75. Go Shiozaki
Shiozaki is very good at wrestling but NOAH fans don’t care for him. I care for Go, I really like him–but he needs to leave NOAH ASAP. Go to NJPW or crawl back to Jun. I don’t know!
74. Shiori Asahi
I still remember seeing Asahi vs. Tomato from January and my mind being blown. Not only by Tomato, but by Asahi, this fella is so unique (I’m going to use that word a lot). His sliding kick variations are so darn cool plus his up kicks are crazy. He also had some tag matches teaming with his old partner Makoto Oishi this year which were great.
73. Yusaku Obata
Obata’s 2016 was his coming out year, starting with that great SANADA match in March. Then he went on to have excellent matches with Masato Tanaka, Shinjiro Otani, Kohei Sato, Hideki Suzuki and many more. Yes, even KAI. If he harnesses a little more charisma there is nothing holding him back.
72. Ryuji Ito
I started off 2016 disliking this mans work, not enjoying it one bit. Then I gave him another shot and Ito had one of the best years he’s had. Incredible deathmatches left right and center. Probably the Deathmatch of the year against Kankuro Hoshino on 7/24.
71. Speeds of Sound
DON’T GET MAD AT ME PUTTING THESE GUYS TOGETHER. I NEEDED TO FIT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE ONTO THIS LIST. But seriously, these guys have had incredible matches and great comedic bouts all year long in BJW and Michinoku Pro. I think they’ve faced the Brahman’s at least 100 times this year and that’s no joke.
70. Manabu Soya
Soya Manabu probably wouldn’t have ended up on this list if it wasn’t for his past two months of work. He’s gained some weight but my god, he’s so good, I love that GET WILD have reformed and are running wild in AJPW. Soya is super consistent. I’m honestly yet to see an excellent Soya match, but he’s very good.
Akito is probably one of the 50 BEST wrestlers in the world. The man is that good. He’s had some bangers this year but I believe some 68 other guys had a better year than him. Akito is incredible, much like Masa Takanashi he is so incredibly unique with his offence. I hope 2017 is kind to Akito.
Shinobu is another dude where if more high end stuff of his made tape he would be much higer on this list. He doesn’t wrestle as much as he used to, but when he does he’s too good. Way too good. His shooting star press and lariats make me smile so much. He had one of the most enjoyable Strong Climbs out of everyone having an excellent match with Yuji Okabayashi.
67. Koji Doi
DOI IS GREAT AND MORE PEOPLE NEED TO TALK ABOUT HOW GREAT HE IS. His intensity and willingness to win is something else. His recently formed a great tag team with Kumagoro putting on very good matches consistently.
66. Tatsuhiko Yoshino
Yoshino had a breakout year, one of the biggest breakout stars of the year in my opinion. Excellent matches in GUTS as well as solid undercard performances on BJW shows. He impressed so much on BJW that he was signed to the promotion starting this year! He’s devolped a heel character as well, good on him!
65. Seiki Yoshioka
Unless you follow WRESTLE-1 like me you will probably think this is an odd pick for this list, but I’ve watched every Yoshioka bout to make tape in 2016 and he is incredible. He’s a shooter but flips like a maniac. Lots of resemblance to Kota Ibushi. I hope he gets more chances abroad in 2017.
64. Keisuke Ishii
What a year for Ishii, he achieved his dream of becoming AJPW Jr. Heavyweight Champion in a very good match with Soma Takao at Sumo Hall. Ishii is so consistent and the best thing is we are truly yet to see his full potential. He has to have a KO-D Championship reign some day.
63. Yoshihisa Uto
Uto for the longest time was forgotten mainly because Takuya Nomura outshined every young boy on the BJW roster. But he stayed consistent on the undercards of these BJW shows. Having some very good matches this year. Just now he’s getting a push and on 1/29 he’ll face Sekimoto for the Strong Championship.
62. Naruki Doi
It’s Naruki Doi, not the flashiest man on the DG roster by a country mile but my god he is so good at what he does. He doesn’t need to do all the insane crazy stuff, he does what he does to the best of his ability. Tremendous 2016 for Naruki Doi.
61. Tank Nagai
Tank Nagai is one of Kaientai Dojo’s pillars and in 2016 he delivered some great matches. He main evented every Korakuen Hall show for the promotion this year, plus had many great matches with Taishi Takizawa, Hi69 & Kaji Tomato.
60. Koji Iwamoto/Daichi Kazato
Daichi Kazato: Young Daichi Kazato will be underrated until he gets used by the DDT main roster consistently. This dude is so goddamn great like every time he’s out there, he is great. His spring board Axe-Bomber is lit as well.
Koji Iwamoto: I’m glad everyones starting to discover how good this man is. I remember first watching him in HEAT-UP having a **** tag match throwing the best judo throws in wrestling. He’s signed to AJPW now and it’s well deserved. He’s too good.
59. Tatsuhito Takaiwa
Takaiwa had a excellent year honestly! Awesome matches in ZERO1, AJPW and other misc indies. An underrated Takiawa match from 2016 is the Masashi Takeda bout from the Tenkaichi Jr. tournament. Go watch that.
58. Yuma Aoyagi
Yuma had a breakout year, a very good year which saw him get an opportunity in the Super J-Cup where he had that tremendous match with Taichi. That’s sarcasm, that was a horrendous match thanks to Taichi. Yuma joined Nextream later in the year which is wonderful. Go watch his matches with Akiyama.
Besides the Big R matches, T-Hawk had a super great 2016. He turned heel, Thank Christ, and learning under Shingo can only be good for him. He needs a long ass heel run.
56. Jake Lee
Remember when no one liked Jake Lee and thought he was bad then he had many ***3/4 matches in 2016? No? WELL I GODDAMN DO. I remember doing PITR early in the year and no one liked him, but everyone turned the corner on him. Including the AJPW audience, especially the women. The women love them some Jake Lee.
55. Yusuke Kodama
Kodama returned to WRESTLE-1 without anyone really knowing him or remembering him but his performances since returning have been super. Numerous ***3/4 + matches with a variety of opponents. His last great match was against MAZADA.
54. Atsushi Aoki
Atsushi Aoki doesn’t get enough goddamn credit. Everyone (I hope) knows how good he is in the ring, but maybe everyone doesn’t know how much he helped AJPW grow. The office of All Japan is basically Jun Akiyama, Masa Fuchi and Atsushi Aoki. Aoki took up a higher role backstage in late 2015 when AJPW was on the brink of death and now they are doing the best they’ve done in years. Love Aoki in many ways.
53. Takashi Sugiura/Masa Takanashi
Sugiura: I hate the SZKG garbage of course but if you can look past some of that Sugiura had a super year. Great matches with basically the entire NOAH roster.
Masa Takanashi: Masa won’t ever get enough credit for being unbelievable. So unique and just the way he moves around the ring it’s so different, but it works perfectly. He had one of the best matches of the year in January with Isami Kodaka.
52. Daiki Inaba
What a year for this guy, starting off working the opening matches against veterans and loosing to challenging for the Cruiserweight title to holding WRESTLE-1’s top championship and main eventing their biggest show of the year! Daiki Inaba had to work a lot harder than most for his spot and I applaud him for that. He’s had many super good matches this year. His KAI matches come to mind instantly.
51. Takao Omori
Love good old Omori, yes he is up there in age, but my goodness he is still great! He still has the best spinning wheel kick in wrestling by the way. In 2016 he reformed his tag team with Kazuhiro Tamura going on to have many amazing matches, the one against Isami & Yuko is one of my favorites all year I had it at ****1/4. Omori is a true icon in puroresu.