Hustlers and Heatseekers (Intro & Part 1): voicesofwrestling.com/2020/07/13/hustlers-and-heatseekers-japans-next-wrestling-stars-part-1
This week, Voices of Wrestling contributors Andy LaBarre, Gerard Di Trolio, Michael Spears and Taylor Maimbourg delve into the world of Japanese wrestling and shine a spotlight on some of Japan’s top prospects.
Today’s lineup: Hokuto Omori, Kota Minoura, Saya Kamitani & Yoshiki Inamura
Home Promotion: AJPW
Omori has recently graduated from young boy status at the start of the empty arena era. He’s been steadily adding more moves to his arsenal and getting to show off his improving skills in longer matches. His foray into Dragongate this past June to challenge Susumu Yokosuka for All Japan’s PWF World Jr. Heavyweight Championship showed just how far he has come. Not only did Omori get the biggest win of his career so far, pinning Yosuke Santa Maria in a three-way elimination title match, he had an exciting closing stretch against Yokosuka, showing a lot of toughness despite eventually losing.
Omori isn’t the flashiest Jr. Heavyweight but he is technically solid and moves like the German Suplex and Cutter look incredibly smooth and like he’s been doing them far longer than the mere two years he’s been wrestling.
He and his awesome mullet are slowly but surely going to become a big part of All Japan’s Jr. division. But is that the ceiling for him? He’s on that line where he’s a bigger Jr. or small heavyweight. As he gets older and fills out his physique, he can become an awesome heavyweight worker and increase his charisma (probably his weakest point right now). Don’t rule out him making waves as a heavyweight one day. With the surprising announcement that he has joined Enfants Terribles, it’s safe to say that one way or another, there are big plans for him. At the very least, being a member of Enfants Terrible alongside three very expressive wrestlers in Shotaro Ashino, Kuma Arashi & Yusuke Kodama will give Omori the chance to learn from unique personalites, wrestling styles and develop his own clear personality.
Recommended match: PWF World Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Susumu Yokosuka © vs. Hokuto Omori vs. Yosuke Santa Maria – DG (6/14/2020)
Home Promotion: Dragongate
With the sheer amount of wrestlers who debuted in Dragongate since 2016 (14 by my count), it’d be easy to fall between the cracks. For several years, Kota Minoura (21 years old, 2 years pro) has seen people in his generation win Tokyo Sports Rookie Awards (Strong Machine J), go on excursions (Shun Skywalker & Yuki Yoshioka), and even win the Dream Gate (Ben-K). All the while, Minoura has been there, a stalwart of the lower card putting out solid performances. It was the most recent series of shows (7/4/2020 & 7/5/2020 in Kyoto KBS Hall) where this started to change.
Minoura has a very solid understanding of the fundamentals. His character is mostly based around having the ability to pull off an impressive variety of suplexes, which gave him his first t-shirt with “7 Colors Suplex” on it. Through the end of last year, he was a member of Mochizuki Dojo where Minoura was most featured as the third man on a losing Triangle Gate challenge team or someone on the lower card. The most recent shows had Kota Minoura debut a new look, dropping pants for crowd appealing tights, and pull out two surprising time limit draws with Big R Shimizu and Susumu Yokosuka. Dragongate seems to be behind Minoura and are giving him his first full-fledged push of his career. The shows ended with fellow members of Dragongate Generation YAMATO and KAI doing the go home promo, and they called Minoura from the apron to join them.
These crowd appeals will be a difficult challenge for Minoura. DG is a promo-heavy promotion that emphasizes the connection between the roster and the fanbase. Minoura is known as a pretty shy person and not a steady speaker, so they’ve put him on backstage promo duty on their studio show PRIME ZONE and are giving him more opportunities to improve this. If he’s able to improve, and develops a further crowd connection, Kota Minoura will be someone to watch in Dragongate.
Recommended Match: Kota Minoura vs KAZMA SAKAMOTO – DG (3/22/2020)
Home Promotion: STARDOM
Young wrestlers in STARDOM tend to stick to a pretty consistent career arc. After their debut in the promotion, they spend the first few years of their career firmly planted in the undercard, facing off against fellow rookies or opening the shows being pinned by more established, veteran wrestlers. When this pattern is broken, you know that the company thinks they have something and is willing to bypass the usual timeline to create a new star. The biggest example of this in the past few years is Utami Hayashashita, who debuted and instantly became one of Stardom’s most notable wrestlers, even managing to break through the joshi bubble and receive a number of votes in the Wrestling Observer’s Rookie of the Year voting.
Following in Hayashashita’s footsteps is Saya Kamitani, one of Stardom’s newest wrestlers who has already broken the mold, main eventing Stardom shows less than one year into her career and quickly gaining a fan following. It’s easy to see why the company sees her as a star: at 5’6’’, she towers over the fairly small STARDOM roster members. She has shown incredible athletic ability, with one of her signature moves being a running shooting star press, a move that most wrestlers might struggle to pull off. Even the empty arena era couldn’t cool her off, as in STARDOM’s first show back, she made it clear that she wants to go after one of Stardom’s many titles. With the rocket pack clearly strapped to her back by the company, the sky’s the limit. As her ever growing fan base says: Tall Saya Zoom Zoom.
Recommended Matches: Saya Kamitani and Itsuki Hoshino vs. Riho and Starlight Kid – Stardom (12/1/2019)
Saya Kamitani vs. Utami Hayashashita – Stardom (2/16/2020)
Home Promotion: NOAH
One of the best archetypes in pro wrestling is the big beefy baby who knows nothing but taking and inflicting pain. No technicality, little agility, just straight-up undefined muscle from a huge kid who loves to smash things. Since late 2018, one of the best examples of this archetype in Japan is NOAH’s Yoshiki Inamura. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Inamura went from opening card matches where he showed his strength and promise but rarely anything spectacular. Everything changed when Inamura began teaming with fellow thicc-boi Masa Kitamiya in early 2019 and became the junior member of the Kongoh unit. Their match with AXIZ in November 2019 was one of the single best tag-team matches of the year.
Now clad in a red & black singlet with a gigantic mohawk, Inamura has carved himself out a little niche in the NOAH heavyweight division, where he cannot hope to get past most of the roster in singles matches (essentially only ever beating Kinya Okada over and over), but when paired with other members of Kongoh has a chance to go over anyone in the promotion. Even BJW saw promise in him, and lacking talent in their Strong Division, invited Inamura to participate in their Ikki Tousen Strong Climb tournament where he scored a shocking victory of Ryuichi Kawakami and an expected win over his BJW analogue Akira Hyodo. It is unlikely that Inamura will ever be a true superstar ace, or even a GHC Title holder, but he should be someone that sticks around for a while and should be expected to pump out excellent matches.
Recommended Match: AXIZ (Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima) Vs. Kongoh (Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura) – NOAH (11/2/2019)