So you’ve heard about this fancy promotion out in Japan which has been getting a bit of buzz lately. Maybe you were one of the many who tuned in for the first time for Wrestle Kingdom 11, or maybe you’ve come across it some other way.

Congratulations, you’re on the start of a wonderful relationship with some of the best wrestling on the planet! But this isn’t your WWE: there’s new wrestlers to watch, schedules to keep track of and other differences you might not be used to.

It might seem daunting, but this guide is here precisely to help you to delve into the deep end of New Japan Pro Wrestling. We’ll cover all of the basics here, so strap yourself in and get ready to rumble!

Contents:

Part 1: Watching NJPW

– How Can I watch?

– How is the English Coverage?

– What is the Schedule?

– How Does the Schedule Affect the Viewing Experience?

– Other Differences to Keep in Mind?

Part 2: Championships and Tournaments

– Championships

– Tournament

Part 3: Factions and Tier Lists

-Factions

-Tier Lists

Heavyweights

Junior Heavyweights

Part 1: Watching NJPW

How Can I Watch?

This is a question I have seen a lot in the leadup and aftermath of Wrestle Kingdom 11. There’s a few different ways you can get your fix:

NJPW World
This is by far your best choice. It’s NJPW’s dedicated streaming network and their version of the WWE Network. For just 999 yen a month, you get access to almost every show live and on demand (rarely some will be restricted to a Japanese TV network, but you won’t miss any important shows). On top of that, there is a hefty back catalogue of old shows, documentaries and press conferences will which be available.

The site is in Japanese, which can be very scary for newcomers. If you’re using a browser like Google Chrome, just hit the translate option and things will begin to make a lot more sense. The good news is they’ve implemented an English sign up option, which makes this part of the job easier. There is also a dedicated ‘English Contents’ section which features all of their English commentary and anything either in English or with subtitles. It’s still not the perfect fix, but it’s not as big of a barrier as it might first look when you load up the page.

Billing occurs upon sign up and on the 1st of every month, so it is recommended that you sign up early in the month to enjoy the most out of your subscription. But it goes month to month, so you’re free to cancel at any time.

AXS TV
If you’re a resident of the United States, that’s not your only option. Every Friday night on AXS TV they show New Japan Pro Wrestling. These are usually a few matches each night from a PPV. The trend has been that it takes a little over half a year until a match will air, but they have fast tracked the Wrestle Kingdom 11 shows, so in the future they may deliver some of these shows earlier.

These matches feature special commentary, currently using the duo of Jim Ross and Josh Barnett. Because of the delay the option isn’t ideal if you want to keep up to date with what is going on, but on the plus side they tend to cherry pick strong or important matches, so there’s less filler.

How is the English Coverage?

One of the biggest initial barriers for getting into New Japan, or indeed any wrestling promotion in foreign countries, can be the language barrier. While even without English support it’s easier than ever to get into a new promotion thanks to the internet, it is always nice when a company makes an effort to support foreign viewers.

New Japan have been increasing their English support in recent times. English commentary is provided on most of the ‘big’ shows, including Wrestle Kingdom, Invasion Attack (now known as Sakura Genesis), King of Pro Wrestling, and select Best of the Super Junior and G1 Climax shows. It seems in 2017 this amount of shows with English commentary will increase, with the first of the two ‘New Beginning’ shows getting English commentary as well this year.

On top of this, on NJPWWorld there are “On The Road” short videos, highlighting a couple of foreign wrestlers during their time in the country, providing some insight into what it’s like to be a wrestler for New Japan (these videos are also available on YouTube, so you can watch them right now if you want!). The site also features post-match interviews and select documentaries subtitled in English.

What Is the Schedule?

Many western fans use WWE as the basis for the typical wrestling schedule. Weekly shows, with PPVs every month and house shows in between. Because of this, making sense of the NJPW schedule can be confusing at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

New Japan operates on a touring structure rather than a weekly one seen in WWE. These tours tend to go for 2 weeks, and then they break for around 2 weeks. Because of this schedule, many of the foreign wrestlers will travel back home between tours, and some may miss tours that focus on a certain division (aka a Heavyweight might stay home during the Best of the Super Juniors)

The shows on a tour are broken up into two parts. The ‘Road To [x]’ shows, and the ‘PPV’ level shows. Your PPV level shows are what you’d expect – big events that bring rivalries to a head and have championships on the line. These are your Wrestle Kingdom, Invasion Attack, Dominion type shows. They tend to occur approximately once a month.
Sometimes, these PPV level shows are broken up into two smaller but equally important shows. Take February’s New Beginning shows. One is held in Sapporo and the other in Osaka. Generally the Heavyweight title will headline one night and the Intercontinental will headline another, and the quality of matches is split up evenly among them. This allows the company to run high level shows in more cities, and cover areas that might normally get a PPV level event (like Sapporo, which is on the northern island).

The ‘Road to [x]’ shows lead up to each event. So in the case of Wrestle Kingdom, there were several ‘Road to Wrestle Kingdom’ events. These operate in a weird amalgamation of a house show and a weekly show. These shows will often build up rivalries before a pay per view, featuring interactions between opponents and challenges, but they are scheduled much in the same way as a WWE house show. What that means is if there are three ‘Road to [x]’ shows, they might feature many of the same matches on each show with the same spots and results.

While there are other smaller events, the main non-tournament shows each year are as followed:

Wrestle Kingdom – January
New Beginning – February
Sakura Genesis (formerly Invasion Attack) – April
Dontaku – May
Dominion – June
Destruction – September
King of Pro Wrestling – October
Power Struggle – November

Because of this, it is not necessary to watch every ‘Road to [x]’ show. While many are filmed and aired on NJPW World, they are designed in the way house shows are, putting on the same show in different locations for different audiences. They make for fun viewing, but the quality of matches are as you would expect from your typical WWE house show, and most matches are multi-man tag matches, rather than singles matches.

There are several times in the year when this show structure changes. Every couple of months there will be tournaments for various divisions, including (dates are approximate):

New Japan Cup – March
Best of The Super Juniors: June
G1 Climax – July/August
World Tag League – December
Super J Cup (Every couple of years)

During this time, it is not unusual for there to be shows on every day or two – which the first half of the show featuring multi-man tag matches and the second half featuring tournament matches. The multi-man tag matches in the first half are not considered necessary viewing – because the schedules during these tournaments are very gruelling, the multi-man matches let a competitor have an ‘easy’ night without denying the crowd the chance to see their favourites compete.

The final type of show are the co-promoted shows. New Japan have working relationships with Ring of Honor (U.S) and CMLL (Mexico) and will team up with these companies to put on joint shows from time to time, such as Fantasticamania in January or Honor Rising in February. These events feature talent from both brands and occasionally forward storylines, but tend to be more for fun and to promote other brands and talent.

How Does the Different Schedule Affect the Viewing Experience?

Because of the structure of the NJPW schedule, following the promotion feels very different to the WWE. In the WWE, each week rivalries are built upon, and often competitors will face off in singles matches, either to build towards a PPV match or to put on a show.

In New Japan, a singles match is rarely put on ‘for the sake of it’. As a result, whenever a one on one match happens, it is important. Also, it becomes rarer for two guys to face off often, allowing for the match to feel fresher compared to a similar WWE match.

The flipside is that because there are less singles matches, there are more multi-man matches. These tend to feature between two to four men on a team, with the competitors often put into teams based on their faction affiliation (more on that later).

These matches can become repetitive, so my personal recommendation would be to watch one representing each feud during each tour. By doing so you’ll get an idea as to the direction of each rivalry and how they are interacting with each other. This doesn’t mean you can’t watch every match, but you will find they tend to repeat the same basic spots, or team combinations will change slightly. Keep an eye out for any feud advancements, as sometimes during the earlier shows on a tour matches will be made, or a bigger spot will occur towards the end (an example being Kenny Omega putting Okada through a table at the last ‘Road to Wrestle Kingdom’ show before WK11).

The structure of these tour schedules also means the average NJPW feud won’t be built up to the same extent as a WWE feud. Where as in WWE they often have 3-4 weeks of television to use segments to advance a story, NJPW does not. Many matches are made simply by a challenger coming to the ring and announcing their intention to fight, and then feature a little bit of build in multi-man matches and in interviews.

The best source for these interviews is by following Chris Charlton (@reasonjp) on Twitter. He provides English translations and is an invaluable source of information. Through these interviews many of the wrestlers and feuds gain additional depth, providing context for the rivalry and character. It is not essential for understanding why two guys are fighting, but you will get a lot more out of the match by keeping up with these interviews.

While it lacks the consistency of a week to week WWE schedule, the touring format of NJPW allows you to take breaks in between each show. You can get by only by watching the ‘PPV’ level shows and make sense of what’s going on easily, or you can watch absolutely everything and get right into it.

When the tournaments are on, particularly the G1 Climax, it can be difficult to watch everything, as you’re often presented with a new show with important matches every night (or morning, depending on your time zone). So keep that in mind that when a tournament is nearing, you might want to try to clear your schedule. A 4+ star match can sometimes occur without warning, so it can be hard to juggle your desire to watch everything with the reality of life. If watching it all is a challenge and you can live with spoilers, sometimes it’s better to pick certain guys or matches you want to watch, and keep an eye online for buzz surrounding the other matches. Thanks to the speed of NJPW uploading a show on demand after it has aired, you can catch a match you’ve missed with ease.

Other Differences to Keep in Mind

Beyond the schedule, there are some other, smaller details that are worth noting.

In NJPW, wrestlers have until a count of twenty to get back into the ring, rather than the count of ten that you might be used to with Western promotions. The reasoning for this is the added time is to protect wrestlers and give them the necessary time to ensure they are able to continue. In reality though, the counting occurs quicker than the counting you would see from a ten count. You will notice that the counting is done in English, making it easy to follow, and it done over a PA system that follows the referees count.

There is no women’s division in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Typically in Japan a promotion will be dedicated to either men or women. Women’s wrestling in Japan is referred to as Joshi, with some of the notable promotions being Stardom, Ice Ribbon, and Pro Wrestling Wave.

New Japan rings use the same turnbuckle covers as promotions like Ring of Honor, which feature one long piece of protective padding rather than three smaller ones. It affects how some moves can be pulled off in the corner, but it’s just as likely to be pulled off in an attempt to cheat – more so if Toru Yano is in a match. The apron (the space between the ropes and the end of the ring) is also noticeably wider, which allows for more movement and moves to be executed from that area.

It is rare to see a match in NJPW end in disqualification. While the same basic wrestling rules apply, a referee is likely to be distracted or incapacitated during illegal activity, or will let minor rule offences go with a stern warning. The reasoning here is that the referee would rather see a definitive result than a disqualification (similar to brands like Lucha Underground). How much some heels get away with can be a little cringe-worthy, but in a weird way they are consistent. Also, NJPW’s main event referee is called ‘Red Shoes’, and he is beloved for a reason.

It is also rare to see ‘gimmick’ matches, or triple threat/fatal four way matches in singles competition. The audiences tend to prefer matches that are one on one, with some triple threats over there having been received rather poorly. Gimmick matches are almost non-existent in NJPW, with the first ladder match taking place in 2016 between Kenny Omega and Michael Elgin. When Japanese wrestling gets associated with more extreme gimmick matches, commonly known as ‘death matches’, these matches come from other promotions such as FMW or BJW. The main gimmick match you’ll see is the yearly Wrestle Kingdom pre-show Rumble, which operates in a similar manner to the Royal Rumble, but you can also be eliminated by pinfall or submission.

When a wrestler is making his entrance, you will often hear two announcements. The first will be in English, and the second in Japanese. You will notice that the Japanese announcement will switch the positioning of the first and last names for native wrestlers. This is a cultural thing, where the family name is spoken first. For foreign wrestlers, their name is announced as it would be in their home country.

There are two weight divisions in NJPW, Heavyweight and Junior Heavyweight (will be discussed further down). While the two divisions will often interact in multi-man matches, it is incredibly rare for a Junior to gain a victory over a Heavyweight. Even a Junior at the top of his weight class will often end up taking the pinfall.

You might hear the term ‘Young Lion’ thrown around. This is in reference to trainees in the New Japan dojo. While training at the dojo they will often cook and clean for the older performers who in turn train them. They wrestle in a lot of the opening matches and generally are restricted to plain black tights, as the focus at that point in time is building on their wrestling ability. You’ll also seem them around the ring during matches, and will also help construct and de-construct the ring. After ‘graduating’, they will often go on an excursion to work in another promotion and country to help fine tune their in ring ability and build a character before returning. There are exceptions to this rule, like David Finlay, who stayed within NJPW after graduating.

Part 2: NJPW Championships And Tournaments

Championships

There are currently seven titles currently operating in NJPW, split up into three weight classes. Heavyweight, Junior Heavyweight and Openweight. A Junior Heavyweight title can only be won by competitors under 100kgs (220 pounds). Technically a Heavyweight championship can be won by someone who classifies as a ‘Junior’, but this basically never happens, and Juniors generally have to make a transition to Heavyweight (see Kenny Omega in 2016). Openweight Titles can be won by people in either division, and the weight distinction here is less apparent, especially in the 6-man championship, where Juniors and Heavyweights often team together.

There are two acronyms that you will notice with each championship: IWGP and NEVER. IWGP stands for International Wrestling Grand Prix, and is NJPW’s governing body, much in the same way that the NWA was a governing body through the U.S.A. NEVER is an acronym for New Blood, Evolution, Valiantly, Eternal and Radical. The NEVER concept was initially a series of developmental events designed to build young up and coming wrestlers back in 2010, but was later dissolved and the branding remains only with the two titles.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Champion at time of writing: Kazuchika Okada

This is the most prestigious title in the company, the prize that everyone aspires to hold. Currently there have been 27 different wrestlers to hold the title, and due to the schedule it is rare to see more than two different champions during a single year. Since Wrestle Kingdom 5 (in 2011) only four men have held the title: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, AJ Styles and Tetsuya Naito. So don’t expect just anyone to get the honour of winning this championship

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Champion at time of writing: Tetsuya Naito

Created in 2011 and first won by MVP, this title was initially created for an overseas tournament and spent some time as a midcard title, but quickly gained prestige and notoriety thanks to Shinsuke Nakamura. Now the Intercontinental Championship isn’t considered that far below the Heavyweight Title in importance, and will often headline shows of reasonable importance. The title even main evented Wrestle Kingdom 8 in a match between Nakamura and Tanahashi, being voted into the main event over the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match.

Generally the title is fought between main eventers spending time outside of the IWGP Heavyweight Title scene and upper midcarders being groomed for bigger things.

NEVER Openweight Championship
Champion at time of writing: Hirooki Goto

The NEVER Openweight Championship was created in 2012 to be defended exclusively at the NJPW-run NEVER events. However these events ended soon after the creation of the belt, and it has since become a midcard title for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Thanks to title reigns from heavy hitters like Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii, Katsuyori Shibata and others the title is now seen as something of a ‘Strong Style’ title. These matches feature a lot of ‘stiff’ shots and tests of ‘Fighting Spirit’ where the two competitors take turns to hit the other and prove they can withstand the punishment.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Champion at time of writing: Himoru Takahashi

The top championships for the Juniors to compete for, and has a legacy stretching back over twenty years. Jushin Thunder Liger has firmly made it his belt, having won the title eleven times with over twice the amount of successful defences as any other champion.

Despite being the top prize for the Juniors, in reality it tends to be as important as the NEVER Openweight title. Sometimes it gets to main event a smaller show, particularly when they hold a couple of big shows in a short time span (see the Destruction events), but often is placed below the NEVER Openweight Title on bigger shows. In recent years Kushida has become the main attraction of the Junior division, having held the title through much of 2016.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Champions at time of writing: Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii

As the tag title for heavyweight wrestlers this is considered the most important of the multi-man titles, but due to a lull in talent the title scene has struggled to attract fans lately. It also has had an interesting history, being the only NJPW title to have changed hands on a TNA show. British Invasion defeated then champions Team 3D without TNA gaining the consent of NJPW to initiate the change. NJPW initially did not recognise Magnus and Williams as the champions, though they decided to change that stance after a few weeks. As you would imagine, the title scene is dominated by the factions in the company.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Champions at time of writing: Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Trent Baretta

The tag titles for competitors under 100kgs, it is not unusual to see this title used as an opener or early card match to get the crowd pumped with fast paced storytelling. In recent years the division has been dominated by foreign wrestlers, though with Suzuki-Gun returning the team of Taichi and Taka Michinoku should help to change that. Rocky Romero became the first ever seven time champion at Wrestle Kingdom 11 when Roppongi Vice defeat the five time champions the Young Bucks.

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Champions at time of writing: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Minabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi

The most recent addition to the NJPW championship list, the NEVER 6 man titles were introduced at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and won by The Briscoes and Toru Yano. Despite barely being a year old the titles have been held by twenty one different wrestlers and have changed hands ten times. These titles aren’t taken very seriously by most viewers, but because of how they have been handled, it does mean that every time these titles are being defended you might realistically see new champions. Because of this they are being positioned as a title to add some interest to small shows.

Tournaments:

G1 Climax
2016 winner: Kenny Omega

In many ways winning the G1 Climax is as prestigious as winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title. The G1 has existed in various forms since 1974 but officially as the G1 Climax since 1991. The competitors are split into two separate blocks, and a round robin tournament is conducted within each block, with the winners of each facing off in the final to determine the champion.

Shows are held nearly every day for the duration of the tournament, with the two blocks taking turns to hold tournament matches while the other block competes in multi-man matches. Because of the schedule taking part in the G1 is a gruelling experience, and it is not uncommon to see upsets occur through the tournament, as well as a way to set up rivalries for the rest of the year.

In recent years there has been an added stipulation which would see the winner of G1 Climax challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom. Despite this, the champion still competes in the G1 Climax, though nobody has won as champion since the stipulation was brought in. Anybody who defeats the champion during the tournament is often rewarded with their own title shot after the tournament, generally during the time between the G1 and Wrestle Kingdom.

Best of the Super Juniors
2016 winner: Will Ospreay

The BOSJ is the main yearly tournament for Junior Heavyweights to compete, and is designed around the same round robin format as the G1 Climax, with the winner gaining a Jnr Heavyweight Title shot at the Dominion show since 2010. Jushin Thunder Liger has been a staple of the tournament, competing in all but three of them since its inception as the ‘Top of the Super Juniors’ back in 1988. During these shows, it is often a period for heavyweight wrestlers to take break, as the focus for the company at this time is squarely on the Juniors.

New Japan Cup
2016 winner: Tetsuya Naito

The New Japan Cup is seen as the secondary tournament and open to either weight division (though dominated by heavyweights), and generally takes place around March. Unlike the G1 and BOSJ, the New Japan Cup is a single elimination tournament, and the winner gets to choose to challenge for either the IWGP Heavyweight Title, Intercontinental Title or NEVER Openweight Title. Because of this the champions do not compete in the tournament.

Generally the first two rounds take place on two separate nights, and then the semi-finals and final take place on the one night. Winning the New Japan Cup is seen as a big honour, but not to the same level of the G1 Tournament. Hirooki Goto is the most prolific New Japan Cup competitor, having won the honour three times and the only person to win on back to back years.

World Tag League
2016 winners: Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)

The final tournament of the year, the World Tag League is a tag team variation of the G1 Climax, featuring the same two block round robin series. If the current tag champions do not win the tournament, then they winners become the #1 contenders, which due to the timing of the show often leads to a Wrestle Kingdom match. The tournament is not held in high esteem by foreign audiences, but is better received in Japan, especially since the shows often take place in smaller cities which don’t normally get NJPW shows. The tournament also serves to protect guys with big matches coming up at Wrestle Kingdom, by putting them in less strenuous tag matches where they don’t have to always be in the ring

Super Junior Tag Tournament
2016 winners: Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Trent Baretta)

The Super Junior Tag Tournament is the newest regular tournament, debuting in 2010 as a single elimination tournament that generally takes place between the end of October and the beginning of November. Like other tournaments, winning the tournament automatically makes that team the #1 contenders (providing they aren’t already the champions). Rocky Romero finally won in 2016 with Baretta in his third trip to the finals with two separate teams.

Super J Cup
2016 winner: Kushida

Unlike the other tournaments listed, the Super J Cup is not a yearly event, with the tournament taking place six times since 1994, and before 2016’s show the last time it was held was 2009. It is a single elimination tournament taking place across one to two nights, and often features talent from outside of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

The first event in 1994 is hailed as one of the best shows of all time, and Jushin Thunder Liger is credited as being the mastermind behind its inception.

Part 3: Factions and Tier Lists

Factions:

If you spend any amount of time watching NJPW, you’ll quickly notice that a large percentage of the roster are divided into various factions. As the company run a lot of multi-man tag matches, much of the undercard for shows will feature faction v faction matches, and these groups often choose to travel and hang out together outside of shows. Generally each faction will be comprised of both Heavyweights and Juniors in order to target both divisions. It’s rare to see a ‘lone wolf’ type character in New Japan, and generally those without a faction tend to have each other’s backs anyway.

CHAOS
Leader: Kazuchika Okada

One of the larger factions in New Japan, CHAOS is a somewhat loose collection of wrestlers that came together in 2009 under the leadership of Shinsuke Nakamura after most of the Great Bash Heel faction turned on leader Togi Makabe. Initially the group was formed with the intention of bringing ‘Strong Style’ back into prominence, although now it is more or less a group of guys who like and support each other. They operate primarily as a tweener group, having started as heels but moving away from that style as other heel groups have risen to prominence.

Bullet Club
Leader: Kenny Omega

The most well-known of New Japan’s factions globally, the Bullet Club formed in 2013 as a stable of foreigners led by Prince Devitt (Finn Balor). The faction became incredibly popular overseas, and has brought in a lot of new audiences to the product, especially when AJ Styles joined. Though its membership is the largest in the company, not everyone competes in NJPW on a regular basis, with members such as Adam Cole being featured more prominently in Ring of Honor.

The stable has lost some steam over the past year or two, with more popular members of the group Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks forming a sub-unit known as The Elite. Because of their numbers they feature across the card, from the opening match to the main event. They brought in a more Western form of wrestling, featuring a lot of outside interference and cheating not regularly seen in NJPW at the time. Despite their decline, they are still an incredibly popular act worldwide, with their merchandise outselling all but the most popular of WWE stars in America.

Los Ingobernables De Japon
Leader: Tetsuya Naito

A relatively new and small faction on the scene, Los Ingobernables De Japon formed as an offshoot of the CMLL Los Ingobernables group when Tetsuya Naito returned from an excursion there in 2015. The faction has rapidly risen in popularity, riding the success of its leader Naito. The group is composed of five NJPW talent: Naito, Evil, Bushi, Sanada and Himoru Takahashi, although thanks to its ties with CMLL members of the Mexican stable have also appeared. They are a rebellious group who wrestle as heels, but due to their popularity are often received like faces by the audience.

Suzuki-Gun
Leader: Minoru Suzuki

Forming after Satoshi Kojima’s stable turned on him in 2011, Suzuki-Gun is a villainous stable led by Minoru Suzuki. They have spent the last few years competing for Pro Wrestling NOAH as part of a talent exchange, but have returned to NJPW at New Years Dash 2017, beating down CHAOS and issuing a warning to the other three factions. Like Bullet Club and LIJ, they’re predominantly a heel faction, but achieve this more through brutal methods, embodying much of the same penchant for violence as their leader.

Tier Lists:

Like any promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling has unofficial levels of talent. Those listed at an A-level will typically win matches against those lower than them (exceptions being the G1 Tournament) and wrestlers on a lower tier will typically take the pinfall in multi-man tag matches. Keep in mind that Juniors, even high level ones like Kushida, are often subject to a lower tier than their equivalent Heavyweights by default.

The ‘Ace’ designation is something of a uniquely Japanese concept, and is a title given to ‘the man’. He is seen as the face of the company, and tends to be held on a different level than even A Tier talent.

A-Tier talent are regular main eventers in heavy contention for the IWGP Heavyweight Title or IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title. When not contending for the top title in their respective division they will still be heavily featured on the show.

B-Tier talent occasionally spend time in the main event, generally competing for the Intercontinental or NEVER Openweight Titles if they’re a heavyweight.

C-Tier talent are offered some level of protection, but aren’t necessarily seen at the same level as the B-Tier competitors. They get the occasional run for a title, and will play a role in tournaments. If a younger guy is in this category, expect them to be in the lower levels of the B-Tier by the end of the year.

D-Tier talent has been split into two groups for Heavyweights. D Plus enjoy small moments but not to the same degree as C tier performers. D Minus talent tend to be relegated to show opening matches or limited roles higher up the card. Don’t expect much from them.

*Note this list was devised after Wrestle Kingdom 11, and as such is subject to change. This is also no an official list, but merely a guide to help newcomers get an idea of each wrestler’s importance. Finally, I’ve left off part time talent from this list to keep it from being too large and convoluted

Heavyweight Division:

The Ace
Kazuchika Okada

A-Tier

Hiroshi Tanahashi (The previous Ace)
Tetsuya Naito
Kenny Omega
Minoru Suzuki *Other members of Suzuki-Gun remain to be seen now they have returned

B-Tier

Katsuyori Shibata
Hirooki Goto
Michael Elgin
Tomohiro Ishii
Togi Makabe

C-Tier
Sanada
Tomoaki Honma
Bad Luck Fale
Evil
Yugi Nagata
Yoshi-Hashi
Toru Yano
Guerillas of Destiny – Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa

D Plus-Tier

Juice Robinson (Hasn’t made the jump to C-tier just yet. As of writing he seems on the precipice)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Satoshi Kojima
Jay White

D Minus-Tier

Manabu Nakanishi
Yujiro Takahashi
Cody Hall
Yoshi Tatsu
Bone Soldier

Junior Heavyweight Divison:

A-Tier

Kushida
Young Bucks – Matt and Nick Jackson (Tag only)

B-Tier

Himoru Takahashi (may be A-Tier, has only just returned to NJPW after excursion)
Bushi
Will Ospreay
Ricochet

C-tier

Roppongi Vice – Rocky Romero and Trent Baretta
Ryusuke Taguchi
Jushin Thunder Liger

D-Tier

Gedo
Jado
Tiger Mask IV