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The Necessity for Future Aces

The best way to understand the future is to look at the past. While some things can only be rehashed every once and a great while, other things never change. When I hear people talk about the problems with the WWF (which we all here constantly for some reason) it is often revolved around their inability to create new stars. They more than perhaps any company have been forced into creating many of their biggest and best stars. Japan is in a similar boat in that the maineventers of tomorrow are not going the way they should in many ways. There are the Tsuratas, but are there the Misawas, Kawadas and Kobashis?

All Japan - With the Triple Crown champion, Toshiaki Kawada, going out to injury after finally getting that top seat again things in All Japan are really a mess. Now you have the two top guys who are inarguably past their physical primes, but are definitely the stars. Keiji Muto has that top spot by default, but Genichiro Tenryu is right there too. The problem exists that there is a void and the youngsters need to step it up and hopefully be seen as the future aces they need to be.

Satoshi Kojima - This guy is just awesome in the ring and just to watch him carry people makes one wonder how can he not be a top guy? Koji being Muto's boy puts him in a nice spot for the push and he's over with the fans. He fell to Tenryu upon his debut, so logically he should get back his win and thus be solidly #3 or #4.

Taiyo Kea - After picking up his game significantly in the past year or so, including being the Champion Carnival runner-up. He never really got the rub from Tenryu (after three big losses) that he should of, but the opportunity is still there, it's just not going to have the impact. He has also recently broken ties with former tag partner and BATT's leader Muto. Kea is perhaps in a better spot than Koji in that he's been with the company since `94 and is the top player in Stan Hansen's Black-Ship gaijin stable.

NOAH - A total mess much of the time with no real direction it seems. Since Kobashi went down over a year ago the heavyweight scene just seems to be on hold. Misawa jumped in the top spot that he was going to have and handed the ball over to Jun Akiyama, who has been a letdown in many people's opinions. The problem is that there needs to be somebody on top and right now it still seems up-for-grabs.

Jun Akiyama - Watch the match where Aki won the GHC title, it is Misawa's match not his. I remember Zach Arnold talking about the pot-bellied champion carrying the guy that was supposed to be the future of the company and he was right. It may not necessarily be Akiyama's fault as he was in the ring with some of the best wrestlers ever during his formative years. Now when he is the one that has to carry the load, he just can't do it like everyone thinks he should.

Takao Omori - When he lost to Kenta Kobashi in a very good Carnival final in 2000, it appeared that Omori was on the brink of taking over perhaps Akira Taue's spot. Since jumping to NOAH though his partner Yoshihiro Takayama has received more of a push. Omori now seems uninspired and unmotivated in the ring. He would be best suited to try to get out of NOAH to All Japan (which would be a major coup), New Japan (who could probably use him the best) or even Zero-One.

Daisuke Ikeda - I don't know what happened, but this guy seems to have pushed some of the wrong buttons. He jobbed to Tamon Honda, thus losing a GHC title shot, which really reiterates the state of confusion they are apparently in now. Ikeda has been paired with the Wild II (Takeshi Rikio and Takeshi Morishima) and the group is sort of bounced up and down with no real direction. Ikeda needs to work his BattlARTS style with Takuma Sano, Takashi Sugiura and maybe Akitoshi Saito and get over with it or he won't ever make it in NOAH.

New Japan - When Shinya Hashimoto, Shinjiri Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa left New Japan, it was because things were getting crowded and overly political. When Muto and Kojima departed it was perhaps entirely political. Now New Japan is in a certain amount of turmoil with improperly built stars, who were put on top too fast or cut down foolishly. Unlike All Japan and NOAH, New Japan is not as depleted with potential stars, it just has to package them properly.

Kensuke Sasaki - Perhaps the most logical guy to go into the champion spot, Sasaki has held the belt before, but it was premature and he wasn't the top star. Now he's better at working strong style and is comfortable in Inoki-ism. If he were put into a worked Pride win, he'd be able to replace Kazuyuki Fujita almost entirely. Sasaki's return push hasn't been strong at all with losses to Fujita and Rick Steiner (!!!), but the potential is still lingering somewhere.

Yuji Nagata - As 2002 rolled in, one man's career was put on the line. One fight, one kick and one loss has drastically changed that career. A real shoot win would help, but a loss would do a significant amount of damage. Perhaps the smartest thing is to have him win the IWGP title in a shoot-style format that may get him back rebuilt effectively. Nagata is probably the best carrier of all the people looked at thus far, so he can undoubtedly become a great and credible champion. The key is going to be building him back up well and focusing on his talents in pro wrestling rather than his shortcomings in shootfighting.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan - A great worker with a very New Japan style, though he can work with just about anyone. Tenzan need to take Masahiro Chono's spot as the company's top heel as he's been bred for it for sure. He seems to be on the right track and perhaps also like Chono he won't see a title reign too early, which would be nice. Once there, he can be a convincing champion and a great heel at the same time. Tenzan should really carry Chono's torch on for another decade at least before handing it off. The Ric Flair to Chono's Buddy Rogers and time may show that is not a ridiculous analogy.

Manabu Nakanishi - Like Omori, Nakanishi is a big powerhouse type, who was pushed hard and even won a G1 Climax in 1999 and then lost in the finals the next year. He spent time feuding with Sasaki, which was to be the feud that made him a top star, but things sort of fell apart and he was left sort of "out there." Now with Muto and Kojima gone and whom were ahead of him when said left, Nakanishi maybe finally forced into the top spot. Like Sasaki of several years ago, Nakanishi is still not wholly ready for the spot, but can hang with very good workers if he brings his best game. I think he is best suited for a strong contender's seat until he can prove that he's fully prepared.

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