Today saw the 26th iteration of wrestling’s most exciting tournament commence.
Sixteen of the world’s most dynamic, athletic and technically gifted junior heavyweights will lock horns in group stage combat to find who is ‘The Best of The Super Juniors’. This years looks set to be one of the hardest to call, with a host of familiar faces alongside some rather intriguing newcomers.
But who should you be keeping an eye on? Should it be an established star looking to stamp their legacy upon the junior heavyweight division, or should you be focusing on the unknown, a debutante who may set New Japan alight? Allow me to be a guide, as I give you who I feel should be the five to watch in this years Best of The Super Juniors.
1. Will Ospreay
We start off with a man well-known to all, ‘The Aerial Assassin’ Will Ospreay. A former Best of The Super Juniors winner back in 2016, he has had his focus set on the bridge between the junior and heavyweight division, capturing the NEVER Openweight Championship from Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom. Because of this, his main focus has been the heavyweight division, facing the likes of Bad Luck Fale and Lance Archer in New Japan and also Jeff Cobb at G1 Supercard.
Now he’s back in the junior heavyweight division, Will can possibly enjoy a strength advantage due to his ‘bulking up’ to hang with with the big boys. Will this cut into his speed? I don’t know, but it’s Will Ospreay; even at 75% speed, he’s faster than most. A tougher Will due to his wars in the Openweight division could see a dominant run for the boy from Essex.
DOUKI is the definition of an ‘unknown quantity’, coming in very late doors as a hired gun for Suzuki-Gun, replacing the injured El Desperado. DOUKI is a protégé of Taichi, plying a lot of his trade in the independent Mexican scene, particularly Toryumon Mexico. I have tried my best to research him and from the limited stuff I’ve seen, he is very good. He takes a lot of risks (he invented the suicide senton to the outside that Hiromu Takahashi uses) and is held in very high regard. Also, his version of the dragon suplex is a thing of beauty.
3. Jonathan Gresham
Jonathan Gresham is the best technical wrestler on the planet not named Zack Sabre Jr. You can quote me on that. Gresham has finally got his recognition he deserves over the last 18 months after years of constantly flying under the radar. Fluid in his movements, he can high fly with the best of them, all while tying everyone up in knots. Gresham is my sentimental favourite to win, purely because the man deserves the spotlight. If you don’t know him at the moment, you will by the end. Remember ‘The Octopus’.
4. El Phantasmo
A man I know very well from my travels around British Wrestling, the Canadian high flyer has wowed fans in almost any promotion you can think of in the UK for a few years now. The newest member of Bullet Club made his debut at Wrestling Dontaku, shocking everyone apart from people with the benefit of vision who saw his vignettes.
The body control this man has is insane (I’ve seen him walk the ropes while giving another man a firemans carry) and the junior heavyweight division is tailor-made for ELP. He gives me the vibe of a certain ‘Prince’ that used to knock out around those shores. Have they unearthed some more junior royalty?
5. Shingo Takagi
If this guy was any more of a dark horse in this tournament, we’d be calling him Black Beauty. The man hit legendary status in Dragon Gate before making the shock move to Los Ingobernables de Japon. Much like Ospreay, Shingo borders between junior and heavyweight, meaning he has a size advantage over most other competitors. He also hits hard. Really hard. This is the first time we’ll really get to see ‘The Dragon’ really take the limiters off and go hell for leather. I reckon he will be a match of the tournament machine, and I would not be shocked to see him take it all.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @MattyID. Thanks for reading!