Top 5 Matches – Best of the Super Juniors 26

img_20190530_1331352228387698226276529.jpgThe Best of the Super Juniors was at the forefront of wrestling for the month of May. For the first time in the tournament’s history, there were a total of 20 wrestlers entering the fray. Divided into 2 blocks of 10, the winner of each block met in Ryōgoku Kokugikan on June 5th in front of the largest crowd for a BOSJ final in 22 years.

Along the way, each wrestler competed in 9 must-win matches if they hoped to main event in the final. With each match imperative from the first to the last, a barrage of high-caliber matches were put forward in the ring from every entrant in the tournament; from the young lion Ren Narita to the relatively unknown DOUKI to the now widely despised El Phantasmo.

From all of these matches, I’ve selected my personal top 5, but it wasn’t easy. This list has changed multiple times and I’ve been forced to leave some incredible matches off of the list. Please note, the below matches are in order of when they took place and not in any order of ranking or preference.

screenshot_20190604_1328321586222919343933675.jpgShingo Takagi vs SHO – Night 1 13/05/19
These 2 men had met a number of times in tag team action and SHO had made it very clear that he wanted to be the first person to pin or submit the unbeaten Shingo. SHO even entered this match to (awesome) new entrance music with his hair back to black and new ring gear, letting everybody know that this was not the same SHO we know from Roppongi 3K. Shingo and SHO put on an arduous hard-hitting match akin to what you might expect from the Heavyweights, with neither man willing to give up and showing the fighting-spirit that NJPW is known for. Whilst this may have been the culmination of the short rivalry the pair have had, it also felt like the beginning of a feud that could carry on for years to come.

10_05-15948185982097013953.jpgShingo Takagi vs Dragon Lee – Night 8 23/05/19
Lee is the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Shingo has never been pinned or submitted since joining NJPW in October 2018. Would this match put the first blemish on Shingo’s incredible record or would he march on and hold an important victory over the current champion? The stubborn pride of Shingo was on full show as he refused to be taken down by another Dragon. With a victory not only would his path to winning the tournament look more likely, but he’d also hold a win over the current Champion which could give him reason to challenge for the title further down the line. These 2 dragons breathed fire to ensure a deserved winner was crowned when the bell rang.

screenshot_20190604_1326403590208403707545213.jpgEl Phantasmo vs Rocky Romero – Night 9 24/05/19
This might be my personal favourite of the tournament and potentially one of my favourite matches of all time. ELP went into this match unbeaten and as the block leader whilst Rocky only had a single victory. Despite being with NJPW for 22 years, this was Rocky’s first ever singles-match main event in the iconic Korakuen Hall. The Korakuen faithful have always gotten behind Rocky and this night was no different. Turn your sound up loud for this one as the crowd and English commentary team make this match even better. This match contains some of the best in-ring storytelling you will ever see with Rocky as the scrappy underdog you can’t help but cheer taking on the cocky bravado of ELP.

screenshot_20190604_1324526402602996497709514.jpgWill Ospreay vs Ryusuke Taguchi – Night 14 03/06/19
After all triumphs and losses of the tour, it all came down to this for Ospreay and Taguchi; the winner goes on to the final. Big match Taguchi showed up for this one and pushed Ospreay to the limit, making Ospreay prove once again why he is one of the best wrestlers in the world, with Ospreay even dislocating his finger during the match. For all the laughs Taguchi gives every night, it can be easy to forget that he is an exceptional wrestler. It takes something special to have comedy spots work in such a serious match and still keep the intensity up, but that’s exactly what you get at points here.

08-95717233042544797654.jpgShingo Takagi vs Will Ospreay – The Final 05/06/19
The Undefeated Dragon vs The Assassin. On a night that had the NJPW debut of Jon Moxley it was this match that was the main event and it eclipsed everything that came before it. As soon as the final bell rang there were instant shouts claiming this as the match of the year and it’s very hard to disagree and even harder to imagine a better match taking place for the remainder of the year. This was a war. A fast-paced, heart thumping, hard hitting battle between 2 of the best wrestlers in the world today. There was considerable hype surrounding this match, so much so that it questions whether it can really live up to what everybody hopes, but without a doubt it surpassed anything that any wrestling fan could have hoped for. If you are a fan of professional wrestling, you owe it to yourself to watch this.

– @CiaranRH

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