I knew of Puroresu all my life. I very casually kept up with it in wrestling magazines way back before the internet existed. I loved Jushin Thunder Liger, The Great Muta, and Masahiro Chono when they came into the NWA/WCW. Yet I never cared to trade tapes or anything like that in order to see what Japanese wrestling was all about. I would admit that Antonio Inoki, and Giant Baba, must be great, and that American's going over there to work were having amazing careers. Hell, one of my all-time favorites may as well moved over there full time, because Bruiser Brody was a Japanese all-star for sure. But ultimately to me, that was Japan, and this is the United States. Even if it was amazing over there, I didn't much care. There was a language barrier that I found too annoying to try and overcome, or get past, and no way would I accept that anything was as good as my favorite American shows, companies, and wrestlers. I paid them respect in my mind, and by reading anything any magazine wanted to print about things over there, but that was all I was interested in doing. What a mistake that was.
Here I am at 47 years old just now fully discovering Puroresu. Throughout the years I kept up with it a little better than I did in the magazine days. I saw some matches from All Japan, New Japan, and Noah, on YouTube and other places, but I still didn’t have a desire to “get into it.” I saw several Japanese stars come into Ring of Honor, and they were great, but I figured that Ring of Honor could match them in talent, so I was fine with that. When Gabe Sapolsky began working with Dragon Gate, I got into that and was very interested in Dragon Gate Japan, but before I could get into that fully, DGUSA ended and Evolve took over. Once again I figured that was likely on par with Dragon Gate, and it was in English, so that was good enough for me. Again, what a mistake.
I’m now into my third year of Puroresu thanks to New Japan Pro Wrestling. As anyone that follows WDR at all will attest, I have become a rabid NJPW fan and advocate. Recently I’ve started following Pro Wrestling Noah and love it just as much, if not more than NJPW. This rabid fandom has caused me to go back and watch old shows and they are timeless in their appeal and better than anything I’ve ever watched or liked in the past. That’s right, New Japan, All Japan, and Pro Wrestling NOAH of old are much better than the NWA, WCW, UWF, and World Class. That doesn’t mean those American companies are now nothing to me, not at all, but as much as I loved those companies, the Japanese promotions blow them out of the water. The presentation is better, the matches are better, and the wrestlers are better. As big of a professional wrestling fan that I am, I never thought it possible that I could be any bigger of a fan…until I fully dived into Puroresu.
I once insisted that wrestlers like Ric Flair and Harley Race were the best of all time, and while I believe they are still two of the best, they can’t touch guys like Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa. If you spend any time watching those two wrestlers, I can’t see how you could ever come to a different conclusion. The reason I see it this way is the same reason that I’ll argue that guys like Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito are better than John Cena and AJ Styles today. In Japan there is no real “style.” Sure, there is the ever popular and touted “Strong Style” and the less known but very popular “Kings Road,” but in Japan no company forces a wrestler into one certain style that the company uses. When wrestlers face off in Japan, they may wrestle any way they like. In America the WWE in particular, but even other companies to a certain extent, have a certain style, a box if you will, that wrestlers are placed into and encouraged to stay in it. In the WWE it is an absolute must and that’s why everything you see in the WWE seems “cookie cutter.”
When kayfabe was exposed, and wrestling almost instantly got worse in America, it didn’t change all that much in Japan. Wrestling is respected in Japan as a legitimate sport. It’s heralded with all other professional sports in that Country and treated the exact same respect. NJPW and Pro Wrestling Noah shows are presented as legitimate athletic contests, actual sporting events that matter, and wrestlers perform, for the most part, as though winning and losing matters. Pro Wrestling Noah takes things even more serious than New Japan, and that’s why I’ve come to love them so much. I nearly walked away from wrestling years ago when it stopped being the same. Had I allowed myself to dive into Puroresu all those years ago, I know that I would have found my enjoyment there rather than compromising what I sought and accepting the over the top American product. The more I watch New Japan and Noah today, and watch the roots of those companies, the more I realize that I’ve compromised too much, that I’ve accepted things in wrestling that I would not have had to accept had I just realized that “wrestling done right” was in Japan. Now that I have realized that, now that I have embraced that, Puroresu is will you find the mass of our coverage here at WDR. Don’t make the mistake I did all those years ago and ignore it. Accept that what you love is done rightly in Japan and let us help you get caught up so you can come along this amazing journey in the land of the rising sun where there always has been, and continues to be Wrestling Done Right!
Check out this amazing match below to see exactly what I am talking about.