New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) will continue it’s tournament season as Friday marks the official beginning of Best of the Super Juniors. The field will feature 12 competitors in one block, allowing each wrestler to face every participant until the finals. Going with the one block is reminiscent of the 2020 version of BOSJ. The names involved should not be all too shocking as COVID-19 leaves the names accessible to NJPW still limited outside of a few gaijins. No matter should be another year of great Junior’s action as one man will walk out with a shot at El Desperado and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 16. Here’s a look at each competitor of the NJPW BOSJ tournament.
Ryusuke Taguchi is a two-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and former Best of the Super Juniors winner. The respect people should have for him heading into this one should be higher than it currently is. He’s been doing far more tag teamwork over the last couple of years but is one of the options that should excite anyone heading into this one. The last time Taguchi won BOSJ was in 2012 but the opportunity to remind the world how could he can be and return to glory should not be dismissed. “Funky Weapon” is not a favorite heading in but may surprise this year when it’s all said and done.
Could this be the year of Wato? Honestly, it would not be all that shocking. Every single time we saw Master Wato compete, he gets better. The strikes are crisper, the offense has become fuller, and Wato looks like a future IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Wato competed in his first BOSJ last year, finishing with a respectable eight points but it might be his wins that are that much more impressive. Wato managed to defeat El Desperado and Robbie Eagles in the 2020 edition. Since that tournament, both of those men have gone on to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Showing that he can do pull off such big wins in his very first makes it possible that BOSJ 28 could be the year of Wato. Don’t be surprised when he finishes near the top. It’s coming.
Less than a week after losing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to El Desperado at Power Struggle, Robbie Eagles will get his chance to make up for it as he enters to Best of the Super Juniors. Eagles missed last year’s tournament due to traveling restrictions but managed to get 10 points two years ago in his first appearance. As the first junior heavyweight to be a double champion in some time, he will still have a gigantic target on his back even after losing the title. Eagles will be seen as a name for competitors to prove themselves against, meaning that Eagles will have to be the best version of himself if he wants to find success in hopes of regaining the gold.
Is it finally time for YOH? He has a lot to prove and this could be the tournament to do that. SHO turned on him during Super Junior Tag League, effectively ending Roppongi 3K. SHO would go on to further injure him in their match at Wrestle Grand Slam. YOH made his return to save Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, and YOSHI-HASHI from House of Torture at Power Struggle, doing his best to get his hands on SHO. NJPW has scheduled their next match for Dec. 11. That is the last day of this year’s BOSJ and potentially will have each other’s fates on the line. Hopefully, for his own sake, YOH focuses on winning and not revenge because there is no denying how talented he is. He’s felt like a future IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion for a while now and this might be the opportunity for him to officially breakout.
The reigning BOSJ winner feels like the favorite all over again. After having to relinquish the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship earlier this year, Hiromu Takahashi will do anything in his power to get it back. He already has two BOSJ wins to his name and would be the second man ever to go back-to-back with a win, joining Tiger Mask IV. Takahashi’s action has been pretty quiet since returning with his most notable match being against Robbie Eagles for the gold — which he lost. He competed against Tomohiro Ishii and KENTA during the G1 Climax, filling in for injured stablemate Tetsuya Naito. Other than that, it has mostly been tag team action for “The Ticking Time Bomb.” Being as fresh as ever heading into the tournament, this might be the time to expect a back-to-back with Takahashi locking up his spot at Wrestle Kingdom.
BUSHI finished with eight points last year. This was coming off his impressive 12 point outing the year prior. He’s not going to win the Best of the Super Juniors this year but he’s going to contend and pull off an upset or two. As a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, it’s almost laughable to think that him defeating anyone would be seen as an upset but it’s been a bit since he had singles success. His match with friend and stablemate Hiromu Takahashi will be the one to watch as their knowledge of each other could make BUSHI the spoiler to watch out for. There’s little chance he wins BOSJ this year but will play a key role as one of the best potential spoilers.
The new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion will enter the tournament one year removed from coming up short in the finals. El Desperado has had the best year of his career in 2021. He’s managed to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on two different occasions, won the Super Junior Tag League with partner Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship as well. All things have been up for El Desperado and he now heads into BOSJ on the run of his career. The question is if all these accolades and being the champion will help him or leave the biggest target on his back. It’s better to figure the latter which means his success might be limited enough to not allow him even more success.
If there were to be a year for him to win the tournament, it would be this one but doubtful as he heads in as the reigning champion.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru has the most experience out of anyone in the tournament this year and shouldn’t be looked over when it comes to the contenders. Sure, it isn’t too likely that a 45 year old will be able to make it to the end but Kanemaru has the resume that says otherwise. As a six-time GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion, Kanemaru has won titles at the highest level and will not be taking it easy on his fellow competitors. His win alongside tag team partner El Desperado in the Super Juniors Tag League helps bolster his case of surprising everyone this year. Expect him to finish in the middle-to-end of the block but don’t be surprised if he makes sort of run either.
DOUKI isn’t going to finish high in the block but is going to be one of the most entertaining competitors this year. If you need proof, check out his match against a returning Hiromu Takahashi from Summer Struggle. DOUKI gave it everything he had, going nearly 30 minutes before barely falling to Takahashi. He has an unpredictability to him that can allow him to get some surprise wins and show the world what he’s made of. Points might be scarce but this feels to be the tournament that he makes a lot of people notice how good he can be.
Taiji Ishimori is always a threat for success when it comes to the Best of the Super Juniors. The two-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion made it to the finals three years ago but came up short to Hiromu Takahashi in the finals. He finished second in his block behind Shingo Takagi in 2019 with 14 points. One year ago, Ishimori tied for the most points with 14 but came up short as his only losses were to Takahashi and El Desperado, the two men who would go to the finals. As he makes his return to Japan following a run in the United States as part of New Japan Strong, it’s easy to believe this will be his chance to reclaim his spot among the elite in the Junior Heavyweight division.
As a back-to-back Super J Cup winner and multi-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, El Phantasmo is looking to make the most of this year’s BOSJ. Despite all of his success in the division, he has yet to achieve the peak of winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. El Phantasmo has been going back and forth between NJPW and IMPACT this year but if he brings all of his focus with him for the tournament, he could be the winner. He’s going to finish at the top of the block and should be seen as a favorite.
Since the moment House of Torture formed, they have seemed unbeatable. That might mean it is time for SHO to take his spot atop the Junior Heavyweight division in this year’s BOSJ. SHO sneakily finished fourth in points one year ago behind El Desperado, Takahashi, and Ishimori. With this newfound confidence and the mindset to win by any means necessary, 2021 can be his year. It’s not a secret that both SHO and YOH have been viewed as potential singles champions for years now. SHO is looking to beat YOH in the race to become IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. That’s why he turned on his Roppongi 3k partner. Not simply due to YOH’s struggles but no longer wanting to carry him as he seeks his own success.
As SHO and YOH prepare to face off on the final day of the tournament, it could be what decides SHO’s fate. He’s defeated him once so if he can do it again, he feels to be a lock for the finals. The time has come for SHO to shine and BOSJ 28 feels like the place for him to grab his first major singles accolade.
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