To say I’m new to the world of Japanese Wrestling would be the understatement of all understatements. Caught up in the hype that January’s WrestleKingdom 11 match between IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and 2016 G1 Climax winner Kenny Omega brought to the wrestling world, I felt almost obliged to dip my little toe in a product decidedly not WWE.
What I found was a promotion on completely the other end of the scale to anything I’d seen before. Gone were completely ridiculous storylines and the ‘entertainment’ side of things, and brought to the fore was actual wrestling - matches of the highest quality (most of the time, you know what I mean!)
The product isn’t perfect (though it feels a lot closer than the WWE at times) and over the years New Japan Pro Wrestling have not made it easy for a western audience to access their product.
However, if you are one of the few people still sitting on the fence about whether or not to take a peek into something completely different than what you’re used to, then I’ve got 5 reasons to check it out right now!
5. New Japan World Has All The Content You Need To Catch-Up
When the WWE Network debuted, I was the first one singing it’s praises! One user friendly place to find all the content you could possibly ask for; a revolution some called it.
New Japan have launched their answer to the WWE Network in New Japan World, and though the original incarnation launched in December 2014, it was riddled with teething problems (the fact that things were extremely difficult to find and the search function was about as much use as Dean Ambroses’ Intercontinental Title reign!)
However, the interface has been honed to make it easier for users, and though we still don’t have an app, it can be watched on TV via Chrome Cast
Add to this the fact that a huge percentage of the matches have now got English Commentary, the price of the subscription costs just 999 yen (which equates to roughly £7 or $8 a month,) there’s never been a better time than right now! You never know, by the time you sign up, the search function might work!
4. You Aren't Oversaturated With The Product
Altogether, WWE produces 8 hours of new programming each week, not counting weeks with a PPV, where it escalates to nearly 12 hours of content. That's ludicrous!
Since the brand-split in July 2016, a lot of fans have certainly felt an over-saturation of content, leading to B-Level PPVs such as Battleground and Fastlane being missable and quite frankly, pointless.
New Japan Pro Wrestling doesn’t have the same problem. It has no weekly TV show to speak of, instead builds to PPV events with 3 Road to shows exhibiting all the talent in the roster and building the stories. Sure, some shows are better that others - for example the Destruction shows were far from great - but when a bad show is an exception to the rule as opposed to a regularity, trust me you’re on to a winner.
Plus, check out King of Pro Wrestling and WrestleKingdom from this year, hands down the best wrestling shows you will see this year.
3. The Roster Is Deep & Getting Deeper
Sure, NJPW have a main event scene to salivate over; Okada, Omega, Tanahashi, Naito and Minoru Suzuki to name just a few. However, recently, the company has started booking stars such as Juice Robinson, Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, KUSHIDA, Michael Elgin and more very strongly.
The fact is, NJPW have no qualms about booking new talent in prominent positions. Look at Marty Scurll, a big name on the Indy’s, and he is now the IWGP Light Heavyweight Champion, after beating out Will Ospreay in an excellent match. Juice Robinson has been booked in excellent feuds in the last few months and lost narrowly to Kenny Omega for the IWGP US Championship.
The fact is, NJPW has a deep roster, and the more stars they persist on adding the more dream matches we are likely to see. On top of this, the company breached America in a huge way this year with their G1 Special shows in Long Beach: the more countries they breach, the more stars will be attracted to the company. 2018 is a huge year for the company.
2. The Match Quality Is Outstanding
In WWE this year we have seen Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton fight in a Haunted House and with ‘Magic Voodoo’ Ring. Need I say more?
NJPW obviously has matches that are not game changers, in fact a lot of the matches are multi-man tag matches which keep the talent fresh and set up new possible storylines. These rarely breach 3 and a half stars, but they are good matches.
The upper card matches however, are a thing to behold. Not hampered by restrictions in style as WWE superstars are, New Japan Wrestlers can wrestle how they want, showcasing often mind boggling stuff.
It’s not just Omega and Okada, themselves putting on 3 5 Star and above matches consecutively in their history making trilogy of matches, but Ospreay, KUSHIDA, Zack Sabre Jr and Naito have also been putting on barnstormers all year.
I cannot stress enough how good the matches are, it won’t do them justice!
1. Look At What Has Just Been Announced!
The news that Chris Jericho, a WWE stalwart since 1999, will be wrestling Kenny Omega at WrestleKingdom 12 was amongst the most outrageous wrestling news of the year. Yes Chris Jericho is 46, far past his wrestling prime and far past the main event scene he once occupied, but it’s about more than that. A WWE Superstar is stepping into the ring with a NJPW Superstar. Who thought that would happen? It’s been released that Jericho may still be under contract with the WWE, in which case, in a purely outlandish thought, this could bring more potential collaborations between the two. Think about the fact that WWE, for so long based inside their own bubble, are finally not only acknowledging other companies, but willing to let Superstars perform in matches? The mind boggles! Add to this that he is in the ring with Omega, an absolute classic match Machine, and this is set to be an excellent match and excellent time for wrestling, what better time to start tuning into the product?