The Best of the Super Juniors has come and gone.
In the final analysis, it was pretty damn fun. While not the best iteration in existence, the tournament undoubtedly was able to deliver the end of the year fun that wrestling fans desperately look for during these times of COVID. There were good to great matches littered through. Crowds as engaged as they can be under their clapping only restrictions. In the end, I’d like to think many of if not most of us were satisfied with what we received. The wrestlers were clearly willing to perform and work hard through the lowered expectations and limitations that COVID has placed on them all. One wrestler, in particular, stood out above all the rest throughout the tournament. While there were other great players (SHO, Robbie Eagles, Ishimori) throughout one man was decisively above them all In the end, this man-made a strong candidacy for himself as NJPW’s most outstanding wrestler of 2020.
That man is Hiromu Takahashi.
Background is needed on his arrival at this destination. It’s an incredible and inspiring journey. In the summer of 2018 against Dragon Lee, a horrific in-ring accident put the breaks on Takahashi’s career well into 2019. During that period many questions would linger. Would he be the same wrestler? Could he wrestle at the high level he once had? Would he ever be the wrestler he was before the injury? So many questions and an anxious almost dreading of what the answer would become. At WrestleKingdom this year, he answered those questions immediately. Hiromu Takahashi was fucking better. Without a moment’s hesitation, he established himself in his match against Will Ospreay as still one of the best wrestlers in NJPW.
COVID from there became an opponent to all of NJPW and Takahashi’s NJPW Junior Heavyweight Reign never got to take off as it could have. Despite these limitations, he was able to get a few great matches in, in particular, Dragon Lee the man who injured him.
While his COVID stricken year has had its sprinkling of great matches, it is at the very end that Hiromu Takahashi went to an even higher level. When you think he’s shattered through a ceiling, he explodes through the atmosphere and hovers above the rest like the comic book superhuman he is. It wasn’t just that he pulled off high quality here and there. It’s that he did so against a variety of opponents time and time again. His closing stretch of matches before the Finals (Eagles, SHO, Taguchi) was one of the best closing stretches you can ask for from someone in any tournament setting. In my writings, I got a chance to review two of those matches with the Taguchi one right at **** and the Eagles one being damn near perfection. SHO I would’ve given **** 1/2. Just an incredible three-match stretch done in a short span of time.
Even against lesser and more inconsistent opponents such as BUSHI and Master Wato, Hiromu’s high-level intensity and ability achieved three-star affairs out of matches that could’ve been far more lackluster. A great wrestler can be counted on to achieve good to great matches with the cream of the crop. It is a testament to the skill, ability, and determination when they pull out good and occasionally great matches from the most middling of the packs. Hiromu’s timing, speed, precision, and athleticism were all on point this tournament. This is truly the mark of a wrestler who doesn’t stand but fly above his peers.
Hiromu’s tournament though cannot be completely talked about without focusing on the finals. His match with El Desperado was not only the best match of the tournament, but it was a truly ***** epic affair. Emotional, intense, hate-filled, and beautiful. A masterpiece that made it seemed like all his other efforts were just the warm-up. They were simply the practice runs toward perfection before he damn neared achieved it (along with the great work of El Desperado who’s efforts were equally incredible and up to the task). This is one of my favorite NJPW matches of the year and will rate highly in my top matches overall. I have watched many a great tournament run come to a mediocre or anti-climatic end. Hiromu created a million-dollar sundae and then proceeded to put the ultimate cherry on top to finish it off.
If it seems like I’m gushing over Hiromu Takahashi your eyes do not deceive you.
I absolutely and unapologetically am. Hiromu Takahashi isn’t just one of the best NJPW has to offer, he is one of the best period. His performance in the Best of the Super Juniors against all odds was his testament to the world at how amazing he truly is. A tournament plagued by COVID, plagued by a lesser talent field than usual, plagued by many a person souring on NJPW’s process this year. Hiromu rose above it all, flew above it, and with superhuman ability, single handily made the tournament a must-watch event. I don’t mean to diminish the efforts of other wrestlers in this tournament. I’d argue though removing any of them and this tournament might have still worked. Remove Hiromu Takahashi and the plunge in quality and enjoyment would’ve been noticeable to an unrecoverable degree.
Hiromu does not wear a damn cape, but he might as well be a fucking superhero. Hiromu is both the wrestler NJPW fans need and deserve all wrapped into one. He is not the dark knight, he is not the man of steel, he is not the first avenger. Hiromu Takahashi is simply put the wrestler who puts the Super into Super Junior. The wrestling business is better and blessed to have him back.