And so, after a final that will surely rank highly on Match of the Year lists, the Best of the Super Juniors 26 has come to a close. But don’t be sad, dear reader, because what a tournament it’s been! Compelling stories, great variety, and barely any below par matches. Before the BOSJ started, the three Korakuen Hall shows looked like they might be a bit of a slog, seeing as each had a daunting ten singles matches on the card. As it turned out, they were a complete joy from start to finish. Just nice, easy watching, with white-hot crowds, and no trace of the grind that can set in during the G1 Climax

Normally part way through that tournament, the ol’ Grade One Climax fatigue hits, and I invariably start cherry picking stuff on certain days. Here though, there was no need for that, and I managed to watch and rate every single tournament match. So when MDK Sarah of @The2Sarahs fame made this suggestion:

I figured I’d be able to do that pretty easily. I had all my ratings on GRAPPL and in my spreadsheet. It’d only be a few minutes’ work, right? Then I started making notes, with a view to maybe turning it into a Twitter thread. Then the notes started getting out of hand, and before I knew it, I’d sent Rich Kraetsch a DM to see if he’d like an entire article. And so, without further ado, I present to you the official NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 Bell-to-Bell Power Rankings.

Note: I have not included TAKA Michinoku in this list, seeing as he missed half the tournament through injury, and I have also not included other people’s matches against him when calculating the averages. In the interests of fairness I also haven’t included the final (which is my first 5* match this year), but all that would do is move the top two further ahead of the rest anyway.

19th – Tiger Mask IV

Average rating:  2.89

I feel bad about him being down here, because I really enjoyed him at times. He was particularly entertaining when he went into Grouchy Tiger mode, and he really is very good at putting together these matches early on the card. Might have overtaken Doe-yow-kee overall, had the botched ending not dragged the entertaining Titán match down a little.

Best match: vs Jonathan Gresham, 3.25*

18th – DOUKI

Average rating: 2.92

Doo-ucky got off to a shaky start against Ren Narita, which was one of only three matches in the entire tournament that I thought was below average, but to Dow-yoo-kye’s credit he managed to turn it around and put in a largely very solid performance overall, capped by an excellent match against—you guessed it—Will Ospreay.

Best match: vs Will Ospreay, 3.75*

17th – Taiji Ishimori

Average rating: 3.00

A massive asterisk next to this score, as the Bone Soldier seemed to be working hurt for most of the tournament. Dragged down by that snoozefest with Marty Scurll—22 minutes that seemed like 45—and never really recovered. To his credit though he did manage to summon the reserves for a very good block decider against Shingo, despite apparently carrying this neck injury.

Best match: vs Shingo, 4*

16th – BUSHI

Average rating: 3.03

A little disappointing for me. Okay, so he didn’t get lavished with main event matches, and he’s never been a really top-level worker anyway, but there were still a few too many sub-3* matches for my liking. Not bad by any means, just not particularly good either.

Best match: vs Will Ospreay, 3.75*

15th – Ren Narita

Average rating: 3.09

About as good as could be expected given that he was nearly always working the opener, Narita showed a lot of fire, and his matches were largely fun. Had a couple of really great sprints with Bandido and Ospreay to cap off a fine showing for the Young Lion.

Best match: vs Will Ospreay, 3.75*

14th – Titán

Average rating: 3.10

He was fine. Definitely didn’t disgrace himself by any means, but didn’t really enhance his reputation either. To be fair to him though he was normally working in fairly short midcard spots, and when he got room to stretch his legs a little, in the 14-minute match against his friend Dragon Lee, he did deliver.

Best match: vs Dragon Lee, 3.75*

13th – YOH

Average rating: 3.17

Very solid at either end of the competition, but suffered a mid-tournament dip, with consecutive matches against DOUKI, BUSHI & ELP all scoring less than 3*. Wasn’t always given as much chance to shine as his tag team partner SHO, but peaked high when the opportunity arose, pulling out very good matches against Ospreay and Taguchi.

Best match: vs Will Ospreay, 4.25*

T-11th – El Phantasmo

Average rating: 3.28

Another guy whose rating doesn’t really give the full picture, as while he does have some limitations as a wrestler (his control periods on offense can be pretty dull), his character work as a cocky little prick was excellent throughout here, and there’s no question that ELP came off like a star and got over with the live audiences. Less consistent than the other guys with similar averages; he had a couple of great bouts vs Ospreay and Romero, but his matches against BUSHI, Narita and YOH were all under 3*.

Best match: vs Rocky Romero, 4.25*

T-11th – Ryusuke Taguchi

Average rating: 3.28

Perhaps mildly disappointing, given how many main event spots he was granted. That said, Taguchi was always popular with the crowd, never outright bad, and overall you have to say that Big Match Gooch delivered for the most part. The goofy comedy stuff was fairly minimal and was most apparent in the ‘Battle of the Coaches’ against Romero, where it didn’t outstay its welcome.

Best match: vs Will Ospreay, 4*

T-8th – Jonathan Gresham

Average rating: 3.29

Mr. Consistency. Nothing below 3*, nothing above 3.5*. A very solid showing, if a little unspectacular, but to be fair to him he wasn’t ever put in a big main event spot. If he comes back next year maybe he’ll get more of a chance to shine, but overall he can be very pleased with his debut.

Best match: vs Dragon Lee, 3.5*

T-8th – Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Average rating: 3.29

His ranking here doesn’t quite tell the full story, as his matches vs SHO and Ishimori were highly entertaining, but not necessarily in a way that you’d throw high star ratings at them. The ending of the SHO match, where he shoved a Young Lion at his opponent to stop him beating the count, was a particular highlight that had me laughing out loud at its dastardly audacity. The ‘Heel Master vs Villain’ match with Marty Scurll was also very good fun.

Best match: vs Shingo, 4*

T-8th – Marty Scurll

Average rating: 3.29

Discounting the atrocious match against Taiji Ishimori, which I gave a measly 1.75*, Scurll had an excellent tournament and would be up in 6th place if that match had even scraped a bang average 2.5*. The interference from Brody King was generally well-placed and not excessive and worked particularly well in the Shingo match. Scurll initially tried taking the fight to Shingo, eventually realized he couldn’t win that way, and so ‘The Villain’ emerged to try and topple The Dragon by nefarious means. This tour may well end up being Scurll’s New Japan swansong, and if so, he signed off largely in style.

Best match: vs Dragon Lee, 4*

7th – Rocky Romero

Average rating: 3.31

Rocky’s story was trying to prove he could still hang at this level. Early on, he was performing consistently well, but never quite managed to get the job done. The highlight of those early matches was a great babyface underdog showing vs CHAOS stablemate Ospreay, where the crowd really got behind him. That set the stage perfectly for Rocky’s first Korakuen Hall main event, where he finally got the big upset over the hitherto undefeated ELP. His Roppongi 3K protégés joining him in the ring to celebrate was a nice touch.

Best match: vs El Phantasmo, 4.25*

6th – Robbie Eagles

Average rating: 3.34

Again, very solid. Zero matches under 3*, and unexpectedly found himself in one of the main stories of the tournament, with his apparent internal conflict over the antics of his dastardly Bullet Club stablemate ELP. He’s too good to simply be the third choice Junior in his unit, so it’s pleasing that the company seems to see something more in him, and has planted the seeds for a slow-burn babyface turn. You can already hear that he’s particularly popular with female audience members, and he’s clearly a very good wrestler, so the potential is there.

Best match: vs Ospreay, 4.25*

5th – SHO

Average rating: 3.41

Clearly got a focal push in this tournament, and he rose to the occasion. Only one match under 3*, and was involved in one of the tournament’s top bouts on the opening night. His ongoing quest to try and topple Shingo is one of the more compelling stories in the Junior division right now. Always extremely popular with the crowd, too.

Best match: vs Shingo, 4.25*

4th – Bandido

Average rating: 3.42

I had to double check my math here, as the perception after week 1 was that Bandido had been a little underwhelming. Looking back though he was actually really consistent; like Gresham he had everything in the 3* to 3.5* range, but the difference was he had one standout match to bump his average. And what a match it was; for me, the second-best of the entire tournament.

Best match: vs Ospreay, 4.5*

3rd – Dragon Lee

Average rating: 3.69

A lot of people were raving about his first two matches vs Ishimori and SHO, and while I wasn’t quite as high on those as some people (I went 3.75* and 3.5* respectively), there’s no denying that the champ had an extremely good tournament overall. His matches against Scurll and Titán were very good, many people feel his match with Shingo is a Match of the Year contender, and everything else was solid.

Best match: vs Shingo, 4.5*

2nd – Shingo Takagi

Average rating: 3.75

The main focal point of the tournament, looking to become the first man since Prince Devitt to run the table, and when the spotlight was on he delivered in a big way. At times, his air of invulnerability maybe even counted against him slightly in terms of pure match quality, as it was difficult to get invested in some matches that seemed like a foregone conclusion.

They smartly got round this problem in the Kanemaru match by having the Heel Master viciously attack Shingo’s leg in the previous night’s tag, and when Kanemaru started working the same leg, you really bought into the possibility that Shingo might finally lose. But Shingo persevered, fighting tooth and nail to keep that undefeated streak alive, and was finally able to hit the Last of the Dragon for the victory, just as he has done to virtually every other Junior heavyweight in the company. As an overall package, Shingo was surely the tournament MVP, and make no mistake, the sky’s the limit for this guy.

Best match (excluding the final): vs Dragon Lee, 4.5*

1st – Will Ospreay

Average rating: 4.06

What more can you say about the year he’s having? Ospreay was ridiculously good throughout here, especially in the second week. I had all nine of his block matches at 3.75* or better, and if you’re still not convinced, just look at how many people in this list had their best match against him.

Ospreay has had fantastic matches in Progress, RevPro, White Wolf & Fightclub Pro in 2019. Then you’ve got his NJPW body of work, which started with the hard-hitting win over Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom. This was followed by a strong showing in the New Japan Cup, highlighted by that great David vs Goliath battle against Lance Archer. Then came the hot MSG opener versus Jeff Cobb, and now this superlative BOSJ run. If he does enter the G1, and performs to his potential, then surely even the most ardent Ospreay haters would have a hard time denying his case for Wrestler of the Year.

Best match (excluding the final): vs Bandido, 4.5*