Everybody has that one friend who loves Pro Wrestling. It’s a fact. They may be the type who openly brags about how good wrestling still is, forcing you to watch videos on your phone even though you don’t really care (sorry to all my friends). Or maybe they are the type that who watches it late at night as a “guilty pleasure”, worried that if their friends found out they would be ousted as “weird”. Either way, wrestling fans are out there and they are everywhere.
Now yes, I can see you rolling your eyes and saying “you know it’s all fake right?”, however it is because it is fake that allows it to create a world unlike any other. Almost no grown up who watches wrestling watches it because they think it’s real, they enjoy it the same way you enjoy the battle scenes in Game of Thrones or the airport scene in Captain America: Civil War… it’s entertaining. Unlike Game of Thrones however, wrestling doesn’t end, it just keeps on giving you story after story, you can leave whenever and come back whenever and it will still be there.
When most people think of Pro Wrestling, they think of the WWE, the company you may have watched growing up and still the biggest company in the business, responsible for global stars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena. Although WWE will be the industry leaders for the foreseeable future, there is a wrestling promotion from the wrestling obsessed nation of Japan that is slowly becoming the cool new fad and for the first time ever, they are coming to Australia.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) was founded in 1972 and has always been a highly respected promotion in the wrestling industry, however with the ever expanding internet and rise of smaller promotions, NJPW has boomed in the past 5 years. It’s most recent ‘Wrestle Kingdom’ event (the company’s biggest event on the calendar) had over 40,000 people in attendance and received it’s highest international viewership ever, with New Japan only expected to grow as the year goes on.
So what makes this different from wrestling you’ve seen before? Well like all Pro Wrestling, NJPW is a series of stories told through predetermined wrestling matches and talking segments known as “Promos”. What New Japan does so differently to the WWE is it provides a more adult orientated product; The matches seem more epic, the strikes are harder, the wrestling is more death defying. NJPW chooses to tell it’s stories in the ring, stories of rivals going to war, good vs evil in battles that might be scripted but still hurt like hell.
NJPW is a spectacle, it takes itself seriously like any good drama, but just like a good drama series it offers up plenty of laughs and ludicrous moments, take for example the IWGP Heavyweight Champion (The companies highest title). Right now the champion is “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada, he is the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the company’s history, a beloved character and is considered one of the best wrestlers in the world today. If you’re asking “How can one wrestler be better than another?”, it’s simple, everytime Okada steps into the ring he tells a story and makes the audience buy into it. Plus, he once entered a match with a giant sword flanked by a velociraptor while it rained money with Okada‘s on it, so don’t you dare tell me that wrestling isn’t cool!
In NJPW, big groups or “Factions” are an integral part of the storytelling, they serve almost as gangs and are a simple way to sort who is a “good guy” and who is a “bad guy” and right now there is no bigger faction in the world than the Bullet Club. Remember The NwO? The cool black t-shirt that your older brother had in the 90s? Well Bullet Club are becoming the new version of that, they are a group of bad guy foreigners (Gaijin) who are disrespectful, rude and often downright hilarious. In fact you’ve probably seen someone in the street repping one of their shirts because they are the cool kids of wrestling right now.
The are lead by Kenny Omega, a Canadian born wrestler who is currently the IWGP United States Champion and is widely regarded to be the best wrestler in the world. He combines incredible athleticism with viscous looking strikes and due to his talent has become so highly respected by the Japanese fans that he has transitioned from a “bad guy” to somewhat of an anti-hero. His series of matches with Okada in 2017 are considered some of the greatest ever, and if you’re not slightly intrigued already, he once came down to the ring dressed as The Terminator and proceeds to knee everyone really hard in the face.
If you aren’t starting to be intrigued, then it’s time we talked about the Junior Heavyweights, a division of wrestlers in NJPW who are weight class below the Heavyweights, but more importantly are known for time and time again showing off incredible athleticsm and death-defying stunts. Some of the names include Marty Scurll (a member of the Bullet Club) hailing from England who is nicknamed “The Villain” and is known for snapping people’s fingers. Then there is Kushida, who comes to the ring dressed as Marty McFly and flips around at full pace for up to half an hour, with no breaks. Or how about The Young Bucks, brothers who are known for kicking peoples heads off and having a good time while they do it.
However it’s impossible to go past the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, a young British man by the name of Will Ospreay. Ospreay has made a name for himself the world over for his unbelievable athleticism and incredibly innovative style of wrestling. For a man who is just 24 years old (very young for a Pro Wrestler), Ospreay has lead the charge for this new eye-catching wave of “Flippy Wrestling” which is exactly what it sounds like, 15+ minute matches of men telling a story flipping all around the place. Not quite sold? Well just watch 5 minutes of the video below and try not to be slightly impressed.
In February, for the first time ever, NJPW will head to Australia to put on their New Japan Fallout Down Under show, proving that New Japan is ready to expand to all corners of the English speaking world, but furthermore, solidifying Australia as one of the biggest up and coming wrestling nations. The tour will not only see the likes of Okada, Kushida, Ospreay and The Young Bucks, but also other NJPW stars such as Cody (FKA Cody Rhodes in WWE), Current IWGP Intercontinental Champion – Hiroshi Tanahashi, a man who is pretty much an 80s rockstar in a wrestling character but in the coolest way possible. The list of stars goes on and you can check out all the wrestlers who are billed to come down under on the poster below.
If you’re a pro-wrestling fan you probably don’t need convincing to check out NJPW next month, but if you kind of are interested by any aspect of what you’ve seen during this article, I implore you to consider heading down to a night that is sure to contain a bunch of hard strikes, insane stunts and plenty of laughs.