The CKNF Power Rankings have returned, this time with a different format! Each month, members of the team will provide their best wrestlers from around the world, alongside a short explanation.
January was always going to be a good month, with New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom and WWE’s Royal Rumble providing the two pieces of bread that make up the excellent wrestling sandwich. So, let’s get into things!
It’d be hard to imagine a newly crowned double IWGP champion not being my personal wrestler of the month. Kota Ibushi waited longer than his fair share to capture the IWGP heavyweight belt, and now that he’s finally done it, he seems unstoppable. NJPW commentary has been describing Ibushi as a bright star, there to guide the company and fans forward from what was a pretty awful year. I couldn’t agree with this analogy more.
- Hiromu Takahashi
- Shingo Takagi
Honestly, this was a difficult choice between Kota and Hiromu here. I’m not a fan of NJPW – becoming one, but Wrestle Kingdom was my first show – so I haven’t seen much of either man since January 5th. But both competed in entertaining matches on back to back nights. Ibushi spent longer in the ring, but it’s still a difficult feat to complete to a high standard regardless, and Takahashi impressed me from a new viewer’s perspective. He immediately became my favourite member of the promotion.
If I had to rank their matches however, it’d likely go Takahashi Night 2, Ibushi Night 2, Ibushi Night 1, Takahashi Night 1.
I think it’s those two elements that together that gives Kota my top spot this month. I preferred a Takahashi match overall, but not enough to propel him, and at the end of the day, it was more impressive to spend a combined hour and twenty minutes in ring over two days, than it was to spend 43 minutes
- Hiromu Takahashi
- Jeff Cobb
- Britt Baker
- Mirai Maiumi
Rika Tatsumi is my pick for wrestler of the month. Tatsumi captured the Princess of Princess Championship for the first time. An emotional crowning the Tatsumi who had been with TJPW since their 9th show. Tatsumi also went unbeaten in her 3 matches this month. Couple that with the title win and that’s why she is my wrestler of the month.
Nakanoue had a crowning month. He defeated Yuji Okabyashi in a MOTYC to capture the BJW Strong World Heavyweight Championship. This was his first singles title win. That is enough to earn second on my list.
Shota gets on this list due to his match quality. A great title match against Yuki Ueno, a couple of good defences of his Independent Junior Heavyweight Championship before losing it, and some fantastic matches in Ganbare.
Ueno makes it on the list the same reason Shota does – his match quality. A great match against Shota, some good showings in tag team matches, and a highly recommended match against Yusuke Okada. The DDT Universal champion had a strong January, and he only seems to be going up.
Maiumi had a great month. A strong showing against Aja Kong and her team on January 4th, to challenging for her first singles championship. A strong month for one of the brightest rookies in Joshi.
A MOTYC tag match on the 11th and one of the best singles performances of the year thus far on the 23rd is more than enough to earn Fujimoto the top spot of my list. She kicked things off with a stellar performance in the all-star SEAdLINNNG main event against Oni no Kanabo alongside Best Friend Arisa Nakajima, before getting a win over Suzu Suzuki that saw her reclaim the ICEx∞ title after an outstanding sub-20 minute battle. Fujimoto has quickly become one of my favourite women’s wrestlers, despite only being introduced to her work in the closing stages of 2020. An outstanding month from one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
As the weight of COVID-19 continues to put pressure on the foundations of the New Japan main event scene, only one man has remained consistent. The one true ace. Hiroshi Tanahashi. After outshining the majority of his fellow wrestlers in 2020, Tana kicked off 2021 with a strong Tokyo Dome performance, putting on a solid performance against Great O-Khan that will surely have a ‘Switchblade effect’ on the up and coming Empire member. A strong month was capped off with a MOTYC and victory over Shingo Takagi, which provides 2 mouthwatering prospects as we move further into 2021. Truly a once in a century talent.