Chris Jericho is now a ten-time Intercontinental Champion, with the mild caveat that his tenth win wasn’t actually in the WWE. Rey Mysterio Jr, after 26 years in the Wrestling industry, has made his New Japan debut, sadly not in the showcase match of him vs Jushin Liger at Strong Style Evolved but at least he’s made it. So, with two of WCW/WWE’s best now part of Japan’s biggest wrestling company, who else could join them? Quick warning: I won’t have mentioned your favourite.
Let’s start off by talking about WWE people because let’s face it, that’s why you’re reading this, to see what other Jerichos and Mysterios I suggest might be next. So, you may have guessed from the header image what match I want and frankly, if you don’t understand why Mark Henry vs Tomohiro Ishii is best for business then you haven’t been watching closely enough.
Henry, especially during his Hall of Pain run, showed that his best matches are frequently with opponents of a similar stature, unlike many other big men who excel more at the classic David-vs-Goliath format. But also, Mark Henry is one desperately in need of proper motivation in recent years, as we’ve recently seen with matches like him vs Kevin Owens. Henry just needs someone to push him to work harder.
This is where Ishii, one of the best workers in the world and surely the best to have never held a major title, could come in. Like with Jericho, I wouldn’t expect them to make Henry work a long schedule, he wouldn’t need to run a G1 or go through an endless Road to… tour but for a man who worked as long and hard as he did, give him a shot at a career-best match before he retires properly, a true send-off for Sexual Chocolate.
Plus, who knows, maybe this might give us a motivated enough Henry to get a few more years out of him, especially considering he’s a few years younger than Minoru Suzuki or Yuji Nagata. Just generally though, I want to see him go headbutts and elbows with Ishii. If you expected me to talk about Neville here, don’t be silly, he’s still under contract with WWE.
Here we see Henry with two other New Japan Imports…
Now, beyond WWE imports, the other major groups that New Japan deals with are Ring of Honor and CMLL. From groups like Motor City Machine Guns and The Best Friends tearing up the Tag Division through to Jay Lethal being in Los Ingobernables de Japon, there is a rich history of Ring of Honor guys working for the International Wrestling Grand Prix, so why not get some more out of them as Bullet Club shows that there is a certain amount of money in imports and import stables.
It is with this, I pitch to you the next Ace of the Junior Division and the fourth quarter of Search and Destroy along with the aforementioned MCMG and IWGP US Champion Jay White, Jonathan Gresham. Gresham, at only 5″4 and 161lbs is in most situations the underdog but he’s also one of the world’s best technical performers, able to wrestle out of any scenario and hook in a brilliant Octopus Stretch.
He’s also a former wXw tag-team champion, a mutliple Pro Wrestling Zero-1 Junior Champion, had a brief stint in TNA as Suicide and is a former CZW World Champion, he could bring something different to the division, admittedly similar to KUSHIDA, but with almost a Zack Sabre Jr-type approach to variations, escapes and just pure finding new ways to change up his gameplan. Also, he does flips so don’t worry about that.
Now, it’s hard for one man to make his way in the faction-heavy world of New Japan so in this oddly free world of fantasy booking, I’d suggest they could either team him with LIJ or bring in his UK tag partner and fellow Calimari Catch King, Chris Brookes, heck, why not bring along the whole CCK gang and get Lykos in there, if for no other reason than Him vs Desperado would be a great example of two atypical masked wrestlers being great.
A CCK-LIJ collaboration would be fantastic in terms of worldwide fanbase unity but also they have a certain unity of style in that they are essentially all the cool goth kids you were too intimidated to hang out with. You might think Neville could fit in here too, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
While discussing talent that could bring something new to the Junior division, let’s consider Taiji Ishimori, left Pro Wrestling Noah to make it in the USA, came to New Japan under slightly dodgy circumstances. Nevertheless, is still here but is also in Impact, a place with some fantastic X-Division talent that could be used to expand the division.
Trevor Lee is a very old school type who could bring a unique intensity to a division that seems to lack any real villains (beyond Desperado but he can only do so many matches), his Carolina Caveman character is a very easy one to get across to a new audience and most importantly, for the US expansion, he’s one hell of a promo, you can only imagine he could be a big star.
El Hijo del Fantasma or King Cuerno as he’s best known, is a long-shot because he still works in AAA, the biggest rival of CMLL in Mexico but there’s no doubting that matches against the likes of Hiromu Takahashi, Dragon Lee or Will Ospreay could be excellent but really, the main talents that I think they could bring in are Desmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz, The Rascalz. Current PWG Tag-Team Champions that they are, The Rascalz could help revitalise a sorely lacking Junior Tag-Team division that has the talent but lacks the storylines to really give it any substance. Plus, with the move up to the big boi leagues by The Young Bucks, Xavier and Wentz could be a suitable replacement, able to work a multitude of styles but also perform singles and tag duties.
Put these two into a long programme with Roppongi3k, have them work tags and singles between the four (or five if Romero’s interested) and just watch the magic happen. Neville, or Pac as he was known, has never, to my knowledge, worked for Impact. Unless he’s also been Suicide at one point.
Joey Ryan has never faced Toru Yano or Ryusuke Taguchi. The fact that this hasn’t happened is not just ridiculous but by all accounts, is a crime against fans of Comedy Wrestling. If you don’t know Joey Ryan, what have you been doing with your life?
The man sometimes known as The King of Dong Style deserves to ply his trade in New Japan and conversely, New Japan needs more people like him because they have enough in the way of serious, Dave Meltzer-approved wrestlers at the moment. We need more high-concept, Jim Cornette-enraging performers to vary the cards and break up all that strong style intensity by having a match where one man is throwing his arse about while another tries to low blow The Man with the Iron Dong!
On this note, could we have Colt Cabana and Grado because Yano/Ishii vs Irn Jew seems like a good way to proceed? While I’m still on this subject, can New Japan make more use of Chuck Taylor because I don’t think there’s a better performer in the entire world of wrestling at switching between differing styles. Also, something about Neville.
The real group that I think NJPW need to be pulling from is from closer to home. New Japan has been slowly integrating other companies from around Japan into their ranks on a short-term basis, with Pro Wrestling Noah’s Naomichi Marifuji and Katsuhiko Nakajima having competed in the 2016 G1 Climax through to members of other promotions such as Daisuke Sekimoto and Dinosaur Takuma appearing on Lion’s Project shows (if you don’t watch them, think NXT but with more plain, black pants and Boston Crab finishes).
With this in mind and the seemingly limitless resources at my disposal in the realm of fantasy booking, let’s imagine if one year the G1 Climax had no full-time New Japan roster members whatsoever. There are so many talented performers in Japan that most people never hear about purely because they don’t work for NJPW. So, like how WWE has brought in new talents for their Cruiserweight and Mae Young Classics, New Japan could form a G1 of all of the current aces of the major promotions, building a network almost like the territories in the 80s.
You could see Marifuji, Nakajima and Go Shiozaki facing off against All Japan stars like Jun Akiyama & Kento Miyahara or Big Japan’s Sekimoto, Yuji Okabayashi & Takuya Nomura, we could see Dragon Gate putting CIMA, Mochizuki, Naruki Doi, BXB Hulk & Yamato against Los Ingobernables de Japon or have some true dream spectacles like Great Sasuke and Dick Togo against Jushin Liger and Yuji Nagata respectively, showcasing Michinoku Pro, you could even bring in DDT Pro names like Danoshoku Dino or Kota Ibushi’s other best friend Gota Ihashi.
I’d said you could bring in names from Wrestle-1 or Zero-1 but to be honest, the only names I know from them are Keji Mutoh and Masato Tanaka who is already a former IWGP Intercontinental and NEVER Openweight Champion. Either way, this could then lead to New Japan talent turning up elsewhere and I don’t just mean the KaiEnTai Dojo, I’m thinking Yano in DDT Pro, Tanahashi in Dragon Gate, heck, you could have Okada in the Next All Japan Champion’s Carnival. It sounds trite but really, but if they could all get along, we could have a rollicking good time. Yes, this is just another excuse for me to mention Sekimoto.
So those are my suggestions for who else NJPW could bring in. Do you disagree? Did I miss anyone out you can think of? Perhaps I forgot a certain Geordie who was also forgotten by the laws of gravity? Either way, you can tell us what you thought @SteelChairMag and @NotJoeRaczka