New Japan Pro Wrestling
Best of the Super Juniors 2017 Night 1
May 17, 2017
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV A Block
TAKA Michinoku (2) Def. Jushin Thunder Liger (0)

Liger worked this match like a grumpy old prick, a side of him we only see on occasion. It being his last Best of the Super Juniors, he did everything he could to make an example out of TAKA and show that he’s going to be on the top of his game. It seemed like he was one step ahead of him with everything he did, working as aggressively as ever. Busting out sentons to the outside of the ring, hitting him with a chair, he did everything he could, and TAKA of course being the little sneaky bastard that he is, still managed to get the roll-up win over Liger. What’s interesting is that TAKA wore his K-DOJO gear instead of his usual Suzuki-gun gear, which means business in this tournament and won’t be using Suzuki-gun to assist him, a bad move on his part but great for us viewers. We have Taichi for that Suzuki-gun garbage. If you enjoy the classic New Japan junior style, this is right up your alley. It was both guys at their best doing whatever they could to have the best match possible even in their older age. It was hot, it was fast-paced, there was a great sense of urgency, and you couldn’t have asked for a better way to open the tournament. ****

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV B Block
Volador Jr. (2) Def. Tiger Mask IV (0)

Like Liger in the opener, Tiger Mask showed a ton of aggression towards Volador in this match in attempt to make an example out of him. He’s aware that his days are coming to an end here soon and he wanted to prove that he can hang in there with a guy like Volador despite being several years older. Again, like Liger, you got the sense that Tiger Mask was working with urgency, almost like he wanted to get through Volador as fast as possible, even if it never seemed as though he was on the level Volador was on and clearly wasn’t winning. Volador did a marvelous job working with him and looked like a million bucks as always does. He could easily end up being the star of his block night in and night out, which is saying a lot considering he’s in the same block as KUSHIDA, he’s that good. He’s one of the best in the world in big matches. He got the win with an arm drag from the top rope in what was another super fun, hot, fast-paced match. ***3/4

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV A Block
Ricochet (2) Def. Taichi (0)

Once you get past the usual Taichi bullshit in the beginning, you had yourself another really good match here. Ricochet worked circles around Taichi as you would expect and also came across as a much bigger star than he did, with part of that being due to the crowd. Korakuen Hall loves them some Ricochet. Taichi was more tolerable than he usually is during the meat the match, essentially serving as a base for Ricochet’s moves and not much else, thankfully. Unfortunately he’s not going to lose every match the way he did here and will likely beat a few of the bigger names since New Japan insists on him not being a prelim jobber like he should be. Ricochet did a good job with him in this one though, so you take what you can get. ***1/4

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV B Block
ACH (2) Def. BUSHI (0)

I get the vibe from ACH that no one wants to be in Japan more than he does. Every time he’s in Japan he looks like the happiest man alive and works harder than anyone, and his matches always deliver because of that. He’s driven to have a great match and he’s driven to get over with the fans. He belongs in this country and he belongs in this country as a pro wrestler. He and BUSHI had some pretty good chemistry, BUSHI being another guy who’s always motivated when put in a big spot, and I’d like to see what ACH can do with the rest of the guys in his block. Does he have a chance of winning? No. I hesitate to say he’ll even be in contention, but he does have a chance of having some of the best matches in the tournament, without question. Not a bad start for him with this one. He won with a brainbuster in a frenetic, intense match that could have been something truly special if given a few more minutes. ***3/4

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV B Block
El Desperado (2) Def. KUSHIDA (0)

Although there are quite a few guys who will have better matches than him, Desperado is the guy I’m most looking forward to following as the tournament progresses. He’s an absolute lunatic in every sense of the word and as much as I hate Suzuki-gun, part of me (a small part but…a part) is thankful they’re back solely so I can watch Desperado in singles matches. He’s motivated, he’s going to work hard and he’s going to have some sneaky good matches like this one that not everyone is going to pay attention to because he’s Desperado and he’s the Suzuki-gun jobber. Desperado controlled the early portion of the match, attacking KUSHIDA at the bell, hitting a dive on the outside, throwing him into a set of chairs and reversing whatever KUSHIDA threw at him. KUSHIDA eventually took control and was on his way to victory before he accidentally tapped the referee on the back with his feet and we got to see one of the worst ref bumps in wrestling history. Once the ref got back up Desperado had already done the damage with KUSHIDA’s newly won ROH TV title and then beat him with a Guitarra de Angel.

Sometimes Gedo has some of the people who have potential to win the block lose early on in the tournament, so I wouldn’t expect KUSHIDA to lose too many more matches, nor would I expect Desperado to win too many more matches. He’s very clearly the pin-eater of the block so is only going to get one or two more wins at best. One of the better KUSHIDA performances of the year accompanied by a great performance by Desperado. ****

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV A Block
Marty Scurll (2) Def. Will Ospreay (0)

While it doesn’t have that great emotion or that great storytelling behind it in the way other memorable feuds from this era had like John Cena vs. CM Punk or Kevin Steen vs. El Generico for example, as a strictly in-ring, bell-to-bell wrestling rivalry, not many come close to Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll in terms of quality within these past several years. All of the matches these two have had together have been nothing short of fantastic, their chemistry is unmatched by just about any other two wrestlers, and this was yet another great addition to their rivalry. Marty Scurll was one of the most over guys on the entire show before he even came to the ring. It shows that Japanese fans do their homework on these foreigners, because there was no question they were schooled on the guy.

Like Taichi in the Ricochet match, Marty served more as a base to Ospreay’s moves and didn’t do a lot outside of his three or four spots that he does in all of his matches (apron superkick, JUST KIDDING, etc.), yet he still felt like he was just as important. He does such an excellent job making Ospreay look good and in return Ospreay sells like a maniac when Scurll does his spots, making Scurll look great as well.

Scurll is already a massive improvement over Adam Cole both in terms of quality and in terms of crowd reaction. He has more of a star presence and a personality that’s easier to latch onto, where as Cole was merely a dude who’d come in every once in awhile, get okay reactions and have okay matches at best. I’d be shocked if New Japan didn’t lock Scurll up to a deal here soon given the fact that he’s a global wrestling superstar and they’re trying to expand globally. Far from their best match together but that’s not saying much. Utterly tremendous work out of both men here. ****1/4

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV B Block
Ryusuke Taguchi (2) Def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0)

Kanemaru is going to surprise a lot of people who have been down on his recent body of work this year. No, Kanemaru is not the wrestler he was 12 years ago and yes, Kanemaru is a bit lazy at times, but Kanemaru can still go in singles matches when he cares, which I don’t know why he wouldn’t in Best of the Super Juniors. With that being said, this match unfortunately wasn’t anything to write home about as it never really got going and felt like it went on forever. Even though Taguchi does step up and deliver in BOSJ every year, he does tend to have at least one or two matches where I think he’s pretty blah, and I thought he was pretty blah here. Both guys have better performances in them and will have much better matches with other people in their block. It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, I was just expecting a little more. **3/4

Best of the Super Jr. XXIV A Block
Dragon Lee (2) Def. Hiromu Takahashi (0)

Remember when I said Scurll and Ospreay’s chemistry is unmatched by just about any other two wrestlers? Well, Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi might have them beat. Out of the eleven matches they’ve had together excluding this one and their six lightning matches, all eleven of them were phenomenal and ten of them showed growth over the previous as they slowly got to know each other to the point where they’re now connected at the hip. Dragon Lee is Hiromu’s career rival. When he’s done with wrestling and when you think back on rivalries Hiromu was involved in, this is going to be number one on that list, and the same goes for Lee. Hiromu is one of the biggest stars in New Japan today and arguably the world, and there’s a very good chance he wouldn’t be where he is right now had this feud not happened.

Lee worked this like he was trying to out-crazy Hiromu by doing the most insane shit possible and busting out everything in his arsenal no matter how much of a toll it took on his own body. He was one step faster than Hiromu was in this match, Hiromu almost being overwhelmed by it because no one else has stepped up to him like this since he returned to New Japan. He beat Lee in February and came into this thinking what worked then would work now, only to learn that Lee came in with a fresh strategy. Even when Hiromu would get ahead it seemed Lee had an answer for everything. He hit Hiromu with his own sunset powerbomb onto the outside of the ring as an F-you, proving to him that he knows his game by now and knows his way around it. Hiromu’s become a bit too predictable for him, where as Lee still has some tricks Hiromu can’t work his way around. Lee won with a Phoenix Plex, the one move he knew Hiromu couldn’t recover from, thus ending his undefeated streak as a singles wrestler in New Japan.

While this was a fantastic match that told a fantastic story, it did feel like they were holding some back for the inevitable title match, which I imagine will be at Dominion since Lee’s my pick to win the whole tournament. Perhaps Hiromu will have an answer for Lee next time they meet, perhaps he’ll be expecting that Phoenix Plex and perhaps he’ll be the one who’s a step ahead. You never know with either of them, but tonight was Lee’s night. ****1/4

Final Thoughts:

With six matches bordering on great and two other matches that were pretty decent, I’m not sure I can name you ten wrestling shows better than this in 2017. No matter what kind of fan you are, there was something on this show for you. If you like old school junior style matches, you got TAKA vs. Liger. If you like modern juniors style, you got Lee vs. Hiromu. If you like American indie style, you got Scurll vs. Ospreay. If you like lucha, you got Tiger Mask vs. Volador. Everything was represented perfectly, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Go watch this.