New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual Best of the Super Juniors finds its place amongst the best tournaments of the year in professional wrestling on an annual basis, showcasing the best junior heavyweight talent from across the globe in a round robin tournament. This year has been no exception, getting off to a flying start with several great matches featuring some of the best talent in the world. One of the standout junior heavyweights in NJPW since his return to the company from excursion in November 2016 has been Hiromu Takahashi.
Takahashi, forming part of the popular Los Ingobernables de Japon stable, is one of the most explosive performers in the world, merging death-defying high-flying moves with fast-paced technical skill to fully live up to his moniker of the Ticking Time Bomb. A former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion in his own right, Takahashi came into this year’s BOSJ as one of the favourites to go all the way and win the tournament. One of the wrestlers standing in his way in Block B, however, is someone who is more like him than he would like to admit – the masked El Desperado. Much like Takahashi, Despy cut his teeth out on excursion in Mexico, forming the basis for the character that he still performs as today, with both adopting the lucha style that the picked up back in Mexico. What is more, the 2 men have links with one each other, dating back to when Hiromu was a Young Lion back in the early 2010s, where he would often shadow Desperado himself.
The aforementioned explosiveness on the part of Hiromu was on full show from the get go in this match, immediately attacking his former mentor, even pushing the referee off before taking things to the outside. After sending his opponent flying into chairs in the front row, he promptly dragged Desperado up the stairs into the crowd, ranking up for a long jump-esque run up before hitting a huge John Woo dropkick on his opponent. His popularity was evident, as the entire arena was drowned out in “Hiromu” chants from the passionate Korakuen Hall crowd.
Desperado finally managed to get himself back into the match after dodging a running knee attempt by Hiromu, who he then threw to the outside, following up with one of the fastest paced topes you will ever see. Clearly intent on proving that Hiromu wasn’t the only crazy participant in this match, Despy smashed a beer can on his head Sandman-style before throwing his opponent into countless objects on the outside and hitting him with a chair several times. Not content with using foreign objects on the outside of the ring, he unscrewed the turnbuckle padding in one corner back inside the ring, exposing the steel holding it in place. He did not take long in using this to his advantage, Irish whipping Hiromu back-first into that exposed steel, from which he could only pick up a 1 count.
Desperado looked to build on this advantage by working on the damage that he had caused to his opponent’s back in his earlier attacks, locking in a Cobra Clutch followed by a splash. Not content with the work he had done previously, Desperado took proceedings back to the outside, hitting a reverse DDT to the floor on his opponent. Feeling like he had the match sewn up with Hiromu struggling to get back into the ring, Despy proceeded to taunt the crowd (and his opponent) by picking up Hiromu’s jacket, and wiping it between his legs. Although Hiromu managed to get back into the ring in time, Despy’s dominance would continue, cutting off every comeback attempt his opponent would try.
Hiromu eventually managed to get back into the match after one final back and forth, culminating in a hurricanrana in the middle of the ring to his opponent. He followed this up with a fast clothesline in the corner, before hitting another John Woo dropkick for the 2 count. He then proceeded to clinch in a Tarantula Lock on Despy using the ropes, after which he hit him a wheelbarrow facebuster to the floor on the outside. Hiromu then went on to hit another running dropkick on Desperado, this time from the ring apron, after which he went to the top turnbuckle and hit a diving senton on his opponent for the 2 count. He promptly attempted his Time Bomb finisher, but his back was worn from the damage sustained earlier in the match, and Despy quickly took advantage to hit a spinebuster on his opponent. One quick transition into a Boston Crab later, and Hiromu was in big trouble.
After struggling to get out of the back-pressuring submission hold, Hiromu finally managed to get to the ropes, but not before the damage done to his back was exacerbated. This was only made worse by a deadlift suplex that Desperado landed, picking up a 2 count. He followed this up with a Guitara de la Muerta attempt, which Hiromu dodged out of, only for Desperado to hit a spear and once again attempt to land a Guitarra de la Muerta, which Hiromu incredibly countered into a headscissors takedown, spiking Despy on his head.
Both men were spent at this point, exchanging strikes whilst barely being able to get to their feet. The exchange of strikes continued once they did manage to stand up, with Desperado managing to get the upper hand after a big headbutt and forearm strike on his opponent. Despite trying a different finishing move this time, the Guitarra de Angel, Despy still could not land one final killer blow to his opponent, with Hiromu fighting out of the move and countering with a big back body drop to bring him some much-needed respite.
Desperado quickly tried to hold on to the momentum he had built up, rushing at Hiromu, only for the latter to promptly flip Despy at full speed into the turnbuckle. Hiromu then hit his opponent with a Dynamite Plunger, for which he could only pick up a 2 count. Not to be dismayed, he quickly followed up by hitting his signature running Death Valley driver onto the turnbuckles. With the crowd fully behind him, Hiromu promptly went for the Time Bomb, which Desperado just about managed to get out of, only for Hiromu to transition into a quick bridged German suplex for another close 2 count.
Hiromu then proceeded to attempt another Time Bomb; Despy, however, managed to grab hold of the referee enough to throw off Hiromu from connecting with the move, promptly sending the ref flying. This was enough time for Despy to grab his Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, which he swung towards Hiromu, only for the latter to dodge, and superkick the title belt right into its owner’s face for another 2 count. The title belt came into play once again, leading to the finish. As the ref picked the belt up to take it back outside the ring, Desperado grabbed on to it. This distracted Hiromu long enough to allow Desperado to hit his opponent with a low blow, which he followed up with an Angel de Rojo – which Hiromu incredibly managed to kick out of. This only angered Desperado, however, who motioned to the crowd, and hit another Angel de Rojo to pick up the victory.
This was an extremely fun brawl, a lucha match within a puroresu setting, and is fully deserving of being recognised as not only the best match of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament so far, but also the winner of this week’s Match of the Week award. Definitely worth a watch if you are into lucha style matches.