In the year 2016 it is great to see casual wrestling fans are finally finding out about Japanese professional wrestling, The thing is it’s always New Japan everyone is talking about. Whilst New Japan is great, it’s quite possible some of the greatest professional wrestlers on the planet are working in front of 223 people at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring every weekend. If you ask me who do I think of when somebody mentions Japanese wrestling, I would say Daisuke Sekimoto or even Masato Tanaka. Notice that those two men don’t work for NJPW? On this list I am going to list some of the best and most underrated/unknown Japanese workers of the present day so don’t expect to see Tomoaki Honma or Tomohiro Ishii on this list because they are underrated in the second biggest company on the planet.
10. Kaji Tomato
This a weird one because I have only seen one of his matches and that was on January 9, 2016 at the K-DOJO show. With that being said, I have only known of this man for a couple weeks. He impressed me so much in one match of his I couldn’t leave him off this list, his gimmick is that he’s a tomato…yes, you heard me correct! He dances to the ring and does his signature tomato dance, oh it’s glorious. But he had a helluva match at Kaientai Dojo of all places, I rated that match ****1/4 and strapped on a ‘highly recommended’. Unless he starts working some openers for BJW or even companies like FREEDOMS or GUTS, it will be hard to watch any of his current stuff because he is a 100% Indie guy. Check out the recent match from K-Dojo and tell me what you think.
9. Masashi Takeda
Another guy that I have only discovered recently but has really impressed me. Masashi Takeda works both deathmatches and regular matches and excels in both styles. Takeda has an MMA and amateur wrestling background. All of his kicks and strikes are on point. His amateur wrestling really shines through his matches when he hits beautiful bridging German and Dragon suplexes. In all actuality he doesn’t need to work deathmatches because he is so great at normal matches but he really enjoys deathmatches and I can’t fault him for that. I feel as though in 2016 Takeda is going to be a breakthrough star in Japan, and probably in the Big Japan promotion. I could easily see Takeda vs. Ryuji Ito at Big Japan’s Sumo Hall show and Takeda carrying Ito to his best match ever.
8. Meiko Satomura
I was considering putting this woman on the list, but then I realized most of her current stuff doesn’t make tape and more people should know about current day Meiko Satomura. This is one tough human being. In my mind she was the best female wrestler of 2015 without a shadow of a doubt. The way she puts together matches and her timing are elite, and my god just thinking about Meiko is getting me fired up to watch some Joshi. Some older fans might remember Meiko from WCW in the mid 90s when she was just 17! Now nearly 20 years later she is better than ever. Don’t believe me? Watch the recent match she had against Io Shirai. An easy ****1/2 match — she wrestled a variety of humans in 2015, male or female. She even stood toe to toe with Genichiro Tenryu at Sumo Hall! Watch any Meiko stuff and you won’t be disappointed.
7. The Double Hashimoto’s (Daichi & Kazuki Hashimoto)
Every Puro fan knows about Daichi by now. He is Shinya’s son and one of the better workers in the world! He was stuck in Inoki’s fed for too long and wasn’t really given the opportunity to blossom, but now he has really stepped up his game teaming up with 6 year veteran Kazuki Hashimoto. These two fellas are BJW and ZERO-1 main stays and whenever I watch their matches it makes me feel as if I’m watching a 1994 NJPW main event. Both are very young and will be the future of the Japanese wrestling scene in years to come.
6. Yuji Hino
This man has finally left Kaientai-Dojo and has joined WRESTLE-1 — nearly right away becoming W-1 Heavyweight Champion. He is gaining a lot more notoriety recently and it’s great because he has been one of the most underrated workers of the past 10 years in Japan. He is now a really big man, like super large but in a good way. He is very athletic but uses his size wisely. He has had great matches since moving to WRESTLE-1 and I urge you to watch his match with Jiro Kuroshio. Speaking of Jiro…
5. Jiro Kuroshio
This guy is so awesome, he is apart of the JACKETS stable in WRESTLE-1, and whenever he wrestles — he wears a jacket! This 23 year old man is a Tajiri trainee and has worked wherever his trainer works. He is easily one of the most over and popular workers on the W-1 roster and would be a great addition to any roster.
This is written by GUTS World super fan Lawrence.
Daisuke is one of the most technically sound independent wrestlers in the entire universe. A workhorse that can regularly work a well paced 30 minute main event matches and he always dissects his opponents limbs and works on a body part.
Undoubtedly the ace of DDT even more so than Kota Ibushi, HARASHIMA has been one of the most underrated workers of the past 10 years. Most people either don’t know DDT exist or they don’t know who HARASHIMA is. In 2015 he had great matches with KUDO, Ibushi and NJPW ace Hiroshi Tanahashi. In 2016 I see NJPW giving Harashima a shot at the big time.
2. Kohei Sato
One half of the twin towers tag team with Shuji Ishikawa, Kohei is a throwback to the old school strong style workers. Sato epitomizes the modern day strong style in every sense of the word, Sato as of recent times has been splitting time working ZERO-1 and BJW: easily the two most hard hitting promotion in Japan. Sato will kick you and headbutt you as hard as anyone in the land of the rising sun.
1. Masato Tanaka
Tanaka is my favorite wrestler. If you only know Tanaka from his ECW run, then I feel sorry for you. For the past 20 years he has been one of the best workers in Japan, even at 43 years old he is incredible and dare I say the best he has ever been. Tanaka is a freelancer but his home promotion is ZERO-1. In the past he has been apart of the Dangan Yankees with Takashi Suguira but with Suguira’s recent heel turn I don’t see them tagging anytime soon. Tanaka should be in NJPW, easily in the top 5 wrestlers in Japan.
I hope you liked this list and learned some things about the Japanese wrestling scene. There are matches on the web of everyone on this list and I’m telling you in a deep voice to watch at least one of each guys’ matches. I guarantee most of you don’t know who Kaji Tomato is, all I’m going to tell you is HE IS A FK’N TOMATO!!!!!!!!!!