It’s Super Juniors time! As is the norm for New Japan tournaments, I will be reviewing every show (although I can’t promise they’ll all go up promptly because life). That also means I’ll be skipping the undercard because, well, life. Now, onto the action. It’s night one of the Super Juniors, and this is shaping up to be one hell of a year. I fucking love this shit.
Tiger Mask (1-0) defeated Taka Michinoku (0-1)
On a tour packed with wrestlers who can blow your mind with their high-flying ability, New Japan kicked things off by sending two grumpy old fuckers down to fight. You’ve got to respect that.
Tiger Mask has hurt his knee so, being the grimy scumbag he is, Taka went straight after it. He loved beating and grinding on that injured limb, only stopping to claw at Tiger’s mask. Michinoku has been learning from Zack Sabre Jr and it only enhances his ability to be a wonderful prick, relishing in making life horrible for his opponents.
It also gave Tiger a rare chance to work as an underdog babyface rather than the grumpy old man who kicks Young Lions about. With that leg injured, he was restricted to bursts of offence, trying to force his way into the action. When he did attack, though, it was high impact. Tombstones and Tiger Bombs kept him alive.
Sadly, the finish didn’t go to plan. It looked like Tiger was going for a Leg Lariat, but he didn’t get up for it, awkwardly falling to the floor having failed to connect. Commentary covered by saying that he’d kneed TAKA (which was a little bit true), but it looked shit and was made all the worse by them going straight from that into the Tiger Suplex for the three.
It was a rubbish finish to a decent match. These two were never going to blow the house down, but they do what they do damn well. If that botch had happened a few minutes earlier, they might have recovered, but sadly it led to this ending on a bum note. Still, it was fun enough.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Titan (1-0) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0-1)
From one scummy fucker to another, Kanemaru attacked Titan during his entrance and went straight for the mask. Never change you cheating wee prick. Well, I say that now. By the end of the tour, I might feel differently.
Kanemaru was a perfect opponent for Titan at this stage. His ground and pound style contrasting perfectly with Titan’s spectacular offence. The luchador has improved a lot since I first saw him in New Japan, but that style works best with someone who is trying to make you look good. Kanemaru was perfectly happy to be that man.
Although, Titan did a fair bit of giving too. He even ate a Deep Impact with Kanemaru only being prevented from winning by taking too long to make the pin. That would prove decisive as he turned to the whiskey in an attempt to get the points. Titan ducked the spay, connected with a Superkick and locked on a move that is either called Titanics or El Inmortal. Either way, it transitioned to a pin for the win.
A fun second match that saw Titan look good and Kanemaru being Kanemaru. By the end of the tournament, no-one will remember this, but it did what it had to do.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Marty Scurll (1-0) defeated Jonathan Gresham (0-1)
It’s a battle of the ROH guys as Scurll takes on Gresham. Going in this was a hard one to predict because Scurll’s spot in New Japan is up in the air as everyone knows he’s going to eventually make his way to AEW. The question is when. Gresham, meanwhile, took all of five minutes to get over during Honor Rising and might be someone New Japan will look to use more often.
Performances like this will do no harm to Gresham’s chances of that coming to fruition. Gresh is insanely smooth, transitioning between moves as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. In turn, that pushed Scurll back into his more technical roots, working a wrestling match rather than the shtick that he has a habit of relying on.
As they went on, they upped the intensity. Scurll began throwing suplexes in there, and even a 619 (along with a wee shout of ‘booyaka, bitch’ which is a new one). Gresham, though, always seemed to have an answer. Whenever it looked like Scurll had taken control, he found a way to escape, slipping into a pin or submission. Then, Scurll snapped the fingers, and at that moment the match turned. That grip is essential to Gresham’s style, and it evened things up on the mat. That allowed Scurll to hit a big Lariat followed by Black Plague for the win.
I am very intrigued to see how this match is received. The fans in attendance were a bit quiet, but they tend to be during technical wrestling, and that was certainly on display. Personally? I enjoyed it a lot. Gresham is a fantastic wrestler and brings something different to BOSJ, if this is his benchmark, he’ll have a good tour.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Shingo Takagi (1-0) defeated SHO (0-1)
SHO has a new theme with a video game influence. He has also dyed his hair black, and it’s hard to ignore the signs that this was him coming out as a solo star. Also, how mental is it that this isn’t even a main event? That’s a flex from New Japan.
The story for this one has been building for months. Shingo strolled into New Japan last year, and SHO saw someone he wanted to beat. Since then, the only thing he seems to care about is proving that he is as good as Shingo Takagi.
It was a task that looked impossible at the start of this match. SHO couldn’t rock Shingo. Time after time he’d hit the big man only for Takagi to pat himself down and lumber back to his feet, ready to continue the fight. He tried to outmuscle him, he sped things up, and he attacked the arm. Nothing was working. Meanwhile, Takagi was fighting back. Every suplex, every strike and every Pumping Bomber was chipping away at SHO.
But then, things changed. SHO took the Dragon off his feet with a pair of Lariats, and he didn’t bounce back-up. Shingo was hurt, and SHO’s eyes lit up. For a streak in this match, it looked like he was going to do it. It was the first time in this feud that the momentum was all on his side and he threw everything he had at Shingo, desperate to put him down and keep him down.
And he had me going too. There were moments in this match where I was sure SHO had it. He locked Takagi in an Armbar that the big man seemingly could not escape. Time after time Shingo tried to power out only for SHO to switch position, forcing him back to the ground. In the end, it was only a desperate scramble to the ropes that saved the unbeaten streak.
After that, this was just a fight. Two big lads stood in the centre of the ring smacking each other. It could have been Ishii and Shibata as the elbows rained in. SHO was the smaller man, but he was defiant, desperate not to be beaten as time after time he ate Pumping Bombers and kept kicking out. It was only when Shingo finally managed to get him up for The Last of the Dragon that his will broke. SHO couldn’t kick out but fucking hell, did he look like a star in defeat.
I don’t know what else I can say. My expectations were sky high for this match, and they still exceeded them. Every other wrestler in this tournament has just been placed on notice, and if anything in the next few weeks betters this, then we are in for one hell of a ride.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
Taiji Ishimori (1-0) defeated Dragon Lee (0-1)
I can only assume Dragon Lee and Ishimori were stood backstage wondering what the fuck they were supposed to do to follow that. They were in an unenviable spot, and lesser wrestlers would have struggled.
Thankfully, Lee and Ishimori are a bit good. They went out there and kicked things off by standing centre of the ring and exchanging elbows. It was a great way to get the fans back onside, and even though they slowed things down afterwards, it fired up a crowd that might have been distracted by what they’d just seen.
It was when these two sped things up that they shone, though. They were never going to out-hoss SHO and Shingo, so they needed to move away from that. These two men have spectacular offences that look like they hurt, so when they began to dance through that, the match was at its best. If they’d embraced that for the whole thing, it would have been all the better.
And, of course, it didn’t reach the level of SHO vs Shingo. That was a match of the year contender so very few things will. Truthfully, it didn’t even reach the level of their recent title match. It was still a great showing, though. I wish they’d focused more on the fast-paced stuff, and Ishimori’s victory seemed a bit sudden, but they were in a hell of a tough spot and they managed to stand their ground. You’ve got to respect that.
Verdict: Four Stars
A fantastic start to the tournament as New Japan came out guns blazing. Everything was at least good, and it was only the botch at the end of Tiger vs Taka that prevented it all being three stars and above. Unfortunately, everyone not called SHO or Shingo is set to be overshadowed because fucking hell, that was a bit good. But, they could all leave this show feeling proud of a job well done. Also, it’s worth saying that the New Japan commentary tombola has thrown out Caprice Coleman and he did a decent job. Well done him.
BOSJ Best Matches So Far
- Shingo Takagi vs SHO (13/5/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Dragon Lee vs Taiji Ishimori (13/5/19) – Four Stars
- Jonathan Gresham vs Marty Scurll (13/5/19) – Three And Three Quarter Stars
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