This year has been unique in terms of wrestling. For many months, companies had to put shows on hold due to the recent pandemic and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) was no exception.
However, despite losing almost four months’ worth of shows, the company has still managed to produce some great matches this year. From Wrestle Kingdom in January to the current Summer Struggle Tour, the caliber of these matches are still of a high standard.
Here are the top 10 matches of New Japan so far in 2020.
10. Naoki Sano & Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Ryu Lee & Hiromu Takahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 14
When Jushin Thunder Liger announced that he was retiring, Wrestle Kingdom seemed like the only place for a legend to have his last matches. In particular, the tag match on the second night stood out for several reasons.
The names Jushin Thunder Liger and Naoki Sano are synonymous with Jr Heavyweight wrestling in Japan. By pitting them against two of the biggest names in the division at the moment in the form of Hiromu Takahashi and Ryu Lee, it brought together two generations of Jr Heavyweights.
As expected, the match was a mixture of old and new. There was the old traditional style or Jr wrestling from Sano and Liger. We also saw the unpredictable and risk-taking style of Hiromu mixed with Lee’s hybrid Lucha/ Japanese style. Within one match, we saw dropkicks, submissions, flips and dives to satisfy any wrestling fanatics needs.
Having the current Jr Heavyweight Champion in Hiromu beating the Jr Heavyweight legend was the perfect way to end Jushin Thunder Liger’s career. It was a match that showcased the past and future of the Jr division.
9. Hiromu vs. EVIL – Sengoku Lord – July 25, 2020
When EVIL left Los Ingobernables de Japon, it seemed to impact Hiromu Takahashi the most out of the entire faction. Once EVIL beat Naito, Hiromi went out and challenged EVIL for his titles in such a passionate way that made fans across the world emotional.
From the second the bell rang, Hiromu used his speed to try and get the advantage over a much bigger EVIL. There were dropkicks both inside and outside of the ring, head-scissors and falcon arrows. Yet, the presence of the Bullet Club members and their willingness to break the rules was always going to be too much for Hiromu.
However, he continued to fight fair. He tried to use his determination and passion to keep him fighting through the match. Unfortunately, it was not enough. With help from Dick Togo, EVIL hit a combination of a low blow, Darkness Falls and Everything is EVIL for the win.
Although the match didn’t work in Hiromu’s favour, all it did was cement how strong a wrestler he is. Because of his heart, this match could have been higher on the list. However, it was the number of sneaky tricks EVIL did that reduced the quality. Yet, it is undeniable that it was a match that caught the attention of fans and told a beautifully sad story.
8. Roppongi 3k vs. El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori – Wrestle Kingdom 14
This match may be one of the more underrated entries on the list but is one of the best matches of the year. The essence of this match stemmed from the storytelling from all four men in the ring. The feud between the Bullet Club’s El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori and CHAOS’s Roppongi 3k stemmed from ELP’s debut early in 2019. They took the titles of Roppongi 3k at Dominion. But, due to their win during the Super Jr Tag League, the CHAOS duo earnt another opportunity to challenge for the titles.
The Bullet Club duo went into the match with a lot of confidence utilizing everything in their arsenal to get the unfair advantage over their opponents. Yet, even with all of this, the match was a beautiful example of how amazing the Jr Division in New Japan is. You got to see a variety of moves ranging from the technical ability of YOH, the strength of SHO, the versatility of Ishimori and the balance of ELP.
Overall, it was the latter end of the match which made it stand out. ELP is well-known for low blows to help get the win. It seemed as if this was going to be the same at the Tokyo Dome. However, as ELP went to hit SHO, a look of pain spread across his face. Pulling a golden cup from his shorts, the duo showed that their mentor Rocky Romero taught them some Sneaky Style.
With a Shock Arrow from SHO and a double stomp from the top rope, SHO pinned ELP for the win. In the battle of good versus evil, Roppongi 3K showed that sometimes even the heroes need to break the rules which got them their fourth IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag title reign.