NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 25: Competitors Primer

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Since 1994, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) has been home to one of the world’s most exciting tournaments, Best of the Super Juniors (BOSJ). It’s ranged from the 12-18 competitor range since its inception, but since 2014 it’s seemingly settled on 16 entrants, with this year’s edition following the same standard. While this year marks the 25th BOSJ, the tournament itself was the rebranding of a prior tournament, Top of the Super Juniors (TOSJ), that ran from 1988 to 1993. It’s been a measuring stick for some of the greatest Junior Heavyweights and Cruiserweights in the world, with past winners including 3x winners Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger and Koji Kanemoto, as well as such names as Chris Benoit (twice), Eddie Guerrero (as Black Tiger II), Finn Balor (as Prince Devitt), Kota Ibushi, Ricochet, Will Ospreay, and KUSHIDA (who has won two of the last three). This year’s field, which kicks off on May 18 and runs through to the finals on June June 4, is another impressive field, including some tournament debuts. Here’s a look at the two blocks and a quick profile on the entrants to Best of the Super Juniors 25.

BLOCK A

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ACH2nd Best of the Super Juniors

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Best of the Super Juniors: XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIV)

Since departing Ring of Honor in 2016, ACH has exploded on the independent scene and beyond, including taking part in his first BOSJ last year, where he was a semi-finalist. The reigning AAW Heavyweight Champion is looking for another solid showing at this year’s edition.

 

 

 

BUSHI, 6th Best of the Super Juniors, Los Ingobernables de Japon

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Best of the Super Juniors: XIX (2012), XX (2013), XXI (2014), XXIII (2016), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIII, XXIV)

Although he began with All Japan in 2007, he’s made his mark in NJPW as a member of Los Ingobernables de Japon, where he’s a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and 3x NEVER Openweight 6-Man Champion with LIJ stablemates EVIL and SANADA. The 35-year old masked Ingobernable also spent time in CMLL in Mexico, where he’s a former CMLL World Welterweight Champion. Although he’s made the semi finals the past two years, he’s hoping this year is the year he goes all the way.

Flip Gordon, 1st Best of the Super Juniors, Ring of Honor

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Best of the Super Juniors: Making BOSJ debut this year
Best Showing: N/A

Cody Rhodes‘ favorite whipping boy, Young Bucks mascot and Flat Earth enthusiast Flip Gordon makes his BOSJ debut this year. All jokes aside, Flip Gordon’s pure athleticism has skyrocketed him on the indie circuit the past year. Not only a Ring of Honor regular, Gordon has wrestled in CMLL, PWG, Beyond, RevPro, The Crash Lucha, CZW, CHIKARA, and more and he shows no signs of slowing down. He’ll be looking to make a similar impact that previous high flyers like Will Ospreay and Ricochet made on their debuts.

 

Taiji Ishimori, 2nd Best of the Super Juniors, Bullet Club

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Best of the Super Juniors: XVII (2010)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XVII)

He competed once before in 2010, but as a guest from Pro Wrestling NOAH, and made it to the semi finals. A legend in NOAH, he’s a 3x GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion and 6x GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, who left NOAH earlier this year after a 12-year career there. He’s been a part of Impact Wrestling‘s X-Division for the past year as well, where he’s also won the X-Division Championship, and just recently debuted as part of NJPW’s roster as the newest member of Bullet Club and their new “Bone Soldier”. He joins Marty Scurll as Bullet Club representatives in this year’s BOSJ.

 

Tiger Mask IV17th Best of the Super Juniors

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Best of the Super Juniors: IX (2002), X (2003), XI (2004), XII (2005), XIII (2006), XIV (2007), XV (2008), XVI (2009), XVII (2010), XVIII (2011), XIX (2012), XX (2013), XXI (2014), XXII (2015), XXIII (2016), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Won Tournament (XI, XII)

Now that Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger has retired from BOSJ tournaments after an amazing 26-tournament run, Tiger Mask IV is the senior circuit member entering his 17th. The 6x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion has won the tournament twice himself, just one behind win leaders Liger and Koji Kanemoto who have three each. The sun is setting on the 47 year old’s career, but he’s hoping he’s got enough gas left in the tank for one more tournament victory before he hangs up the legendary mask.

Will Ospreay3rd Best of the Super Juniors, CHAOS

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Best of the Super Juniors: XXIII (2016), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Won Tournament (XXIII)

Will Ospreay has dominated the BOSJ tournament since his debut in 2016, where he pulled off the upset and won in his first appearance. He made it to the finals again last year, but was bested by KUSHIDA, who had one of the best years of his career. The reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion is hungry to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of Junior Heavyweights in puroresu history and a third trip to the finals is not as far fetched as it seems.

 

YOH2nd Best of the Super Juniors, CHAOS

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Best of the Super Juniors: XXII (2015)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXII)

As a young performer with NJPW, Yohei Komatsu has been an emerging star since his Young Lion days when he debuted in 2012. He’s been tagging off and on with SHO for five years now and competed in his first BOSJ in 2015, but never seemed to push through that glass ceiling as a singles competitor. Following an excursion to Ring of Honor where he was partnered with Sho Tanaka as The Tempura Boyz, the duo regained their confidence and returned to NJPW as YOH and SHO, and mentored by Rocky Romero as part of Roppongi 3K, which resulted in two reigns as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. With his confidence now intact, YOH is looking to display his own talents as a singles wrestler in his second outing at BOSJ.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru, 2nd Best of the Super Juniors, Suzuki-gun

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Best of the Super Juniors: XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIV)

He debuted in All Japan in 1996 before jumping to Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2000, where he had a 14-year career that ended as a 7x GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. When NJPW’s Suzuki-gun invaded NOAH in 2016, Kanemaru turned on NOAH and defected to NJPW, joining Minoru Suzuki at his side, where he still remains. The 41-year old made his BOSJ debut at least year’s tournament and hopes to improve Suzuki-gun’s fortunes of late with a tournament victory to lead into the second half of the year.

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BLOCK B

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Chris Sabin1st Best of the Super Juniors, Ring of Honor

Best of the Super Juniors: Making BOSJ debut this year
Best Showing: N/A

Photo: NJPW

While his Motor City Machine Guns partner Alex Shelley has appeared in three BOSJ tournaments (XX, XXI, XXII), Chris Sabin is making his tournament debut this year. A former Impact World Champion, 8x Impact X-Division Champion, not to mention a multi-time tag team champion with Shelley, Sabin is looking to prove once again why he is one of the world’s best junior heavyweights.

Dragon Lee2nd Best of the Super Juniors, CMLL

Photo: CMLL

Best of the Super Juniors: XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIV)

This 23-year old sensation from Mexico’s CMLL is one of the world’s next great superstars. The 2x (and current reigning) CMLL World Lightweight Champion wrestles primarily in Mexico with CMLL, but he’s made appearances with both Ring of Honor and NJPW in the past, including last year’s BOSJ, where he made the semi finals. When he finally decides to test the waters with more frequency (and diversity) elsewhere in North America and beyond, this young luchador is going to be one of the world’s best luchadores.

El Desperado3rd Best of the Super Juniors, Suzuki-gun

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Best of the Super Juniors: XXI (2014), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIV)

Suzuki-gun’s younger junior heavyweight entrant is actually their most experienced (as far as BOSJ goes), El Desperado has honed his craft on both sides of the Pacific. He started in NJPW as Kyosuke Mikami before heading to CMLL for an excursion that transformed into the El Desperado character he’s more well known as now (although in CMLL, he was known as Namajague). He spent a couple years in Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he joined the invading Suzuki-gun and won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles with TAKA Michinoku. He returned to NJPW in 2017 with the stable, winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles with Suzuki-gun’s other BOSJ entrant, Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Both men will be looking to raise their stock in the Junior Heavyweight division as singles wrestlers with strong showings in the tournament.

Hiromu Takahashi4th Best of the Super Juniors, Los Ingobernables de Japon

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Best of the Super Juniors: XIX (2012), XX (2013), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIV)

Hiromu Takahashi was a top NJPW prospect when he debuted in 2010, but it wasn’t until he went on a three year excursion to Mexico in 2013 and worked with CMLL that he found his true calling. As Kamaitachi, he won the CMLL World Lightweight Championship, before returning to Japan and joining Los Ingobernables de Japon under his real name and capturing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and realized his potential (unlike Tetsuya Naito, Takahashi was never a part of the original Mexican Los Ingobernables faction). While this is his fourth BOSJ, it’s really only his second one as his true self, and he’s looking to cement himself at the top of the division like his mentor Naito rules the Heavyweight roost without the need of a championship.

KUSHIDA, 9th Best of the Super Juniors

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Best of the Super Juniors: XVII (2010), XVIII (2011), XIX (2012), XX (2013), XXI (2014), XXII (2015), XXIII (2016), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Won Tournament (XXIV, XXII)

“The Timesplitter” is one of the most underrated Japanese wrestlers of the past decade (and he’s still pretty highly rated), perhaps because his persona isn’t as flamboyant as the likes of Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito or as vicious as Minoru Suzuki. But in the ring, there are few equals for arguably the greatest MMA to pro wrestling stories in history. As steadily great he’s been for most of his career, his last year has been his greatest – a 5x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, he won two of them in the past year; he won last year’s BOSJ (his second in three years) and the inaugural Pro Wrestling World Cup hosted by Defiant Wrestling (then WCPW) in the UK; he won his first Ring of Honor title, the ROH World Television Championship, and held it for 131 days. While he’s been a little quiet of late, don’t count KUSHIDA out. He could be looking to be the first man to win back to back BOSJ tournaments since Tiger Mask IV did it in 2004 and 2005 and only the second man ever to do it. He’s due a big win and this could be it.

“The Villain” Marty Scurll, 2nd Best of the Super Juniors, Bullet Club

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Best of the Super Juniors: XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Semi Finals (XXIV)

A few years ago, you would never expect to see “Party Marty” one of the top Junior Heavyweights (and professional wrestlers) in the world, in the biggest faction in pro wrestling, and about to enter his second BOSJ tournaments as a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion himself. The current NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion (alongside Bullet Club brethren The Young Bucks) is indeed all of those things and continues to rise in popularity, as much for his ring work as his antics as “The Villain”. Marty’s fun in groups like 6-man tag action, but it’s as a singles wrestler where his nuances really shine. He’s conveniently in the opposite Block of his UK countryman and rival Will Ospreay and those two still have unsettled business from Wrestle Kingdom 12, so it’s not so unlikely it could be the first All England final at BOSJ.

Ryusuke Taguchi, 15th Best of the Super Juniors

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Best of the Super Juniors: X (2003), XI (2004), XIII (2006), XIV (2007), XV (2008), XVI (2009), XVII (2010), XVIII (2011), XIX (2012), XX (2013), XXI (2014), XXII (2015), XXIII (2016), XXIV (2017)
Best Showing: Won Tournament (XIX)

Apart from Tiger Mask IV and KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi is one of the few faces left from the older generations NJPW still competing, as most of the entrants in this year’s BOSJ tournament are younger stars or fresher faces. But Taguchi is a legend regardless of his placing this year, a 16-year staple of NJPW, a 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and a 6x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, who starred in such tandems as Apollo 55 with Finn Balor (Prince Devitt, 4x), or his pairings with El Samurai or Ricochet. While he falls in and out of comedy routines, when the bell rings, he is nothing but straight business. He could use a tournament victory to reclaim the lustre he lost when Ricochet departed last year.

SHO1st Best of the Super Juniors, CHAOS

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Best of the Super Juniors: Making BOSJ debut this year
Best Showing: N/A

Unlike his Roppongi 3k partner YOH, SHO is making his BOSJ debut this year, following an impressive past year that saw them win two IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. Much like his partner YOH, SHO never made much noise as a singles wrestler, which is why the two have been paired together since 2013, including a 2016 excursion to CMLL as Fujin & Raijin and their following 2016 through 2017 excursion to Ring of Honor as Tempura Boyz. They’ve regained their swagger since returning to NJPW last year and now look to make some noise as singles as well, with both men entered in this year’s BOSJ.

Photo: NJPW

So who’s your pick to win the NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 25 this year? Who’s your dark horse? Let us know in the comments below!

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