With several major names getting inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame from the Japan region in recent years, the ballot is wide open for new candidates to gain major traction and make a run at getting inducted.

In the last several years, performers like Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, and Kota Ibushi, not to mention the addition of the Holy Demon Army to the ballot, have taken up a majority of votes in the region. With all of those acts now inducted, the space is open for the remaining names on the ballot, as well as some newcomers, to break out and potentially get inducted this year.

We asked our staff at Voices of Wrestling to make the case for different names from the Japan region on the ballot, and why they believe they should be getting the nod from voters this year. -Jesse Collings (Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast)


On November 20, 2022, at New Japan and STARDOM’s Historic X-Over event in Tokyo Japan, the Wrestling Observer’s “Most Outstanding” wrestler of the year made his entrance for an IWGP US Title defense dressed in the iconic attire of Hayabusa.

@thewrestlingdepot

When Will Ospreay Entered as Hayabusa 👑 #NJPW #FMW #WillOspreay #UnitedEmpire #Hayabusa #Wrestling #ProWrestling #Moments #fyp #fypシ #foryou #legend #entertainment #newjapanprowrestling #kingofsports #tribute

♬ original sound – The Wrestling Depot 👑

The next day, Will Ospreay shared the motivation behind this tribute:

“Hayabusa is one of my all-time favorites…I took Hayabusa’s daughter out for lunch and asked for the blessing and how much it would be an honour to wear the mask. She was so kind she allowed me to pay tribute to her father…The mask is made by the original mask maker himself Kuniharu Yamagata/Naughty Boy and is helping by selling the mask to the fans and the money going towards the family…So happy and blessed that you enjoyed the costume. Please buy Hayabusa official merch so they get the money and show everyone how much I love him. Thank you so much for the biggest honour of my life.”

Will Ospreay isn’t the only wrestler Hayabusa has influenced. Bandido also paid tribute to Hayabusa last year. Hayabusa was a mentor to BxB Hulk and an inspired others (like PAC and Dragon Kid) in Dragon Gate. If you’ve ever seen Seth Rollins perform a Phoenix Splash or Falcon Arrow suplex, then you’ve seen moves that Hayabusa both invented and popularized. When he passed away in 2016, he received an outpouring of public appreciation from Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Brodie Lee, The Young Bucks, and many more who noted him as inspiration. Hayabusa’s tragic last match occurred in 2001, 21 years before Historic X-Over was held. His legacy as a martyr for fearless innovation has endured the test of time.

A large part of the reason behind Hayabusa’s enduring legacy is the size of the stage on which it was built. FMW is often thought of as the “ECW of Japan,” which makes some sense as both involved barbed wire, ultraviolence, and Terry Funk. However, FMW’s shows were held at far larger venues than the ECW arena. There were over 33,000 fans at Kawasaki Stadium in 1996 to see him team with Masato Tanaka against Terry Funk & Mr. Pogo in a “No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Double Hell Exploding Ring Death Match.”

11,000 fans attended the 10th anniversary show Vs. Mr. Gannosuke. 10,500 fans were at the 2001 anniversary show teaming with Great Sasuke in a death match against Mr. Gannosuke & Tetsuhiro Kuroda. From an attendance perspective, the six-year period of 1996-2001 when Hayabusa was headlining in FMW is bigger than any six-year period from a Japanese promotion since 1990 other than New Japan, All Japan, the first six years of NOAH, and the Onita lead version of FMW.

Outside of the undeniable Atsushi Onita, Ultimo Dragon, and wrestling/MMA hybrids Kazushi Sakuraba and Masakatsu Funaki, the Japan region of the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame has only inducted male wrestlers with headlining runs in New Japan, All Japan, or their Japanese Wrestling Alliance precursor. To fully tell the story of wrestling in Japan, luminaries from other promotions also warrant inclusion, and none are more deserving than Hayabusa.

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into Hayabusa’s vast international influence and drawing record, an exploration of those subjects is captured in more detail here.