On Sunday night, the New Japan path for Jon Moxley became crystal clear. After successfully defending his IWGP United States Championship against KENTA at NJPW New Beginning USA this past February, many fans wondered what Jon Moxley’s future held in New Japan Pro Wrestling. But on Sunday night, he made his direction known, as he laid out the challenge to New Japan legend Yuji Nagata.
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) April 5, 2021
“As far as the IWGP United States Championship is concerned, with the way of the world aside,” Moxley said in the promo vignette, “one thing has never changed — I call my own shots. Just like I said on January 4th, last year at the Tokyo Dome when I won that belt, I’m big game hunting in New Japan Pro Wrestling, I’m taking scalps from the hardest hitters in the game. I have a deep respect for the legends of this sport and I feel like things should be done in a certain way – I’m not one for ego trips and grandstanding, I’m not one for talking trash on Twitter, so I’m going to make this real simple. Nagata-san. Grab your six-shooter. Meet me outside the saloon at dawn. And we’ll see who can get a shot off first. That is…if you’re up to it.”
Of course, Jon Moxley is referring to the 52-year old New Japan veteran Yuji Nagata, a former 2x IWGP heavyweight champion, 2001 G1 Climax winner, and 2x New Japan Cup winner (2007. 2011). Nagata’s first reign as IWGP heavyweight champion, at 392-days, is the fifth longest reign as champion behind only The Great Muta (1st reign, 400), Hiroshi Tanahashi (5th reign, 404), Shinya Hashimoto (3rd reign, 489), and Kazuchika Okada (4th reign, 720). He’s also the only man in Japanese history to win the three most prestigious singles tournaments in Japan’s top three promotions – NJPW‘s G1 Climax (2001), All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW)‘s Champion Carnival (2011), and Pro Wrestling NOAH‘s Global League (2013). Part of the 1992 Young Lion class out of the New Japan Dojo, his 1997 international excursion sent him to the United States, where he competed with WCW for two years. Nagata returned to New Japan in 1998 and by 2002 was the IWGP heavyweight champion, the pinnacle of New Japan Pro Wrestling. He would win the IWGP title a second time in 2007, as well as capture the NEVER Openweight Championship in 2016. He has frequently competed for other promotions, such as AJPW, NOAH, Pro Wrestling ZERO1, and WRESTLE-1, where he’s also won the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship (2008) and NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight Championship (2014). By 2018, his career began to wind down but he still competes in nearly 80 matches a year with NJPW, usually in exhibition matches or multi-man tag matches. While no longer the technical assassin he was in the early 2000s, the 29-year veteran can still be a physical presence in the ring. And it appears that Jon Moxley would like to face “Blue Justice” one-on-one before Nagata-san retires.
Jon Moxley has defended his IWGP United States Championship three times so far, first against Juice Robinson on night two of NJPW WrestleKingdom 14 last January, then against Minoru Suzuki at NJPW New Beginning in Osaka that February. COVID-19 restrictions prevented Moxley from returning to Japan for future dates, but after KENTA crossed over into AEW earlier this year, it opened up Moxley’s entrance to NJPW STRONG, the New Japan programming geared around New Japan USA. It appears that Yuji Nagata will be Moxley’s next opponent in New Japan, but the question now remains when it will be… and where.
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