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    Friday, May 28, 2021

    #CafePuro: Who's Next In Line for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship?

    New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) has had a recent string of bad luck. 

    IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay had to surrender the title last week due to a nagging neck injury. I don't even want to speculate how NJPW and Bushiroad have handled the pandemic as of late. Let's get to this article's main point: to speculate the wrestlers we think could be the next IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.

    1. Minoru Suzuki

    If there was ever a time to make Murder Grandpa the World Champion, it's right now. Minoru Suzuki is only missing an IWGP World Heavyweight title run to join the elite club of wrestlers who have won the three biggest wrestling titles in Japan. 

    Only three people can say they've won All Japan Pro Wrestling's Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, Pro Wrestling NOAH's Global Honored Crown Heavyweight Championship, and NJPW's IWGP Heavyweight (now the World Heavyweight) Championship. Those three wrestlers are Keiji Mutoh, Kensuke Sasaki, and Yoshihiro Takayama.

    Many fans, including myself, have wanted Suzuki to become the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion one day. Look. If NOAH can place the GHC belt on a barely-mobile Mutoh, I'm sure New Japan can make Suzuki champion just once. 

    2. Kazuchika Okada

    The Rainmaker has been away from the World Title scene for almost a year now. As much as I don't like placing the belt on one guy every time, I feel like Okada is a great pick to retake the big belt. Whenever Okada had the main belt of New Japan, I felt a semblance of stability. 

    Okada is also the current Ace of NJPW, which means whenever the company needs help, he can steer the ship back to its correct course. 

    3. Hiroshi Tanahashi

    Tanahashi would be an excellent candidate to be World Champion. (Photo: Tanahashi's Ameblo)

    Dark days in New Japan require a shining light to guide them through these hard times. There is no better candidate to carry the company than the Once in a Century Talent—Hiroshi Tanahashi. He may no longer be the Ace of the company, but Tanahashi has carried NJPW through tough times before.

    When the likes of Katsuyori Shibata and Shinsuke Nakamura couldn't handle the pressure of leading the company, Tanahashi was there to carry the load. It didn't matter how many people were in the crowd; Tanahashi always made sure to entertain everyone.

    With the company dealing with the pandemic at this stage, I feel like Tanahashi would be a great reset point for NJPW. Having Tanahashi as World Champion would be a great way to show the world that everything is okay.

    4. Jay White

    Jay White can hang with the big boys of NJPW. (Photo: NJPW 1972)

    The Switchblade has won every singles title in modern NJPW: the IWGP Heavyweight, IWGP Intercontinental, IWGP U.S., and the NEVER Openweight Championships. Even Kenny Omega can't say that he won a "Grand Slam" of New Japan. The only wrestlers who are close to matching White's accomplishments are Naito and Tanahashi. Both wrestlers only need the IWGP U.S. belt, but Jon Moxley has a stranglehold on it.

    What would make Jay White a compelling champion is the fact that he can hang with the top flight of wrestlers the company has. The only issue with White is that he could be out for a while due to COVID-19, as mentioned by Fit Finlay in a recent episode of Stories With Brisco And Bradshaw. Plus, Jay is already the NEVER Openweight Champion, which means somebody has to defeat him for the title to open a slot.

    5. Shingo Takagi

    Takagi was the last man to challenge for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title. (Photo: NJPW 1972)

    The Dragon has been wrestling for a long time. From his days in Dragon Gate to throwing down with the titans of NJPW, Shingo Takagi is a solid choice for World Champion.

    He's great on the mic and can go with nearly any wrestler on the roster. Why not get a wrestler outside of the Big 4 of Ibushi, Naito, Okada, and White?

    Will Ospreay was already a unique choice to become IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. With the lack of audience participation, NJPW should experiment with the wide variety of wrestlers they have on the roster.

    The Hunt is On

    There are so many questions that need answers. Can NJPW and Bushiroad establish a set of COVID-19 guidelines that will satisfy everyone? Can the next champion defend the title without getting hurt? Could we see the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts return to clean up this mess?

    What do you think of the World Title conundrum in New Japan Pro-Wrestling? Share your thoughts below!

    Header image from NJPW 


    Steven Tan (@steviesaidyup) works for an e-commerce company by day and operates The Geeky Juans podcast and blog by night. He's a fan of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, comic books, and the Moomin franchise. You can find more of his geeky thoughts on Twitter.
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    Item Reviewed: #CafePuro: Who's Next In Line for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Steven Maxwell Tan
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