When the video played at Wrestling Dontaku telling IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson that his time as champion was up, many speculated who could be the man behind the hourglass.
It turned out that many people’s first wild guess was accurate, as Jon Moxley revealed himself to be that man and will go on to battle Juice for the gold on June 5th.
Once that all-important championship match is in the books, the world is literally Moxley’s oyster. There is an entire roster of world-class talent that Moxley could face inside of a New Japan ring. From wrestling masterclasses to all-out brawls, the former Dean Ambrose has a lot to sink his teeth into. But who tops my list?
Here are five opponents that should be top of Moxley’s, and New Japan management’s lists respectively when it comes to marquee contests.
1. Minoru Suzuki
This is a no-brainer. The leader of Suzuki-gun brings that hard-hitting style that will compliment Jon Moxley perfectly. He hits hard, and likes being hit harder. Moxley is exactly the same. You can envision these two brawling all around whatever building they face-off in, with reckless abandon for those around them. Trading forearms and lariats aplenty, it would make you wince but at the same time, you would not turn away from the brutality.
On the flip side, these two could subvert all expectations and go hard in a gritty, strong style submission-based grappling contest and still have the audience’s attention. Moxley and Suzuki’s styles and personalities complement each other so well – when ‘The Lunatic’ battles ‘The Sadist’, expect sparks (and fists) to fly.
2. Tetsuya Naito
These two are both so different, but at the same time so similar. The nonchalant, chilled out demeanour that Naito calls ‘tranquilo’ up against the jarring, frantic Moxley. But whereas their personalities are the opposite, their in-ring styles have their parallels. Both men are incredibly cerebral but will go hard and fast when the time is right. The promos would be superb – Moxley trying his best to get into the head of the leader of LIJ, but Naito remaining his sarcastic, unbothered self would be a joy to behold, even with the language barrier between them.
Jon Moxley will need a big name feud post Robinson to cement him as a big deal in New Japan, and I feel Naito is a fantastic fit. These two could create narrative magic together, especially if they let Moxley be the one guy that throws off Tetsuya’s relaxed stance.
3. Will Ospreay
Did you really think I was going to do an article without mentioning my boy Ospreay? Will can adapt to any style and any situation so put him with anyone and you’ll more often than not get a match that absolutely slaps. However, this might not be as difficult as they can lift from a previous feud in Will’s past.
This could have major echos of Will Ospreay’s infamous feud in PROGRESS with Jimmy Havoc. Ospreay playing the fiery babyface up against the sadistic, uncaring antagonist of Moxley pretty much writes itself. Jon could keep brutalising Ospreay, but he would keep getting back up. The only difference is that this isn’t the wide-eyed Essex boy of a few years back. He has that killer instinct now. He has that ability to be nasty, to get dirty, to hurt people and if you can build that story where Ospreay is forced to bring out the assassin in Aerial Assassin to put away the unpredictable Moxley, it would make for one hell of a moment.
This contest could go from pure wrestling, to all-out insanity in a matter of moments. It has the potential to have that switch that all fans love, where it goes from zero to 100 and THAT’S where moments are made. This has that potential.
4. Kota Ibushi
I just spoke about a match with the ability to go from zero to 100. However, if you got Ibushi and Moxley in the same ring this is starting at 100 and staying there. Two absolute lunatics in a dangerous game of chicken. The story for this even writes itself, with Moxley hearing of the man that has no disregard for his own personal safety; that dives off balconies without a care and deciding ‘I want to play with him’.
This would have the same energy as Ibushi’s previous matches with Will Ospreay and Tetsuya Naito, that feeling of ‘this is going to be amazing but good god I am terrified for both of their well being’.
Both men are known for going balls to the wall and, given a big stage and lot of time to work with, this could be a Wrestle Kingdom-worthy match. Also, it would the ultimate Tumblr dream match. Imagine the gifs, OH GOD IMAGINE THE FAN-FIC! Actually, don’t do that in a public place. It won’t end well.
5. Hiromu Takahashi
IMAGINE THIS AS A FEUD. Just take a second and envision it all. The promos, the video packages, the in-ring moments even before the bell rings. It’s literally lunatic vs lunatic, two of the most erratic but engaging personalities in professional wrestling facing off against one another.
These one would be another in the ‘this will be amazing to watch through your fingers because at any minute this could go south’ column. But don’t get it twisted, there’s more to it than just two madmen running into each other ad infinitum. These guys both have amazing ring psychology and would compliment each other perfectly. Almost trying to out-lunatic each other to the point where they just end up in a straight wrestling contest would be a beautiful moment in time. But, also just seeing these two absolutely tear each other apart is a mouthwatering prospect as well.
There’s so many that I could mention that aren’t even in this top five. Contests against Zack Sabre Jr, EVIL, Marty Scurll, Hiroshi Tanahashi or Tomohiro Ishii could all headline any show across Japan. Moxley is tailor-made for New Japan Pro Wrestling and could become a gaijin on the level of Hansen, Vader or Omega.
Exciting times lay ahead for the former ‘Lunatic Fringe’, and the audience will greatly benefit from it.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @MattyID. Thanks for reading!