The big news for Thursday’s Impact is the debut of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Satoshi Kojima. Kojima’s legendary career started 30 years ago in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Kojima has done it all in the business. He’s won multiple tag teams titles in All Japan and New Japan. He one of only two wrestlers to hold the IWGP Championship and the All Japan Triple Crown. He’s also been NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion. Only eight Japanese Born Wrestlers have held that honor.
NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion
Rob Conway, substituting for an injured Jax Dane, won the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship on April 7th 2013. Less then a month later, Bruce Tharpe would bring the NWA to New Japan. Conway’s first opponent would be the Legendary Satoshi Kojima. Kojima is one of the most decorated Japanese Wrestlers of all time.When Rob Conway would return to Japan, he would bring the NWA World Tag Team Titles and his partner, Jax Dane. Conway and Dane would then become involved in a feud with Kojima and his partner Tenzan. Almost a year into defending the Ten Pounds of Gold in the United States and in New Japan, Kojima finally caught Rob Conway. At Wrestle Kingdom 8 in the Tokyo Dome, Kojima defeated Conway to win the NWA Title.
As Champion, Kojima would defend against traveling NWA opponents from the States, Wes Brisco and Byron Wilcot. Kojima was the last NWA Worlds Champion to defend in Taiwan. He was also the first NWA World Champion to defend in the UK since “Scrap Iron” Adam Pearce did it in October 2011. Kojima would bring the Ten Pounds of Gold to the United States. After a series of three defense, he would drop the title to Rob Conway in Las Vegas.
After the battles between Team NWA, Tenzan and Kojima would add the NWA World Tag Team Titles, while Kojima was still World Champion. Tenzan and Kojima would hold the tag titles until October when they’d lost the titles to the Killer Elite Squad. Tenzan and Kojima would still fight for the NWA Tag Team Title, although they’d never regain them. Kojima would return to the United States on April 27th 2019 as part of the Crockett Cup 2019. Teaming with Yuji Nagata, the pair would lose to the eventual champions Villain Enterprises’ Brody King and PCO
Kojima in Japan
Long before becoming the Worlds Heavyweight Champion, Kojima would start training at the NJPW dojo in 1991. Having some level of success he would join the NWO Japan. Around 1997 he would partner with Manabu Nakanishi to win his first IWGP Tag Team Titles. He would later team Tenzan, this team would win the IWGP Tag Team Titles over the next 20 years. Following his mentor the Great Muta, Kojima would leave New Japan to join All Japan Pro Wrestling.
He would find moderate success in winning the AJPW World Tag Team Championship. All Japan had a partnership with a fledgling promotion in the United States called MLW. This partnership would see Kojima make his way to the United States. He would win the MLW World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Jerry Lynn. While champion he would defend the title in Japan; including WMF, ZERO1, and All Japan. Kojima enhanced the legacy of the MLW title by also defending in the US. He would defend the title in, Florida twice, losing to Mike Awesome on his last defense.
Kojima’s success grew. He would become a star for both AJPW and NJPW. He would defeat Toshiaki Kawada to win The Triple Crown Championship. Introduced in 1989, when Jumbo Tsuruta Unified the NWA International Heavyweight Champion with Stan Hansen’s the PWF Heavyweight Champion and the NWA United National Champion. Kojima would go on to hold both the Triple Crown and the IWGP Champion by beating his former partner Tenzan. A feat only the Great Muta would be able to do a few years later.
The Impact and New Japan Relationship
Impact’s relationship with New Japan has been a mixed bag. At various points, the IWGP Tag Team Titles were defended on Impact. Also the rogue IWGP “3rd” Championship that Kurt Angle won from Brock Lesnar would be showcased on Impact. Shinsuke Nakamura would eventually defeat Angle at Wrestle Kingdom 2, to “unify” the IWGP Championship. And talents were often underutilized. Okada worked mostly as enhancement talent his time in Impact. It was also the majority purchase of AXS from Impact’s parent company Anthem, that took New Japan off the air in the United States. Nevertheless the influx of North American based New Japan Talent’s has been interesting to say the least. Fin Juice winning the Impact Tag Titles. El Phantasmo entering the X-Division. And now with Kojima in the States. With the New Japan Dojo in Southern California acting as a hub, we may see more NJPW Talent, soon.