NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 N1
May 13 2019
In the interests of full disclosure I have no intention of watching every single show of BOSJ as my time is somewhat limited. I’m specifically hitting this show because a) opening night of any tournament is usually good and b) there are two recommended matches from this show on Cagematch with one getting serious buzz. English commentary comes from Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Caprice Coleman.
I thought about watching the non-tournament stuff but the Tom Magee vs. Bret Hart match dropped on the Network and I had to see it. Talk about a delay in making tape! I’ll never complain about PWG again. This one took 32 years.
TAKA Michinoku vs. Tiger Mask IV
Two old dudes battling away in the opener here. 45 years old vs. 48 years old. They put something in the water in New Japan, I swear. TAKA works the leg a lot and TM is pretty inconsistent in how he sells it. I’m used to seeing it by now but from a surly old veteran it’s disappointing.
The match is mostly focused on the leg work and when it deviates it isn’t as good. TAKA’s springboard spin kick is a mess. They botch a spot horribly and then Tiger Mask finishes with the Tiger Suplex.
I'm not saying that Taka vs. TMIV was bad but… pic.twitter.com/FsCzbu9EwE
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) May 14, 2019
Final Rating: *1/2
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Titan
Don’t hold your breath for anything good here. Kanemaru kicks matters off by attempting to unmask Titan in a dumb spot. Remember when Kanemaru was good? It was before he came to New Japan unfortunately. Quite some time ago.
Heads up to Caprice Coleman here; picking up on tiny little bits of selling and nuances. Whether they’re real or not, he’s going for the details and it’s great. Fantastic combination with historian/linguist Chris Charlton. This is how you run a three man booth. I spend most of this match wishing away the Kanemaru bullshit and waiting for some goddamn flips. Coleman kills it here when Titan does a stupid little pointy thing. “I don’t like that” he says and then lets the resultant spot/counter breathe before explaining himself. Kanemaru irritates me some more before Titan slaps him in some wacky Mexican submission right into a pin. Titan will have better matches in this tournament.
Final Rating: **1/4
Jonathan Gresham vs. Marty Scurll
Gresham has only ever appeared in NJPW via Ring of Honor so it’s nice to see him here on his own rights. Scurll is a good opening bout for him because Gresham can display his fluid technique. It’s a really tidy little match with the hold/counter-hold wrestling being the focus with Scurll only occasionally bringing the shtick (and a shit 619). It brings me hope that Scurll can deliver during this tournament. He is capable! The mat work is relentless. There’s a great near falls and Gresham constantly busts out pinning combinations throughout transitions. They even use Scurll’s shtick, going after the fingers, as part of the story with Gresham finding it harder to grab afterwards. Black Plague ends up putting Gresham away. I really enjoyed this. A huge bump up from the previous two matches.
Final Rating: ***3/4
SHO vs. Shingo Takagi
Shingo is undefeated. It’s been implied that Shingo could win every match in this tournament. SHO wants to beat him so bad!
SHO has black hair and means business. They make the lock up intense. SHO has felt like he’s on the verge of being special for a few years. Shingo gets an advantage on the floor and just dominates SHO and works the shoulder. When things get a little more feisty it becomes two body guys smashing into each other. A smaller version of the Big Japan mains. SHO looks so great here. The way he gets all fired up and smashes Shingo with a lariat is fantastic. This is a guy who wants to be the best and inflict a megastar’s first defeat. This is a guy who’s got his own theme music done because he wants to stand out. This is a guy who has gone and done bodybuilding in his own time to stand out. His control periods are terrific and both guys mount comebacks and patches of fire offence that are totally believable. SHO carries the match for me. He’s the one busting out the unreal transitions and going from one submission to another. He’s the one with the pure skill. SHO is the future ace of this division and he wants that motherfucking spot right now! Shingo finally picks up the win with Last of the Dragon but SHO put up an incredible fight. This was more about SHO getting to the next level for me rather than Shingo picking up a win. Takagi is almost certainly winning this tournament but SHO put himself on the radar here.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Taiji Ishimori vs. Dragon Lee
This feels very hollow having to follow that last match. The crowd is subdued and I can’t help but feel they fucked up on the running order. This feels like a semi-main event with slick moves but a lack of emotional connection. It’s a match that relies on Ishimori’s smoothness and Lee’s crazy dives.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, or posing as Shibata…when it leads to Ishimori almost winning the match with a submission. Dragon Lee looking like an absolute dipshit for leaving himself exposed. They rely too much on pure forearm strikes, which is on Dragon Lee for pretending that he’s good at them. He has so many strengths; why lean on something he’s not as good at? I can only assume he’s trying to ingratiate himself with the locals. They try some horrific looking head drop spots after that, which look very painful and get no reaction. Which is totally weird to me because as soon as they start no-selling the fans react. Selling is not over. Bloody Cross finishes abruptly and Ishimori has himself a title shot regardless of this tournament’s outcome you’d think. This was fine but suffered from having to follow a better match and them making some poor choices in terms of content.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Last three matches were all pretty good. SHO-Shingo will take the plaudits I have no doubt but it’s not in my thinking for anything like Match of the Month. I expect the tournament to peak higher than this. Scurll vs. Gresham was low key good. Probably my favourite match where I came in with low expectations and it out-delivered. Scurll does that. Stand out performance came from SHO. He’s been one to watch for a while and is too good to be rotting away in the junior tag division. Not that New Japan has a great history of using juniors outside of the title and BOSJ.