SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
With last week’s episode of AEW Dynamite ending with the appearance of New Japan’s Kenta, and Tony Khan’s announcement that the Bullet Club member will team with Kenny Omega to face Lance Archer & Jon Moxley, the wrestling world is abuzz with the possibility of the “forbidden door” being opened.
Whether it’s AAA, Impact Wrestling, the NWA, ChocoPro, Tokyo Joshi Pro, or now apparently New Japan Pro Wrestling, Khan has adhered to his “all options on the table” mantra even during a pandemic. Given these recent developments, I wanted to point out a few New Japan wrestlers who fit, should COVID travel restrictions allow. I have also included for the uninitiated a few matches you can watch that sell you on why I think these wrestlers would be a great ambassador of New Japan to an AEW/American audience.
(You’ll note that Kazuchika Okada isn’t on this list, as he’s in a class by himself and I’ll go into detail on him should the “forbidden door” allow in time.)
•KENTA (Bullet Club): Obviously, let’s start with the impetus behind this article. Kenta has been on a bit of a career renaissance upon returning to Japan after an injury-riddled stint in NXT. The former NOAH stalwart has carved a place for himself not only as a New Japan regular, but in the heel stable Bullet Club as their American representative on New Japan Strong, New Japan’s weekly show based in the United States.
Kenta’s style and current feud with Jon Moxley is fueled by Kenta’s acquisition of the briefcase he currently holds which, like the G-1 winner’s case, allows him to challenge for the title of his choice, which is the IWGP U.S. Championship. That is the title Moxley currently holds.
Kenta’s viciousness in the ring, coupled with his ability to read you for filth (see this promo from last week post-AEW Dynamite) will be a marked difference from the Hideo Hitami viewers may have known in NXT. In terms of a match, I’m going to skip Kenta because you’ll see him next week; I will, however, point to this outstanding promo he cut last November on how important this run has been for his confidence.
•SANADA (LIJ): If you’ve listened to “The Deep Dive” podcast I host or heard me on any of the PWTorch podcasts involving New Japan, you knew this was coming. My dear beautiful adopted son Sanada may be familiar to those who remember his time in Impact, but since then he has joined one of the most popular stables in New Japan, Los Ingobernables de Japón. Sanada’s moveset and flair would be great in an AEW feud with a number of wrestlers on their roster, but apparently The Dark Order has called dibs, based on a recent Tweet from Evil Uno.
Give us Los Ingobernables de Japon
— EVIL UNO of the DARK ORDER (@EvilUno) February 4, 2021
For his match, I’m going to point to a great program that was done during the start of quarantine – “New Japan at Home” – where Sanada described his favorite match and finish, which also features Okada – so you can consider this a backdoor Okada preview as well.
•Guerillas of Destiny (“G.O.D.” / Bullet Club): This would be a great get for several reasons. First, G.O.D. – Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa are some of the OGs of The Bullet Club and have had issues with the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers using the Bullet Club name outside of New Japan. The pair are brothers and brawlers and would be vicious in their path of vengeance – and to prove that they are the authentic Bullet Club, particularly as the record setting seven-time and reigning, defending IWGP Tag Team Champions. Additionally, they’re the sons of Haku which selfishly means for me at some point Haku might show up for a six-man match and smash some dudes. For their selected match, the “New Beginning in Atlanta” show is a great match to watch them work against a solid New Japan team of FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson).
•Minoru Suzuki (Suzuki-gun): The leader of Suzuki-gun and one of the toughest wrestlers trained by the “god of pro wrestling” Karl Gotch. Suzuki can brawl, he can stretch you, or he can go knockout shot for shot with you in the center of the ring. Moxley and Suzuki would have a great chemistry as they had in New Japan, and Lance Archer could have a chance to either team with his old senpai in Suzuki-gun or face off against him in single combat. I could point to a ton of Suzuki matches, including him vs. Mecha Mummy, but I want to give a little credit to the OG Gotch and show footage of Suzuki training in Gotch’s yard in Florida back in the day.
Karl Gotch training Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki and other wrestlers at his home in Florida. Early 1990s. #catchwrestling #hybridfighting #pancrase pic.twitter.com/TfJ4ihSBVD
— Catch Wrestling U – #BlackLivesMatter #SpeakingOut (@CatchWrestling) January 22, 2018
Who am I fooling? I’m not getting out of here without dropping Suzuki goodness. Watch Minoru and Tim Thatcher scrap in a free OTT match here.
Hopefully this has helped anyone whose Twitter timeline was filled with excitement and had no clue why so many people were tuned up for the dude with purple hair showing up at the end of Dynamite. Enjoy, because tonight you get to see him in the ring on Dynamite.
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(Rich Fann is a new Pro Wrestling Torch columnist. He’s been contributing to PWTorch.com and PWTorch podcasts including the PWTorch East Coast Cast and the weekly “Deep Dive with Rich Fann” for years. As of January 2021, Wade Keller joins Rich every weekend for a new signature weekly VIP-exclusive podcast series, “Everything with Rich Fann, hosted by Wade Keller.” Rich also cohosts the “Everything Mailbag” podcast with Zack Heydorn. Follow him on Twitter: @rich_fann.)
Is Kenta the same guy who keeps getting hurt?