NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS 26 NIGHT 15
JUNE 5, 2019
RYOGOKU SUMO HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: NJPW World

MEET OUR REVIEWERS:

DRAGON LEE, TITAN & SHOTA UMINO DEF. BANDIDO, JONATHAN GRESHAM & REN NARITA

Gerard: Perfect choice for an opener. Everyone looked good here, with Dragon Lee vs. Bandido a match I want to see coming out of this. Lee got triple teamed but quickly turned the momentum back in his favor against Narita. We got lots of big spots from everyone with the ring eventually cleared. Narita got one big overhead belly-to-belly suplex spot teasing a near fall but Lee soon finished him off with a running knee. This got me hyped for the rest of the show. ***1/2

Thomas: A really hot little opener here as Lee prepared for his upcoming title defense on Sunday against the winner of the main event. As Gerard mentioned, the interactions here between Bandido and Lee really made me desperate for a singles match between the two. Ren Narita, who finished the BOSJ tournament on zero points,  really was the star of this match as the young lion got an extended closing stretch against the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Lee eventually finished him with the running knee. ***1/4

TAIJI ISHIMORI, EL PHANTASMO & ROBBIE EAGLES DEF. RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, SHO & YOH

Gerard: This was an angle with a match built around it. We got ELP and Taguchi to start. They were in the ring against each other for a while and there was a thumb in Taguchi’s butt and a rope walk spot from ELP. I didn’t love the wrestling from ELP here but he generated crowd heat. The best wrestling in this match was during the YOH vs. Eagles sequences. Eagles hit a 450 Splash on SHO, but ELP made a blind tag while Eagles was on the top rope. ELP pushed Eagles off of SHO and got the win for himself. Eagles looked pissed, and ELP grabbed the IWGP Jr. Tag belts and gave the other one to Ishimori only inflaming Eagles more. Eagles would tell Kevin Kelly on English commentary: “Apparently there is an I in team in Bullet Club.” The wrestling in the match was fine, but by the end of this, the angle they were going for came across quite well actually. ***1/4

Thomas: They told a cool story here with SHO and YOH being coached by a new NJPW veteran and struggling, as Rocky Romero was taking part in a tag match later on in the event. Eagles was one of my top performers of the tournament, and he continued with a great appearance here. The angle that the match was built around, of course, was the blind tag and pin steal by Phantasmo from Eagles, and it came across really well, especially with Ishimori being handed the other IWGP Jr. Tag belt rather than Eagles and Eagles’ comments to the English commentary team. The wrestling was ok, but the angle came off really well and continued to show the division within Bullet Club’s junior ranks. I wonder when the Ishimori/ELP vs Roppongi 3K title match will take place as ELP is (at time of writing) booked in RevPro the day of the Dominion, so we could be looking at one of the Kizuna Road shows or the G1 Finals most likely. ***



TOMOHIRO ISHII, TORU YANO, YOSHI-HASHI, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER & TIGER MASK DEF. MINORU SUZUKI, TAICHI, ZACK SABRE JR., YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & DOUKI

Gerard: DOUKI and Liger start in the dream matchup we always wanted to see. DOUKI hit a Diving Senton off of the top rope on to everyone on the outside. DOUKI went after Liger’s mask. We got a Liger vs. Suzuki sequence with lots of slaps back and forth. Not quite as much crowd heat as some of their battles during the Wrestling Dontaku tour. After that, we got a great Taichi vs. Ishii sequence and Taichi was all business here with no shenanigans. These guys are gonna have another great match at Dominion. ZSJ stretched YOSHI-HASHI out for a bit and then DOUKi got tagged in. Everyone ends up back in the ring in a schmozz and while the ref’s back is turned, Taichi gave a low blow kick to Ishii. The ring is cleared again and YOSHI-HASHI hit Karma on DOUKI for the win. After the match, YOSHI-HASHI pointed at ZSJ’s British Heavyweight title. Liger and Suzuki brawled a bit at ringside and brawled all the way to the back. Really fun tag that helped to advance a few stories. ***1/2

Thomas: This tag built up a couple of different matches, with Taichi and Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI and Sabre, and Liger and Suzuki being clearly played off at times during the match to set up future matches between them. Where the potential Liger-Suzuki match will take place, I’m not sure, rumors have said that a gimmick match could be in the cards for Sunday’s show or the later King Of Pro Wrestling date, but whenever it takes place that match should be awesome. As for a YOSHI-HASHI RevPro title challenge, I could take it or leave it (probably leave it) but they did notably give him the pin here over DOUKI with the Karma to give YOSHI some momentum going into that title match at a yet to be announced date. This was fine. ***

TETSUYA NAITO, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI DEF. KOTA IBUSHI, TOGI MAKABE, TOMOAKI HONMA & TOA HENARE

Gerard: Ibushi and Naito started the match with some chain wrestling. Honma played the man in peril for a bit and there were some tags in and out on both sides that led us right back to Ibushi vs. Naito. Naito won that exchange with a Tornado DDT before tagging in EVIL. Henare was tagged in and we got a fun finishing sequence with him and EVIL who I think compliment each other quite well. EVIL got the win with an assist from SANADA    to hit the Magic Killer on Henare. After the match, Naito got the best of Ibushi while brawling outside and they then had a quick stare down. Can’t wait for their match at Dominion. ***1/2

Thomas: Whenever I go an entire New Japan tour without watching undercards, I always kind of forget that the GBH guys exist. Is Makabe still one-third of the Six-Man champs? (The answer is yes, but it is a little sad that I wasn’t sure). Kevin Kelly was still pushing the double-champion angle for Tetsuya Naito, and also teased a Henare-EVIL match, both of which I think could be great. Naito and Ibushi have had three ***** matches for me before, an incredible feat rivaled by just a handful of the best ever. I’m really looking forward to their match on Sunday. This was #JustAMatch but the LIJ guys always keep it pretty entertaining. ***

MARTY SCURLL & BRODY KING DEF. KAZUCHIKA OKADA & ROCKY ROMERO

Gerard: Kevin Kelly speculated on a Jericho appearance here before the match got underway. King and Okada started. After a good but way too short match up, Okada tagged in Romero though Scurll told King not to tag him in and go after Romero. Romero and King have a stare down and then King punched Romero to the ground then tagged Scurll in which I thought was a fun spot. Scurll was in control a short time and Romero fought back causing King to be tagged back in. Then once King is back in control of Romero, Scurll got tagged in. Loving lazy Marty. Once Scrull decided to try, he tweaked his knee stomping on Romero’s arm, which allowed for a Romero comeback and hot tag to Okada. Okada and King were in the match for the rest of it. King got a near fall on Okada with a Sunset Flip German Suplex combo from a Scurll assist. Romero made the save and held his own for a bit against the Villain Enterprises members. Okada recovers and hits a dropkick, Top Rope Elbow Drop, and Rainmaker on King for the win. Not exactly the most thrilling finishing sequence for a match involving Okada. After the match, the lights went out and instead of a run-in, we got a short Jericho video. Okada then cut a quick promo. ***1/4

Thomas: Okada had a really awesome tag on the Best of the Super Junior Finals last year that I always remember for some reason with WIll Ospreay against Chase Owens and Kota Ibushi, so I’m hoping for a similar performance here. Scurll and King have been teasing a new debuting member of Villain Enterprises. We didn’t get one here, but I am interested in who that could be. Also, I’m not sure Scurll was actually in this match because I don’t remember him doing a single thing, but I’ll never hurt a guy for slacking on the job I guess. Okada and King came in for the finishing stretch and Okada survived a King piledriver and WON WITH THE RAINMAKER POSE. Woah, the shock of the century. For real though, when was the last time he actually hit and won the rainmaker after the zoom out? I feel like it’s been forever. Not as good as Okada’s aforementioned tag on last year’s Super Junior finals, but a decent little match nonetheless. The Jericho run-in has become such a trope that Okada walked around after the match asking where he was. The lights went out, but instead of Chris Jericho appearing, a short video played. ***1/4

JAY WHITE DEF. HIROSHI TANAHASHI

Gerard: Jay White has embraced the facial hair and has a new vest instead of a jacket. White jumped Tanahashi before the bell to a chorus of loud boos. They brawled on the outside. Back in the ring, and White stomped on Tanahashi’s surgically repaired left elbow for more boos from the crowd. Match spilled back to the outside, and White continued to go after the elbow. As the referee almost hit 20 with both men still outside, White pulled Marty Asami out of the ring to stop the count. White got back in the ring, Asami started another 20 count but Tanahashi gets back inside. White went right back to going after the elbow. White pulled off Tanahashi’s gear protecting his elbow. Tanahashi couldn’t even Irish Whip White, having to sell his arm instead which I thought was a cool spot. There was an extended spot where White had Tanahashi in a nasty looking Armbar that Tanahashi sold to perfection. Huge crowd heat when Tanahashi finally made the rope break. Tanahashi fought back with a Dragon Screw and some Sling Blades. Tanahashi went for a High Fly Flow but white got up and crotched him on the top rope. Blade Runner was reversed. Gedo interfered and Tanahashi slapped him but with the referee distracted White hit a low blow. Tanahashi managed a low blow of his own and got a 2.9 from a School Boy. Tanahashi went for a Texas Cloverleaf, White then grabbed Tanahashi’s arm, extended it, then hit an inside cradle for the win. This match was more of a fight than the usual kind of White match where he does a lot of reversals. The reversal sequences were used more sparingly here. These guys have better matches each time they face each other. I thought this was their best yet and by keeping it just under 20 minutes avoided some of the problems of their IWGP Title match at The New Beginning which I thought was too long at half an hour in length. ****1/4

Thomas: This is the fifth singles match in the series between these two. (I was ***½, ****, ****¼, ****¼) on the previous matches) and is Tanahashi’s first match back after taking a couple of months off for surgery on his elbow, which White brutally targeted in the early portions of this match. I really don’t like White’s new look with a vest and facial hair, I think the jacket and clean shaven look really more fit his character of the guy behind the scenes pulling all of the strings. It’s crazy that Jay White was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion just a few months ago because it feels like he has been an afterthought for the past couple months with the disappointing match vs Hirooki Goto and then skipping the Super Junior tour. The work on the elbow joint by White was great, the extended armbar sequence especially, and Tanahashi sold it beautifully throughout this match, needing to use his leg to hold White in position on a Dragon Screw at one point because his arm was so weak. Gedo came in with brass knuckles to distract the referee, leading to a low blow from White, but Tanahashi countered the Blade Runner with a low blow of his own and rolled up White for a great near fall. White rolled through a submission attempt and trapped the arm on the inside cradle for the win. I wouldn’t agree with Gerard that this was their best match, I preferred the IWGP Title match from the New Beginning in Osaka show this year, but this was really good with a clear story it wanted to tell, and it also did a great job getting White back on the right track and back into the mind of New Japan fans. ****





IWGP UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
JON MOXLEY DEF. JUICE ROBINSON (c)

Gerard: Moxley comes out through the crowd spitting water and wearing short tights. He got a pretty good pop too. JUICE HAS CUT HIS HAIR! They started by striking each other, Juice tumbled out of the ring and Moxley hit a Tope Suicida. Brawled into the crowd and Moxley even bit Juice. Moxley went for a Piledriver in the entrance aisle, but Juice hit a back body drop to escape. Juice climbed the set and hit a Somersault Senton on to Moxley. Juice pulled Moxley back to ringside and missed a Cannonball on to Moxley who got out of the way and Juice ate guardrail. They got back into the ring and Moxley took control and worked over Juice’s leg a bit. Juice escaped from a STF by biting Moxley’s fingers. Juice was bleeding a decent amount by this point. They brawled outside some more. Back in the ring, Juice with a Juice Box, and he climbed the top rope but, Moxley pushed him off it right on to the floor. Moxley with chair shots. Moxley set up a table, put Juice on it and ran off the apron on to Juice with a chair. Moxley went to set up another table spot but the legs buckled, so Moxley duplexes Juice through the table and it broke. Juice made it back into the ring at 19. Moxley worked over Juice’s leg with a ringpost Figure Four. Juice got back in control by throwing a chair right at Moxley’s head. Juice hit a big Lariat that took both men down. Let’s go Moxley chants from the crowd. They traded strikes. Moxley avoided a Left Hand of God, looked to go for a Dirty Deeds but Juice pushed him out of the ring. Moxley leaned a table against the guardrail but Juice took control and hit a Cannonball but the table didn’t break. Juice yelled “I’m gonna break this table Motherfucker!” and Powerbombed Moxley through it. Back in the ring, Juice put Moxley on the Tenzan Elevated Crab, but Moxley escaped, hit a Dragon Screw and applied a Texas Cloverleaf.  Juice finally escaped. Pulp Friction escaped, Double Arm DDT attempt. Moxley then hits a Double Arm DDT for 2.9. Moxley then hits an elevated Double Arm DDT which I think is now called the Death Rider for the win.

Just an awesome violent brawl. Moxley was more over than I expected and the crowd popped every time he went for the Double Arm DDT. They also did a good job improvising because I think they wanted the table to break the first time on the table spots but none of the tables broke on the first try. Perhaps a little silly not to give this match a No DQ stipulation given how this turned out, but whatever. Red Shoes Unno is the most permissive referee in professional wrestling. Moxley is gonna have a great run in New Japan. This was also Juice’s best match in New Japan, surpassing his IWGP US Title win against Jay White. I hope Moxley is in the G1 Climax. ****1/2

Thomas: Moxley got an incredible reaction coming out through the crowd to pretty generic music, despite the music, he felt like an absolute star making his entrance. Juice came out with a death stare on his face and a really great looking new haircut, and they got in each other’s face before starting the match. This had a big fight feel or whatever you want to call it. Once the bell rang, both guys just flew right at each other, and this delved into a brawl in Moxley’s first match post-WWE. Moxley just mauled Juice in the early stages, abusing the young lions just to get to Juice. This was a great way to introduce Moxley to New Japan, he came off as a cold-hearted, brutal killer. Juice got busted open pretty early on after Moxley unloaded on him with closed hands. Mox got a chair and then put Juice thru a table with a suplex as we got a countout tease after Red Shoes admonished Moxley. Juice regained control with a Left Hand of God and a powerbomb through another table. I guess I don’t really care, but like Gerard said they really should’ve just made this No DQ and skipped the “Well, Red Shoes knew this was a fight coming in so he’ll let that go!” Juice kicked out of the move formerly known as Dirty Deeds and Moxley hit a jumping/impact version of it to fall Juice and win the IWGP US title.

Honestly, probably both guys’ best singles match ever??? I can’t think of a better one. Just an incredible match and an even better introduction to New Japan (and post-WWE life in general) for Jon Moxley. Mox looked great and this was just an absolute war and quelled any concerns I had of Mox being in the G1. I went from “that should be cool and different” to being excited about it. Mox came off like such a star here and Juice was the perfect babyface foil, and I hope we’ll get to see a rematch of this with Juice getting his title back down the line. ****1/4

BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS 26 FINALS
WILL OSPREAY DEF. SHINGO TAKAGI

Gerard: Ospreay is now one of those guys who cosplays with a Katana. His character this evening is channeling St. George as the Dragon Slayer. This match had buzz from the bell. These guys started with some of the best chain wrestling I have seen in a long time. Ospreay’s flip escape from a German Suplex, and Takagi’s OsCutter block was an early jump out of your seat moment for me. Things ended up outside and we got a Plancha from Ospreay. But not to be outdone, Takagi soon got back into control, hit a DDT on the outside and went back into the ring to hit a Tope Con Hilo on to Ospreay who was still outside. Back in the ring, Takagi weathered a comeback attempt from Ospreay and hit a Pop Up Death Valley Driver. Neither man was in control for too long during this match. Ospreay fought back and Takagi rolled to the floor. Ospreay then hit a Sasuke Special and the match went into an even higher gear after that point. Both men pulled out all the stops with all of their big moves and some wild reversals. Ospreay reversing a Pumping Bomber into a Liger Bomb was probably my favorite spot of this match.

Ospreay also pulled out a 630 Splash followed by a Shooting Star Press for a near fall. Ospreay looked in control from that point hitting an OsCutter for another near fall, but Takagi retaliated with a nasty looking headbutt in a last-ditch attempt to switch the momentum of the match. Takagi tried to hit a Last of the Dragon on Ospreay, but was unable to get him all the way up on to his shoulders and Ospreay kicked out. Two Pumping Bombers and a kick out later, Takagi went for another Last of the Dragon that Ospreay countered with a nasty looking Reverse Huricanrana. From that point Ospreay was in control, eventually landing a Hidden Blade, Top Rope OsCutter, and the Storm Breaker for a definitive win at 33:36 against the previously undefeated in New Japan Takagi. Ospreay wins his second BOSJ tournament in four years. Both men were incredible here. The selling was spectacular, and you really have to give some props to Ospreay who has definitely improved in this department while cutting back on the screaming.

This was the best match I have seen so far this year. When the 25 minute mark was announced, it was one of the matches that didn’t feel like it had gone on that long.  And as we approach the midpoint of the year, Ospreay has now taken the lead from Kento Miyahara as my Wrestler of the Year thus far. After the match, Ospreay cuts a promo and tells the crowd in Japanese that he’s moving to Japan to live full time to a big pop. And in his backstage comments, he challenges Dragon Lee to a Jr. Title match at Dominion. *****

Thomas: There aren’t many that could follow that incredible performance but Shingo Takagi vs Will Ospreay for the first time ever, in Sumo Hall, might be one of the few that can. Ospreay is carrying a fucking sword to the ring. All right, now I’m actually hyped. For real though, this has probably been the most I’ve been interested in New Japan since last Dominion.

The Best of the Super Juniors final last year between Hiromu Takahashi and Taiji Ishimori was my MOTY last year, and with the two guys involved here, a match of the year contender is kind of the bar that they have to be shooting for. Also, how cool is it that the juniors are main eventing Ryogoku, I can’t get over that for some reason. I’ve always loved junior matches and to see them in a building as storied as this, main eventing over Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jon Moxley, it was so cool to see. Fans have already started to get a Kazuchika Okada in 2018 sort of vibe off of Shingo, in that he is still a face, but they always cheer for the guys he is facing because they want the underdog story, they want to have been there when the unbeatable guy is finally beaten. Because of that, Shingo worked a little bit heel here, not going for a clean break and stalling on the outside of the ring early on. Shingo’s power against Ospreay’s speed and high flying ability was the story here, and the contrast made for a match that had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. This was back and forth the whole way with action too fast to call. Shingo hit a DVD from the top rope and went for a Pumping Bomber only for Ospreay to counter with a Liger Bomb for an incredible spot.

The OsCutter on the ring apron gave me flashbacks to when Ospreay hit another incredible looking move off the apron against Marty Scurll last year. We go back to the ring: 630 senton, shooting star press, OsCutter, and Shingo kicked out.  Ospreay just unloaded on Shingo with the disrespectful kicks and Shingo fired back with forearms and avoided the StormBreaker, catching Ospreay in the Last of the Dragon. 1.2…Ospreay kicked out. I jumped off of my couch, sure that was the finish. Shingo had already finished nine guys with that this tournament.

Ospreay survived two more Pumping Bombers for Kevin Kelly to exclaim: “What The Hell!?” and countered another Last of the Dragon attempt with a Poison Rana. My god. This match fucks. Hidden Blade from Ospreay slumps Shingo and the top rope OsCutter and StormBreaker slays the dragon for the first time in 97 matches as Will Ospreay becomes the best of the Super Juniors for the second time. I still think Shingo should’ve won, but it’s whatever. This Ospreay BOSJ run was one of the best ever.

Just an unbelievable match, the best of the year and one of the best ever. I’ve been holding out on making Will Ospreay my wrestler of the year because I love Kento Miyahara so much, but after this match, I think it’s hard to deny. The story this match told was just perfect and the result actually shocked me which wrestling rarely does in 2019. Good luck to Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito on Sunday, because it is going to be tough to top this. *****

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gerard: Just an incredible show. Not only did the top three matches deliver, but a lot of stuff on the undercard did a great job in building towards matches at Dominion or into longer-term storylines like Robbie Eagles’ inevitable departure from Bullet Club.

That they can put on this show, and what will probably be another incredible show in a few days at Dominion is a testament to the talent that New Japan has and the overall hot run that his company is currently on.

Thomas: I mean, the perfect cap to the undeniable best “Best of the Super Juniors” ever. Every match on the card had a purpose and most set up or teased exciting future matches, and the top three bouts all delivered or over delivered on expectations, with an incredible main event that is legitimately one of my favorite matches ever and *****. I’m excited for Dominion but it might be hard to compete with this, a show of the year contender for my money. 7,650 fans for this show is a pretty great number too.

VOW Best of the Super Juniors 2019 Pick’Em Contest

Final standings/scores for our BOSJ Pick’Em contest can be found on the VOW Forums at voicesofwrestling.com/forums. Our pick’em champion will win a five vintage puro magazines and stickers from Violent Miracle as well as a free month of VOW Flagship Patreon.