The Week that Was in NJPW History (June 8-14)

It’s a busy period for NJPW World! With the debuts of Jon Moxley and KENTA, and Chris Jericho’s actions at Dominion, plus the imminent start of the G1, new subscribers are coming in. We welcome you all, and are ready to help guide you not just to new content, but through the thousands of matches available in our archives, with this weekly look through history.

June 8, 2014: the Future of Flight

We kick off this week with a trip back to the Best of the super Junior tour, and a trip back to 2014. The story of the tournament this year was about a successful tag team, split into separate blocks, and showing just how effective they could be as singles wrestlers.

The Time Splitters, Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA, were already former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, and, destiny would have it, would earn their second reign later in June when they defeated the Young Bucks. Both were young and immensely popular talents, but many covering wrestling at the time had Alex Shelley earmarked for the run of a lifetime. In 2013, he had reached the tournament final and had Korakuen Hall willing him to success, only falling to the dominant Prince Devitt and the rapidly rising Bullet Club. 

Shelley was the favourite for the 2014 tournament, and topped B block with 8 points, while KUSHIDA, dominant, won A Block with 10. It seemed we were on our way to an all Time Splitters final, but disaster struck for Shelley. A shoulder injury in his final bloack match removed him from the rest of the tournament, meaning it was Ryusuke Taguchi and Taichi from B Block who advanced to the semi finals. 

From A Block were KUSHIDA, and Ricochet. The 25 year old was exploding on the global scene, but few predicted he would get quite this far. Ricochet got even further by defeating Taguchi, and getting to the finals on his second Super Junior attempt.  

Relive the match here!

June 9 2013: The Heat Is Real

Alex Shelley’s support in the 2014 BOSJ was rooted in a Cinderella story in the 2013 tournament cut brutally short by Prince Devitt. 

Devitt had formed BULLET CLUB with Karl Anderson, Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga a month prior, and the group were hell bent on doing what they wanted, when they wanted. Devitt more than had the talent to back his attitude up though, and went undefeated through the BOSJ block matches and semi finals. 

Arm chair bookers were, again, expecting a different match in the finals. In April, Devitt had turned on Apollo 55 partner Ryusuke Taguchi, starting the chain of events that would result in the Club’s foundation. Many had hoped to see Taguchi reach the finals of the tournament, and repeat his 2012 victory, gaining revenge over the ‘Real Rock ‘n’ Rolla’ in the process.  Yet injury struck this year too; the future master of the hip attack actually suffered a hip injury that would sideline him for several months. 

Korakuen Hall would take to Shelley, who put in a 5-2 record, one that would see him top a block that didn’t have Devitt in it. Shelley had already lost to the Irishman earlier in the tournament, and the Korakuen faithful were firmly behind Detroit’s finest to pull off an upset. 

The Bullet Club would take aim as a collective against the Motor City Machinegun, but when Devitt’s entourage was ejected, the crowd grew even more fervent. That expectation turned to raw fury however, when Devitt won and proceeded to make a mockery of post tournament tradition. Devitt had swept the table and won BOSj undefeated, before instantly challenging Hiroshi Tanahashi and later entering the G1 Climax.

Relive the match here!

June 11, 2017: Osaka Broadway

Kazuchika Okada may have come out on top after battling Chris Jericho at Dominion, but he didn’t feel like a winner afterward, the ‘Painmaker’ viciously attacking the IWGP Heavyweight Champion post match. This continued a three year rough patch for Okada when it comes to Osaka Jo Hall; in 2018 he would lose the IWGP Heavyweight Championship he had held for nearly two years straight, and in 2017, even though he left with the title, he wasn’t a winner, and nor did he feel like one. 

Kenny Omega had already taken Okada to the limit once in 2017; their Wrestle Kingdom encounter saw the Rainmaker emerge on top, but only after a 43 minute war that was the longest Tokyo Dome main event to date. Omega wanted one more shot at toppling the champion, and this time, both would push the boundaries of human endurance. 

The result was a 60 minute time limit draw; the first in an IWGP title match for over a decade. This despite a furious pace that belied the match time. By the end of the bout both were so exhausted that when Okada did have his challenger primed for a Rainmaker, Omega’s legs gave out, and he crumpled to the floor in a moment of luck that resulted in the match going the distance. While Omega didn’t win the bout, he came out of Osaka Jo Hall knowing he had the measure of the champion, and in the main event a year later, he was able to prove that point.

Relive the match here!

June 12 1990: An eye for an eye

Big Van Vader and Stan Hansen. Mention those two names together, and thoughts instantly go to February 1990, and one of the most gruesome scenes in wrestling history. Hansen was on loan from All Japan Pro Wrestling to new, and a huge attraction at Superfight in Tokyo Dome was the meeting of AJPW and NJPW’s top American monsters. An errant blow from Hansen early though led to horror as Vaders eye literally popped out of its socket. Vader, somehow, continued the match, which ended with a double countout as the referee was unable to control an unforgettable brawl. 

A rematch was inevitable, and four months later in Fukuoka, another inevitability would be that Vader would be angry and out of control from the start. Referee Tiger Hattori would have a difficult time from the outset as Vader flung chairs at the ring, and when he and Hansen finally went toe to toe, the result was brutal. Far from a wrestling clinic, the two went into a vicious fight bent on drawing blood. This they both did, and matters only escalated from there…

Relive the match on NJPW World!

June 13, 1994: Jyushin ‘Delfin’ Liger

One of the most intriguing on again off again junior rivalries of the 1990s was Super Delfin and Jyushin Thunder Liger’s in ring meetings. 

Delfin had toiled for a number of years in Mexico before returning to Japan for the Great Sasuke’s Michinoku Pro promotion. A strong talent who was just waiting for a light to be shone on him, he was the perfect entrant for Jyushin Thunder Liger to call into the Super J Cup in 1994. He instantly gained a following, not just for his in ring ability, but charisma, and ability to wrestle tough matches without taking the whole process too seriously. 

Delfin would often get under the skin of his opponents, and he certainly would with Liger. This was the case in the final of the first ever Best of the Super Juniors. Liger and Delfin had topped the single block league, sending both to the Osaka finals. Both men could make history as the inaugural BOSJ winner, but Delfin wanted to poke the bear that was Liger on his way to doing it. His half Liger mask and Liger inspired body suit were designed to draw a reaction, and Liger would certainly aggressively pursue his masked opponent. 

Who’d come out on top? Relive the match on NJPW World to find out!



text by Chris Charlton