2018 Best of the Super Juniors: Nights 1-5
May 25, 2018
By: Lou Pickney
Not much time to write now, but thus far New Japan Pro Wrestling's Best of the Super Juniors tournament has lived up to my expectations. Nothing blow-away so far, but it has featured some compelling matches and only a minimal amount of nonsense.
Losing Ricochet and Volador Jr. from last year hurt, to be sure, particularly Volador Jr. since in theory he should have been available for this year. Alas. Ricochet is in NXT and obviously out of the BOTSJ loop for the forseeable future.
But there was some addition-by-subtraction with Taichi and Taka Michinoku gone from last year. Between those two and Jushin Liger, and Gedo from 2016, the less-talented (or simply over the hill) wrestlers have been mostly rotated out. Yoshinobu Kanemaru is serviceable at age 41, but the Suzuki-gun smoke-and-mirrors act with the overuse of outside interference gets old fast.
Perhaps I haven't been as fair to Kanemaru's Suzuki-gun stablemate, El Desperado. I had perceived him to be rather mediocure, but out of the gate he has had two good matches, a ***3/4 win over Ryusuke Taguchi and a thriller of a ****1/4 victory over Hiromu Takahashi. At age 34, one would think Desperado's best days in-ring are ahead of him.
Some other thoughts on the tournament through Night 5:
Night 1 (Block A): Flip Gordon made an immediate positive impressive, having a great match (****1/4) with ACH. Both wrestlers have acquitted themselves quite well thus far in this tournament. Taiji Ishimori with the big win over Will Ospreay in a ****1/2 main event immediately established Ishimori as a major contender. That approach (the big opening night win) is a staple in Gedo's booking of newcomers. And, usually, that formula works out well.
Night 2 (Block B): SHO, also known as Sho Tanaka, got his first BOTSJ tournament off to a great start with a ****1/2 match with Dragon Lee. SHO lost the match, but it was a thrilling enough match as to actually elevate SHO's status. This was their first-ever match and they tore the house down. Hiromu over Marty Scurll in the main event was great as well.
Chris Sabin had a decent match with KUSHIDA, but they didn't click like I had expected them to do. Sabin is only 36, but he has torn the ACLs in both knees and has 17+ years as a pro wrestler on his odometer. Sabin can still go, but injuries are part of the business and might limit his capacity for high-end matches.
Night 3 (Block A): Spot show crowds in Japan are notoriously difficult to get going, and it felt rather house show-like with Tiger Mask over YOH, Flip over Kanemaru, and Ishimori over BUSHI. But I give credit to Ospreay and ACH in the main event, with the disadvantage of being a gaijin vs. gaijin match which typically makes getting crowd heat even more difficult. But they had a **** match and both wrestlers fit well in the main event spot.
Night 4 (Block B): The wrestlers in Block B have had an advantage with two Korakuen Hall shows out of the blocks. SHO got a better match out of Sabin (***3/4) than KUSHIDA did on opening night, though Dragon Lee's win over Taguchi was a letdown as Taguchi did more comedy than usual for a tournament match. KUSHIDA over Scurll (****) and Desperado over Hiromu (****1/4) were two strong matches to round out the night.
Night 5 (Block A): Another spot show for Block A, with two slower matches (Tiger Mask over BUSHI and Kanemaru over ACH) ahead of a fun Flip win over Ishimori in the semi-main and a strong Ospreay main event victory against YOH.
Night 6 from Osaka is in the books, but the tournament matches are not posted on New Japan World yet and I've been dodging spoilers.
Overall, the tournament has been fun thus far. While not having any blow-away Match of the Year contenders yet, the matches have almost all ranged from good to excellent.
See any mistakes, omissions, or needed corrections? Please let me know: @LouPickney