Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Top 10 Wrestlers of New Japan Pro Wrestling for January 2016

With Wrestle Kingdom 10 in the past, Shinsuke Nakamura's removal as Intercontinental champion and a shake up already in place, the roster of New Japan Pro Wrestling is definitely in flux. But that won't stop me from bringing the second edition of the NJPW Top 10 list for this spot between the January 4th supershow and The New Beginning events in mid-February.

So without any further ado, on to the list!

Nakamura no longer holds this belt, but he's leaving New Japan with a great
sendoff during the CMLL FantasticMania events. Image credit: NJPW.
  1. Michael Elgin: ROH killed a lot of their potential in Japan by not putting the belt on Big Mike at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Fans uninterested in Jay Lethal got up and left and the shady finish just wasn't the way to end a non-Bullet Club match. But while Lethal is back to the US, Elgin will be back in Japan after the current CMLL tour, where I expect he will get far better booking than anything ROH does. (7/2)
  2. Young Bucks: The Bullet Club is in disarray, but two members still hold belts. Nick and Matt Jackson are the reigning Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team champions. They also seem to have become key members of Kenny Omega's new regime, which can only help them to succeed even more in their Japanese home. I wouldn't be surprised to see either man get a Jr. Heavyweight title shot against the next man on the list. (-/1)
  3. KUSHIDA: Tajiri's former protege cemented his place as the Jr. ace with his win over Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 10. With his former competitor now officially a heavyweight, KUSHIDA will have new challengers for his belt to face, starting with Los Ingobernables' BUSHI. (-/1)
  4. Tetsuya Naito: The leader of Los Ingobernables' Japanese branch may have failed against Hirooki Goto, but with the Bullet Club rebuilding, he's in prime position to become the new top heel in NJPW. Could Okada be in his sights? (4/2)
  5. Hiroshi Tanahashi: The move of Nakamura to WWE actually makes things easier in the "what do you do with Tanahashi now?" category. It would make sense to move him into the Intercontinental title position, where he would be on a collission course with #3 on this list. (2/2)
  6. Katsuyori Shibata: Still technically a free agent, the new NEVER Openweight champion should cement the title as the hard hitting, brawling oriented belt its been framed as for the last couple years. I suspect he will beat Ishii again in a rematch, only to have contenders like Goto or EVIL in his future. (8/2)
  7. Hirooki Goto: Goto was in the uneviable spot of having the only non-title match at Wrestle Kingdom 10. But despite a showdown with red hot heel Naito, he came out on top. His vitory earned him a Heavyweight title opportunity, but can he help to overcome the new ace of the company? (-/1)
  8. Kenny Omega: He may have lost the Jr. Heavyweight title, but Omega has declared himself a heavyweight and destroyed AJ Styles in the process. The new ace of teh Bullet Club wants the Intercontinental title and he will face down anyone in his way. Who that person will be remains a mystery, but Omega looks like he will be dominant in his upcoming New Japan matches. (9/2)
  9. Shinsuke Nakamura: He gave up the Intercontinental title after the rumors of his WWE jump went live and the announcement of his New Japan resignation at the end of January. But New Japan is using his final weeks to give him a strong farewell, with main event multi-man matches finishing up his New Japan career. (3/2)
  10. Kazuchika Okada: Okada wrestled a 36 minute classic against Tanahashi on January 4th. It is only the next in a long line of really great matches from The Rainmaker. Though his stablemate Nakamura is leaving, I suspect New Japan is in good hands for years to come with Okada at the helm. (1/2)
The Rainmaker reigns supreme in NJPW.

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