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

May 18, 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 two of a two-part preview; part one featured a preview of Block A.

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 B

Dragon Lee

Age: 23 (Born on May 15, 1995)
Hometown: Tala, Jalisco, Mexico
BOTSJ History: 2017 (4-3)

For the second consecutive year, Dragon Lee will be representing CMLL in BOTSJ. It's too bad that Volador Jr. didn't join him again as he did in 2017, but we're getting another Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi match and I'm good with that.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 1/4) -- SHO
This will be their first-ever match and it could end up being really fun if they get enough time.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 2/4) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
This will be their first singles match, though Dragon Lee and Taguchi have teamed up (and occasionally faced off) in a dozen previous New Japan multi-man tag matches.

May 25 (Osaka 4/4) -- Hiromu Takahashi
This will be the 17th singles match between Dragon Lee and Hiromu, with Dragon Lee holding an 11-5 record (including Hiromu wrestling under the name Kamaitachi), including Dragon Lee beating Hiromu in last year's BOTSJ. These two gel together in the ring remarkably well, and this should be another classic between the two.

May 27 (Nagoya 2/4) -- Chris Sabin
This will be their first-ever match.

May 30 (Fukushima 1/4) -- Marty Scurll
In their lone previous singles match, Dragon Lee beat Scurll in last year's BOTSJ. They've only had one other match, a three-way match with Will Ospreay for the ROH TV Title in December 2016 where Scurll retained after making Dragon Lee submit to the chicken wing.

June 2 (Gunma 4/4) -- KUSHIDA
This will be their first singles match, and in the main event slot they could have a tremendous bout. They did participate in a three-way match in Ring of Honor in December 2016 also including Will Ospreay, though Dragon Lee wasn't involved in the fall (KUSHIDA pinned Ospreay).

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- El Desperado
This will be their first singles match. Previously they were on opposite sides in a pair of NJPW six-man tag matches in late 2017.


El Desperado

Age: 34 (Born on December 29, 1983)
Hometown: Nagaoka, Niigata, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2014 (3-4), 2017 (3-4)

At least there is no Taichi bringing things down this year, but fellow Suzuki-gun member El Desperado will be carrying the torch of having mediocre matches with some of the most talented junior heavyweights in the world. Or at least that's my anticipation.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 2/4) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
This will be their sixth singles match. Taguchi leads the series 4-1, though they are split at 1-1 in BOTSJ matches with Taguchi winning in 2014 and El Desperado getting the victory in last year's tournament.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 4/4) -- Hiromu Takahashi
This match has quite the backstory, with Hiromu and El Desperado being on opposite sides in ongoing battles for the Jr. Tag Team Titles. But it goes much further than that, as El Desperado (as Kyosuke Mikami) and Hiromu both went through the New Japan dojo around the same time. El Desperado won the bulk of their singles matches from that era, and this will be their first singles match since 2011.

May 25 (Osaka 3/4) -- SHO
This will be their third singles match, with El Desperado leading the series 2-0 with a May 2014 win on a New Japan show in Thailand (seriously) and a July 2015 win in Pro Wrestling NOAH's Global Junior Heavyweight League. They have faced one another in a dozen New Japan tag team matches this year, so there should be plenty of familiarity between the two.

May 27 (Nagoya 1/4) -- Marty Scurll
This will be their first-ever match. Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if Yoshinobu Kanemaru's whisky bottle comes into play in this one.

May 30 (Fukushima 4/4) -- KUSHIDA
KUSHIDA is 3-1 against El Desperado in singles matches, though El Desperado beat KUSHIDA in last year's BOTSJ in their only previous meeting in this tournament. Their most recent match happened in September of last year at Destruction in Hiroshima, where KUSHIDA was victorious in a successful defense of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.

June 2 (Gunma 1/4) -- Chris Sabin
This will be their first-ever match.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Dragon Lee
This will be their first-ever match, and perhaps we will see some big dives from both guys if they are up to it at the end of a grueling tournament.


KUSHIDA

Age: 35 (Born on May 12, 1983)
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2010 (4-3), 2011 (5-3), 2012 (4-4), 2013 (4-4), 2014 (5-2 to win Block A, beat Taichi in semifinals, lost to Ricochet in final), 2015 (6-1 including forfeit win over Alex Shelley, beat Kyle O'Reilly in final to win BOTSJ), 2016 (4-3), 2017 (4-3 to win Block B, beat Will Ospreay in final to win BOTSJ)

One of my favorite sights from pro wrestling in 2017 was KUSHIDA hoisting the BOTSJ trophy and the ROH World Television Championship belt as he celebrated in the crowd after beating Will Ospreay in the final. The genuine emotion of the moment was really something, particularly in contrast with WWE, which seems to have extracted as much spontaneity as possible out of its product.

KUSHIDA just turned 35, and he is entering what should be the peak years of his career. He has a knack for getting very good-to-great matches out of less-talented opponents, though sometimes I wonder if KUSHIDA's full potential is being utilized by New Japan.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 3/4) -- Chris Sabin
I wonder who Alex Shelley will be rooting for in this one? It's his Time Splitters partner KUSHIDA against his Motor City Machine Guns partner Sabin. This will be their first singles match, though they did face off in a three-way match in Ring of Honor in May 2015 in Toronto that also included Kyle O'Reilly.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 3/4) -- Marty Scurll
This will be their first BOTSJ match against one another. KUSHIDA leads the all-time series 2-0, beating Scurll to win the ROH World Television Title in May 2017 and then winning again in a rematch one month later.

May 25 (Osaka 2/4) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
This will be their fifth BOTSJ match against one another and their seventh singles match overall. In previous BOTSJ matches, Taguchi won in 2011 and 2013, while KUSHIDA won in 2016 and 2017. Taguchi beat KUSHIDA for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship in September 2014. It surprises me somewhat that SHO vs. El Desperado got the semi-main spot on this show ahead of Taguchi vs. KUSHIDA.

May 27 (Nagoya 3/4) -- SHO
KUSHIDA is 5-0 lifetime against SHO in singles matches, four from wins in 2014 and 2015 while SHO was a young lion and a fifth in a win on a July 2017 What Culture Pro Wrestling show in Manchester, England.

May 30 (Fukushima 4/4) -- El Desperado
KUSHIDA is 3-1 against El Desperado in singles matches, though El Desperado beat KUSHIDA in last year's BOTSJ in their only previous meeting in this tournament. Their most recent match happened in September of last year at Destruction in Hiroshima, where KUSHIDA was victorious in a successful defense of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.

June 2 (Gunma 4/4) -- Dragon Lee
This will be their first singles match, and in the main event slot they could have a tremendous bout. They did participate in a three-way match in Ring of Honor in December 2016 also including Will Ospreay, though Dragon Lee wasn't involved in the fall (KUSHIDA pinned Ospreay).

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Hiromu Takahashi
KUSHIDA has five singles match wins over Hiromu from his young lion days, but Hiromu got revenge by winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title from KUSHIDA last year at Wrestle Kingdom 11. After Hiromu's stunning win in less than two minutes in April 2017, KUSHIDA gained a rematch by winning last year's BOTSJ and reclaiming the title in a ****3/4 thriller of a match.

This match would seem to be as strong a candidate as any from either block to main event this show.


Chris Sabin

Age: 36 (Born on February 4, 1982)
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan, United States
BOTSJ History: None

Known most prominently for his work in the United States for TNA/Impact and Ring of Honor, Sabin makes his BOTSJ debut this year. He doesn't have any slated main events, though taking on KUSHIDA in the semi-main of opening night of Block B at Korakuen Hall should give Sabin a chance to make an immediate positive impression.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 3/4) -- KUSHIDA
I wonder who Alex Shelley will be rooting for in this one? It's his Time Splitters partner KUSHIDA against his Motor City Machine Guns partner Sabin. This will be their first singles match, though they did face off in a three-way match in Ring of Honor in May 2015 in Toronto that also included Kyle O'Reilly.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 1/4) -- SHO
This will be their first singles match. They were on opposite sides in a three-way tag match earlier this month between the Motor City Machine Guns, Roppongi 3K, and the Young Bucks.

May 25 (Osaka 1/4) -- Marty Scurll
This will be only their second singles match, with Scurll having defeated Sabin in March 2015 at a wXw show in Oberhausen, Germany. More recently they were on opposite sides in a December 2017 ten-man tag match in Ring of Honor.

May 27 (Nagoya 2/4) -- Dragon Lee
This will be their first-ever match.

May 30 (Fukushima 3/4) -- Hiromu Takahashi
This will be their first singles match. Previously they were on opposite sides in a pair of 2016 six-man tag matches in Ring of Honor, when Hiromu was wrestling under the name Kamaitachi while on excursion.

June 2 (Gunma 1/4) -- El Desperado
This will be their first-ever match.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
This will be their first singles match. They have been in four tag matches against one another, when Apollo 55 (Taguchi and Prince Devitt) and the Motor City Machine Guns (Sabin and Alex Shelley) faced off in 2009 and 2010.


Marty Scurll

Age: 29 (Born on July 25, 1988)
Hometown: Cambridgeshire, England
BOTSJ History: 2017 (4-3)

The Villain enters his second consecutive BOTSJ representing Bullet Club here in 2018. Scurll's chances to shine in this tournament will come early, with a main event matchup with Hiromu and a semi-main match with KUSHIDA starting things off.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 4/4) -- Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu holds a 3-0 mark in singles matches with Scurll, including a victory in last year's BOTSJ. Both were participants in a tremendous four-way match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 (along with Will Ospreay and KUSHIDA) this past January as well. They will be main eventing Korakuen Hall on opening night for Block B, which should be great fun.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 3/4) -- KUSHIDA
This will be their first BOTSJ match against one another. KUSHIDA leads the all-time series 2-0, beating Scurll to win the ROH World Television Title in May 2017 and then winning again in a rematch one month later.

May 25 (Osaka 1/4) -- Chris Saban
This will be only their second singles match, with Scurll having defeated Sabin in March 2015 at a wXw show in Oberhausen, Germany. More recently they were on opposite sides in a December 2017 ten-man tag match in Ring of Honor.

May 27 (Nagoya 1/4) -- El Desperado
This will be their first-ever match. Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if Yoshinobu Kanemaru's whisky bottle comes into play in this one.

May 30 (Fukushima 1/4) -- Dragon Lee
In their lone previous singles match, Dragon Lee beat Scurll in last year's BOTSJ. They've only had one other match, a three-way match with Will Ospreay for the ROH TV Title in December 2016 where Scurll retained after making Dragon Lee submit to the chicken wing.

June 2 (Gunma 2/4) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
This will be their first singles match. Their only previous match was being on opposite sides in a 10-man tag match this past January at the New Year Dash show.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- SHO
This will be their first singles match. Their only previous match came earlier this month in a six-man tag between Bullet Club and CHAOS.


SHO

Age: 28 (Born on August 27, 1989)
Hometown: Uwajima, Ehime, Japan
BOTSJ History: None

As one-half of Roppongi 3K, Sho Tanaka (going by his first name in all caps) has received a major push in the Jr. Heavyweight tag team division since returning from excursion last year. But, much like YOH in Block A, SHO hasn't yet had the opportunity to show off his solo skills post-excursion... until now.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 1/4) -- Dragon Lee
This will be their first-ever match and it could end up being really fun if they get enough time.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 1/4) -- Chris Sabin
This will be their first singles match. They were on opposite sides in a three-way tag match earlier this month between the Motor City Machine Guns, Roppongi 3K, and the Young Bucks.

May 25 (Osaka 3/4) -- El Desperado
This will be their third singles match, with El Desperado leading the series 2-0 with a May 2014 win on a New Japan show in Thailand (seriously) and a July 2015 win in Pro Wrestling NOAH's Global Junior Heavyweight League. They have faced one another in a dozen New Japan tag team matches this year, so there should be plenty of familiarity between the two.

May 27 (Nagoya 3/4) -- KUSHIDA
KUSHIDA is 5-0 lifetime against SHO in singles matches, four from wins in 2014 and 2015 while SHO was a young lion and a fifth in a win on a July 2017 What Culture Pro Wrestling show in Manchester, England.

May 30 (Fukushima 2/4) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi beat SHO in their four previous singles matches, all in 2014 and 2015 back when Sho Tanaka was a young lion. More recently SHO has had the advantage in tag matches, with Roppongi 3K winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles from Taguchi and Ricochet in September 2007 and Roppongi 3K beating Taguchi and ACH in the Super Junior Tag Tournament final.

June 2 (Gunma 3/4) -- Hiromu Takahashi
This will be their fourth singles match, with Hiromu holding a 3-0 mark with wins in 2012, 2013, and 2016. But they have had plenty of experience against each other more recently, participating in multiple tag matches with Los Ingobernables de Japon taking on CHAOS.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Marty Scurll
This will be their first singles match. Their only previous match came earlier this month in a six-man tag between Bullet Club and CHAOS.


Ryusuke Taguchi

Age: 39 (Born on April 15, 1979)
Hometown: Iwanuma, Miyagi, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2003 (0-6), 2004 (1-4-2 with two 20-minute time limit draws against "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson and El Samurai respectively), 2006 (3-2-1 with a double countout draw against Jado), 2007 (5-1 to win Block B, lost to Milano Collection AT in semifinals), 2008 (5-1 to win Block A, lost to Koji Kanemoto in semifinals), 2009 (3-3), 2010 (5-2 to finish second in Block B, lost to Kota Ibushi in semifinals), 2011 (5-3 to finish second in Block B, beat Prince Devitt in semifinals, lost to Kota Ibushi in final), 2012 (5-3 to finish second in Block B, beat PAC and Low Ki to win BOTSJ), 2013 (5-3 to win Block B but Taguchi had to withdraw before the semifinals with a hip injury), 2014 (4-3 to finish second in Block B, lost to Ricochet in semifinal), 2015 (5-3), 2016 (5-2 to win Block A, lost to Will Ospreay in final), 2017 (4-3)

Taguchi is easily the most experienced in BOTSJ out of everyone in Block B, competing in it 13 out of the last 14 years, missing only in 2005 while he was on excursion in Mexico with CMLL.

While his hit-or-miss comedy brings some laughs to undercard tag matches, Tournament Taguchi is all business, and some of his best career matches have been in previous BOTSJ tournaments.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 2/4) -- El Desperado
This will be their sixth singles match. Taguchi leads the series 4-1, though they are split at 1-1 in BOTSJ matches with Taguchi winning in 2014 and El Desperado getting the victory in last year's tournament.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 2/4) -- Dragon Lee
This will be their first singles match, though Dragon Lee and Taguchi have teamed up (and occasionally faced off) in a dozen previous New Japan multi-man tag matches.

May 25 (Osaka 2/4) -- KUSHIDA
This will be their fifth BOTSJ match against one another and their seventh singles match overall. In previous BOTSJ matches, Taguchi won in 2011 and 2013, while KUSHIDA won in 2016 and 2017. Taguchi beat KUSHIDA for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship in September 2014. It surprises me somewhat that SHO vs. El Desperado got the semi-main spot on this show ahead of Taguchi vs. KUSHIDA.

May 27 (Nagoya 4/4) -- Hiromu Takahashi
This will be their second BOTSJ match, with Taguchi defeating Hiromu in the 2012 BOTSJ. It's their fifth singles match overall, with Taguchi beating Hiromu in 2012 and 2013 and Hiromu beating Taguchi twice in 2017, once in New Japan in Tokyo and then again in What Culture Pro Wrestling in Manchester, England.

May 30 (Fukushima 4/4) -- SHO
Taguchi beat SHO in their four previous singles matches, all in 2014 and 2015 back when Sho Tanaka was a young lion. More recently SHO has had the advantage in tag matches, with Roppongi 3K winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles from Taguchi and Ricochet in September 2007 and Roppongi 3K beating Taguchi and ACH in the Super Junior Tag Tournament final.

June 2 (Gunma 2/4) -- Marty Scurll
This will be their first singles match. Their only previous match was being on opposite sides in a 10-man tag match this past January at the New Year Dash show.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- Chris Sabin
This will be their first singles match. They have been in four tag matches against one another, when Apollo 55 (Taguchi and Prince Devitt) and the Motor City Machine Guns (Sabin and Alex Shelley) faced off in 2009 and 2010.


Hiromu Takahashi

Age: 28 (Born on December 4, 1989)
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
BOTSJ History: 2012 (1-7), 2013 (0-8), 2017 (4-3)

Since returning from excursion and joining Los Ingobernables de Japon, Hiromu has mixed great creativity with high-end pro wrestling to become one of the most compelling characters in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Whether he's advancing the Daryl the Cat storyline or renewing his ongoing years-long feud with Dragon Lee, Hiromu finds ways to entertain. I refer to him by his first name, lest there be any confusion with Bullet Club's lazy pimp Yujiro Takahashi.

TOURNAMENT MATCHES
May 19 (Tokyo Korakuen 4/4) -- Marty Scurll
Hiromu holds a 3-0 mark in singles matches with Scurll, including a victory in last year's BOTSJ. Both were participants in a tremendous four-way match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 (along with Will Ospreay and KUSHIDA) this past January as well. They will be main eventing Korakuen Hall on opening night for Block B, which should be great fun.

May 22 (Tokyo Korakuen 4/4) -- El Desperado
This will be their sixth singles match. Taguchi leads the series 4-1, though they are split at 1-1 in BOTSJ matches with Taguchi winning in 2014 and El Desperado getting the victory in last year's tournament.

May 25 (Osaka 4/4) -- Dragon Lee
This will be the 17th singles match between Dragon Lee and Hiromu, with Dragon Lee holding an 11-5 record (including Hiromu wrestling under the name Kamaitachi), including Dragon Lee beating Hiromu in last year's BOTSJ. These two gel together in the ring remarkably well, and this should be another classic between the two.

May 27 (Nagoya 4/4) -- Ryusuke Taguchi
This will be their second BOTSJ match, with Taguchi defeating Hiromu in the 2012 BOTSJ. It's their fifth singles match overall, with Taguchi beating Hiromu in 2012 and 2013 and Hiromu beating Taguchi twice in 2017, once in New Japan in Tokyo and then again in What Culture Pro Wrestling in Manchester, England.

May 30 (Fukushima 3/4) -- Chris Sabin
This will be their first singles match. Previously they were on opposite sides in a pair of 2016 six-man tag matches in Ring of Honor, when Hiromu was wrestling under the name Kamaitachi while on excursion.

June 2 (Gunma 3/4) -- SHO
This will be their fourth singles match, with Hiromu holding a 3-0 mark with wins in 2012, 2013, and 2016. But they have had plenty of experience against each other more recently, participating in multiple tag matches with Los Ingobernables de Japon taking on CHAOS.

June 3 (Tokyo Korakuen) -- KUSHIDA
KUSHIDA has five singles match wins over Hiromu from his young lion days, but Hiromu got revenge by winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title from KUSHIDA last year at Wrestle Kingdom 11. After Hiromu's stunning win in less than two minutes in April 2017, KUSHIDA gained a rematch by winning last year's BOTSJ and reclaiming the title in a ****3/4 thriller of a match.

This match would seem to be as strong a candidate as any from either block to main event this show.


MORE: Block A preview


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


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