The Best And Worst Of NJPW: Best Of The Super Jr. 25, Part 3


Previously on NJPW: El Desperado stole our hearts, Kushida got his groove back, and Dragon Lee (pictured above) put over body positivity.

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And now, the Best and Worst of Best Of The Super Juniors 25 from May 24-5.

Best/Worst: Round Robin Rabies


We are now in the weird middle zone of Best of the Super Juniors where a lot of people could go either way, especially because this 25th iteration is a very competitive tournament with no clear jobbers. Someone could easily have all great matches as a performer and still not rack up enough points for a “good” tournament showing. For example, Bushi hasn’t had a bad match yet per say, but after May 24 he’s on the bubble with three losses in a row, and his next opponent is the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion! There’s a lot of suspense built into BOSJ that way, and it’s a sliding scale of fun to stressful!

Just to be clear on how the field is shaping up right now, here’s how our wrestlers stand after May 24-25:

A Block

  • Tiger Mask – 3-0 – 6 points
  • Taiji Ishimori, Will Ospreay, Flip Gordon – 2-1 – 4 points
  • ACH, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Yoh – 1-2 – 2 points
  • Bushi – 0-3 – 0 points

B Block is even more competitive, with

  • Dragon Lee – 3-0 – 6 points
  • Sho, El Desperado – 2-1 – 4 points
  • Kushida, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiromu Takahashi, Chris Sabin, Marty Scurll – 1-2 – 2 points

So at this point in the tournament there’s still all the room in the world to speculate/fantasy book/get mad about people’s win-loss records.

Good But Unremarkable Matches


First of all, Bushi had yet ANOTHER amazing entrance mask for this UNTELEVISED show and is a fashion genius and does not deserve to be 0-3 based on this alone!

Second of all, as expected, this was a mean-spirited, aggressive match. Bushi was back to heeling (I wonder if he’ll switch back and forth literally every match this tournament) and attacked Tiger Mask before the bell, hitting him with a suicide dive before he’d even set foot in the ring.

Tiger Mask got the majority of the cheers, and this felt kind of like a nostalgia match for him and the crowd. His offense, including the Tiger Suplex Hold for the pin, was all perfectly executed, classic Tiger Mask stuff. It was an unusually strong outing for Tiger and weak one for Bushi (as fictional athletes, not as performers.) It was also a noticeably slower match for Bushi than usual, which stood out maybe more than it should have.

Backstage, Tiger says Bushi reminds him when he was younger, and should “just believe in himself” and not worry about being NJPW’s premier masked man. Maybe he already stopped, since there were no mask shenanigans in this match, despite a full removal in the preview tag! The theme with Tiger Mask in this tournament so far is pretty much that he beats up a younger guy and then lectures them about why they lost. He’s still not impressed by high fliers because he says he’s seen all that type of stuff in Mexico, and “submissions and kicks – they are the base.”


Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated ACH in a solid Working A Body Part match. ACH has more shoulder tape (plus new leg tape) now, and I wonder if it’s based on an ongoing shoot injury, or if he has the somewhat unfortunate role of Injury Guy for this tournament. Maybe the injury is way to gain support for a lesser known babyface – ACH wrestled under the Tiger the Dark mask at WK10 and has competed in NJPW before, but it’s possible more casual fans might not have a good idea of who he is.

The crowd is sympathetic for ACH, who is in a world of hurt as Kanemaru beats on him and continuously works his shoulder. My favorite moment of injury selling, and the match’s most creative, was when ACH tried to clothesline Kanemaru with the arm basically attached to his torso with tape and it hurt him more than his opponent, so he clotheslined with his non-dominant arm. Look at this guy using his brain out here!

ACH further worked his way into my heart with a disrespectful dunk, as Shea Serrano would say, on Flip after his tag match with Henare (team name: Chocolate Caramel) on May 25.

Henare: What the fuck’s a submission?
ACH: What are you, Flip Gordon? Did you just now discover wrestling?

A+ burn, ACH. Super, even.

Also, oh no, Henare! Do they not teach submissions at the Fale Dojo? Did they not teach you any at the New Japan Dojo because they figured you already learned them at the Fale Dojo? This furthers my theory that Suzuki rather than Ishii is the key to Henare’s warrior destiny because 1) Suzuki’s theme song is about being a lonely warrior and Henare’s last fifteen promos have pretty much been about that, 2) SOMEONE NEEDS TO TEACH THIS MAN A SUBMISSION HOLD.


Marty Scurll vs. Chris Sabin match starts with a lot of mat wrestling, and the crowd is hyped for it! Then it continues to be mostly mat wrestling, and the crowd remains hyped! We get more of a fun heel Marty in this match now that he doesn’t have the responsibility of putting over one of B Block’s top two babyfaces. He gets to play to the crowd, and he and Sabin get in some solid comedy spots alongside the technical wrestling.

Scurll picks up the win, and says, in his first non-whiney promo in a while, that this begins his comeback.

Surprise Wins I Marked Out About In Opposite Ways


I think my favorite parts of Flip Gordon vs. Taiji Ishimori were Ishimori’s reactions to people cheering for Flip. He looked judgingly at the whole audience for cheering for that back handspring at the beginning, and stared daggers at one particular lady who did an extended “Flip Gordon!” cheer later on. That’s always a solid heel choice.

This match showed off what three years of wrestling experience vs. nearly seventeen looks like on two crazy-athletic people. Gordon sometimes looks like he’s waiting for moves to happen to him, while Ishimori is very intentional about everything he does. Flip’s motivation seems to be “I’m just an obnoxious person” several times per match.

Gordon gets a very close rollup win, and Ishimori is too off pissed to even comment backstage. Way to get in with the Biz Cliz boys, Flip! You just hurt their chances of winning BOSJ! How does this help you achieve your number one life goal (besides banging Brandi Rhodes) of getting booked for All In???

Our other surprise win of these shows was in B Block, when Taguchi BEAT KUSHIDA WITH A SMALL PACKAGE IN 1 MINUTE, 34 SECONDS! Which was both shocking and made perfect sense!

After their tag match on May 24, Taguchi set the bar extremely low for himself, saying, “Although I came up short, I was able to finish two matches, so that’s good. ” This guy has won this whole tournament before! But he did get more serious when he said he needs to show why he’s still here.

Kushida also pointed out that Taguchi is “a snake” who’s survived it all, before laying down some extremely pro wrestling words of wisdom:


Their match was about as good as it gets for a 90 second bout you can’t tell is going to go 90 seconds. Kushida looked very confident during his entrance, and after some fast paced mat wrestling, it looked like we were finally seeing Business Taguchi. They both hip attacked each other, had one rollup nearfall, AND THEN TAGUCHI FREAKING WON.


The happy/shocked crowd reaction was fantastic. Now it looks like Taguchi finally believes himself to be a contender, and Kushida is back in his slump, as he just kept repeating “I screwed up. I screwed up,” on his way to the locker room.

Best: Fired Up Babyfaces Fire Up The Crowd


After a tag match we didn’t see, but can tell Desperado won with a low blow because Sho it leaves holding what he refers to as his “super junior,” this match gets off to a one-sided start. El Desperado steals Sho’s hat, bodyslams him, attacks him with a chair, and works a knee. And holy carp does that all pay off when Sho finally goes HIGH VOLTAGE. That armbar with the yelling, those MASSIVE Germans – this dude looks more and more like a superstar every match.

The Shock Arrow is already super over too. The crowd is so ready for it when he turns towards them, before he even does the arrow shooting gesture. He gets the pin with it, though not as straightforwardly as with Sabin, and it’s enough to win Desperado’s grudging respect and vow of revenge. Yes, fight a bunch more times, please!


Will Ospreay defeated Yoh in the one standout from this group of A Block matches, with the crowd fully supporting both men simultaneously. It gets off to a fun start with the Chaos boys exchanging friendly taunts and busting out their fast, flashy moves. Both guys keep hyping the crowd, and Ospreay keeps amazing me with just how much air he gets on everything.

Something I like about the champ’s relatively new finisher, the Stormbreaker, is how long it takes to set up. The opponent can see what’s coming for him and has a lot of opportunities to get out of it, and a lot of incentive because it’s still a protected, one hit kill. Escaping it tends to take a lot out of the opponent too, which helps put over the move’s power without it being spammed.

Now that I’ve complimented Ospreay a bunch, let me give a huge Worst to that spot where he somehow hurt his upper back/shoulders/possibly even neck to the point of screaming by just hitting the ropes. This bugged me so much, because I have no idea what could have possibly happened for him to injure that part of his body doing that. I’m 5’1″ and I have to hit the ropes on my toes so that I don’t hit my neck on the top rope every time, and Ospreay is billed at 6’1″ (and is definitely way taller than me, no matter how fudged that is), so… what the heck?

Anyway, good on Yoh for targeting that area with that full nelson followed up with a club. I really did mostly enjoy this match!

Best: Chopped All Stars: Destined To Do This Forever


AND SO IT HAS COME TO THIS, one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament!

The Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi feud carries over from when Hiromu was on excursion in CMLL a few years ago. He performed as “Kamaitachi” (a type of Japanese demon that rides dust devils and causes strange events), and wore a mask inspired by these creatures until he lost it to Lee. He has declared his love for Lee many times, including in writing in last year’s BOSJ strategy scrapbook. Lee affectionately called him “rat face” at this year’s press conference.

Lee enters with an entrance mask that’s half his CMLL mask from when they both worked there, half the old Kamiatachi mask that he won. So the match gets real weird before they’re both even in the ring.

After a super fast start from opposite turnbuckles, Dragon Lee invites the chops, and THE CHOPS BEGIN. So many chops! There’s an element of letting your opponent inflict damage to strong style chop and strike exchanges, but with Lee and Hiromu it goes way beyond that. The general vibe is that they might one day commit consensual, mutual homicide. This is present in the MULTIPLE German Suplex exchanges too.

The third act of the match is just so many different big moves to nearfalls, and we can feel the end coming, but we can’t tell what it will be. It’s like that second car chicken scene in Furious 7, the one where there are also guns. It’s been established that these people are crazy and have no regard for their physical safety and can withstand a ton of damage, so we regular humans have no way of predicting their next move or breaking point.

The breaking point ends up being a Dragon Driver, and Lee cuts a respectful promo to the crowd, who loves him. And he loves them back! It’s very wholesome. He’s presumably gotten the okay to use his pal Kojima’s extremely popular catchphrase now, because he tells the boys in the back, “Icchauzo bakayarou!” (which basically translates to, “I’m coming for you, ya bastard!”)

Meanwhile, the Ticking Time Bomb is carried out to a Local Medical Facility.


The dude has his own unique standards for relationships, and who are we to judge?

After we’ve all pondered that, I’ll see you back here for more untelevised round robin adventures of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s junior heavyweights!