NJPW Best Of The Super Juniors Night One (18/5/18) Review

Battle of wills. Credit: NJPW

Best Of The Super Juniors kicked off on Friday with a packed show from A Block. If you’re here for the first time and not sure what’s going on, then make sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide. If you’re an old hand, then we better not dilly dally, eh?

Chris Sabin and Ren Narita defeated KUSHIDA and Shota Umino

Anyone worried about how Chris Sabin fits into New Japan only needs to watch the first five minutes of day one to see that he’ll be fine. KUSHIDA and Sabin kicked things off with a fun technical exchange, coming out evenly matched. Their encounter promises to be a highlight of the early stages.

KUSHIDA also took the opportunity to teach Narita a few lessons, bloodying his nose and stretching him in all sorts of horrible ways. Umino, meanwhile, is building a lovely hot tag. Everyone knows it already, but the lad will be a star.

In a sign that Sabin isn’t here to make up the numbers, he got the win over Shota in a decent showing.

Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars

CHAOS (SHO and YOSHI-HASHI) defeated Dragon Lee and Tomoyuki Oka

If Sabin and KUSHIDA gave us a cheeky tease of what they could do, Dragon Lee and SHO had our trousers down and ready to go. They brought the fire and gave the impression they were engaged in a blood feud on what (as far as I’m aware) was their first ever encounter. It will have already happened by the time you read this, but with their combined athleticism and SHO’s badassery, be prepared for that to garner a lot of praise.

The rest of the match set-up what’s about to become a recurring theme in the undercard. We get a taste of the Juniors before they tag out, then we get some action from the other two members of the team before the Juniors come back in to eliminate each other and the finish is played out between the heavyweights. The formula works, it just makes everything a bit predictable.

Anyway, Oka is growing on me and has added a Camel Clutch to his repertoire (is that an upgrade from the Crab?) while YOSHI-HASHI is YOSHI-HASHI and got the win with his shitty looking Butterfly Lock. Forget them and watch SHO vs Dragon Lee.

Verdict: Three Stars

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi and Toa Henare

If Henare is going to move on from his Ishii feud, I am down for it being into one with Suzuki. Sorry, Toa, it’s going to hurt. However, you’re going to learn everything you’ll ever need to know. Unsurprisingly, those two were great together. Henare flourishes whenever he’s in there with people who he can hit hard and who hit him even harder back. Let them loose on each other.

This was perhaps the only bout on the card where I got more excited by the heavyweights than the juniors. Still, Desperado and Taguchi showed enough to suggest they’ll have a good match. They’re unique wrestlers. It’s all about whether that sees them mesh together or bounce apart. Fingers crossed it’s the former.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Evil and Hiromu Takahashi defeated Chase Owens and Marty Scurll

The team of Scurll and Owens was intriguing as they’ve been on opposing sides of the great Bullet Club war. I’m a bit behind on Being The Elite, so I’ve missed some development. I assume the Dontaku make-up is sticking?

We also got the debut of Takahashi’s 2018 Super Junior’s book within which Scurll goes by the moniker, Umbrella Man. That set-up what was a shtick-filled encounter. Hiromu and Scurll’s encounters were fun, but they were comedy heavy with Takahashi even selling a shot from an audience member’s Daryl. Hopefully, the actual match sees them turn on their serious sides.

Apart from that, there wasn’t much to say. While Owens is terrific, it was no surprise that he lost to Evil. Interestingly, it was via Banshee Muzzle making Evil the second heavyweight to win by a rarely useful submission. If they’re going to get those moves over the undercard of Super Juniors is probably a good time to do it.

Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars

Tiger Mask (1-0) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0-1)

These two had no right to put on a match as good as this. On paper, you would have circled it as one that you would be happy to skip, and I’m willing to bet more than a few people did.

They will have missed out on a fun encounter. It was two grumpy veterans trying to hurt each other. There was nothing complicated about it, but it worked. Kanemaru attacked the mask while Tiger worked the legs. Meanwhile, we got a couple of innovative spots involving Kanemaru’s use of Young Lions. Firstly, slammed one onto Tiger before grabbing hold of another and making sure we got at least one dive as he launched him from the ring onto the grumpy kitty.

We finished with a nicely worked spot as Kanemaru attempted to roll over Tiger to follow up a superplex before Tiger’s leg snaked out and caught him in a cradle for three. While this wasn’t a classic, it far outstripped the expectations I had for it.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

ACH (1-0) defeated Flip Gordon (0-1)

ACH was an inspired first choice of opponent for Flip. It allows him to wrestle someone that he’ll presumably be more comfortable with and yet it is also someone who is experienced in Japan.

ACH gave Flip precisely what he needed too. In other words, he let him live up to his name. It was an incredible unselfish performance as he slipped into the more aggressive role, chopping poor Gordon at every chance he got and providing a base for his more spectacular dives. The moment he was officially made in Japan was when he hit that beautiful double rope springboard senton to the outside (I assume there’s a catchier name than that). From there, his confidence only seemed to grow as the crowd rose up to appreciate him.

ACH, however, was the man with the plan and while Flip did all the flips, he was waiting for his moment. Despite having problems with his arm (he came in with a strapped up shoulder and sold it throughout) he avoided a Tornillo and lifted Gordon up for a German with one hand. A Package DDT later and he had the win.

This was brilliantly executed. ACH returns to Japan with a win and establishes himself as a player this time around. Gordon, meanwhile, got over with the crowd even in defeat. A lot of people could learn from it.

Verdict: Four Stars

YOH (1-0) defeated Bushi (0-1)

I mentioned in my preview that this was a big tournament for YOH. He’s often left in SHO’s shadow, and while he doesn’t necessarily need to prove that he can fly by himself, it would be another string to his bow.

Well, this was a solid start. Kicking off against Bushi could have been a disaster, but YOH delivered getting straight into things with a lovely Tope Con Hilo. From there, this developed into a tight back and forth match, playing off their extended rivalry for the Junior Tag belts. Bushi was looking to slow the action down, although wasn’t afraid to burst out those terrifying Suicide Dives that he hits.

YOH was prepared, though, and seemed to know what Bushi was going to do. When Bushi went for the MX, YOH blocked it with a Superkick, and while he ate a very slow looking Destroyer (which always makes it look stupid), he was able to turn a second MX into a flash pin for the win. A move that frustrated Bushi so much he couldn’t resist getting a few digs in after the bell.

It wasn’t incredible or a huge coming out for either man. Instead, it was a solid bout with YOH, in particular, looking good. It’s made me excited to see what he can do with some of the better performers in the block.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Taiji Ishimori (1-0) defeated Will Ospreay (0-1)

Let’s be honest, I think we all saw this coming.

The result may have been predictable (it would have been a weird move to debut Ishimori by attacking Ospreay only for him to lose to him on the next show), but it didn’t prevent them from impressing. Mainly because Will Ospreay being one of the best five wrestlers in the world is looking like an understatement at the moment. He’s at least top three.

Will was sublime. The athleticism he displays is unparalleled and the moment where he lept over a set of chairs, landed on a stage only to turn around and fly back at Bone Soldier Reborn (NOAH dig?) was breathtaking. He’s become so much more than just that, though. Once again, his selling was perfect. The masterful way that he’ll hit the ropes and hesitate, flinching as the impact sends a shudder up his spine to his neck. No one is on his level at the moment.

All of which did leave Ishimori hanging on and taking the ride. However, the lad is good and flourished in his role as the killer. While Ospreay was all action, Taiji was more clinical. Methodically working over Will before showing bursts of pace to hit the high impact moves. There isn’t a wrestler on the planet that wouldn’t be outclassed by Will Ospreay at the moment and, to be honest, keeping up with him is all the proof you need that Ishimori is the real deal.

Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars

Overall Show

A fantastic main event topped off an incredibly enjoyable show from New Japan. The whole thing felt fresh as a lot of the old heads have been given a break while all four tournament matches were different. If Best Of The Super Juniors keeps this up, we’re in for one hell of a year.

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