To see part one of my top 10 wrestlers of all time, make sure to click here.
The free spirit that is Kota Ibushi has always been a tough one to commit to on a list like this. It has nothing to do with a lack of talent as he’s one of the most talented pro wrestlers in the world without a doubt. No, usually it came down to Kota not being able to string a top tier run of matches together due to his incessant need to fly out to the UK to have a scrap in a Bethnal Green carpark whilst shooting fireworks everywhere, or randomly deciding he’s going to WWE to show them what they’re missing, only to suddenly decide he’s bored of all that and he’s coming back to Japan.
All that changed though when in 2017 he finally signed an exclusive contract with NJPW and since then he’s showed the world why he’s one of the best. Since resigning he’s had countless match of the year candidates with Tetsuya Naito, reformed the Golden Lovers with Kenny Omega to become the best tag team of 2018 and NJPW finally repayed his loyalty when he won the 2019 G1 Climax, one of the biggest honours in the world of wrestling.
Recommended Match: Kota Ibushi v Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Day 1) 2020
This time last year, there’s a very high chance that Kenny Omega would have been number one. Unfortunately though, since leaving NJPW to help start up All Elite Wrestling with his Elite brothers -The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes in the states, he’s lost a little buzz. This has nothing to do with Omega himself running out of steam or AEW not being a success as he’s still incredible and AEW is the most exciting new promotion we’ve seen in years. It’s down to Kenny deciding to take a step back from the limelight in order to give this new audience a chance to get to know him while also giving other wrestlers the time to shine.
None of this though should take away from his last five years in NJPW. From taking over the infamous Bullet Club, to being the first Gaijan to win the G1 Climax, to finally being the guy chosen to dethrone the unstoppable Kazuchika Okada after a trilogy of matches which many (including myself) see as the best matches of all time. Kenny Omega is a sleeping giant right now, but if you have any doubts then look no further than the tag match he and Hangman Page had with the Young Bucks at AEW Revolution this year as it’s the best tag team match of all time in any promotion hands down!
Recommended Match: Kenny Omega v Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Dominion 2018
Tetsuya Naito is the current IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling, the faith shown in him by NJPW should be enough by itself to justify his place in the top 3. The booking of Naito probably has as much to do with his success as his excellent in-ring work and top notch character work. After winning the 2013 G1 Climax, Naito was due a Heavyweight title match at Wrestle Kingdom 8 in 2015. He got the match with Kazuchika Okada (which he would lose) but the fans voted overwhelmingly for it not to be the main event and the IWGP Intercontinental match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi took the spot instead…
This lead to Naito taking a break from NJPW before coming back with a whole new attitude and soon became the leader of the faction – Los Ingobernables De Japon. He was bigger and badder than ever but after a few years found himself in Intercontinental title matches instead of the Heavyweight picture where he and his fans believed he should be. Finally during the gigantic two day Wrestle Kingdom event earlier this year, he got his big main event exactly 5 years after being denied it and two years after yet another failed rematch with the champion Okada. To get there he needed to first accept his fate as Intercontinental champion (a title he’s always resented) in order to challenge the great Kazuchika Okada for the heavyweight title. This time he overcame the odds in a five year story that culminated in the best match of his career. Take a bow.
Recommended Match: Tetsuya Naito v Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Day 2) 2020
Local boy done good! I first discovered Will Ospreay as a skinny young lad (him, not me) making a name for himself in the UK scene feuding with the likes of Jimmy Havoc and Marty Scurll between 2013 and 2016. After becoming the top attraction in Progress Wrestling, Rev Pro and pretty much every other UK based promotion, he made the big move to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2016.
The more time he spent in Japan, the better he became. Ospreay quickly went from the best British high flyer to the best high flyer in the world before taking steps in the past two years to become one of the best in the world full stop. He’s constantly evolved his style to be able to work with anybody and has a work ethic that nobody is able to match.
In 2019 he had a match of the year contender with Kota Ibushi in the Wrestle Kingdom opener before going on to steal the show in that years Best of the Super Juniors tournament which included what many see as the best BOSJ match of all time between Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi. Not satisfied with being the best Junior, he would go on to do the unthinkable and enter the grueling G1 Climax in the same damn year! Many would forgive Ospreay for slowing down by this point in 2019 but instead he went on to steal the show again and had some of the best matches in NJPW history with some of the best Juniors and Heavyweights all in one twelve month period. What’s scary about Will Ospreay is that he is only 27 years old…
Recommended Match: Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi – BOSJ 2019 Final
You may have noticed when recommending matches in this list that Okada’s name has come up a lot and there’s a reason for that. If you’re not a long time viewer of NJPW then Okada may seem somewhat overrated on the surface, but if you’re invested in the promotion and it’s long-term storytelling then there’s nobody better than the Rainmaker himself.
It’s tradition in Japan that a wrestling company has its ‘ace’. The ace is the company’s top boy and he is booked in a way that he’s the greatest of all time and to beat the ace makes you an instant star. Kazuchika Okada ticks every box as New Japan’s ace and is protected in a way to only lose when necessary. To hold this role you have to be the best and be able to win match of year awards year after year and Okada does just that with ease. Whenever Okada is booked in a NJPW title main event, you’re guaranteed to see something special and he never fails to deliver no matter who the opponent and where it takes place. On top of all of that he manages to carry himself as a true champion while remaining grounded and humble.
Kazuchika Okada is not only the greatest wrestler of this generation, he’s also a role model and the standard bearer to which everybody else aims to be.
Recommended Match: Kazuchika Okada v Kenny Omega – Wrestle Kingdom 11 2017
Thank you for reading and remember to let me know your top 10 in the comment below or you can find me on Twitter @MikeyGalaszia or @RespawningUK. If you enjoyed this pro wrestling coverage then be sure to let us know and we’ll carry on providing it. Thanks again and I’ll catch you next time.Become a Patron!