NJPW Review: Best of the Super Juniors 2018 (May 18-20)

New Japan tournaments have been great lately, and this year’s BOSJ has a ton of potential. Let’s look at the first three days:

May 18

Tiger Mask vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru ***1/4 Totally solid but somewhat unremarkable. Good psychology and decent action for most of it, with a pretty interesting final few minutes.

Flip Gordon vs ACH *** Cool, unexpectedly technical (and grounded) start, but all of Flip’s acrobatics got a big reaction from the crowd once he got into them. Outside of Flip showing off spectacularly, there were long stretches of not much interesting happening, and even some of the interesting stuff approached spotfest territory. I didn’t love the finish, either.

BUSHI vs YOH ***1/2 Interesting new gear from YOH. I don’t know that I prefer it, but that’s not horribly important. This match had a really good pace and early heat. I enjoyed YOH’s offense and selling a lot, too. Some very minor sloppiness holds this one back slightly.

“Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori vs Will Ospreay ****1/4 Quick, heated start, which makes sense given how Ishimori attacked Ospreay in his debut at Wrestling Dontaku. Really cool “environmental” spot early from Ospreay, even if Ishimori seemed perhaps too obviously cooperative for it. The cooperation issue was a small problem more than once, but this was a very good match.

May 19

Dragon Lee vs SHO ****1/2 I love how this match started: high-tempo and varied in style, with a lot of near misses. This one just stayed really competitive-feeling and spectacular from start to finish. I know both guys are good but I really didn’t expect such a great match from the first BOSJ match of the show.

Ryusuke Taguchi vs El Desperado ***1/2 Really fun, but a little on the goofy side (as one might expect). That’s not to say this was a total comedy match, but it wasn’t as competitive-feeling as the previous bout. Definitely a good match, even if it really seemed to phase in and out of being goofy (rather than maintain any kind of consistent tone).

KUSHIDA vs Chris Sabin **** Awesome technical feel to this one. Something about it felt a bit “muted”, though. It’s great that this mat-based match can be in the same tournament with high-flying stuff. Lots of stylistic diversity in the BOSJ so far.

Marty Scurll vs Hiromu Takahashi ***3/4 Super fun character stuff early on. The action itself felt a little dull to me, but that may be due to the flashier matches that preceded it. Not a bad match at all, but definitely not the best of the show. Also, the second big bump from the apron to the floor scared me a bit; I’m not sure it wasn’t somewhat botched, but I don’t know. The final few minutes of this were excellent.

May 20

Tiger Mask vs YOH *** A bit so-so (if hard-hitting) to start, but the final couple of minutes were interesting.

Flip Gordon vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru ***1/2 More interesting from the opening than the previous match. I liked this match significantly more than I liked Flip’s first match, but it also felt somewhat by-the-numbers (which is almost to be expected with a smaller show like this).

BUSHI vs “Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori *** Athletic match, but not super interesting to me at first. I feel like Ishimori—whose NOAH work I’ve seen the slightest bit of—is trying too hard to inhabit this revamped “Bone Soldier” persona, and it’s getting a bit cartoony for me. Overall, this was fine. I think both are capable of much better.

ACH vs Will Ospreay ***3/4 Fun acrobatics to start, which the crowd (and I) dug. Well-paced action in a match that I liked more than ACH/Flip but less than Ospreay/Ishimori.

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