NJPW Review: Best of the Super Juniors 2018 (May 22-27)

Did you miss our first BOSJ post? Here it is. But this is a new batch of matches!

May 22

Chris Jericho & Tetsuya Naito Promo Really good trash-talking from Jericho. You can tell how much he enjoys being able to swear at his opponent. It almost gets a bit silly. ****1/4

Chris Sabin vs SHO I absolutely loved the psychology in this match. Everything just made sense and was performed well at a perfect pace. Not the flashiest match, but plenty of drama to enjoy. However, I will say that I thought their strike exchange (complete with firing up) came across as almost silly. Just not the best example of a bread-and-butter component of Japanese wrestling; that’s all. By no means did that weakness ruin an otherwise superb match. ****

Dragon Lee vs Ryusuke Taguchi Some fairly funny antics before the opening bell. The silliness didn’t stop after that and—while I totally have room in my heart for comedy matches (even during prestigious tournaments, see: Yano/Omega from last year’s G1 Climax, which I loved)—this match just wasn’t my thing. They definitely had the crowd loudly behind them, though.

KUSHIDA vs Marty Scurll I liked some of the mat-based stuff in this, especially an extended head-scissors sequence. There was a lot of comedy in this match, though, and—as with Taguchi/Lee—I just don’t think all of it worked. I wasn’t in a dour mood when I watched or anything; it just wasn’t working for me along that axis, outside of some exceptions like when Scurll taunted Liger. I thought the final minute was fantastic, but this match felt so long that I thought they were going to a horribly telegraphed time limit draw. I was ready to complain about how—while I think time limit draws are useful and maybe these are two guys who really should go to a draw—the match felt too slow. I still feel that way about the pace of the match, even if one of them left with two points (maybe more so, actually). ***1/2

Hiromu Takahashi vs El Desperado Really heated immediately, with a pretty spectacular running dropkick spot in the crowd by Hiromu. A really good match; every single moment was meaningful and the bout was exceptionally intense throughout. ****1/4

May 24

BUSHI vs Tiger Mask Somewhat heated but really nothing special. Very cut-and-dry hold-based wrestling (like, borderline WWE-style). Borderline night off for both guys.

ACH vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru Significantly better than the previous match. A decent pace towards the end, and solid drama throughout. ***1/4

Flip Gordon vs Taiji Ishimori Good fire from both guys early. The action stayed pretty compelling throughout and the finish is interesting, but it was a fairly short match that didn’t seem like the best offering these two are capable of. Totally effective match, though; I don’t mean to suggest they did a bad job. ***1/2

WIll Ospreay vs YOH Easily the most fun match of the show, with YOH offering homages to Nakamura and Ospreay deploying some antics of his own before the match became the more serious, athletic display one could expect between these CHAOS stablemates. Midway through the match, the pace sagged a bit and there was a little bit of sloppiness (like an off-center dive by Ospreay), but nothing horrible. By the finish, this match showed off some unexpected or otherwise spectacular spots (including a pretty scary top rope slip-up, honestly). Pretty great finish to the show, missteps aside. ****

May 25

Chris Sabin vs Marty Scurll Scurll was very funny early on, with his comedy working much better for me than a lot of the silly stuff that’s gone on in this tournament. Chris Sabin gets in on the fun a few minutes in, and—while I understand if people don’t want comedy in these tournaments—I can dig it if it’s done well and it doesn’t feel out of place. When the comedy became less of an emphasis, the wrestling was very good (approaching or achieving “great” in spots). ***3/4

KUSHIDA vs Ryusuke Taguchi This match was actually really good but it was extremely short. I won’t spoil it for anybody interested, but it excelled for what it was, I think.

SHO vs El Desperado There wasn’t anything wrong with this, but it wasn’t either guy’s best of the tournament to date. Good psychology throughout; just a bit on the flat-ish, “filler” side, I’d say. ***1/4

Dragon Lee vs Hiromu Takahashi Hard-hitting stuff immediately, including a brutal apron spot taken by Dragon Lee. Totally a good match; just not my favorite so far from either, and some of the stuff Dragon Lee took just looked unsafe to a distracting degree. ***3/4

May 26

Flip Gordon vs Tiger Mask Really not bad, but not very interesting for most of it. There just wasn’t much of a story to this match until the final couple of minutes, but those minutes were good. ***

ACH vs YOH Crisp, swift action from the very beginning. Some really good psychology too, with ACH’s bad shoulder providing a solid basis for drama. The intensity of this one really ratchets up nicely and the crowd is right there with them the whole time, resulting in a pretty fantastic match. ****

Taiji Ishimori vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru Nice quick start like with the previous match. Kanemaru and Ishimori get into some clever, interesting spots really early and make this match feel very competitive and fluid. Both guys did a really good job here. ***3/4

Will Ospreay vs BUSHI Another quick start, with a bit more in the way of acrobatics than matches earlier on the card (which can be expected from Ospreay in particular). The plot of this match was pretty great, and both guys had the crowd super fired up. ****

May 27

Marty Scurll vs El Desperado Really solid with good psychology, and it actually got very interesting in regard to how the match focused on specific body parts and weapons, though I got pretty worried about a chair spot El Desperado took in the corner. It looked pretty rough. I thought the final two minutes were really good, and the crowd was eager to have fun with this one. ****

Chris Sabin vs Dragon Lee I continue to really appreciate the more mat-based Sabin offerings, though Dragon Lee’s style offered a contrast to that in the same match. A very good match, but not the best of these two final nights of this batch. ***1/2

KUSHIDA vs SHO Especially given the great matches these two have had so far in the BOSJ and how well their styles mesh, it was easy to be excited for this match. The mat-based stuff in this almost made it feel like an old UWFi shoot-style match, which was cool to see. As much as I like that carefully-paced style, I do think this lost some steam midway through in a way that can’t simply be chalked up to a decision to have a slower match. ***3/4

Ryusuke Taguchi vs Hiromu Takahashi Very competitive-feeling from the opening bell, with a serious tone rather than some of the goofiness one sometimes gets from Taguchi. This was very good (especially with how many ways Taguchi caught Hiromu in an ankle lock), but it didn’t have the intensity or pacing of better Hiromu matches from this tournament so far. The crowd was absolutely loving this match, though. ***3/4

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