had two prior singles matches, with Kanemaru winning in the first round of the 2016 Super J Cup and BUSHI winning in last year's BOTSJ.


Flip Gordon

Age: 26 (Born on December 12, 1991)
Hometown: Kalispell, Massachusetts, United States
BOTSJ History: None

Travis "Flip" Gordon is participating in his first BOTSJ tournament this year. With only three years as a pro, Gordon is one of the more inexperienced participants. But his tremendous in-ring ability, along with his supporting role in the Being The Elite web series, have helped Gordon to quickly rise to prominence on an international level. Gordon debuted in Japan earlier this year on the Honor Rising shows, and he impressed me when I saw him wrestle live for both RevPro and ROH over WrestleMania 34 weekend in New Orleans last month.

Gordon doesn't have any main event matches scheduled, but his match with Will Ospreay on the final night of the round robin could end up being placed in a prominent spot on the card. And after their ****1/2 classic in Chicago for Ring of Honor in October 2017, anticipation is high for the rematch.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 2/4) -- ACH
This will be their first-ever match. With this also being Gordon's BOTSJ debut, you would figure he is going to pull out all of the stops in front of the responsive Korakuen Hall crowd.

May 20 (Shizuoka 2/4) -- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This will be their first-ever match.

May 24 (Shiga 3/4) -- Taiji Ishimori
This will be their first-ever match. It will also be Gordon's first time working a New Japan semi-main event.

May 26 (Nagoya 1/4) -- Tiger Mask
This will be their first-ever match.

May 29 (Tochigi 3/4) -- YOH
This will be their first-ever match. Given its semi-main event slotting, it could be given enough time to get really good.

May 31 (Aomori 1/4) -- BUSHI
This will be their first singles match. Their only previous encounter was being on opposite sides in a tag team match (BUSHI & Hiromu vs. Flip Gordon & Taguchi) in night two of this past February's Honor Rising shows at Korakuen Hall.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen)- Will Ospreay
This will be the first Ospreay vs. Gordon singles match in New Japan. They were on opposite sides of a really good six-man tag on last month's RevPro show in New Orleans. Their only prior singles match was a thrilling win by Ospreay at ROH Global Wars in October 2017.


Taiji Ishimori

Age: 35 (Born on February 10, 1983)
Hometown: Tagajo, Miyagi, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2010 (5-2 to win Block B; lost to Block A runner-up Prince Devitt in semifinals)

The newest member of Bullet Club, Ishimori reprised the BONE SOLDIER character which was vacated when Mitsuhide Hirasawa parted ways with New Japan Pro Wrestling last year. Ishimori represented Pro Wrestling NOAH for the 2010 BOTSJ and actually won Block B that year. This will be Ishimori's first BOTSJ as a full-timer with New Japan.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 4/4) -- Will Ospreay
This will be their first-ever match. In the main event on opening night, you know both guys will bring their A-game. This is the only main event match scheduled for Ishimori in this tournament.

May 20 (Shizuoka 3/4) -- BUSHI
This will be their first-ever match. Their only previous in-ring encounter was being on the same team in an 8-man tag at the All Together 2011 charity show at Budokan Hall in Tokyo.

May 24 (Shiga 3/4) -- Flip Gordon
This will be their first-ever match. It will also be Gordon's first time working a New Japan semi-main event.

May 26 (Nagoya 3/4) -- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
After three straight first-time matches, Ishimori lands a familiar opponent in Kanemaru. They've had ten previous singles matches, all in Pro Wrestling NOAH from 2006 through 2016, and Kanemaru won nine of those matches. The tenth was a 20-minute time limit draw in 2012.

May 29 (Tochigi 1/4) -- Tiger Mask
This will be their first-ever match, surprisingly enough.

May 31 (Aomori 2/4) -- ACH
Ishimori defeated ACH in the semifinals of the 2017 Impact Super X Cup in Orlando. But they were teammates in their most recent New Japan appearance together, the 2016 Super Junior Tag Tournament, where they beat the Young Bucks and David Finlay/Ricochet before losing to Rocky Romero and Beretta in the final. Prior to that, Ishimori and ACH teamed up in the 2016 Pro Wrestling NOAH NTV G Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- YOH
This will be their first-ever match, and its placement on the final night of the round robin is rather interesting.


Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Age 41 (Born on September 23, 1976)
Hometown: Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2017 (3-4)

There will be at least two main events in this tournament for Kanemaru, including a match with Will Ospreay that could be Kanemaru's best match since KUSHIDA carried him to consecutive ***3/4 matches in the past two BOTSJ.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 1/4) -- Tiger Mask
This will be only their second-ever singles match. Kanemaru beat Tiger Mask in the 2017 BOTSJ.

May 20 (Shizuoka 2/4) -- Flip Gordon
This will be their first-ever match.

May 24 (Shiga 2/4) -- ACH
Kanemaru pinned ACH in last year's BOTSJ, and most recently they faced off when ACH and Ryusuke Taguchi beat Kanemaru and El Desperado in the semifinals of the 2017 Super Junior Tag Tournament.

May 26 (Nagoya 3/4) -- Taiji Ishimori
After three straight first-time matches, Ishimori lands a familiar opponent in Kanemaru. They've had ten previous singles matches, all in Pro Wrestling NOAH from 2006 through 2016, and Kanemaru won nine of those matches. The tenth was a 20-minute time limit draw in 2012.

May 29 (Tochigi 4/4) -- Will Ospreay
This will be their first-ever singles match, though they have been on opposite sides in a few CHAOS vs. Suzuki-gun multi-man tag matches in New Japan.

May 31 (Aomori 4/4) -- YOH
This will be their first-ever singles match, though they have been on opposite sides in a dozen multi-man tag matches in 2018.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- BUSHI
While they have faced off in plenty of tag team matches, BUSHI and Kanemaru have only had two prior singles matches, with Kanemaru winning in the first round of the 2016 Super J Cup and BUSHI winning in last year's BOTSJ.


Will Ospreay

Age: 25 (Born on May 7, 1993)
Hometown: Essex, England
BOTSJ History: 2016 (4-3 to win Block B, pinned Ryusuke Taguchi in tournament final to win BOTSJ), 2017 (5-2 to win Block A, lost to KUSHIDA in tournament final)

Ospreay is the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, meaning any loss he takes in this tournament sets up a potential title challenger. One of the most spectacular wrestlers on the planet, Ospreay is being heavily featured in this tournament, with five main events and one semi-main event.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 4/4) -- Taiji Ishimori
This will be their first-ever match. In the main event on opening night, you know both guys will bring their A-game. This is the only main event match scheduled for Ishimori in this tournament.

May 20 (Shizuoka 4/4) -- ACH
Ospreay never takes a night off, and in the main event slot you know both wrestlers will go all out, especially with this being ACH's lone main event match of the tournament. Ospreay pinned ACH in a 2016 match in London, England for RevPro in their lone previous meeting.

May 24 (Shiga 4/4) -- YOH
This will be their first-ever match and, positioned in a main event slot, it could end up being great.

May 26 (Nagoya 4/4) -- BUSHI
This will be their first singles match in New Japan, though they have faced off in dozens of tag matches over the past two years. Their only previous singles match was an Ospreay win in November 2016 at York Hall in London, England on a RevPro show. This is BUSHI's only scheduled main event match in the tournament.

May 29 (Tochigi 4/4) -- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This will be their first-ever singles match, though they have been on opposite sides in a few CHAOS vs. Suzuki-gun multi-man tag matches in New Japan.

May 31 (Aomori 3/4) -- Tiger Mask
This will be their second-ever singles match, with Tiger Mask having beaten Ospreay in the 2016 BOTSJ. It's the only semi-main event match booked for either Ospreay or Tiger Mask in this tournament.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Flip Gordon
This will be the first Ospreay vs. Gordon singles match in New Japan. They were on opposite sides of a really good six-man tag on last month's RevPro show in New Orleans. Their only prior singles match was a thrilling win by Ospreay at ROH Global Wars in October 2017.


Tiger Mask (IV)

Age: 47 (Born on October 20, 1970)
Hometown: Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2002 (3-3), 2003 (4-2), 2004 (6-1 to win Block B; 2-0 in knockout round to win BOTSJ), 2005 (4-2 to finish second in Block B; 2-0 in knockout round to win BOTSJ), 2006 (4-2 to finish second in Block B; lost in semifinals), 2007 (4-2 including forfeit win over Prince Devitt), 2008 (5-0 to win Block B; lost in semifinals), 2009 (3-3), 2010 (0-6, withdrew due to injury in loss to La Sombra in opener, forfeiting the remaining 5 matches), 2011 (4-4), 2012 (4-4), 2013 (4-4), 2014 (3-4), 2015 (4-3 including forfeit win over Alex Shelley), 2016 (3-4), 2017 (3-4)

How many years does Tiger Mask have left in him? With Jushin Liger (53) and Gedo (49) now bowing out of the tournament, Tiger Mask has become the elder statesman of the bunch. But I would suggest there is a good reason Tiger Mask is booked for the first match slot in five of his first six BOTSJ bouts.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 1/4) -- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This will be only their second-ever singles match. Kanemaru beat Tiger Mask in the 2017 BOTSJ.

May 20 (Shizuoka 1/4) -- YOH
Their only previous match was in December 2014, when Yohei Komatsu was still a young lion.

May 24 (Shiga 1/4) -- BUSHI
This will be their third BOTSJ match; Tiger Mask won in 2013, while BUSHI was victorious in 2017. BUSHI also beat Tiger Mask in their most recent singles match in July 2017 for What Culture Pro Wrestling (now known as Defiant Wrestling) in Manchester, England.

May 26 (Nagoya 1/4) -- Flip Gordon
This will be their first-ever match.

May 29 (Tochigi 1/4) -- Taiji Ishimori
This will be their first-ever match, surprisingly enough.

May 31 (Aomori 3/4) -- Will Ospreay
This will be their second-ever singles match, with Tiger Mask having beaten Ospreay in the 2016 BOTSJ. It's the only semi-main event match booked for either Ospreay or Tiger Mask in this tournament.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- ACH
In last year's BOTSJ, Tiger Mask pinned ACH at Korakuen Hall in a surprisingly good match. Most recently, they teamed up in some New Japan six-man tags in November 2017.


YOH

Age: 29 (Born on June 25, 1988)
Hometown: Kurihara, Miyagi, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2015 (0-7)

Relatively recently returned from his excursion, Yohei Komatsu has been busy on the tag team scene along with Sho Tanaka as Roppongi 3K. This tournament will be his first chance to show off his singles match skills, and YOH should have plenty of opportunities to shine.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 18 (Tokyo Korakuen 3/4) -- BUSHI
Opening night will pit BUSHI against Yohei Komatsu as they build on their rivalry from the Junior Heavyweight tag team division. BUSHI won their only previous singles match in October 2014, when Komatsu was still a young lion.

May 20 (Shizuoka 1/4) -- Tiger Mask
Their only previous match was in December 2014, when Yohei Komatsu was still a young lion.

May 24 (Shiga 4/4) -- Will Ospreay
This will be their first-ever match and, positioned in a main event slot, it could end up being great.

May 26 (Nagoya 2/4) -- ACH
This will be their first singles match, though ACH and YOH faced off in the final of the 2017 Super Junior Tag Tournament, a match won by Roppongi 3K.

May 29 (Tochigi 3/4) -- Flip Gordon
This will be their first-ever match. Given its semi-main event slotting, it could be given enough time to get really good.

May 31 (Aomori 4/4) -- Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This will be their first-ever singles match, though they have been on opposite sides in a dozen multi-man tag matches in 2018.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Taiji Ishimori
This will be their first-ever match, and its placement on the final night of the round robin is rather interesting.


MORE: Block B preview


See any mistakes, omissions, or needed corrections? Please let me know: @LouPickney



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