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Kevin’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 Night One Review

May 13, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
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Kevin’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 Night One Review  

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 Night One
May 13th, 2019 | Sendai Sun Plaza in Sendai, Miyagi | Attendance: 1,630

I’ve admitted that I haven’t been too interested in NJPW this year. There have been good matches but nothing to grab me. However, I typically enjoy the Best of the Super Juniors and am happy to have it back. A lot of guys I like are here (Shingo, SHO, YOH, BUSHI, Gresham, Ishimori) but there are those I don’t enjoy (Kanemaru, Ospreay). I am disappointed that El Desperado is out with a broken jaw because he’s a lot of fun but on the flip side, I’m happy that Flip Gordon won’t be part of the tournament. We’ll see how their replacements go. Wanted to throw out my top five BOSJ matches since I started watching in 2015.

1. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori – 2018 – ****¾
2. KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O’Reilly – 2016 – ****½
3. KUSHIA vs. Kyle O’Reilly – 2015 – ****½
5. El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi – 2018 – ****½
5. Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi – 2017 – ****¼

As always with these big tournaments, I’ll be avoiding the undercard tags.

A Block: TAKA Michinoku [0] vs. Tiger Mask IV [0]
Two BOSJ veterans who I’ve apparently never seen go one on one. TAKA is the one guy left who competed in the original BOSJ in 1994. Neither guy is a threat to win this whole thing, but most guys bring their best on opening night of these tournaments. TAKA went after the leg and busted out the ring post Figure Four, which is one of my favorite moves in history. Tiger Mask sold it well and TAKA was great at keeping him grounded. I loved that TAKA began transitioning into other submissions. It plays off his friendship with Zack Sabre Jr. Tiger Mask rallied and after a botched move, hit the Tiger Suplex to win in 10:58. I’m not usually big on matches where a guy makes a short comeback and wins easily. However, TAKA was great in this. His plan came off so well and I loved the tribute to Sabre. Not much in the way of drama, but a well worked and smart match. [***]

A Block: Titan [0] vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru [0]
No matter how hard Kevin Kelly tried putting him over during his entrance, I’m not going to believe Kanemaru is any good. He’s sucked the life out of almost every match he’s been a part of. Meanwhile, I’m very happy to see Titan getting a tournament run. He’s been consistently entertaining on FantasticaMania and the Super Jr. Tag Tournament over the past few years. Kanemaru jumped him before the bell and went after the mask. That set the tone for Titan having to overcome the heel shenanigans of his Suzuki-Gun opponent. He used his aerial offense to do just that. Kanemaru still hit Deep Impact, but only got a near fall on it because he stopped to taunt for a second. Kanemaru’s need to cheat backfired when Titan avoided the whiskey spit and wrapped him up in the Titan X, which he then turned into a cradle that got him a three count in 11:01. Not great due to Kanemaru’s boring offense. I liked the selling and comeback by Titan and that finish was cool. [**½]

A Block: Jonathan Gresham [0] vs. Marty Scurll [0] w/ Brody King
I’ve cooled on Marty Scurll over the past few years (was a big fan in 2016). I am stoked to see Jonathan Gresham get this chance. I haven’t seen much of him, but when I do, he’s always great. Surprisingly, Scurll accepted a handshake at the bell. Immediately, Gresham showed how different he is. He had confident counters to the smallest things, like a wrist lock. Everything he did was incredibly smooth and a joy to watch. Scurll took control for a bit, but Gresham got in plenty of hope spots and always seemed poised to really turn the tide. Even when Gresham was in trouble, he’d find a counter like when he took a superplex and quickly pulled Scurll into a pin. The final few minutes here were filled with tremendous exchanges that captivated me. Scurll used the finger snap to take away a lot of Gresham’s strengths and won with the Blake Plague in 12:22. Great pro wrestling. I loved the back and forth and how well their strengths played against each other. [***¾]

A Block: Shingo Takagi [0] vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion SHO [0]
This is legitimately my most anticipated NJPW match OF THE YEAR. By a wide margin. They’ve built this so well. The unbeaten Shingo has taken the mantle of Jr. powerhouse that SHO was working towards with a great showing in last year’s BOSJ. SHO has his only solo theme now. They locked up right at the start and went into test of strengths, playing into the idea of proving who was stronger. I liked how Shingo got the advantage and only went mildly high risk. He’s not like any other junior. With SHO getting worn down, his power waned. His Spear attempt was caught by Shingo with relative ease. He had to do his own wearing down before getting the Spear to work. I loved how SHO got desperate and tried to suplex Shingo to the outside, only to get blocked and take a deadlift superplex. SHO had to dig deep and keep trying new things. He went into a series of Germans, complete with an impressive deadlift, to put Shingo in more trouble than ever. SHO survived Shingo’s signature offense and pulled him into the armbar. Shingo’s scramble to the ropes was in complete panic that sold the hell out of that move. SHO kicked out of another Pumping Bomber, but finally stayed down after Last of the Dragon in 25:07. Holy shit. That was a war. They beat the hell out of each other for almost half an hour. It never felt like it went long and told exactly the story it needed to within their feud. I love when matches do that. Shingo stays undefeated and SHO comes out looking like he’s right on his level. Unreal. Honestly, probably the NJPW MOTY so far.[****½]

A Block: IWGP Heavyweight Champion Dragon Lee [0] vs. Taiji Ishimori [0]
A rematch from Wrestling Dontaku (****¼), which Lee won. Ishimori beat the Jr. Champion on opening night last year. The intensity from the Dontaku match remained here as they went right after one another. Though it never reached the intensity of Shingo/SHO, it was worked at a quicker pace fitting of the style of these two. Their exchanges played off the singles match and the three way at MSG, yet they did just enough to make it different. From an action standpoint, pretty much everything worked. However, it lacked the drama that I wanted from the main event. Part of it was having to follow Shingo/SHO and part of it was fully expecting Ishimori to even the score after losing at Dontaku. He did just that by hitting Bloody Cross and winning in 18:32. Like I said, a very good match. It was just missing a few things to make it great. [***¾]

Taiji Ishimori 2 (1-0) Bandido 0 (0-0)
Shingo Takagi 2 (1-0) BUSHI 0 (0-0)
Marty Scurll 2 (1-0) DOUKI 0 (0-0)
Titan 2 (1-0) El Phantasmo 0 (0-0)
Tiger Mask IV 2 (1-0) Ren Narita 0 (0-0)
Dragon Lee 0 (0-1) Robbie Eagles 0 (0-0)
SHO 0 (0-1) Rocky Romero 0 (0-0)
Jonathan Gresham 0 (0-1) Ryusuke Taguchi 0 (0-0)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru 0 (0-1) Will Ospreay 0 (0-0)
TAKA Michinoku 0 (0-1) YOH 0 (0-0)
The final score: review Amazing
The 411
This is what I’ve wanted from NJPW this year. I love tournaments because I can easily avoid the dull undercard and the matches never unnecessarily go past 30 minutes. The worst thing on this show was Titan/Kanemaru and it was pretty good. We got a good opener, very good main event, strong debut for Gresham, and an incredible Shingo/SHO match. And it all felt different, making for a varied show. Awesome.