Hello friends, Best Of The Super Juniors kicks off today and I can’t be the only one who is delighted to have it back. While the G1 is great, the appeal of Super Juniors was what first enticed me into checking out New Japan. That style of wrestling is my favourite, and I’ve got a lot of love for this tournament.
However, I realise that not everyone has had the pleasure of its company before and I want to make it easy for those who haven’t dipped in New Japan to come along and join the party. Therefore, welcome to my Beginner’s Guide to Best Of The Super Juniors. I’m going to run through the format of the tournament and then, more importantly, introduce you to all the wrestlers involved.
Best Of The Super Juniors will be familiar to anyone who has watched the G1. It’s a round robin where the wrestlers are split into two blocks. You get two points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. Every match has a thirty-minute time limit with the top placed wrestler in each group qualifying for the final. The winner of that earns a title shot at Dominion.
Also, much like the G1, the champion takes part in the tournament. If Will Ospreay were to win he would then either face someone who had defeated him in the group stages or an opponent of his choosing. It rarely happens, but it’s an option that New Japan could choose to exploit.
We’re kicking off with our weakest performer. The current Tiger Mask is the fourth man to wear the gimmick and has been donning the mask since 1995. He has two previous BOTSJ titles to his name, 2004 and 2005.
Unfortunately, in the current Junior division, he stands out like a sore thumb. While Jushin Thunder Liger is still capable of pulling out a big performance, Tiger just can’t keep up with the modern style. His strengths come from being a grumpy kitty and schooling Young Lions with stiff kicks. In this tournament, he’ll serve as a night off for the likes of Ospreay and Ishimori who will inevitably be hurting from the rigours of the tour.
This will be ACH’s second BOSJ. While he’s not a regular for New Japan, he has become a staple of their junior tournaments, turning up for both Super Juniors and Super Tag League. Sadly, he’s yet to go the distance in either and is unlikely to here.
However, he can be relied on to put on some great matches. ACH is a joy to watch in a New Japan ring because you can tell he loves every second of it. He wanders down with a big shit eating grin on his face and works his arse off. Last year he was unfortunately placed in the weaker block. With that not being an option this time around, I expect we’ll get some fantastic showings from him.
2018 will mark Flip’s first appearance in the Super Juniors having apparently done enough to impress NJPW officials during his mini-feud with Hiromu Takahashi earlier this year.
Flip should be a natural fit for this position. The high paced Junior style will be no issue for a man who loves to bounce around the ring. He’s also got previous for having fantastic matches with Will Ospreay. Sadly, Flip isn’t immune to shitting the bed. He’s a young wrestler who sometimes finds that things don’t click. Expect him to have some standout performances, but also a few nights where you’re left wondering if that’s it. Plus, he’ll have one hell of a flight over, seeing as he’ll have to go from one side of the disc to the other.
The youngest ever winner of the Super Juniors and the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title. Will Ospreay is coming into the competition on a high having delivered multiple outstanding performances since winning the belt. Not everyone likes Will due to his brain-dead Twitter activity. However, he’s currently one of the best wrestlers on the planet, and there are a few legit arguments to dispute that.
The only thing that will stop Ospreay from being the standout man in this year’s tournament is his own body. He’s beat-up. Will works an insane schedule and yet seems incapable of phoning it in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a New Japan main event or the RevPro mid-card, Ospreay gives it everything he has. If his body can survive the strain, expect him to steal nearly every show he is on.
YOH previously competed in the 2015 BOSJ, but he was a Young Lion at the time and lost every match. Having now returned from excursion he’s a very different proposition, and his tag-team with SHO (Roppongi 3K) have been putting on great performances since their return.
However, there is a feeling that YOH is the lesser member of the team. SHO pops off the screen while YOH quietly gets on with it. While he’s just as important as his partner, it’s hard to shake the idea that one day he’ll be left behind while SHO goes on to do great things. An extended tour of singles outings where he is allowed to shine on his own may be what he needs to prove that such a claim is bullshit.
Ishimori has ridden into New Japan on a wave of controversy after leaving NOAH with the declared intent of making a stab at America. Instead, he turned up at Dontaku dressed as Bone Soldier to become the latest member of Bullet Club and only the second Japanese wrestler to join the trendsetters. Despite that, he has actually been in New Japan before working as a Young Lion and teaming with the aforementioned ACH.
Best of the Super Juniors is a big chance for Ishimori to come in and win over New Japan fans instantly. Not everyone will be aware of his work in NOAH and Impact, so a series of matches against some of the best wrestlers on the planet can only be a good way for him to kick his way into their conscience. He headlines the very first show with Ospreay, and you can bet they’ll be going all out to impress.
Surprisingly, this is only the 41-year-old Kanemaru’s second Best Of The Super Juniors. Having spent most of his career in other Japanese promotions, he made his debut in the competition last year.
He comes into this year as an IWGP Junior Tag Team Champion and if history tells us anything we’ll get a lot of shenanigans in his matches. As a member of serial interferers Suzuki-gun, Kanemaru’s performances have the potential to descend into farce. We can only hope that we get one or two straight-up bouts to see what Yoshinobu can do.
2018 will mark the sixth time Bushi has entered BOSJ although he is yet to pick up a victory. He’s recently been making more of a mark as a tag team wrestler, teaming up with Hiromu Takahashi.
It’s a role that suits Bushi well as his singles matches have a tendency to fall flat. He can put on a decent showing, but it’s an open secret that he doesn’t always bother. Gaijin wrestlers, in particular, have spoken many times about how difficult he can be to work with and he is his own biggest enemy. While there’s the potential for some good bouts, there’s also a chance he phones a lot of this in.
A five-time IWGP Junior Title holder and a previous two-time winner of BOSJ, KUSHIDA comes in as the defending champion. He’s also, for a long time, been the Ace of the Junior Division, putting on matches that are a combination of technical excellence and high flying joy.
Unfortunately, the times have been changing. KUSHI’s spot isn’t as secure as it used to be. First, we had Takahashi coming along and beating him up for a few months. Now, Will Ospreay has risen up to steal his crown. There have long been whispers of KUSHIDA making a move to heavyweight, so there’s a chance that’s the long-term goal. If, however, he still has unfinished business in the Junior division, a BOSJ win would be the perfect way to kick it off.
Another Best Of The Super Juniors veteran as he won the tournament back in 2012. He’s competed in most of them since then and is a two-time IWGP Junior Champion.
Taguchi in the Super Juniors is an exciting proposition. Despite spending most of the year beating people up with his backside and providing comic relief, he always puts on his wrestling boots come the month of this tour. There will still be a bit of a comedy thrown in there (circle Taguchi vs Scurll if that’s your bag), but you’re also guaranteed a couple of potential show stealers for the man with the Funky Weapon.
A shock inclusion in this year’s tournament, Sabin has worked for New Japan before (as part of the Motor City Machine Guns) but never in the Super Juniors.
And while some might claim that Sabin’s best days are behind him, he’s still Chris Motherfucking Sabin, and nearly match-up is a fresh one. The chance to see him get down with the likes of Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi is something we might never get again. Sabin should be motivated to give his best on the big stage. I wouldn’t bet against him stealing the show more than once.
Having made his debut in last year’s Super Juniors, Dragon Lee is now a semi-regular for New Japan. Popping up whenever their relationship with CMLL will allow it.
And when he does pop-up, Lee has a tendency to do it in style. The man is incredible and one of the smoothest workers you will ever see. He’s also been engaged in a long-running blood feud with Hiromu Takahashi the latest chapter of which will take place during this tournament. You could tie their arms behind their back and sent them down to the ring, and they’d still put on a match of the year contender so don’t miss that one.
Like his partner YOH, SHO has only recently returned from an excursion. Unlike YOH, he has no previous experience in the BOSJ and will make his debut this year.
A lot of people are expecting that debut to be mighty impressive, though. SHO is the highlight of every match he’s in with his love of a vicious German Suplex being of particular delight. This is his first real chance to flourish outside of a tag team, and it will be interesting to see if he can live up to the hype.
Scurll made his NJPW debut at last year’s Super Juniors, creating an instant splash by defeating Will Ospreay on the first night.
In the months since he’s established himself as a bit of a joke figure. Playing the comic foil to the current issues in Bullet Club. While The Villian is very good at it, it can be frustrating as the shtick sometimes overwhelms his in-ring ability. When he decides to turn it on, though, we get matches like his recent classic with Ospreay. Let’s hope we get more of that and fewer bird noises this year.
Desperado has competed in two previous Super Junior tournaments winning neither. He does, however, come into this year as one half of the Junior Tag Champions.
Like Kanemaru, Despy’s match quality will be down to how often Suzuki-gun gets involved. If they all stay in the back, Desperado has every opportunity to put on a few fantastic displays. He and Takahashi have recently been slapping the shit out of each other, proving to have insanely good chemistry. I know for a fact I’m not the only one crossing my fingers for a straight up fight between the two of them. If he’s allowed to run free, Despy could be a dark horse for the tournament MVP.
Last but certainly not least, Takahashi has competed in three previous BOSJ tournaments. Two of those were as a Young Lion, however, with 2017 being his debut as the man we know today.
And what a man he is. The Ticking Time Bomb is a fan favourite and wrestles every match like his own body has pissed him off. Combine that with his unusual antics outside the ring (he has a fluffy best friend called Daryl), and Takahashi is beloved by many. Expect him to be a highlight every time he wrestles and for everyone to be sad when it becomes clear he isn’t going to win. Don’t be too distraught, though. Takahashi’s time will come again.