[Please note: I did my best to get these all done on time, but I’ve missed the end of the tournament by about two days. I have no idea who wins anything, so I am still as impartial as I can be. By virtue of this being the final, there are full spoilers for the entire tournament here.]
It all comes down to this, as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual junior heavyweight round-robin tournament, the Best of the Super Juniors 26 concludes at the prestigious Ryogoku Sumo Hall. Shingo Takagi has run roughshod through the A Block, going undefeated on his path to the finals. On the B Block side, Will Ospreay has had a more difficult path, with two tough losses to Robbie Eagles and El Phantasmo. THe winner will receive a championship match against the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Dragon Lee at the upcoming Dominion event. This show will also see the debut of Jon Moxley in NJPW in the former Dean Ambrose’s first match since leaving the WWE as he faces off against Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States Championship. Hiroshi Tanahashi also returns for the first time in months as he does battle with old rival Jay White.
+ Shingo Takagi (A Block Winner) vs Will Ospreay (B Block Winner) (BOSJ 26 Final Match): this was absolutely incredible. After a few weeks or nearly nightly matches for these guys, you should know mostly what to expect, and the simple fact they are in the finals is proof enough they are two of the best juniors (read: nearly heavyweights) in the world. If this isn’t on everybody’s match of the year shortlist at the end of the year, then they weren’t paying attention
+ Juice Robinson (c) vs Jon Moxley (IWGP United States Championship): this was never going to be a technical masterpiece, and it certainly wasn’t, but holy cow what a way to make a first impressions. Moxley looked an absolute killer from his first on-camera moment, and a pretty big stylistic change to Juice proved this was no small match for him either. The crowd, particular the young women, were going crazy for Juice, and it has cemented that he absolutely can be the gaijin ace of NJPW
+ Villain Enterprises (Marty Scurll & Brody King) vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Rockey Romero): another short but fun match. King looked really good, and Romero/Marty worked well together. Okada was essentially just there for the big moments, but with Chris Jericho looming I don’t blame them for not wanting to risk him in any way. It’s just occurred to me that King is probably going to be in this year’s G1, which is fine, but I really would have loved PCO instead.
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) vs Kota Ibushi, Toa Henara & G.B.H. (Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe): this was really good from the LIJ team, and Ibushi and Henare also looked good, but I don’t think Makabe or Honma did anything. This was pretty much what you’d expect, with a solid ending stretch. Ibushi/Naito is going to be bonkers
+ Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Robbie Eagles & Taiji Ishimori) vs Ryusuke Taguchi & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH): all I wanted through the tournament was this Bullet Club trio, and I was thrilled to get it here. The Taguchi/3K team on the other side is great, too, especially as both teams mixed up some comedy with crazy triple team moves. This was a lot of fun as a match, but it also continued a really good story, and I loved it
+ Ren Narita, Jonathan Gresham & Bandido vs Shota Umino, Titan & Dragon Lee: this was short and sweet, with two of my favourites from the recent tournament. Everybody looked great here, especially Narita once again, but Bandido truly is something special. This wasn’t a match of the year, but for an opening match, it was really good
– Jay White (w/ Gedo) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: this was mostly a brawl, rather than a match, but I just could not get into it, and I attribute it solely to Tanahashi. White is a cookie cutter bad guy, though he plays it well, but I just don’t care for Tanahashi anymore. He won the G1 last year, and in the end proved he could go in a big match or two, but after his recent few months, injury included, I just have no time left for him. He is only 42 (“only”), but he either needs to take a longer time off to heal, change his style, or just go away
– Jyushin Liger, Tiger Mask & CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & DOUKI): with so many competitors, this was basically just a long-form reminder of upcoming matches. Both quintets had some good teamwork moments, but for the most part this was an advertisement for Ishii/Taichi and whatever is going to eventually happen with Liger/Suzuki. And, of course, DOUKI nearly died again
> Dominion is going to be bloody incredible.
Should you watch this event: Both of the main event matches, Juice/Moxley and Shingo/Ospreay, are fantastic, and absolutely worth your time. Okada/Romero vs Villain Enterprises was a fun tag match, and the LIJ/Ibushi and Friends match was pretty good, too. Avoid the rest, unless you are a particular fan.