Hiromu Takahashi, displaying his lost Kamaitachi mask.
Yesterday, we took a look at one of the worst Cruiserweight Champions of all time. Today, our eyes our on the future, as we profile an up-and-coming junior who’s blazing through the international wrestling scene, Hiromu Takahashi, better known as Kamaitachi. In Japanese folklore, a Kamaitachi is a yokai (supernatural being) that flies through the air and assaults people with limbs like razors. In wrestling, Kamaitachi translates to roughly the same thing.
At just 26 years old, the 181 lb. Takahashi began his career in the spring of 2009 when he was accepted into the illustrious New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo. The dojo has historically turned out some of the top international names in professional wrestling, ranging from current grapplers like Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe to legendary technicians like Chris Benoit, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, and Daniel Bryan. Generally considered an invitation-only establishment, the NJPW Dojo accepted the impressive then-19-year-old Takahashi during a round of open tryouts. A year later, he’d made his debut for the promotion, serving as a “young lion,” an unassuming enhancement talent for more established stars. As is customary in NJPW, Takahashi put in his time losing matches on the undercard while he picked up experience. He competed in the 2012 Super Juniors cup, replacing Black Tiger, but he lost almost all of his matches. He entered the tournament again the following year, and was met with even less success.
And then, in 2014, things changed. Hiromu Takahashi was sent to Mexico to further hone his craft in CMLL, with whom NJPW has a working talent exchange relationship. He donned a mask, acquired a mean streak, and adopted a heel (or rudo) persona. Thus, Kamaitachi was born. Continue reading
Dalton Castle is the most flamboyant wrestler in the world today, and maybe ever. A self-proclaimed “Charismatic Milkshake and Protein-Loaded Party Peacock,” Dalton is cut from the same cloth as glamorous grapplers like Gorgeous George and Adrian Adonis. Accompanied everywhere he goes by his “boys,” a pair of masquerade-mask-wearing Filipino twins, Dalton has yet to find a line that he’s not willing to cross. Drawing inspiration from glam rockers like David Bowie and Freddy Mercury, Castle is on a one-man mission to make the world colorful.
Hailing from Rochester, NY, Dalton Castle began his professional wrestling career in 2009 and spent the first few years tackling the New York indy scene. Having a decade of amateur wrestling experience under his belt – culminating in an NY State Championship in Greco-Roman and 3 NCAA All-State team appearances – Castle seamlessly incorporates his amateur background into his in-ring style. The “24/7 Party” employs a lethal combination of suplex variations, including a delayed bridging German, a standing Northern Lights, and a vicious exploder. These, combined with a strike heavy arsenal that can best be described as American Strong-Style, make Dalton a formidable foe for anyone he steps into the ring with. This “Peacock of Professional Wrestling” may look like he’s got more style than substance, often using his boys as human furniture to rest on during interviews, but make no mistake – inside the squared circle, he’s not to be taken lightly. Continue reading
In the spring of this year, the world was introduced to Will Ospreay. After a match with Ricochet during New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament, his name went viral as a slew of veterans weighed in on the acrobatic affair. Some, like Vader, famously decried the match, calling it a “gymnastics routine” with “no story.” Other legends of the industry showered it with praise – most notably, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who raved about the timing and precision of the match. “Off the charts! A 10 out of 10!” Austin exalted. “I give both guys a big thumbs up for their performance,” the Texas Rattlesnake continued, “Badass, unbelievable – I recommend it. Everybody out there watch it.” Before garnering worldwide attention for this aerial contest, though, Ospreay had already been plying his trade around the globe for years. So just who is Will Ospreay?
For starters, he’s the master of the Shooting Star Press. Having grown up a Billy Kidman fan, it’s hard for me to admit it, but nobody owns the Shooting Star Press the way Will Ospreay does. Even in an age where fans aren’t blown away by the move performed from a standing position the way they once were, Ospreay delivers it with such ease that it boggles the mind. With plancha and corkscrew variations of the Press in his arsenal as well, along with a 630° Splash that’s every bit as impressive as it sounds, Ospreay’s nickname of “The Aerial Assassin” is well-earned. Ospreay may also be the most glaring exclusion from the WWE’s ongoing Cruiserweight Classic. At 163 lbs. and just 23 years old, the English high-flyer would seemingly fit the field perfectly, having already wrestled tremendous matches with competitors like Zack Sabre Jr, TJ Perkins, Johnny Gargano, Kota Ibushi, Rich Swann, and Noam Dar during his career.
The Grand Champion, Princess Kimber Lee
If I had to put my money on any female wrestler being signed by World Wrestling Entertainment to compete on the NXT brand during the next year, I’d stake my bets on Kimber Lee. Hell, if you opened the wager up to independent wrestlers of every gender, I think I’d keep my chips where they were. She’s been wrestling for five years now and is still just 26 years old. The future is bright.
Trained by 2016 CWC contender Drew Gulak at the Combat Zone Wrestling Academy in Philadelphia, Kimber Lee made her pro debut in 2011, first appearing in CZW. She performed regularly with the promotion for a few years, but hasn’t been with them full time since 2014. Instead, she’s spent a decent chunk of her career thus far focusing her efforts on achieving success in women’s promotions like Shimmer and Shine. In fact, she’s one half of the only tag team to ever capture gold in both organizations, alongside Cherry Bomb as part of the Kimber Bombs. She’s also captured tag team gold in WSC, partnering with Annie Social, and once held the Jersey All Pro Women’s Championship.
Mr. High Tension.
It might not be a stretch to say that no wrestler has ever endeared themselves to a nation as swiftly and as convincingly as Akira Tozawa. An export of Japan’s Dragon Gate promotion, Tozawa recently wrapped up a one year tour of the United States, and in the short 12 months that he spent in America, he gained fans from coast to coast as one of the fastest rising stars on the independent scene.
Tozawa’s success in his native land was moderate at best. The third graduate of the Dragon Gate dojo, Tozawa debuted in 2005 to very little fanfare, opening his career with ten consecutive losses. During his first few years as a professional, he accomplished little, progressing very modestly and finding it troublesome to even get booked on shows. He spent some time as part of tag team with Yuki Ono, collectively known as the Metabolic Brothers, but regardless of what capacity or style Tozawa wrestled in, he couldn’t seem to get his career off of the ground while wrestling in Japan. And then, in May 2010, Tozawa departed the Land of the Rising Sun for an extended tour in the American melting pot.
Stateside, Akira Tozawa has been a raging success. Blending intense in-ring ferocity with his own brand of quirky humor, he’s earned the support of fans in the country’s top independent promotions. I was lucky enough to catch him performing live at this year’s King of Trios, and I knew the moment he flashed that he flashed the crowd a colorful, mouth-guard-brimming smile that he was going to be a joy to watch. Continue reading
You’ll probably know Jon Moxley soon enough, as he’s wrestled his way to a WWE contract.
Jon Moxley, like Tyler Black, is currently honing his skills in Florida Championship Wrestling, the WWE’s primary developmental territory. Currently wrestling under the name Dean Ambrose, Moxley is just 25 years old, although he’s already toured through and found success in a number of independent wrestling promotions. If you’ve watched him perform, it’s no wonder why.
Moxley has above average promo skills. He’s beyond natural on the microphone, and the quiet intensity he brings to his interviews puts you in mind of Raven or Jake Roberts in their primes. In the ring, Moxley is what I’d describe as a clever wrestler. He uses his surroundings to his advantage and he counters moves in very logical ways that are seldom seen elsewhere in wrestling. As such, a sense of realism is present in his matches, as he’s less about glitz and glam than he is about making it look like he’s fighting to win. His ring style oozes deplorability, as he’s not above using eye rakes and other heel tactics to notch a win. As for his actual moveset, Moxley makes a habit of violently tossing his opponent out of positions that are traditionally used to set up impact moves such as the vertical suplex or death valley driver. He uses a high-angle double chickenwing facebuster, the Hook & Ladder, as his primary finisher, and also keeps opponents down for the count with a high impact DDT out of the suplex position that he calls the One Hitter. Factor in a number of submission maneuvers, such as the crossface chickenwing and a short armbar, and you’ve got a competitor who keeps in fresh in the ring and is capable of working with a number of diverse styles.
Before being signed to a developmental contract with the biggest wrestling company in the world, Moxley made a name for himself in promotions such as Heartland Wrestling Association, Combat Zone Wrestling, and Dragon Gate USA, among others. He’s held five World Championships (or eight, depending on your vantage point) on his tour of the indy circuit, and it’s not far-fetched to believe that there is more prestigious gold in his future. Continue reading
The Queen of Wrestling, Sara Del Rey.
Sara Del Rey is, for my money, the best active female wrestler in the world today. A ten-year ring veteran, Del Rey doesn’t fit into any of the traditional women’s wrestling archetypes. She’s not the monstrous and manly powerhouse, the damsel in distress, or the fitness model turned wrestler who can’t perform a headscissors. She’s Sara Del Rey, and she’s in a class of her own.
I feel that Del Rey is one of the very few independent wrestlers, male or female, who could be dropped into WWE or TNA exactly as they are now and find success. If allowed to perform to her ability, there would be no denying Sara worldwide superstardom. Her combination of high impact power moves (Samoan Drops, Spike Piledrivers), striking game (big boots to the chests of opponents), and submission maneuvers (Labell Lock, arm and neck wrenches) make for entertaining and unforgettable matches. Couple these with her vast collection of suplex variations, fondness of bridging into pins, and awesome Royal Butterfly finisher, and you’ve got a can’t miss formula for success at any level if provided the opportunity. She knows how to work a crowd to boot.
Stateside, Sara’s a staple in Shimmer Women Athletes, Chikara, Ring of Honor, and Jersey All Pro. She’s also garnered international fame with her tours of Japan and Mexico and has cracked the top ten in PWI’s Female 50. If you’re a fan of women’s wrestling, nay, if you’re a fan of any wrestling, then you should be a fan of Sara Del Rey. Continue reading