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)

Put simply, Shingo Takagi is either the greatest or second greatest (to Masaaki Mochizuki) in-ring wrestler in the history of the Dragon System. There was no adjustment period in his career as a rookie and I’d argue his prime started in 2008 and continues to this day. Continuing this line of logic, Shingo was consistently the best in-ring wrestler in Dragon Gate from 2008 until 2018 (when he left the company.) When he wasn’t having strong singles matches during the DG era or a huge focus at the top of the card, he was plying his trade as an excellent tag team or trios wrestler.

Although Shingo will never be credited as one of the top historical tag team wrestlers in the Dragon System, his team with Akira Tozawa put up countless Twin Gate classics and he found a strong role in teams with others like Dragon Kid, YAMATO or Cyber Kong. His career in New Japan only solidifies this resume along with his appearances in 2005-06 Ring of Honor, 2009-13 for Dragon Gate USA and countless times in Europe. It is my belief that we will go a long time before finding someone with this complete of an in-ring case as a hall of famer.

Shingo Takagi’s drawing power is something I think gets underestimated. His first monster push came after a traumatic neck injury for CIMA and he was thrust into a role that the crowd was not at that time ready to accept. Business went down during this first title reign (Summer and Fall of 2008) and he wasn’t relied upon to be a top of the card draw until 2011-12 in response. This was in contrast to his ability to draw on the North American and European indie pretty consistently from 2006 to today. Of note, Shingo was reliably the best (if not only) draw for Dragon Gate USA, ticket sales often reflected if he was on the card.

I don’t think Shingo fairs great at the moment as an influence candidate. Sure he showed that you can be a power junior and succeed in a lucharesu context, but he has never participated in Dragongate training of rookies or scouting foreigners. As time goes by, however, I suspect more and more wrestlers will credit Shingo as an inspiration. How many we can’t say yet.

-Mike Spears (Open the Voice Gate)


Mike did a great job making the case for Shingo Takagi already, especially focusing on his Dragongate career, but I want to add a little about his New Japan run as I feel he’s really cemented his legacy there. To be clear, Shingo already had a great career long before he stepped foot into NJPW, but the fact that he came up to the largest professional wrestling company in Japan and thrived pretty much immediately says a lot about the level of talent we’re dealing with here. He was placed into what could have been a difficult position for a lot of people- essentially being an injury replacement for the hugely popular Hiromu Takahashi’s spot in NJPW’s top unit- and ran with it right from day one, being accepted by the LIJ fans immediately.

Obviously, the greatest case for Shingo is his in-ring work, and he has only continued to add to that resume since entering NJPW. In just five years with the promotion, he has racked up an astonishing 17 matches rated at 9 points or higher on Cagematch.net, and 51 matches rated at an 8 or higher. This is even more impressive when you consider that nearly three full years of his run in New Japan came during a period where fans were not allowed to make audible noise (with the obvious exception of clapping- oh boy was there ever clapping), which had a hugely detrimental effect on NJPW’s critical reception.

To add to his sneaky drawing case, Shingo’s initial run with BUSHI as a junior tag team had a surprisingly strong effect on local drawing, and he and Will Ospreay headlined a BOSJ final show that drew an impressive 7,650 at Sumo Hall in 2019. His entire top run as the heavyweight champion took place during a period of COVID attendance restrictions, which makes it difficult to gauge, but at the very least NJPW saw Shingo as someone they could hand the ball to during a very difficult period (both due to the pandemic and various injuries/absences), which has to count for something as well. Overall, when you add his legacy-cementing run with New Japan to his already strong credentials from Dragongate, Shingo Takagi has put together a far stronger Hall of Fame resume than he’s often given credit for. He’s the easiest Yes vote for me in the Japan region this year.

-John Carroll (Wrestling Omakase)