Previously on NJPW: Tiger Mask’s winning streak ended with a [four flippy] splash, Sho earned Kushida’s respect as a singles competitor, and Bone Soldier faced a rival from his civilian days.
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And now, the Best and Worst of Best Of The Super Juniors 25 from May 29 – June 2. That’s right, it’s the last four VOD nights all covered in one convenient review right before the finals! Yeah, that’s the way to look at it, not as one less Best/Worst than you may have been led to expect!
In A Block…
Worst: Flip’s Off
To be honest, the Worsts from these shows aren’t really that bad. The Best of the Super Juniors show, even the ones filmed with a potato, are all comprised of matches that more or less make sense put on by capable performers. But standards for this tournament of New Japan in general are very high right now and some of these matches were worse than others! On these shows, they happened to also include a certain very flexible flat-earther!
I thought Yoh and Flip Gordon worked well together overall. Yoh even got to look resourceful and relatively experienced for once. But a strike exchange was not the obvious choice for these two relatively unthreatening looking men for a reason, and Flip at one point sold by saying the actual word “Ouch!” The Five Star Clutch still looked like the awkward version of a joshi finisher here too, with Yoh’s little hop over Flip’s legs killing the momentum.
Bushi defeated Flip Gordon too, in a match that followed an incredibly powerful entrance featuring a mask with THREE MOUTHS AND TONGUES, for some reason! I think that’s going to be what I remember most about this match though, besides maybe Gordon’s garbage sell of the MX that ended the match.
After the match, Bushi is hyped to get revenge on his next opponent, Kanemaru, for the loss and all the cheating from that tag team championship feud. Whether he’s still a contender in BOSJ or not, he’s very much ready to hold it down for his faction in the last blowoff match from the L.I.J. vs. Suzukigun feud, and I’m ready to watch him do it.
Best/Worst: Chaotic Neutral
The more flammable half of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions played the thuggish antagonist to two Chaos Faces In Peril in solid, functional, but ultimately not stand-out matches.
Yoh vs. Kanemaru featured Yoh getting his ass kicked to two near countouts, then looking better than usual when he finally got offense in. I enjoyed all his DDTS Of Babyface Vengeance, and the Five Star Clutch finally won me over in the finish. Maybe it’s just awkward on people with really long legs?
Yoh’s post-main event speech was cute, complimenting other factions’ t-shirts and talking about how tough his fight was. I’m so interested to see what happens with the reunited Roppongi 3K after these characters have grown in such different directions this tournament. But first Yoh’s off face Ishimori for a chance at the finals, in a match he says feels like fate, but he doesn’t know why.
Will Ospreay also defeated Kanemaru in a match that took a million years and a low blow to win over the crowd. Ospreay’s been super sincere in his matches lately, but gets to make the crowd laugh here by trying to avenge his nards with a chair attack… and getting the chair taken away by the ref who didn’t see Kanemaru introduce it in the first place.
After that, Ospreay got to show off some high flying moves we haven’t seen from him in a while, and pinned after a Stormbreaker. It was a good match in itself, but I think it was hurt by the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm and the lack of personal stake beyond gaining points for either competitor.
Best: Parry Like It’s 1983
Will Ospreay vs. Tiger Mask, though, was elevated by the super hot Aomori crowd and the former vs. current top junior heavyweight dynamic. After their preview tag on May 30, Ospreay told Tiger to go back to beating up Young Boys. “Your time is over, and mine has just begun” is a statement I’d say Tiger would agree with, but he still thinks he has a chance at victory if he targets Ospreay’s weaknesses.
Ospreay’s win felt inevitable from the beginning – not just because booking, but after the opening sequence of the match. But Tiger Mask showed he wasn’t going to make it easy for Ospreay, and these dudes ended up going pretty hard. The strike exchange felt all symbolic and inter-generational, and Ospreay’s counter of a piledriver set-up into the Stormbreaker was a cool finish. The crowd was audibly invested the enter time and ramped up the tension, and appreciated Tiger bowing and shaking hands with the champ after the match.
Backstage, Tiger Mask was dejected by going from three straight wins to three straight losses, but seemed really happy with the match. The finish made him think Ospreay “had Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid on his mind today.” For those not up on the Line of the Tiger Mask, 1) here is a very good recent Twitter thread about it, and 2) the original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama, feuded with Dynamite Kid between 1981-3, and those matches are regarded as pretty groundbreaking.
Ospreay was also recently compared to Dynamite Kid by the one and only Dave Meltzer, re: what he’s doing to his flippy British body. “He just has a death wish… enjoy him while you can, because he’s going to be Dynamite Kid, and we know how that story ends.” Which is a legendary career followed by being washed up before age 30 and in a wheelchair in his 40s! So, uh, let’s all cross our fingers for Will Ospreay, because for all his goofy Sexy Santa Squire outfits, he really is a great wrestler who I’d love to see play the vet himself one day.
On a lighter note, William’s next match is with Flip Gordon, who he defeated once before at Global Wars in Chicago in 2017. He self-awarely sets it up as a chess match between two dummies “who can’t spell dyslexia!”
Best/Worst: Road To The End Of Tears
May 29 didn’t feature Bone Soldier Taiji Ishimori or ACH’s best matches of BOSJ 25, but both men had decent bouts that set them on the course for extremely anime collision on May 31.
Taiji Ishimori defeated Tiger Mask, because how could he not kick the guy’s ass who said he has “a great physique” (WE KNOW, Tiger!), but this is “wrestling, not bodybuilding.” Ishimori attacks with a dropkick before the bell and gets in more offense throughout, but sells Tiger’s more than I think anyone else this tournament. At one point Tiger knocks him down with a slap to the face, and he’s essentially dead after the powerbomb and superplex.
Ishimori is also super villainous here after his one-off face turn against Kanemaru, doing a lot of evil laughing and throwing Tiger into the announce table. In the post-match comments, Tiger says he can tell Ishimori is different from when they faced each other in NOAH tag matches, the opposite impression our drunk uncle got. Ishimori already has his sights set on his old tag partner ACH, his next opponent, saying he’s been “whining quite a bit.”
The same night, the man Ishimori says will “decide his fate” lost to Bushi and cried afterwards. The match is fine, but not super notable, and suffers from that same crowd that wasn’t crazy about Ospreay vs. Kanemaru. ACH’s tape removal spot, a bit hit the two times he did it before, feels devalued at this point too. Maybe since taking it off isn’t helping you win, it would be better to just leave it on and help your shoulder heal? Just a thought!
Best: My Eternal Rival!
(Yes, these titles refer to two different Naruto rivalries, but I can’t remember if Guy ever cries re: Kakashi, and also I’m not sure who is who in ACH’s preferred anime comparison for this feud, so this is what you get!) (ACH wears Guy’s vest, but isn’t Guy the heel? I remember Guy being kind of the heel.)
After their May 30 tag match, ACH and Ishimori continue to put their untelevised, midcard BOSJ match over as A Huge Deal, Actually. ACH says he cares about this more personally than anything else in the tournament, and that he needs to take back his “sense of pride, [his] manhood” from Ishimori. Ishimori says maybe ACH shouldn’t even fight if it gets him so emotional, and says he should be more like him, the Reborn Bone Soldier. Come to the dark side, ACH, they have skull t-shirts! Finger guns over feelings!
In their singles match, Ishimori and ACH more than make up for their Super X Cup semi-final match in Impact not getting any Former Partner Angst build at all. They start with a very anime confrontation staredown from ACH on the ramp to Ishimori in the ring, and ACH does that thing Bullet Club guys hate where you out-pretend their pretend bullets.
These two quickly show they have great chemistry as opponents as well as partners, and know exactly what to do for each others’ bigger and/or flippier moves. I loved Ishimori’s escape of that impending German, and I know I’ve talked a lot about chop/strike exchanges already, but this was the actual best one from these shows. Just kidding, Kushida vs. Lee might have been, but this one was by far the most Weighted With Personal Drama!
Ishimori gets another dramatic, villainous win after the pin with the Bloody Cross and stares down his loser friend. Both stay in the ring having A Moment until Ishimori points to the ramp like, “Get out of here! I need to do my finger gun poses ALONE!” (And he does, and it’s great.) Gosh, I loved the totally unneccessary level of Drama in this match, can you guys tell?
ACH gets maybe his most heroic moment in the backstage comments, when he acknowledges this puts him out of the tournament, but it’s important to have perspective. He’s proud he proved to Ishimori that he has killer instinct, and says, “Go win this tournament, and I’ll see you down the line.” New Japan or Impact or somebody, let these dorks fight more in the future and I will be very into it!
Meanwhile, In B Block…
Best/Worst: Cantabrigian Heat
Marty Scurll defeated Dragon Lee in my least favorite B Block match from these shows, that, again, was not a bad match! Just not a standout! Dragon Lee is a muscle car angel and the world’s biggest babyface (citation needed besides my heart, I guess), and Marty looks tougher than usual while facing him. I was reminded that I like Marty’s moonsault, and the quick superplex to crossface chickenwing sequence for the win felt like a momentum-builder.
Things were not looking great for the coach before his singles match with Sho! He broke his finger tapping out to a leg lock, and he wasn’t sure if his hotel WiFi/data plan would be enough to help him study this brilliant move on the internet. But Sho also revealed that his MMA trainer never taught him how to avoid shoot fighting move the ankle lock, so they both went into this looking kind of dumb.
Sho played the self-serious young grasshopper against the frustratingly goofy master, who kicked off the match dodging a bunch of invisible Shock Arrows, then being shot in the ass with one. Sho committed even more to the archer aspect of “really intense guy powered by electricity who also shoots electric arrows for some reason” by putting Taguchi in a Bow and Arrow. It was kind of awkward, but I hope he does it more because this goofy part of his gimmick baffles and entertains me.
We also get a cool “You still got it!” moment, if they did that chant in Japan, when Taguchi hits that tope con hilo. Though he appropriately plays exhausted by bigger moves, Taguchi goes on to finish the match with an exciting ankle lock sequence, repeatedly locking Sho back in as he nearly escapes multiple times. He gets the pin after the “Kooriyama Suplex Hold,” the first suplex in his plan to “use a local suplex in each town,” which he unsurprisingly abandons the next show.
Marty Scurll goes on to defeat Taguchi in a full-on comedy match that ends with the exact finish from Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero at WrestleMania 20. This was Extreme Eddie Guerrero Mark Child Emily’s favorite wrestling match for a long time! So it wasn’t really funny to me because I was so shocked and had like a full on flashback to the only time I’ve ever cried at wrestling, but I thought it was a good idea for a finish between these two.
My favorite comedy spot here was honestly probably the taunts at the beginning, because Pride Damaged Marty is my favorite Marty besides Actual Serious Catch Wrestler Marty. We got a bit of that too, but this match was more about the Villain doing stuff like stealing people’s sunglasses and hip attacking Taguchi after spanking himself a bunch.
Taguchi is shocked that Marty knew the key to escaping the ankle lock, but not so much he can’t give us all some sage life advice:
Best: Clapback To The Future
Kushida and El Desperado had one singles match before this in September 2017 at Destruction in Hiroshima, and their match on May 30 was about a million steps above it. Desperado keeps adapting his Suzukigun attacking in the crowd spot to each venue, and here that included putting Kushida on a cart and ramming it into a sea of chairs, working his knee on the floor, then putting him back on the cart and running pushing it into even more chairs.
Kushida has to be fully Tinkerbell cheered back into the ring to barely avoid the countout, only to get put in a half crab. Desperado keeps holding his own, but Kushida starts to gain ground with a nice rollup escape of the Pinche Loco. We get one of the better ref distraction spots (there were a bunch on these shows) in which Red Shoes missed both Despy tapping hard to an armbar and attacking Kushida with a chair before Desperado pulled him back in the ring to count his pin. Suzukigun continues to have by far the strongest Ref Awareness of any faction.
In his main event victory speech, Kushida led the crowd in “itcho jime,” a type of “tejime,” a traditional Japanese hand clap at the end of a special event. He does this after beating Dragon Lee too, but stalls for a while first, maybe because he knows with the G1 coming up this will probably be his last main event victory for a while.
Kushida vs. Dragon Lee was, unsurprisingly, a banger. Both these dudes are super over, and extremely competitive Taguchi Japan teammates. Kushida plays the strategist, getting in clever holds and creative rope break via biting. Lee shows off his strength, and that counter of the jumping DDT into a fireman’s carry into a backbreaker made him look awesome. And Kushida struggling to escape that oncoming Tree of Woe made it look so much more brutal when Lee hit it. This is a hard-earned victory for Kushida, and I bet whenever Lee finally beats him some time in the next few years it’ll be a huge moment.
El Desperado continues his glorious downward spiral by losing to Chris Sabin. He sneaks up behind Sabin to attack him on the ramp before the bell, and really gets some distance on that throw into the crowd. He does enough damage to Alex Shelley’s Friend that a countout victory almost seems like a possibility.
Sabin isn’t the strongest babyface here because he’s an NJPW guest and has been switching alignments back and forth as needed this tournament, but people are respectably into his comeback. He’s not a flashy looking guy, which makes his more acrobatic move, like that very cool hurricanrana, pop in an unusual way.
El Desperado feels sorry for himself when no one will immediately tell him if he’s still in the tournament backstage, and is determined to spoil the rest of BOSJ for everyone else. And by everyone else, he means his next opponent, Dragon Lee. Also, we saw that he learned from the Boss about how to be a terrible, threatening sport about getting eliminated.
Better Bests Are Clearly Yet To Come: Everybody Wants To Be A Cat
After being helpfully reminded by Naito not to get carried away having fun and to focus on winning more matches than he loses, Hiromu Takahashi is ready to face Chris Sabin. These two punk-rockabilly-ish types definitely beat each other up! It’s a really good match, but the most notable spot is probably Hiromu hitting Sabin with a John Woo after powerbombing him on the apron, and the croud isn’t as crazy hyped as we’ve seen them for other recent Hiromu matches.
After an adorable double act promo with Naito, Hiromu isn’t fully convinced that 5-0 would be better than 3-2, but that doesn’t stop him from landing his fourth win against Sho.
Sho’s been a breakout star of BOSJ 25, but Hiromu is really That Bitch right now, which is especially visible during those slow, “ticking” part of “Ticking Time Bomb” entrances when you can just feel his intensity ready to explode as soon as the match starts.
I feel like these two will probably have an actual classic match somewhere down the line, but this was a great first singles encounter. Sho again focuses on out-powering his opponent, and gets the best of their German suplex exchange. The match shifts into the next gear once Hiromu’s extra fired up and yelling, as matches do, and Sho gets close to matching his voltage with his screaming armbar and some very MMA kicks. That spot from his match with Kushida where he slams his opponent out of their leg lock around his neck and then powerbombs them is super impressive again here, and might be one of those things that never stops being impressive.
The finishing sequence was great and intense too. Hiromu sticks the D triangle choke while Sho is still standing, and Sho tries to slam his way out of his again, but only has enough oxygen for one weak hit. He struggles more, but Hiromu just keeping the hold on until he taps out. Again, the Young Lions have to detach his legs from around his opponent’s neck, because our beloved hero is a very scary, dangerous person.
Is every match with Hiromu just a big “This better not awaken anything in me” moment for his opponent? I guessing at least one was for the commenter from part 4 who said, “I could watch Hiromu Takahashi bang my girlfriend and I’d be jealous of her.” Would you rather think about points instead? Here’s where we stand with the points after these shows.
Will Ospreay, Taiji Ishimori – 4-2 – 8 points
Flip Gordon, Bushi, Tiger Mask, Yoh – 3-3 – 6 points
ACH, Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 2-4 – 4 points
Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi, Marty Scurll – 4-2 – 8 points
Dragon Lee, Chris Sabin – 3-3 – 6 points
El Desperado, Ryusuke Taguchi, Sho – 2-4 – 4 points
I’ll see you back here soon for the next, final Best/Worst of NJPW, where we’ll cover Kushida vs. Hiromu Takahashi, Dragon Lee vs. El Desperado, Flip Gordon vs. Will Ospreay, and the epic BOSJ 25 final. We’ll also take a look at how things are building for Dominion, an insanely stacked wrestling show with the potential to last until the end of time!