New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight division has one of the most interesting matches on the Wrestle Kingdom 12 card. Why? Simply put, the four guys involved in the Wrestle Kingdom 12 program, have been putting on modern classic matches for all of 2017. Of course, NJPW’s Junior Heavyweight division is one of the most respected in the business if we can only remember the names of Koji Kanemoto, Kenny Omega, Prince Devitt or multi champion Jushin Thunder Liger to honor that statement.
Now, the last four IWGP Junior Heavyweight champions are going to scramble January 4th in a carefully, long built match that goes back to 2016. Let´s take a look at them.
Junior Heavyweight Division: Born Time Bomb
Hiromu Takahashi is the representation of the growth of a puroresu revelation. The 2010 class of the NJPW Dojo never saw a star rising like him, even when he lost almost every match he was in (in an old fashioned style of work of New Japan with their Young Lions division). Freshman time was over and he travelled on an excursion to México where he found his first blood feud under the name and mask of Kamaitachi with CMLL’s darling Dragon Lee. Both raised and pushed the limits of the other. They took the mid-card division to higher levels ending (temporarily) their feud march 2015 at Homenaje a Dos Leyendas where Kamaitachi lost his mask on a crude fight. Since then, Dragon Lee and Hiromu, have been fighting through the world and slowly becoming one classic rivalry.
Takahashi returned to Japan not before winning and losing the CMLL lightweight championship to Dragon Lee and later in 2016 joining Los Ingobernables de Japón, now being side by side with one of the strongest factions (if not the strongest faction), Hiromu is unstoppable. After developing a unique style of fast, contundent moves with a psycho childish-like attitude, Hiromu won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship from KUSHIDA, defending it before the likes of Dragon Lee and Taguchi and KUSHIDA again. Hiromu lost the title against KUSHIDA in June 2017 and thus started the haunting of him losing the title to KUSHIDA (and bringing his inner cat, Darryl, when stressed). Hiromu’s imaginative strong style is one jewel on the Junior Heavyweight division crown and he is ready to shine again, even if he needs to explode. Tick-tock guys, tick-tock.
Junior Heavyweight Division: Flying All Over
A long eared figure rises, shadowing the lights over the squared circle, an elbow, plancha- like, makes the rival go down. An incredible jump to the turnbuckle to execute the Air Assassin (a beautiful 450 splash) makes the bell ring wildly. Will Ospreay, ladies and gentleman, doing the impossible, moving faster than the eye. Would that be enough to regain the prestigious title? Ospreay is the man of the impossible: he has held almost every British title on the sight, travelling to Ring of Honor and New Japan even now going to Australia looking for more and more. Ospreay relished on the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in October 2017 by barely defeating KUSHIA (in fact, KUSHIDA is Ospreay’s arch-nemesis) only to losing it some weeks later to Marty Scurll, one of his long and bitter rivals.
Will Ospreay is a strange figure in the landscape of New Japan: his wild fast style is very well appreciated in the junior division, but like Zack Sabre Jr. did, he wants to be acclaimed on the heavyweight division. Ospreay is pursuing the position. He´s undoubtedly paying the dues and matches like this one, in Wrestle Kingdom, are the platform to shine. Ospreay knows that and he is more dangerous because of it. Would the Aerial Assassin be the one in this match? Because although he surely almost forgot how it feels, right now, he’s the underdog.
Junior Heavyweight Division: Back to the Past, Building the Future
KUSHIDA will be remembered as one of the best Junior Heavyweight wrestlers in history, period. What he has achieved deserves to get his name graven in gold, no doubt. The guy puts on amazing matches day after day, no matter what. The Time Splitter has held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship five times, so he really knows what being a champion tastes like. Right now, Kushida is a 34 years old veteran, gained his place in New Japan with nothing more than hard work and amazing matches. Puroresu lovers can´t stop remembering one of the matches that made history on the junior division: his classic against Prince Devitt back in 2011 through June 2017, in the incredible, breath taking match against Will Ospreay at the finals of Best of the Super Juniors. So what is Kushida looking for? A six time holder of the title wouldn’t sound awful but that isn´t what he needs.
For Kushida everything has to be about his place in puroresu. He also lost the ROH TV Championship at War of the Worlds at Death Before Dishonor XV and he may feel like he doesn´t fit anymore. The Time Splitter must be a dangerous foe then, because he has lost everything and at Wrestle Kingdom 12, he can recover everything, even the glitter on the letters of his name.
Junior Heavyweight Division: A Villain´s Tale, A Villain´s Path
You can count on a villain to make your Bullet Club meaner, you can count on a villain to make a new darling for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and you can count on a villain to be a champion. Marty Scurll is fine with things going better for him since 2015. And that´s a hell of a strike; even when you think of him being a champion or not, the guy has been in the arms of divinity when talking about great rivalries. Marty is the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion and is going to face old rival Will Ospreay, also KUSHIDA has a brief but bitter history, and even some harshness with Hiromu. The thing is, Scurll debuted this 2017 in Japan. How he can be on a grudge with everyone in so short time? Well, that´s the villain path. Scurll is a traveler, a scouter, a non stop -full time – chicken winging, cracking fingers, bad ass mofo, who is in this just because he is so damn good at it.
Marty Scurll is about to put in danger his mojo while facing the best junior wrestlers in the division, so it will be very interesting, because we all know that Marty has been finding ways to retain his Gold. Would it be the same this time?