NEW JAPAN’S 24TH BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS STARTS TOMORROW, PITTING SIXTEEN OF THE BEST JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHTS IN TOURNAMENT COMBAT.
We have some debutants, some past winners, and some legendary competitors all in the mix. But who could be lifting the trophy, and who will be lucky to pick up a victory in their respective block. Here is my rundown of who are the outsiders, the dark horses, the nearly men and the favourites in the annual battle of the finest non-heavyweights in the world.
TAKA is pretty much known to all from his WWF run as the first ever Light Heavyweight Champion and member of Kai-en-Tai alongside Sho Funaki. He is still going strong at the age of 43, as one of the veteran members of the villainous Suzuki-Gun, winning the NOAH Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles in March of this year. I doubt he’ll go far in this tournament, especially being in the stacked as all hell Block A alongside Ricochet, Ospreay and company. He’ll get one win, but will be near the bottom of the pile.
TAKA also has the best theme song start ever, as is shown above.
A highly decorated junior in Pro Wrestling NOAH, he has won their Junior Heavyweight title an impressive seven times, and the junior tag belts four times. Another veteran member of Suzuki-Gun, he has already won gold in New Japan this year, winning the IWGP Junior Tag Belts from Roppongi Vice, although they lost them right back a short time late. Just like Taka, he’ll probably be at the bottom of the pile in Block B.
He won the NOAH tag Belts with TAKA earlier this year, but really hasn’t set the world on fire since coming to New Japan, again in Suzuki Gun. I’m really not holding out much hope for Suzuki-Gun here, it’s almost as if they’re a two man faction with a few randoms isn’t it? Will be in the bottom half of the table.
Tiger Mask IV
It must be very strange to see them bring in a newer, younger version of you and have them play out against each other? It’s like a Puroesu version of Toy Story. Anyway, Tiger Mask IV is a legendary junior heavyweight, multiple junior heavyweight title and junior tag team title reigns. He is the only man to win back-to-back BOSJ in 2004 and 2005 respectively, but he is sadly the lesser of two masked veterans in this tournament. Tiger Mask is one of my brother’s favourite wrestlers, but he will not be near the top half of the table.
The Dark Horses
Fun-fact; I used to call Taichi’s matches when he was on excursion in CMLL many moons ago, and I was a fan. He is now some sort of a fancy pop singer guy with a ridiculously attractive valet in Miho Abe, but he, much like his Suzuki-Gun stable mates Kanemura, Desperado and TAKA haven’t really set the world on fire since coming into the company. He’ll be closer to the taste of victory than the others, but not close enough. But these tournaments do throw up some bizarre finals, so who knows?
I bloody love this guy. From ROH, to PWG, To Evolve, now to NJPW via Pro Wrestling Noah, he is straight up fun to watch (MAGUL). Criminally underused in Ring Of Honor, he came over to Japan, won the 2016 NOAH Junior Heavyweight Tag League with Taiji Ishimori, got to the finals of the Super Jr. Tag Tournament, and also wrestled as anime character ‘Tiger The Dark’ at Wrestle Kingdom 11. He’s done a fair bit and his stock is rising. I could see him coming very, very close to taking it all but will just fall short. His one drawback is that he’s made his debut in a ridiculously stacked tournament this year. This is one to build on, 2018 could be his year.
The unlikely finalist of last year’s Best Of The Super Juniors, how could you rule him out? The lovable ‘Funky Weapon’ who turns it on when the BOSJ comes around, people should never sleep on Taguchi. A former 2 time IWGP Junior champion and 5 time IWGP Junior tag champion (4 of which with a little known Irish lad called Finn Balor) as well as winning the NEVER openweight six man tag belts this year, he has the big match experience. He will be up there at first, but I feel he’ll fall back when it comes to the crunch. Not this year.
There are two of the biggest Mexican stars that aren’t signed up to Lucha Underground in this tournament, and this is one of them. Volador Jr might be familiar to some fans from his time under a mask in TNA, as a part of Team Mexico in the World X Cup. He has now lost that mask (To Andrade Cien Almas in 2013) and has been in New Japan for a few years now as a part of their co-promoted Fantastica Mania shows with CMLL. He narrowly missed out on the final last year on the final day to eventual winner Will Ospreay, and even though he is one of the bigger names in Block B, I think he’ll just miss out once again.
Arguably the best highflyer in the world right now, he is a former Best Of The Super Juniors winner in 2014, but he has never held the actual belt. The main thing we need to bring up is that WE ARE GETTING RICOCHET VS OSPREAY 2 IN BLOCK A YESSS. The second thing is that for all intents and purposes, Ricochet should be one of the favourites for this. But he has two things going against him. The first, being he is in the most stacked block in BOSJ history so he has at least three people alongside him that I feel have a better chance. The second is that he has just had a shot at Takahashi for the title and lost, so will he get a return bout so soon? It’s unlikely. A noble top three or four spot for Mr. Chet.
There is not one man in wrestling today that has turned his career around so much by taking a chance like Marty Scurll has. The former ‘Party Marty’ completely flipped his character into ‘The Villain’ and he has skyrocketed. The current Ring Of Honor TV Champion, the newest member of Bullet Club, a regular in PWG and many others, he is riding into his first BOSJ on a massive wave of momentum. Again, similar to Ricochet he is unfortunately for him (but great news for us) in the ‘Group of Death’ that is Block A. So where we will get some marquee matches against Ricochet, Liger and a big stage renewal of his amazing rivalry with Will Ospreay, he has about three of four people ahead of him in regards of likelihood of getting to the final. Stranger things have happened, and since Bullet Club = Money, I would not be shocked to see him being a surprise finalist.
Remember the name Dragon Lee, as you’ll be hearing everyone talking about him by the end of year, and you’ll sound like a right smartarse. At 21 years old, he is the fastest rising high flyer in wrestling today, making his name in CMLL and over here in New Japan. The current CMLL Light Heavyweight Champion, he gained massively notoriety for his phenomenal series with current NJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion Takahashi. He has a BOSJ title in his future, but it won’t be this year. Too many up front moving parts for him to break through. He’ll get a few marquee wins though.
Poor BUSHI. You should have got a much longer Junior Heavyweight Title reign than you did. Although he is being rewarded by being a part of the current NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions, I do like BUSHI as a sneaky heel Junior. He’s been kind of overshadowed by a certain ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ but I think with him being a separate block to his L.I.J comrade, he could really shine. I class him as the second favourite in that group, and with his evil mist and teammates wiling to cause all types of SHENANIGANS! Who knows? Maybe we’ll get Takahashi vs BUSHI in the finals? Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Jushin Thunder Liger
The veteran. The legend. The great Junior Heavyweight all of time. 11 Junior Heavyweight Title reigns. 3 Best of The Super Junior tournaments wins. But 2017, sees Jushin Thunder Liger enter the BOSJ for the last time. He is in the super stacked Block A but he will surely be the sentimental favourite, damn it all, he’s my favourite. I want Liger to win it! What a way to send him out of the Super Juniors scene than with one last win. I’m hoping, and a little part of me really believes, that the Liger will fly one more time.
Right, if you’re reading this and you don’t know who Will Ospreay is, I do not know how you got this far down without being completely confused. Well done, I think, so let me enlighten you. Will Ospreay for my money is the biggest wrestler in Britain, right now bar none. You have your Zack Sabre Jr’s and your Marty Scurll’s but if you think the British wrestling scene at the moment, you think ‘The Aerial Assassin’. Winning the whole thing last year, and coming achingly close to winning the Junior Heavyweight Title at one point, he has mainly been feuding with heavyweight Katsuyori Shibata but has now shifted focus to becoming only the second man to win back-to-back BOSJ titles. I think it is very likely, very likely indeed.
The reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion has been on a tear since winning the belt from KUSHIDA at Wrestle Kingdom 11, then beating KUSHIDA in two minutes at Sakura Genesis and also defending against Dragon Lee, Taguchi and Ricochet. A fairly unique individual, he will take crazy risks to win and will often be seen talking to his belt, or various dolls with his opponents names on them. ‘The Ticking Time Bomb’ could go off this year, and rake in all the gold come tournaments end.
One minute and fifty-six seconds. That the time that is burned into KUSHIDA’s mind following his comprehensive loss against the champion Takahashi at Sakura Genesis 2017, and he has not had a great 2017 following that. The ace of the Junior Heavyweight division has one hell of a CV; winning the Junior belt 4 times, the Junior tag belts 2 times, won last year’s Super J-Cup and BOSJ in 2015. Some have him pegged as the odds on favourite to lift his second crown in three years, but for me I feel he might not be as nailed on as many people think. I do feel he’s gonna walk Block B by basically being the biggest name in that grouping but up against Ospreay, or Takahashi I think he’ll be on the losing end. It would be a moment of redemption for KUSHIDA though to win the trophy after such a disappointing start to 2017.
Who do I think will face off in the final? For me, I think it’ll be Ospreay vs KUSHIDA with Ospreay doing the repeat. I would equally love a Liger/BUSHI final with Liger getting the feel good win, but that Block A is so stacked (as I’ve said a thousand times), it is literally anyone’s game.
One thing is for certain though, we will have two weeks of the finest flippy, high octane action on the planet and I for one, cannot wait.