Two Weeks. 56 matches. 1 winner. That’s a LOT of wrestling to keep up with, and to my chagrin, was too much for even myself to keep up with, despite my best efforts. the action for the 24th edition of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s pinnacle showcase of highflying, hard-hitting super junior action was nothing short of breathtaking, if not a little strange in how it unfolded. I feel comfortable saying that this particular tournament had an incredibly even spread of victories for all competitors, save for one (we’ll get to him later).
This made for a strange tournament in that no one seemed to have momentum throughout. The results at the conclusion (spoiler alert!) are as follows for each bracket:
Will Ospreay: 10 pts
Dragon Lee: 8 pts
Hiromu Takahashi (c): 8 pts
Ricochet: 8 pts
Taichi: 8 pts
Marty Scurll: 8 pts
Taka Michinoku: 4 pts
Jushin “Thunder” Liger: 2 pts
KUSHIDA: 8 pts
BUSHI: 8 pts
Ryusuke Taguchi: 8 pts
Yoshinobu Kanemaru: 8 pts
Volador Jr.: 6 pts
Tiger Mask IV: 6 pts
ACH: 6 pts
El Desperado: 6 pts
There wasn’t a particular stand out amongst the competitors as far as favorites to win throughout the contest, though if you had to pick one I’d argue Will Ospreay. His match and victory over Ricochet topped their match from the previous years tournament. There are spots and moments that defy even the most jaded wrestling fan’s expectations. Other stand outs are the already mentioned Ricochet and Dragon Lee in A block, but Marty Scurll really shined in his first real outing with NJPW. Going back over this tournament, I highly recommend re-watching Ospreay vs Scurll as well as Ricochet vs Scurll, and Takahashi vs Dragon Lee, but the match of the tournament (until perhaps the final) is Will Ospreay vs Ricochet.
In B block, things were much more even, though Volador Jr was very impressive. I was not very familiar with his work and he definitely stood out as the CMLL luchador. ACH was wonderful as always. Kushida had a slow start; after a losing streak before even entering the tournament, he was behind early on, but came back to claim top spot of B Block. Though KUSHIDA tied many other wrestlers in B block on points, he had victories over all the others he tied with, which is how he was determined to be the winner. So the finals came down to KUSHIDA of B Block vs Will Ospreay of A Block.
The final of Ospreay vs KUSHIDA is a rematch from last year. Ospreay won the tournament last year, earning the right to face the then Jr Heavyweight champion, who at the time was KUSHIDA. on that occasion, KUSHIDA was the victor. This time, the two faced on if classic just shy of 30 minutes for the right to win the 24th installment of the BoSJ and face Takahashi for the strap at Dominion 2017 next week. This rematch far surpassed their previous encounter. While the matchup wasn’t what many fans were hoping for, I was blown away with some of the feats these men pulled off. In the end, history did repeat itself, and KUSHIDA won his second ever BoSJ tournament.
This match really was an excellent conclusion to a great two weeks of wrestling. I highly recommend checking it out. There is a huricanrana almost into a DDT like strike of the apron that was just incredible.
Post match KUSHIDA and the other babyface wrestlers paid their respects to the Legend Jushin Thunder Liger, who had the worst record in the tournament, receiving only 1 victory. Before the tournament Liger had stated this would be his final time entering the tournament. I personally felt that would insure a sentimental entry into at least the finals, even if he would inevitably fall short. However the Legend instead spent the tournament doing what he does so well: putting the younger generation over. A standing ovation was well deserved for the Hall of Fame worthy junior heavyweight to conclude the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament 2017, a fitting end to a fine contest.
While KUSHIDA was hoisted in celebration, Ospreay left the ring with tears in his eyes. He seemed genuinely moved, distressed, disappointed… the emotion on his face was a rare scene in the world of professional wrestling. It led to an embrace between Ospreay and KUSHIDA that really hammered home the war they’d gone through, not only that night against one another, but for the entire tournament. But only one man could come out on top. Mimicking his mentor Okada’s defeat at Wrestle Kindom 9, Ospreay’s expression of defeat in tear-filled eyes really showed that while KUSHIDA may have won the prize, Ospreay is not to be overlooked as a mainstay in NJPW and professional wrestling in general. An incredible moment. What more could you ask for?