NJPW: Why SHO Should Win The Best of the Super Juniors Tournament

NJPW, SHO (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
NJPW, SHO (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

NJPW’s 2020 Best of the Super Juniors tournament kicks off in conjunction with the World Tag League tomorrow. With Wrestle Kingdom on the horizon, this should be SHO’s time to shine.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the format of this year’s BOSJ tournament in NJPW. After last year’s BOSJ featured the most wrestlers in tournament history at twenty with ten wrestlers per block, this year’s features ten participants in one single block.

Former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and 2018 BOSJ tournament winner, Hiromu Takahashi and current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Taiji Ishimori headline the field of participants. Ryusuke Taguchi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Bushi, El Desperado, Robbie Eagles, SHO and others bring either veteran presence, untapped potential or both to this year’s group.

Takahashi and Ishimori have been battling it out over the Junior Heavyweight Championship for the last couple of years and have entrenched themselves as two of the top stars in the entire division. However, between the pandemic and some recent junior heavyweight transitions to a different weight class, the division needs to build more names.

The Super Junior Cup will shine a light on present and future international junior heavyweight stars but until it’s safe enough for the division to be at full strength, the Best of Super Juniors should look towards the future in a talent like SHO.

SHO—along with tag partner Yoh as part of Roppongi 3K—have been firmly established as the premier duo in the junior heavyweight tag team division. Roppongi 3K won four IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and three Super Junior Tag League tournaments—the latter of which they hold the record for most wins—since their return from excursion in late 2017.

Despite being primarily tag team competitors, both men are quality wrestlers on their own as proven by their respective Best of the Super Junior tournament performances the last two years. The newly openweight format of this year’s New Japan Cup tournament provided both men the opportunity to foray further into singles competition. SHO opened the single-elimination tournament defeating rival Shingo Takagi before losing to Sanada in the second round while Yoh suffered a torn ACL in a New Japan Cup loss to Bushi.

Not only were they forced to relinquish the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles but the severity of Yoh’s injury means SHO will likely be on his own until well into 2021. Roppongi 3K has accomplished virtually everything they possibly can as a Junior Heavyweight duo. Unless there’s a plan to for them to transition to the Heavyweight tag division upon Yoh’s return, making them singles competitors on a more permanent basis seems like the likely outcome.

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SHO’s performances against Shingo Takagi—specifically their 2019 BOSJ encounter—show that he is a capable competitor regardless of division or weight class. A SHO victory in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament would do no harm to the stature of Takahashi and Ishimori. In the event a SHO tournament win leads to a Junior Heavyweight title victory at Wrestle Kingdom, it would establish a new star in one division while opening the door for fresh duos to make a name for themselves in another.