7. Gran Metalik
Gran Metalik is another with a long history in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Then known as Mascara Dorada, he was a mainstay of the junior heavyweight division from 2010 until he left for WWE in 2016. A tremendous talent, Metalik competed in three Best of the Super Juniors tournaments, nearing winning his block in 2015.
As one of the world’s top luchadors, he had a number of standout matches in Japan, including his match with Kenny Omega at Invasion Attack in 2015. He is one of the biggest examples of wasted potential in WWE as his New Japan work illustrates just how talented he is and was.
6. Shelton Benjamin
The final New Japan Pro Wrestling mainstay on this list is Shelton Benjamin. New Japan fans will know this one as Benjamin spent time in the Suzuki-Gun faction starting in 2012. Benjamin fit well with the ultra-talented New Japan roster and he remains one of the few active WWE stars to have competed in a G1 Climax. In fact, he competed in three.
These weren’t low-profile appearances in the G1 either. Benjamin got big wins over guys like Tomohiro Ishii, Kota Ibushi, and Shinsuke Nakamura during his G1 campaigns. He nearly won his block in both 2012 and 2013 and continued on in the company until Suzuki-Gun was exiled from New Japan in 2015. By the time the faction returned, he had gone back to WWE.
5. Bronson Reed
Bronson Reed has yet to break out in NXT as he did on the indies, but prior to his signing with WWE he had a brief showing in New Japan. One of the less high-profile entries on this list, Reed appeared for New Japan on their four-day tour of Australia in 2018.
The tour saw him have four matches with the biggest being a singles match with Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki won the match but it was a big match for Reed, then known as Jonah Rock.
4. The Big Show
While he was known as The Giant in WCW, The Big Show traveled to Japan for very sporadic appearances. As WCW Champion, he made two title defences on New Japan shows in July of 1996, first against Kensuke Sasaki and then against Sting the following night.
His final match for New Japan came in May 1997 at a show called Strong Style Evolution (not to be confused with the recent Strong Style Evolved shows). At the show, he and Lex Luger teamed up to face the duo of Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton. While Norton was a New Japan regular, this match was certainly a far cry from what New Japan fans were used to at the time.