It’s always in our lowest moments we return to the things that we claimed were silly when we were doing well. I’m like a lapsed Catholic who finds himself shaking hands and mumbling “peace be with you” as soon as his divorce is final.
I came back to the church of the squared circle in 2014.
Sometimes (mostly Monday nights) I’m not happy about it either, but once you start looking around wrestling right now is incredible. Indeed, we’re opening 2015 with what could be best show of the year. New Japan Pro Wrestling is is having their Wrestlemania this Sunday. “Wrestle Kingdom 9” will be a four hour PPV extravaganza coming to you live (at 2am EST or on replay later Sunday night at 7pm EST) January 4th from The Tokyo Dome in Japan. If you can get your head around the date lines and time zones, it’s going to be a hell of show.
Converting the unbelievers
The first thing people who love watching dragons and zombies on tv want to tell you about wrestling is that it isn’t real. There’s a glee to it when they say it because, hey you’re the dummy that likes wrestling in his 30’s. When they say that, show them this:
Are the winners pre-determined? Yep. Is that “fake?” Doesn’t look that way to me. Japanese wrestling is famous for it’s “Strong Style” hard hitting professional wrestling–the way your Granny liked it. It can be absolutely brutal to watch at times but that “reality” allows you to suspend disbelief. The WWE version of “sports entertainment” rubs your nose in its bullshit. Meanwhile, NJPW makes you believe that those dudes are authentically out to kill each other. It’s a fight, one with rules, but a fight none the less. A melange of mixed martial arts, lucha libre, and wrestling that makes it feel more “sports” than “entertainment.” Belts, trophies, press conferences give the entire thing the feel of a real sporting event and not just a weekly soap opera. Google Rikidozan sometime if you’re bored.
The biggest barrier of entry to watching Japanese wrestling for my friends seems to be that well, it’s in Japanese. This year New Japan has partnered with Jeff Jarrett’s (shudder) Global Force Wrestling to present this year’s show and they got Good Ole’ J.R. to fly there to call the show. Former WWE announcer Jim Ross is the voice of American wrestling and bah gawd, are we lucky to have him in Tokyo. Former WWE announcer (and current Lucha Underground) announcer Matt Striker will be joining him at english announcer’s desk. So your biggest excuse is gone. Now why should you watch?
Wrestle Kingdom 9
The show is headlined by two of the greatest wrestlers in the world. New Japan’s Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi is Japan’s John Cena (but awesome) and will be taking on Kazuchika Okada. Tanahashi is the ageing champion and is the biggest star wrestling in Japan. Okada wrestled briefly for TNA and since returning to New Japan has clearly been appointed the future of the company. Tanahashi has promised a six star match (on the five star scale) and Okada promises to debut a new finisher. These two have fought before but have been kept apart since Okada won their last singles match fifteen months ago. This is what the people are paying their money to see and it’s as close to a sure thing as you get. My only concern is if Okada will be able to top an entrance from a show last year when a dinosaur showed up and he carried a giant sword to the ring. You should really start watching this stuff.
My favorite wrestler in the world is Shinsuke Nakamura. He reminds me of The Macho Man Randy Savage. Goofy, weird, brutal, fun, and charismatic as hell. He’s fighting Kota Ibushi for the Intercontinental Title.
Ibushi recently joined New Japan full time and he may be my favorite wrestler in the world (I have a lot of favorites, okay?). Ibushi flips more than anyone else, he jumps more than anyone else, and he’s the guy whose matches I send to people when I want them to get into Japanese wrestling. This has the chance to be match of the night and if nothing else, you will see Ibushi do things you’ve never seen before in (and out of) a ring. Look at some highlights from his match with Ricochet in June 2014.
A eight-man tag match featuring INDY SUPERSTARS™ The Young Bucks could be the MOST match you watch on Sunday. Four tag teams all known for their high flying are forced to throw down for the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
Look for people to start jumping off the ropes, each other, the barriers, the ring, maybe even the goddamn dome if they let them. The real joy of this match will be hearing JR try and call the match while telling everyone they need to slow down at the same time. This should be fun from start to finish. The Young Bucks, Time Splitters (they came to the ring in a Delorean last year), reDragon, and Forever Hooligans are the best tag teams in the world and they’re all in one match. Young Bucks hit the Meltzer Driver for the win.
There are going to be ten matches shown on the PPV in the United States. Each one offers you the chance to see something you probably haven’t before. It’s all the pageantry and presentation of a Wrestlemania without all the things you don’t like about the WWE. Good Ol’ JR will be there to help you make sense of all your new favorite wrestlers. Are you tired of the WWE? Maybe you stopped watching in 2002 when I did after the WWE killed all it’s competition. Sunday January 4th is your chance to fall back in love with professional wrestling. Look, I hear it’s big in Japan.