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I will remember 2015’s BOSJ XXII as my first venutre into the prestigious tournament. I remember having injured ribs that I hurt midway through the tour during a tag. I will remember an Earthquake shaking Korakuen Hall during my match with Taguchi. I will forever remember the immense pressure of wrestling in the finals. The sickening feeling of nervousness, followed by disappointment, followed by complete relief. Relief that it was over.
I will remember 2016’s BOSJ XXIII for different reasons.
The 23rd annual Best of the Super Juniors is now in the history books. I have returned after 20 days in Japan with nothing but fond memories and a sore body. And some Balance-Up bars, I love those things.
I’ll sum up the last 3 weeks with a quote from Gedo: “This was the best Super Juniors ever.”
And it was. The overall match quality was incredible. 16 guys working their asses off every night for 8 minutes, 10 minutes, 20+ minutes, opening match to main event. Every athlete had their role to play in the developing story arc that was this year’s tournament.
Whether you had a single’s match or a 10-man tag ‘off-day’ the grind was very real. 14 shows with an average bus ride of 4 hours on the way to each venue. Extra time was spent strictly on finding a gym and training; finding a conveeny and eating; catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’ and crying. I have a new appreciation for a full-time wrestling schedule. The tour kicked off with 5 shows in a row. That may be the most I’ve done in a row at such a high level and expectation.
On my ‘off days’ I would typically be in an 8 or 10 man tag match. A couple juniors here with a couple of heavies there. A mish-mash of guys mainly created for getting over the current storyline of Nagata VS Shibata. The 3rd generation VS the new generation. And get over they did. In every town we had this match a full scale brawl and fight would erupt. Nagata and Shibata wowed the crowd and myself creating such a sense of realism that one couldnt help but be suckered into thinking “Okay these guys actually hate each other and are really fighting.”
I learned so much from these series of matches specifically in Nagata’s use of facial expressions and when to turn up the intensity. That guy is on another level, man. Juice Robinson’s chemistry with Manabu Nakanishi is truly something to behold as well. It is truly a testament to Juice’s competence as a wrestler when Nakanishi as old and broken down as he is requests taking back suplexes and hitting top-rope cross body blocks. Tenzan in typical madman fashion would be hitting top-rope Moonsaults with precision on these farm-town shows that left me with my jaw hanging open.
“Why Tenzan-San?! Only house show!”
To which he would just reply with a maniacal laugh. These tags were some of the most fun and stress-free matches I’ve had in my career.
The comroderie of the ‘good brothers’ is what kept us all sane, or perhaps it was our shared insanity that kept us all insane. Of course a pre-requisite for a successful wrestling career is to be 95% out of your mind. Just a solid group of guys making each other laugh, while motivating each other to continually become a better performer and set the bar higher and higher.
Speaking of setting the bar, Ricochet and Will Ospreay absolutely blew the roof off Korakuen Hall. In the aftermath a blend of controversy and admiration amongst wrestlers and fans alike, took to the mean streets of Twitter. I found it to be an incredible display of athleticism and innovation. I truly feel that 15-20 years from now the BOSJ XXXVIII champion will site that match as what inspired him to pursue Pro-Wrestling.
As most people would agree, wrestling is a subjective form of art. Although I have a different philosophy on how I represent my own matches and style of pro-wrestling, that doesn’t mean one way is correct and another way is wrong. Who am I to say what is right or what is wrong? It’s okay to feel negatively about art. That makes it a topic for conversation and discussion. If people are talking about it that means they were moved by it in one way or another. Picasso and DaVinci, although from different eras, both had different styles and philosophies on art. Both will be remembered forever and left behind priceless pieces of work. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart both had very different philosophies on wrestling but they both made a lot of money. They both inspired, created and did amazing things for the wrestling business. They were both artists. I am an artist. I hope you will observe the interpretation of my art as something unique, beautiful and powerful. That is all I hope to accomplish, to have someone be moved for better or for worse. To be in the conversation.
Perhaps that is what made this year’s BOSJ so excellent. The diversity and beauty that was created in the ‘cerulean blue ring’. Many stories were told and it seems like every night the matches just got better and better.
From Ricochet and Ospreay setting the new standard in high flying wrestling to KUSHIDA’s establishment as the company’s top junior Ace and native star.
From Taguchi’s resurgence in proving just how damn good he is to BUSHI’s commitment to his role as a heel in spoiling KUSHI’s chances in the finals.
From Bobby Fish’s sublime storytelling and consistency to Volador Jr’s ‘caution to wind’ classical Lucha Libre style.
From Liger and Gedo killing it nightly after Christ-knows-how-long in the business to Tiger mask IV and Trent Beretta having my favorite match of the tournament (to watch as a fan) in a Japanese hockey arena.
From David Finlay perfectly playing his role as young Lion underdog with a fighting spirit to Chase Owen’s coming in on a couple days notice and playing the role of a true heel, while having good, unique matches.
From Matt Sydal’s beautiful blend of strikes, high-flying, babyface charm and having a classic with KUSHIDA at Korakuen.
To Rocky Romero’s blend of comedic timing with shoot-style Puroresu and giving me my favorite match of the tour.
This tournament truly had everything any wrestling fan could ever want.
This tournament also had everything I could personally want after a career defining moment I had in Korakuen Hall.
When I work with KUSHIDA, it feels special. We both have a similar mindset in how we want to view and display pro-wrestling. The ultimate form of chemistry. It’s very cool to have 2 guys whom don’t share a native tongue yet we can communicate perfectly when it comes to showcasing our violent form of art. We’ve wrestled each other in 4 diffferent countries thus far and one can only assume that number will grow.
Most of all I was able to enjoy the moment. Much more than last year’s final because there was much less pressure and because nobody got seriously hurt. To top it all off, I was able to thank the fans in their native language telling them I love them and that I’ll do my very best. Is this real life?! The Nihongo lessons and extra studying have certainly paid off. Otearai wa doko desu ka
I will look back on this year’s tournament as something I was able to simply enjoy. Sure it was taxing and tiring but it was supposed to be. I’m proud of myself and of everyone involved for the overall body of work and for representing the Junior-Heavweight divison in a positive light.
1 day until check-in.
I return to Osaka Jo-Hall this weekend for NJPW Dominion. After 2 days on the road with ROH and 6 total days at home it’s back into the belly of the beast. No rest for the weary and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The best way to keep up the momentum of this division is for us all to keep killing it.
4 Corner Elimination IWGP Jr. Tag title match. Sky Crank VS RPG Vice VS Bucks VS reDRagon.
IWGP Jr. title match KUSHIDA vs Will Ospreay.
Not to mention Nagata/Shibata, Elgin/Omega ladder match and Okada/Naito. Wrestling is alive and well.
Thank-you for reading. OSS!
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