The first 8 shows of the 26th Best of the Super Juniors are in the bag with 7 more on the way. With the finals inching ever closer on June 5, let’s take a moment to recap some of the best moments from the first half of the annual tournament.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Super Juniors is one of the best parts of wrestling every year. NJPW routinely turns out excellent tournaments with the G1, BOSJ, and Tag League tournaments but when the Junior Heavyweight division is given the chance to truly shine, we get an opportunity to see New Japan on a whole other level.
While the point of any tournament is to be the one who stands tall at the end, New Japan routinely does a glorious job of weaving existing stories into tournaments while creating new stories and rivalries from card to card.
Leading up to this year’s Best of the Super Juniors, SHO made it clear that he wanted one thing and one thing only – Shingo Takagi. After a series of back-and-forth matches between Roppongi 3K and LIJ’s Junior Heavyweight tandem of Shingo and BUSHI, we were no closer to figuring out who was the better bruiser in each team.
Ren Narita, a Young Lion on the rise, wasn’t initially supposed to be in the tournament. Due to visa issues affecting Flip Gordon’s availability, Narita was slotted in and has spent his first 5 matches proving to everybody that he’ll be an undeniable force once he graduates to the main card for good.
After debuting with much fanfare and picking up a tag team win over Will Ospreay prior to the tournament’s kickoff, El Phantasmo has established himself as a new top gun in the Bullet Club. With in-ring acumen as developed as his cocky attitude, ELP has quickly become one to watch.
The old guard of New Japan have come out in full force to remind the younger generation who came before them, and why they should still be considered threats in the division. Rocky Romero has turned out incredible performances, Yoshinobu Kanemaru is eking out surprise wins in true dirtbag fashion, and Tiger Mask seems more invigorated than he has been in recent memory.
On the other end of the spectrum, the newer faces in the mix have more than earned themselves consistent spots on the roster. Jonathan Gresham and Bandido have looked dominant even in their losses, and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Dragon Lee has shown why he deserves to wear the gold around his waist.
At this point in the game, only a couple of wrestlers have been fully eliminated from winning the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. As of the Korakuen Hall show on May 23, the standings are as follows:
Shingo Takagi: 10
Taiji Ishimori: 8
Dragon Lee: 6
Jonathan Gresham: 6
Tiger Mask: 4
Marty Scurll: 4
Yoshinobu Kanemaru: 4
TAKA Michinoku: 0
El Phantasmo: 10
Will Ospreay: 8
Ryusuke Taguchi: 8
Robbie Eagles: 6
Rocky Romero: 2
Ren Narita: 0