KENTA made his triumphant comeback to the independent scene at NJPW’s Dominion. The wrestler formerly known as WWE’s Hideo Itami appeared at a New Japan event for the first time ever, being introduced by NJPW legend Katsuyori Shibata and confirming his entry into this year’s G1 Tournament.
KENTA’s history in Japan speaks for itself, but this is an entirely new landscape with plenty of fresh faces that are leaving their mark on Japanese wrestling. Before KENTA participates in his first ever G1, we’re going to run down 5 potential opponents for KENTA to face during his comeback run with NJPW.
Make sure you leave your dream opponents for the hard-hitter in the comments below.
1. Jon Moxley
Another former WWE star that recently made their debut with NJPW, Jon Moxley is tearing things up in the land of the rising sun. Now taking ownership of the IWGP United States Championship, Moxley has positioned himself as one of the top dogs on the roster. Moxley also confirmed his name for the G1 Tournament this year, so there’s definitely a chance that we see a first time showdown between him and KENTA come the summer.
Perhaps the two could put together a warm-up feud for the tournament over the next few months, two upstarts vying for momentum as they head in to the biggest tournament in all of professional wrestling. KENTA and Moxley both have a lot to prove and a lot of frustrations they need to vent coming off of their respective runs in WWE. Getting to see them unleash their full potential in a brutal match overseas would be a great start to both of their careers in Japan, and would likely bring in a ton of new fans from the West as well.
2. Shingo Takagi
Coming off of his career performance in the 2019 BOSJ tournament, Shingo Takagi has also confirmed his entry into the G1. Shingo is on the brink of becoming a big star in the Junior Heavyweight division. Presuming KENTA enters the same weight class, a confrontation between the two is almost inevitable. Takagi could really benefit from an incredible match with KENTA, one that I’m sure fans from all corners of the world would enjoy watching.
Shingo’s breakout performance against Will Ospreay has put him on the map and I’d suspect that’s only the start of his peak in NJPW. KENTA’s first opponent needs to be someone that can give him just as much momentum as they have themselves, who better than the LIJ golden boy. Not to mention that Shingo’s career path has almost mimicked that of KENTA’s, wrestling in promotions such as Dragon Gate and Ring of Honor, two of KENTA’s former stomping grounds. Perhaps we’re in store for a meeting of past and present in the upcoming G1 Classic.
3. Zack Sabre Jr
The Brits are truly taking over NJPW, with Will Ospreay winning his second BOSJ tournament and Suzuki Gun’s submission specialist – Zack Sabre Jr – competing in his element. ZSJ has really come into his own wrestling under the tutelage of Minoru Suzuki, getting to see him lock up with KENTA would be nothing short of a dream. KENTA could match Sabre move for move, whilst reigniting the bad blood between Shibata and Suzuki as two coaches fighting through their students.
Zack Sabre Jr is a former NEVER Openweight champion and current British Heavyweight Champion in Revolution Pro Wrestling. A feud between him and KENTA could go global, putting a very traditional style of Japanese wrestling in front of new audiences. I personally would love to see them both slap the living daylights out of each other, then lock one another in cringe-inducing submissions for hours on end.
4. Tetsuya Naito
‘The Master of being Tranquilo’ has been on an excellent run as IWGP Intercontinental Champion, recently defeating Kota Ibushi at NJPW Dominion. Naito has been a standard bearer for the promotion for years now, and fully deserves a run with the IWGP World Championship, but before he has another crack at Okada’s title, he should set his sights on a returning KENTA.
Naito’s momentum has taken a bit of a hit since the debuts of Moxley and KENTA, it would be a shame for NJPW homegrown talent to take a backseat to newcomers during his fantastic mid-card run. Naito could easily have a classic IC title match with KENTA heading into the G1, or even on the road to the next Wrestle Kingdom. KENTA would naturally fit into that title hunt, alongside the likes of Ibushi, Sanada and Ishii.
Tetsuya Naito can somehow work an incredible match with any given wrestler. Figuring KENTA could do with shaking off the ring-rust, who better to be in the ring with him?
5. Chris Jericho
‘The Painmaker’ has just come off of a loss to Kazuchika Okada at Dominion, but is wrestling at yet another peak of his career as a part of both the NJPW and AEW roster. Jericho is being used as a star attraction at New Japan’s bigger events, so I’d fully expect him to announce his entry into the G1 over the coming weeks. With the wave of momentum KENTA is naturally going to be on coming into his debut match, putting him against a ring veteran like Jericho would not be the worst idea.
KENTA needs to get used to wrestling in that style again and Jericho needs to be matched up with names that can equal his status. So far ‘The Pariah’ has faced off with the likes of Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito and of course Okada. Depending on how far they want to push KENTA, he could naturally fit into that billing of being Jericho’s chosen opponent.
There’s a chance that Jericho could be on his way out the door, now that he’s fully signed to AEW. So should he be looking for one last opponent before leaving Japan, then it should be KENTA.