New Japan Pro Wrestling, the second-largest wrestling company in the world and easily the most popular grappling organisation in Japan, presents a deeply strange, incredibly weird, and very wonderful version of the utterly insane spectacle that is professional wrestling. It also happens to be populated almost exclusively by very terrifying men.
New Japan makes its second appearance on Australian soil this coming weekend, with shows scheduled to take place in both Melbourne and Sydney as part of its Southern Showdown tour.
Some of the company’s most genuinely frightening competitors will be touching down in Australia to beat the living tar off of whichever unlucky asshole has to step into the ring with them.
Ahead of that, I decided to face every fear I have by ranking NJPW’s most diabolically scary dudes into this arbitrary list, in what stands as both a vast overestimation of what my own pudding-like body can withstand, and also a virtual death warrant should any of the wrestlers on this list happen to read it.
But not content to simply rest judgment on my own laurels, I went directly to the source – NJPW signee and Australia’s own resident Bullet Club member, the “Sniper of the Skies” Robbie Eagles – to rate his fellow employees on a scale of 1 to 10 based on who is a genuine titan of fear, and who is a tiny wimpy boy (again, it is illegal to hurt a writer).
So here we go: a select handful of New Japan Pro Wrestlers, ranked by whether or not I, the human version of leaving an opened Snack Pack tub on a sunny windowsill, believe I could actually fight them.
God help me.
HONOURABLE MENTION: KATSUYORI SHIBATA
No list of scary Japanese grapple men would ever be complete without at least mentioning Katsuyori Shibata who would walk into the top five were he still an active competitor. Dude might have an unusually pleasant face but he spent his entire career trying to ruin it by smashing it against people’s skulls. Shibata had to retire in 2017 at age 37 because he headbutted a dude so hard he made his own brain bleed (there’s footage, and it’s horrible).
He scares me. He scares me a lot.
16) TORU YANO
The only wrestler on this list who appears to have consumed a comparable amount of raw pudding to me. In a pound-for-many-pound contest, I reckon I’m at least a 35% shot here.
15) EL PHANTASMO
No one in the history of modern earth has ever appeared genuinely threatening while wearing shutter shades, much less a Canadian wearing shutter shades. I’ll go to my horribly murdered grave asserting this to be true.
14) WILL OSPREAY
Will Ospreay might be the most quintessentially British wrestler on the planet in the sense that he has a head like a kettle and looks like he’s full of tea. Is he dangerous? Probably. Can he open my skull with his boot like a cheap tin of SPC Spaghetti? Almost certainly. Am I very much taller than he is meaning I’ll march into a ring and cockily – and wrongly – assume I can run over him like a steamroller? You bet your ass.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “What can I say? I’ve tapped him out twice. He’s a Zero [out of Ten] in my book. I can’t wait to take his [IWGP Junior Heavyweight] title in Melbourne on Saturday night.”
13) YUJI NAGATA
Old as hell and looks like he’s made of boots, Yuji Nagata is a genuine legend and a 51-year-old man who I would render utterly ineffective by threatening to take away his negative gearing.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “Pssh. I’d make him tap in a second. One.”
12) HIROSHI TANAHASHI
By far and away the most popular and widely beloved wrestler in Japan, fighting Hiroshi Tanahashi would be like trying to bash a very tall, very pretty rooster. Now, a regular-sized rooster I would easily best in a standard wrestling match. But a 6-foot tall rooster with human limbs is another story entirely.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “He used to be a hard 10, but now he’s more like a 7. He’s a broken man.”
11) JUICE ROBINSON
Juice Robinson looks like the Byron Bay Bluesfest and a North Shore F45 stepped into that machine from The Fly together. If I managed to lace one of his creatine shakes with tequila while lulling him to sleep with a Jack Johnson CD I might have an outside chance of scoring a cheap pin. Failing that, I am no chance whatsoever.
10) TAIJI ISHIMORI
Taiji Ishimori has abs that could grate iron and refers to himself as the “Bone Soldier,” which is a name far better suited to a terrible 80s action movie starring Jesse “The Body” Ventura and/or a hapless bro trying increasingly terrible ways to pick up in the club. Ishimori may well tie me into a pretzel in record time, but counterpoint: Pretzels are delicious.
ROBBIE EAGLES: [Long pause] “I think he’s probably an eight.”
9) JAY WHITE
Jay White is a proud, born-and-bred Kiwi. The main problem with that is that you’ll never truly know whether he’s angry at you or not until it’s far, far too late. The other problem is that I’d never be able to stop myself from getting my throat caved in because I wouldn’t be able to resist saying “fush and chups” to his goddamned face.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “Let’s just say I’m glad I’m on the same side as him. Ten out of ten.”
8) KAZUCHKA OKADA
Throws elbows like freight trains and is capable of running 50,000kms in a single day without breaking a sweat, but once I pull that big fancy coat over his head and start throwing hockey punches like Calgary’s stupidest goon, you tell me who would be the winner (him, it would be him, it wouldn’t even be close, Okada would beat me into paste).
ROBBIE EAGLES: “He’s an easy ten. Even what he does to warm up is scary.”
7) KOTA IBUSHI
The scariest thing about Kota Ibushi isn’t what he’s capable of, but just how purely beautiful is. I’m genuinely fearful of how much I would pay him to completely fuck my life up. What is he charging? Who cares. Ruin me in the most glorious way possible, Kota. Please.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “He’s an eight out of ten. I think I could take him.”
6) TETSUYA NAITO
There’s only one thing more genuinely unnerving that a loud tough guy, and that’s a very very calm tough guy. What’s Naito doing? Why is he spreading his eye open at me like that? Why is that suit he’s wearing somehow both disgustingly out of date and fly as hell? I don’t like any of it, man. It’s all very off-putting.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “Nine.“ [Author’s Note: Eagles said this and maintained a steely silence afterwards, which can only be read as a challenge.]
4 & 5) TAMA TONGA/TANGA LOA
Collectively the Guerrillas of Destiny, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa are the adopted sons of wrestling icon Meng, who legend has it once bit the nose off a man during a bar fight. Another story asserts he broke a man’s bottom teeth off with his fingers. You look me in the eye and tell me you want to mess with that family. Good lord.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “Those two are absolute monsters. I’ve seen them after a couple of drinks. Ten. Easy tens.”
3) TOMOHIRO ISHII
Tomohiro Ishii is about 5’6″ tall and probably the same wide and thick. I have no evidence to back this up but I am lead to believe his torso consists of several ciderblocks taped together. His nickname is “Stone Pitbull” and I think he could make me cry by sneezing. I’d jam myself into a trebuchet and fling myself into the sea just to avoid having to step into the ring with him.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “He used to be a ten but now he’s probably a nine. Mostly because I think I saw him smile once.”
2) MINORU SUZUKI
If Minoru Suzuki is due to fly anywhere in the world on the same day as I am, I will change travel plans. If I find out he buys the same brand socks that I do, I will stop wearing shoes entirely. If I learn that he’s ok with using public toilets to poop, I will sew my ass shut. There are no limits to what I will do to guarantee I do not accidentally wind up in the same room as Suzuki. He is old as shit, made of titanium, and a complete psychopath. No thank you.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “The OG. He’s an easy ten out of ten scary.”
1) BAD LUCK FALE
At this crucial point in the article I need to be very clear with my words: I am scared to fucking death of Bad Luck Fale. Anyone who insists that he is not near the very top of the most genuinely frightening people currently walking god’s green earth is either lying, like a fool, or does not know who he is yet, like an idiot. Fale eats nails and shits jet fuel. Fale could stop time by glaring at his watch. Fale can never die because neither heaven nor hell are game enough to take him in. The only reason mankind is seriously exploring a colonised Mars is because that’s the only place you can hide from him. Bad Luck Fale is an extremely large and scary man. I cannot possibly ever stress that enough.
ROBBIE EAGLES: “He’s a twenty. When he’s pissed off, I don’t just try to go to a different building, I try to go to a different state.”
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Southern Showdown tour takes place over two nights this coming weekend; Saturday night at Festival Hall in Melbourne, and Sunday night at the UNSW Roundhouse in Sydney.
You can cop ticketing information via this link.
I’m gonna die, folks!Image: Getty Images / Etsuo Hara