Everyone has that one safe wee space to retreat into. Be it a go-to book, game, film or TV show. It’s always there when you feel you need it, and you always get that familiar feeling of comfort from it. It’s just familiar and nice to dive into it and switch off from the world. For me, it’s wrestling. I can watch it any day, in any mood, and just get lost in it for a while.
It’s an industry that has branched into so many different flavours now, that the old adage there’s something for everyone really does rings true. There’s the mainstream WWE, which merges serious athleticism, comedy, drama and star power into its own unique product (male soap opera is a term the company has thrown around a lot in the past). I’d imagine that nearly every wrestling fan got their first fix of the squared circle from WWE/WWF.
Now though, you can tumble down the wrestling rabbit hole via YouTube and find a fantastic amount of different interpretations of the ‘sport’. From the serious to the surreal, I find myself dipping into parts of every kind – I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, except they’re serving up suplexes rather than sugar. I’m going to be writing about some of my favourite companies and feuds (sometimes just a little bit, other times I’ll write a lot), first up is Japan’s premier promotion: New Japan Pro Wrestling.
For the past couple of years NJPW has been consistently providing some of the best matches anywhere in the world. The signature Japanese Strong-Style matches might not be to everyone’s tastes, but once they click you can’t help but be enthralled by the way matches are built to a finish. With all of their events now available online via Ustream, now is a great time to jump on board. The Japanese commentary can make it tough to follow things, but websites like Strong Style Spirit make it much easier to keep up with what’s going on.
The company has an excellent mix of some of the best Japanese and worldwide talent on their cards. It’s not just about the heavyweights either, check out the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament for some of the best high flyers in the world doing their thing. And with Kota Ibushi on their cards, they’ve got arguably the best high flyer on the planet doing his thing.
In the past couple of years the promotion has been dominated by three individuals; in my opinion they’re Japanese wrestling’s current Holy Trinity. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kazuchika Okada are three of the very best on the planet right now. A good place to start of your NJPW viewing is the Tanahashi-Okada series from last year, a thrilling series of matches that utterly exceeded the lofty expectations that were already in place for these two. The recent Tanahashi-Nakamura matches have also been unbelievable.
Another absolute delight of the recent past has been the Bullet Club faction. A stable of foreign bad guys who disregard the rules and are absolutely dominant in the promotion.
Right now is the perfect time to get introduced to New Japan. Just this month American organisation Ring of Honor put on two PPV events with NJPW’s top stars. So if you want to see some of these guys up against some of the finest indie talent in the US, it’s a dream scenario.
Watch for: Hard-hitting action; great high flyers; slow-burn, epic main event matches; and how generally fantastic the Bullet Club are.
Recommended viewing: This FANTASTIC forum post by user cryinheart has YouTube links to so many great matches (just click the spoiler tag to view ’em). The Okada-Tanahashi matches are some of the best in recent memory, make them a priority. This year’s Wrestle Kingdom was also a tremendous card, and shows off everything that makes New Japan Pro Wrestling great.