Professional wrestling within the realms of North America can be considered very ‘paint by numbers’, with many fans only being drawn to the likes of WWE and sometimes TNA. Whilst that’s all well and good, there’s a whole world of good old fashioned hard hitting wrasslin’ out there that needs to be discovered – and in Japan, they’ve taken the ball and ran with it.
Of course, there’s more than one promotion to speak of over there, but for argument’s sake, we’re going to focus on one: New Japan Pro Wrestling.
For those of you who don’t know, NJPW is the premier form of wrestling in the far east and has been for quite some time now. Whilst they underwent something of a ‘sabbatical’ from the limelight in which they experienced a lot of financial issues, the last few years have seen a resurgence that few can actually believe.
They’ve gone from being the perennial underdogs into becoming the 2nd biggest company in all of sports entertainment. But then, is it fair to label New Japan as sports entertainment in the same vein as the WWE?
In short, no. The two promotions are light and day different from one another, from the production values all the way down to the championships. Whilst there are some similarities to be had there’s just a completely different feel to things away from the squared circle confines of Vince McMahon’s brainchild, and that’s not a bad thing.
Sure we could run down the list of legends like Tanahashi, Kobayashi, Inoki, Okada and more – but that’s what NJPW is about. It’s about that strong style of wrestling in which someone’s knee legitimately connects with the back of your skull, and where hitting your opponent with a ‘stiff’ shot becomes the norm.
Plus, the crowds are completely different. We’ve all become accustomed to hearing the chants and the vocal reactions from members of the audience in both Europe and North America, however, in Japan you need to change things up if you want to get a rise out of those in attendance.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either, because things always seem to make sense in New Japan. There’s a championship for every field imaginable, there are proper contenders for each title in question, and there are no restrictions on the matches.
In the WWE there has to be a certain style of bout for a certain time and place, but in Japan, you know you’re going to be getting the absolute best from an in-ring perspective. There are yearly tournaments, effective stables and from time to time, you may get to see a dusty finish.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is definitely the best in the world right now. Shit's incredible. Visuals and everything.
— Ahmed/I can never be JOE BUDDEN TO MY BRADAS (@big_business_) August 14, 2017
It’s great to have an alternative in any line of sporting competition, and for professional wrestling, you won’t find any better selections than New Japan Pro Wrestling.
If you want that feeling of legitimacy that hasn’t been seen ‘over there’ since the Attitude Era days, then this is the place for you. If you want storytelling that’s so simple at times it becomes complex before you can even wrap your head around it, then this is DEFINITELY the place for you.
New Japan is where people come to prove themselves to the world, before likely heading back off to WWE where they can showcase their new skill sets for all to see. That’s not a bad thing, either – because it helps this passion of ours grow to levels we previously thought unimaginable. Strong style is here to stay, folks.