Cewsh Scouts New Japan Pro Wrestling

Submitted by Cewsh on January 5, 2013 - 12:55pm
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Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another of our invigorating Sunday Supplements. You may remember that a month or two ago Psycho and I went in depth in breaking down the talent of tomorrow when we did a scouting report on WWE's developmental program, NXT. The response this got was staggering, as people seemed genuinely fascinated to finally get some detailed information about guys they had only heard of, if that, but who would soon be gracing their television screens. (It didn't hurt that the Shield and Big E Langston were called up mere weeks afterwards.) So to continue along the lines of helping to shed some light on parts of the wrestling world that many fans never get a chance to see, this week we're going to be focusing on the Japanese powerhouse that is New Japan Pro Wrestling.


The Official Wrestling Promotion Of House Lannister.


To those of you who don't follow Japanese wrestling, New Japan is a true giant in the wrestling world, surpassed internationally only by WWE and growing with each new day. They've taken a dominant hold of the entire Japanese market with a crop of stars that were either students or unknowns when the last great era of Japanese wrestling was going on. But who are these people who have taken New Japan from Antonio Inoki's great practical joke to the world to a thriving promotion hot on WWE's heels? Well, with the biggest show in wrestling barring Wrestlemania, (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom VII,) having just passed, let's evaluate them, shall we? And hell, with Defrost along for the ride, we'll even use the famous 5 star system instead of grades.


Hiroshi Tanahashi (IWGP World Heavyweight Champion)


 


Pros:
- The best main event wrestler alive today
- Massive nationwide appeal among men, women and children
- Abs that make suits of armor look flabby

Cons:
- Isn't immortal
- Hasn't answered any of my fan mail
- Not at his best in tag matches


Cewsh: I'm almost at a loss as to how to sum up Hiroshi Tanahashi, because pretty much anything I say is going to be met with complete disbelief by most of you. That's because saying things like, "Hiroshi Tanahashi is one of the greatest main event wrestler of all time" and "Hiroshi Tanahashi is so great that he basically turned an entire company around by himself." and "Hiroshi Tanahashi is everything WWE wishes John Cena was." usually just get you a dismissive wanking motion and an eye roll. Obviously I must be exaggerating, right? Obviously I'm letting my rabid fandom of the proclaimed Ace of the Universe interfere with any kind of impartial analysis of the man. Hell, maybe you're right. After all, you damn sure knew what grade I was giving the King of the Golden Abs without even needing to read this paragraph. So how about a second opinion? Frosty?

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: *****


Defrost: The man with the best claim as the Best Wrestler in the World. The 6 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion has been the undisputed Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling for half a decade. On January 4, 2013 Tanahashi will have held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, New Japan's top title, for 20 of the past 24 months. In that time there has been no more consistent main event worker in the world nor has there been any other World Champion to so successfully carry his station. He can work babyface, as he does the majority of the time, as well as heel as he has shown with matches against Hirooki Goto and Togi Makabe. In main event after main event no other wrestler has provided the level of work of Hiroshi Tanahashi. In a company stacked with talent up and down the card he has set himself apart as the perfect man to be the Ace of the best wrestling promotion in the world.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****3/4


Kazuchika Okada



Pros:
- Tremendous heel gimmick
- Great look and natural ability
- Absolutely on fire right now

Cons:
- The worst wrestler on the roster prior to this run
- Non-existent promo skills
- A risky gamble as a top tier star


Defrost: The Rainmaker. 25 year old Kazuchika Okada is the man poised to supplant the 36 year old Hiroshi Tanahashi as the Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling. One year ago this would have come as a shock. While there was always a noticeable upside in Okada, which is why Jushin Liger had New Japan sign him away from Toryumon Mexico and his trainer Ultimo Dragon in the first place, and why he was sent on a foreign excursion to the United States primarily in TNA. TNA being TNA did not see the obvious talent. Nor had they seen it in the man Okada hopes to replace, Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tells you everything you need to know about the low rent nature of that outfit. His return to New Japan at the 2012 edition of the 1/4 Tokyo Dome was lackluster at best. A bad match followed by a title challenge where he was very very nervous, and the crowd turned on him like he was in the ECW Arena. Maybe it was the venue, maybe he had to shake the stink of TNA off of him, but after that magic happened. For one Gedo became his manager and did all his talking. Then he won the title ending Tanahashi's 404 day reign as Champion in a great match. Following from there he had great title defenses against Naito and Goto before dropping the title back to Tanahashi in a MOTYC. In that time he built a confidence and an aura about him, and despite not talking much projected a new found level of charisma and is now the second biggest star in the company, and after January 4, 2013 he may be number 1.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****1/4


Cewsh: I have no idea how to put into words how stunned I am that Okada is this good, because last year he was the laughingstock on the entire promotion. Overnight he went from a boring guy who choked in big matches, to the single most dynamic heel in all of wrestling and I'm still trying to work it out. Somewhere along the way he dyed his hair, adopted the catchiest pose in wrestling, (put your arms out to the side palms up and stare straight up at the sky. RAINMAKER,) and started having improbably great matches against everyone. I'm not sure if this insane momentum he's building can keep up for the long haul, or if Okada will show us the flaws that we always knew him for later on, so I can't give the same fervent endorsement that Frosty gave, but if you compare this score to the one he would have gotten at this point last year, (*) it's pretty clear that the sky is the limit.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****


Shinsuke Nakamura (IWGP Intercontinental Champion)



Pros:
- Has great credibility as a legitamate badass
- Has charisma coming out of every pore
- A walking performance art piece

Cons:
- Will always be seen as secondary to Tanahashi
- Can be hit or miss in big matches
- His gimmick makes really heated feuds almost impossible


Defrost: The modern day master of Strong Style who is best described by the word swag. Shinsuke began his career in 2003 as the Supernova who in his first year as a pro wrestler became the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion of all time. An amateur wrestler in college he was just about the only wrestler Inoki sent off to K1 or Pride that actually won a fight. This however type cast him as a, "grrrr me serious angry fighter man grrrr" and despite his winning every title the company had to offer he was not as over as his push. That was until he went down the road of the art major he was in college as opposed to the wrestler. Now there is no one in pro wrestling with more personality than this man. Again the only way to describe it would be swag. Something people need to see. Wanna be starting something.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2Bom


Cewsh: Watch this video.

If you watched the video until Nakamura came out, you probably noticed a few things, (aside from the fact that their IC title gets it's own theme music, which is amazing.) You may have noticed his ridiculous look, his wacky hand flapping, the way he threw a peace sign directly into some poor kids face, the way he flashed the crowd for fun, the way he basically walked over and plopped his balls right on his opponent, and then, if you watched the whole thing, you may have noticed that he's a tremendous wrestler who stays in character all match long.

That is a completely random match from the past year, just to give you a taste of the day to day magnificence that is Shinsuke Nakamura. He's not as transcendent as Tanahashi or as hated as Okada, but by god is he ever fun to watch.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****3/4


Kazushi Sakuraba



Pros:
- Nationwide fame and credibility
- Has the fans interested in his intentions
- Very charismatic

Cons:
- Hardly a professional wrestler
- Not committed to the wrestling industry or New Japan
- Riddled with injuries


Defrost: The legendary Gracie Hunter. After spending years becoming a folk hero in Pride with the fall of MMA in Japan Sakuraba returned to his roots in Pro Wrestling. First at the Dream/Inoki New Year's Eve show and then making his return to a New Japan ring with Katsuyori Shibata at the final of the 2012 G1 Climax. His match with Shinsuke Nakamura at the Tokyo Dome will mark his first singles pro wrestling match since New Year's Eve 2000 at the first Inoki-Bom-Ba-Ye. There has been great heat for his matches so far, but he seems mostly bemused by the whole thing. You can tell his body is beat to hell. What makes him, beside the obvious, interesting is the style. He no sells everything on purpose. Not sure he could sell if he wanted to, but maybe we find out at the Dome. His aura and name and the atmosphere he creates are the major attributes here. Most interesting of which is that by virtue of being an invader into New Japan he is a heel. He is one of the most beloved sports figures in the history of the country, but New Japan fans want to see him get his ass kicked because first and foremost they are New Japan fans. amazing dynamic.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***1/2


Cewsh: It's hard to really judge Sakuraba, because wrestling really isn't his thing. He's an MMA star who was good enough to earn the awesome nickname "Gracie Hunter" and he's been brought in here to be a threat to the very foundation of New Japan along with his partner, (who we'll get to a bit later.) But since, as a wrestler, he's kind of a head scratching enigma, I agonized over what kind of score to give him. Ultimately it came down to this. As a personality and as a focus for this storyline, the man is flawless, even if his matches are in the "so bad it's almost good" category. So I'm going to put him dead at the half way point and throw up my hands until I can better make sense of him.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **1/2


Prince Devitt (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion)



Pros:
- Incredible athlete
- Great look and marketability
- Off the charts chemistry with every other junior heavyweight in the company

Cons:
- Matches can rely too much on big spots
- Basically a black hole of charisma in interviews
- Too small to ever advance out of junior division


Defrost: The Ace of New Japan's Jr Heavyweight Division which is a big deal for a gaijin to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger. Unlike other gaijin IWGP Jr Champions such as Owen Hart, Sabu, or Mistico who were never the focus of the division Prince Devitt has been since his climb to the title and victory over Naomichi Marufuji. And as the focus of the division he has excelled. In ring he is one of the smoothest workers there is. He has a charisma about him, but it is one entirely suited to the company he is in and its fanbase. Someone like Tama Tonga, who is quite great, has been better suited for a place like CMLL than Devitt has been for instance. Doubt he'd do anything in WWE, but is absolutely amazing in New Japan.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Cewsh: It seems like a lot longer than 4 years since Prince Devitt came out of nowhere and conquered the junior heavyweight division. In the time since then, virtually every feud of note by people who do flips has run through the ridiculously abbed Irishman. To date, I can't think of a single match he has had since taking on the role as the Ace of the Juniors that has failed to entertain and even dazzle me as a viewer. But perhaps his greatest asset is simply the fact that he has peaked at a time where there is so much other talent in the division to feud with, and Devitt has shown tremendous chemistry with each and every one of them.

This man is the closest thing to a sure thing good match as you will ever see on an undercard anywhere. Take it to the bank. Just don't ask him to smile.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Kota Ibushi



Pros:
- Incredible athlete
- Great look and marketability
- Off the charts chemistry with every other junior heavyweight in the company

Cons:
- Matches can rely too much on big spots
- Basically a black hole of charisma in interviews
- Too small to ever advance out of junior division


Defrost: The Ace of DDT, an indy promotion in Japan, he is a frequent combatant on several promotions biggest shows. He is one of the best high flying wrestlers in the world. He can work a straight match as he does all the time in New Japan and other promotions, and he can do wacky stuff which is DDT's bread and butter. Not to say DDT allows for no straight wrestling matches. Just this year Ibushi has had a great series of matches with El Generico, and main evented DDT's biggest show of the year in front of over 10,000 fans in a match that was not played for laughs. He has shown great chemistry with just about everyone from Naomichi Marufuji to Generico to Ryusuke Taguchi to KUSHIDA to his two opponents at the Tokyo Dome. Always a fun match from this man.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Cewsh: I loooooooooooove to watch me some Kota Ibushi. He may no longer by the preeminent high flyer in the world, (though I wouldn't bet against him,) but he has matured into a very well rounded performer. I would describe him as being, basically, a version of AJ Styles that enjoys kicking and has more personality. And if you can't see the appeal in that, then you might well be dead inside.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Low Ki



Pros:
- Incredible athlete
- Great look and marketability
- Off the charts chemistry with every other junior heavyweight in the company

Cons:
- Matches can rely too much on big spots
- Basically a black hole of charisma in interviews
- Too small to ever advance out of junior division

(Seriously, these three are basically the same person)


Defrost: Low Ki was never going to work in WWE, and his return to the indies was not one would compare to that of a conquering hero. He was never a fit for WWE. Some guys should never go there honestly. Guys like PAC. Or Ki's two opponents in this match. Or Ki himself. The perfect place for Ki is New Japan actually. He fits there. Whatever issues he had in the indies, which made me wary of New Japan bringing him back, have not been issues at all since he returned to New Japan. Perfect environment for him and a pleasure to watch.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***3/4


Cewsh: It should probably go without saying that Low Ki is most at home in the land where it's okay to kick people as hard as you want. After being booted out of just about every American company for hitting too hard and having a bad attitude, he's found the perfect place for himself here as the curmudgeonly dick of the junior heavyweight scene. His chemistry with Devitt and Ibushi especially is insane, and as he seems to channel the grumpy spirit of Koji Kanemoto, he can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Lance Archer (IWGP Tag Team Champion)



Pros:
- Big
- Athletic
- Might buy you a beer

Cons:
- Hugely inconsistent
- Seems unsure whether he's a giant or a crusierweight
- Looks like a dork


Defrost: Lance Vance Archer Hoyt was someone just a few months ago that I would point out as the weakest link in New Japan. He works as a giant power wrestler tossing people all about and doing moonsaults and having a tramp stamp. Since forming the Killer Elite Squad tag team with Davey Boy Smith Jr Archer has also shown a level of charisma that was not evident anywhere before. Even in New Japan. I have no idea what it is that has made him so different now that he is in this tag team I just know that he is.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***1/4


Cewsh: Frosty and I do not agree on this. I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that Archer is any less the same guy who thinks he's a Create-A-Wrestler and runs around doing inappropriate things at all times. Now he has added a hat, a beard and some mean looks to this. I am not impressed.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: *


Davey Boy Smith Jr (IWGP Tag Team Champion)



Pros:
- Great look
- Quickly becoming a tag team specialist
- Strong as a moose arm wrestling an ox

Cons:
- Still green as grass
- Uses facial expressions like he's being charged for each one
- Is not a singles wrestler


Defrost: Night and day compared to what Harry Boy was in WWE. He seems so much more comfortable and confident and this has allowed personality to shine through. Whether or not he could work the style was not in question, maybe degree of proficiency was up in the air, it was whether he had enough charisma to get over. He does. Pairing him with Archer and making them a monster gaijin team worked out very well. The best spot for him.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***


Cewsh: The former DH Smith has improved by leaps and bounds since he was last seen in WWE. He's intimidating, powerful, and is doing a decent job of making even Lance Archer look like someone who can wrestle a decent match. He has a long way to go to really measure up to his peers on this roster, but he's getting there.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **


Hirooki Goto



Pros:
- Long catalog of great matches
- Plenty of fan support
- Killer finisher

Cons:
- No real identity as a performer
- Lacks the charisma of his peers
- Looks like the bad guy in a James Bond movie


Defrost: Goto has sorta found himself in the Chono spot of winning a thousand tournaments but never the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He was one of the four spotlighted guys, called the Four Kings trying to conjure images of Misawa et al in the 1990s, with Tanahashi, Shinsuke, and Makabe but there was always something that held him behind those three. Now he finds himself further back having been passed by Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito as well. He is a great worker. That is not an issue. It is just that he seems to be missing something that takes guys from upper mid card to solidly main event. Something he has been searching for. He has gone through many looks and character types. A damn good hand to have with a tick off.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****


Cewsh: I feel like Hirooki Goto is kind of the Jeff Jarrett of New Japan. Before the puro fans grab their pitchforks and come after me, hear me out. This is a guy who has tried EVERYTHING to get over to where the company wants him to be. He's changed gimmicks numerous times, he's tried all kind of different looks, he's left the company on sojourns around the world and come back, he's tried different finishers and styles. Hell, I don't speak Japanese, but it wouldn't surprise me if his interviews are littered with failed catchphrases too. No matter what he does, he just never seems to be able to make it over the hump and really join the elite, even though he has the in ring skills to make it without question.

To follow the Jarrett comparison fully, he would have to leave and go to Pro Wrestling NOAH and spend the last year of their existence holding down KENTA, before starting his own awful company. Fingers crossed on that one.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***


Karl Anderson



Pros:
- Solid in the ring
- Well liked by his peers
- Effective tag team wrestler

Cons:
- Looks like a soggy baked potato
- Has been pushed wayyyyyy beyond his skill level
- Wants to be Randy Orton so bad that it hurts


Defrost: Not gonna lie there are many who are bigger fans of the Machine Gun than I am. He has found singles success since Bernard's leaving New Japan with his appearance in the Final of the G1 where he fell to Okada. He has been solidly in the main event of tournament finals or in the semi main of PPVs since then. He has a lot of fans. The other wrestlers in New Japan speak highly of him. To me he has got the Takashi Sugiura syndrome in that I can't get past that his big moves are the Olympic Slam and Ankle Lock just as Anderson does a mat smacking routine before going for an Ace Crusher just like Blandy, oh sorry, I mean Randy Orton.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***1/2


Cewsh: People who follow along with our usual New Japan coverage have noted that I am often harsh on Karl Anderson, despite the growing consensus that he is a valuable commodity. I probably have been overly harsh, but let me break him down for you. He is about 5'10, has the look and build of an unemployed construction worker, and he's primarily known for being the annoying guy who gets beaten up before his bigger partner does some smashing. I realize that I basically just described Daniel Bryan, but that's where the similarities stop.

Ever since Giant Bernard, (Lord Tensai,) left New Japan, Anderson has been getting an improbably push higher and higher towards the main event scene. He seems to have topped out now in the upper midcard, rubbing elbows with guys like Goto and Nakamura, and nobody seems to have told him yet that he looks absolutely ridiculous in their company. Japan has a history of choosing the most bizarre American talent to push to top spots, (hi Johnny Ace!,) but at least those guys are usually either big or charismatic. Anderson is neither.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **3/4


Masato Tanaka (NEVER Openweight Champion)



Pros:
- One of the best hardcore wrestlers in the world
- Is still capable of great matches WITHOUT hardcore elements
- Ripped to shreds for his age
- Seriously, it's ridiculous

Cons:
- Tends to get pigeonholed into the hardcore matches he's known for
- Generally smaller than the rest of his main event brethren, (which means he always loses)
- Not taken very seriously by the fans in big matches


Defrost: The former ECW World Heavyweight Champion is a member of the roster of Zero-1 and is a main stay of New Japan's biggest shows. Best known for his hardcore stuff from FMW and ECW Tanaka can have straight wrestling matches although with a heel bent. One of the best brawlers in the world he knows how to get heat and is a solid addition to any card. He is the inagural NEVER Openweight Champion and makes the first ever defense of that title at the Tokyo Dome. NEVER is the New Japan equivalent to NXT. Why is a 40 year old the champion then you may ask.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***1/2


Cewsh: If you watched ECW and saw Tanaka in action there, then you basically know exactly what you're dealing with here. This is a man with an almost supernatural ability to withstand pain, who has taken his role as sort of the "Hardcore Main Event" with him wherever he goes. It's also worth mentioning that he has bags more personality now than he used to in those old days, but if you want to see a guy concuss someone with a discuss clothesline and then break a Kendo stick over their head, this is still your guy.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***3/4


Shelton Benjamin



Pros:
- It's Shelton Benjamin

Cons:
- It's Shelton Benjamin


Defrost: Remember what he was like in WWE? That.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: **1/2


Cewsh: Yep.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **1/2


Keiji Mutoh



Pros:
- Insanely popular
- Perhaps the most charismatic wrestler ever to live
- Works hard to put over young stars

Cons:
- The man is 50 years old
- His knees ran away to live with the dish and the spoon
- Between his legendary stature and popularity, he can't ever really lose matches except against other huge stars


Defrost: The last legend of the 1990s still standing in Japan. Age and injury limits what this legend can do these days, but he is cagey enough to know what he can do and do it well. At 50 years old he still projects a superstar aura like few others. One of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time Muto is a legend in Japan and America in the guise of his Great Muta persona. Relies on his most famous moves, the Dragon Screw and Figure Four Leg Lock from the Takada match as well as the Moonsault and Shining Wizard, peppered through the match. He is not past the point of being able to having fun to honestly great matches as he has shown in 2012 with his match against Jun Akiyama or the 6 man tag from the NJPW/AJPW 40th anniversary show.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****


Cewsh: Trying to break down what Muto represents in the modern age of Japanese wrestling is a bit tricky. The closest comparison I can draw is to The Undertaker, but that doesn't quite work because Taker has never been even remotely as popular and skilled as Muto. But both of them have continued wrestling even as their skills fade to to age and injury, and are still capable of turning out a special performance when the situation calls for it. But in both cases, you always just kind of wish they would retire as it gets harder and harder to watch them totter down to the ring gingerly and attempt to produce magic while holding off arthritis.

Muto manages this better than any other 50 year old wrestler I've ever seen who wrestles as much as he does, and he's still turning in matches good enough to make it impossible to really want him to leave. But the elder statesman has to walk away sometime, and we may be watching his final lap.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****


Hiroyoshi Tenzan



Pros:
- Big
- A popular star from the 90s
- Works great as a wrecking machine in tag teams

Cons:
- Seemingly held together by rubber bands and pony wishes
- Doesn't really have it in him to do singles matches anymore
- Goofy mask


Defrost: Being in a tag team with Satoshi Kojima is the exact place he needs to be. His body has been thrashed over the years to the point I can not think of a body part he has not injured. Honestly, while a lot of it was booking, his run as a main event singles wrestler did not work. His best destiny has always been tagging with someone whether it was Chono or Kojima. Since he has starting teaming ith Kojima again the tandem has been a more than solid presence in the mid card of New Japan shows with very good matches against teams like Bad Intentions and Killer Elite Squad. Tenzan can with the right opponent have really great singles matches. Thinking of his G1 matches the last few years with Shinsuke Nakamura. A long time veteran who is over and can entertain if used properly.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***


Cewsh: In a past review I compared Tenzan and Kojima to Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, and I think it's a comparison with some merit to it. If you look at those pros and cons, they pretty much describe Kevin Nash just as well as Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and that's because they're both broken down older wrestler who don't belong outside of tag matches, but who were very popular once upon a time, and still may have something to offer. Japan will always have a place for guys like this, (not so much in America, sorry Kevin,) and they've done a great job of& camouflaging his weaknesses. So long as they continue to do so, he'll keep right on being a valuable member of the roster.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***


Satoshi Kojima



Pros:
- Probably the best worker of the late 90s/early 00s stars
- Never have I seen a lariat so wielded
- Able to play just about any role

Cons:
- On the downside of his career
- May not have what it takes to make another push to the main event, cluttered as it is
- Is often pulled down to the level of bad wrestlers when confronted with them


Defrost: While not in the best place physically, he is the beacon of health compared to his partner. Kojima came out of New Japan, jumped to All Japan, became a main eventer, came back to New Japan. He had a run as in the main event as a heel before turning and feuding with Minoru Suzuki and then rejoining Tenzan. He has more in the tank than Tenzan does as a singles I think. Just main evented NOAH's last Sumo Hall show. As mentioned in Tenzan's blurb their tag team is in a perfect spot for New Japan's needs.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***1/2


Cewsh: So if Tenzan is the Kevin Nash, then that makes Kojima the Scott Hall. Luckily, this version of Scott Hall skipped the whole alcoholism thing, and concentrated of decapitating people with lariats instead. Essentially what Kojima is right now is the smaller sidekick to Tenzan who does all of the work and takes all of the beatings. In addition, he can be moved up and down the card in singles matches as well in whatever context New Japan needs him to. Like Hall, he's a great all purpose tool for a booker to have, that you can throw in anywhere you need to.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***1/2


Yuji Nagata



Pros:
- Incredible versatile and adaptable to any style
- Excellent character work
- The best submission wrestler in the world, (including Daniel Bryan)

Cons:
- Getting up there in years


Defrost: Mr. Anti-Aging just continues to be great year after year. He has charisma and work rate in spades. He has long since shed the baggage of Inokism that led to his Cro Cop and Fedor beatings. There are few wrestlers in the world that are more fun to watch than Yuji Nagata. He can be wacky. He can be serious. He can brawl. He can have a technical wrestling match. He can work openers. He can work main events. He can be loved. He can be hated. As a wrestler he is as versatile as anyone in the business. This year alone he had a heated feud with Masakatsu Funaki and his Stack of Arms group in All Japan where he was hated. Especially after his New Japan victory dance. Meanwhile working against Suzuki-Gun in New Japan he is the quintessential babyface. Just a great great man.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Cewsh: In making this scouting report, I've tried hard to come up with the 3 pros and cons for each guy. For some it's been easier than with other, but Yuji Nagata is the only person on the roster that I couldn't even come up with 3 jokey flaws with, because the man is pretty much flawless. He can wrestle any style with anyone, from shoot fighting, to fast paced, to mat wrestling, to anything else you could think of, and he can do it credible in the main event, the opening match or anywhere in between. Hell, he can even do it in New Japan, All Japan, Pro Wrestling NOAH, or your cousin's weird backyard federation where everyone has a name like "Captain Buttwich". He may well be the most complete performer working in wrestling today, and the feud he had this past year with Stack of Arms just went to show that he also grasps just how to breathe life into a storyline with his mannerisms and facial expressions alone.

He may be a class all by himself, even though he'll never get the credit of the other great Japanese wrestlers, since he's the guy who had to bridge the gap between the New Japan boom of the 90s, and the New Japan boom of today. He's New Japan's Bret Hart, and he's a goddamn treasure.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: *****


Minoru Suzuki



Pros:
- The greatest dickhead heel in wrestling
- Hugely legitimate fighting skills
- Capable of incredibly dramatic matches

Cons:
- Also capable of incredibly lazy matches
- Doesn't put in effort if he considers his opponent beneath him
- Selling is not a concept he's tolerant of


Defrost: The villainous Suzuki is always a fun one. A former shoot fighter he works as a complete prick which sometimes manifests itself in some less than stellar matches and sometimes you get a ***** classic like his match from October with Tanahashi. He has had many great wars with his Tokyo Dome opponent Yuji Nagata. He leads the stable of Suzuki-Gun consisted of TAICHI, TAKA Michinoku, Smith and Archer, and Kengo Mashimo who frequently interfere in his matches. He can play the bad ass or the coward. He can be serious or can do comedy. Just look at his match from the DDT show in Budokan Hall. Very often worth a watch overflowing with charisma and damn entertaining man.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****1/4


Cewsh: Nobody likes Minoru Suzuki when they see him for the first time. As a result, you might see all kind of negative things said about him all over the web from people who saw their first Suzuki match and were utterly turned off by his arrogance, open mockery of his opponents and the match itself, and by his tendency to ignore the whole selling thing and just start kicking people in the eye. It's only once you've seen him a few times and realize that the whole thing is a carefully orchestrated character that you can begin to really appreciate the love letter to trolling that Minoru Suzuki represents.

The idea is very simple. What is you were up against a guy who was such an unbelievable dick to everything and everyone that you wanted nothing more in life but to kick his ass, but you couldn't because in addition to being a dick, he was also WAY BETTER THAN YOU. It's that mentality that has made Suzuki one of the hottest heels in Japan for a decade, and has even boomeranged around to make him a great babyface too whenever he wants to be, as his heel antics are so over the top, they've made him lovable. Make no mistake, this isn't a guy who will give you a great match every time you see him, but you won't see many characters any better than this one, and you don't even have to speak the language to see it.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****1/2


Togi Makabe



Pros:
- Terrific brawler
- Rivals Tanahashi in terms of positive crowd reactions
- Perfect lower main eventer

Cons:
- Not great in long matches
- Tends to get lost in the middle of matches
- Has trouble playing a heel


Defrost: A brawler. He went from a nondescript Jr Heavyweight and has become the unchained gorilla. Charisma coming out the ears from nowhere really. An every man figure who went from nothing to World Champ. Like Diamond Dallas Page without the Yoga. Or the Gene Simmons level of trying to sell everything. Same crappy looking dye job. Even more similarities than I thought. Very over with the crowd. Beloved. He was a villain leader of Great Bash Heel a heel, obviously, stable when he took over after booting out Tenzan. Then he was booted out when Shinsuke turned heel and GBH was just him and still is just him. He is announced as representing GBH and he is the only guy in it. Being a main eventer in the best wrestling company in the world should be a tip off that the guy is something special.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ****


Cewsh: It's funny to look back now on the first New Japan show we ever covered for Cewsh Reviews some 4 years ago. In it, the team of Makabe and Toru Yano took on Team 3D in a match that Vice and I had this to say about them:

Cewsh: ...they fucking suck. No two ways about it. I’m the guy who is optimistic and enthusiastic and compliments everybody, but for fuck’s sake. I’ve seen 10 or so of their matches, and not one has been even remotely watchable.

 Vice: Fucking terrible. Quite possibly the worst match I’ve seen since Rhino’s latest match. Yeah, it was that bad. Nothing clicked. Or worked. Or anything. It was just dreadful. It’s almost worth a download just to experience how goddamn bad it was. Oi.

So it doesn't seem very likely that those two guys would go on to be one of the biggest stars in New Japan and one of its most beloved midcarders, but there you have it. The world is a funny ol' place. For Makabe, that switch began when the team broke up and he had to find a identity for himself as a singles wrestler. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you ask, when they told Makabe he needed to figure out what he wanted to be, he must have written down "GRIZZLY BEAR WITH CHAINS" and wandered off, because that is exactly what he's become. He's a gigantic, chain wearing badass who has to be put down to be beaten at all, turns every match he has into a building clearing brawl, and who is the one guy on the roster who turns the crowds against Tanahashi. If that doesn't make you understand that the guy is awesome, I'm not sure what would.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ****


Katsuyori Shibata


Pros:
- Marketable
- More than solid in the ring
- Plenty charismatic and interesting

Cons:
- Is a dipshit
- Never grew into his talents as many thought he would
- Is a dipshit


Defrost: At one point slotted with Shinsuke and Tanahashi as the future of New Japan as the new Three Muskateers. Then he listen to someone he shouldn't and ended up trying to be Ace in a couple of quickly failing promotions before turning his attention to MMA. That didn't go swimmingly either. He finished his MMA career at a less than stellar 4-11-1. On the upside he hooked up with Sakuraba so that's something. He can work. He has charisma. His brawls in tags with Makabe have been great and have me looking forward to their match at the Dome. At 33 years old he has many years in front of him and unless he flakes out again I expect good things from him in New Japan in the future.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***3/4


Cewsh: Of course he WILL flake out and ruin things again, because that's just what he does. He's like Jeff Hardy without the excuse of drugs. Or Shane Douglas, without the excuse of having to be Shane Douglas.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***


Bob Sapp



Pros:
- Mammothly big and strong
- The only way he could be more charismatic is if he were actually made of magnets
- Great comedic instincts

Cons:
- Yeah, he can't wrestle
- Like, at all
- Not even a little


Defrost: Ten years ago he was maybe the most famous man in Japan. Now mostly a punchline for nostalgia shows. He is a gigantic human being with a unique laugh that made him very popular on all types of variety shows even as he was losing MMA fights and having shitty wrestling matches. He was all over every tv show and there were tons of Bob Sapp's this and that including a Bob Sapp dildo. So there's that. Also had a kickboxing match with Akebono that 60 million people watched. Which is why he is here.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: *


Cewsh: There is no force on this Earth that could make me give Bob Sapp less than 3 stars. I'd give him 2 just for wrestling THIS SHOW by itself.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***


Akebono



Pros:

Cons:


Defrost: Akebono is a sumo who was great at that did some K1 fighting for a boat load of money, became a terrible pro wrestler but has a name so yay.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: *


Cewsh:

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: *


Manabu Nakanishi



Pros:
- Huge
- Loved by fans
- Longtime veteran

Cons:
- About as smooth as a cactus enema
- Could retire at any second
- That time where he beat Tanahashi and it made no fucking sense


Defrost: Recently returned from an 18 month recovery period from a broken neck and the way he has been moving since his return you can tell he had a messed up neck. Despite being an Olympic level athelete he was never the smoothest guy in the ring to begin with so making it worse is an issue. A long time veteran who the fans love being in the opener in a giant tag against over the top heels is the best place for him.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: *3/4


STRONGMAN



Pros:
- Strong

Cons:
- Man


Defrost: He is a man. He is strong. He is STRONGMAN

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: Stars are not enough to describe STRONGMAN. Maybe eleventy billion. Maybe.


MVP



Pros:
- Lots or personality
- Deep commitment to improving
- Great passion for Japanese wrestling

Cons:
- Is one, which makes travel iffy
- No great matches on his resume
- Really REALLY passionate about Japanese wrestling


Defrost: I like MVP fine and all and he doesn't suck and he tries really hard. Actually he may try too hard. That happens a lot. Foreigners who watched a bunch of Japan tapes and go over there and come off as try hards. He got a bit of push when he first came in, but really hasn't been booked to do much for a while now.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: **1/2


Cewsh: Here's the thing about MVP. Perhaps more than any other wrestler I've ever seen, you FEEL like he should be better than he actually is. Not just that he has the potential to be better, but when you think about him and his various attributes in your head, it adds up to a great wrestler and you're excited to see it. But then when it comes down to watching the actual matches, somehow it just never quite adds up. He'll always be a guy for decent matches, who can never find the formula to having a great one, and I can't see that changing anytime soon.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **1/2


Yujiro Takahashi



Pros:
- Solid in ring skills
- Plenty of potential
- Great stable around him

Cons:
- Isn't Naito
- Isn't Naito
- Isn't Naito


Defrost: Good worker who is probably in danger of being the Marty Jannetty of the No Limit tag team he was in with Tetsuya Naito. They have him in this gimmick where, to put it bluntly, he fucks a lot of girls. This does not seem to come off naturally to him. He looked good in a title match with Tanahashi. I mean I'd look good in a title match with Tanahashi, but still.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***


Cewsh: "Yujiro Takahashi" is Japanese for "Marty Jannetty". And not in a good way. That's all you really need to know. I guess if he really works hard, he could aspire to be the Japanese Matt Hardy, for what that's worth.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **


Toru Yano



Pros:
- Seems to be trying to collect every gimmick all at once
- Uses them all to hysterical effect
- Has surprisingly great chemistry with Tanahashi

Cons:
- Fat
- Slow
- Fat and slow


Defrost: I love Yano. He is a prick and he knows it and you know it and we all have fun about it. Has good matches with Tanahashi. Faint praise but you know Yano is a character guy not a workrate guy. I was in the building when he had a ridiculously fun match with Dan Maff. In 2011. Dan Maff in 2011 I say. He made that man entertaining. Yano should be sainted. Then he should spit sake in the Pope's face and give him a low blow.

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: ***1/4


Cewsh: There are very few things in the wrestling world than a ridiculous heel who is in on the joke, and Toru Yano has the market cornered. As the other half of the most abysmal team in wrestling circa 2009, Yano didn't seem to have much of a future ahead of him when the team broke up. But he has proved all of his doubters wrong, simply by being tacky and terrible on his own terms. He's incorporated the mannerisms of pretty much the entire ECW roster and slapped a floral print robe on top, turning him into some kind of wacky heel Voltron. He's virtually indispensable in the midcard.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: ***


Takashi Iizuka



Pros:
- Awesome look
- Almost cartoonishly villainous
- Is able to lose every night with no effect

Cons:
- Don't expect him to wrestle lengthy matches
- Gimmick is inherently midcardy
- Shtick can get repetitive


Cewsh: Takashi Iizuka is basically a vengeful pirate ghost in wrestling gear. He beats up random people at ringside, he cheats in obvious and ridiculous ways, and then he loses in the end to the heroic babyface. He's basically a prepackaged Saturday Morning Cartoon in the form of a wrestler, and if there isn't a place for that on a mainstream wrestling show, then there isn't a place for anything anywhere.

Cewsh's Wrestler Grade: **3/4


Defrost: He beats up the announcer

Defrost's Wrestler Grade: dud




Well that'll do it for this scouting report, boys and girls. We hope you learned something enriching about what is very likely the best roster that has been assembled anywhere in the world. Now just be on the lookout as our review of New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom VII, starring everyone we mentioned here, is coming at you sooner than later. But if you want to watch the show that Defrost called "the best wrestling show I have ever seen" before we review it, follow THIS LINK to buy it for yourself. With this report as your guide, we promise it will be the best use of your wrestling dollar this year. It'll only cost $35 to prove us right or wrong, and if we're right, imagine how amazing this thing could really be! So until next time, remember to keep reading and be good to one another.




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