NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS NIGHT 1
MAY 18, 2018
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: NJPW World

CHRIS SABIN & REN NARITA DEF. KUSHIDA & SHOTA UMINO

Chris Sabin hasn’t wrestled in New Japan since 2010, if you exclude his appearance in Night 2 of the ill-fated 2016 Super J Cup. With that in mind, New Japan made him look strong here. He grappled with KUSHIDA in the early goings and stayed with him, never getting outclassed. He eventually pinned Umino with Cradleshock, giving him momentum as he heads into a singles match with KUSHIDA tomorrow. **1/2

SHO & YOSHI-HASHI DEF. DRAGON LEE & TOMOYUKI OKA

This will surely be one of the best undercard matches of the entire tournament. Dragon Lee and SHO have ridiculous chemistry that has me chomping at the bit to see their singles match. SHO muscled Lee around, tossing him with ease. The CMLL standout was forced to use his speed and agility to get SHO off balance. Dragon Lee set up SHO to do his out of the ring Hurricanrana, but when he went to bounce off the ropes, he was met with a giant YOSHI-HASHI lariat. HASHI would go onto lock in a Butterfly Lock on Oka for the victory. ***1/4

MINORU SUZUKI & EL DESPERADO DEF. TOA HENARE & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI

Taguchi always delivers in BOSJ. Even during this undercard tag, he showed that he and El Desperado are going to be able to deliver the goods if they need to. Despy moves around the ring in such a bizarre way, and Taguchi’s offense is so different, that the two actually have strong chemistry together. Suzuki and Henare were bit players, but like every other match, they were involved with the finish. Suzuki dumped Henare on his head with a Gotch Piledriver for the win. **1/4

HIROMU TAKAHASHI & EVIL DEF. MARTY SCURLL & CHASE OWENS

The weakest of the undercard matches was saved for last. I don’t like anything that has to do with Daryl, so even though there were only a few spots revolving around him, it killed my interest. I have no doubt that Scurll and Takahashi will kill it when they square off against one another, but this tag just didn’t work for me. EVIL locked Owens in the Banshee Muzzle for the win. **

BEST OF THE SUPER JR. 25 A BLOCK
TIGER MASK IV DEF. YOSHINOBU KANEMARU

This was #ActuallyGood and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. These two grumpy bastards brawled in a match that no one else in this field can duplicate. While Flip Gordon and ACH are waiting in the wings, Kanemaru is ripping at Tiger Mask’s mask and kneeing him in the back.

Kanemaru tossed Tiger Mask onto the floor and slammed a young lion on him. After rolling back in the ring, Kanemaru grabbed another lion and threw him outside the ring and into Tiger Mask. I’ve been cold on Kanemaru in New Japan, but that ruled. If he plays spoiler in this tournament, I am all for it now.

I have stood by Tiger Mask in the past. He’s not ever going to give you a **** match, but he’s not bad. He does his job well. I’m okay with Tiger Mask being in the field for matches like this. He’s different, and the finish to this match, which saw him countering a Superplex with a cradle to pick up the win, was exactly what I wanted from this. Not a MOTY contender, but a fun match to kick off the tournament. ***1/4

BEST OF THE SUPER JR. 25 A BLOCK
ACH DEF. FLIP GORDON

Flip Gordon has officially arrived in New Japan and luckily he didn’t fall flat.

Bad, out of date flat Earth jokes aside, Flip and ACH really tore this house down with this one. They had a pacing that I really enjoyed. Yes, they both went balls to the walls and showed just how athletic and capable they are as flyers, but ACH dominated Flip for a period. Even if his New Japan experience has been brief, ACH knows the deal. He was in the dance last year, and he knows that to go farther, he has to want it more.

The brutality of ACH’s offense did not stop Flip from doing as his name implies. His double rope jump splash is never not going to be impressive. He delivered it here and Korakuen exploded. His splash off of a Korakuen entry way was just as impressive. Had Flip not gotten greedy and attempted a Spiral Tap, he might have been the one victorious in this bout. Instead, he went up top, dove, and missed, giving ACH the opportunity to spike him on his head for the win. Great match. ****

BEST OF THE SUPER JR. 25 A BLOCK
YOH DEF. BUSHI

YOH kicked off his second BOSJ run with his first BOSJ win. In 2015 as a young boy, the then Yohei Komatsu lost every one of his matches in a field that included Kyle O’Reilly, Gedo, and Mascara Dorada, among others. He was given a new, red and white look (albeit still glammed out) for the tournament, and he looks like a million bucks. I say this with Taiji Ishimori on deck, but YOH and SHO should really be the future of the juniors division.

BUSHI was great here too. Much like Tiger Mask IV, I am probably the high man on most BUSHI stuff. He is sloppy and sometimes reckless, but I think it works for him. He has a deadly tope suicida that the announcers, Korakuen, and I exploded for when he hit it. He’s not as established as his LiJ counterpart Hiromu, or someone like KUSHIDA or even Will Ospreay, so I have no problem with YOH going back-and-forth with him. The only time it looked like BUSHI had YOH truly on the ropes was in the finishing stretch, but before he could put the youngster away, YOH countered the cradle and pinned him for the victory. Another fun match. ***1/2

BEST OF THE SUPER JR. 25 A BLOCK
TAIJI ISHIMORI DEF. WILL OSPREAY

New Japan was more than likely hoping that this would be a coming out party for Taiji Ishimori, but Will Ospreay stole the show once again. I don’t know what else the man could do at this point. He is widely considered to be one of the best wrestlers in the world, but Ospreay’s 2018 has put him in the conversation for being the best wrestler in the world.

Ishimori was no slouch. His quickness, quite frankly, rivals that of Masato Yoshino. His execution was sublime. He targeted Ospreay’s previously injured neck and then did work on his shoulder on top of that. Ishimori presents himself nothing like Bad Luck Fale, the Bullet Club’s heavyweight hitman, but after seeing this, I believe Ishimori could take out the juniors division at the snap of a finger. He flies around the ring, but don’t be fooled, he is a killer.

Ishimori set himself up as an immediate title contender by counterting the Oscutter and nailing his Bloody Cross on Ospreay, which picked him up the victory. One Bloody Cross led to an immediate victory, and Ishimori, wrapped up in his excitement, launched his mouthpiece out of his mouth and threw his hands up in the air joyously. Taiji Ishimori is not here to mess around. This match helped establish him as an immediate player in the New Japan juniors, and Ospreay as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Outstanding. ****1/4

Final Thoughts:

Huge thumbs up for Night One of the Best of the Super Juniors. This show ruled. The opening two undercard tags were fun, and all of them, even if they weren’t good matches, made me more excited for Night Two. The four tournament matches delivered, with ACH vs. Flip and Ospreay vs. Ishimori veering into “essential viewing” territory.

In one night, Flip Gordon and Taiji Ishimori have established themselves as players in New Japan. Even though Gordon fell short, his effort was enough to win over fans. YOH proved that he can find success without SHO, and I will have my eyes on him as the tournament progresses (interpret that however you wish). Even in defeat, Ospreay continues his string of great matches and Korakuen’s reception to him was very interesting to me. He is a superstar in that building, and the Ishimori match as just another great match to add to his Korakuen resume.

Bring on Night Two.