Just a nice starter piece for this year, couple of sentences on what could make or break a promotions year, attracting new fans to the Japanese scene and aiding them in seeking it out and following it. I’ll try to include as much as possible but if this requires a second edition later then so be it.
All Japan Pro Wrestling
All Japan had been in turbulent times since Giant Baba’s death, the Pro Wrestling NOAH exodus, the Wrestle-1 exodus but since Akiyama’s return the rot was stopped but last year massive strides forward were made, All Japan is now easily available on AJPW TV, a streaming service as per NJ World, but the most notable improvements were in ring, high standards were reached and attendances in not just Tokyo but outside improved, minus that Chiba show. AJPW were my Promotion of the Year for last year due to their performance in and out of the ring, and they started off 2019 with a bang with a successful double header in Korakuen Hall for New Years War, and a potential MOTY on the second night with KAI challenging Kento Miyahara for the Triple Crown.
Big Japan Pro Wrestling
Big Japan had a good year too last year, some really good attendances as well as good shows, 11.11 Ryogokutan won Show of the Year for Occupation of the Indies. Rising talent in the ring such as Takuya Nomura makes me optimistic for the future. The only thing that worries me is the Death BJ Division and its depth, the addition of Yoshihisa Uto to the Death Block of last years tag league was nice but perhaps a better relationship with FREEDOMS would be worthwhile, talent like Violento Jack and Masaoka would be good title challengers.
Currently BJW Core is offline due to a revamp and is scheduled to return in February 2019.
Had a turbulent start to middle of the year with the OWE split, steadying the ship took some time but by the time October arrived things were righting. Obviously it helps with the return of PAC, an effective heel unit in R.E.D, in the period of October – December there were numerous must see matches and everything just clicked, but I truly am a fan of Dragon Gate so perhaps my loyalties show but I ask you to watch the 4 Way trios match from November and the 4 way Tag match at Final Gate and not come to the same conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of precursor promotion Toryumon Japan and as such it will be celebrated by Gate, with Shuji Kondo a surprise announcement to face Mochizuki in January. There’s also a rookie tournament taking place which will show the phenomenal talent that is currently on the roster. Dragon Gate is easily available on Network but it is the dearest of all the puro streaming services.
Dramatic Dream Team
DDT is great to watch, from the brilliantly ridiculous to the extremely talented, and now with good financial backing with Abema TV. The only thing that had previously worried me is their attendances particularly in Korakuen and how they get be a considered a number 2 in Japan if their trailing Dragon Gate or others by a couple hundred bums on seats, obviously financial they have an edge and with other promotions on the rise again like All Japan and NOAH, I feel they need to find a way of drawing more to their Korakuen and big shows. But, they finished with strong figures at D-Oh Grand Prix Finals on the 30.12 and started with a strong figure for Maji Manji Super.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Ehhh, if you’ve read my stuff from last year since Dominion to the point where I stopped covering them completely, and my underwhelmed review of WK 13 you know NJPW isn’t currently my cup of tea. They have sweetened it with Tanahashi deposing Omega whose reign really stunk, not as bad as Cody being US mind you. They have all the right parts to put on a good show but its just not working right now for me. A Naito redemption ark against Tanahashi would be nice though as well as more considered booking of the Tag, Juniors, and US divisions. Kenny Omega’s leaving may be a work, but KUSHIDA has departed and his void will be felt.
Pro Wrestling NOAH
My number two promotion last year, had a really good year in the ring following some very dark times with attendees in Korakuen struggling to hit the 800 mark. Things have greatly improved this year attendance wise and a buzz is really being garnered in relation to the promotions future, Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Takashi Sugiura was my MOTY last year but in December, NOAH put the GHC Heavyweight Championship on the young Kaito Kiyomiya who idolises Mitsuharu Misawa, a brave move but possibly a popular one, he did have a really good defence to start the year yesterday against Kenoh. The only gripe is NOAH do not have a streaming service.
Like NOAH, they do not have a streaming service but they do have a weekly digest on their YouTube. While always aware of the company I didn’t get into them until late last year but I have loved most of what I’ve seen so far, particularly the Enfants Terrible unit and the STRONG HEARTS invasion which led to T-Hawk defeating Shotaro Ashino for the W-1 Championship over the weekend. The company also announced an Ota Ward show for the first time will be taking place this year. Things look bright but please, streaming service.