The 2017 Best of the Super Jr. tournament begins, headlined by Hiromu Takahashi versus Dragon Lee, and a mouth-watering clash between Will Ospreay and Bullet Club’s newest member, Marty Scurll.
Jushin Thunder Liger
(Winner via pinfall: Taka Michinoku)
(Winner via pinfall: Volador Jr.)
(Winner via pinfall: Ricochet)
(Winner via pinfall: ACH)
(Winner via pinfall: El Desperado)
(Winner via submission: Marty Scurll)
(Winner via pinfall: Ryusuke Taguchi)
(Winner via pinfall: Dragon Lee)
It’s tournament season in New Japan Pro-Wrestling again, with the focus this time turning to the 24th Battle of the Super Jr. As they continue their mission to make the company more global, New Japan aired this show for free online, which was a great idea but you have to wonder if not offering it with english commentary undoes the good that they’re trying to do by offering it for free to new viewers in the first place?
As far as opening days of tournaments go, this event featured a fairly consistent level of good wrestling. Taka Michinoku got the surprise win in the opening match, defeating a Jyushin Thunder Liger who always looked like he was going to take the victory. Tiger Mask and Volador Jr. put on a very good match that saw the latter take the pinfall victory.
Ricochet and Taichi never quite got going, turning out to be an average match when it could’ve been so much more. Ricochet is a great competitor, and we’ll certainly see more of that as he progresses through the tournament (he won here), but it would have been nice to see more glimpses of his quality in this match. That said, it’s Day #1, and it’s quite often the case that talents hold back at this stage.
ACH, who I’ve seen have some good matches in EVOLVE Wrestling recently, put on a strong bout with Bushi. Lots of back and forth, and ACH was definitely over with the crowd. As the match went on, I wasn’t entirely sure that ACH would win, but he eventually got the successful pin on Bushi after a very impressive final few minutes of action. Good match, and until that point, probably the best of the night.
After the interval, Kushida and El Desperado got things going again. This match contained an awful ref bump, where Kushida was clearly meant to accidentally swing El Desperado into the referee, causing the official to miss Kushida’s pin attempt, but sadly little contact was made and the Ref fell to the mat after the slightest of touches from El Desperado. But it’s professional wrestling, after all, and referee’s are made of weak stuff!
The most anticipated match of the night, at least for me anyway, was the sixth contest on the card and featured Marty Scurll’s NJPW debut versus fellow Brit wrestler Will Ospreay. This was bloody good, and took the evenings action to a whole other level. Stiff kicks and strikes, ringside action, big reversals, and more… it had a little big of everything. Scurll looked a tough bastard throughout, and he was already over with the Japanese audience before the match had even ended, so he’s got to be happy with that. Ospreay tapping out was a surprise, especially given his history in this competition, but if Scurll was going to have any kind of momentum in this wrestling company, he needed to win. This was good to watch on television, but I bet it was even better for the live crowd.
Ryusuke Taguchi verses Yoshinobu Kanemaru had the unenviable task of following the two Brits, and they unfortunately never really got near the level of quality we’d seen in the prior match. That said, they worked a quick pace, and kept the crowd engaged. Some shenanigans at the end, but Taguchi got the win much to the agreement of the audience.
The main event saw reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Hiromu Takahashi, take on Dragon Lee. The opening saw an exchange of some incredibly strong strikes, the kind you’d normally see much deeper into a main event contest, so it gave the crowd and audience at home a very quick idea of what kind of match to expect.
There were some crazy moves throughout, with one Twitter user humorously stating “Both these men are going to die on the first day” (or something along those lines!), but the exchange of multiple german suplexes was insane. Whatever one man could do, so could the other, and it meant that the eventual winner was damn hard to call, even if Takahashi’s status in New Japan Pro-Wrestling suggested he was destined to get the victory.
Several near falls later, and some huge moves, Dragon Lee got the upset and pinned Takahashi’s shoulders for the count of three. Huge moment, and one where I genuinely shouted “Oh fuck!” at my television. Hell of a main event, which is pretty much the norm for this company!
If you like tournament wrestling, you’ll enjoy this show, but if you’re short on time I’d recommend you focus your attention on Scurll/Ospreay and Dragon Lee/Takahashi. Those two matches were the standouts by a long distance, and any wrestling fans would enjoy them, even if they weren’t familiar with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Match of the Night
Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Best of the Super Jr. 24 – Day #1 Rating