Ten Years of Suzuki-gun: A Review

Minoru Suzuki's wrestling army turned ten years old this weekend, so Fanfyte is breaking down its pros and cons (mostly pros) (we love them)

The first night of New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s Wrestling Dontaku event this weekend was also the anniversary of the company’s two oldest heel factions. May 3, 2021, saw Bullet Club celebrate its eighth birthday and Suzuki-gun its tenth. Both factions won two matches on the show, but Suzuki-gun’s wins were both over Bullet Club, so by G1 Climax block rules that means they win the birthday this year. (Also, a decade anniversary is a bigger deal than Year Eight.) That means there’s never been a better time to celebrate Suzuki-gun’s evil accomplishments in the form of a Fanbyte microreview.

Suzuki celebrates ten years of his personal tracksuit army backstage at Wrestling Dontaku (NJPW)

Suzuki-gun began at Wrestling Dontaku 2011, when Taichi and Taka Michinoku defected from Kojima-gun by attacking their leader, Satoshi Kojima, and setting him up for an attack from Minoru Suzuki. This marked Suzuki, a freelancer, once again making NJPW his home base after several years in All Japan. The formation of Suzuki-gun kicked off a run that would include Suzuki’s first and only January 4 Tokyo Dome Show main event when he challenged Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 6, along with other acclaimed matches and angles too numerous to even start listing here.

Meanwhile, Suzuki-gun picked up more members, starting with Lance Archer during NJPW’s 2011 tour in the U.S., then Suzuki’s longtime friend and frequent tag partner Yoshihiro Takayama later that year. The team’s current active lineup in New Japan (since May 2019, in order of seniority) is Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Zack Sabre Jr., and Douki. Michinoku, Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuka, and Takashi Sugiura can all be classified as “past” or “inactive” members and a few other wrestlers have had short stints with the group as well.

Suzuki-gun’s aesthetic is a cross between organized crime, MMA camp, and a bunch of uncles who like to hang out and drink beer together, while also being a group that includes a visual kei-looking guy who lipsyncs his way to the ring and that included, in its classic lineup, a middle-aged cannibal who had to be led around on a leash. After an all-Suzuki-gun six-man tag during World Tag League 2018, Desperado said he was grateful to be in the same faction as his faction-mates because fighting them was “too scary.” Still, the stable’s longevity, fairly stable lineup, and believable bonds between many of the members have made them loveable, in their own way, over the years—enough that when they pivoted from diehard heel to tweener status in 2021 while feuding with Bullet Club, it was weird, but wasn’t a flop.

This sounds wholesome until you remember one of those specialties is hitting people with a pipe (NJPW)

Suzuki-gun’s decade definitely hasn’t been perfect, and its future is uncertain. Their invasion of Pro Wrestling NOAH from 2015-2016 went so poorly that a conspiracy emerged that the way it was booked (by Jado) was an attempt by New Japan to sabotage the other company. Currently, the group’s NJPW status—aside from the recent tweener thing—is a little weird. They have the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion in El Desperado, frequent Junior Tag Team Champions in Desperado and Kanemaru, and tag title picture regulars in Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and ZSJ, both former singles champions), but they’re also the only stable without a really credible IWGP (World) Heavyweight Champion contender. Suzuki turns 53 next month, his last Wrestle Kingdom singles match was in 2018, and his last IWGP title challenge was in 2019, a special attraction match against Okada in the UK that he never seemed likely to win.

Does Suzuki-gun have much longer to live, at least under its current leadership and name? We’ll see! But for now, here are some pros and cons of the group’s decade so far, focusing on accomplishments related to the group as a whole rather than Suzuki’s singles career, because despite the 600+ words you just read, this is still technically a microreview.

Suzuki-gun

8.5

Pros
  • Overall aesthetic/vibe
  • The premise of and return from the exile to NOAH
  • Most merch is only sold through Suzuki's store in Harajuku rather than the NJPW website, making it the most exclusive NJPW merch to acquire if you don't live in Japan
  • The van
  • Shelton Benjamin as Suzuki's foreign tag partner son
  • Zack Sabre Jr. as Suzuki's foreign tag partner son
  • What ZSJ turning heel and joining Suzuki-gun did for his NJPW career
  • That time Desperado got injured and when he recovered they made him fight Iizuka to get his spot in the group back
  • All Suzuki-gun vs. Suzuki-gun matches
  • TakaTaichi entering at the Tokyo Dome with an idol group who flyered during the walk to the ring
  • TakaTaichi being so obnoxious that they activated Kishin Liger
  • TakaTaichi Produce and We Are Suzuki-gun events in general
  • Douki in NJPW
  • Douki's mesh shirts in NJPW
  • Miho Abe in NJPW
  • Kanemaru in NJPW as a washed-up drunk uncle
  • Desperado-Kanemaru and Dangerous Tekkers being two of NJPW's best recent tag teams
  • Desperado and Taichi's slow evolutions from midcard heel gremlins to fan-favorite, main-event pretty-much-faces
  • Lance Archer's post-KES New Japan singles run
  • The surprisingly emotional Iizuka moments surrounding his retirement and whatever supernatural forces made him Like That
  • That time a journalist as Suzuki about his plans for a title reign and Suzuki told him to first fight Taichi, then he would tell him
  • The tension that surfaces a couple of times a year now about the possibility that Heavyweight Taichi could turn on old man Suzuki and turn the faction into Taichi-gun
  • This list is so long and I'm still leaving stuff out! So in conclusion, thank you, Suzuki-gun for ten years of overt villainy with heartwarming moments that snuck up on everybody
Cons
  • All the periods when they interfered enough in matches for it to get really annoying
  • The NOAH invasion angle that kind of killed NOAH for a couple of years
  • Most merch is only sold through Suzuki's store in Harajuku rather than the NJPW website, making it the most difficult NJPW merch to acquire if you don't live in Japan
  • Bring back the van, please!
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Emily Pratt

Emily Pratt is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She used to study, write about, and make theater. Now she writes a lot about pro wrestling. Pratt is a regular contributor for Fanbyte, with other bylines at Uproxx, Deadlock, Mind Games, Orange Crush, and FanSided WWE.

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