This website is all about Japanese pop culture, and you’ve seen this place cover music, anime, video games, and manga… so what’s this pro wrestling doing in your Nippon culture haven? Don’t worry, we won’t be discussing the CM Punk Retrieval Arc any time soon… but we do want to bring your attention to the wonderful world of Japanese grappling.
It’s not surprising that nearly everyone associates professional wrestling as a defining feature of the North American sports and entertainment industry, and of course most people would also appreciate the Mexican heritage of the phenomenon given the fascination with the athletic styling of Lucha Libre (and lest we forget Jack Black’s take on the art form in Nacho Libre). That said, to say that pro wrestling is as deeply embedded in Japanese history and culture just as it is in North America, Mexico, and even Great Britain, would not be an overstatement at all. In fact, Japan has such a huge pro wrestling industry that it has has dedicated fans all over the country from all generations. Much like how animation in Japan is a completely different breed to what is produced in the West, wrestling itself operates on a completely different hemisphere in the Land of the Rising Sun. The sensibilities, techniques, storytelling, and audience behavior, everything about Japanese wrestling guarantees to give even the most die-hard WWE fan a rich alternative experience they won’t find anywhere else.
While everyone is well acquainted with the headline making extravaganza that is WWE’s Wrestlemania, an event that shakes mainstream media every year without fail, Japan too offers an event of equal majesty and power: Wrestle Kingdom by the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) organization. This event has been attracting over 70,000 Japanese fans annually to create one the most star studded and electric environments in a sports arena. For a long time the historic Tokyo Dome has been the home to his event, an iconnic venue that has been a huge part of Japan’s rich sports history for over two decades. Baseball, basketball, martial arts, and pro wrestling, the Tokyo Dome has hosted the country’s most important sporting milestones for the largest possible audience.
As per tradition, Tokyo Dome will once again host the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom 9 PPV on January 4, 2015 (January 5 for us Australians). What makes this event particularly special is that this will mark the very first time that Wrestle Kingdom is fully localized for English speaking audiences, thanks to the efforts of Global Force Wrestling (GFW). It will feature English color commentary from legendary wrestling commentator and analyst, Jim Ross. He is unarguably the greatest story teller in the history of the medium, and I can’t think of anyone better to introduce the uninitiated into the exciting world of Japanese wrestling.
For many this will be the first time they will see heart and passion of some of the best Japanese performers and athletes in the world, and see the prestige and aura surrounding the International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) World Heavyweight Championship, the second most prestigious wrestling championship in the world after the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This championship was created in 1987 and first held by Japanese sports legend and icon, Antonio Inoki. This belt has been held by the likes of Vader, The Phenomenal AJ Styles, and yes even the current reigning WWE World Champion, Brock Lesnar.
Luke, Frank, and myself are huge wrestling fans, and we’re excited to catch Wrestle Kingdom 9 when it airs to international audiences on January 4, 2015. You guys should care about wrestling too because it is, after all, Shonen anime in live action glory.
Look forward to our coverage and thoughts on the event when it happens, and in the meantime have a look at the final match card below (courtesy of Wikipedia: A good opportunity to click on the hotlinks to learn more about the event and its performers!).
Also be sure to watch GFW’s mini documentary, which is an apt introduction to Wrestle Kingdom 9 and the uniqueness of Japanese pro wrestling.