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The Resurgence of Shota Umino

1 month ago M. Ish | Monthly Puroresu

M. Ish | Monthly Puroresu

The Resurgence of Shota Umino

By: R. Faliani

Windy City Riot saw Jack Perry steal the spotlight in his last New Japan Pro Wrestling match before returning to All Elite Wrestling, and while “The Scapegoat” has been enjoying momentum in AEW programming, we can’t help but see what happened at the other side of the story. And no, we’re not talking about that story. We’re talking about what happened that night with Shota Umino, one of the Reiwa Era Musketeers who are in a Race to the Ace with Ren Narita and Yota Tsuji since Kazuchika Okada’s departure. When we first started seeing the Musketeers coming back home, the one who people thought was going to be the legitimate “Future Ace” was none other than Umino. In comparison to Narita, who was still shaking off the effects of being “Katsuyori Shibata 2”, Shota took it upon himself to become…”Hiroshi Tanahashi 2”

This identity crisis in both Musketeers was something to keep an eye on, because we have seen with other experiments in the past, such as Kaito Kiyomiya’s first big run in Pro Wrestling NOAH that copying the same formula doesn’t work all the time, and of course, with such talented wrestlers it could damage their reputation in the eyes of the crowd. One man who was a victim of what we’re exposing here was Tetsuya Naito, the former IWGP World Champion who was always pretty vocal about where the Musketeers were standing in comparison to the other New Japan stars. Naito was also a “Tanahashi clone” but he was a clone during a time when Tanahashi was the hottest star and Okada was just coming up to be his successor. He suffered the same thing Umino suffered, with the exception he was ultimately rejected by the crowd because the company was pushing him under our throats.

Naito understood this assignment and went on an excursion in Mexico with CMLL which saw the genesis of the “Ingobernable” we all know and love. As New Japan learned from that big mistake, the other Musketeers were first sent on an excursion and then brought back as members of the roster with enough time to grow organically as top names. Umino was back in RevPro polishing his work and getting in shape, while Narita was part of the LA Dojo and was occasionally brought to NJPW STRONG events. For the last months, Umino and Narita were stuck in a rivalry that was certainly important for New Japan as it was to define who was going to be “the guy” after Okada. They were paired for the World Tag League, and then Narita betrayed Umino and joined House of Torture, looking to fill his most obvious fault in his game: Character work.

And he’s getting there.

Umino became the dance partner to Narita’s widely different approach to wrestling in comparison to who he was years ago. There was a cheesy nature to Umino’s act that while wholesome didn’t scream “top guy” as others. He was paired with Kiyomiya, who knew a thing or two about being a clone of another wrestler. Kiyomiya and Umino were paired because whether they liked it or not, they shared one thing in common: They had something, but it was not “it” just yet. The Tokyo Dome platform given to both was enough to highlight these issues, which while more relevant to Kiyomiya didn’t seem to leave Umino out of the conversation. The result was a decent-to-good match in Wrestle Kingdom 18, but that didn’t help a lot either, especially with the return of Yuya Uemura, another Young Lion who despite not being called a Musketeer as the other three is a talent who you should keep an eye on. The thing about all of this is that at the end of the day, it didn’t matter as much as other programs.

And before this rivalry started, the other Musketeer, Yota Tsuji burst through the door and speared former IWGP World Champion SANADA to oblivion, immediately cementing himself as the hottest prospect in New Japan, getting a catchphrase, a characteristic look, and of course, the confidence to run through the competition while being pointed out as the next leader for Los Ingobernables de Japon, which faction he also joined. While Narita paled in comparison to Umino, both paled in comparison to Tsuji because he was coming for everything and he certainly had “it” and had no time to waste. He was not born as a “clone” unlike Umino and Narita. He didn’t have to settle for less and be someone he was not. He was his own man, and he had his goals set since the beginning.

The difference in power between Umino and Tsuji was enough to consider a change in plans. As Narita and Umino continued their rivalry, Tsuji was featured in more important programs throughout the year and was set to be “the guy”. That position was certainly meant for Umino and now was given to a wrestler who understood the importance of having an identity, and let’s be honest, Tsuji looked more prepared for the spotlight than both Umino and Narita because he was the one that connected more with the crowd and was even getting called handsome. Nonetheless, Windy City Riot was a special night for Umino and a statement unlike any other because in building Perry’s heat with the Chicago crowd, he was the perfect babyface who people believed in.

After all, pro wrestling is about punching the bad guy in his face, and Umino took it to a whole other level. Reminding people that while Tsuji is a fantastic wrestler, he’s not the only one who’s a Musketeer. And he’s not the only one who’s a candidate to take over the whole company. The match itself was great, but what made it good was Umino’s performance in it because, for the first time in a long time, it felt truly organic. The crowd was behind Umino and bought into his role as a babyface going into this bout, while Perry felt like a criminal. That dichotomy is what pro wrestling is built on, and “Shooter” got to shoot for the sky that night and prove his real worth. And it’s this competition between Musketeers that drives Umino, Narita, and Tsuji to improve and find that thing that will make the people support them even when facing the hottest stars in the business.

Tsuji wrestled Naito for the IWGP World Title not so long ago, and while he couldn’t get the belt, the idea of him already being in that position is enough to sound the alarm for the other Musketeers. They will attempt to write their names in history, wrestling for the IWGP World Title in the coming months. Narita will be the first Musketeer to fight Jon Moxley for the world title, but Umino was the first one to get his former mentor on sight, and people want to see that match more than anything now. Umino will have his chance in the next event New Japan will host in the United States, the name of “Resurgence” against his former mentor, Moxley.

Whether it’s a coincidence or not, Umino has the perfect chance to cement his name as the top Musketeer once and for all that night and point out the fact he’s now a man with a clear identity and a shining reward awaiting him. People in the West got to know a hidden side of Umino in his match against Perry, who in the face of defeat will thrive and make his name known in the wrestling scene. “Shooter” was born again that night, and he has the advantage in that Race to the Ace the Musketeers have. He’s no longer a clone, and he’s no longer Moxley’s young lion. Shota Umino has become his own man, and his resurgence is something to keep an eye on.

Written by:

Hello, I'm from Argentina. I see wrestling with a different perspective thanks to the many content creators in my community. Everything changed when I first watched Go Shiozaki vs Kazuyuki Fujita in 2020. The unsettling nature of the match clicked with me, and it inspired my first video essay. That match made me understand something: I was a content creator –Gyro - and I want to broadcast different ideas: the battles of wrestling ideologies, the importance of Joshi & Puroresu and the dramatic stories surrounding it. I love Puroresu with such passion, I love how it gives me an empty canvas and tells me to draw my idea about it. I have not yet finished high school as a 17-year-old, but am currently preparing to venture into college. I actually learned English by watching wrestling and talking to different people over the years. I am still perfecting the language, and these experiences will help me even more.