1. Giant Baba
A huge cultural icon and beloved legendary sports figure. Also considered one of the great wrestling promoters of all time.
2. Mitsuharu Misawa
A top of star of the ’90s and perennial world champion. The king of Budakon Hall with a longevity and drawing record that rivals Bruno Sammartino in MSG.
3. Jumbo Tsuruta
The number 2 star in the company from his debut in 1973 until Giant Baba phased himself down in the mid-’80s. Was the top star from that point on till his retirement from hepatitis in the early -’90s and one of the great wrestlers of his time.
4. Genichiro Tenryu
He started in sumo and moved over to AJPW in the late-’70s and pushed as a top guy from the start. Become one of the best wrestlers around during the mid-’80s and along with Jumbo were the two top stars of the rest of the ’80s before leaving the company. Returned in the early-2000s while in his early-’50s after the exodus of guys to form Pro Wrestling Noah and helped revitalize the company with dream matches against new stars.
5. Toshiaka Kawada
Besides Baba, Kawada would be the longest tenured top star in the history of the promotion. Was one of the big four stars of the promotion of the ’90s and won their world title in the main event of the company’s first Tokyo Dome show. Stayed when everyone else left and helped business with all new dream matches against the likes of Tenryu, Keiji Muto, and Satoshi Kojima. One of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
(PWTorch’s new Top Five List author Guy Bogard has been following pro wrestling since 1989 and regularly watches pro wrestling from around the world including WWE, NXT, ROH, Lucha Underground, NJPW, PWG, RevPro, AAA, and many others. If you have an idea for a future Top Five List, send to email@example.com.)