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Cafe Puro (2/9/16): Japanese Wrestlers You Need To See Right Now, Part 1

                        

True story: some weeks ago, I met up with a friend that I haven't seen in a long time, who is also a casual pro wrestling fan. Our discussion eventually led to pro wrestling, and eventually, puroresu.

All he would talk about was the fact that New Japan Pro Wrestling is amazing, and that puroresu is fun. But when asked if he is familiar with other talented wrestlers in Japan (since we're talking about puroresu) besides the New Japan guys, let's just say this led to me showing him a clip of a personal favorite, Daisuke Sekimoto of BJW, and he loved what he saw.

So that got me thinking: New Japan is currently the second biggest wrestling company in the world, but at the same time, it also serves as the gateway to exposure to the pro wrestling scene in the country. Why not introduce fans to other pro wrestlers in the country that they may surely love?

With so many wrestlers to recommend, this will serve as part 1, with part 2 coming next week. So, without further delay, here are some of the wrestlers you need to check out right now:

Fujita “Jr.” Hayato



Hayato is one of Michinoku Pro’s prime stars, as well as one of the best strikers in the entire wrestling industry today, a title he so rightfully earned by virtue of breaking bones by the force of his kicks. While having earned his stripes in his home promotion, he also competed in other companies like Osaka Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he had a Match of the Year candidate against Koji Kanemoto during the Super Jr. Tournament in 2009. The match was so regarded as one of the stiffest and intense matches of the year that he was eventually invited back to participate in the Best of the Super Junior tournament. He also became a leader of his own heel faction, Kowloon.

And I should mention: he’s currently 29 years old. How’s that for a career achievement?

Masato Tanaka



It seems weird that we are adding Tanaka to this list, seeing as though he had gained notoriety during his time in ECW. But that was ECW Tanaka, whereas we are talking about a very different Masato Tanaka in Zero-1. Having lost unnecessary weight as well as gained leaner muscle, he started competing throughout various promotions in the country with many legit match of the night honors, including NOAH (alongside former partner Takashi Sugiura) and New Japan (as member of CHAOS). As a matter of fact, he held multiple titles to his resume, including Zero-1’s World Heavyweight Championship, and was the inaugural NEVER Openweight Champion, having the longest reign to date at 314 days. Notably, his Sliding D elbow strike felled many opponents throughout his time in Japan, a sign that a lot has changed since his ECW days.

Yuji Okabayashi



In the world of BJW, where deathmatch wrestling was the norm for many years, there was a resurgence of the stiff and physical style that was lacking focus in the company. The company’s rebranded Strong division has picked up steam since then, with Yuji Okabayashi as the current captain of that ship and the BJW’s Strong Heavyweight Champion. At 33 years of age, he has won multiple titles in AJPW and DDT alongside fellow tag partner and one half of Strong BJ (seriously), Daisuke Sekimoto. With his brute strength and amazing athletic prowess, it was no wonder why he won the MVP award in the recently concluded Japanese Indie Awards. And to say that he is beloved by the Japanese audience is an understatement.

Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio



We covered him multiple times already, but his name deserves to be put in high regard in this day and age. While at a tender age of 23, he has already made noise in Wrestle-1 with his unique high flying offense and undeniable charisma, the kind of eccentricity that has not been seen since Milano Collection A.T. His flamboyant style has earned him his own faction known as Jackets, as well as winning a tournament to face the legendary Keiji Mutoh. If that’s not a sign of his stock improving, I don’t know what is.

Isami Kodaka



This man may very well be known as the most dynamic wrestler in all of Japan, and one of the most talented in the world. Originally trained by TAKA Michinoku, he eventually became a key part of the reborn Union Pro Wrestling in 2005 until its final show in 2015. He is also currently the big boss of Union’s successor, Pro Wrestling BASARA. This man, the “Deathmatch Samurai,” can do everything, from singles and tag wrestling, to deathmatch style wrestling, to even intergender wrestling. He’s like a swiss army knife! And his partnership with his friend, Yuko Miyamoto, as part of Yankii Nichokenju (Yankee Two Pistols), has gained iconic status in today’s tag team scene, and perhaps the most well-oiled unit in all of Japan.

KUDO



A true blue original of DDT, he is one of the most accomplished competitors in the promotion, with multiple KO-D Openweight Championships in his resume as well as other various titles. For a man who was trained in kickboxing, he was able to transition into pro wrestling and integrate these into his own unique kick-based offense. If you are in the mood to see some brutality, KUDO’s your man.

Oh, and he comes out to the ring to the theme of Shaolin Soccer. Enough said.

Kento Miyahara



At the age of 26, Kento Miyahara is primed to become the next Triple Crown Champion and set course to a new chapter in All Japan. He is set to face Zeus for the vacant championship very soon, and a victory will mean he would be the youngest Triple Crown Champion in company history, a move that should help revitalize an already struggling company. With his talent and potential, in a sense, he is like EC3 to TNA wherein his involvement in the main event picture would help bring about a new generational change that New Japan’s counterpart so desperately needs. Considering his pro wrestling prowess and veteran sense, he will be able to handle the pressure easily.

Next week, we will look at 7 more wrestlers that you guys need to check out. Which wrestler among today’s list got your attention? Sound off in the comments!

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Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark He

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