The Junior division in New Japan Pro-Wrestling is probably one of the strongest of its kind in the world. With wrestlers from across the world, it seemed as if the division couldn’t get any stronger. After returning from an excursion in Mexico and America, Sho Tanaka returned to Japan with his tag team partner Yohei Komatsu to join Jr veteran Rocky Romero in Roppongi 3k. After winning the title in their first match back, Sho has cemented himself as the powerhouse of the team and one of the best hybrid athletes in the division. However, this role came under threat for Sho Tanaka & Shingo Takagi.
After Hiromu Takahashi of Los Ingobernables de Japon suffered an injury in a match against Dragon Lee, it seemed as if no one could fill the hole in both the company and the faction. However, come October and the Super Jr Tag League, Naito had something up his sleeve. He announced a new member of LIJ and Bushi’s partner in Dragon Gate competitor Shingo Takagi.
With two men both as strong and as stubborn as each other, it was inevitable that the two would clash from the get-go. From the moment that the two stepped in the ring, they created magic and one of the hottest rivalries in the company.
Sho Tanaka & Shingo Takagi
Unlike many modern-day wrestling rivalries, this is all based in the ring rather than social media, and that’s a lost art nowadays.
The start of this rivalry went all the way back to Shingo Takagi’s debut in NJPW last October during the Power Struggle Jr Tag League, where the two teams met on the second night of competition. Although Yoh got pinned by Takagi in this match, it was the first time that we saw the two in the ring together, and the chemistry was obvious. Both men had such a similar style, and it almost seemed as if these two were meant to be across the ring from each other. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long for another match-up.
Both teams made it to the final alongside the then champions El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Although the Roppongi duo picked up the win, Sho pinned Suzuki Gun’s El Desperado in the final of the league. This may have made it seem as if the rivalry could be put to rest. However, this changed after the LIJ duo of Bushi and Shingo were added to the Wrestle Kingdom 13 match for the title.
A Turning Point
This might have been seen as the turning point and where the rivalry took a new turn and became a lot more serious. After a match full of flips, kicks, and strikes, Shingo hit his Last of the Dragon and got the pin over Sho in an extremely short but dynamic triple threat match. Considering that the duo was not even meant to be in the match, this annoyed Roppongi 3k a lot and especially Sho, who got the pin! This time, we knew that this rivalry was only just getting started, which no one was complaining about.
After a small set of matches at Fantastica Mania, fast forward to the New Beginnings Tour in February, in a very un-Roppongi-like way, Sho and Yoh came out, grabbed the titles, and issued a challenge for the titles at the NJPW anniversary show that is held in March. It was easy to think that, with the streak that LIJ was on, that it would be another loss for the Chaos team. However, this was not the case. In one of the night’s best matches, Sho and Yoh managed to capture the Jr titles for the third time since returning from an excursion.
A Riveting Series of Events
This match just emphasized what made the rivalry so exciting. After beating Bushi and Takagi to gain the titles at the Anniversary show, they then had their first successful defense, Road to Dontaku, on April 26th. Yet, it still seemed as if the rivalry between Sho and Takagi was still hot. Mainly because each time Roppongi 3k had beat the LIJ duo twice, the pin was on Bushi rather than Takagi. You could see this really got to the duo, especially Sho!
However, the peak of this rivalry came during the two’s meeting on the first night of the Best of Super Junior Tournament. This was one of the most highly anticipated matches of the tournament, and many people thought that this was the time for Takagi to get pinned. In a match that is a contender for match of the year, both men went over 25 minutes in a grueling match.
From the get-go, there were kicks, forearms, and so many moments where it seemed as if either man could have picked up the win. Sho really broadened his arsenal with a lot more of a focus on his submission skills rather than the high flying-hybrid style he is known for. However, even with Sho Tanaka and his best efforts, he could just not put the Shingo Takagi Dragon down, and a Last of the Dragon led to another loss for the Shock Arrow and another notch on Takagi’s win tally.
Sho Tanaka & Shingo Takagi Never Back Down
Shingo Takagi remains unbeaten & Sho Tanaka has still not managed to put the Dragon down as of this writing. If someone manages to pin Takagi during the rest of the Best of Super Junior tournament, this rivalry is far from over. With a win over Sho in the first round it will put he & Bushi back into tag title contention. This may be the chance for the Shock Arrow to finally beat the Dragon!
Here is our previous in our rivalries series below: