In my last piece, I discussed New Japan’s bright future: Kamaitachi, Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka, Jay White and David Finlay. This installation will focus on the three native rookies that debuted earlier this year: Hirai Kawato, Teruaki Kanemitsu and Takumi Honjo.
What we know
Tanaka/Komatsu were booked regularly after their debuts. Concerning that current class hasn't worked in months? pic.twitter.com/DAPwqcgM0g
— JoJo (@jojo_runs) August 9, 2016
Tanaka and Komatsu debuted in November 2012, and throughout the 100 NJPW shows following their debut, the pair solidified their role on the undercard. There were explainable gaps in their booking due to the fact that there simply was no undercard on 2013’s G1 Climax and Super Junior tours; the shows on these tours featured only league matches.
— NJPW news (@njpw1972_eng) December 10, 2015
The duo was used as expected through the end of the spring; working mostly opening singles matches. However, Kawato and Kanemitsu have not wrestled since May. Interestingly, NJPW abandoned league match-only G1 and BOSJ shows, which would have theoretically opened up that undercard slot for these juniors from May to August.
Takumi Honjo, a heavyweight, debuted in a fairly high-profile singles match against a recently unmasked and pissed off Maybach Taniguchi from NOAH.
— NJPW news (@njpw1972_eng) February 3, 2016
Honjo worked a few shows after his debut, but has not been booked since March.
What we don’t know
We don’t really know the reasons behind their infrequent usage, illness and injuries may have contributed. Katsuyori Shibata, a product of the NJPW dojo, voiced his opinion on this group (translated by Chris Charlton):
— chris charlton (@reasonjp) June 1, 2016
If we take Shibata’s comment at face value, maybe this group isn’t quite ready to be working the undercard of NJPW shows just yet. As I see it, the group produced perfectly fine “young lion” outings. However, it’s hard to tell how this group has been progressing within the walls of the dojo. Kanemitsu and Kawato were recently announced for September cards, while Honjo is still nowhere to be found. I’m really looking forward to Ohara/Kawato and Kenoh/Kanemitsu on LION’S GATE PROJECT3 on September 1st. LION’S GATE is all about getting younger guys more exposure, and it’s clear that this class is getting far fewer valuable reps in front of crowds early in their careers.
We don’t really know what kind of match quality these guys are capable of producing in the short term. It’s not fair to expect them to reach the pre-excursion level of Komatsu, Tanaka, White and Finlay. Still, based on NJPW’s track record, it’s safe to assume that all three of these guys will end up being good workers. NJPW has some of the most talented wrestlers in the world training these guys. In 2016, NJPW departures have given opportunities to a new crop of guys; and I don’t expect the trend of departures to stop any time soon.
NJPW needs to get their native guys groomed and ready to produce quality matches as quickly as possible.