Hey hey hey. Look who’s back again. Yes it is me, with another The Characters of NJPW. So, let’s close the week the right way, shall we? But before we start, though, here’s a reminder about our main objective:
This series will try to give newcomers to New Japan, as well as people curious towards its product, a feel as for how each of their wrestlers operate, what their motivations are, how their story drives them to be who they are, and how their actions inside and outside of the squared circle further their personas. Although this will contain historical data and a brief description of each wrestler’s past, its main goal is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to a performer’s history and achievements. Rather, we intend focus on two main topics: Character and in-ring work, to see how each wrestler on NJPW sets themselves apart from the rest of the roster, and what makes them truly unique and worth investing. If you want to check all the previous parts (the Part thing is getting ridiculous, I know, but now I’m committed), here’s a list with all the articles done up until now, each readable by clicking on the wrestler’s name. With that said, let’s get it going.
Change is an essential part of everyone’s existences. It is a necessary step towards improvement, or to reach a certain goal. For some, this path leading to that endgame, of self-fulfillment or self-discovery, can take but a short amount of years. In many cases, it may take ages. There are those people, though, who constantly move about, trying to find their place, without ever reaching it. Perhaps they have a set destination in mind that, for them, is impossible to ever truly arrive at? Who knows what is truly unattainable before you even try it? If this all sounds too overtly philosophical, it’s because our protagonist today is one that lives in a constant conundrum. Join me in following the weird, at times fascinating, others excruciating, journey of one Hirooki Goto.
Introduction: Man, oh man. Talk about ups and downs. Hirooki Goto and his career have been everywhere. Title wins, tournament victories, big defeats, confusing limbos, young lion trying periods, you name it. Only one place is left. The only place he ever wanted to be, since he started to train in 2002, working in the New Japan dojo as an upstart Junior Heavyweight. He joined Liger’s C.T.U. stable as CTU Ranger Red and won the Jr. Tag Titles with Minoru Tanaka. After they lost it, Goto went to America’s TNA on excursion, and then a lengthier one to CMLL in Mexico, only to come back a heavyweight, witth a completely new moveset.
He won many accolades, like the G1 Climax tournament once, the New Japan Cup three times, the Intercontinental title twice, and NEVER Openweight belt once. He also was in many stables, from Nakamura’s RISE, back to New Japan’s Seki-gun defenders, to Okada’s CHAOS. Goto has beaten all the top names NJPW has had to offer. But, through it all, one thing has eluded him: the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He has had eight shots at the biggest prize, all of them unsuccessful. Goto is a top talent, but how can he break through this glass ceiling? Can he break through? What makes up his success and how his continuous failures are possible? How does he keep getting into that position if he fails so often, and vice-versa? Let’s get into the maze.
Character: The popular saying about golf is that it is a 90% mental sport. Such a sentence, even if exaggerated, can give us an idea as to how much the mind makes the athlete. That is true of any given field of action, even the most physical ones, in varying degrees. Goto, from day one, is a man that wanted this. He is a fierce competitor, a straight forward man that carries himself with pride. Now, there is the word we were looking for. At least, one of the two. Pride and shame, those are the two most important things when talking about the Aramusha, or Daredevil if you prefer.
It is that pride, that sense of belonging, of doing the thing he loves that keeps him pushing forward. The gloating feeling of an accomplishment is what makes him the hard-nosed, ultimately successful competitor that he is. He has the talent to be whatever he wants, with athletic prowess, great instincts and a keen eye for performance. But the shame of failure is unfortunately his thickest glass ceiling. You see, Hirooki Goto absolutely hates to lose. It brings him great frustration to be defeated. He absolutely can’t stand it. And so, he makes changes. A lot of them. But they are mostly superficial ones. And that’s a problem.
Because every loss affects him so much, Goto adopted respectful and disrespectful attitudes, invented new finishers, entered various stables, and even had new attires, many times. All of which is nice. But it seems that those big defeats mine the one thing all top champions have: the supreme confidence in yourself, not just to keep winning big, but to absorb those shameful losses and keep going, unbroken. Switching it up is a good thing, sometimes even welcome. But until Hirooki Goto can find within himself the power to make the one change that matters, those big losses will keep eating away at his core, like a true self-fulfilling prophecy.
In-ring work: The Aramusha isn’t given that name on pure chance. Hirooki Goto is one of the bravest competitors you will ever find, a strong, athletic performer with a devastating moveset, plenty of natural talent and a lot of guts. Goto has an innovative, impactful offense, all the moves he uses being designed to extract maximum punishment from any given position he manages to capitalize from in his matches. He has also shown an ability for kicking into another gear, a stage of high revolt in where he just plows through his opponent’s offense to dish even more destruction.
Goto’s moveset is mostly comprised of neck-punishing moves. His most recent finisher, GTR, is a spinning headlock lariat that drops the opponent’s upper back into his knee, bending the neck in an almost unnatural way. He also has the powerful Ushigoroshi, a fireman’s carry neckbreaker, which he can hit in reverse, just like the GTR. The Ura Shouten is a back suplex pick-up transitioned into a spinning sideslam facebuster and can be absolutely devastating. He also adopts many other moves like the Muramasa spinning heel kick to the corner, as well as backdrop and german suplexes, hard lariats, vicious forearms and kicks, and even headbutts. If all of that doesn’t work, maybe he calls upon his vast array of old finishers, chief among them the Shouten Kai, a suplex sitout side slam that uses the momentum of the spin to reach high velocity.
With such a hard hitting style of offense and more perseverance and talent than most, it is no wonder why Goto has had such success in his career. And yet, the high-octane nature of his style can be exploited by more strategic opponents that manage to keep themselves poised through the onslaught enough to find openings. If Goto could manage to tap into that high gear, that elevated presence of mind more often, he probably could supersede this. Instead, especially in big matches, The Chaos Daredevil may struggle with those doubts of his, leading to his downfall. Even still, Hirooki Goto is a threat to beat anyone, any time he manages to defeat his biggest enemy, himself, to pull out his maximum potential from within. Underestimate the Aramusha at your own peril.
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