We’re about halfway through the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament in New Japan, so I thought now would be a good time to take a look at it. The tournament has been fine so far, solid if unremarkable. The field consists of two blocks that compete in a round robin style tournament, then the winner of each block will compete in the finals. Most of these guys are unfamiliar with most people, so I’ll look at each competitor individually before giving a final rundown.
An interesting note about this tournament; this is the first Super Juniors tournament to air on New Japan World. Every match is being shown, which was mostly impossible before this because many of these matches take place on what are essentially house shows. Many are filmed with a single stationary camera and no commentary, and it’s becoming one of my favorite ways to watch wrestling. No funny cameras, no annoying announcers, no replay, just the wrestlers and crowd. I get the impression New Japan is using the Super Juniors tournament as a testing ground for the G1 Climax tournament later this summer. If every G1 match will be available like this, that would be a very good thing indeed.
Beretta – Trent Beretta wrestled briefly in WWE a few years ago. He’s one half of the tag team Roppongi Vice with Rocky Romero. He’s a capable high-flyer, but mostly unremarkable in single competition.
Barbaro Cavernario – He’s a caveman. A wrestling caveman. With a loincloth and giant club and everything. Barbaro is certainly a unique and humorous character, and has mostly wrestled in Mexico. He will do a splash from the top turnbuckle to the floor, which is insanely awesome and stupid.
Gedo – Gedo is a long time veteran, and current supporter of NJPW star Kazuchika Okada. Behind the scenes, he is also one of the head bookers of the company, and mostly uses himself to put other people over.
Yohei Komatsu – Komatsu is a Young Lion, one of the talent still in training who is there mainly to lose. However, he is clearly ready for the big time, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts winning. This probably isn’t the time though.
Jushin Thunder Liger – Liger is a legend, and has invented more moves then you or I will ever be able to name. He’s probably the biggest name in the tournament thanks to his time in WCW in the 90’s. He’s an 11 times IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, and has won this tournament three times, the first in 1992. He has done it all.
Kyle O’Reilly – O’Reilly is one of the best independent wrestlers in the world. He’s one half of the tag team reDragon with Bobby Fish, and a fantastic technical wrestler. He should provide a good counter to most of the Jr. Heavyweights, which are more high flying.
Chase Owens – Owens is a former NWA Jr. Heavyweight champion and… well, that’s about all I got for him. He’s been good in the limited stuff I’ve seen him in, but I haven’t seen a lot of him yet. This tournament should show us a lot about him.
Ryusuke Taguchi – Sigh. Let’s just get this out of the way. Taguchi’s main weapon is his ass. Like, he hits people with his ass. A lot. And it’s not like he’s Rikishi or anything. No, he’s just a normal Jr. Heavyweight, with a normal ass. Inexplicably, he’s keeps getting a lot of wins and the Japanese crowd loves him. Good for him, but ugh, I have a hard time standing him.
Mascara Dorada – Dorada is a traditional Mexican luchador, and the best high flyer in the tournament. He does some quite spectacular stuff, and will do some crazy moves off the ring ropes. Not the turnbuckle, but he will tightrope along the ropes and do moonsaults and other moves.
David Finlay – The jobber of Block B, Finlay is the son of internet favorite and current behind the scenes guy in WWE, Fit Finlay. I’ve never seen him before this tournament, but what I’ve seen so far is decent. But he’s here to lose, like Komatsu in Block A.
Bobby Fish – The other half of reDragon, Bobby Fish is equally as excellent as his tag team partner. reDragon has been very strong in NJPW, so it would not be surprising to see one or both of these guys to make the finals.
Nick Jackson – One half of the best tag team in the world, The Young Bucks. Without his brother, Nick certainly loses some of the WOW factor we’ve become accustomed to, but he’s still a fine high flyer as a singles competitor.
KUSHIDA – One of of the Timesplitters tag team with Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA is a great wrestler, and the favorite to win the whole thing. He’s come close before, and made the finals last year.
Tiger Mask – This is actually the fourth man to go by Tiger Mask, and many people do not like him. I think he’s fine, though the Tiger Mask identify is a legendary one, and hard to live up to.
Rocky Romero – One half of the tag team Roppongi Vice with Beretta, Romero is highly entertaining and quite an excellent wrestler. One of my favorite Jr. Heavyweights.
Alex Shelley – Unfortunately, Shelley was injured on the first night of the tournament, and had to pull out of the rest of his matches. Which is a shame, because he’s great. Ah well.
And that’s the whole field. There’s a lot of chaff there, several people having no chance at all of winning. In Block A, Kyle O’Reilly is a favorite, though Taguchi remains inexplicably popular and winning. Jushin Thunder Liger is a legend and always a threat to win as well. In Block B, KUSHIDA is the odds on favorite, with Dorada as another possibility. Bobby Fish, Rocky Romero, and Tiger Mask will all be fighting for third place I think, leaving Block B as the more competitive Block.
A finals match of KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O’Reilly would be a fantastic match. In the future, the winner will challenge Kenny Omega for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, and KUSHIDA would be the most logical person to challenge Omega next. KUSHIDA was my pick to win before the tournament, and halfway through he’s the points leader, so I(and everyone else who picked him, which was practically everyone) am looking pretty smart right now.