NJPW Spotlight is a series by Walter Yeates that highlights past and present members of the New Japan Pro Wrestling roster. This article highlights Sanada. The previous article in the series on Sanada is available here.
Current IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental ‘Double Champion’ Evil made his debut as a New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) Noge Dojo Young Lion on May 13, 2011 against former Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) unit mate and current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Hiromu Takahashi.
After his October 2013 – November 2015 excursion to the United States, Evil has become a decorated member of the NJPW roster. He won the World Tag League and IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship twice with former Cold Darkness partner Sanada.
He was a four-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Champion with LIJ, NEVER Openweight Champion, and the current IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the time of this column.
Evil turning his back on LIJ and holding the arguably most prestigious singles championship in professional wrestling (IWGP Heavyweight Championship) was a well-laid story that reached its apex with him winning the 2020 version of the New Japan Cup and attacking Tetsuya Naito.
With now the champion and with an elevated position in NJPW, Evil is still not among the traditional top draws in the country — creating a fascinating time for the promotion. He only has to be competent in this position for his first reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion to be seen as a success as the story around the likes of Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kenta, Jay White, Tetsuya Naito, and even former partner Sanada chasing him is a guaranteed draw.
However, Evil seems to be a natural in this position and could thrive, becoming one of the top Pure Heels in the business if NJPW sees an uptick of business overseas with him holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
This is an interesting time for Evil as he looks to cement himself as a permanent marquee draw for NJPW. If he’s able to do so, he will be another success story for the creative team of Gedo/Jado.