New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Best of the Super Juniors 25” tournament has concluded, and will go down in wrestling history as one of the most impressive BOSJs in years. Not all fans, however, had the schedule or the desire to wake up at laughably early hours for two and a half weeks to follow the entire tournament. “I want to catch up on some of this, but I just don’t know where to start!” Keep reading, friends, for this article will help guide you in your match-watching decision-making!
The match recommendations are not based on star rankings, or any other technical method. It’s my article, so it’s my opinions. Your mileage may vary. At least one match was selected from each night of the tournament, so if you would rather skip one, by all means, do. It’s been a few days, and social media is a thing, so some spoilers are included here. These are the matches that felt, for one reason or another, can’t-miss.
Night 1, 5/18, Block A:
Will Ospreay v “Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori
This match was probably the most anticipated of the opening round, and with good reason. Ishimori debuted by manhandling champion Ospreay immediately after the latter succeeded in a grueling title defense, and this match would give us a taste of what was to come. Ospreay came into the match with a well-known neck injury, and did little to compensate for it by altering his style. He essentially made Ishimori’s job easier, not that the challenger wasn’t threatening enough in his own right. Ishimori has done what no one else has – caused Will Ospreay to feel fear. Ospreay’s own words later confirm this. Seeing how this plays out down the road will be interesting, whether the title is involved or not. Ishimori has a win over Ospreay, and if Ospreay loses the title at Dominion, Bone Soldier can still cash in that win and challenge him at any point that suits him.
Night 2, 5/19, Block B:
SHO v Dragon Lee
SHO is viewed by many as the break-out star of Roppongi 3K, as well as of this tournament, and this was his first singles match in BOSJ to prove it. To say that he delivered was an understatement. Dragon Lee is so good against almost everyone, and this match was no exception. Both guys bring the power game, with some speed and high-flying thrown in. Three guesses who excelled at the latter, and the first two don’t count. These two clicked extremely well, and they definitely need to fight again. And again. And again.
Night 3, 5/20, Block A:
BUSHI v “Bone Soldier Taiji Ishimori
The closing stretch of this match is what makes it must-see. The rest of it is good, but the ending makes it better. Check it out. Ishimori gets the win in the end, but BUSHI is no slouch here. The low man on the LIJ totem pole and resident Style God is in strong form against the Bullet Club’s new monster, and more than once, you completely believe that he’s going to steal a victory.
ACH v Will Ospreay
ACH has had a bone to pick with Will Ospreay since the BOSJ press conference, and he brought it to the champ in this match. Ospreay needed a win after falling to Ishimori, and he got it here, but ACH made him work for it, and work very hard. ACH looked right at home against Ospreay, which is never a bad thing. Go, go, ACH!
Night 4, 5/22, Block B:
Chris Sabin v SHO
BOSJ 25 is in many ways the Chris Sabin Redemption Tour, in that much of the viewing audience didn’t expect a lot from a tag team specialist with 18 years of professional wrestling mileage on his body. This match was one of many that proved that mindset wrong. Those who followed Sabin’s earlier career remember his outstanding X-Division singles matches in (then) TNA Impact, as well as his world title reign, and he played a similar role in the Motor City Machine Guns to that which SHO currently plays in Roppongi 3K. Both were the power guys of their teams, with some high-flying athleticism sprinkled in. The post-match interaction between the two is fantastic, and a pretty emotional moment.
Hiromu Takahashi v El Desperado
This match is absolutely amazing, and if you haven’t seen it yet, GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW!!! These two fight all over the building, with Hiromu throwing that John Woo running dropkick from one end of the walkway to the other. The hatred between the two is palpable, and not becoming emotionally invested in this match is simply impossible. Despy is particularly vicious, and uses chairs like no one else. He takes the victory here, proving that while Hiromu has come a long way since the two met, he is still Despy’s plaything. Make sure to watch Despy’s backstage promos on Youtube. He is really something else.
Night 5, 5/24, Block A:
Will Ospreay v YOH
This was the only tournament match where stablemates clashed, and while Ospreay’s victory was never in doubt, YOH put up a good showing against the champ. That YOH comes so close to winning in the matches that he does lose helps to rally the audience behind him, and when he does score a victory, they go as crazy with ecstasy as he does. This was very good. SHO is getting all of the accolades as the break-out star of the tournament, and the future Ace, but YOH hasn’t had opponents that play to his strengths in the way that SHO has. This match is a step in the right direction.
Night 6, 5/25, Block B:
KUSHIDA v Ryusuke Taguchi
Spoiler. Taguchi beats KUSHIDA in one minute and thirty-four seconds. So why is this barely-a-match listed here? This type of crazy upset has happened once before, when – you guessed it – KUSHIDA lost to Hiromu Takahashi in under two minutes. This match was even shorter, but look at the context. KUSHIDA uses the number 94 to refer to his name, or at least the “KUSHI” part. 94 is KUSHIDA. Taguchi beat him in exactly 94 seconds, if you time it from the end of the start bell ringing to the end of the three-count. That they could pull that off is unbelievable. I timed it four times. They did it.
SHO v El Desperado
These two have been embroiled in the war over the junior heavyweight tag team titles, so this match carried more personal animosity than most of SHO’s matches. He wasn’t just about proving himself here, he was about getting even with the person who took his title and continued to defeat him through nefarious means. Both wrestlers are stand-outs of the tournament, so seeing them face each other in a singles match is particularly enjoyable. This match proves even more completely that El Desperado is a horrible, horrible person. You’ll probably like him for it.
Dragon Lee v Hiromu Takahashi
As if these two could have any match that was less than outstanding. They are wrestling soulmates who can fight off and on for the entirety of their careers. This match absolutely earned its main event spot, and everything that we love about this life feud was there – emotional intensity, hard-hitting brawling, acrobatics of questionable sanity, and evidence that they know each other oh so well. This was just great.
Night 7, 5/26, Block A:
“Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori v Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This match is included more for the story told than the match itself, though the match itself is not at all a bad one. Kanemaru is the most decorated junior heavyweight in Pro Wrestling NOAH history. He was the first junior champion, and had the most title reigns. Ishimori was the number two guy, and had the longest junior heavyweight title reign. In all of Ishimori’s career, he has never defeated Kanemaru in singles competition. Kanemaru has beaten Ishimori a whopping eleven times over the years. That Kanemaru is Ishimori’s Kryptonite is the point here, and that would have been a story much better told if it were Ishimori’s only loss. His loss to Flip Gordon seems even more pointless in this context.
Will Ospreay v BUSHI
This match is included because the champ took another loss here, and that’s important. It’s a good match, but BUSHI spitting mist on Ospreay makes some people very happy. If you watch the post-match promo, Ospreay seems to be trying to reach “Boondock Saints” levels of swearing, and if it came off as at all natural, it might have worked. In any case, the closing sequence of this one was really fun.
Night 8, 5/27, Block B:
KUSHIDA v SHO
This match is like nothing else in the entire tournament. No going outside of the ring, no high-flying, and the only pinfall attempt was the one that ended the match. This was a very technical, MMA-style match that may prove more enjoyable for those who like and know about MMA than those who don’t. It’s one of the more memorable matches of the tournament, and it reminds everyone of just how good KUSHIDA is, while proving that SHO is a huge star in the making.
Night 9, 5/29, Block A:
ACH v BUSHI
As damaged and bandaged as ACH is throughout this tournament, he tries to fight as though he weren’t. This match was pretty good, and their styles mesh well.
Night 10, 5/30, Block B:
KUSHIDA v El Desperado
“I’m KUSHIDA, and welcome to ‘Jackass!’” There really is a moment for that. Most of El Desperado’s matches are very good to outstanding in this tournament, and while not quite on the level of his match with Hiromu, this one is definitely worth your time.
Night 11, 5/31, Block A:
ACH v “Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori
These two used to be tag team partners, and Ishimori has apparently turned to the Dark Side. ACH mentioned in the press conference that he would like to believe that a part of his friend was still in there somewhere, but he really didn’t know. Matches between former tag team partners who are now at odds add psychological layers that other matches don’t have, and with Ishimori set up as a monster (with one glaring exception), seeing how well ACH could stand against him was compelling. If you don’t like that sort of story, then you might not care about this match.
YOH v Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This match is listed because YOH scores a win in a main event. His post-match celebration is beautiful. SHO and YOH both had much to prove in BOSJ, and while SHO has (justifiably) received more and stronger accolades, YOH should not be ignored. If you aren’t a fan of his/Roppongi 3K, or don’t enjoy watching the progression of recently-returned Young Lions, then you might not like this match as much.
Night 12, 6/2, Block A:
SHO v Hiromu Takahashi
Great intensity from SHO, trying to prove himself worthy. He kicks out of some of Hiromu’s best moves, and genuinely feels like a main event guy. Hiromu has to lock in his new triangle choke, “D,” three times before finally taking SHO down. Fantastic stuff.
KUSHIDA v Dragon Lee
This match lacked the emotional power of the previous match, but was worthy of its main event status, all the same. Each man had scouted his opponent well, and the reversals and counters are great.
Night 13, 6/3, both blocks:
Tiger Mask v ACH (Block A)
This match is listed purely because we get to see ACH pay tribute to one of his biggest wrestling influences by wearing a Tiger Mask mask to the ring, then trying to beat him using his own moves. The post-match interactions between them after ACH steals a victory over one of his biggest idols are lovely and genuine, and just the kind of thing that we don’t observe very often. Watching the match is worth it for that.
Dragon Lee v El Desperado (Block B)
Wow, this got nasty. El Desperado disrespected the Shibata gear that Dragon Lee was wearing, so things were heated and hateful right away. It got much worse. Dragon Lee ripped El Desperado’s mask most of the way off, and Despy spent most of the match covering his face with his hair, and pulling the remnants of his mask back into place. This was Good Lucha versus Bad Lucha, and Bad Lucha employed extensive use of chairs. Good Lucha employed Shibata moves. Despy pulled Dragon Lee’s mask completely off at the end, then took great offense that the Young Lions rushed to cover Lee’s face, but had not done so for him. This match led to the challenge and acceptance of a “mask versus mask” match between the two in the future, so we now have that to anticipate.
YOH v “Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori (Block A)
This was YOH’s break-out match. His star-making moment came in his defeat, and he really stepped it up here. Though Ishimori’s victory was pretty much a give, YOH employed counters, roll-ups, and strategic cunning that made you think that he just might do it. Will Ospreay stood at ringside, theoretically supporting his CHAOS stablemate, but in reality, desperate for Ishimori to not make the finals. The expression of despondence mixed with fear on Ospreay’s face when Ishimori scored the three-count said it all.
KUSHIDA v Hiromu Takahashi (Block B)
This match determined the winner of Block B, and the other half of the finals match. While spending a solid five minutes on a collar and elbow tie-up sounds horribly dull, it was anything but. These two built off of their previous matches in new ways, and the intense drama of their rivalry created one of the best matches of the entire tournament. This was just great.
Night 14, 6/4, finals:
ACH, Dragon Lee, Ryusuke Taguchi, & KUSHIDA v BUSHI, SANADA, EVIL, & Tetsuya Naito
This is the only non-tournament match on the list, and it’s on here because it’s so utterly FUN! Sometimes we just need wrestling to be fun, and that’s ok. LIJ multi-man tags are usually very good to great, and this one was more to the great side. Everyone out of tournament contention was clearly having the best time. ACH and KUSHIDA wore Naruto headbands, ACH photobombed Dragon Lee during the entrance, and Taguchi was Taguchi. ACH started dancing to Naito’s entrance music, and that became a whole pre-match segment on its own. The match itself was very well done, and enjoyable on its own. Post-match, the LIJ victory brought another Chris Jericho video promo. Naito’s reaction to it is predictably gold.
“Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori v Hiromu Takahashi
So much has been written and said about this match. All of it is true. This is the closest thing to a perfect wrestling match that has come around in some time. Yes, that includes all of the heavyweight title matches. This match was just over half an hour of crazy action of every variety, one of the most passionate audiences anywhere, outstanding work, and pretty much anything that a fan could ever want from a wrestling match. If you choke up and find that your room is unexpectedly dusty during the post-match doings, that’s ok. It’s not just you. If you watch nothing else from BOSJ, watch this match, and watch it NOW!
This is not to say that any matches not listed here are terrible, or not worth watching. Far from it. If you’re on limited time, and want to catch up on BOSJ before “Dominion” gets here on Saturday, then starting with these is merely a suggestion. By the way, “Dominion” is on Saturday.
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