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Cafe Puro (5/19/16): The Smark Henry Preview of the Best of the Super Juniors XXIII, B Block

                               



Welcome to Part II of Smark Henry's preview to New Japan's annual spectacle dedicated to the talented Junior Heavyweights, the 23rd Best of the Super Juniors Tournament!

As promised, today, we will look at the participants of B Block. As said last week, if you think A Block is star-studded in its own right, well, it is safe to say that B Block is, as many people these days would put it, "lit." So, without any further delay:



Signature Maneuvers: Brainbuster, Liger Bomb, creator of the Shooting Star Press

Accomplishments: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion (record 11 times), IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion (6 times), BoSJ Winner (3 times), various titles around the world

What else needs to be said about this man? He is not only one of the true legends in this great sport of professional wrestling, but he is also a true innovator and trailblazer in his own right, helping pave way for other Junior Heavyweights to make their own mark in the industry. You cannot even talk about Cruiserweights, Light Heavyweights, Junior Heavyweights, or even the X Division without ever mentioning about Liger and his plethora of accomplishments.

Liger mentioned that he will finally retire from the sport in a few years' time, after more than 30 years in active competition and stellar body of work all around the world. And just last year, he finally included a WWE appearance in his resume, thanks to his match against Tyler Breeze at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. At this point, what else is there for Liger to accomplish?

If there is any one major achievement he can make during his limited time in the ring, it would be to become the oldest BoSJ winner in history, and perhaps, the oldest IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion in history. Will this become a reality for the legend before his eventual retirement? Time will tell.




Signature Maneuvers: Fish Hook

Accomplishments: Current ROH TV Champion, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion (with Kyle O'Reilly), Super Junior Tag Tournament Winner

The veteran half of reDRagon is on quite a roll as of late. Despite currently not holding any gold with Kyle O'Reilly, he recently managed to bring back the Ring of Honor TV Championship back to his home turf, defeating Tomohiro Ishii at the NJPW-ROH co-produced Global Wars. So while he may not necessarily have the same amount of momentum that his partner has, well, he definitely has the gold to back up his credentials. It also helps that he was able to put down a heavyweight beast like Ishii, a rarity even for Junior Heavyweight standards.

It will be interesting to see how he fits in the whole picture, however. Chances are, he may not have as much of a chance in winning the whole tournament. But don't be surprised if he does put in a string of quality matches under his belt during the duration of the tournament, especially with a block as hot as his.



Signature Maneuvers: Dudebuster

Accomplishments: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion (with Rocky Romero)

Beretta will be competing in his third BoSJ tournament, and by this time, he will have more of an established momentum as compared to his past experiences. He first participated in the 2013 installment, mostly known as the time Bullet Club tainted the whole tournament thanks to the shenanigans of Prince Devitt and his partners.

This time, the former WWE star will be coming fresh from his IWGP Junior Tag Championship reigns with his RPG Vice partner, Rocky Romero, as well as his 2015 BoSJ run, which he did well in his block. The dude has practically racked up years of experience competing all over since then, and it will be interesting to see how he performs through it all. In a related note, will he get a revenge win over a certain other competitor holding half of the Junior Tag Championships? Particularly, this guy below?



Signature Maneuvers: Double Rotation Moonsault, Shooting Star Press, Benadryller

Accomplishments: Current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion (with Matt Sydal), BoSJ winner (2014)

He is one the best overall high flyers on the planet today. Whether you saw his work in promotions like Dragon Gate, or may have coincidentally seen a twin of his, Prince Puma, compete in Lucha Underground (because Puma may have taken inspiration from the guy), one thing is for sure: you will never leave any show he's on with shades of disappointment.

The man previously rumored for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic is a marquee player wherever he goes as proven by his 2014 BoSJ win, a year after he made his tournament debut, becoming the second American and the youngest wrestler to ever win the annual event. Today, he holds the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles alongside ROH's Matt Sydal, and will be coming into the tournament with a very realistic chance of him becoming a two-time winner.

Along the way, he will be having tournament matches that would very well be called dream matches (as you'll guess by looking at all the competitors). Will he end up winning the tournament, and perhaps even finally win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, holding both belts at the same time? Let's just say the chances for that to happen is very high when it comes to The Future of Flight.




Signature Maneuvers: Destroy Suplex, Millennium Suplex, Modified Armbar

Accomplishments: IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion (6 times), IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champion, BoSJ winner (2004, 2005)

As the longest tenured Tiger Mask in history, he, like fellow legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger, has done it all in New Japan. However, unlike Liger, Tiger has been put in the background for a long while, his last notable reign and run ending in 2010 when he lost the junior title against Pro Wrestling NOAH's Naomichi Marufuji. Save for his one-time feud with Tomohiro Ishii (pre-Stone Pitbull days), he has not really done much of note since then (the NWA angles don't count).

That is why it will be quite a sight to see how the fourth Tiger Mask will do in this year's tournament, especially in a block as on fire as B Block. While it is a given that he would not win the whole tournament, the question for him is more on whether or not he will bring the match-quality goods during the whole tournament. At this point, in Tiger's case, we'll just have to wait and see if he can bring back that much needed fire in the tournament.




Signature Maneuvers: Package Piledriver

Accomplishments: NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion

Originally, Nick Jackson was going to take this spot for this year's tournament. However, due to injuries sustained during NJPW's recent North American tour, both Nick and Matt Jackson have been taken out of the tournament entirely (thought the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles are expected to remain with them). And while there have been no announced substitute for Matt Jackson as of time of writing, it has been announced that the NWA's Chase Owens will take over Nick Jackson's spot in the tournament, verified by the NWA and by Chase Owens himself on his Twitter account. And hey, if anyone's going to replace Nick Jackson, might as well be a fellow BULLET CLUB member.

Owens is certainly no stranger to the tournament as he has already participated in last year's installment, as well as having competed with the company sporadically since 2014, defending his NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship in the process. While it would seem that Chase Owens is an unusual choice, let's not forget that he did well for himself against a variety of opponents in last year's BoSJ. So when you consider this year's cast of characters, you can expect Chase to bring his A-game, upping his quality of matches even further than anyone could expect. You may very well call that a fearless forecast, but a calculated forecast that is good for the tournament.




Signature Maneuvers: Essex Destroyer, Springboard Cutter, The 630

Accomplishments: RPW British Cruiserweight Champion, Progress Champion

Ricochet is one of the best overall high flyers on the planet, that much is true. You know who else can lay claim to that title? The newest NJPW signee himself, the 22-year old Aerial Assassin, Will Ospreay.

As one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world today, he can do things no human being should ordinarily be able to do. Seriously, the only way to give justice to the young star is just type his name on YouTube and see his matches in Revolution Pro Wrestling and other promotions. There is a reason why New Japan has seen shades of Kota Ibushi in the man and immediately signed him to a contract. And you know what the scary part is? It will be a long while before he ever reaches his prime. Heck, in five years, he'll only be 27 years old. Think about that.

He may have lost in his quest to win the Jr. Heavyweight Championship from KUSHIDA at Invasion Attack last April, but a win in the tournament will allow him to get another opportunity at the title at Dominion 2016. Along the way, however, he'll have to deal with such stars as Ricochet, Fish, and Liger, among others. And you can believe these matches will be must watch.




Signature Maneuvers: Volador Spiral, La Quebrada

Accomplishments: Current NWA World Historic Welterweight Champion, CMLL World Tag Team / Trios Champion

This year's CMLL representative for the BoSJ is a legendary veteran in his own right, Volador Jr., with his last appearance in NJPW during Fantastica Mania 2016. As the current NWA World Historic Welterweight Champion and CMLL World Trios Champion, he has the opportunity to finally do the one thing no CMLL representative has ever done: win the entire tournament. And if he can do it in his first try, the implications will be big on both NJPW and CMLL fronts.

As the cousin of Mexican legend La Parka, he has been competing in the industry for more than 15 years against the best of the best in Mexico. Not to mention, he even fought guys who carved their path in Japan like Prince Devitt and fellow B Block competitor Jushin "Thunder" Liger.

As the seasoned CMLL veteran who is already an established name in Mexico, a win for the luchador will make an impact in the Japanese and Mexican wrestling scenes, with title implications galore. As to whether or not he will be the first CMLL star to actually win the tournament, that remains to be seen.

There you have it, your competitors for this year's Best of the Super Juniors Tournament! Don't forget, the tournament will start this Saturday, May 21, and will culminate in the Finals on June 7. The winner will not only have the distinct honor of etching his name in history, but he will also have a Jr. Title opportunity at Dominion 2016 in Osaka Castle Hall. As usual, you can see it all unfold via NJPW World for only 999 yen a month!

Who do you guys got for a BoSJ win this year? Sound off in the comments!



                                                                       *****

Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.

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