On September 5th, 2021, AEW’s Jon Moxley will face off against another NJPW legend in the form of Satoshi Kojima. But despite the age difference between them – with Kojima being fifty years old – this won’t be an easy match for Moxley. Kojima is one of the most accomplished wrestlers still active in Japan. And even though he’s well past his prime, there’s a good chance he’ll bring out something special for his first AEW appearance.
But Kojima isn’t just another hard-hitter. He’s also one of the most decorated wrestlers in Japan. He was the first man to hold both NJPW’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship and AJPW’s Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship at the same time. He has also won numerous tag titles, tournaments, and other accolades all over Japan and in the United States, including the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
But how did he accomplish so much? Well, it was thanks to two things: great timing and a great finisher.
Kojima’s rise to the top came at the perfect time in Japan. He spent the first eleven years of his career in New Japan, most of which was in tag team matches. But despite achieving success with tag partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan, he never really stood out on his own. That is, until 2002.
Following a highly successful cross-promotional feud between NJPW and AJPW, Kojima followed his mentor Keiji Mutoh to All Japan. AJPW’s roster had been gutted following Misawa’s NOAH split, and thus their roster relied on New Japan and other outside talents to stay afloat. Mutoh was the centerpiece to a year-long feud between both companies, but after it ended, he decided to jump ship. He, like many others in New Japan, had grown tired of Inoki’s crazy and unpredictable booking decisions. Inoki’s obsession with MMA and nonsensical creative ideas were taking a toll on NJPW’s popularity, finances, and roster. And when Mutoh left, so did Kojima. And it was in AJPW that Kojima was able to thrive.
While Mutoh galvanized the AJPW product with his reputation and big name, Kojima (willingly) carried the load in terms of in-ring talent. Satoshi Kojima wrestled one great match after another against whosoever got thrown at him. Whether they were older legends like Genichiro Tenryu or mainstays like Toshiaki Kawada, Kojima was the man in All Japan. He out-wrestled everyone around him and had the audience in the palm of his hand thanks to, among other things, his wicked finisher.
Yes, it’s another wrestler that uses a lariat as a finisher. But while some people might dismiss that as boring, Kojima made it work better than most. First, in his prime, his arms were absolutely massive. Stories were told about how Kojima was once stopped at an airport because officers believed he was carrying drugs in his arms. Not in his clothes or under his armpit but in his actual arms. That’s how big they were. Second, Kojima, like most Japanese wrestlers, threw his lariat as hard as he could because that’s how they wrestled in Japan. There was an expectation of stiffness, and Kojima embraced that philosophy with gusto. So he swung his massive arm with murderous intent and wrecked opponents left and right. Not even Mutoh himself was safe from Kojima’s appropriately-named Gowan (Strong-Arm) lariat.
As the years passed, more and more wrestlers fell to Kojima’s lariat, which propelled him to the world title. He became one of the best in-ring wrestlers in Japan during the 2000s, which led to him traveling abroad. It wasn’t long before Kojima starting cleaving heads in North America as well.
Although his prime was long ago, Kojima remains one of the most respected wrestlers in New Japan. After returning to that company in 2010, he has embraced his role as an aging ‘New Japan Dad’-type veteran. But even as time catches up to him, Satoshi Kojima remains in great shape for a 50-year-old wrestler. Though he isn’t likely to run at full speed and won’t be diving off the top rope, he can still hit incredibly hard. In addition, his lariat is still one of the most dangerous weapons in wrestling.
As a result, Jon Moxley shouldn’t walk into All-Out expecting an easy night. Nagata walked in and tried to make him tap out. Kojima will walk in and will try to take his head off. And if Moxley underestimates the ‘Strong Arm,’ he’ll find himself being hit by a baseball bat and not a human arm.