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NJPW ‘BOSJ 26 B Block Grades’

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With the Best of the Super Juniors 26 block action in the books, it’s time to grade each performer. Each participant had a different role than the next so each will be graded off of their respective role. If they had a main event and failed to perform up to that level, the grade will reflect on that situation. Let’s get started!

Will Ospreay
The workhorse of the block was unsurprisingly Will Ospreay but what was surprising was his match positioning. Night in and night out he was out-performing the main event and in matches that exceeded the main event in length. This made the B block shows feel wonky but the card order can’t be blamed on Ospreay. The guy was an absolute beast each and every night, always going out there and giving his best. Almost every B Block highlight can be credited to Ospreay.

Starting with BUSHI and ending with Ryusuke Taguchi, every Ospreay match was great. Nearly every night he stole his block’s show. His highlights were a high-flying classic with Bandido, getting Taguchi’s best match in at least twelve months and possibly Rocky Romero’s best singles match of his career. The only possible thing you can nitpick on Ospreay is he outclassed every Taguchi main event but Ospreay was the lifeblood of this block and it would’ve suffered severely without him.

Grade: A+

Ryusuke Taguchi
One of the biggest hang ups about the B Block was the amount of matches that saw Taguchi in the main event. In four out of his five main events he was out-performed by Will Ospreay in the semi-main event. The one match he wasn’t out-performed, Ospreay was his opponent. That said, the blame isn’t solely on Taguchi. In those main events he had three inexperienced men in that position and BUSHI. Still, this was a glaring issue the entire tournament.

The times Taguchi was able to wrestle workhorses like Bandido and Robbie Eagles, the matches were a success. Those matches had less pressure because they were main events but a case can be made that those two would succeed better in that role than BUSHI, DOUKI and El Phantasmo did. Taguchi’s big saving grace was his final match with Ospreay. Those two tore it up which was something Taguchi’s tournament desperately needed.

Grade: D+

YOH
The half of Roppongi 3K most consider to be the weaker of the two, YOH came in somewhat under the radar. His tournament started with a good, albeit underwhelming match, at least for a main event. Next was a match with Bandido that earned criticism for an overly long spot where he was draped over the ropes for far too long. Like everyone else, he rebounded in his match against Will Ospreay. This was YOH’s highlight of the tournament and showed his big match potential. He followed up with a pair of strong matches with Rocky Romero and DOUKI but then began to fall apart.

A weak match with BUSHI that was stalled by an overly long STF, a bad match layout with El Phantasmo and looking outclassed on the mat by both Ren Narita and Robbie Eagles. YOH didn’t end his tournament the way you’d want a future star to look. He didn’t seem to rise to his opponents level in the later stages and that being your final impression is not what you want. That’s two years in a row where YOH has left me thinking “maybe next year”.

Grade: C-

El Phantasmo
The newest member of the Bullet Club had a lot of hype coming off his Dontaku appearance where he pinned and tea bagged Will Ospreay. ELP was thrown into the deep end and told to keep his head above water. On some nights he was successful but others not so much. When he was allowed to shine by showing off his high-flying ability he was great but he stumbled when he had to showcase his character work. There were moments so bad that he made Tama Tonga look like a great heel.

Matches with Bandido, Will Ospreay and Rocky Romero were his positive standouts but it’s a mixed bag when you add in the ones with BUSHI, YOH and Ryusuke Taguchi. You took the good with the bad when it came to ELP. His crowd work is really bad but his athletic ability is very strong. I don’t see a future for him in Bullet Club. One tour in and he’s already got go-away heat from a large portion of the fans.

Grade: C

BUSHI
BUSHI began his tournament with Will Ospreay and the two had a much better match than their encounter from last year’s tournament so he started off on the right track. In typical BUSHI fashion, he followed that match up with a pair of forgettable bouts against El Phantasmo and Ryusuke Taguchi. This is about the time I normally give up on BUSHI but he fired back on the first night of the Korakuen run with his tournament highlight in a match with DOUKI. They had an intense seven minute sprint that brought out the aggression BUSHI tends to lack. His intensity carried over into the next night against Robbie Eagles, where he had another sprint. The match may have not reached the highs of the DOUKI encounter but for BUSHI it was nice to see the fire.

I knew better than to get caught up by two nights of fiery BUSHI and his next match proved me right when he faced off with YOH. The match went twelve minutes and all the momentum was killed due to a long STF stretch. BUSHI would rebound with solid bouts against Bandido, Rocky Romero and Ren Narita but he peaked on that first night at Korakuen Hall. He had two great matches against Ospreay and DOUKI which, if graded on the BUSHI curve, is better than what I had expected. This was a fine tournament for a fine wrestler.

Grade: C-

Bandido
Bandido was an expected addition to the tournament once it was announced he had sign with ROH. After he was added to the MSG show for the junior title, it was a foregone conclusion he’d be involved. Being one of the hottest wrestlers on the U.S. scene, expectations were high. He was able to showcase early and often, this felt like Bandido’s coming out party every single night. His match with Narita showed that even as an outsider he can provide a dojo boy the best match of his career.

The match everyone had circled was of course his showdown with Will Ospreay. They delivered an absolute classic match in the realm of high-flying wrestling and the next night he showed his comedy chops in a match with Ryusuke Taguchi. In a span of three days he highlighted a young lion, had a high-flying classic and was able to stand his ground with the comedy stylings of Taguchi. He finished with BUSHI, Robbie Eagles and Rocky Romero, all strong matches to close his tournament. Bandido showed he will be a fixture in BOSJ for years to come.

Grade: A

Robbie Eagles
There was a lot of hype surrounding Eagles’ inclusion in this year’s tournament, most notably his match against Will Ospreay. Despite being a part of the Bullet Club, Eagles steered clear of the shenanigans and decided to fight clean. El Phantasmo came in to interfere during the match with Ospreay but Eagles made it clear that wasn’t his plan. When El Phantasmo wasn’t interrupting his matches, Eagles showed a great technical ability. He started off with a pair of strong bouts with Romero and Narita before a shenanigan Bullet Club clash against ELP.

His tournament picked back up in the Korakuen run against Taguchi, BUSHI and DOUKI. In each match he was able to showcase his technical side and had a great show of determination against DOUKI where Eagles’ hair was blood soaked early on but managed to fight through the pain. The match against Ospreay was his highlight both in ring as well as the overarching story of his conflict within the Bullet Club. Eagles finished off with a pair of strong matches to close out what was an overall strong tournament for him.

Grade: B+

Rocky Romero
Romero’s inclusion was a surprise when the block participants were announced. Mostly known as a tag wrestler, Romero had taken most recent BOSJs off but he proved to be one of the tournament’s highlights. He started with a strong match against Robbie Eagles and then immediately into one of the tournament’s best matches in a bout with Will Opreay. The match showed fans that Romero is going to give his all to prove he belongs in the conversation of the best junior heavyweights.

He had a series of fine to good matches between Ren Narita, YOH and Ryusuke Taguchi where he was able to showcase both his technical ability along with his comedic side. His tournament then picked back up in a match against El Phantasmo where Romero again became a highlight. Romero was the main event at Korakuen Hall in a singles match for the first time in his twenty year career and the match saw him in a gritty war with an undefeated Bullet Club bully, a match Romero was able to win. He closed out strong against DOUKI, BUSHI and Bandido and when you pair those matches with his highlights against Ospreay and ELP, there’s no question Romero had a wildly successful tournament.

Grade: A

DOUKI
A late entrant in the tournament due to the injury to El Desperado, the big question coming in was “who is DOUKI?” and early on, the answer was disgusting. He started with a match against Ren Narita where he needed the help of Taichi and Suzuki-Gun shenanigans to beat a young lion. His next match was a main event with Ryusuke Taguchi where he again was helped out by Taichi who kept stealing DOUKI’s thunder and killing any interest in the man as his own wrestler. After two matches filled with Taichi, DOUKI was finally able to wrestle on his own merit.

He started with Bandido and had a run against BUSHI, YOH, Eagles and Romero where he was able to shine as a singles competitor. In all four matches, DOUKI wrestled with an edge and extreme lunacy, highlighted by senton off the top rope to the floor. Taichi got involved again in the later stages of the tournament in the match against Will Ospreay but DOUKI’s four match run was a serious highlight of the undercard for anyone who paid close attention. Considering no one knew this man coming in, his performance can’t be seen as anything other than a success.

Grade: B-

Ren Narita
Like DOUKI, Narita was a late entrant due to an injury, his specific to Flip Gordon, but unlike DOUKI we knew what to expect from Narita. The young lion spent his tournament showing off his technical prowess and sometimes managed to outclass the dojo graduates. His tournament began on a low point, getting beat up by Taichi and DOUKI, but his next match he was able to showcase in front of his hometown who were extremely vocal in their support for the local up-and-comer. Once the Korakuen run hit is when Narita really took off. You can put his matches with Bandido and Will Ospreay up against the vast majority of his block and, other than the trunks, you’d have no clue he was a young lion. You could not have expected anything more than what you got from Narita.

Grade: A

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for FightboothPW.

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