A weird year for New Japan Pro Wrestling (and not to mention the entire world) will get weirder on Sunday, when the 27th edition of the Best of the Super Juniors is scheduled to kick off. A round-robin singles league for junior heavyweight competitors, essentially the G1 but for the littler guys, is nothing new of course: BOSJ dates back to 1994, and before that the very similar Top of the Super Juniors league was held in 1988 and from 1991 through 1993. But the tournament has been a spring or early summer tradition since 1991- the 1988 tournament was held in February; every other edition was held somewhere between April and July, and it settled into a late May/early June schedule in recent years.
This year, New Japan happened to be in the middle of a company-wide shutdown when the tournament was meant to take place, and resumed their schedule with no sign of the missing BOSJ. But luckily for fans across the globe, the juniors will get their moment to shine after all. It will come on a unique tour featuring both the 2020 World Tag League (which is taking place in essentially its normal timeframe, if not a little earlier) and the BOSJ. The tour will open and close with huge 10-match double cards featuring both tournaments, but all of the dates in between will alternate; one night Tag League, one-night BOSJ, until the end.
That’s not the only change to this year’s BOSJ, though. For the first time since 1995, the Best of the Super Juniors will be a one-block tournament. This means that unlike the G1, all ten competitors will compete in a single block, and they will face all nine other wrestlers before the end of the tournament. The top two wrestlers by point total will meet in the finals on December 11th at the famed Nippon Budokan to determine the 27th Best of the Super Juniors champion. Points, as always, are awarded on the following basis:
- 2 points for a win
- 1 point for a time limit draw (all matches except the final have a 30-minute time limit)
- 0 points for a loss, double DQ or double count out
If any wrestlers are tied in points, the wrestler who has a direct victory wins the tiebreaker. So in other words, if Hiromu Takahashi and DOUKI tied in points for 2nd place, but the DOUKGOD pulled off the big victory in their match against each other, he would move on to the finals and Hiromu would not.
Before we move on I would also like to note that we will be providing full daily coverage of the Best of the Super Juniors on the Patreon for my podcast, Wrestling Omakase. If you’re interested in the BOSJ and would like to follow along with same-day audio coverage of every show (and the World Tag League too, as well as the DDT D-ou, their similar round-robin tournament that starts a week later!) you can sign up now for only $5 per month at www.patreon.com/wrestlingomakase!
So let’s take a look at this year’s ten competitors. Once we’re done we’ll then go through the full schedule for the tournament.
Just as we did in the G1, I will attempt to rank all of the competitors’ chances of winning by placing them into one of four categories: Favorite, Dark Horse, Unlikely or No Shot. I put the eventual G1 winner into the Dark Horse category so of course, I could always be wrong (although the guy who ended up beating him for the briefcase was one of my Favorites, so I’m calling that a moral victory at least!). In the G1 we had three Favorites but this time around there will be only one, as I think there’s one wrestler who simply has an overwhelming chance of winning the Best of the Super Juniors this year. You may be able to guess who, but you’ll have to read on to find out for sure!
Past BOSJ Experience: None
The only wrestler making his Best of the Super Juniors debut this year (except for late injury replacement Yuya Uemura) seems like as good of a place as any to start. Master Wato, previously young lion Hirai Kawato, made his return to New Japan Pro Wrestling from excursion during the New Japan Cup, just after the NJPW restart following their COVID-19 shutdown. Vignettes had begun airing throughout that tournament of a man running through a forest, featuring inspirational quotes like WE SHALL OVERCOME and WE WILL CLIMB TO NEW HEIGHTS, ending with WAY TO THE GRAND MASTER, which quickly became his nickname of sorts (I know, it’s a weird nickname). When Wato actually came out for the first time, many were left a little underwhelmed, however. His brightly colored costume and penchant for making……let’s just say odd facial expressions quickly made him into something of a meme, and it didn’t help that his very first appearance ended with him attacked and laid out by DOUKI, possibly the lowest-ranked non-Young Lion on the entire roster. Wato getting his revenge over DOUKI in his first match back helped a bit, as did an extremely unlikely partnership with former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroyoshi Tenzan (who has helped cover for Wato’s extreme lack of promo ability so far, basically cutting his backstage promos for him).
But it’s been a rocky road at best for the young Master up to this point. His only other singles match was a loss to Yoshinobu Kanemaru in just seven-and-a-half minutes to open the Jingu show, which some took as a signal that the company just didn’t have big plans for him. However, Wato has quietly gotten a little bit of momentum going after that- he paid Kanemaru back by pinning him directly during the junior tag title league, when he and Taguchi defeated the eventual champions of Kanemaru & Desperado, and then Wato confronted the junior champion Taiji Ishimori and got in his face at the G1 finals, which was certainly a big step up for him. Looking at his schedule, he’s got a very big opponent on the final round robin night: Hiromu Takahashi! That might suggest that Wato could be in for a big breakout tournament here, picking up enough wins to still be alive on the last night heading into his final match against Hiromu. It remains to be seen if our blue-haired friend can win over some of his skeptics along the way.
Notable Matches: Our young Master will face his recent tag team partner Ryusuke Taguchi on November 20th at Korakuen Hall. He gets to go one-on-one with the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori on December 5th in Kagoshima, which as mentioned was teased with a brief face-to-face confrontation back at the G1 finals in Ryogoku. Finally, Wato wraps up his tournament on December 6th in Fukuoka against Hiromu Takahashi, a former BOSJ champion, in a match that could very well be for a spot in the finals!
Chance of Winning: Dark Horse
It seems a little too early for Wato to rocket all the way to the top of the NJPW junior division, but hey, few saw EVIL winning the IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Titles this year coming either, so stranger things have certainly happened in 2020. As I’ve said a couple times already, Wato’s last match of the tournament being against Hiromu really does suggest that he’s in for a big tournament. I think he’ll fall just short of a spot in the finals at Hiromu’s hands, but it will be clear by the end of BOSJ 27 that Wato is going to be a force going forward in the junior division, whether people like his ring attire or not.
Past BOSJ Experience: 2003 (0-6), 2004 (1-4-2), 2006 (3-2-1), 2007 (5-1), 2008 (4-1), 2009 (3-3), 2010 (5-2), 2011 (5-2, Lost in Final), 2012 (5-3, Won Tournament), 2013 (5-3), 2014 (5-3), 2015 (5-2), 2016 (5-2, Lost in Final), 2017 (4-3), 2018 (3-4), 2019 (6-3)
With the likes of Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask out of this year’s tournament, Ryusuke Taguchi brings by far the most experience of any BOSJ 27 competitor. He’s only one of two participants who have won the thing, and unlike Hiromu he has two more trips to the final as well. Taguchi actually kind of got screwed over by the previous format over the years- before 2015, for a while the BOSJ used to send the top two from each block into a 4-man mini tournament, instead of just having the two block champions meet in the final (the G1 used to do this as well). Taguchi ended up losing in the semifinals in 2007 & 2008 when he would have just advanced to the final in another year (he also lost in the semis when he finished in second in 2010 & 2011, so I guess you could say that evened things out and the ‘ol Gooch just had to do better in these BOSJ semifinals!). Even worse for poor Taguchi, he finished in first place in his block in 2013 only to have to pull out of the semifinals with a hip injury, meaning he didn’t even get to lose in the semis that year! Oh well. At least he had his one tournament win under his belt already by that point.
A lot of people were probably ready to write our favorite ass enthusiast off after his 2018 performance, his first losing record in an amazing fourteen years, but Taguchi bounced right back with a strong 6-3 showing in last year’s Best of the Super Juniors, only finishing 2 points behind block winner Will Ospreay. Can he put together another strong showing this year, or is this going to be a step backward for the fun-loving veteran?
Notable Matches: Taguchi spent most of his feud with Taiji Ishimori last year mocking him for his Toryumon X dancing idol gimmick, and I hope he busts out one more dance number when the two of them meet again on November 18th in Korakuen. As mentioned above, Taguchi gets a chance to take on his recent tag team partner Master Wato on November 20th in Korakuen, and he’ll be looking to show the kid that the only master here is an ASS MASTER! Yeah! One wrestler who Taguchi has been unable to beat since he came back from excursion is Hiromu Takahashi– Taguchi does hold a pair of wins over him from way back in 2012 & 2013 during Hiromu’s Young Lion days, but since Hiromu came back he’s 3-0 against him, including an IWGP Jr. Title defense in March 2017, a match in England in July 2017, and a meeting in the BOSJ in May 2018. They’ll have their first meeting in over two-and-a-half years in the main event on December 5th in Kagoshima.
Chance of Winning: Unlikely
With all due respect to the Gooch, a wrestler I happen to love and think doesn’t get nearly enough credit just because he can be kind of a goofball, I don’t see a BOSJ victory being in the cards for him this year. He’s the junior equivalent to someone like Hirooki Goto in the heavyweight division- you can’t quite call him a New Japan Dad just yet, that’s still probably a few more years away, but he’s also not exactly involved in the top mix anymore either.
Past BOSJ Experience: None
Well, way to go Yuya Uemura. He’s been asking for seemingly months to be allowed to compete in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors- I can’t remember the first time he brought it up in a backstage promo, but it’s definitely been a while– and all it took was a knee injury to Yoshinobu Kanemaru to get his wish granted! Look, I’m not saying this was a Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan type of situation here but…..I’m not not saying it, y’know? This kid wanted to be in the BOSJ that bad! Now he’s got his shot, and while I’m sure he’s gonna go 0-9, I’m also quite sure that he’ll have a great tournament because he’s been a pretty damn great wrestler so far. And that’s all I’ve got for you here folks. Yes, I’m a little grumpy NJPW announced this about four hours after I finished this 7000-word preview that includes many references to Mr. Kanemaru, why do you ask?
I will say that it kind of makes the balance of the universe make a little more sense with three wrestlers from the NJPW *main army* to go with two each from CHAOS, LIJ and Suzukigun (and poor Ishimori all by his lonesome). Suzukigun having the most competitors was weird!
Notable Matches: He’s a Young Lion. He’s gonna lose them all and play fiery underdog. Calling any of them more notable than the other seems like kind of a stretch, no? Okay, I guess let’s quickly do this: on November 23rd in Gunma he gets to face IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, on November 25th in Niigata he gets Hiromu Takahashi, and on December 2nd in Osaka he faces DOUKI in the only match he might actually win (but he still probably won’t). Happy?
Chance of Winning: No Shot
Pretend I’m one of those Spongebomb memes- cHaNcE oF wInNiNg?
Past BOSJ Experience: 2018 (3-4), 2019 (5-4)
It’s been an interesting year for SHO, as he’s quietly been forced to transition into life as a singles competitor thanks to a long-term injury to his Roppongi 3K partner YOH. The two of them came together to win the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles for the fourth time back at Wrestle Kingdom 14, but YOH went down with a torn ACL during his first round match in the New Japan Cup. SHO dutifully carried around his tag title belt for months afterwards until he finally returned it toward the end of August, leading to a four-team league to crown new champions that he wasn’t even involved in. Instead, SHO spent much of his summer months competing against heavyweights in singles contests, picking up one of the biggest wins of his career so far over NEVER Openweight Champion Shingo Takagi in the first round of the New Japan Cup. He then went on to challenge Shingo for the title at Dominion and came up short, but that was far from his only mix-up with heavyweights. He also competed in the first round of the KOPW2020 tournament against SANADA, and despite coming up short there as well he got to show off his submission wrestling skills in the process. Plus, he and CHAOS teammates Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano went all the way to the finals of a tournament to crown the next NEVER 6-Man champions, finally losing to their fellow CHAOS mates Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI.
Can all those months spent competing against heavyweights help SHO make it to the next level in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors? He put up his first winning record last year, and any further improvement could see him knocking on the door of making it to the finals for the first time. The sky is the limit for Mr. HIGH VOLTAGE in the junior division now that he’s a full-time singles wrestler for at least the foreseeable future.
Notable Matches: A first time ever singles match awaits SHO on November 20th at Korakuen when he faces his only other fellow CHAOS member in the tournament, Robbie Eagles. Both are very proficient on the mat which only adds to the intrigue. Later in the tournament on December 2nd in Osaka, SHO will face Hiromu Takahashi for the fourth time in his career in a match that could end up having huge ramifications in the standings. Hiromu thus far is 3-0 against him, including two meetings when they were both Young Lions in 2012 & 2013, and a 2018 meeting in the BOSJ. Finally, SHO’s tournament wraps up in about as big of a fashion as you can have: on December 6th in Fukuoka he faces the reigning IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori. The two are no strangers to each other recently from the Ishimori/ELP-Roppongi 3K jr. tag title feud, but they’re tied at 1-1 in singles matches. Ishimori beat SHO last year in the BOSJ, and SHO returned the favor later in 2019 in the first round of the Super J Cup. It wouldn’t shock me at all if a spot in the finals was on the line in their rubber match here.
Chance of Winning: Dark Horse
If I was going to do a ranking of who’s the most likely winners, I would honestly put SHO at #2. I just think the person I have ranked #1 (still to come!) is such an overwhelming favorite this year that even my second most-likely winner is still firmly in the Dark Horse category, because I’d be surprised if it happens. That doesn’t take anything away from SHO, who I think is quietly having a pretty great year for himself. I also tend to think he’s permanently done as a tag team wrestler- this is it for him, he’s just a singles guy now. YOH will return probably by turning on him. You can take that to the bank! (PLEASE NOTE: Do not actually take that to any banks.)
Past BOSJ Experience: 2019 (5-4)
Like many foreign wrestlers in New Japan, Robbie Eagles has had a sparse 2020 thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When the Sniper of the Skies steps into the ring against DOUKI on November 15th in his first BOSJ 27 match, it will be his first appearance on Japanese shores since he was on the losing side of a NEVER Openweight 6-Man challenge (alongside Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii) on February 6th in Korakuen Hall. He’s only had a half dozen matches anywhere since, and only two since March, so the possibility of ring rust seems very real.
But perhaps even more concerning for Eagles is what’s happened in New Japan since he’s been gone, as his mentor and Birds of Prey tag team partner Will Ospreay betrayed their CHAOS leader Kazuchika Okada and formed his new unit, the Empire. Ospreay was the one who invited Eagles into New Japan in the first place, and though Eagles memorably entered as a BULLET CLUB member at first, Ospreay was eventually able to convince him to jump to CHAOS in June of last year. Many have speculated about what this could mean for his future- will Robbie Eagles reunite with his former partner and become the Empire’s junior heavyweight star? So far Eagles has given no indication of that (this tweet has been his only reaction as far as I can tell), but again, he hasn’t been around all this time either. Would it shock me at all if Ospreay ran in on his match against CHAOS stablemate SHO on 11/20 and helped him win, Eagles switching units in the process? Not in the least. We’re just going to have to wait and see. But whether as a CHAOS member or a member of the Empire, Eagles will surely be looking to build on his 5-4 record in his BOSJ debut last year.
Notable Matches: Yeah, we definitely have to circle that aforementioned CHAOS battle with SHO, November 20th at Korakuen Hall. Whether it features any faction movement or not, it will be a big match. Eagles gets to face his one-time tag team partner and the current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori on November 25th in Niigata in their first ever singles match. Another first time ever singles match happens right after, on November 29th in Korakuen Hall, when Eagles faces Hiromu Takahashi in the main event of the evening.
Chance of Winning: Unlikely
Maybe this is too low for Robbie, but I just don’t see him going from “literally not in the company all year” to “Best of the Super Juniors 27 champion”. But honestly, I don’t have a great read for what things will be like for Robbie Eagles going forward. A lot will depend on whether or not he sticks with CHAOS or leaves for the Empire, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Affiliation: Los Ingobernables de Japon
Past BOSJ Experience: 2012 (1-7), 2013 (0-8), 2017 (4-3), 2018 (5-2, Won Tournament)
The human antonym for “boredom”, Hiromu Takahashi somehow lives entire lifetimes in the mere months of us mortals. This man somehow got into two BOSJs as a Young Lion (and even won a match over TAKA Michinoku in his first year!), entered his first BOSJ since returning from excursion as the reigning IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, won the tournament for the first time in 2018, broke his neck, came back over a year and a half later, won the title again from Will Ospreay at the Tokyo Dome in what ended up being Ospreay’s swan song in the division, competed in the New Japan Cup as a junior heavyweight and actually won a couple of rounds before losing to Kazuchika Okada on prime time Japanese television, challenged the new double IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champion EVIL in the main event of Sengoku Lord while still a junior and was “Dick Togo pulling the referee out of the ring after the Timebomb II” away from winning the belts himself, suffered a shoulder injury that cost him his junior title to Taiji Ishimori at Jingu Stadium, teamed up with BUSHI to try and finally win the IWGP Junior Tag Titles, but couldn’t get the job done in three tries. Phew! I know that’s an awfully long sentence, but man, look at this guy. Most of that was from THIS YEAR! A year where New Japan was shut down for months! I don’t know how he does it.
So as mentioned at the end there, Hiromu’s recent focus after losing the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title to Ishimori was trying to win the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles for the first time with his LIJ stablemate BUSHI, but they lost three straight times to El Despeardo & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (twice in the junior tag title league and then again in a recent rematch with the new champions), so that path appears to be closed, at least for now. What’s a Ticking Timebomb to do but go back to the junior heavyweight singles division and win his second BOSJ? When I saw some other people grumble online about this lineup, all I could see was “Hiromu Takahashi gets to have nine singles matches and a few of them are first time ever matches” and boy was I immediately sold. Let’s go!
Notable Matches: Really they’re all pretty notable, as you may have noticed that I keep highlighting Hiromu’s name during everyone else’s Notable Matches section (which I promise will continue!), so we’ll have to do our best to narrow it down here. Hiromu gets his shot at revenge against Taiji Ishimori right out of the gate on November 15th in Nagoya, the very first night of the tournament. Things stay hot for him early when he faces his longtime rival/lover El Desperado on November 18th in Korakuen Hall, possibly my most anticipated match of the entire tournament. Those two are going to tear the house down. And November 20th in Korakuen sees Hiromu face his tag team partner and fellow LIJ member BUSHI for the first time since a match on October 30th, 2012 that went all of 5:12 (obviously from Hiromu’s Young Lion days), so essentially a first time ever meeting. What a start! You can easily pick out more highlights from his next six matches too, but those first three are pretty tough to beat.
Chance of Winning: Favorite
Yes, as you probably guessed by now, Hiromu Takahshi is the overwhelming favorite I’ve been talking about repeatedly. It just seems too obvious that Ishimori beating him by nearly tearing his shoulder out of his socket back at Jingu was a set-up for Hiromu to win his second Best of the Super Juniors and then face Ishimori in a rematch for the title at Wrestle Kingdom 15. Hell, it wouldn’t shock me if Hiromu lost to Ishimori again on 11/15 to really pile on the “can he actually beat this guy?” storyline, but I’ll be shocked if the end result of this year’s BOSJ is anything but Hiromu posing with that trophy at the famous Nippon Budokan. This guy is already a mega star, the kind the junior division really hasn’t had in decades. There’s no reason to do anything but keep running with it.
Affiliation: Los Ingobernables de Japon
Past BOSJ Experience: 2012 (3-5), 2013 (3-5), 2014 (4-3), 2016 (4-3), 2017 (4-3), 2018 (3-4), 2019 (6-3)
With this year’s BOSJ filled with a lot of wrestlers with only a few tournaments under their belt, BUSHI’s 7 tournaments dating back to 2012 (he missed the 2015 tournament due to a serious neck injury that sidelined him for nearly a year, before he made his big return as an LIJ member) is actually the second-most of any of the participants. He’s one of those guys who probably doesn’t feel like he’s been around as long as he actually has, likely because his pre-LIJ New Japan career was not much of anything, but he’s sneaking up on veteran status. He’s 37, and I bet most of you would have guessed he was younger!
Last year was easily the best BOSJ of his career, but even then it stuck to a familiar pattern for him: start with a big losing streak and try to make up for it with a huge run of victories at the end that just isn’t quite enough. This was the case in 2016 (started with losses to Gedo, Matt Sydal & Kyle O’Reilly before winning his final four matches), 2017 (started with losses to ACH, El Desperado & KUSHIDA before winning his final four matches, again), 2018 (started with losses to YOH, Taiji Ishimori and Tiger Mask, won his next three matches in a row, then lost his last match to Yoshinobu Kanemaru) and 2019 (started with losses to Will Ospreay, El Phantasmo & Ryusuke Taguchi before winning his next six matches in a row, only finishing 2 points behind block winner Ospreay). The question for BUSHI will be: can he FINALLY start out his tournament with a win or two?! If he could just take ONE of his first three he’d apparently be unstoppable!
Notable Matches: Well, if recent patterns hold and BUSHI is 0-2 to start the tournament, the only way he’ll be able to stop himself from going 0-3 is by beating his own tag team partner and fellow Ingobnerable Hiromu Takahashi in their basically a first time ever singles match on November 20th in Korakuen. A match probably no one else on earth has circled but me happens on December 5th in Kagoshima, when BUSHI takes on the mirror universe version of himself, DOUKI! Look, they both wear masks, they both spent a lot of time in Mexico, they both use all-caps romaji for their names, it works! It’s a rematch from last year’s BOSJ, when BUSHI beat him in just seven minutes, but I think almost everyone would agree that DOUKI has come a long way since last May, so he’s certain to put up a better fight this time around (even if he likely won’t win). Finally, BUSHI’s tournament wraps up on December 6th in Fukuoka where he faces another masked wrestler, El Despeardo. I fully expect that one to devolve into a mask-ripping brawl as we’ve seen from these two in the past during their various junior tag team title feuds. BUSHI is 2-1 against him but both his wins came by DQ, so we’ll see if he can finally score a more convincing win over his longtime rival.
Chance of Winning: Unlikely
BUSHI always seems to do a little better in these things than you’d think by the end, but I still don’t expect him to sniff the finals. He’s clearly the #2 junior in his own unit, and sadly for him with Hiromu being such a supernova there’s only so much room outside of his shadow.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion
Affiliation: BULLET CLUB
Past BOSJ Experience: 2010 (5-2), 2018 (5-2, Lost in Final), 2019 (7-2)
Taiji Ishimori is nothing if not consistent in the Best of the Super Juniors huh? You can put him down for exactly two losses each year, no more and no less. In his very first appearance in 2010 he was still representing Pro Wrestling NOAH at the time when he went 5-2 to win his block, but as we talked about earlier with Taguchi there were semifinal matches back then in addition to the finals and Ishimori lost his semi to the eventual champion Prince Devitt. It would be eight long years before he competed in another Best of the Super Juniors, now as both a New Japan roster member and the new ‘Bone Soldier’ of BULLET CLUB, and he would again go 5-2 to win his block, this time sending him directly to the finals where he lost to Hiromu Takahashi in an incredible match (the 2018 Match of the Year, in my humble opinion). Last year Ishimori had to face 9 opponents instead of 7 but again only lost twice. Unfortunately for him, he was in the same block as a man who went a perfect 9-0 in Shingo Takagi.
He won’t have to deal with Takagi this year now that he’s graduated to heavyweight, and another 7-2 run when it’s a single block this year would almost certainly be enough for Ishimori to advance to the finals for the second time in just four tries. Ishimori is the one and only wrestler representing BULLET CLUB in this year’s BOSJ, so it’s really all on his shoulders here. We’ll see if he can get the job done.
Notable Matches: Ishimori’s tournament starts right out with easily his biggest match, a rematch against the man he took the junior title from back at Jingu in late August, Hiromu Takahashi, on November 15th in Nagoya. November 25th in Niigata sees Ishimori come up against his former tag team partner Robbie Eagles in a first time ever singles match. On December 5th we get the Ishimori vs. Master Wato match that was teased back at Ryogoku. Yeah, that one’s a little weak, but I originally had the Ishimori-Kanemaru showdown here so what can ya do.
Chance of Winning: Unlikely
The champion never wins these things, right? Maybe I should at least have Ishimori as a Dark Horse candidate because this has been one weird year, but I just don’t see how or why they would do it. Ishimori will have a strong tournament and probably even be alive on the final day heading into his match with SHO, and I think there’s even an outside shot that he makes the finals and loses to Hiromu there for a full repeat of 2018 (although if I was gonna bet on a final, it would be Hiromu-SHO), but his chances of winning the entire tournament just seem very unlikely to me.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
Past BOSJ Experience: 2014 (3-4), 2017 (3-4), 2018 (3-4)
Can you believe El Desperado has only been in three BOSJs?! Well, like the rest of Suzukigun he was gone from NJPW in 2015 & 2016, off invading Pro Wrestling NOAH, so that explains that absence. And then last year he suffered a broken jaw facing deathmatch legend Jun Kasai on a TAKATaichi Mania show less than two weeks before that tournament was set to kick off, resulting in his last minute replacement and newcomer to NJPW, DOUKI. Look, sometimes people have to sacrifice a little for the greater good, and I think I speak for all NJPW fans when I thank Despeardo for his very painful injury that allowed the light of DOUKI to come into all of our lives.
Since returning from injury Desperado has remained a force in the junior tag team division, as he and Yoshinobu Kanemaru won the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles for the second time in September, winning a short four-team league after Roppongi 3K had to vacate the belts due to YOH’s injury. It will be interesting to see if Despy & Kanemaru can even come close to their epic 306-day reign from 2018. In the meantime, Despeardo will be trying to finally have a winning record in a Best of the Super Juniors here in his fourth try. I’d put the odds on that happening as pretty good- this could just be the breakout year for Suzukigun’s grimy-and-yet-strangely-endearing luchador (actually that could describe two different guys in this tournament now that I think about it). Seriously, watch this man’s promos and tell me he isn’t surprisingly likeable. He’s a likeable guy!
Notable Matches: Obviously you gotta circle his match with Hiromu Takahashi on November 18th in Korakuen. These two have a long history dating back to when they were both Young Lions (which Hiromu and Despy cleverly wink at given that Desperado is technically under a mask and has a different name), and they absolutely destroyed each other two years ago when they met in the BOSJ. Desperado holds a staggering 17-2-2 record over him, but if you want to throw out all those YL matches it’s just 1-1, with Despy winning that BOSJ match but Hiromu then retaining the junior title against him a month later. They’ve recently done battle over the junior tag titles too with Desperado once again repeatedly coming out on the winning side, so Hiromu will definitely be looking for revenge here. El Desperado faces someone else he has a lot of history with in the junior tag team division on November 25th in Niigata, when he takes on SHO. Despite the fact that they’ve met in tag matches approximately five thousand times (that’s just an estimate, it could be higher) they’ve actually only had one singles match- a meeting in the BOSJ two years ago, which SHO won. Finally, December 2nd in Osaka sees Desperado face the reigning junior singles champion Taiji Ishimori in a champion vs. champion encounter. I always enjoy these heel vs. heel matches where both guys just try to out-jerk each other, and I’m greatly looking forward to this one. They’ve met a bunch of times in various tag title matches and tag leagues and such, but this will be their first ever singles encounter.
Chance of Winning: Unlikely
He’s one-half of the junior tag team champions and presumably will be busy for Wrestle Kingdom (although for the life of me I couldn’t tell you against who; Wato/Taguchi? I dunno), so I think even calling him a Dark Horse would be a stretch. He’ll finally have a winning record I’m sure but with his final night opponent being BUSHI, I’m thinking both of them could easily be out of it already by that point. We’ll see!
Past BOSJ Experience: 2019 (1-8)
I’m just going to level with you, dear reader: I love DOUKI. He’s a weird, slimy, kinda “skinny-fat” dude in a sorta bizarre mesh outfit and a half ninja-esque mask that covers up to his nose (DOUKI was ready for COVID-19 way before any of us I guess!) who carries around a giant lead pipe that he bangs around randomly to scare the announcers. He was toiling away in Mexico and various tiny Japanese indies before a unique set of circumstances (El Despeardo got injured right before BOSJ last year, NJPW needed a replacement, and apparently DOUKI and Taichi are drinking buddies) resulted in his last-minute elevation to the biggest professional wrestling company in Japan, and one of the biggest in the entire world. He’s stuck around ever since, probably because the dude is just strangely endearing! He has a really fun “complete underdog who made it” story that just makes you happy to see him do well, even as little more than a guy to eat falls for Suzukigun most of the time. And he’s clearly improved plenty in the ring from when he first showed up in NJPW until now, so I hope he sticks around for a long time to come. Now, if only someone could explain to me why he’s still listed as “FREE” instead of Suzukigun on the Japanese NJPW website….
DOUKI recently managed to pin a heavyweight (thanks to, uh, a little help from Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) and again, his promo backstage was surprisingly wholesome! It lead to a really fun NEVER 6-Man Title shot for the DOUKGOD and his teammates Taichi & Zack where they came up a little short, but it’s a great match to show anyone who is still convinced that DOUKI is “bad” (not that he ever was, really!). I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in his second BOSJ, and even if he goes 0-9 without a Young Lion to get a win over like last year, I’m sure it will be a fun time!
Notable Matches: DOUKI gets his shot to beat the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori on November 20th in Korakuen, and like many of his matches it’s a first time ever meeting. In fact I don’t just mean in singles matches- if Cagematch is to be believed, these two have never even met in any tags either, which kinda makes sense given that BULLET CLUB and Suzukigun don’t exactly face each other very often. Another “not just a first time ever singles meeting but they’ve never even been in the ring together” match takes place on November 23rd in Gunma, when DOUKI faces off against Hiromu Takahashi. Maybe they’ll both bust out that absolutely insane senton to the floor they both do. That match could be awesome. Finally, November 29th in Korakuen sees DOUKI face the man who he has to thank for his entire NJPW career, El Desperado, again for the first time ever. Can the world handle that much sleaze in a single ring? We will soon find out.
Chance of Winning: No Shot
I love you, DOUKGOD. But I don’t book New Japan, unfortunately.
So that’s all ten participants in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors! All that’s left to do now is go over the schedule, so here it is below.
BOSJ 27 – FULL SCHEDULE
We start with the main events and work our way down. We’re only including tournament matches here, though most cards do feature the same non-tournament match of Satoshi Kojima & Tomoaki Honma vs. Yuji Nagata & Gabriel Kidd (11/18-11/29), with only a couple slightly different matches- Kojima & Honma vs. Kidd & Yota Tsuji on 12/2 in Osaka, and a big Naito-Ibushi confrontation ahead of their now-confirmed 1/4 Tokyo Dome meeting, as Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & SANADA face Kota Ibushi, Kojima & Honma on 12/5 in Ibushi’s hometown of Kagoshima.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15TH- AICHI PREFECTURAL GYMNASIUM
*Note: mixed show also featuring five WTL matches, but the BOSJ match is the main event
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. El Desperado
SHO vs. BUSHI
Robbie Eagles vs. DOUKI
Master Wato vs. Yuya Uemura
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18TH- KORAKUEN HALL
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Taiji Ishimori
SHO vs. DOUKI
Master Wato vs. Robbie Eagles
Yuya Uemura vs. BUSHI
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH- KORAKUEN HALL
Hiromu Takahashi vs. BUSHI
SHO vs. Robbie Eagles
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Master Wato
Taiji Ishimori vs. DOUKI
Yuya Uemura vs. El Desperado
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23RD- G MESSE GUNMA
Master Wato vs. El Desperado
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. SHO
Hiromu Takahashi vs. DOUKI
Robbie Eagles vs. BUSHI
Yuya Uemura vs. Taiji Ishimori
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH- TOKI MESSE
SHO vs. El Desperado
Robbie Eagles vs. Taiji Ishimori
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. BUSHI
Master Wato vs. DOUKI
Yuya Uemura vs. Hiromu Takahashi
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29TH- KORAKUEN HALL
Robbie Eagles vs. Hiromu Takahashi
BUSHI vs. Taiji Ishimori
Master Wato vs. SHO
El Desperado vs. DOUKI
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yuya Uemura
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2ND- OSAKA MUNICIPAL CENTRAL GYMNASIUM
SHO vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Taiji Ishimori vs. El Desperado
Master Wato vs. BUSHI
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Robbie Eagles
Yuya Uemura vs. DOUKI
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5TH- SUN ARENA SENDAI
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Master Wato vs. Taiji Ishimori
Robbie Eagles vs. El Desperado
BUSHI vs. DOUKI
Yuya Uemura vs. SHO
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6TH- FUKUOKA CONVENTION CENTER
*joint show with WTL; as the final league show, final card order will be announced depending on both of their standings
BUSHI vs. El Desperado
Yuya Uemura vs. Robbie Eagles
SHO vs. Taiji Ishimori
Master Wato vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. DOUKI
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11TH- NIPPON BUDOKAN
Best of the Super Juniors 27 Final: 1st Place vs. 2nd Place
And that’s all I’ve got for you folks. Hope you enjoyed this preview of the 27th Best of the Super Juniors. Again, if I can get one last plug in for my Patreon, please check us out if you’d like daily audio coverage of all these BOSJ shows for the low price of only $5 at www.patreon.com/wrestlingomakase. And check out our Twitter feed: @wrestleomakase. Thank you for reading!