As my third time going to the Toronto stop of the War of the Worlds tour, I knew what to expect in terms of quality, but what made it special this time around was going with my friends (two of which had never been to a ROH show before). As fun as it was see the Young Bucks and Super Smash Bros. tear the house down and how funny it was to watch Colt Cabana pick a fight with Darryl Jr., seeing my friends enjoy it with me made my night.
Well that and meeting Tetsuya Naito. I still can't believe I worked up the courage to meet him.
Lucky Number 12Kazuchika Okada's fourth reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion has broke a number of records for New Japan. At just shy of two years come June's Dominion supershow, Okada has the single longest reign in the championships' 31 year history, along with ousting Hiroshi Tanahashi for the top spot for total combined days as champion by 200 days. While those records are incredible, there's one record that New Japan's golden boy wanted to overcome — Tanahashi's 11 straight defenses as IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
When Okada tied the feat with a victory over Zack Sabre Jr. at Sakura Genesis, there was no way Tanahashi would just stand aside and let his greatest rival break the record that established his legacy. So, Tanahashi made the challenge for the title at May's Wrestling Dontaku. Wouldn't it be poetic for Tanahashi to end Okada's reign in Okada's 12th defense of the title, just like Okada did the same to Tanahashi in 2012?
The stage was set for Wrestling Dontaku. With the crowd in Fukuoka clearly behind Tanahashi, the former Ace hit Okada with everything he had from his signature Slingblade and High Fly Flow to Okada's own Tombstone Piledriver and Rainmaker lariat. Despite Tanahashi's best efforts, Okada overcame his offense to hot a single desperation Rainmaker for the win and Tanahashi's most cherished record.
Despite the heart-breaking loss, Hiroshi Tanahashi put on a phenomenal performance that showed to many newer New Japan fans, myself included, that he is truly as legendary as his "Once in a Century Talent" moniker proclaims. As for Okada, he's got one hell of a 13th title defense set for Dominion — a two out of three falls no time limit match against Kenny Omega. But I'll talk more about that match next month.
3,000 Times BetterBeginning on May 18, the Best of the Super Jr. 25 took up the last weeks of May and continued into early June. For those not familiar with New Japan, Best of the Super Jr. is a round robin tournament which pits 16 wrestlers from the Junior weight class (pretty much New Japan's Cruiserweight division) to determine the best of the division. The 16 competitors are broken into two blocks of eight wrestlers, and the two that score the most points in their respective block will compete in the finals for the Best of the Super Jr. trophy and a Junior Heavyweight Championship match at June's Dominion.
Considering the nature of these style of tournaments, there is a whole lot of wrestling to watch. 57 matches if you want to watch the tournament in its entirety. While it's understandable to not have the time to watch it all (I am currently halfway through at the time of writing), doing so paints a great picture of the talents on display. One phenomenal performance or a string of high-quality matches can raise anybody's stock.
This year's tournament saw some established stars, like Will Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi, and Marty Scurll, solidify their positions on top of the Juniors, strong performances from foreign talent such as Chris Sabin, Flip Gordon, and Dragon Lee, a dangerous new threat in Taiji Ishimori, and two dark horses steal the spotlight.
These two dark horses, which I'd like to highlight, were Sho and Yoh of Roppongi 3K and what a tournament these two had. As their first time in singles competition since their return from excursion, these two showed that they are two to watch in the coming years. Sho, in particular, put on one intense bout with Dragon Lee that stole the show on the first night of B-Block competition. Plus, Yoh had a great match with Will Ospreay which came very close to being among the best of the tournament; it just needed a few more minutes of back-and-forth action in my opinion. Despite their current ties to the Junior Heavyweight tag division, both members of Roppongi 3K showed that one day they will be among the top of this division.
Must-See Matches of May5/4/2018
Will Ospreay vs. Kushida
Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Seth Rollins vs. The Miz
Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz
Epic Encounter II
Keith Lee vs. Tomohiro Ishii
War of the Worlds: Toronto
Young Bucks vs. The Super Smash Bros.
Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch vs. Undisputed Era
Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 1
Will Ospreay vs. Taiji Ishimori
Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 2
Dragon Lee vs. Sho
Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 4
Kushida vs. Marty Scurll
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado
Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 5
Will Ospreay vs. Yoh
Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 6
Chris Sabin vs. Marty Scurll
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee