Red’s Wrestling World Tour: NJPW

Our first two trips took us to CMLL and PWG, but I think we should now jump on a plane and head over to Japan to take a look at New Japan Pro Wrestling. This will be a brief summary of features, in attempt to get newcomers to watch them. If you find yourself wanting even more info, you can contact me using the info at the bottom of the column.
When people think of Japanese wrestling, more often than not their first image is that of New Japan. Talent is a big reason for this. Another, for newcomers, is WWE mentioning them by name so often these days due to AJ Styles and others joining their product. Of course, they almost always mention them while adding claims that NJPW is a minor league promotion, but that’s just business. Talent, though, truly is what keeps them at such a high level. The fact that they lost Styles, Shinsuke, Anderson, and Gallows all at once and bounced back with little falter is a true display of greatness.

Most of the roster is broken up into factions. The biggest one is easily Bullet Club, which is a statement I truly dare anyone to challenge. Kenny Omega is their current leader, a role previously held by the likes of Finn Balor, Karl Anderson, and AJ Styles. Cody Rhodes, the controversial Young Bucks, and the newest member, Marty Scurll are also members that hold a high level of notoriety. The group is rounded out with the Guerrillas of Destiny, Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, and ROH’s Adam “Hangman” Page. I consider this stable to be the easiest gateway for new fans to get into the NewJap product.

The next stable to mention is easily Los Ingobernables de Japon. They are a branch off unit of a CMLL faction, and have grown quickly in popularity due to their antics and talent. Tetsuya Naito is the leader of the group, with EVIL, Bushi, Sanada, and Hiromu Takahashi being the other members. Rush, the leader of the CMLL group, has worked alongside them on shows as well. Every member is amazing, and it’s no wonder why they are so popular.

CHAOS is the next of note, being led by true ace Okada Kazuchika. The group is a massive one, featuring some of the best face talent in the company. Ishii, Goto, and Ospreay are three members that can make any match better by being involved. Yoshi-Hashi is an underrated member, and another than is very serviceable. RPG Vice, the Briscoes of ROH, and the World Class Tag Team duos round out the unit. Toru Yano is also there.

Suzuki-gun is another group, and one that tends to be the most polarizing of the company. The fact that the Pro Wrestling Noah promotion is still trying to gain fans back from an extended Suzuki-gun angle is a big reason why. Their matches feature loads of interference, and can be very annoying to some fans of puroresu(Japanese wrestling). Luckily, they are stacked with talent to at least help their image. Minoru Suzuki leads the group, and is a man that would make Lesnar piss himself. Davey Boy Smith Jr, Lance Archer, and Taka Michinoku, former WWE workers, are members as well with the first two working together as one of the world’s best tag teams. El Desperado, Takashi Lizuka, Kanemaru, Zack Sabre Jr, and Taichi (sadly) are the remaining members.

The final unit is the newest, in Taguchi Japan. Talented Junior, Ryusuke Taguchi, leads this fun unit. Former ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi, being in the group easily makes them a-list. Ricochet, Michael Elgin, and KUSHIDA further that fact. Manabu and Kojima are lesser members, but ones with great history. You’ll also see Yoshitatsu and Juice Robinson, former WWE workers, alongside them. The final member is one of my favorite workers in the world, CMLL’s Dragon Lee.

The other active roster members are largely people from ROH and CMLL, due to a working relationship with the promotions, filling out the cards. Honma and Shibata, two great workers, are both out with serious injuries.

The main championships of NJPW are the International Wrestling Grand Prix belts, shortened to IWGP. The Heavyweight title is held by Okada and the Intercontinental by Naito. ROH’s War Machine currently have the Tag belts, with RPG Vice holding the Junior Tag titles. Hiromu is the Junior Heavyweight Champion. Outside of that, there are two belts using the NEVER name. NEVER was a spinoff series of events, but the belts now are just used as part of the main company. The NEVER Openweight title is held by Minoru Suzuki. LIJ members Sanada, EVIL, and Bushi hold the NEVER 6-Man titles.

The promotion will be holding a special series this summer stateside where they will crown a first ever IWGP United States Champion.
Outside of championship belts, the promotion also holds several yearly tournaments. The G1 Climax is the biggest one, being a round-robin tournament of the company’s best workers. The Best of the Super Juniors series is essentially a Junior division version. The New Japan Cup is a secondary series, though one that tends to be enjoyable. They also hold two tag tournaments, for heavyweights and juniors.

The promotion holds several big shows annually, with the biggest being the Wrestle Kingdom event. That show is held on January 4th every year. Their second biggest show is Dominion, a summer time event with the latest edition taking place on the 11th of June this year.

One of the best ways to start watching the promotion is if you already follow CMLL or ROH, seeing as they co-host events with the two every year. The Fantastica Mania shows with CMLL tend to be some of my favorites. They also have partnerships with European feds Rev Pro and wXw.

So, perhaps you are interested in watching the product but lack any idea on how to do so. If you want to catch every show, and have a catalog of past material, check out njpwworld. This is their version of the WWE Network, and is well worth every penny (costs about the same as the Network). The bigger shows have English commentary options, and you can message me if you need help signing up. If you don’t mind a delay, AXS also airs an English version of the company on their channel. Check your listings.

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