Whenever a new champion is crowned in professional wrestling, there is always a long list of people waiting to challenge them. The same happens in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s EVIL who beat his former Los Ingobernables de Japon leader Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles at Dominion. Even after successfully retaining his belts against Hiromu Takahashi, there is still a long list of wrestlers ready to cut the King of Darkness’s reign short and take those titles.
5. Hirooki Goto
After their recent bout during the New Japan Cup, you can bet that Hirooki Goto would love a shot at EVIL’s titles.
Both have wrestled each other in singles matches before and Goto currently sits at one win and two losses to the King of Darkness. These matches have all been tough affairs with two very passionate and strong men putting everything on the line to win. This doesn’t even count the endless tag matches the two have been in when Chaos and Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) have been feuding. The two have amazing chemistry and bring out both the best and worst in each other.
On top of that, Goto is no stranger to big title matches. He is a wrestler that many wrestlers and fans have described as wasting talent or throwing away opportunities. Always the bridesmaid but never the bride is a fitting statement. He is a veteran of tournaments with a G1 victory and three New Japan cup wins. On top of that, he has won countless numbers of titles in both singles and tag action. However, in his nearly two decades of work in New Japan, he has never won the IWGP Heavyweight title.
Also, despite what many people think, Goto is a superb wrestler. People sometimes forget that during all the failed attempts to capture top gold despite being given opportunity after opportunity.
If there is a possibility for a fairy tale story for Goto, beating his rival EVIL would be the perfect ending.
4. Kazuchika Okada
Kazuchika is a 5-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and there hardly seems to be a time when he wasn’t part of the title conversation in some way during his time on the main card. So, when there is ever a list of potential title challengers, no matter who the opponent is, the Rainmaker will always be near the top.
However, this time it’s personal.
Aside from Okada’s talent and status in the company, the Chaos leader has a lot of animosity towards the current champion. It was because of EVIL’s antics that Okada failed to win back-to-back New Japan Cup’s. It was the combination of his rule-breaking and interference from former manager Gedo and Yujiro Takahashi during the final that cost Okada the win. This won’t be forgotten and the Rainmaker will want revenge for that. What better way than taking his beloved IWGP Heavyweight title back?
Also, even though Okada has made it clear that he has no interest in the Intercontinental title, there is no way that he would turn down the opportunity to hold the beautiful white and gold belt for the first time in his career. By holding both belts, it would cement Okada in New Japan history books as one of the best of all time.
In the past, many fans in the past have complained about Okada’s endless opportunities and title reigns. However, many would welcome the chance to see Okada take those belts off EVIL.
3. Tomohiro Ishii
Whenever you think of the top names in New Japan, you can’t miss out on the ‘Stone Pitbull’ Tomohiro Ishii. He is a big, strong, and passionate wrestler who is willing to put his body on the line to get a win.
In the past, we’ve seen bouts between the two with the most recent being back in February during the New Japan New Beginnings tour. It was a match where Ishii came out on top. Whenever EVIL and Ishii step into the ring with each other, their matches tend to be hard-hitting, fast, and more like a street fight than a wrestling match. There will always be chairs, suplex’s and lariat’s with such force that the sounds echo across the arena.
However, EVIL isn’t the only person that Ishii produces magic in the ring with. Whether a tag, singles, or title setting, he is constantly putting on ‘Match of the Year’ candidates with any opponent New Japan gives him. He also has this talent of bringing out the best in his opponent whether it’s Taichi, Hiromu Takahashi, or El Desperado.
Despite his tough exterior, Ishii is wildly popular and fans across the world love his no-nonsense attitude and ability to withstand any punishment dished out by his competitors. For them, if there is anyone who deserves to hold the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts, it is Tomohiro Ishii.
Beating someone like EVIL to get that first reign would be the perfect way to start a title reign.