7 Wrestlers I'd Sign to New Japan Pro Wrestling
A few weeks ago, I counted down the seven women whom I'd most like to see join Stardom in the near future. While I think that list was good in that I combined some well known wrestlers with a few up and comers, the thing I enjoyed the most was reading comments where some of you gave me your picks. Thank you for that.
So in an effort to capture lightning in a bottle again, I decided I'd do a similar list, but this time name seven men whom I'd sign to New Japan Pro Wrestling if given the chance. I chose New Japan over other companies like WWE and AEW because most lists pertaining to this topic usually see wrestlers leave NJPW to join the company of their choice. So how about we switch it up a little bit?
Before we dive in, let's lay out a few ground rules.
Just like with my Stardom list, I'm going to limit myself to one man per company. No one reading this wants to see me name wrestlers from one or two different places. That wouldn't be fun at all.
I won't be including any ACES here. So don't expect me to pluck guys like Roman Reigns, Jon Moxley, or Kento Miyahara. Again, where's the fun in that?
No tag teams or factions will inhabit one spot, so squads like The Bloodline or The Pheromones will be spared.
So without further delay, here are seven wrestlers I'd sign to New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Coming From - WWE
One of the main reasons I'm doing this list to begin with is so that I can finally talk about one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, Sheamus. The "Celtic Warrior" has been one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch year after year in the "Big Dub", and he's been one of the company's most highly respected as well. Since he made his main roster debut in 2009, Sheamus has won the WWE Championship three times, the World Heavyweight Championship once, the United States title three more times, and either of the brands' tag team straps five times. He's also a former Royal Rumble winner and King of the Ring.
However, if there's one thing Sheamus is known for better than having one of the most underrated careers in WWE history, it's that he's also supremely underrated inside the ring. Sheamus has been one of the hardest hitting strikers and grapplers not just in WWE, but anywhere in wrestling, for the better part of a decade.
So could you imagine this man stepping into a New Japan ring opposite the likes of Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Ren Narita, or my personal dream opponent, Minoru Suzuki? Just think of all the "bangers" this Irish lad could have in the G1 Climax or in the World Tag League. Remember, Sheamus is one of the best tag team wrestlers in the world today, and thanks to NJPW's connection with AEW, we could see him reunite with his greatest partner of all time, Claudio Castagnoli. That's honestly worth this spot alone.
Honestly, the only thing keeping me from putting Sheamus as my number one here is that he's just a little too old to be utilized the way I think would be best for the promotion and for Sheamus himself. The "Celtic Warrior" may be one of WWE's most impressive physical performers, but he's also been dealing with some pretty severe injuries, particularly in his back. So as much as I'd salivate at the idea of seeing Sheamus take on any of the guys listed above, along with everyone else on the roster, I think I'd be a bit nervous to see the 44-year-old in those matches as well.
6) Michael Oku
Coming From - UK Freelancer
While not nearly as prominent as it was less than five years ago, the British wrestling scene, known to fans as "Brit Wres", is still flooded with some incredible talent. Guys like Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr. and women like Jamie Hayter certainly lead the way, but you'd be hard pressed to watch a major English wrestling show and not find three or four up-and-coming wrestlers who you'll enjoy. Perhaps the one who's excited me the most this year was Rev Pro's former British Cruiserweight Champion, Michael Oku.
A five-year pro, Oku only found himself on my radar earlier this year after he famously took on Will Ospreay back in January. That match was celebrated by many fans around the world, not least of which Uncle Dave, who gave the match five stars. I would finally see him a few months later, when he traveled to the states for some shows during WrestleMania weekend.
The first thing that struck me about Oku was that he is a sensational seller. The guy has terrific body control and knows exactly how to display pain in an appropriate way. Mix this with his strong grappling and high flying move set, and I became a quick fan. Oku might not jump off the screen when you watch him on your computer or television, but having seen him live a few months ago, I can confirm that he's also got a physical charisma that is hard to pin down or explain. I'll say this, everything Oku does feels natural in one way or another.
So having said all that, I would love to see Oku incorporated into New Japan's junior heavyweight division in 2023. This could mean an inclusion into the Best of the Super Juniors, or even on some other tours. He could even link up with Will Ospreay and join the United Empire faction. Having met him in person, I can say that he's a solid guy who has his feet firmly planted on the ground. He's exactly the kind of guy I'd be happy to cheer for on any stage, but especially in New Japan.
5) El Hijo del Vikingo
Coming From - AAA
Coming back to North America, it's now time to say a few words about one of lucha libre's most exciting superstars, El Hijo del Vikingo. While he's seen his stock rise quite a bit, especially over the past two years, Vikingo has yet to find himself on a major card either here in the states or in Japan as of writing. Luckily, it seems that will change soon as he finally received his United States work visa earlier in the fall.
Now that shouldn't downplay what he's already done during his career. While he's yet to be seen on AEW or New Japan television right now, Vikingo has already built a great resume so far. He's not only been a two time AAA Trios champion, but he's currently the AAA Mega Champion, a belt that has also been held by the likes of Dr. Wagner Jr., Johnny Mundo (Morrison), Rey Fenix, and Kenny Omega. Vikingo has been champ for nearly an entire year, and when he does he'll be only the fourth to do so.
The reason Vikingo finds himself on this list is that he's one of the most exciting high flyers in the world today, which is something the New Japan junior heavyweight division sorely needs, in my opinion. While the division does sport some terrific all-arounders, they don't have too many who can fly like Vikingo. Now that's not an indictment on New Japan, because as you'll see in the video below, there are few people on Earth who can do what Vikingo can do.
While the Mexican wrestling politics between AAA and their arch rival CMLL could totally disrupt or even destroy this potential move, I'm choosing to ignore their stupid squabble for the good of wrestling. I have the deepest respect for both companies, but they each need to realize that their feud isn't helping anyone, let alone the wrestling fans they're trying to reach. For many fans around the world, the only thing they know about each company, besides basic information and some roster members, is that they hate each other to a cartoonish degree.
Video Credit: Adrian Magaña jr WRESTLING on YT
4) Yuma Aoyagi
Coming From - AJPW
My first of three Japanese wrestlers on this list, Yuma Aoyagi finds himself square in the middle at the number four spot. The 27-year-old has been in the business for nearly eight years now, he'll celebrate his eighth anniversary on December 14th, and he's spent most of his time with the All Japan promotion.
Aoyagi first found himself on my radar in 2021, when he and AJPW ace Kento Miyahara were the World Tag Team Champions from January to September. While he didn't initially blow me away, he did have his moments. He was a part of All Japan's best match that year, which was a Triple Crown three way with Miyahara and Jake Lee, and he did notch his second consecutive victory in the legendary Real World Tag League, which is an annual tag team tournament All Japan has held since 1977 and has seen winners like The Funks, Kawada and Taue, and Misawa and Kobashi.
Heading into 2022, Aoyagi has become a bonafide threat to one day win the fabled Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, which was at one time the most prized championship in all of Japanese wrestling, and perhaps second only to the WWE Championship in prestige at one point. Aoyagi earned an opportunity to face the Triple Crown champ, Kento Miyahara, back in May after he won the similarly legendary Champion Carnival tournament. He would lose the match against Miyahara, but I think that win or less, he had truly reached All Japan's main event scene, and it'll only be a matter of time before he hoists the belt for the first time as champion.
That is, unless New Japan brings him in first. While there were a few other wrestlers I could've named as my All Japan selection, including Yuma brother Atsuki Aoyagi, there's something about Yuma that really would excite me in a NJPW ring. At 27, he'd be a much needed younger heavyweight to add to the main event mix. And who wouldn't want to see Aoyagi in a G1 or New Japan Cup? And just like with Sheamus, Yuma is also a terrific tag team wrestler.
3) Bryan Danielson
Coming From - AEW
For the longest time while I was first crafting this list, I was going to include Miro as my AEW pick, however as I was filling out each section, I decided I'd switch him out at the last second and put Bryan Danielson in his place. While adding an AEW wrestler to a list like this might not be necessary, as AEW and New Japan already mix their rosters together from time to time, Danielson is my favorite American wrestler ever, and I haven't yet written about him on this blog so far. So I'm going to rectify that gross injustice.
Danielson has wrestled for just about everyone in his 20 plus year career. According to his Cagematch profile, he's wrestled for 41 companies, including WWE, AEW, Ring of Honor, Dragongate USA, PWG, Pro Wrestling NOAH, AAA, Chikara, and most relevant to this blog, New Japan Pro Wrestling. The young "American Dragon" last suited up for the "Lion Mark" way back in 2004, when he wrestled some guy named Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Danielson's history with NJPW was short, but it was still pretty impressive in it's own right. During his 16-match run from 2002 to 2004, Danielson took on the likes of Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, Minoru Tanaka, Koji Kanemoto, Manabu Nakanishi, Hirooki Goto, and Naomichi Narafuji. And on March 12th, 2004, he and Curry Man (Christopher Daniels), defeated Gedo and Jado to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, which they held for 85 days.
Now that's he several years older and infinitely more popular, it would be a dream come true for me to see Danielson wrestle an extended tour or two over in New Japan again. Just imagine him taking on the likes of Goto, Ishii, SANADA, and Ren Narita. I'd love to see him team up with Tanahashi, my favorite Japanese wrestler of all time, or even with Kazuchika Okada. The dream matches I have in my head that would be crossed off if Danielson went to Japan are endless. Who wouldn't want to see Danielson in a G1 or even in a set of special singles contests with Zack Sabre Jr., Will Ospreay, or even dare I say Katsuyori Shibata.
While there are guys who I want more as a permanent fixture in New Japan, Danielson's inclusion is not that. New Japan wrestlers work a much more physical style, and given his medical history, I wouldn't want Danielson to stay over there too long. So one, two, or even three tours in the promotion would satisfy me. Now we just have to make sure New Japan will allow their crowds to cheer every night so that he can finally head over.
2) Shun Skywalker
Coming From - Dragongate
Dragongate has several wrestlers I'd love to see join New Japan not only because the roster is stuffed to the gills with terrific high flyers, but also because it would allow me more opportunities to actually watch them do what they do. While guys like Dragon Dia, Ben-K, and Yuki Yoshioka were all potential choices from the promotion, Shun Skywalker was always going to be my final answer.
Starting his career back in the distant year of 2016, Shun Skywalker has quickly established himself as one of the best kept secrets in all of wrestling. The 5 foot 11 junior heavyweight has reigned as one third of the Open the Triangle Gate titles, one half of the Open the Twin Gate belts, and was even the youngest to ever climb the mountaintop and win the Open the Dream Gate Championship, the highest honor in Dragongate.
Skywalker has been quick to achieve all of this thanks to his exciting and impactful move set. As his name suggests, he feels at home while in the clouds. His Skywalker Moonsault is a thing of beauty, as are his topes and other aerial maneuvers. But beyond his lucha inspired high flying, Skywalker is just as dangerous when on the ground, as evident by his beautiful "SSW" technique, which I'll include down below.
But aside from his acumen in the ring, Skywalker's greatest strength are his mic and character work. Anyone who's seen Dragongate over the past year has seen how special this man is at portraying a sadistic crazy person bent on trying to control the narrative (heh). All of this started last year when he sacrificed his stable mate and best friend Dragon Dia in a mask match, which forced Dia to be unmasked. For weeks following this genuinely evil act, Skywalker attempted to show that everything was perfectly normal and that the departed Dia was happy to have been the victim of such a horrible fate.
This storyline culminated in Skywalker walking to the ring while holding multiple microphones preaching to the heavens the his faction Masquerade was stronger than ever. Of course, this was soon proven to be incredibly incorrect, as Skywalker would soon completely lose his marbles and join the newly minted Z-Brats heel faction, where he remains to this day. Honestly, if you want to learn more about Shun Skywalker, I'd highly recommend the "Noob Japan" podcast episode about his career. Kay (@KaysQuest on Twitter) did such a terrific job outlining what makes Shun Skywalker a talent you can't afford to miss.
Now that that's all out of the way, I should probably talk about how he'd fit into New Japan. If he was to go to NJPW in the near future, I think Shun would model himself a little bit like Hiromu Takahashi mixed with some Shingo Takagi and Taichi for good measure. As a junior heavyweight, I'd see Shun showcase his explosive offense, both in the air and on the mat, in a frenetic almost manic way, kind of like Hiromu was back in 2017-18. As for Shingo, I could see Shun eventually move up to heavyweight where he could have incredible hybrid style clashes against guys like Shingo and Will Ospreay. And finally, I would love to see Skywalker bring his delusional manic character into New Japan in a similar way to Taichi, who used to be sort of delusional at times.
Nevertheless, I believe that barring one other wrestler, Shun Skywalker has all the tools to absolutely thrive in New Japan if he so chooses to one day make the leap. Maybe it'll happen one day!
Video Credit: @narukiroy on Twitter
1) Yuki Ueno
Coming From - DDT
The one wrestler I'd love to see join the New Japan roster more than Shun Skywalker is DDT's incredible high-flyer, Yuki Ueno. The reigning DDT Universal Champion and one part of the promotion's uber popular 37Kamiina stable, Ueno has been a constant at or toward the top of DDT cards for a number of years now, both as a singles and as a tag team partner.
If you watch Ueno for more than five minutes, you'll realize exactly why he would fit perfectly in the New Japan roster. His move set, mannerisms, and penchant to do insane things all the time remind fans of a certain DDT legend who would later move to New Japan, that being Kota Ibushi. The similarities between the two are almost too many to count. They both are incredibly smooth high flyers who can also grapple and utilize impressive power moves. They both have been a part of highly popular tag teams, albeit Ibushi's partnership with that Kenny guy was little bit more memorable. And they also just look exactly like each other, down to the Beatles haircut.
Suffice to say, Ueno has all the tools to not just succeed in New Japan, but thrive. He's a terrific babyface, he can easily connect with any Japanese crowd, and he backs all that up with stellar work in the ring. He would fit like a glove in the junior heavyweight division going against the likes of Hiromu Takahashi, El Desperado, Robbie Eagles, and Taiji Ishimori. And heck, I could see him having hilarious comedy styled clashes with Ryusuke Taguchi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. He'd be a standout in any Best of the Super Juniors lineup.
And maybe in a few years, he could work his way up to heavyweight and showcase his power based offense against any of the heavyweights still on the roster. Suffice to say, guys like Yuma Aoyagi, El Hijo del Vikingo, and Shun Skywalker would all find success in New Japan, but Yuki Ueno is so special that he could one day be a legitimate ace of the company, similar to how Kota Ibushi all but proved a few years back. So if there's one guy on this list I'd want to see join the ranks of Okada, Naito, Ospreay, and Jay White, it's Yuki Ueno.
Special thanks to WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs, Cagematch, and 1.02.JP for helping make me a more well-informed fan.
Featured Image Credit - NJPW
Contact me at either AndrewSoS@protonmail.com or @SoSBaseball on Twitter if you want to collaborate!