3. Kota Ibushi
Kota Ibushi is something of a dark horse. He’s one of the smallest competitors in the tournament, and will face stiff competition from the likes of Tanahashi, Goto, Naito, Ishii, among others. But there are two great reasons why Ibushi winning would be a welcome surprise.
First, Ibushi is an internationally-recognized cruiserweight on the same level of skill and popularity as Jushin Liger, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, and the Young Bucks. This man can fly and defy gravity like it’s nobody’s business. Maybe this year, NJPW can finally show that junior heavyweights can excel in the heavyweight division. After all, Ibushi stole the show at Wrestle Kingdom IX against Shinsuke Nakamura.
Second, and more importantly, Ibushi advancing to the finals from his block could lead to one of the most hotly-anticipated match-ups in years: Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega.
These two have a storied history together, but that has been largely ignored ever since Omega became a member of the Bullet Club and The Elite. Yet some still yearn for that match-up, because they know it would be legendary.