One of the names being bandied about lately as far as returns go is none other than CM Punk. He’s been teasing a return to the squared circle and it’s become the ‘it’ thing to speculate about where he may show up, should he actually return after a 10+ year hiatus from the squared circle. So today, I’m heading to my favourite country in the world, Japan, and looking at who CM Punk could and should potentially face should he wind up performing for NJPW. I won’t bore you with too much of an intro today so let’s jump into it! CM Punk in NJPW!
5. KENTA (Kenta Kobayashi) Vs. CM Punk – NJPW
Some of you may remember KENTA from his time in WWE under the name Hideo Itami. His ill-fated run in WWE is due in large part to the promotion not knowing how to properly showcase their Japanese talents. Why this is an intriguing dream match for me is in large part to both men using the GTS (Go To Sleep) move and I would want to see which man could KO the other with that very move. KENTA is a phenomenal talent and someone who is often underrated in my opinion, people don’t understand just how good he actually is. The man has held several championships over the years and he’s consistently putting on good performances in the ring. I think that he and Brooks would have a very similar style in the ring and who better to go up against on your return to the ring than someone who is basically yourself, just a little different? I would love this match and I bet the world would too.
4. Tomohiro Ishii Vs. CM Punk – NJPW
One of the greatest storytellers and brawlers in the history of professional wrestling. Every time I think I’m going to find it redundant, I see the depth of the stories that Tomohiro Ishii is telling. Plus, you can put him in the ring with literally anyone and he can find a way to make them look better than they are. That counts for a lot, especially if you think about putting him in the ring with someone who has been out 10+ years like Phil Brooks has. Tomohiro Ishii is immensely talented. He’s a tough, no-frills brawler who isn’t afraid to get ugly. He has such amazing intensity and a unique, subtle charisma, and his ability to drag the best of everyone he wrestles is amazing. Although he is getting older, and he has never been one of the top wrestlers for NJPW, that doesn’t change how great Ishii is. He has been so incredibly consistent for many years now. Put Punk in the ring with this man and let’s see just what he’s still made of.
3. Tetsuya Naito Vs. CM Punk – NJPW
The next dream match-up for CM Punk is Tetsuya Naito. Another legend in New Japan, Naito has had one incredible career to date. From match-ups against Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho to Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. He’s wrestled the who’s who to come through the doors at NJPW. He is a former NEVER Openweight Champion, and a former IWGP Tag Team and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with former No Limit partner Yujiro Takahashi. In addition, Naito is the winner of the 2013 and 2017 editions of the G1 Climax, NJPW’s premier singles tournament, and of the 2016 New Japan Cup. Naito is regarded as one of the most popular and successful wrestlers in NJPW history.
In 2016 and 2017 Tokyo Sports awarded Naito with the MVP Award, the publication’s highest honour. In 2020, Naito became the first person to hold both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships at the same time, accomplishing that feat twice, becoming a three-time IWGP Heavyweight and record six-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion. There are not many things that Naito has not done in his illustrious 14-year career, so someone like him would be good for someone like Punk. When you’re not active for a long time, you’re gonna have ring rust. Naito can, and would, make Punk look like a million bucks in the ring.
2. Kazuchika Okada Vs. CM Punk – NJPW
Okada is one of the few names that most wrestling fans should know out of New Japan by heart. Just hearing his name should make you remember his absolutely epic and brutal feud with Kenny Omega. The holder of a vast number of titles and matches against the who’s who of NJPW, Okada would be a perfect person to face off against a returning Phil Brooks. Widely regarded as one of the best talents in the world, Okada has a history of phenomenal matches under his wing and there is no reason why this 16-year veteran couldn’t perform to this level well into his 50’s.
If you thought his matches against Omega were amazing, just imagine how great a single match against Brooks could be. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that the Rainmaker has the talent to take over the world should he leave Japan for any other promotion. Knowing this, and looking at the rest of the New Japan roster, there is little doubt that he is a stand out an opponent for Phil Brooks in NJPW.
1. Kota Ibushi Vs CM Punk – NJPW
There aren’t many with a resume like Ibushi’s and just this alone makes him an intriguing match-up for Brooks. From his tag team, Golden☆Lovers, with Kenny Omega to his title unification win against Tetsuya Naito back at Wrestle Kingdom 15, Ibushi has had a career that most men would dream of. There’s not much that he hasn’t done, yet there is still a lot of treads left on his tires. While he hasn’t held as many championships for NJPW as some of the men on this list, he is still a very accomplished performer and should be one of the top matches to make for Phil Brooks should he end up in NJPW. Kota Ibushi is one of those guys who can make gold out of nearly any man he steps into the ring with. So pairing a man of such high calibre against the returning Phil Brooks should keep fans on their feet and chanting “This is Awesome” for the entire match. I know it would be awesome, and that’s going to be in large part due to how good Ibushi is. You can bank on that.