Not long ago we entered the top five of the never ending list of the best wrestlers from the last twelve months. With Daniel Bryan ranking at number five now we shift gears to the company in New Japan and the former "Ace" of the company. Often times in the world of wrestling father time does catch up to everyone, but even at 42 years old it doesn't seem like age has caught up with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Even though Tanahashi did take off for a few months following losing his championship at The New Beginning in Sapporo. Especially later in wrestlers career it becomes more common for talent to take time off to heal from injuries and recover limiting the aging talent from suffering serious injuries.
At this point Hiroshi is more then an established name giving New Japan a reliable talent to depend on if they need help establishing new talent for the future. The last couple of years Tanahashi has been in out of the main event leaving room for Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and others to establish new faces on top of the card. In many ways its believable to think that New Japan rewarded Tanahashi with one more title reign for being such a reliable talent for so many years. I believe that very few talent have reached the status of legend in the modern era of wrestling, but Tanahashi is definitely not just a legend and has entered the status of "Icon." Even though his title reign was short it was well deserved and the match with Kenny was one of the best matches from this years edition of Wrestle Kingdom. At this point the list will continue to tick down until we hit the end and Hiroshi Tanahashi has landed at number four.
When people look at the landscape of wrestling today we see a lot of names on top that really would've never been given a shot ten years ago. Recently, it was announced that wrestling "Icon" Jushin "Thunder" Liger will be retiring from active competition following next years Wrestle Kingdom event and that will be a major moment in wrestling. The man real name Keichi Yamada has been in the wrestling business since 1984 that's 35 years in the wild and crazy world of wrestling which is amazing in itself.
However, Liger has been under his trademark mask and that full body suit since 1989 which means this coming April will mark 30 years for him in that gimmick. There is no doubting that The Undertaker is the most successful gimmick in the world of American, but on the grand scale I think that Liger has to rank right up there with him as one of the best. I'll go into his career a little more depth at a later date, but for right it's worth noting that Liger has competed in every major wrestling promotion including WWE, ROH, WCW, TNA and various others over the years and been successful. Dream matches with the likes of Samoa Joe, Rey Mysterio, Bryan Danielson and other I am sure. It is amazing the career that Liger has had and the legacy he will no doubt leave behind will be unmatched. Enjoy the ride Jushin you've more than earned every second of it.
Changing things up this week sharing the match that I found earlier than normal. It has been quite a while since the last update from this section of the site and that's the reason I looked for a match from New Japan. For those who don't know on a yearly basis the New Japan holds the G1 Climax tournament which is the way they crown a #1 contender for the World Title at Wrestle Kingdom. This tournament in my opinion is by far the most prestigious tournament in wrestling.
Often enough in the tournament we see a various number of matches that we didn't normally get to see during the year. In recent years it has also been the springboard to propel borderline main eventers into the stratosphere. Names like Jay White, Kenny Omega, and Tetsuya Naito have been propelled forward based on either performance or winning this extremely prestigious tournament. Now looking at a match that never happened while Kenny held the title that I kinda wish it would've was the leader of LIJ vs the leader of Bullet Club. One of the moments that let you ask what would've happened had they fought for the IWGP Title is something that now will have to go unanswered. But we can always wonder what if!!
As everyone knows the world of New Japan changed drastically since the start of the new year especially since the former "Ace" of New Japan is back on top of the mountain. With the renascence of Hiroshi Tanahashi and the departure of Kenny Omega it is interesting to think about how the picture of the big belt has changed since the turn of the calendar. With Cody, Kenny, and the Bucks gone the picture is wide open and can really be filled by a host of different people and this is where we will look at those possibilities. Now in my opinion there is one person who would likely fall into the top contender spot based on his win at Wrestle Kingdom and rising status in New Japan.
In my opinion "Switchblade" Jay White has to be considered a top contender for the IWGP Heavyweight championship. Over the last twelve months I don't think anyone has really shown through as someone that NJPW will be looking as a stable person to build around other than White. Last year they helped build his credibility during the G1 Climax with wins over current champion Tanahashi & former champion Okada. However, I do think that White still needs a little bit of time before he finds his footing as a main event talent, but I do think he has what it takes.
Overall I'm not sure if he will be the top contender for the gold as NJPW might want to hold off on giving this match away so early in Tanahashi's reign, but I do believe at some point we will see the legend face the up and comer. In my opinion the WWE needs to take a lesson from New Japan in how to build a new main event level talent as Jay White's push has been fantastic & his 2018 is proof of that. I think his potential is shining at this point and it will make for a very interesting 2019 not just for the "Switchblade" but for Bullet Club as a whole.
The biggest event of the New Japan calendar is coming up on us really quick it is now two days away. For wrestling fans the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom event is the first major event of the new year is here and almost ready to get going. After taking a look at the card for the event it is a very solid event for the show and is on par with every other card from this event. At this point New Japan has a reputation to uphold for what fans expect from this event every year and with this being the event that sets the stage for 2019 it will be interesting to see how it goes.
Before this years Wrestle Kingdom event I thought it'd be fitting to put our focus on the main event for this year. With that being said our main event this year will see current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega face former "Ace" of New Japan Hiroshi Tanahashi. In the last few Tanahashi has taken more of the veteran role or the role of someone who will watch on the side & jump in when needed. But now the former "Ace" has the chance to move to the top of the mountain once again and with all the questions surrounding the The Elite it might be the perfect time for a new champion in New Japan.
If one word could be used to describe New Japan it would be expansion. Starting in January last year the company would get the year off on a high note with another successful Wrestle Kingdom. Though some fans believe that Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada ended the wrong way it was a very good event and the right way to start the year. Seeing Chris Jericho appear at his first non WWE event in almost twenty years makes him the wild card from the event. It is amazing to recall the amount of hype that went into this event and how this really set the stage for what would be another year of expansion for the top Japanese wrestling promotion.
One major point of the year was the event in May as this was the next United States based event which once again went extremely well. From the first event last year when New Japan brought their brand of pro-wrestling to California. This year the company went to San Francisco specifically the world famous Cow Palace and they sold out the legendary arena.
The success of this event as well as the event in 2017 has set the Japanese based promotion to run two events in the United States in 2019. In my opinion this sets the promotion up for even more expansion as long as both events especially the special in MSG are as successful as they are projected to be. Overall though this year wasn't all good for New Japan as they have lost a number of wrestlers and need to rebuild the company a little bit next year with some top names not yet signing back with NJPW. To be frank though I think they succeed for the most part in the last twelve months, but we need more time to see the success or failure of major booking decisions, like Jay White's ascension into a leadership role in the bullet club.
Coming up on the new year and that means one thing for non-WWE fans. The first PPV of the new year in New Japan is the biggest event of their calendar year. In my opinion this is the only event that could be compared to Wrestlemania on any level. This is one of the reasons that I'd want to hype up the event as the annual event draws near.
This event has produced some of the top matches in not just New Japan but over the course of the year. One of the matches that really left a lasting impression on fans was the match featured below between AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura from Wrestle Kingdom 10. This match left enough of an impression on fans that everyone was extremely excited at the prospect of seeing the match in WWE when both men joined the company. These two posse chemistry with each other, but I feel like it is limited chemistry and they showed that in the lackluster WWE feud they had. Overall though this was one of the better matches in recent memory from this event in my opinion.
Change is something that runs parallel with wrestling and is really how company or talent finds success by getting in front of the changes. One wrestler has really taken the idea of reinvention to keep himself always fresh and new before he got outdated and stale. In reality not many talent can get a list over better then other wrestlers on the roster or can really make such a drastic change that he has from being in WWE to how he is in New Japan. Following his appearance at All In at the start of last month Chris Jericho proved just how unique of a character and talent he is from any other name in wrestling.
During his last run in the WWE we saw Chris Jericho playing a totally different part then he did when he was last with the company. Jericho would create the "List of Jericho" which would become a highlight of each show that he was on always getting a pop from the fans when he would mention it. Though early on in his run he would be a heel with Kevin Owens which made his last run even better, and by the end we Jericho turn and become a good guy.
Jericho would then shock the wrestling world appearing in New Japan Pro-Wrestling to challenge Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom. Many thoughts after his show stealing performance at the biggest event of the year he would be done in New Japan but he would shock the world again by showing up to attack Tetsuya Naito starting a feud with the leader of LIJ. Though things would start slow we would end up getting the match between Jericho & Naito and it was for the IWGP Intercontinental Title which Jericho would shockingly win. Now not only is Jericho an aggressive, arrogant, violent, veteran, but he is the first star to hold the IWGP & WWE Intercontinental championship. Jericho has proven how important reinvention is in wrestling and that truly age is just a number and doesn't really have a great effect in wrestling if you have taken care of yourself over time like Jericho has during his career.
Since the news of Neville getting out of his contract with the WWE after a back and forth with the company since last October. Though I am sure there is joke somewhere in here with Enzo about him defeating Neville in a rematch for the title. However, since both of them are no longer we move on to where Neville could be heading now that he is free. One company that does really have open door for Neville to return is New Japan which would make things a little more interesting. New Japan is always looking for the next big talent especially when it comes to dream matches. This would be especially interesting considering Neville has never really had an official run in New Japan and his only time in the company was during the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Seeing Neville across the ring from various names like Dragon Lee, Jushin Liger, Kota Ibushi, and others especially when Hiromu Takahashi when he return.
It is interesting thinking about the possibilities that are now available with Neville free as it adds another wrinkle to the ever changing and expanding world of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In his past run on the Indies Neville was more the white meat baby face that likes to fly around but after returning from his injury and flipping heel he showed a side to himself that nobody knew existed especially before WWE.
Overall I think that Neville showed his potential to be a top star when he really got into his gimmick as the cruiserweight king. He showed a side that nobody thought he could as an aggressive, ruthless bad guy that was extremely skilled in the ring. Honestly, I would love to see Neville in some way show up in Impact Wrestling even though they have shaken the WWE reject reputation Neville is different I feel like and would be more on par with Austin Aries then some of Impact's past signings. However, I do think to start Neville's place is on the international market as a way for him to see how much things have changed since he left for the WWE 6 years ago. Where do you want Neville to end up?
The 28 annual G1 Climax has come to an end and the winner has been declared after a classic match between two of New Japans best workers. The tournament came down to Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Isbushi with Kenny Omega and Shibata in each challengers respective corners. These two men tore the house down and really showed just how important this tournament is to every person who competes in it; because the winner earns an opportunity to challenge for the IWGP World Title in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. One last thing if you have not seen this match I suggest putting aside some time and giving it a watch as I highly recommend it.
Now that the stage is set we can declare the winner of this years tournament is Hiroshi Tanahashi. This is interestingly enough one of the only things that Tanahashi had yet to do in his legendary career and now it is official that for likely the first time Tanahashi will enter Wrestle Kingdom's main event as challenger. Not to discount Ibushi who put in an amazing performance, but it will be interesting to see the former "Ace" in a different role on January 4 next years.
Some other interesting notes from the G1 finals event is that Kenny's first challenger for the IWGP World has been announced as Tomohiro Ishii declared his intentions after a six man tag. This is one of the many benefits of the tournament, because it can set up feuds or matches after it is over as Ishii notched a victory against Kenny during the tournament to earn the opportunity. Also following a tag match another champion found his next contender with Cody making his interest clear in challenging Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States Championship. The announcement of these upcoming matches along with new 6 man tag champions should help in continuing the seemingly always high momentum that New Japan prides themselves with carrying. Overall G1 Climax 28 showed exactly why this tournament is far none the most prestigious event of it's kind in wrestling history.