Earlier this year Japanese-based author Chris Charlton launched a crowd-funding campaign with an ambitious goal: to produce the first ever English language book that charted the course of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s tumultuous forty three year history. As a long time fan of NJPW and Japanese wrestling at large, I personally jumped at the opportunity to contribute and was greatly pleased to see the campaign eventually funded by three hundred and fifty fans from all over the world. While the internet has been a fabulous resource for following Japanese wrestling over the years, non-native fans are still very much a niche market and the language barrier has often presented significant problems to fans looking to expand their knowledge, so it’s wonderful to see a publication catering to English-speaking fans that attempts to cover such a wide and convoluted stretch of pro-wrestling history. But does ‘Lion’s Pride’ succeed in its lofty goals?
In a word: yes. The book is a clear labour of love, exhaustively researched it not only details the history of New Japan, but also looks into the origins of pro-wrestling in the country as a whole and offers comment on the philosophy and unique stylings of Japanese ‘puroresu’. Presented in eleven numbered chapters that take us from puroresu’s post-war beginnings all the way up to the present day, these are broken up by other chapters that detail a range of subjects, including explanations of NJPW’s Young Lion system, Inoki’s self-aggrandizing ‘Greatest 18 Club’ hall of fame and a look at some of the most influential talents (inside and outside of the ring) to leave their mark on New Japan. While some of these chapters feel like brief stopgaps in the historical retelling of the New Japan chronology, some are significantly larger and perhaps would have been better suited at the tail end of the book. That being said, the general placement and pacing of the chapters is good and Charlton deserves praise for taking such a mammoth subject and so coherently dissecting it into a manageable format that (most importantly) provides an enjoyable and informative read.
There’s certainly something here for fans to enjoy, new and old alike, and ‘Lion’s Pride’ provides not only the most thorough history of NJPW in English that you’re likely to find, it also has the depth of knowledge that often can only come from someone who speaks the language. As I said previously, the internet has been an incredibly useful tool for Japanese wrestling fans, but the language barrier that’s often prohibitive to the finer details is one not so easily removed. As is to be expected, there’s a sense of disconnect between the Japanese and international audiences, English-speaking fans often having to piece together poorly translated information when official English translation is sorely lacking. So it’s great to get information, not only from a Japanese-speaking source, but one who lives and has been involved in the wrestling business in Japan. Incidentally, Charlton’s translations of promos, podcasts and magazine interviews via his twitter account have also proved an invaluable resource to international fans.
Lion’s Pride – ‘The Turbulent History of NJPW’ is available now on Kindle & paperback from Amazon – HERE
Follow author Chris Charlton on twitter – @reasonjp