Just three years ago, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) saw the loss of four huge talents to the WWE. AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows left NJPW in an infamous talent exodus that led to the emergence of Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito among others. With rumours running rampant of another wave of talent potentially leaving NJPW the question needs to be asked can talents like KUSHIDA, Cody Rhodes, Adam Page and others be replaced. We think that they can and will outline some talents that could fill the gap in the occurrence of any departure.
Longtime Ace of the Junior Heavyweight division KUSHIDA has done it all in New Japan. NJPW has a ready-made ace in waiting in the insanely talented Hiromu Takahashi. In many fans eyes Takahashi has already surpassed KUSHIDA in popularity but a KUSHIDA departure would leave the spot wide open for the Ticking Time Bomb. Style-wise Sho of Roppongi 3K can do the more shoot oriented style while mixing it up with his power junior style and do what KUSHIDA can do but better. One of the easiest names to replace, KUSHIDA has many talents waiting in the wings to take his spot.
Scurll’s role as an occasional challenger for the heavyweight championship and part-time Junior has already been usurped by Robbie Eagles. Eagles has less character but is also a more serious wrestler than Scurll, who can often lean too much into comedy, and will be part-time aswell. Eagles, like Scurll, could help NJPW expand into an international market as he is one of the biggest names on the Australian Indie Scene. While Scurll is a more proven talent to a wider audience Eagles has been backed by the likes of Will Ospreay as being a top-tier talent and Scurll leaving would give him more of a chance to prove that.
Cody had a role similar to Scurll as he subbed in to be an occasional title challenger and mostly a part-timer. Someone that could fill Cody’s boots as the main American title challenger is Jeff Cobb. Cobb has been used on most American NJPW shows and challenged for the NEVER Openweight championship on one of the US specials this year. Cobb’s style is actually a better fit for New Japan than Cody so this replacement could be an improvement.
Page is someone that NJPW was clearly high on. He was an athletic guy that could trade hard hits and had a good look. He was rising up the card and was in the position of challenging for the likes of the IWGP US championship and participating in the G1. A homegrown talent that could replace Page is Toa Henare. The 26-year-old has been impressive this year with a singles match against Tomohiro Ishii being an easy recommendation for any fan. Like Page, he is athletic but can go blow for blow with the hard hitters if needed. At 26 it’s time for Henare to move up the card and Page’s departure would open up a slot for an occasional title challenge and a spot in the G1 Climax.
The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks are currently scheduled to take part in the IWGP Tag Team championship match at WrestleKingdom. This is one of the only areas where there isn’t a clear replacement. We may see a renewed tag push for Ishii and Toru Yano or we may see two upper midcarders put into a tag team like EVIL and SANADA. This is one of the only areas where NJPW doesn’t have a clear replacement ready but they could easily create one.
One of New Japan’s big four and the current IWGP Heavyweight champion. Omega leaving would leave a hole in the New Japan main event scene but is it one that is unfillable? The answer that depends on how you view Will Ospreay and Jay White as top main event talents. Since his move to heavyweight, Ospreay has been made to look like a star in the making – he’s a very good wrestler, has the charisma, international appeal and is a very handsome guy. Ospreay has the total package when it comes to being a main event level star and NJPW has already started making moves to put him in a good spot in 2019. Jay White is another guy that NJPW is high on, as the Switchblade is the Ace and de facto leader of the Bullet Club. In 2018, he got wins over Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada in singles matches, which is an achievement in itself, and he is one the most over heel on the New Japan roster. Should Kenny Omega leave there are two clear talents ready to fill his boots.
New Japan has survived talent leaving before and they have already made steps to move people into position to step up in 2019. The people mentioned are only the clear options -New Japan may have other options that aren’t clear yet as a heel/face turn or a big win could launch anyone onto the next level. There is no need to worry for NJPW, they currently have a bloated roster full of talent ready to make the step up, should The Elite or talents like KUSHIDA or Juice Robinson leave.