Its a Saturday. January 4th. I don’t have much to do, really. A friend suggests I watch a wrestling show, insisting I’d become a fast fan after seeing it. Then tells me it’s NJPW. I kind of scoff it away. I’ve seen sprinkles of puroresu here and there, but never fully delved in, always staunch in my following of western wrestling. Then I thought, ‘Perhaps I should give this a chance.’
It’s a decision I’ll never regret.
Before I knew it, I had gotten about halfway through the Wrestle Kingdom 8 card, and I was already hooked. Completely. This is a promotion that very well may have no equal in terms of overall quality in presentation, execution, and talent. At that point, I was kicking myself in the ass for missing out on so much beforehand.
I’ll begin listing some reasons why, as a fan of pro wrestling, you should be taking notice, no matter where you are the world. There are many misconceptions about what exactly it is. I had them myself. But those were all blown away after a full card at a huge PPV event. Lets roll, shall we?
1: Language barrier? No problem.
This might easily be the most common worry or thought when someone is approached with the idea of watching their programs. ‘But it’s in words I can’t understand, how can I begin to be invested in storylines? How can I get into a match without being able to understand what the commentary team is saying?’ Let me assure you, that is no issue.
These people have honed their craft incredibly well. Take the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom 8, for instance. After a grueling match and work on his shoulder, Kazuchika Okada hit a spot where he slapped on his own submission, Red Ink. Yet, midway through it, he dropped his clutch on Tesuya Naito, favoring the exact area that had been worked, the pain taking its toll after awhile. This might seem like basics, but the way it is pulled off is exemplory, and it takes no deep knowledge of the language to understand what is going on. Psychology between those ropes during matches is evident and pronounced.
Storylines can be gleaned as well, because of how well they speak through actions, and promos make things evident. To add, there are quite a few western wrestlers who have made the transition that many fans of wrestling would recognize easily. Shelton Benjamin, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, MVP, Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr. to name a few.
2: Characters aplenty.
Wrestlers have relied on gimmicks and distinct personalities throughout history. It is no different here, despite what some may think. A perfect example would be the very colorful Shinsuke Nakamura, a great wrestler in his own right, who oozes with personality. Once he is out when his theme music hits, he is swagger personified; charisma flowing, as he fires his hands into the air, ready for the competition in front of him. Or Minoru Suzuki, tough, grizzled. Hammering into opponents, seemingly laughing with glee at their suffering.
There is no shortage of entertainment value that goes hand in hand with the work itself. Which brings me to the most important and valuable point.
3: Incomperable athleticism and skill.
I can easily say without a shadow of a doubt, the best in ring performances in the world can be found here after seeing a plethora more of what they have to offer. Matches up and down cards sometimes easily impress from the bottom all the way to the main event on a very consistent basis.
Most contests, you can feel the tension in the air, each wrestler giving his absolute best to be the one to come out on top. Showcases of that famous fighting spirit are found, drained competitors sluggishly mustering up what might they have left inside to strike each other with stiff punches, chops, and kicks. Pulling out every single move in their arsenal in a spectacular display of ability and prowess.
I can’t stress this enough. It is, in my opinion, unrivaled in terms of wrestling itself. And at the end of the day, that is what matters most, and what seems to be lost in so many other areas of the craft worldwide.
If you’re a skeptic, if you’ve been dying for an alternative to what you’re used to in say the WWE, RoH, and other promotions, I urge you to do yourself a favor. Give it a shot. In some form, you will not be disappointed or have wasted your time. Count on it.