There were 88 matches over the course of 15 nights of action in this year’s NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 tournament. But if you’re planning on catching up or want to do a binge watch, you certainly don’t need to watch all 88.
Through my coverage for the website, I watched everything and give you my best of the best in order of when they happened (with spoilers).
Night 1: Shingo Takagi vs. SHO
The semi-main event stole the show on the first night of the tournament. SHO kicked out of Shingo’s Pumping Bomber twice, but had no answer for Last of the Dragon.
Night 4: Robbie Eagles vs. Ren Narita
Eagles and Narita faced off in Narita’s hometown of Aomori on night four. Narita had his parents in attendance, and there were signs passed out to the crowd to support him. Eagles ultimately won with his secondary finisher (Turbo Backpack) but not before the competitors had the crowd believing that a Young Lion could pull off the upset.
Night 4: Will Ospreay vs. Rocky Romero
The main event on this show was Ryusuke Taguchi vs. DOUKI. DOUKI. He had no hopes of following Romero and Ospreay who tore the house down for more than 25 minutes.
Night 8: SHO vs. Marty Scurll
SHO makes his second appearance on our list, this time with the leader of Villain Enterprises. They went on in the middle of the lineup, but had a match that would not have been out of place in the main event spot on most shows. In most tournaments, this would have been a best match candidate. Instead, they just had a great match on a great night of action.
Night 8: Will Ospreay vs. Bandido
This was everything you would expect from two of the top guys in the world. Both are on the cutting edge when it comes to innovating moves, and they delivered a state of the art performance in the semi-main event.
Night 8: Shingo Takagi vs. Dragon Lee
They had the unenviable task of following a Will Ospreay match. Still, the then-unbeaten Shingo and the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion turned in a classic performance in Korakuen Hall.
Night 9: Will Ospreay vs. Ren Narita
This was the Eagles vs. Narita match turned up to eleven. Ospreay gave Narita a lot of offense, and the crowd in Korakuen absolutely bought a backslide from Narita as a potential finish in the closing exchange.
Night 9: Shingo Takagi vs. TAKA Michinoku
TAKA’s tournament was cut short due to injury, but not before he turned in a great performance against The Dragon. They worked this as a sprint, going just over a memorable seven minutes. TAKA broke out a moonsault off the post before falling to the Last of the Dragon.
Night 9: Dragon Lee vs. Titan
It was an up-and-down tournament for Titan. He had some good matches, but also a series of forgettable ones. This one was the former as he worked with a familiar opponent who was well-equipped to work his style. After not seeing him for a couple of tours, I had forgotten, and was reminded, that Dragon Lee is one of the best guys in the business.
Night 9: Rocky Romero vs. El Phantasmo
In what was billed as Romero’s first singles main event in Korakuen Hall, the veteran created a night to remember. They nearly went the full thirty minute time limit before Romero pulled off a bracket-busting upset. Technically, there may have been better matches in the tournament. Emotionally, there may not have been.
Night 10: Robbie Eagles vs. Will Ospreay
I came into this tournament with one impression of Eagles and left with a completely different one.
For lack of a better term, I had thought that he was just a warm body that could do a 450 splash. As it turns out, he is as fundamentally sound as anyone and a spectacular worker. If you know the story of Ospreay and Eagles, and how Ospreay got him into NJPW, this probably meant more to you than if you were watching without that backstory. If you watched the last match these two had in Australia, even more so.
Night 11: Taiji Ishimori vs. Tiger Mask
The psychology of this match was excellent. Ishimori needed a win to stay alive, Tiger knew that, and threw everything he had at him. It felt as though these were two athletes trying to win a legitimate competition.
Night 12: Will Ospreay vs. DOUKI
By this point in the tournament, I had my mind made up on DOUKI and thought he was easily the weakest performer in the tournament. After his match with Ospreay, I decided that he can be carried. This was just another day at the office for Ospreay, but he probably gave DOUKI the best match of his life. Again, Ospreay stole another show in the semi-main position.
Night 13: Dragon Lee vs. Marty Scurll
Only Takagi and Ishimori were still alive in A Block by this time. Still, Dragon and Scurll put forth a great effort on the final night of their block. Scurll is very detail-oriented as evidenced by the series of intricate counters, reversals, and teases on display here. While it may not strike you at first, Scurll is also an awesome base for high flyers like Dragon.
Night 13: Shingo Takagi vs. Taiji Ishimori
Ishimori injured his neck earlier in the tournament in a match with Scurll when he landed awkwardly on a botched move. That injury played into the story of the match. Despite being clearly banged up, Ishimori kept pace with Shingo, and they had a speed vs. power battle for the right to advance to the final.
Night 15: Will Ospreay vs. Shingo Takagi
They had to follow the debuting Jon Moxley and Juice Robinson who pulled out all the stops and did everything imaginable in their match. Still, they were more than up to the task. Ospreay knocked off The Dragon, won his second BOSJ, and finished one of the best tournament runs of all time, all while cementing his reputation as an elite big match performer.