The Best And Worst Of NJPW: Best Of The Super Jr. 25, Part 2


Previously on NJPW: Best of the Super Juniors 25 got off to a strong start, with bird men losing in both main events and Sho rehabilitating the phrase “High Voltage” in pro wrestling.

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Now, the Best and Worst of Best Of The Super Juniors 25 from May 20 and 22.

Worst: Bingo Hall BOSJ


We have now reached the part of Best of the Super Juniors where a bunch of these shows are in much smaller venues and aren’t produced to be broadcast on TV Asahi and New Japan World. The tournament matches are just uploaded to NJPW World later. The A Block matches from May 20 took place in Kira Messe Numazu in Kira, Shizuoka, in the exhibition hall (highest claimed attendance for a wrestling event: 2,700) in a convention center.

I’m not one to use “bingo hall” in a derogatory way and some of my favorite wrestling shows I’ve been to have been in gyms and American Legion posts, but it is hard to get excited watching these smaller venue shows. Except for the entrances and some of the shenanigans in the crowd, we see these matches in their entirety from the angle shown above. You can see essentially everything you need to, but it’s such a drastic departure from NJPW’s usual stellar visuals and camera work. Some of the highlight pictures actually give you a better view of the action.

Best: Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright


I’m weirdly feeling this Tiger Mask winning streak. It’s surprising, but it makes sense. Yoh is exactly the type of opponent Tiger Mask said he was counting on being able to beat to rack up points in this tournament, and he was able to beat him. It feels like this couldn’t happen in this year’s B Block, and that adds a certain amount of real sports verisimilitude to the midcard achievements of this mean, aging children’s cartoon character for me.

Tiger Mask vs. Yoh established its grizzled vet vs. flashy rookie dynamic quickly. I wished Don Callis was on commentary, because those Tiger Mask kicks he loves were super effective on Yoh. There were just so many mean, low kicks, sometimes while Yoh was on the ground. The crowd warmed up when Yoh started getting offense in, and they had a exciting series of nearfalls before Tiger Mask took it home with the Tiger Suplex Hold.


Tiger Mask vs. Bushi looks like it should be fun now that it has MASK TENSION. These dudes are both mean and disrespectful, which I think works well for this type of mini-feud. Bushi unmasking Tiger Mask and the older wrestler having to be dragged to the back by Young Lions with a t-shirt over his head because he was SO ENRAGED was very promising. And Bushi says his goal is to be New Japan’s premiere masked man, so maybe he’ll go full OG de L.I. and start collecting them, starting with the two time BOSJ winner.

Best/Worst: El Alfa Y La Tortuga/More Like Curse Swearicho Amiright

Welcome to Midlife Crisis, The Promo! I’m aware that there are so many other promos that could be called “Midlife Crisis: The Promo!,” but Chris Jericho shirtless with a turtle (who had a head injury?) while speaking into a cell phone camera has got to be one of the top ones. I loved the weird mix of production values here. It was a selfie mode promo, but it had subtitles, but they showed us a video of the video on the projector screen and we could barely hear it in the actual broadcast of the show. Amazing. I prefer to believe Jericho was nude for this.

Jericho says he’s a ten time Intercontinental Champion, continuing the trend of NJPW acknowledging WWE continuity while WWE vaguely refers to NJPW continuity as stuff that happened “in Japan.” He brings up the main event status issue, the thing Naito was mad at him about back in December (and that Naito maintains is Jericho’s real issue with him, and the IC title pursuit is only a front,) and says “I’m gonna make you famous.” YES, GOOD. Let me take this opportunity to send good vibes out to the wrestling powers that be that Jericho wins the belt at Dominion and then he and Naito have their rematch at the Cow Palace in July because then I can see these two live. Just putting it out there, universe!

This segment also gives Naito the opportunity to be a good guy and an anti-establishment guy by pointing out that it was lame for NJPW to air this during BOSJ, and we should really be talking about Bushi. Good point, Naito!

Best: Seriously Reborn

I expected Ishimori vs. Bushi to be my favorite match of May 20, and it was. We’ve seen both guys do more impressive things, but this was a solid little bout that hopefully previews some kind of future rivalry. Bushi’s promo afterwards sure made it sound that way.

Bushi is such a versatile tweener, and was just as effective a babyface in this match as he was a heel for Yoh in his last one. Ishimori kept grounding him throughout, which was smart strategy against a guy whose big moves are aerial, and kept the crowd waiting for the fireworks factory. It was very similar to how Bushi worked against Yoh. When Bushi does finally get some offense it’s a great babyface shine moment and feels like a breath of fresh air.

Ishimori didn’t need to go all-out showing off his big moves like in his first match as Bone Soldier, because we’re all aboard the Bone Train now and don’t need to be wowed by his impressive athleticism. But we do see he’s studied the competition when he throws away Bushi’s shirt to stop himself from getting choked, while Bushi didn’t really know what to expect. This makes me extra interested to see the dynamic between Ishimori and his old tag partner ACH.

Would you say this friendship is... too sweet?

The preview of Taiji Ishimori vs. Flip Gordon showed that match should be fast, and further shows that Chase Owens and Ishimori are basically best friends now. It also showed us an EXTREME CLOSEUP of Ishimori’s pec popping after his entrance. (Between this and the recent Roppongi 3K Sexual Soft Boyz photo book, you can see why I haven’t written about My Feminist Opinion About The Use Of Valets in an NJPW column; they absolutely provide the portion of their audience attracted to men with eye candy as well.) Torturing Oka together was some quality heel bonding, and Chase throwing Flip into Ishimori’s established-to-be-deadly knees was some entertaining teamwork. Chase needs to write a book called How To Make Friends And Eat Pins Most Of The Time But Your Friends Never Get Mad About It.

In his backstage interview, Ishimori 1) smolders at the camera, in a nice change from making crazy eyes at the camera, and 2) does not know who Flip Gordon is or what All In is. Does he know about Being The Elite? Does he know about the ROH Bullet Club guys who aren’t Marty? NOBODY TELL HIM.

Worst: Whiskey Flip


The best part of Flip Gordon vs. Kanemaru was how the lack of production value made the Suzukigun beatdown in the audience look extra realistic. Kira Messe Numazu looks a lot like the community center where I used watch my brother’s basketball games on Saturdays, so I got the rare combined experiences of childhood nostalgia and the joy of seeing a middle-aged alcoholic choke out Flip Gordon with a chair.

Overall though, this pairing highlighted both men’s weaknesses. Gordon’s lack of both experience and the ability to seem believably hurt, plus Kanemaru’s current style, was not a good mix. I don’t mean to be all Jim Cornette here, but can Flip Gordon do, like, an arm wringer? Could he put on one or two actual holds in before all the flips? Matches feel weirdly naked when we just skip straight to the flips, and this venue didn’t give Gordon the opportunity to do any cool stunts like at Korakuen. From what we see of Gordon currently, it doesn’t seem like he could hang with Okada’s mat game like Ospreay did at this year’s anniversary show.

Best: The Champ Is Here

In contrast, Ospreay reminded us why he’s the champion in a match that was both good and flippy against ACH. It was more aggressive than I expected, with Ospreay brutally shoving ACH’s shoulder into the ringpost (and the crowd not really knowing how to respond) early on. He worked a fair amount of submission holds on ACH in the ring too, which was interesting. I think Ospreay has pent-up injury-targeting revenge energy from people going after his neck for so long. ACH just happened to be the first guy he ran into with tape on after recovering.

After that strong win for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, we got a rare Chaos vs. Chaos tag match when Yoh and Yoshi Hashi defeated Ospreay and Gedo on the 22nd. Ospreay looks confident and fired up, playfully psyching out Yoh. Yoh hangs with Ospreay, but looks kind of like he doesn’t know what just happened to him. They’re two flashy babyfaces who typically wouldn’t fight each other, one much more accomplished and the other “high and mighty” despite having one (1) singles win. There’s a lot of potential there.

Discussion question: Do you think a Chaos Civil War would be even bitchier than the Bullet Club Civil War? I think it could, if they really applied themselves.

Best: The Rest

All the tournament matches for B Block on May 22 were excellent in different ways. Let’s talk about them now!

Go Time For Sho Time

At beginning of Sho vs. Chris Sabin (who know each other from Yoh and Sho’s time on excursion in ROH as the Tempura Boyz, the R.A.P. Music to R3K’s Run The Jewels), Sho was still very much playing the body guy. Sabin countered by playing it smart, and Sho got smart, too, with all that stuff on the apron and outside of the ring, including using the ring post to his advantage. (Previously, in A Block, Yoh almost pinned himself trying to roll up Tiger Mask.)

We got to see more HIGH VOLTAGE Sho this match, and the payoff to all those arrow-shooting motions. His new finisher, a cross-armed package piledriver he calls the Shock Arrow, looked very cool and intense. Sabin got multiple bows, a handshake, and a fist bump of respect afterwards for doing the honors. This felt like an important moment for Sho, more so than just his first singles match victory on the main roster. He said he has something important to say to the crowd after winning a main event, so presumably we’ll find out why soon.

Ab Goals Vs. Butt Goals

Dragon Lee defeated Taguchi in a very friendly comedy match between two members of Taguchi Japan. The story of this match was that Taguchi is still out of shape, and needs to lose 6.9kg…


…to be at his ideal fighting weight. We get two more EXTREME TORSO CLOSEUPS, this time for comedic effect.


Dragon Lee continues to be the purest of white meat babyfaces by giving a thumbs up to his friend about his squishier body. We also get some good-natured reverse Michaels vs. Hogan exaggerated arm-selling by Taguchi — if the Michaels vs. Hogan overselling was acknowledged to be such in kayfabe — before we get to the Dragon Lee Fireworks Factory Of Cool Moves. Like with Yano in last year’s G1, it’s fun to have a reliable comedy guy/great worker in a block to switch things up.

Critical Kush


Kushida vs. Marty Scurll isn’t as compelling as either of their first BOSJ matches this year, but it gets Kushida his groove back after that first round loss, similar to Ospreay vs. ACH. It’s a solid match with a fun opening sequence to set up Marty as the whiny villain vs. Kushida as the heroic supporter and protector of fans getting free stuff. I always enjoy Marty getting upset by people bird taunting him.

We also get some notable actual wrestling moments when Scurll gets Kushida in Liger’s trademark Romero Special reverse surfboard (while Liger, Kushida’s hero, is on commentary) and a strong finish when we see Kushida’s broken finger pain turn into RAGE. Kushida also hits Scurll with Alex Shelley’s Automatic Midnight, so … is he still just really emotional about Shelley because Sabin’s here, or is this a hint that Shelley is coming back?

SUPER BEST: El Detonación Del Desperado

I was very hyped for the culmination/consummation of this feud, and it did not disappoint. After a great El Desperado entrance, it quickly revealed itself to be the best type of Hiromu Takahashi match: The weird, ultraviolent, super-fast kind.

Hiromu is more brutal than we’ve seen a little while, and we can see he’s out for revenge. He uses Suzukigun tactics to punish Desperado for the assaults by his faction: Attacking before the bell, chair attacks in the crowd, even using Suzuki’s signature rope trap headstand triangle choke at one point. After Hiromu drags Desperado up the stairs, kicks him in the gut, gives him a KILLER John Woo kick from ALL THE WAY AT THE END OF THE AISLE, and then DRAGS him down the stairs by his mask while YELLING AT HIM, we’re basically hoping Desperado kicks one of NJPW’s most beloved stars’ ass a little bit in order to prevent his own literal murder.

This is the first El Desperado singles match in a while, and he looks really strong when he starts to get offense in. Hiromu going after his mask flips a switch and he just starts choking our dude. When he crushed a beer can against his head, Desperado moved up to number one my list of favorite Desperados, above the very good Rihanna song “Desperado” (he was already above Desperado (1995), directed by Robert Rodriguez.) After getting several nearfalls with a messed up mask, he actually plays to the cheers and becomes a full babyface for about five seconds.

After an intense third act strike exchange slightly hurt by us having just seen a similar, lower energy one between Scurll and Kushida (maybe this spot should not almost always happen in both the main event and second to last match on the card), both men are full throttle to the finish. Hiromu fights to keep the Pinche Loco from happening to him, Desperado escapes an attempted Time Bomb with a roll up which is countered into a German suplex, and Desperado tries to use one of the tag belts to cheat, but the ref takes it away. El Desperado ends up winning fair and square after a Pinche Loco. It reminded me of Tiger Mask’s recent comments about how Kanemaru really doesn’t need to use Suzukigun tactics to be successful, but his ring work is caged by membership in that faction.

El Desperado gets on the mic looking like a demon and teases showing his face in a very good short promo. This and the backstage interview made me want to see more of Desperado’s personality outside of Suzukigun. He says so many other guys talk about elevating the division, and he’ll just conquer whatever they create via hiding, running, and lying, “because I’m a champion.” “Please keep doing good work for me” is a really fun heel perspective to have in this otherwise very sincere tournament.

After that demented banger of a main event, up next will be several untelevised shows in a row as the round robin portion of BOSJ continues in Osaka. I’ll see you back here to discuss their Best and Worst qualities, and whether this level of Mask Drama continues!