by Daniel Johnson
Some matches on WWE programming have been as underwhelming this month as TNA’s have been non-existent. Yet, looking to some foreign wrestling companies and smaller organizations, one can’t help, but be optimistic as December 2014 turns into January 2015. In particular Japan has more talent than they can handle, across weight classes and genders. Heck, WWE may finally have to repeal their unwritten quota for Japanese wrestlers (at least I hope it’s unwritten) and hire some more puroresu workers. Currently the biggest buzz around Japanese wrestling has to be about NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9 emanating from the Tokyo Dome on January 4. If you don’t know yet, it is worth mentioning this may be NJPW’s biggest show ever because it will be airing on pay-per-view in the United States via Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling (GFW). While international eyes fall on NJPW, complete with good, old Jim Ross calling the action, those same eyes could do worse than to look at some of Japan’s other promotions. Also, Mexico and heck even Austria are producing some talented youngsters. I’m just saying. Let’s turn off those visions of NJPW stars wrestling in our heads for just a minute and, in no particular order, look at six tremendous wrestlers under 26 worth checking out!
6. Puma (CMLL)
Puma aka Puma King began his career in Mexico at just 16 year-old. While that is not that unusual in Mexico, where Puma distinguishes himself is in his match quality and the resulting accomplishments it brings. Just two years into his career Puma was already wrestling faily often for CMLL, one of Mexico’s biggest wrestling organizations. At 24 years-old, Puma has a lengthy career ahead of him. Puma has yet to win any notable gold and since he has only performed in Mexico so far it is not too shocking that he stays confined to tag matches a lot. Yet, Puma stands out from others not just because of his athleticism and his record of putting a fair amount of opponents away with a la magistral pin, but his look. He has an intimidating presence that transcends language. There is no mistake about it though, Puma may not be the most appropriate name for him. At 5’9″ and just below 200 lbs, he does not much resemble a giant cat (well, aside from the wonderful mask). Yet, on the other hand his cat-like quickness greatly benefits his high flying. Whether the name fits, given CMLL’s working agreement with NJPW, Puma has a better chance than most at performing in the NJPW Best of the Super Juniors one day.
5. Julian Nero
If your goal in life is to be a great wrestler then Austria may not be the most convenient country to be born in like Julian Nero was. Although this European nation has its own small wrestling industry, the nation could hardly be described as a wrestling hot bed. In any event Nero has made a go of realizing his potential, traveling outside his homeland’s boundaries to do so. Nero debuted for the Ultimate Kombat Wrestling Association (UKWA) in 2012 in his native land. By 2013 he had already taken a huge leap by going to the bordering nation of Germany where he notably worked on a show held by Westside Xtreme Wrestling (WXW) with the involvment of German Stampede Wrestling (GSW), WXW Breaking Bones 2013. Nero caught a big break in June when All Star Wrestling (ASW) based in the United Kingdom hired him on as a regular. Working up until November for ASW, Nero probably performed in front of more people in those five months than in the rest of his entire career. Nero has trained under Cannonball Grizzly and Michael Kovac. While these two may not be the most recognizable names as far as wrestling trainers based in Europe go, if they keep churning out youngsters like the 25 year-old Nero that could all change. On a random note Nero can also grow one hell of a mustache.
4. Takumi Tsukamoto
Takumi Tsukamoto is a man with six years of experience training in judo and karate. Despite this as soon as he graduated high school he joined Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW). A man after the own heart of any death match fan to be sure. Although Tsukamoto has shown he can take a lot of punishment throughout his career, he can dish it out just as easily. The highlight of any wresteler’s career can be subject to a lot of debate, but something that can be said without hesistation is that Tsukamoto set the bar for himself really high last year. In April 2013 he headlined a BJW show at Korakuen Hall in a barbed wire boards, ladders and tables death match with Shuji Ishikawa. The performance went over 18 minutes and needless to say it topped the card. Although Tsukamoto did not get his hand raised on that occasion, the 11 year veteran Ishikawa put Tsukamoto over through sheer match quality. Later in the year Tsukamoto defeated no less of an opponent than the owner of Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) , “The Lariat” DJ Hyde. More recently in December, the 23 year-old Tsukamoto has been working in tag matches including wrestling against Takayuki Ueki , another BJW up and comer to keep an eye on.
3. Rabbit Miu
If Rabbit Miu was German she could only be described as a wunderkind. Despite looking nothing like Alex Wright, Miu may make WWE’s Paige look like an underachiever if she keeps up the pace she has set. Miu was barely in her teens when she started working regularly for Japanese Women’s Pro Wrestling Project (JWP). After turning 18 years-old in February her career has continued to soar. Miu has wrestled roughly 100 matches this year and has not limited herself to one promotion. In addition to JWP, in 2014 Miu has wrestled over a dozen matches for Ice Ribbon, five for Pro Wrestling WAVE and even made her wrestling debut in NOAH by battling Kana, a joshi veteran. At least on paper the highlight of Miu’s year has to be winning the currently unified JWP Junior Championship and JWP Princess of Power Championship in August. By this point it should come as no surprise that this is Miu’s second run with these titles. Miu successfully defended her straps on December 28 against Eri Susa at JWP Climax 2014 held at the famed Korakuen Hall. At 4’6″ and south of 100 lbs, Miu works best with a similarly small opponent since she is able to use a higher variation of moves. Yet, having achieved so much already in her young life she may just find a way to hit power moves on much larger opponents.
2. Hideyoshi Kamitani
Perhaps it a lack of sleep that inspires this terrbile play on words, but if Mario’s dinosaur, Yoshi had balls half the size of Hideyoshi Kamitani than he would have no need to hide. Kamitani began wrestling regularly for BJW in 2012 and was used as straight up enhancement talent. In January 2013 Kamitani achieved his first victory in a tag team match and from then on he was all set. Actually, as often happens in life, yet another obstacle stood in Kamitani’s way to greatness. In August, Kamitani suffered an injury that forced him to miss the rest of the year. A rejuvenated Kamitani returned to BJW in January. Just days later Kamitani went on to wrestle in the opening tag team match at BJW/CZW CZW Arena in Japan—BJW for MASADA, co-promoted with CZW thus making his CZW debut. While this 22 year-old has had some success in his singles career, Kamitani has also shown to be a capable tag team wrestler having solid matches with a variety of opponents.
1. Hitoshi Kumano
Hitoshi Kumano is a regular for NOAH’s roster who has only been improving since he first appeared for the company in 2013. This 23 year-old has the often overlooked ability to have an engaging match of great depth even when he is not alotted much time. Although his recent win/loss record may give a different impression, Kumano is far from an enhancement talent in NOAH. Kumano has enjoyed some modest critical acclaim such as coming in ninth place for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards rookie of the year for 2013. In 2014, Kumano started the year off strong by wrestling his first match ever for NJPW. If this wasn’t a big enough acccomplishment already, it is worth mentioning his opponents in that tag bout were two legendary puroresu veterans in Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Super Strong Machine. At NOAH Year End in Korakuen 2014 Kumano teamed with American wrestler Quiet Storm in a losing effort to Yankee Two Kenju composed of Isami Kodaka and Yoko Miyamoto. Regardless of how low Kumano’s win percentage may be, this young star goes into 2015 still on the rise.
Photo 1: mediotiempo.com
Photo 2: youtube.com
Photo 3-5: en.wikipedia.org
Categories: Wrestling Lists