2. Hiroshi Tanahashi
The Ace of the Universe Hiroshi Tanahashi is one of the most loved men in professional wrestling and one of the most successful in NJPW history with a career spanning over 20 years. Tanahashi has had a record-high number of Heavyweight title reigns with eight reigns over 1396 days with 28 successful defences. His first reign was back in 2007 after winning a tournament for the vacated title. From then, it felt like New Japan belonged to the Ace.
With feuds against the likes of Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki, and his nemesis Shinsuke Nakamura, Tanahashi brought a flair to the title with his athletic and charismatic ways. Each reign was different and brought out a new side to The Ace showering him in more love and adoration.
Even though his last reign was cut short by Jay White at only 38 days and no successful defences, the Ace is still in his prime. No matter what anyone says, I can see many more title reigns in Tanahashi’s future. He will always be remembered as one of the best in the world.
1. Kazuchika Okada
There was only one man that could beat Hiroshi Tanahashi on this list. It is no surprise that Kazuchika Okada took that spot. Not only does he hold the record for combined days as Heavyweight Champion at 1790 days, but many call him the best wrestler in the world. Beating Hiroshi Tanahashi during the New Beginning Tour in February 2012 in what has been dubbed ‘The Rainmaker Shock’ cemented this new era of the company.
Since then, Okada has just gone from strength to strength. With five different reigns over eight years and 30 successful defences, you cannot dispute his place on the list. As well as some impressive statistics, it’s not taken into consideration some of the stand-out matches which have broken rating systems and storylines that have broken down barriers. The most memorable was his long-standing rivalry with Kenny Omega during his fourth reign. As a result of this feud, fans got to witness a 60-minute time limit draw and the 7* history-making Best Two Out Of Three Falls at Dominion in 2018.
Although he is currently floundering on the mid-card, there is no doubt that Okada will be back in the title picture very soon.