With excitement building towards 2 and a half weeks of some of the most athletic,high flying and intense action on the pro wrestling calendar I thought it would be a great time to break down the field of the 25th edition of New Japan Pro Wrestling “Best Of The Super Jr.”. This year’s tournament will be contested by 16 wrestlers split in to 2 blocks of 8. It will also be the first “Best of the Super Jr” since 2005 not to involve the legendary Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger as a participant,who confirmed that last year’s tournament would be his last. So to kick things off let’s get stuck in to Block A.
ACH is entering his second BOSJ after entering last year’s competition,he enjoyed mixed success in the 24th edition winning 3 and losing 4 matches. However he was able to score a big win against Kushida and impressed enough to be an entrant in this year’s outing. However this is not ACH’s only experience in tournament wrestling in Japan as he reached the finals of the 2017 Super Jr. tag tournament with Ryusuke Taguchi and made the final of the 2016 edition teaming with fellow A block entrance Taiji Ishimori,with whom he has also won the NOAH 2016 NTV G+ Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League. Despite his tournament experience and fairly successful record I believe a stacked A block will be too tough an ask for ACH but fully expect him to put on some memorable performances.
Los Ingobernables De Japon’s Bushi is a former IWGP Jr Heavyweight and NEVER Openweight 6 man Tag Team Champion entering his 6th BOSJ. Bushi has started the year on great form with a fantastic win/loss record and turning out some phenomenal performances along the way,especially in his Tag Team rivalry over the IWGP Jr Tag Team Champions against Suzuki Gun’s El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru along with LIJ stable mate Hiromu Takahashi. However as impressive as Bushi has been he hasn’t quite been able to win the ones the really count so far,Bushi kicks off his campaign against Roppongi 3K’s Yoh who for lack of a better term is one if Block A’s “easier” challenges for Bushi who I feel with an opening win could get on a roll and be a dark horse in this year’s tournament.
It’s crazy to think Flip Gordon only made his ROH debut just over a year ago,and what a year it has been for the 26 year old National Guard serviceman who has made a really impact in such a short time. He made his Final Battle and Supercard of Honor Debuts and his NJPW debut at the Honor Rising shows in January including a huge triple threat victory of Kushida and Hiromu Takahashi. Gordon is somewhat of an unknown quantity in New Japan but has bags of potential to make a huge statement in his BOSJ debut.
The returning Ishimori is Bullet Club’s newest member,after being revealed as Bone Soldier at the May 4th Wrestling Dontaku Show. Ishimori has enjoyed great success Stateside as of late as a former Impact Wrestling X-Division champion and also recently debuted for PWG over All Star Week,however Ishimori’s pedigree in his home land should not be taken for granted as he enters his second BOSJ, he is a 3 time GHC Jr Heavyweight Champion and 6 time GHC Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Champion for NOAH and as previously mentioned won the JR Tag League with ACH. He also has NJPW tournament success winning the 2004 U-30 One Night Tag Team Tournament with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Despite this being his first appearance in the tournament since his 2010 BOSJ debut where he did win the B Block and reach the semi finals only to be vanquished by a certain Prince Devitt, Ishimori comes in to this year’s tournament with stacks of momentum and is definitely one of the favourites,his May 18th match with IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay will be a huge chance for Ishimori to make a statement upon his return and he has every chance of going all the way.
Tiger Mask IV
The legendary Tiger Mask enters his 17th BOSJ and aims to win the illustrious honor for the third time,last winning in 2005. Tiger Mask had a reasonably impressive outing last year winning 3 of his 7 matches including a somewhat surprise win over eventual winner Kushida. It would be some feat for the former 6 time Jr Heavyweight Champion to win this year’s BOSJ and with such a high standard of competition I unfortunately wouldn’t be surprised to see him propping up the A block and struggling for points.
The current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion,Winner of the 23rd BOSJ and a losing finalist last year Ospreay is rapidly cementing his status as a future as of the Jr Heavyweight division. Ospreay has been on a roll since capturing the Jr Heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th,seeing off the challenges of Kushida,Marty Scurll and Hiromu Takahashi. A win in this year’s competition would be huge for Ospreay as he would become the first reigning champion to win the competition since Prince Devitt in 2013,who went on an undefeated run that year and eventually stepped up to Heavyweight for a shot at Okada.if Ospreay replicates something similar to that would a step up to Heavyweight be imminent or would perhaps a clash with Rey Mysterio be likely with no other apparent challenges. Chaos’ sky king has to be one of the favourites to go all the way but faces a tricky task in Ishimori in his opener which may potentially derail the momentum of the champ.
It may surprise you to know that this isn’t actually Yoh’s first BOSJ after entering as a young lion in 2015,however he was unable to pick up a single win. Since then he has been on excursion to Ring Of Honor with Tag Team partner as one half of the Tempura Boyz gaining valuable experience before returning to New Japan as part of Roppongi 3K alongside Sho under the tutelage of Rocky Romero,capturing the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship at King Of Pro Wrestling in October 2017 defeating Ryusuke Taguchi and Ricochet. Since then Roppongi 3K went on to win the Jr Tag Team tournament before dropping the titles to the Young Bucks at Wrestle Kingdom,however were able to win back the championship at the first time of asking at New Beginning in Sapporo. Unfortunately the inconsistency continued as they
would again drop the titles at the New Japan 46th anniversary. Since losing the championship Yoh has continued to experience a mixed bag of success as part of Roppongi 3K and BOSJ may just be coming at the right time to turn the corner as a top singles competitor in the Jr division,I don’t expect Yoh to be a winner or a finalist but I fully expect a vast improvement on his 2015 outing.
The current IWGP Jr. tag Team Champion has been on a roll of late turning out some top notch performances in his rivalry with LIJ. Kanemaru has also been delivering when the pressure is on in big match situations and is definitely not someone to overlook. The 41 year old Suzuki Gun member enters his second BOSJ,his first being last year where he won 4 of his matches including big wins over Dragon Lee and Volador Jr. Kanemaru’s Championship pedigree is often vastly overlooked as he is a former 7 time GHC Jr. Heavyweight champion,while I don’t expect Kanemaru to win this year’s tournament I think he could play spoiler to some big names and pick up a reasonable amount of points along the way.
So that wraps up Block A, a stacked group with a very mixed bag of competitors. Heading in to the tournament I’d say Ishimori and Ospreay look like front runners to advance,however with those 2 meeting in the opening match how much will that encounter take out of them mentally and physically with strong competition from the likes of Bushi,Flip Gordon and Kanemaru waiting in the wings to pounce on any slip ups from the top contenders.
Best Of The Super Jr can be a lot of wrestling to consume and you may not find the time to watch all shows but here are some matches from Block A I definitely think you should go out of your way to catch.
Will Ospreay vs Taiji Ishimori-May 18th.
Flip Gordon vs Taiji Ishimori-May 24th.
ACH vs Taiji Ishimori-May 31st
Flip Gordon vs Will Ospreay-June 3rd Yoshinobu
Kanemaru vs Bushi-June 3rd
And of course the final takes place June 4th.