I’m worried friends. On January 4th I decided this would be the year that I got into New Japan. Around six months later, they may well have ruined all other wrestling for me forever. Holy shit is this company good. This Best of the Super Juniors tournament was a joy from start to finish, and I don’t think I can put into words quite how much fun I’ve had watching it. Despite that, I’m going to try and take you through 10 observations I had from BOSJ as a whole.
Ospreay And Ricochet Do It Again
A million words have been penned about Will Ospreay and Ricochet’s encounters. Some people love them, and others think that they are destroying wrestling. It’s a debate for the ages, and while it’s nice to listen to all opinions, we all know which side is right, yea? Ospreay and Ricochet’s matches are incredible, and those that have issues with them rarely seem to have actually seen them beyond a GIF on Twitter. This was, if anything, even better that last year’s match with Ricochet attempting to use his strength to nullify Ospreay’s offence before eventually being frustrated into taking to the air himself. Everything about it was perfect from that incredible dragonrana to Ospreay’s selling, yes selling, of the leg. These are two of the best wrestlers in the world, and if you’re too stubborn to see that, then you’re only hurting yourself.
The Villian Takes Japan
Marty Scurll is a star. The time, effort and money that he obviously puts into his gimmick are proof of his devotion to the cause, and it took all of five minutes of his match with Will Ospreay at Korakuen Hall for the Japanese crowd to realise it. By the end of this tour, it wasn’t just the smart crowds that were on side either. Scurll may not have had the best matches of this year’s shows (although his fights with Ospreay and Ricochet were brilliant and none of them were bad) but his character work was immaculate. If New Japan have any sense, they’ll be working hard to sign up the villain for as long as they can.
Wrestling Is Great
This tournament made me happy. I’m so fed up with this style of wrestling being treated like it’s somehow lesser than WWE or other companies’ styles. Junior wrestling is fast and exciting, and nearly every single match had a moment that was incredible. New Japan told stories and made stars and isn’t that what it’s all about? In a world of Jinder Mahals, Randy Ortons and Network specials like Extreme Rules, give me Best of the Super Juniors every day of the week.
KUSHIDA’s Redemption Begins
KUSHIDA has had a tough year. Since losing at Wrestle Kingdom, he’s essentially become Takahashi’s bitch and it felt like the former ace of the Junior Division was heading the wrong way down the card. It was a story that continued into the Super Juniors with KUSHIDA kicking things off with a loss against El Desperado and following that up with defeats to ACH and Tiger Mask. However, the introduction of his new finisher, Back to the Future, saw the Time Splitter find his form and eventually win the tournament. In many ways, this is wrestling storytelling at his simplest. The babyface chasing the heel to find redemption. But it worked. KUSHIDA is a babyface you want to root for, and there’s a devious opponent waiting for Dominion. Whatever happens, KUSHIDA’s story this year has been one of the best.
ACH Is Happy To Be There
If you could bottle up the pure joy that radiated from ACH’s face every time he got to step into a New Japan ring you’d make a fortune. Having played Tiger Mask Dark at Wrestle Kingdom, this was ACH’s first time wrestling as himself in NJPW, and the man was having a lovely old time. He won’t be the big story coming out of the tournament, but he consistently put on good matches (his match with Volador Jr stood out as his best) and much like with Scurll, I hope this is only the start of his run in Japan.
The Midcard Step Up
Taichi aside (and I’ve given him enough shit before that I don’t think I need to repeat it) there wasn’t a single person who disappointed in this tournament. In fact, even Taichi played a big part in Liger’s great performance in his final match and had that bizarre encounter with Taka. Suzuki-gun is usually a pain in my ass, so it was great to see El Desperado and Kanemaru rise above the shenanigans (although there was still plenty of them) and put on some great matches. We also had Bushi impressing (particularly against KUSHIDA), and a grumpy Tiger Mask roll back the years a bit. You expect the stars to pull out all the tricks, but when the tier down do it as well, that’s when the special stuff happens.
The Luchadores Impress
Lucha Libre is a bit of a closed book to me (maybe that will be next year’s goal), but if they have more wrestlers like Volador Jr. and Dragon Lee, then I am on board. We’ve seen both of these men do good things in NJPW before, but they were possibly the most consistent performers over the course of this tour. Lee put on potential match of the year contenders with Takahashi, Ospreay and Ricochet while Volador Jr didn’t have a bad outing. More of this, please.
Liger Brings The Fire
I’ll keep this one short, as I went in depth on my feelings about Liger’s BOSJ run over here, but damn did I enjoy Jushin on this tour. Could it have been done differently? Maybe. There’s an argument that you could have swapped Liger and Tiger Mask over to let Jushin go to the final night with a chance of the final, but I think you’d have lost something if you had. Liger brought the fire here and put on a great match against Takahashi and even had me interested in a Taichi match. Liger is God, and this was a great way for him to bow out.
Takahashi: Wrestler Of The Year?
Any other year, the question above would be answered with a definitive yes. Sadly, there’s a certain Rainmaker selling out buildings and putting on classics. However, Takahashi is a hell of a lot closer to him than anyone has a right to be. Even as he lost his unbeaten run, Hiromu came across like a star. The matches with Lee, Ricochet, Liger and Ospreay were incredible, and he even got to play the babyface in peril against Suzuki-gun and proved New Japan could easily make that move in the future. Takahashi is having an incredible year, and I can’t wait to watch it continue.
What A Final
Holy shitballs. It would have been so easy for this final to disappoint. When you have a tournament that good closing it puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders but apparently that pressure meant little to Ospreay and KUSHIDA because they brought the house down. I praised Ospreay’s selling against Ricochet, but it was immaculate in this fight while the stiff shots that both men were throwing were vicious. Between KUSHIDA’s stomps and the multiple superkicks in the corner (calling it a Cheeky Nandos doesn’t work when it’s that stiff), these two must still be hurting. They threw everything they had at each other, and it doesn’t matter who won and who lost, they both come out looking like world class stars. There are worries about what New Japan now go on to do with Ospreay because they’be missed this boat before but at the moment they are not worth entertaining. This was fantastic wrestling closing out an incredible tournament.