NJPW: Who is LIJ’s Pareja X?

For a man as ‘Tranquilo’ as Tetsuya Naito, he sure does keep himself busy. Just days ago, out of nowhere, Los Ingobernables announced they had a special message for the New Japan fans and then on 1st October, with a flourish and style worthy of only the most popular of Persona bosses, this dropped on the New Japan Pro YouTube page:

So what details can we glean from this video? We know that at King of Pro Wrestling on October 8th, Tetsuya Naito and stablemates SANADA & BUSHI and a mystery partner (for the sake of speculation, they will be referred to as ‘X’) will be wrestling in an eight-man tag against CHAOS’ Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Sho & Yoh. From the opposing team, we can assume that this will be a Jr. Heavyweight division competitor so that BUSHI has someone to go into the Jr. Tag League with, it would seem that this is going to be a permanent 6th member instead of just a man who occasionally pops in to say “hi” like Jay Lethal was in 2016 also if you want to start reading into things, they put all their chips on Number 6, indicating the 6th member, it then shifts focus to eight and ten, indicating the 8th of October, when KOPW is but then finally, it puts all its chips near a letter ‘P’ which might well be for…
Images courtesy of njpw1972.com
PAC fka Neville

When it was first announced that Los Ingobernables de Japon were looking for a recruit, Our only thought for the new member was PAC. The former Neville in WWE has the heel persona down to a tee, and that it’s something that is widely forgotten that LIJ is essentially a heel faction. Albeit with some very cool members in (we’re looking at you, Naito and Sanada!)

Something else PAC has shown from his run in WWE before his departure is that he can play that cocky heel to a tee and pull it off with a swagger that makes fans love and hate him in equal measure. The key to successfully integrating PAC into LIJ is where you place him and how you make him have an impact. In terms of integrating him into the faction, we could see him tagging with either Bushi (who never has a stable tag partner) or Sanada (as long as they both wear suits when not wrestling.) If you want him to make an impact then King of Pro Wrestling as an event makes sense, with it being the final of the tournament to find a new IWGP Jr Heavyweight champion due to LIJ’s Hiromu Takahashi’s awful neck injury suffered at Strong Style Evolved. Have him either come out during the match between KUSHIDA & Marty Scurll and affect the result or to come out as the next challenger. This would also open up a whole world of matches in the Junior Heavyweight including ones with Will Ospreay, Taiji Ishimori as well as the two final participants themselves.

PAC would be a great addition to LIJ as a faction and the entire NJPW roster, the only question is, is he the sixth?

Yoh fka Yohei Komatsu

He’s an outside bet for the newest LIJ member, but  what if in the fallout of the chaos within CHAOS, Roppongi 3k’s Yoh decided to turn to the tranquilo side? Bear with me, this isn’t just a random pick. Yoh has history with Naito going back to his days as a Young Lion, prior to his & Sho’s excursion to CMLL. Back then, rumours were flying of that LIJ were on the hunt for a new member, around about this same time, Yoh was frequently seen assisting Naito, the way Young Lions do – helping him backstage when injured and all that jazz. Naturally, the rumours began to shift, suggesting that one Yohei Komatsu might be in line for a spot in Los Ingobernables de Japon. But it wasn’t to be. On the last night of the 2016 Fantastica Mania show – the last shows Sho and Yoh were scheduled to compete in prior to their excursion to CMLL – Naito called Yoh into the ring and the deal seemed done. But moments later, Naito attacked Yoh, leaving the Young Lion laid out in the ring. Apparently, Yoh hadn’t made the cut. His first flirtation with LIJ might have ended in disaster, but that doesn’t mean history has to repeat itself. Things in CHAOS are rapidly turning sour, and the Roppongi boys have no real reason to stick around. And while Yoh rejected Jay White’s attempts to turn him to the dark side during the G1, Sho noted in at least one post-match interview that Jay’s methods, while morally dubious, always got the job done…could the faultlines within CHAOS have spread to the apparently serene Roppongi 3k too?

Kawato-San fka Hirai Kawato

So far every member of LIJ is Japanese. And the last addition, Hiromu, was a returning young lion. If they want to continue this tradition then Hirai Kawato may very well be X. He has been on excursion in CMLL, like both Naito and Hiromu, and fits the desired Junior Heavyweight size that LIJ are looking for. Another LIJ connection that Kawato has is that one of his first major matches was actually against the team of Naito and Hiromu. Kawato would certainly tick some of the boxes necessary to be the newest member of LIJ. He definitely makes more sense than the injured(?) Katsuya Kitamura and Great O-Kharn. We could, of course, see LIJ break the rules and pick a gaijin Pareja. It may be the man that took out Hiromu, Dragon Lee, it could be Sami Callihan or Shane Strickland but maybe LIJ will go closer to home and recruit former Dragon Gate performer Shingo Takagi.

Shingo Takagi

Why Shingo Takagi? I’ll go one better, first for the non-Dragon Gate fans, who is Shingo Takagi? If you’re asking that, you clearly didn’t read our BOLA preview but Big Poppa Shingo is 35 years old, 5″10 and 212lbs, which for the desired effect of a Jr, would put him on the larger end of the division but as all 6″2 of Trent? was in the division for years, don’t let that hold him back. The reason why Takagi seems the obvious choice is that the same night PAC returned to Dragon Gate, it was Takagi’s last match and in the wake of Taiji Ishimori jumping ship from NOAH for NJPW, it feels like the floodgates have been opened for all sorts of further nautical metaphor to be abused in descriptions of people going from Japanese promotion-to-promotion.

The larger and more thematic reason is he fits in with the historical connections that merge the other members of LIJ. Hiromu Takahashi was Naito’s young boy, SANADA was at the NJPW tryouts with Naito, and there’s one man responsible for training Naito, BUSHI, EVIL and Takagi and that is Animal Hamaguchi. Los Ingobernables aren’t like other factions, they put importance on unity, that is why a sixth member is such an important concept, this isn’t like Taguchi Japan or CHAOS where they go through members like Vince McMahon through steak wraps or Suzuki-Gun where members are but troops in an attempt at domination, the reason LIJ is different is that every full-time member of the faction has stayed with the faction. This is why they only pick people who have ties to them, who share their experiences because they know what they’ve been through and so they know they can rely on them. Takagi has taken a long way round but might be about to join the grandest stage in Japanese wrestling. May God have mercy on the Junior division if he does.

So who do you think it is? One of the men above? Katsuya Kitamura? Naito’s former tag partner Yujiro Takahashi?  KUSHIDA? Super Hans from Peep Show? Whatever you think, let us know @SteelChairMag

Contributions by Jozef Raczka, Alex Richards, Laura Mauro & Ryan Howe.