The past two years has seen the old guard shoved aside over in Japan’s premier promotion, the youth in the ranks has begun its rise to throw off the shackles of its elder generation. In all divisions the young generations have struck out the claim that they needn’t wait for the future to come to them, they themselves are the future now!
Five young men rose last year, all of them different styles and backgrounds but one common goal, to breakout and be noticed… The men in question are Shinsuke Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yutaka Yoshie, Katsuyori Shibata and Ryusuke Taguchi.
The men have all in the past year held or challenged for the top titles in NJPW, Nakamura shocked the industry when he made Tenzan tap out to a cross armbreaker and gain the IWGP Heavyweight Title. He unified that title with the NWF titles by beating Takayama and also ventured into MMA with big fights against K-1’s “Red Scorpion” Alexey Ignashov. He took a tap victory off the Scorpion and is now regarded as the future leader of the company.
Tanahashi not to be outdone holds the U-30 championship, a title he introduced and has defended ever since, he has held NOAH’s GHC tag titles with Nagata and the IWGP tag titles with partner Yoshie plus he has also fought for the IWGP title in the past week too. After learning from legend ‘Dragon’ Fujinami he is billed as the ‘New Dragon’ and is striding on toward a leadership battle with Nakamura
Yoshie has held the tag titles as mentioned with Tanahashi and also moved into MMA with a fight against Jan Nortje, which he won with a Camel Clutch…. He has also challenged good friend Tanahashi to a U-30 title match but fell just short losing to a Dragon Suplex. He is known as the Enforcer, his aim to keep outsiders like the Makai’s gaining power.
Then we come to Katsuyori Shibata, a man who started out as a junior heavyweight and then became a member of the outsider Makai club as Makai #4 under a mask… Shibata cast aside this disguise however and began to single out Yuji Nagata as a target aiming he said to bring down New Japan from within. He joined with Chono along with Murakami and began to attack New Japan teams, he also moved into MMA as well, trying to make a name for himself by challenging K-1’s native ace Musashi… He went down fighting and gained a huge amount of publicity in doing so.
The last man is Ryusuke Taguchi, a junior who promises to stay that way, a future leader of the division and the premier young lion still doing their duties. He fought in the Young Lions cup, beating young wrestlers from New Japan and other promotions to take the title and then fought Tanahashi for the U-30 title but went down to his slight senior… But the biggest result so far has been his role in the Best of the Super Junior tournament, he upset GHC champion and junior legend Jushin Liger in only 45 seconds!
These wrestlers are singled out as the future, it is them NJPW needs to build on, already well known by the media, adept in other fields and very ambitious. What was supposed to be Nagata’s and Tenzan’s generations day in the sun is fast disappearing and the dawn of a new era may be rising in the east…