Welcome to FightBoothPW’s debut of the monthly New Japan Pro-Wrestling power rankings! Every month I will rank the top five members of each faction and break down why they are in the position. The rankings will be determined by strength of performance throughout the month rather than a win-loss record and will be based solely on the matches that were held under the New Japan banner.
Los Ingobernables de Japon
1. Tetsuya Naito
– Closing off a relatively quiet April by defeating Minoru Suzuki launches Naito into the number one position. Thanks to his denouncement of the Intercontinental title, Naito continues to be one of the more interesting characters in the company.
– After missing over a month due to a fractured orbital bone, EVIL returned to a very warm reaction. The time away seems to have made people appreciate him more and he finished the month by securing a title defense against Killer Elite Squad.
3. Hiromu Takahashi
– Hiromu spent most of the month on the wrong side of a losing streak. The ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ needed to learn to be more patient in picking his moments to strike. He showed persistence against Kanemaru and ended the month on a high note with a win.
– Because of EVIL’s return, SANADA took more of a back seat this month. He was fine but wasn’t the focus and instead let EVIL take the spotlight.
– Whether he’s being the one pinned or not, the focus is rarely ever on BUSHI. He’s been constantly overshadowed by Hiromu and the only reason he’s on this list is because there are only five members of LIJ. BUSHI could kill himself out there and people would still mention Hiromu in the same breath.
1. Marty Scurll
At most, members of Bullet Club were only featured on two shows this month and Scurll only one. The match he had though can very well be considered a classic. He came off like a maniacal villain, stomping at Ospreay’s damaged neck. We had no clue the extent of Ospreay’s injury so seeing Scurll hammer away at it was so vicious and caused visceral emotions.
2. Kenny Omega
– It’s noticeable how much fun Omega is having teaming with Ibushi once again. The energy that the Golden Lovers display is infectious and inspiring.
– The match at Sakura Genesis against Golden Lovers was Cody’s best New Japan showcase to date. Thanks to competing against strong fan favorites, Cody was able to display dastardly tactics to really get the fans to hate him. Strong showing from Cody.
4. Hangman Page
– What I said about Cody can also be said for Page. They worked really well together in creating an atmosphere where you wanted to see them get crushed. Hopefully those two can carry their momentum in New Japan moving forward.
5. Chase Owens
– It is time to stop undervaluing Chase Owens. This man in the best fall guy in the company. You know he’s going to lose but he will make sure to look damn-good each time. Get ready for that big reaction when he scores a win. It’s going to happen…maybe not.
1. Zack Sabre Jr.
– Even though he only logged two matches in New Japan this month, Sabre was the main event of Sakura Genesis and deserves the number one spot. He closed the month with a win and showed he’s not willing to fade into the background.
2. Minoru Suzuki
– Despite losing the Intercontinental title, Suzuki had several highlights in his promo work where he poked holes in Naito’s logic. Maybe this will prove to be important, maybe not. Still, it was his promos which helped generate intrigue in the match against Naito.
3. El Desperado
– Constantly overlooked, Desperado is a top five promo in New Japan. He has star written all over him and maybe one day he’ll get to the top. He served the same purpose as Suzuki this month when he poked holes in Hiromu’s game planning.
– Heavyweight Taichi may have seemed to cooled off a bit but made his presence felt on the 27th where he inserted himself in the NEVER Openweight title scene. We should all be scared of what Taichi is capable of and that’s winning the NEVER title.
5. Lance Archer
– The act of dousing everyone with water may be seen as cheap heat. Maybe it is but Archer is excelling in his role as one of the biggest pricks in the company.
1. Will Ospreay
– After what should have been a career ending moment, Ospreay is still standing. The match against Marty Scurll at Sakura Genesis will stand as an absolute classic. His warm-up matches against KUSHIDA have been an undercard highlight all month and he closed the month off with a debut of a possible new finisher.
2. Kazuchika Okada
– Despite a lengthy reign as champion, Okada’s matches have stayed fresh. Even though he defeated Sabre, he made him look like a dangerous threat and a formidable opponent. Now he’s on to Tanahashi and made a statement by delivering him a Tombstone Piledriver to the floor. Okada was awesome this month.
3. Hirooki Goto
– Over the last of couple months, Goto has looked reinvigorated. He seems to be having fun with his Chaos allies in the tag matches and had a hell of a war against Juice for the NEVER title. Possibly Goto’s best singles match in nearly a year. Goto is great when he’s motivated.
4. Jay White
– No one has been more impressed with Jay White than I have and he continues to improve as the weeks go on. He’s becoming more comfortable in his role as the Switchblade and is adding more wrinkles into his offense. At this rate, by the time G1 rolls around I’m confident White will have several standout matches.
– SHO proved to be more than a party boy when he slipped on the Iron Finger from Hell and laid Iizuka out. Roppongi 3K are tired of losing and SHO gave an example at the lengths he’s willing to go in order to win.
1. Juice Robinson
– A career performance from Juice this month against Goto. The man has won over the hearts of the New Japan faithful with his gutsy performances which will hopefully lead to a title win in the near future. I’m not sure how anyone could dislike Juice. He continues to prove his worth each and every time he’s given a chance.
2. Yuji Nagata
– There aren’t many things I like more in New Japan than watching Nagata test out young lions. The feud with Umino has been a blast. He may be aged but Nagata still has enough in the tank to excel in this role.
3. David Finlay
– Like Juice, Finlay had a career performance this month. His feud with White is very fun and hearing Korakuen get behind him was a great moment. He’s someone who is trending upwards but where his ceiling is at is largely unknown.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi
– Many, including Okada, felt Tanahashi wasn’t in a place to be challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Throughout most of the month, Tanahashi took it easy in the warm-up matches, likely to preserve whatever he has left in the tank. That all changed when Okada hit him with a Tombstone Piledriver to the floor. Since then, Tanahashi has had a mean streak and followed up with back-to-back nights of Slingblades on the floor. The biggest feud in the modern era of Japanese wrestling heated back up this month and was more than welcomed.
5. Toa Henare
– After months of squaring off with Ishii in tag matches, Henare finally received his shot in a singles match. He had a gutsy performance where he battled Ishii toe-to-toe, never backing down. It was an inspired performance that made many wonder about Henare’s ceiling in the company.
1. Shota Umino
– Umino has climbed to the top of the young lion food chain. His feud with Nagata has been a pure joy to follow throughout the month. Now that Kitamura is out of the way, New Japan is able to focus on actual talent in the division and Umino is talented.
2. Yuya Uemura
– Although he’s only made his debut this month, Uemura has already logged four televised matches and has quickly won my heart. He has a real fighting spirit about him and his no nonsense attitude is admirable.
3. Tomoyuki Oka
– There is no question that Oka has talent but his look is why he doesn’t receive the same opportunities to shine as Kitamura and now Umino. Despite being a young lion, he looks older than over half the roster. His talent deserves more recognition but it’s tough to get past the look and putting him in matches against his twin, Nakanishi, doesn’t help on a looks or talent level.
4. Ren Narita
– With the debut of two new young lions, Narita is no longer the fall guy in the division. In fact, Narita picked up three singles wins this month. I like Narita but he fell in the background with more focus on Umino and the debuting young lions.
5. Yota Tsuji
– So far, Tsuji looks goofy out there but he has heart. He’s already shown that he can take a beating and continue coming at you. There is a lot of promise in this young lion.
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