Updated: Dec 4, 2022
New Japan Pro Wrestling is a promotion littered with several distinct factions like BULLET CLUB, Chaos, and Suzuki-gun. But above all the others, one group has always been my favorite, and that's Los Ingobernables de Japon. Started by Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, and EVIL back in November 2015, I've always felt that they've been New Japan's most entertaining group, as well as the most cohesive. All the guys who've called LIJ their family have fit in remarkably well.
Originating as the Japanese offshoot of the Mexican unit "Los Ingobernables", which means "the Ungovernables", LIJ has all but lapped their father faction as the more prominent version. Over their seven year run, members have held multiple titles and have headlined countless big shows, including four Wrestle Kingdom events. Not only that, but the faction has risen to the second most famous faction, behind only BULLET CLUB, to western audiences. But while the BC has had the benefit of having multiple members with WWE and AEW experience, LIJ grew from scratch.
So today, to honor LIJ's recent seventh anniversary, I decided I'd rank the seven members the faction has had in their history, from my least favorite to my most. This is a totally biased list, so if you disagree, that's totally okay! Let me know what your list is on social media!
October 10th, 2022 - Present
One thing that has always separated Los Ingobernables de Japon from most of the other stables in New Japan is that they haven't added too many members over their run. While BULLET CLUB or CHAOS have usually added a few new guys every year, LIJ has gone years without even welcoming a single one. Case in point, when Titan joined the faction back on October 10th, 2022, he became the first to join since Shingo Takagi did so four years earlier.
While he's last place on this list, don't be confused for one second that it's because he's not talented, because that couldn't be farther from the truth. He might not be the most flashy luchador in the world, but he's still one of the very best from the Mexican scene. The only reason Titan sits in last place on this list is because he was just added a little over a month ago, and has yet to make much of an impact so far.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of things that make Titan special. First of all, Titan isn't actually a full member of the New Japan roster. Instead, he's a part of the CMLL roster in Mexico. Since he made his debut for the promotion in 2008, Titan has held a few championships, namely the Mexican National Welterweight belt two times and the CMLL World Welterweight Championship once. But what makes this fact interesting is that CMLL is also where Tetsuya Naito first became a member of the original "Los Ingobernables" faction.
The other thing that makes Titan special is that he's the first, and so far only, non-Japanese member of Los Ingobernables de Japon. While the crew has had some associate members from around the world, including Jay Lethal and Rush, Titan is the first to be considered a full-time teammate.
Ever since I first saw him in the Best of the Super Juniors in 2022, I've been hoping to see more from the "Immortal", so seeing him in a faction as fantastic as LIJ is a good step in that direction.
"King of Darkness"
November 21st, 2015 - July 11th, 2020
When Tetsuya Naito started the Los Ingobernables de Japon, he added two men to his crew. One of those guys was a young wrestler who had at that time recently returned to New Japan after spending most of the previous year on a training excursion. Once known by fans as Takaaki Watanabe, this imposing individual was given a new name, EVIL.
Over his four and a half year run as an Ingobernable, EVIL became one of the group's most popular members. He was one half of the squad's most dominant tag team with SANADA, and he more than stood his own in singles competition. In just his first full year with New Japan, he would score massive singles victories over the likes of Hirooki Goto, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson, and the legendary Katsuyori Shibata. In fact, EVIL defeated Shibata to win his first singles title of his career, the NEVER Openweight Championship, a few days before celebrating his first anniversary since his return from excursion.
As his tenure with LIJ progressed, EVIL became more and more popular. Not only did this happen because EVIL was really cool at this point, but also because he was finding success. He would not only win the World Tag League on two occasions, both with SANADA, but he would also hold the IWGP Tag Team Championships two times, also with SANADA.
With all that being said, he would absolutely squander all of the good will he had cultivated over the past several years on July 11th, 2020, the same day he shockingly beat Kazuchika Okada to win the New Japan Cup. Winning the Cup meant he had earned a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships, which that year were held by his stablemate and friend, Tetsuya Naito. And while Naito was excited about the match and threw up the fist salute for EVIL, EVIL shocked the world when he threw up the "Too Sweet" hand sign and attacked Naito. EVIL had turned his back on Naito and LIJ and joined BULLET CLUB.
Suffice to say, while EVIL was a terrific member of Los Ingobernables de Japon, his departure from the faction will unfortunately be his most memorable moment. And thus, he ranks at number six on this list.
November 21st, 2015 - Present
In the entire history of Los Ingobernables de Japon, there have been only two men who have been with the faction from the day it began to today, Tetsuya Naito and BUSHI. The masked junior heavyweight, and the master of the "Bushirooni", hasn't been nearly as successful as his long-time compatriot, but he has always been an integral member of the faction.
BUSHI has had limited success in terms of gold during his run with LIJ, but he has had some highlights. Perhaps his most prominent moment in the spotlight occurred in September 2016 when he beat junior ace, KUSHIDA, for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, with which he would hold for 49 days before dropping it back to the "Timesplitter". Since then, BUSHI has held the NEVER Openweight Trios titles four times and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belt once.
Today, BUSHI spends most of his time working in multi-man tags where he serves as the guy who eats the lion share of pins. He's far from the top of the junior heavyweight division in New Japan, but he still finds ways to remain relevant. For one thing, he has one of the greatest mask repertoires in all of wrestling. If you watch enough New Japan, you'll quickly see how creative and crazy BUSHI can go with his mask game. Additionally, he might not win all that often, but he works pretty well in tag team matches.
April 10th, 2016 - Present
While he might be a bit divisive in some fan circles for being a bit boring at times, I've always been a fan of SANADA. The man known as "Cold Skull" was the fourth guy to join LIJ back in April of 2016, and he's proven to be a dependable friend and teammate to the rest of the faction members to this day. Not only that, but he's been able to hold his own in the title winning department as well.
SANADA spent most of his early work with LIJ as one half of the most dominant tag team in the unit with his partner, EVIL. As mentioned earlier, SANADA and EVIL had quite a bit of success together, culminating in a pair of IWGP Tag Team Title reigns. After EVIL left to join BULLET CLUB, SANADA would complete a "Cinderella" run to the finals of the 2020 G1 Climax, which would only end when he lost to Kota Ibushi. Even though he didn't win the tournament, he did prove that he was not a guy to take lightly.
What makes me rank SANADA as high as I have today is a mixture of a few things. For one, he's a terrific wrestler. While he is guilty of slowing things down to a crawl at times, he's fluid and is an underrated seller. He kind of reminds me of Randy Orton in a few ways. Also, I really like how he bounces off his LIJ stablemates. While most of the other guys he teams with are loud and expressive characters, SANADA makes all of his noise in the ring. You'll rarely see him lose his composure, unlike practically everyone else.
Every faction needs that cold blood, quiet assassin, and SANADA fulfills that role incredibly well. He might never become a top guy in New Japan, but he's an excellent member of the roster's mid card and one of the key pieces of LIJ's puzzle.
Also, he has the best merch in New Japan.
3) Hiromu Takahashi
"Ticking Time Bomb"
December 10th, 2016 - Present
Los Ingobernables de Japon have had four different wrestlers compete in the junior heavyweight division, but no man is as synonymous with that style of wrestling then the "Ticking Time Bomb", Hiromu Takahashi.
Starting his run with LIJ in December 2016, Takahashi has been one of the most prominent members of the crew since day one. As an Ingobernable, he's won four IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships, where he's spent over 500 combined days with the belt, and he's also won the Best of the Super Juniors tournament a record four times. But aside from all of that, Takahashi has never rested on his laurels.
What makes Takahashi one of my favorites is that he's one of the best characters not only in LIJ but in New Japan as a whole. He's basically a child in the body of a thirty-something year old super athlete. He's immature, quick to excite or anger, way too wild for his own good, and is best friends with a plush cat named Daryl.
While all of that might make it sound like Hiromu is an insufferable guy, it actually makes him unforgettable and incredibly likeable, because you get the impression that he's not playing a character at all. What he puts on television every single week is exactly who he is in real life. And historically speaking, that's what makes for the best characters in wrestling history.
Hiromu Takahashi is unlike any junior heavyweight wrestler I've ever seen in my life. He's absolutely bonkers, supremely talented in the ring and on the microphone, and a singular unique force in pro wrestling. And I don't know what New Japan would be without him.
2) Shingo Takagi
October 8th, 2018 - Present
While Shingo Takagi might not be as famous as some of his stablemates since he joined New Japan toward the end of their most popular period here in the states, those who have remained fans of the promotion all know that "The Dragon" is one of the best wrestlers on planet Earth, and an incredibly valuable member of Los Ingobernables de Japon.
Right from the moment he was unveiled as the sixth member of the unit, Takagi immediately established himself as one of the most dominant forces in all of New Japan. After spending his first few years having stellar appearances in the junior heavyweight division, he would become a heavyweight. It was in this new division where he littered his trophy case with multiple titles, including the NEVER Openweight Championship two times, the NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Championship, and most importantly, the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. In fact, he's the longest reigning holder of New Japan's newest top prize as of writing, having held it for 211 days.
Apart from all of his tangible success, Takagi has more than held it down as one of New Japan's premier main event level talents, especially during the peak of the pandemic. Since January of 2021, Takagi has headlined eight pay per views, including on night one of Wrestle Kingdom 16 in 2022. He's one of only a few guys in the scene today who is seemingly incapable of having a bad marquee clash with anyone. Whether it's in a high pressure world title clash against Will Ospreay or Kazuchika Okada, or a comedy clash for the King of Pro Wrestling prize, Shingo Takagi is undefeated in bringing out the best in anyone he wrestles.
With all of that being true, there is one man who means more to Los Ingobernables de Japon. So without further delay, let's unveil my number one selection!
1) Tetsuya Naito
November 21st, 2015 - Present
Who else were you expecting?
While guys like Shingo and Hiromu have a special place in my heart, no guy in LIJ means more to me than their leader Tetsuya Naito. There is no one more charismatic or magnetic than the Sensei of Tranquilo, and I'm not sure I would be watching any wrestling at all right now if it wasn't for this man.
There are so many things that make him special to not just me, but to fans around the world. I already mentioned his charisma, but he's also supremely talented in the ring and one of the best "big match" wrestlers in the world over the past decade. But what separates him from the rest of the pack is that he successfully built up his career after spending years as someone the fans couldn't care less about.
For those of you who don't know, before becoming the leader of the coolest faction in all of wrestling, Tetsuya Naito was about as cool as a mouth sore. He was a bland babyface guy who straight up bored fans to tears. Some would call him a square, but he was so devoid of any edge, that he was actually a circle. Easily Naito's lowest moment came in 2014 when his match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Kazuchika Okada lost a fan vote to headline that year's Wrestle Kingdom event. Suffice to say, a character change was needed if Naito hoped to remain a key player in New Japan.
So soon after in 2015, Naito ventured off to Mexico, and befriended some guys in the original "Los Ingobernables" faction, namely La Sombra and Rush. A few months later, he returned to Japan, but he came back with a new attitude. Instead of being the boring as sin "Stardust Genius", Naito arrived as a generally apathetic guy who cared more about losing his baseball cap than actually wrestling. But instead of getting booed, the fans started to get behind this new "Tranquilo" character, so much so that he finally became the top guy he was supposed to be a few years earlier.
Naito's had some incredible highlights in his career, but none mean more to me than when he finally won the IWGP Heavyweight AND Intercontinental championships at Wrestle Kingdom 14 after beating Jay White and Kazuchika Okada on consecutive days. Seeing him reign supreme on the biggest stage New Japan has to offer meant the world to some of many us Naito fans. And while he most likely won't reach that summit again during his career, as he's starting to slow it down just a tad, we will always have that night.
Tetsuya Naito is one of those guys who only comes around once or twice every decade. While guys like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada will forever have more accolades, main events, and international fame, I think Naito will long be remembered as the guy who was the easiest to connect with. Because his rise from the most uninteresting guy to the undeniable center of attention was built on tenacity, persistence, and a little bit of patience.
Video Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling
Featured Image Credit - NJPW
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