We are just a week away until the start of this year’s Best of the Super Juniors. Both blocks are packed with many interesting and exciting matches, including several first time ever singles encounters. Here is my list of matches I’m most excited to see as we head into this year’s tournament.
Will Ospreay vs Taiji Ishimori – 5/18
First Time Ever
The first main event of this year’s tournament will feature a first time ever match between two of this generation’s best junior heavyweights. Ishimori made his impact felt earlier this month when he attacked Ospreay from behind and revealed himself as the newest member of the Bullet Club. This isn’t the first time Ishimori has appeared in New Japan, nor is this his first Best of the Super Juniors. He competed in the 2010 tournament where he was defeated in the semifinals by Prince Devitt. Since 2006, Ishimori has spent most of his wrestling career in NOAH. It is there that he holds the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship records for both the longest reign (405 days) and most defenses in a single reign (10). He left the company earlier this year in hopes to make a bigger impact in the wrestling world and has found a way to do so by joining the Bullet Club.
If Ospreay hopes to be the ace of New Japan’s junior division, he must be able to defend his turf against the best junior heavyweight wrestler in NOAH’s history.
KUSHIDA vs Chris Sabin – 5/19
First Time Ever
The joke going around about this match is it’s the battle between Alex Shelley’s tag team partners. KUSHIDA and Sabin garnered a lot of success throughout the years while teaming with Alex Shelley and even held the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with him. Both guys are extremely well-rounded wrestlers. Even though they generally prefer keeping it on the mat, neither have issues taking high risks when it’s needed. I know there were a lot of people underwhelmed by Sabin’s addition to this year’s tournament but this match will prove the doubters wrong.
Will Ospreay vs ACH – 5/20
One Prior Match at RevPro (1/3/16)
WOW! I feel as if the wrestling gods are smiling down on us with this one. The fact that this match has only happened once before seems too crazy to be accurate. Two of the best high-flyers you will find today in a main event match that is sure to turn heads on wrestling Twitter. This is the type of match that I watch BOSJ to see. Grab your inhalers for this one!
Hiromu Takahashi vs El Desperado – 5/22
First Time Ever
Before the arrival of Taiji Ishimori, I predicted we would see Hiromu and Desperado in this year’s finals. That ended up being not the case while that’s a bummer, at least they’ll be in the main event of this show at Korakuen. The rivalry between these two over the last couple of months has been a lot of fun. Desperado seems to have a fire lit under him and has been delivering awesome promos in preparation of this first time singles clash. Two of the most charismatic wrestlers on the New Japan roster locking up for the first time while being in the main event at New Japan’s hottest venue? Seems like a winning combination all around.
Hiromu Takahashi vs Dragon Lee – 5/25
Sixteen Prior Matches
A rivalry which started in CMLL and found its way to ROH before settling into being an NJPW staple. You read that correct, Dragon Lee and Hiromu have already had over a dozen singles matches against each other in their young careers. Their series in CMLL is looked on fondly by both wrestlers and fans alike. The last meeting was in the opening day of the 2017 BOSJ, a match which Dragon Lee won, bolstering his win-loss record against Hiromu. The Ticking Time Bomb will want to secure a win on his home turf and send Lee back to CMLL with his tail between his legs.
Will Ospreay vs BUSHI – 5/26
First Time Ever
After disposing of Scurll, KUSHIDA and LIJ partner, Hiromu, BUSHI will look to make his name as a championship contender by pinning the IWGP Jr. Champion, Will Ospreay, even if it’s only in tournament action. Since the arrival of Hiromu last year, BUSHI has been on the backburner while Hiromu has been center stage for Los Ingobernables de Japon. Remember, not even a full two years ago it was BUSHI who held the title and while he hasn’t shown it, he must be frustrated that he was leapfrogged by Hiromu, the younger wrestler. These two will meet for the first time and in a main event, no less. Expect something special.
KUSHIDA vs SHO – 5/27
Five Prior Matches (Four w/SHO as Young Lion, One at WCPW 7/7/17)
Just like the match between Hiromu and Desperado, I had KUSHIDA versus SHO circled on my wish list before the blocks were announced. Although they’ve wrestled in singles matches before, four were when SHO was a young lion and the other was in England at WCPW. For all intents and purposes, this is a first time match. I see a lot of promise in SHO. His mat wrestling is really strong and he feels like he could be as great as KUSHIDA given a couple years experience. Both are very similar in their approach and I can’t wait to see what a match look like between the two.
Taiji Ishimori vs ACH – 5/31
One Prior Match at GFW (7/6/17)
The former NOAH tag team are on an impending collision course! These two were a very exciting team just a couple of years ago when they partcipated in both the 2016 Super Junior Tag Tournament and NVT G+ Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League. I expect them to have strong chemistry from knowing each other’s move set and am curious to see how the new Ishimori treats his former teammate.
KUSHIDA vs Dragon Lee – 6/2
First Time Ever
Two of the most exciting wrestlers, weight classes aside, squaring off for the first time and in a main event. You better grab that inhaler again! All of these big first time ever matches have set the bar extremely high this year and this is one which should certainly have no problem delivering. With the continued rumblings of KUSHIDA possibly moving to the heavyweights, I feel very fortunate that we’re being set up for this match. This is one of those locked and loaded memorable bouts.
KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi – 6/3
Eight Prior Matches (Five w/Hiromu as Young Lion)
The rivalry which took the NJPW junior division by storm last year continues into 2018. KUSHIDA has the most wins over Hiromu but since his returned from excursion, it is Hiromu who has had KUSHIDA’s number. Not only did he shock KUSHIDA by defeating him for the title at Wrestle Kingdom 11, he followed it up by pinning him in under two minutes at Sakura Genesis 2017. After two straight losses, KUSHIDA went to ROH, rebuilt himself, returned with a new finisher and found a way to beat Hiromu. Both men have a lot to prove and with the match taking place on the final night of block action, this will likely determine who goes to the finals.