New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) returns in 2017 for it’s 24th Best of the Super Juniors tournament, as 16 of the best junior heavyweights in the world compete against each other. This first day will feature eight matches between the entrants of both Block A and Block B, including “The Aerial Assassin” Will Ospreay facing off against the newest member of the Bullet Club, “The Villain” Marty Scurll, as well as a rivalry being renewed between Hiromu Takahashi and Dragon Lee. Some of the matches among the competitors of Block B will see Tiger Mask going up against Volador Jr., and the legendary Jushin Thunder Liger facing another veteran in Taka Michinoku.
+ Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll (Block A Match): while I’m still not sold on Marty Scurll in the Bullet Club, this did show me it wasn’t as bad as I expected. There was a bit too much playing to the crowd early on, especially as I think this would have been many New Japan fans’ first time seeing Scurll, though I did think many of Scurll’s mannerisms fell a bit flat. Once the early shenanigans ceased this was a fantastic match with a particularly good final sequence, and the equal best match of the night
+ Dragon Lee vs Hiromu Takahashi (Block A Match): damn, this was amazing. These two know each other very well, after their amazing Junior Heavyweight Championship match a few months ago, and this was another phenomenal outing in their history. Some strikes that made me wince just watching, and a handful of innovative callbacks to their previous meetings made for a fantastic entry into their feud; I imagine they’ll be doing this for years to come
+ Ryusuke Taguchi vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Block B Match): this was the match with the least bullshit, and in that regard it was an enjoyable watch. Some nice teasing for moments, then some big moments, and a really hyped up crowd made this fun to watch, even if the characters were not as overtly outlandish as previous matches
+ KUSHIDA vs El Desperado (Block B Match): the first match after the intermission, this was the first good match of the show. Good wrestling, some nice but not overdone shenanigans and a refreshed crowd made for a much more enjoyable watch
– Jushin Thunder Liger vs TAKA Michinoku (Block A Match): this was the first match on the show, and it was only about average. Both of these guys can do long matches, but this was decided to stay short, and in some ways that damamged the match. I understand why it was short, but it never really clicked for me
– Tiger Mask vs Volador Jr. (Block B Match): these two did not have good chemistry, and the match suffered for it. A handful of what should have been routine moments, or at least moves these two have performed numerous times, almost ended badly. This was not good, and probably the worst of this opening round
– Ricochet vs Taichi (Block A Match): there was far too much garbage rope-a-dope crap before this match got going, and that is insane, considering how damn good Ricochet is. This was another in a string of disappointing opening contests
– ACH vs BUSHI (Block B Match): for the fourth straight match, this felt incredibly underwhelming. A few big moves added some drama, but for the most part this was a by-the-numbers affair which – to use a phrase I am getting too familiar with – never clicked with me. I’m a big fan of BUSHI, and sometimes ACH, and frankly I wanted something more
Should you watch this event: This really was a show of two halves; the first four matches, all listed as negatives above, were entirely missable, whilst the following four were great. I think once the participants are switched up a bit we will see more good matches due to interesting clashes of styles, but until then just watch the second half of this show.