I’m back again to preview New Japan’s preeminent Junior Heavyweight showcase. The first Best of the Super Juniors (there were four Top of the Super Jr’s but they aren’t included in the numbering) were held in 1994 and included some of the biggest stars of the era; like Jushin Liger, Wild “Chris Benoit” Pegasus, Black “Eddie Guerrero” Tiger II, Taka Michinoku, Dean Malenko, and David “Fit” Finlay. Ever since, the BOSJ has been the yearly event for Junior Heavyweights, with a few spots going to non-NJPW talents and the winner; if not already the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, earning a title shot. The tournament is round robin style with sixteen men divided in two blocks.
There are six outside competitors this year compared to three the year before: From CMLL the returning Mascara Dorada and newcomer Bárbaro Cavernario, ROH’s Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, Chase Owens from the NWA, and David Finlay (son of THAT Finlay) . The current champion, Kenny Omega won’t be in the tournament. That’s happened for the second year in a row. I profiled some of these guys last year and so I’ve done updates on what they’ve done since then and linked to the appropriate article for convenience. Let’s take a look at our A Block participants.
Previously profiled: No.
Bio: Cavernario made his pro wrestling debut in 2008 alongside his brother, Demonio Mayo. He spent the early part of his career working under a mask as “El Bárbaro” and would then debut for CMLL with this character in 2012, but quickly lost his mask. Afterwards, he switched to his current gimmick as a caveman named “Bárbaro Cavernario”, a callback to a Lucha Libre legend named “Cavernario Galindo”. Cavernario received a big push, quickly winning three “bet” matches (matches where a wrestler’s hair or mask is at stake) in a month. In December 2012 he won his first ever championship by defeating Smacker for the Occidente Middleweight Championship, which he held for seven months and then, after a loss, again until October 2013.
Beginning in 2014, Cavernario started to appear regularly in Mexico City, with his first major appearance being as the partner of Mr Niebla in the Gran Alternativa tournament. The two men defeated Volador Jr and Soberano Jr in the Finals and afterwards, Niebla invited Cavernario to join a group called “La Peste Negra”. During the summer of 2014, Cavernario was one of eight wrestlers who took part in the “En Busca de un Idolo” tournament. He emerged victorious and earned a spot on CMLL’s tour of Japan”Fantasticmania” in 2015. In June 2014, earned his first ever mask victory in an eight man cage match by taking the hood of Black Metal.
At CMLL’s 81st Anniversary show in September 2014, he continued his streak of wins in bet matches by defeating and shaving Rey Cometa bald. In January 2015, he debuted in New Japan during the annual CMLL/NJPW tour “Fantasticmania”. In May, he won the Mexican National Welterweight Title and he will look to carry that momentum with him into his first ever Super Junior tournament. I don’t see him as a potential winner, but CMLL has big plans for him so he’ll get to stay in the mix. A win over Liger, at the least, will look good for him.
Previously profiled: No.
Bio: Trent Baretta debuted in 2004 for New York Wrestling Connection under the name Plasma and worked for them until 2007, earning several titles including becoming the company’s first ever Hi-Fi Champion. He was the NYWC Heavyweight Champion when he signed a developmental contract with WWE in late 2007 and vacated the belt to move to Florida Championship Wrestling.
After joining FCW, he began using the Baretta name and formed a tag team called “The Dudebusters” with Caylen Croft. He also wrestled in drag, under a mask, in an attempt to become “The Queen of FCW”. That’s probably not going to go down as a career highlight. In May 2009, the duo would win the FCW Tag Team Championship. They would hold it twice, the second time as part of a “Freebird” style trio with Curt Hawkins as the other member.
The Dudebusters would make their debut for WWE in December 2009 when they started on the ECW brand as heels, feuding with Goldust and Yoshi Tatsu. When the ECW show ended in 2010, they ended up on the Smackdown roster and started feuding with Hawkins and Vance Archer, after turning face. In November 2010, Croft was released from his WWE contract and Baretta began wrestling in singles matches, almost entirely on Superstars. In 2012, he would appear on NXT, aligning with Yoshi Tatsu to feud with Hawkins and Tyler Reks. He managed to gain two very rare wins over both men. In February 2012, he would go down with a torn triceps for six months and, although he would briefly return to the WWE, he would end up being released in January 2013.
Trent began working on the independent circuit (initially as “Trent?”) and quickly found success. After only a few matches in Full Impact Pro, he won the FIP Heavyweight Championship in August 2013 and would participate in PWG’s Battle of LA tournament, although eliminated in the first round. After losing, he formed a stable in PWG called “The Best Friends” with Chuck Taylor and Joey Ryan. He would enter the DDT4 Tag Tournament with Taylor as his partner in January 2014. The two men won the tournament by defeating Rich Swann and Ricochet in the Finals, but would fail in their shot to win the PWG World Tag Championship that they received for winning.
Baretta began his tenure with New Japan when he was brought in to work the 2013 BOSJ. He won three of his eight matches, finishing a disappointing seventh of nine in his block. However, he would be invited back in October as a member of the “Chaos” stable to team with fellow WWE alumni Brian Kendrick for the Super Junior Tag League. Unfortunately, the two men were eliminated in the first round after a pre-match assault by the heel “Bullet Club” stable.
Baretta would finally find success in NJPW teaming with Rocky Romero as “Roppongi Vice”. They defeated The Young Bucks in April 2015 to win The IWGP World Tag Team Titles. However, they lost the belts back a month later. Roppongi Vice has also started working dates for ROH and Baretta is seeing the full benefits of working for New Japan. Baretta is likely to improve slightly on his last BOSJ performance, but with Vice in the thick of the tag mix I don’t see him getting the push here.
Previously profiled: No.
Bio: Owens was trained and mentored by fellow Tennessean Ricky Morton before making his debut in 2007. He worked around the country for the National Wrestling Alliance. In 2011, he earned his first belts, winning the NWA Mid-Atlantic Junior Heavyweight Championship and then, the very next month, captured the NWA Mountain Empire Championship. In April of that year, he won the Smokey Cup and entered Chikara’s Young Lion Cup. He failed to win, losing to Jakob Hammermeier. He would also come up short in October’s bid to win the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion when he lost in the finals of a tournament.
He would get another chance at the same title, under the same circumstances a year later. He was successful and would hold the belt for nearly a year. He would hold it until losing it to his mentor Ricky Morton, but would regain it quickly. In October 2014, Owens was brought over to New Japan as part of their working agreement with the NWA. He successfully defended his Junior Heavyweight strap against BUSHI but his second Japanese challenger, the legendary Jushin Liger, was too much for him. He failed to regain it in a rematch. If NJPW/NWA are going to keep their long running angle going, then Owens getting a strong showing in the BOSJ makes sense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take down Liger for a little revenge.
Previously profiled: No.
Bio: Gedo debuted in 1989 for a New Japan offshoot doing parody matches of WWF’s Rock N Wrestling style. He would work with the likes of the future Super Delfin and his career-long companion Jado. In 1991, the three left the NJPW branch and headed to UWA in Mexico, where Gedo & Jado formed a team and won the first of their many titles together, winning the Intercontinental Tag Titles in November 1991. They also began working for the Japanese independent company W*ING, which specialized in deathmatches. Infamously, they were involved in a match with W*NG Kanemaru that saw Jado powerbomb Kanemaru into a fire that burned 75% of his skin tissue on his back and shoulder.
In 1994, the duo would move over to Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion, where Gedo would win WAR’s World Six-Man Tag belts five times in two years. Gedo also took part part in Super J Cups (different from the BOSJ in that it involved the top talent from numerous promotions and not just NJPW talent with one or two outsiders) and much to the chagrin of many North American tape traders at the time, did very well. In the ’94 edition, he reached the semis before being eliminated by Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoit). In 1995, he did even better, making it all the way to the Finals before losing to Jushin Liger. His year would improve further when he finally won his first singles belt, defeating Chris Jericho to win the WAR International Junior Heavyweight Title.
As WAR began to lose its stature, Gedo and Jado left to work for FMW and soon won the six-man titles there with regular partner Kodo Fuyuki. In 1997, Gedo would get to travel to America and wrestle for WCW on it’s “Halloween Havoc” pay-per-view, where Mike Tenay would memorably refer to him as “The Dusty Rhodes of Japan” (Gedo was still in his tubby era). Gedo would have more success in FMW and on the independent circuit but, in 2001, he and Jado finally returned to where their careers began when they defeated Liger and El Samurai to win the IWGP Junior Heavy Tag Titles and became regular competitors for New Japan.
Gedo and Jado would win the belts four times in New Japan and in 2010 they won the Super J Tag Tournament. Gedo would appear in numerous BOSJ tournaments as well, but never made a serious impact as a singles competitor. In recent years, his biggest visual role has been as the hype man for fellow CHAOS member and company superstar Kaz Okada. Much of the reason for Gedo taking a backseat in NJPW is that he and Jado are actually the co-bookers for the promotion and focus on that aspect. With that and Gedo’s age taken into account, it is safe to say he won’t be walking away as the winner this year.
Jushin Thunder Liger
Previously profiled: Yes.
Bio: The aging veteran had another good year after his Super Junior tournament, where he finished with only three wins but did get a victory over the eventually winner, Ricochet. New Japan’s relationship with the NWA had continued as the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion Chase Owens started with the company in October 2014, as noted earlier. After Owens’ successful defense, Liger was chosen as the opponent for his next title match in November by the NWA President Bruce Tharpe. Liger would pull off the win against Owens and emerge with the belt for his second run as the NWA Junior Champ in his career, his previous reign being all the way back in 1997 when the title was part of the short lived J-Crown of 8 Junior Heavyweight Championships.
Liger defeated El Desperado and Owens in two title defenses before challenging his long time rival and partner Tiger Mask IV to step up and face him for the title. The two squared off on March 22 and Liger busted out perhaps his most unique outfit yet, with it being split down the middle as half traditional Liger and half the outfit he debuted in. Liger would emerge victorious over his friend, but his reign would finally be brought to an end in April 2015 in Las Vegas, where he lost to Steve Anthony.
Liger is heading into this BOSJ with more experience than anyone. If you include the Top of the Super Junior events this will actually be his 24th tournament. His days of being a favourite to win are past but he always picks up a big win or two and it’s fun to watch him in there with the young guns.
Previously profiled: No.
Bio: The British Columbia native got his start with Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling in 2005, training under veteran Aaron Idol, who he would defeat in a match to mark his graduation to a full fledged wrestler in May 2006. His first major accomplishment in ECCW came in 2007 when he won the company’s Pacific Cup Tournament, before going on to have a series of matches over the NWA Canadian Junior Heavyweight Title, which he would win three times over a short period of time. In April 2009, he took part in ECCW’s charitable benefit “Wrestling with Hunger” where he (along with 19 others) wrestled almost 40 matches in 72 hours to raise money for a local food bank. O’Reilly continues to make infrequent appearances for ECCW, including attempts to win the Pacific Cup for a second time.
O’Reilly’s big break in the US came when he was signed to Ring of Honor in September 2010. He had wrestled for them a few times in 2009, but started his new run with the company by wrestling the current ROH World Champion. Not long after, he formed the tag team “Future Shock” with another new arrival to the company, Adam Cole. The two would put on a number of impressive performances but pick up few big wins and, in 2012, O’Reilly split the team up to ally with Davey Richards as “Team Ambition” and feud with their respective former partners Cole and Eddie Edwards.
Although he would defeat Cole in their first big singles match in March 2012, he would lose their rematch in June and, when offered a chance at reconciliation, refused and furthermore announced he was also abandoning his alliance with Richards, making a full heel turn. O’Reilly would partner up with Bobby Fish as “reDRagon” and defeat the Briscoe Brothers in March 2013 to win the ROH World Tag Team Titles. Although they would briefly lose the belts to Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero, they would quickly regain them and dominate the division until losing the belts again in March 2014 to The Young Bucks. Even this was only a short-lived separation from the titles, as they regained them in May of that year and kept a death grip on them until April 2015.
Thanks to the relationship ROH and New Japan have, O’Reilly and Fish began working for New Japan in August 2014. They would challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight belts but lost to the defending champs, Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA. They returned in October to take part in the annual Super Jr Tag Tournament and went on to win the tourney by defeating the Young Bucks in the Finals. They would receive a match against Shelley and KUSHIDA for the titles and, this time emerged victorious in November, holding the belts until February 2015 when they lost the titles to the Young Bucks.
reDRagon has attempted to regain the belts since but has been unable to pull it off. I don’t see O’Reilly as a winner but possibly a Semi-Finalist. With the relationship with ROH he’ll look strong.
Previously profiled: Yes.
Bio: Last year, Taguchi made it to the semifinals of the BOSJ before being eliminated by the eventual winner, Ricochet. In September 2014, Taguchi would get one of his biggest career wins when he beat KUSHIDA to win the NJPW Junior Heavyweight Title for the second time (previously winning it seven years before) in his career. During his reign, he feuded with the Suzuki-gun stable, fending off interference-laden challenges from El Desperado and Taichi. The two did gain revenge on Taguchi by eliminating him and his partner Fuego from the Super Junior Tag Tournament in the first round. Taguchi’s run would be brought to an end by the new member of New Japan’s largest heel faction “Bullet Club“, losing to Kenny Omega at the January 2015 Tokyo Dome show. Despite a rematch in February, Taguchi has been unable to recover the belt.
Taguchi is always a guy New Japan likes to go back to as a challenger and has been positioned as one of the top juniors for years now, but has been overshadowed by other, more spectacular wrestlers, such as, his long time partner, Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) or Kota Ibushi. With one in WWE now and the other working as a heavyweight, New Japan might go back to a safe option who is always popular with the fans.
Previously profiled: No.
Bio: Komatsu is a lifelong pro wrestling fan and was a member of his school’s amateur wrestling clubs, starting in high school and continuing through university. He also took part in judo to better prepare himself for his future in the pros. In May 2011, Komatsu became a member of New Japan’s Dojo and started training for his pro debut, which would come in November 2012.
Although he has spent most of his career since working opening rookie (Young Lion) matches with the likes of Sho Tanaka, Komatsu has also had other opportunities. He teamed with KUSHIDA in the 2013 Super Junior Tag League, but was eliminated in the first round. He has occasionally had chances to work with some of the bigger names in New Japan as part of multi-man matches, but this BOSJ will be by far his biggest test. Komatsu will be lucky to pick up more than one win this year, but he’ll get a chance to show how much progress he’s made and that he can work well with the stars of the division.
That’s all for Block A but make sure to come back later this week when I profile the stars who make up Block B of the BOSJ, including Alex Shelley, Tiger Mask IV, and the son of Fit Finlay!