The Land Of The Rising Sun
As I sit here getting ready to watch All Japan Pro-Wrestling’s “Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori Debut 25th Anniversary Show,” I find myself both excited, and a little sad. Several years ago I started a website called “Wrestling Done Right.” I was covering every company I could, attending shows up and down the East coast. From large companies like “Ring of Honor,” and “Combat Zone Wrestling,” to small ones like “Pro Wrestling Empire” (when it was called UWE) to “Legacy Wrestling.” To me, if it was wrestling outside the WWE, I wanted to support it. A funny thing happened though…as I watched all this “indy” wrestling I started to get more particular in regard to my tastes. Several things caused this to happen, the main one being lesser talented guys getting larger pushes than guys much more talented than them. That seemed an awful lot like the WWE that I hate so much. Other things like guys wearing horrible ring gear, being grossly out of shape, and getting placed on shows as a favor, or because they were the only one at the wrestling show that had a promoters license or insurance, began to give me a distaste for “indy” wrestling. While I am not here to write off indy wrestling as a whole, because there is no doubt that many indy wrestlers are better, and more entertaining, than WWE “sports entertainers,” they are however too often performing on shows with guys that don’t deserve to be in the same locker room as them. Since the WWE’s raid of the indy’s as of late, this problem has seeped into places like CZW, ROH, and Evolve. Money is so tight on the indy’s (something I understand) that promoters can’t often afford to book the best indy guys available. Then you have money marks that run places like Wrestle Circus that can snatch up just about anyone they want by simply paying more than other places. There is little loyalty in the world of indy wrestling these days. If you agreed to do a show somewhere, but a place like Wrestle Circus outbids them for your services, so be it. I’m not writing this article to debate that practice, but it personally annoys me.
Three years ago my colleague Chuck Ransford suggested I start watching “New Japan Pro Wrestling.” I resisted at first because of the language barrier but finally broke down and watched a few of their shows. I immediately learned three things. One, the language barrier doesn’t matter. Good wrestling is good wrestling. Two, legitimate, old school style, hard hitting, professional wrestling only died in America. Three, I wanted more of this, as much as I could get. You see, I not only once accepted anything outside the WWE as “Wrestling Done Right,” I was convinced that old school wrestling that consisted of good selling, strong strikes, submission holds, etc. had died and the super spot fest wrestling was now what professional wrestling was. I didn’t want to be an old codger refusing to allow wrestling to “evolve.” New Japan taught me that was wrong. However…New Japan has its share of spotty matches and wrestlers. I like that, for the most part, they are confined to a “Juniors” division but could it be possible that there were Japanese companies that didn’t do any of the spot style matches? Don’t get me wrong, I am not a total hater of high flying matches. When those matches are done by those that are the most talented at those types of performance, they are enjoyable, but if I could find a company full of Katsuyori Shibata’s and Tomohiro Ishii’s I would be in my wrestling dream world!
Having known of the Japanese companies for years, but having never really followed them much outside of their major stars like The Great Muta, Giant Baba, Kenta Kobashi, and Mitsuharu Misawa, I had no idea what Pro Wrestling NOAH and All Japan Pro Wrestling looked like today. Was I ever pleasantly surprised! While their rosters have dwindled, and they are far from their glory days, the wrestling in those two companies is as solid as ever. The old school, no spot style, solid selling “Kings Road” and “Pure” professional wrestling remained and is on display in every match for these companies. NOAH and AJPW outperform New Japan Pro Wrestling when it comes to taking wrestling seriously, and presenting it like a legitimate athletic competition. As I got to know their current rosters I feel in love with these companies and recognized that they best represent “Wrestling Done Right. This is why I am so excited as I prepare to watch All Japan Pro-Wrestling’s “Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori Debut 25th Anniversary Show.” I’m sad though too, because so few American fans follow my lead. Yes, I am thankful for those that do, but I wish I had more people to discuss the greatness of these companies with. I wish there were more Facebook groups talking about these companies and their wrestlers. I just have to accept that only the most intelligent, the most particular, the most demanding, fans on pure pro wrestling will support these companies. Only the niche market that doesn’t see wrestling as a joke, that doesn’t see wrestling as some kind of silly “variety show” will realize and accept that while NJPW is awesome, it’s AJPW and NOAH that display the greatest and truest form of Wrestling Done Right!