6. Tetsuya Naito
Many might be surprised to see the now three-time Heavyweight champion and current double champion so low in the list. Despite some amazing storylines and matches as champion, his reigns have not been as impressive as the Intercontinental title runs.
His first reign in 2016 lasted only 70 days with one successful defence against Tomohiro Ishii. His second reign earlier in the year last longer at 189 days yet much of this was because of the pandemic bringing New Japan to a stop. This reign also had only one successful defence.
However, that shouldn’t take anything away from Naito’s reigns, especially this year. His desire to hold the top two titles in NJPW brought a new lease of life to the company. Also, each time he won the title, it felt as if fans were witnessing a fairy tale ending for their favourite anti-hero.
Hopefully, his current reign will last much longer to move Naito higher up the list in the future because he has all the qualities of a top star and deserves a long run as champion.
5. Shinsuke Nakamura
Although Shinsuke Nakamura is known for his reigns as IWGP Intercontinental champion, it is impossible to forget about his reign as Heavyweight champion. During his career in NJPW, he had three title runs and nine successful defences spanning over 390 days from 2004.
Over these reigns, Nakamura had some iconic matches and feuds which are remembered by New Japan fans against some big names not only in Japan but professional wrestling in general. These names included Keiji Muto, Kurt Angle, and Yuji Nagata across the country. However, just like his reign as IC champion, it was his matches against Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom II and New Japan Destruction in 2009. They were two men who arrived in New Japan during its darkest times but managed to be the shining beacon of light fans needed.
It was his reigns with this title that help cement Shinsuke Nakamura as the King of Strong Style and one of the best wrestlers New Japan has ever seen.