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Thread: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

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    NJPW Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling


    If you're someone who has started to take an interest in New Japan Pro Wrestling after all the buzz of Wrestle Kingdom and Chris Jericho and what have you, but you don't know what happens next after New Years Dash or you're a little overwhelmed in trying to learn more about this promotion, then keep reading. This thread aims to be a brief(ish) introduction to NJPW for newcomers where I will cover the annual schedule, tournament, championships, stables and crucially the differences you can expect between WWE and NJPW.

    Founded in 1972 by Antonio Inoki, New Japan Pro Wrestling has gone on to become one of the most successful and credible promotions in professional wrestling and rightfully takes it's place today as the #1 promotion in Japan and the #2 promotion in the world as the biggest alternative product to WWE. 46 years is a lot of history to sink your teeth into from the UWF feud, to the Three Musketeers to Inokism and everything in between, but those are stories for another day and admittedly I'm not the one to tell them. This thread is going to focus on the here and now for NJPW.



    SCHEDULE

    January - The biggest event in January is their biggest show of the year and the one I'm sure you're already familiar with - Wrestle Kingdom. This is their version of Wrestlemania. They hold it at the Tokyo Dome and the show is booked with a must see feel to draw in their biggest crowd of the year. Other events in January are Fantasticamania which is a joint event held in Japan with CMLL that sees a blend of Puroresu and Lucha Libre for a handful of enjoyable shows, and the first half of 'The New Beginning'.

    February - February usually is all about The New Beginning, a couple of shows held in different cities that resets the year so to speak after Wrestle Kingdom where every championship has a new direction and challenger. Apt name huh? This year New Japan are also touring Australia.

    March - March is New Japan Cup month with several shows dotted across the month that take us from the initial 16 competitors right down to the tournament finals. Also in March this year the company are going back to the states for Strong Style Evolved after the success of their Long Beach US tour in 2017.

    April - April sees the 2nd of New Japan's 'Big Four' events roll around with Sakura Genesis, formerly known as Invasion Attack, an event where the majority of titles will be on the line. The show will also see the New Japan Cup winner challenge either the IWGP Heavyweight, IWGP Intercontinental or NEVER Openweight Champion.

    May - In May, the big attraction is the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Also Wrestling Dontaku happens at the start of the month, otherwise known as the event where they have the cool animated wrestlers design to the show poster.

    June - The 3rd of New Japan's 'Big Four' events and certainly you could argue it's the 2nd biggest show of the year, Dominion at Osaka Jo Hall. This is one of the events where you can pencil in a IWGP Heavyweight Championship defence and some big title switches have gone down on this night over the years.

    July - The start of the G1 Climax tournament that bleeds into August. Buckle up, it's gonna be a slog.

    August - The end of the G1 Climax tournament with the final three nights traditionally coming from Sumo Hall, but this year it'll be Budokan Hall.

    September - After the exhaustion of the G1 Climax tournament, New Japan come around all too quickly in September with a handful of Destruction shows. Rather like The New Beginning, these are shows held in different cities with only a handful of significant matches on the card on offer each night.

    October - The final of New Japan's big four occurs in October with 'King of Pro Wrestling', typically the final IWGP Heavyweight title match of the year and the night where you know what the Wrestle Kingdom main event is going to be.

    November - Attention turns to the Junior division again in November as the Super Junior Tag Tournament takes place leading up to the finals at Power Struggle, an event that will also have some other title matches taking place. The World Tag League tends to also begin at the end of the month.

    December - The year comes to a screeching halt in December as the World Tag League dominants proceedings producing a bunch of matches that get the least amount of buzz every year. Finals night can turn into a fun show however with angles that setup Wrestle Kingdom matches.



    TOURNAMENTS

    Like many Japanese wrestling promotions, New Japan's year is littered with tournaments to help crown the next contender for the relevant championship. The tournaments are a great way to elevate talent and some of the top stars in their respective divisions have become a bigger deal through winning a tournament than through winning a title e.g. Kenny Omega winning the G1 in 2016 was a clearer sign he was destined to become a main eventer than say him winning the IC title was. Some of the tournaments are thought fondly of as a highlight of the year for the promotion, and some of the tournaments are the World Tag League.

    The G1 Climax - After Wrestle Kingdom, this is probably the event(s) that newcomers to New Japan will of heard of. This is New Japan's annual round robin tournament held between July and August and the reason it lasts a month is because there are a massive amount of shows that make up the G1 Climax. Last year there were 19 shows, so on average between mid July to mid August there will be a New Japan show every 2 days; not only is this grueling and challenging for the wrestlers to compete in, it's bloody exhausting just watching it, G1 Fatigue is real. Onto the tournament itself; the top singles heavyweights in the promotion are divided into two blocks, A and B, and each wrestler will face every wrestler in their respective block across the month. Last year the G1 was contested between 20 wrestlers, so that's 10 wrestlers in each block giving them 9 matches each to compete in. You score 2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss. The wrestlers with the highest scores in Block A and B will face off in the G1 Climax finals where the winner will receive a briefcase that symbolises an IWGP Heavyweight title shot at Wrestlekingdom at the Tokyo Dome. It's kind of like a mix between the Royal Rumble winner prize and the MITB contract in that you've secured your spot in the biggest main event of the year by winning the most competitive match of the year but your shot/briefcase can be defended in other matches between August and January. As New Japan tries to protect as many non-title singles matches as possible throughout the year, the tournament becomes the most exciting time of the year in the company where a plethora of highly anticipated singles matches take place. Recent winners of the tournament have been Tetsyua Naito, Kenny Omega and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

    The Best of the Super Juniors - Simply put this can be thought about as the Junior Heavyweights version of the G1 Climax. It's a round robin tournament held between May and June that sees two groups of Juniors battle it out over a couple of weeks until the two winners of the blocks have a match to determine the new #1 contender for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Typically the winner of the BOSJ will challenge the Junior Heavyweight Champion at the big Dominion event in June. Recent winners of the tournament have been Will Ospreay, Kushida and Ricochet.

    New Japan Cup - A tournament for the heavyweight wrestlers of New Japan with a twist; instead of a round robin system that the G1 utilizes, 16 wrestlers are drawn into a bracket and take part in a single elimination process as the field goes from 16 to 8 to 4 to the final two wrestlers who fight it out to find out who takes home the New Japan Cup. The winner of the New Japan Cup receives the peculiar option of which singles heavyweight title they wish to challenge for; The IWGP Heavyweight, the IWGP IC and the NEVER Openweight title. It remains to be seen if the IWGP US title will be able to be challenged for in the same manner in 2018. Recent winners of the New Japan Cup are Katsuyori Shibata, Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi.

    World Tag League - This can be thought about as a G1 Climax tournament for tag teams, a bunch of tag teams all face off in round robin fashion in two blocks. The winners of each block have a finals match where the winners become the #1 contenders to the IWGP Heavyweight Championships and get their title match at Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome. Given the lack of importance these titles have throughout the year and it's proximity to the Dome Show itself being held mostly in December, there is not a great deal of excitement for this tournament. Recent winners of the World Tag League include Evil and Sanada, Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe and the awesome team of Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata.

    Super Junior Tag Tournament
    - A tournament hidden away in the fall of the year where eight Junior Heavyweight Tag Teams take part in a single elimination competition to crown the new #1 contenders for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles. The tournament takes place during the 'Road To Power Struggle' shows with the final match occurring on the Power Struggle show itself. Recent winners of the Super Junior Tag Tournament include RPG3k, RPG Vice and the team of Matt Sydal and Ricochet.


    Young Lion Cup - An old tournament that was revived in 2017 to showcase the talented group of young lions from New Japan's dojo. It is contested under round robin rules where each young lion wrestles every other young lion aiming to top the table and take home the cup. Last year the matches took place on the Lionsgate shows available on New Japan World. The winner of the 2017 Young Lion Cup is Katsuya Kitamura.



    CHAMPIONSHIPS

    New Japan currently has eight championships for it's roster to covet and compete over. Probably the biggest question newcomers have about the titles are where the initials IWGP come from and why not just call it the NJPW Heavyweight Championship. IWGP stands for International Wrestling Grand Prix and they are the sanctioning body so to speak for New Japan and that's why the majority of their belts (excluding the newer ones) are prefixed with that acronym. Let's touch on the eight belts individually.

    IWGP Heavyweight Champion - Kazuchika Okada
    The most significant championship in the company; it's their version of the WWE Championship but more important because there isn't a second version of it in a different colour. The title is highly protected and only the very top stars in the company can realistically win it. To emphasize that, since 2011 the only men to be IWGP Heavyweight Champion have been Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, AJ Styles and Tetsuya Naito - just four wrestlers. It can be a double edged sword because as prestigious as that makes the title, you do end up going into a lot of Heavyweight title matches knowing the odds of a title switch are slim at best. Hiroshi Tanahashi has won the title more times than anyone else (7 reigns) and Kazuchika Okada holds the record for longest individual reign

    IWGP Intercontinental Champion - Hiroshi Tanahashi
    With obvious links to the WWE version of the Intercontinental title with the same name and signature white strap design, this can be thought of as New Japan's 2nd most prestigious title just as it was to WWF in the 80s and 90s. The championship was created in 2011 during the company's previous attempt to expand into America where former WWE superstar MVP became the inaugural champion. Shinsuke Nakamura has won the title more times than anyone else (5 reigns) and also holds the record for the longest individual reign; the belt will forever be linked to him.

    IWGP United States Champion - Kenny Omega
    The newest addition to New Japan with the inaugural champion crowned on New Japan's US tour of Long Beach in July 2017. The title is part of New Japan's expansion plans in America and has a very similar concept to that of the Intercontinental Championship when it was first announced. To date only one man has hold this title, the leader of The Bullet Club and one of the most popular wrestlers with Western audiences, Kenny Omega.

    IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions - Evil and Sanada
    Self explanatory, these are the tag team titles that the heavyweight members of the roster can compete for. During the Kidani era, these belts haven't been massively important and are traded around all year between several teams without much buzz. The team of Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima have won the titles more times than anyone else (6 times), and the team of Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson hold the record for the longest individual reign.

    IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion- Will Ospreay
    This is the top championship for the singles wrestlers in the Junior Heavyweight division to compete for. It's importance and standing in New Japan can waver from time to time but recently it has been given a bigger profile and the chance to semi-main event and even main event shows through the popularity of the likes of Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay. Jushin Thunder Liger has won the title more times than anyone else (11 times), and also holds the record for the longest individual reign.

    IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions - The Young Bucks
    These are the tag titles that the smaller, quicker, flashier juniors are allowed to team up and compete for. In recent years the division has been dominated by gaijin wrestlers like The Young Bucks, Ricochet and Sydal, reDRagon and RPG Vice, but the latest natives back from excursion, Sho and Yoh, are looking to make their mark on the division. The Young Bucks have won the titles more times than anyone else (7 times) while Shinjiro Ohtani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa hold the record for the longest individual reign.

    NEVER Openweight Champion - Hirooki Goto
    Originally the NEVER Openweight title was created for a project called NEVER that was a series of events put on by New Japan to showcase younger talent and wrestlers not signed to the company. The acronym NEVER stands for New Blood, Evolution, Valiantly, Eternal and Radical. Over the years that original concept made way for the NEVER title just appearing on New Japan shows and it has come to represent Strong Style Wrestling more than any other title with it's stiff, hard hitting contests from the likes of Tomohiro Ishii, Katsuyori Shibata, Hirooki Goto and Tomoaki Honma. Tomohiro Ishii has won the title more times than anyone else (4 times) while the inaugural champion, Masato Tanaka, holds the record for the longest individual reign.

    NEVER Openweight 6 Man Champions - Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa
    Introduced in 2016, the championship is the first of it's kind in New Japan as the only title that can be shared between three wrestlers. The titles can be thought of as a way to give more juice to an otherwise meaningless trios tag match early doors on a big show or perhaps post intermission on a smaller road to show. However the booking of the titles is so erratic and the division is so wide open that 2 years on no-one really cares about them because they've changed hands so many times. Comfortably the least prestigious championship in the promotion. The LIJ team of Evil, Sanada and Bushi have won the title more times than anyone else (3 times) and also hold the record for the longest individual reign.



    STABLES

    While it doesn't dominant the product in the same way it does in Dragon Gate, stables are still an important part of understanding how New Japan Pro Wrestling operates. Most wrestlers belong to a stable; their stable mates are who they almost always will partner up with in tag team contests and rarely will they wrestle each other unless it is out of their own hands like being drawn in the same G1 Climax block for example.

    Chaos - Chaos are the longest running stable in New Japan, starting all the way back in 2009 when members of 'Great Bash Heel' turned on their leader Togi Makabe and reformed with Shinsuke Nakamura as their new leader. After Nakamura's departure to WWE, Kazuchika Okada took over as the leader of the group in 2016. Members of Chaos include their leader Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Gedo, Jado, Yoshi Hashi, Will Ospreay, Rocky Romero, Beretta, Sho, Yoh and Switchblade Jay White

    Los Ingobernables de Japon - LIJ are the wildly popular offshoot of the CMLL unit Los Ingobernables (The Ungovernables) that Tetsuya Naito was apart of during his spell in Mexico. When he returned to New Japan in the summer of 2015, he continued to adopt his bad attitude and raged against the machine that had screwed him out of the Wrestle Kingdom 8 main event with a public vote. Naito formed the Japanese branch of Los Ingobernables in late 2015 and together they helped him achieve his goal of becoming IWGP Heavyweight Champion in 2016 when he defeated Kazuchika Okada. Members of LIJ include leader Tetsuya Naito, Evil, Bushi, Sanada and Hiromu Takahashi

    Bullet Club - If you haven't heard of this stable then you must of been living under a rock since 2013. Formed in May 2013 by Prince Devitt, Karl Anderson, Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga as a band of gaijin's looking to make their mark on New Japan, the group has gone on to grow into one of the most successful stables in professional wrestling history with killer merchandise sales and heavy influences on NJPW, ROH and even in WWE. Not bad for an nWo parody stable. They have undergone many makeovers since their inception with WWE signing away former leaders Prince Devitt and AJ Styles, and today the group seem to be split between those aligned to Kenny Omega and those aligned to Cody Rhodes. Members of Bullet Club include leader Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, Cody, Marty Scurll, Hangman Page and Chase Owens.

    Suzuki-Gun - Suzuki-gun were originally Kojima-gun in 2010, a stable led by Satoshi Kojima surprise surprise. This all came to an end in May 2011 when junior heavyweights Taichi and Taka Michinoku turned on their leader after he lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and they pledged allegiance to their new leader, Minoru Suzuki. Over the years the group grew larger and in 2015 they left New Japan to invade Pro Wrestling NOAH and dominant the promotion for the following two years winning every available championship. The angle was received negatively and turned some long time supporters off of the promotion. At New Years Dash in 2017 they returned home to New Japan. Members of Suzuki-Gun include leader Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku, Taichi, Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr, Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Zack Sabre Jr

    Taguchi Japan - Taguchi Japan are an unusual stable in New Japan in that they're a collection of leftover, loveable babyfaces that team up together with the comedy genius Ryusuke Taguchi, but they have somewhat of an open door policy so it's an ever changing lineup. Members of Taguchi Japan have included leader Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson, ACH, Kushida, David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet, Manabu Nakanishi, Michael Elgin, War Machine and some young boys

    'The Dads' - Not a stable, but one alliance in New Japan that you might see in one of the opening matches of any show is that between the older generation of NJPW stars. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi make up the Third Generation of New Japan, or more casually 'The Dads', and while their glory days are behind them and one by one they are moving away from the yearly tournaments, they are still respected members of the roster.

    Some wrestlers will be loners however and not be apart of a stable, most notably this includes the free spirit Kota Ibushi, the legendary Jushin 'Thunder' Liger and the recent troublemaker Chris Jericho.



    WHAT'S DIFFERENT?

    If New Japan is the first Japanese promotion you've begun to follow, there will be a number of distinct differences between how NJPW present wrestling and how WWE present wrestling.


    • There is no weekly show like Raw or Impact that builds to a pay-per-view. New Japan aren't in action every single week. Instead they tend to tour the country for a couple of weeks every month with the tour culminating in a big event with the matches announced before the tour starts. The house shows leading up to the big event are called 'road to..XXX' and will feature a bunch of tag matches that give you a taste of what matches are upcoming at the big, end of tour event.
    • The matches on a show are laid out in order of importance building up to the most anticipated match of the night in the main event slot. You won't get a 5 minute toilet break match between two big title matches on a show and you won't see the big stars in the opening match of the night.
    • There are clear divides between the Heavyweight and Junior Heavyweight division. Think of the unwritten rule in WWE of how 205 Live wrestlers aren't allowed to challenge for any other title but the Cruiserweight title but enforced even stricter across the whole promotion. If you're a Junior Heavyweight in New Japan, you aren't allowed to go after any of the four Heavyweight singles titles until it's decided that it's time to move you up to a heavyweight which can happen when wrestlers mature, put on more weight, and/or are over enough to be pushed higher up the card. In the last six years the only Junior Heavyweight wrestlers that have made the transition to Heavyweight division are Prince Devitt, Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega and Beretta, so it's not a frequent journey taken.
    • Countouts are 20 seconds, not the 10 seconds that you might be used to.
    • Disqualifications are very, very rare. If there's blatant interference in a match from one of the more villainous stables, the referee won't call for the bell as quickly as they do in WWE.
    • Time limits however are much more frequent. A title match will be stopped at 60 minutes and declared a draw if no opponent has managed to win, for regular singles and tags it'll be 20 or 30 minutes and preliminary matches such as the ones the Young Lions compete in the time limit is 10 minutes.
    • It's an all male roster. For women's wrestling in Japan, you need to hit up Joshi promotions like Stardom and Ice Ribbon.




    HOW CAN I WATCH?

    https://njpwworld.com/

    New Japan World is New Japan's version of the WWE Network, it's their streaming service that can be purchased for the price of 999Yen which works out at about $9.00/£6.50.

    The service offers full, live events from NJPW including some 'road to' house shows, access to their library of historical matches dating back to 1973, pre and post match interviews, and some matches from other promotions that NJPW have a working relationship with like ROH and Rev-Pro. English commentary is now offered for the bigger events in the year.

    The service can be a little tricky to sign up to and navigate to first timers, so if there are any queries don't hesitate to ask for some help in this thread

    Also here's a handy spreadsheet from @MrLariato on twitter of recommended matches that are all available on New Japan World

    ---

    Any mistakes/comments, let me know.

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    TAKE THE DREAM~

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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Good stuff. But question, what happen to Sekigun or is that just Taguchi Japan now?



    Navigation tip- Use the tags of wrestlers. It will give you the matches of those wrestlers. You'll be able to find that out the bottom of the videos. Also, "Decades" is the easiest way to around the service in my experience. It's split from 70's, 80's, 90's etc.
    Spoiler:


    Milano Forever!

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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    I usually just take Seki-gun to mean they aren't affiliated at all. I don't know if that's literally what it means.


    Good stuff Ed, should post this on reddit and get the karma before someone else does!


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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Yeah it did mean that but I'm pretty sure it turned into a group (taguchi Japan) but with revolving members who aren't affiliated with any group. Seki gun with a twist. Google is no help.
    Last edited by MC 16; 01-16-2018 at 05:49 PM.
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    Milano Forever!

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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Very Informative
    Thank You

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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    I thought I knew a decent amount for a beginner, but this has taught me way more than I knew. Awesome job on this.

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    THE HEARTBREAK KID
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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    This thread is perfect for someone like me. Awesome job and thank you!

    Prepare for the.. BACKLASH!




    ...COMING SOON, TO THE "BTB" SECTION!

    *** CREDIT TO THE LOOCHA BEAR FOR THE GRAPHIC ***


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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    July - The start of the G1 Climax tournament that bleeds into August. Buckle up, it's gonna be a slog.
    Understatement and a half. WWE TV felt like a breath of fresh air after 3 weeks of pure wrestling.

    Really good thread though. Been watching New Japan for a year now and i still learnt some stuff from this thread.
    Last edited by CGS; 01-17-2018 at 05:42 AM.


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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Ed this is superb. Let’s me know exactly when I need to watch and when they big events are which is what I was struggling to work out.
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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Nice Ed. Very nice. I'm not an avid follower and I don't expect to be but considering my hobbies this is very informative and helpful.

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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Thanks for the comments guys, glad it could be of help to some of you

  12. #12
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    Re: Beginners Guide To New Japan Pro Wrestling

    Was that a legit deal a while back when Jay White accidently knocked JR out of his seat pissing off Barnett?

    Ed

    That was great, I'm like six months into NJPW, love it. I get an hourly show all kinds of weird times here in central Cali, yep, thank you DVR. Wish it was two hours.

    My son a HUGE Kenny Omega fan, was talking about him a year ago. Before we discovered ....I'll be damn there it is.
    Last edited by Emerson; 09-25-2018 at 07:53 PM.

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