Wrestling

My Favorite Wrestler in New Japan Pro-Wrestling Today

With Wrestle Kingdom 12 now in the books – and if you haven’t watched it by now, what the hell is wrong with you; go watch it right now then come back here… Anyway, with Wrestle Kingdom 12 now in the books, the world once again saw what many would consider the best wrestlers in the world put on the most amazing performances in the world of professional wrestling. I may be a WWE super fan at heart, and I still consider WrestleMania to be the end all show in professional wrestling every year, but when you talk about the best show year in and year out Wrestle Kingdom has been the event to watch for the past several years. No joke, I want to say that at least for the past four years, Wrestle Kingdom by New Japan Pro-Wrestling has been the most consistently well-performed event in all of the professional wrestling industry – yes, even better that Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s annual Battle of Los Angeles event.

And Wrestle Kingdom 12 was no exception. After watching it a few times to collect my thoughts on the whole event I can honestly say that there was no bad match on the card. Every match stood far and beyond almost any other match I have seen all year from any other promotion; even from the WWE. Hell, I would even wager that looking at the ten-match card, eleven if you include the New Japan Rumble on the pre-show, I would argue that all the matches at Wrestle Kingdom 12 would be considered 4-star matches each, in their own rights. That is a far better card than anything that the WWE has produced in recent years. I can’t remember the last time the WWE produced an event where ever match on the card didn’t disappoint in the slightest. I mean, these were all highly entertaining and engaging matches that any wrestling fan could appreciate.

I believe the reason for this, the reason that New Japan Pro-Wrestling is able to consistently put on a high-caliber show like Wrestle Kingdom each and every year, is because of the talent they have on hand and the freedom that they give their wrestlers to go to that ring and put on the kind of show they are confident they can put on. They allow their performers to go there, with little direction or restrictions, and just do what they do best. They trust their wrestlers to perform on the highest level without micro-managing and throttling what they do in the ring. And when you have talented wrestlers like Sanada, Zack Sabre Jr, Beretta, Kushida, Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, and more on your roster, you can always expect the best from each of these talented athletes.

And that brings me to my list here: my personal favorite wrestlers in New Japan Pro-Wrestling today.

*Stats provided by Wikipedia.org.

Honorable Mentions: Beretta, Big Mike Elgin, Bushi, Evil, Juice Robinson, Rocky Romero, Sanada, Sho, Tama Tonga, Zack Sabre Jr

10. Minoro Suzuki

Billed height: 5’10”
Billed weight: 225lbs
Date of birth: June 17, 1968

NJPW accomplishments:

  • G1 Tag League (2011) – with Lance Archer
  • IWGP Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Yoshihiro Takayama
  • NEVER Openweight Championship (1 time)

9. Hirooki Goto (Current NEVER Openweight Champion)

Billed height: 6’
Billed weight: 227lbs
Date of birth: June 25, 1979

NJPW accomplishments:

  • G1 Climax (2008)
  • IWGP Intercontinental Championship (2 times)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Minoru
  • IWGP Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Katsuyori Shibata
  • J Sports Crown Openweight 6 Man Tag Tournament (2010, 2011) – with Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi
  • Heavyweight Tag MVP Award (2005) with Minoru
  • NEVER Openweight Championship (2 times)
  • New Japan Cup (2009, 2010, 2012)
  • Samurai! TV Openweight Tag Tournament (2005) – with Yuji Nagata
  • World Tag League (2012) – with Karl Anderson
  • World Tag League (2014) – with Katsuyori Shibata
  • Young Lion Cup (2005)

8. Tomohiro Ishii (Current NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag-Team Champion)

Billed height: 5’7”
Billed weight: 220lbs
Date of birth: December 10, 1975

NJPW accomplishments:

  • IWGP Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Toru Yano
  • NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Beretta and Toru Yano
  • NEVER Openweight Championship (4 times)

7. Jay White

Billed height: 6’1”
Billed weight: 198lbs
Date of birth: October 10, 1992

6. Kota Ibushi

Billed height: 5’11”
Billed weight: 198lbs
Date of birth: May 21, 1982

NJPW accomplishments:

  • Best of the Super Juniors (2011)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Kenny Omega
  • New Japan Cup (2015)

5. Kushida

Billed height: 5’9”
Billed weight: 192lbs
Date of birth: May 12, 1983

NJPW accomplishments:

  • Best of the Super Juniors (2015, 2017)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (5 times)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Alex Shelley
  • Super J-Cup (2016)
  • Super Jr. Tag Tournament (2012) – with Alex Shelley

4. Tetsuya Naito

Billed height: 5’11”
Billed weight: 225lbs
Date of birth: June 22, 1982

NJPW accomplishments:

  • G1 Climax (2013, 2017)
  • IWGP Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • IWGP Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Yujiro Takahashi
  • IWGP Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Yujiro Takahashi
  • NEVER Openweight Championship (1 time)
  • New Japan Cup (2016)

3. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Current IWGP Intercontinental Champion)

Billed height: 5’11”
Billed weight: 227lbs
Date of birth: November 13, 1976

NJPW accomplishments:

  • Fighting Spirit Award (2003)
  • G1 Climax (2007, 2015)
  • G2 U-30 Climax (2003)
  • Heavyweight Tag MVP Award (2005) with Shinsuke Nakamura
  • IWGP Heavyweight Championship (7 times)
  • IWGP Heavyweight Title Tournament (2007)
  • IWGP Intercontinental Championship (2 times)
  • IWGP Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Yutaka Yoshie (1) and Shinsuke Nakamura (1)
  • IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship (2 times)
  • IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship League (2005)
  • NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Michael Elgin and Yoshitatsu (1), Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi (1), and Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi (1)
  • New Japan Cup (2005, 2008)
  • New Wave Award (2002)
  • Outstanding Performance Award (2003, 2004)
  • Singles Best Bout (2004) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan on August 15
  • U-30 One Night Tag Tournament (2004) – with Taiji Ishimori
  • Young Lion Award (2001)

2. Kenny Omega (Current IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion)

Billed height: 6’
Billed weight: 203lbs
Date of birth: October 16, 1983

NJPW accomplishments:

G1 Climax (2016)

  • IWGP Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Kota Ibushi
  • IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Tournament (2017)
  • NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson

1. Kazuchika Okada (Current IWGP Heavyweight Champion)

Billed height: 6’3”
Billed weight: 236lbs
Date of birth: November 8, 1987

NJPW accomplishments:

  • G1 Climax (2012, 2014)
  • IWGP Heavyweight Championship (4 times)
  • New Japan Cup (2013)

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