Subscribers to NJPW World can enjoy access to thousands of hours of footage from the NJPW World archives that stretches all the way back to the 1970s. There’s so much that it can be overwhelming! Luckily every week, njpw1972.com takes a dive in the archives and brings you context behind the matches. This week we’re looking somewhat more modern, and with a Best of the Super Junior focus.
May 18 2017: Best of the Super Sequels
When the Best of the Super Juniors lineups were announced for 2016, many had Will Ospreay versus Ricochet circled on their calendars as a match to watch, but nobody expected just how the match would explode into mainstream global consciousness. The match would go down as an all time high flying classic, and quickly became a viral sensation across the internet and beyond; the two competitors instantly became hot, controversial topics and global sensations.
Their second match in the 2017 BOSJ put both in a difficult spot; eager to not only outdo the other to victory, but also outdo their prior performances, the wrestling definition of the difficult second album. Ricochet and Ospreay walked back into Korakuen Hall and delivered a very different feel of match. With tensions thick at the opening bell, the pace at the start of the match was slower than some expected, as each man felt the other out in a long lock up and exchange of headlock takeovers.
Yet even as the pace escalated, there was more aggression to both men’s offense than was present a year before. Ricochet would coolly kick at an Ospreay who struggled to find his feet and unleashed blistering chops. When Ospreay was able to get back into the match, the offense escalated in impact and danger, until the two worked their way to the apron…
May 19 2016: Best of the Super Rookies, part 1
It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Jay White was an adored underdog, but before there was a Switchblade glint to his eye, this was a very different White.
The New Zealander had decided to relocate to the UK to make a name for himself early in the 2010s, and toiling in that scene, he would make acquaintance with Prince Devitt. Devitt would encourage White to join the NJPW Dojo, while at the same time no doubt sowing seeds with fellow Kiwi Bad Luck Fale that would see him in Bullet Club in 2018.
Years before his backstabbing and superstar success however, White was about to make his learning excursion to the US as of May 2016. One of his last tests was at Lion’s Gate, part of a series of events staged in the small Shinjuku FACE building that focused on allowing Young Lions to test themselves not just against their NJPW senpai, but against names from other promotions across Japan.
It was Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji that would stand opposite White in Shinjuku in 2016. Marufuji himself was soon to enter that year’s G1 Climax, and used this mach to send a message not just to White but New Japan at large.
May 21 2016: Best of the Super Tricksters
Two days after Marufuji and White’s spirited, sportsmanlike clash, a different kind of battle took place in Korakuen Hall. BUSHI was entering his first Best of the Super Juniors as a member of Los Ingobernables De Japon (the first time in fact that LIJ had a presence in the tournament). Gedo was entering what would be his last BOSJ as an active participant. If you know the first thing about either of these two stylistically, you’ll know that this was not an altogether clean fight.
Korakuen Hall picked their favourite though, and that favourite was Gedo. Long before he turned his back on CHAOS to join forces with the Young Lion discussed above, Gedo’s relationship with Kazuchika Okada was at its most pure, and most prosperous. There doesn’t need to be any real time translation of this video for you to feel Okada’s energy in his guest commentary role here. Try not to get too nostalgic for simpler times…
May 22 2015: Best of the Super Rookies (Part 2)
One of the many thrilling narratives that has persisted through Best of the Super juniors this year has been the journey of Ren Narita. For weeks before the tournament, BOSJ served as a beacon for Narita, a goal to work toward, but it was a beacon it seemed he could never touch. Not listed among the original 20 participants, it looked like he would have to wait another year.
Crisis for Flip Gordon though, turned into opportunity for Narita. Entered as a substitute, he’s been working as hard as possible night in and night out against top flight competition. he isn’t the first Young Lion to be in this position though. There have been several instances where BOSJ has served as the ultimate proving ground and true test of a young up-and-comer’s abilities. In 2015, that was the case for Yohei Komatsu.
At the start of 2016, Komatsu and fellow Dojo trainee Sho Tanaka would go on excursion to America and Mexico, returning as SHO and YOH, Roppongi 3K. In 2015, the future YOH would go 0-7 in his BOSJ campaign, but brought the fight every single night. See him explode out of the gates here against Jyushin Thunder Liger as Korakuen wills him on.
May 24, 1990: Best of the Super Heavies
Late May has been the place for the junior heavyweights to show their prowess every year for over a quarter century, but before then, from 1990-1992, the scales were tipped somewhat heavier.
For three years in the early 1990s, the Clash the Super Heavy tour saw an emphasis put on the biggest, the strongest and the very hardest hitting. From America at the time, no three men would tick those boxes more emphatically than Big Van Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow and Steve Williams. Bigelow and Vader were well known and feared by the NJPW fans at this point in time, but Williams was relatively new to the NJPW crowd, normally being an All Japan wrestler who first appeared on loan to NJPW earlier in the year.
In the opposite corner, three Japanese super heavyweights, as newcomer Koji Kitao was joined by Masa Saito and Shinya Hashimoto. Saito and Vader were once allies, in fact it was Masa Saito that brought Vader into NJPW as the ringer for his TPG stable. Since then though, allegiances shifted, and Saito would take Hashimoto under his wing and to IWGP Tag Team Championships. With personal issues, a spectacular sight of superhumans charging at one another, and a molten crowd, this was a phenomenal six man encounter.