Valentin explores the changing landscape of New Japan and one particular stable that could use a leadership change.
As announced by Gedo on the day he betrayed Kazuchika Okada to ally himself with Jay White, a new era is upon New Japan Pro Wrestling. So far, CHAOS and Bullet Club have been the main factions affected by the company’s restructuring, but it might just be the beginning. Other groups will likely get their fair share of change in the future, and today, let’s take a look at Suzuki-Gun.
What if I told you that Zack Sabre Jr could possibly lead his own faction in New Japan ? Would you believe me ? Since coming back on the day after Wrestle Kingdom 11, the group lead by Minoru Suzuki, while managing to grab some gold here and there, hasn’t fully been able to establish their dominance over the New Japan Landscape. Suzuki-Gun’s main attraction has been non other than ZSJ, and it has been the case for quite a while. From getting in the G1 Climax in his first year, to win the New Japan Cup, being a real threat to Kazuchika Okada, and being a strong contender in last year’s G1, Sabre hasn’t stopped climbing the ranks of New Japan, and is affirming himself as a future star. While he has yet to win any gold in Japan, he reclaimed the RevPro Heavyweight Championship from Tomohiro Ishii at Wrestle Kingdom 13, which was Suzuki-Gun’s only victory of the night.
When you take a look at Zack stablemates, it is slightly difficult to say they reached the same heights as their British brethren. Minoru Suzuki, as the leader, has been in a spot where he managed to grab both the Intercontinental and NEVER Openweight championships. He also competed for the Heavyweight championship and was the man to put Hiroshi Tanahashi on the shelf early last year. We will comeback to Suzuki later in this article as we will know look at both of the faction’s teams. First, Killer Elite Squad, had a bit of a rough time the last two years. The duo managed to enter Wrestle Kingdom 12 as IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team champions, but since then, Smith and Archer took a backseat inside their division. The junior duo of El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru have held the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team titles for 304 days, until Wrestle Kingdom 13, which honestly is quite the feat. Lastly, Taichi has been, at the age of 38, starting to make his way into the Heavyweight division, getting a decent showing against the likes of Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi or Will Ospreay. he won the NEVER Openweight Championship a few months ago from Hirooki Goto, but quickly dropped it back to the former champion. Taichi will get to face Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship in Sapporo on February 2nd.
Let’s not forget that Takashi Iizuka will be retiring on February 21st, as he approaches his 33th year since he debuted.
As you may guess, the issue, if you can actually say there is one, is not about necessarily about winning or competing for championships. So far, the faction still keeps itself relevant enough to be in nearly constant contention for titles, but as said before, never did Suzuki-Gun felt like New Japan’s top faction for a decent while, if not ever. The group returned while Los Ingobernables de Japon picked up steam, when Bullet Club was shining under Kenny Omega’s light, and when CHAOS was possibly at its peak since Okada became the leader. In such a filled landscape, it was definitely harder for a returning faction to establish itself at the top.
Let’s now go back to Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. The master and his apprentice, in a way. As time goes by, more of the spotlight goes from Suzuki to Zack, and it may not be too bold to say that the time pass the torch is not too far away. ZSJ has been in constant growth since joining Suzuki, and is reaching for a status that Minoru himself hasn’t fully been able to acquire. Who knows how and when a hypothetical, but credible transition inside Suzuki-Gun will take place, but let me tell you this : We will see Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr face each other.
Whether it happens sometime this year, let’s say during the G1 Climax, early next year, or both, is still quite uncertain. What I am convinced of, and hopefully this article will convince you as well, is that Suzuki-Gun’s leading figure will definitely change at some point. To back this idea up, don’t be surprised to see ZSJ claim his first IWGP championship. Zack did say he would take the US title from Juice Robinson on US soil, remember ?
One last thing to mention, this evolution of Suzuki-Gun to, let’s say it, an eventual “Sabre-Gun”, will likely not just concern a change in who’s leading the pack. Don’t be surprised if the group welcomes new members in the future, as most of the actual members are at least 35 years old, with the exception of Zack Sabre Jr and Davey Boy Smith Jr.
With a part of the group reaching the last few years of their careers, Suzuki-Gun is subject to change. What do you think the future holds for this faction ? Which wrestlers could you see end up joining them in the future ?