For the last 3 years I have been on holiday in the summer with my family. It also coincides with the G1 Climax presented by New Japan Pro Wrestling. I followed New Japan as best I could through the years – various sites from 2008 on wards providing me with the odd match. If I went Japanese, like most of my era it would be Pro Wrestling NOAH we would go to. When I say this, I am by no means an expert – I am very forgetful. The wrestling I have watched; I need to keep watching in order to remember it all. It is a curse!
Fortunately, I do not have such a problem with live wrestling. I have been frequenting Revolution Pro Wrestling York Hall shows since Uprising, October 2013. The only York Hall show I have missed was the Summer Sizzle 2015 and that was due to being a dad for the second time. At Uprising 2013, I saw Marty Scurll who I have seen perform a few times prior have a great match against the most charismatic wrestler I have witnessed live in Tanahashi. Clearly there was another world to WWE.
In 2014, the Royal Rumble was highly disappointing. A CM Punk fan since the ROH/Wrestling Channel days the way he had been handled by the corporate entity left a distaste in my mouth, but unlike on previous occasions in 2003/2004 where I gave up on wrestling, I could see an alternative. By the summer of 2014, I had started listening to more podcasts about wrestling and started with John Pollocks’ review of the G1 on Live Audio Wrestling. It was a great tool for me to start getting used to the names and seeking out some matches. John is fantastic at approaching things from an audio journalistic narrative and providing a great service to the global wrestling community.
What really got me involved in New Japan further was seeing Okada in October 2014. He is such a talent, has such a presence and possibly an athlete that translated through language barriers to entertain. For me, I am buying a ticket to see him any time, any place. With that, I bought a cheap tablet and in November 2014 purchased New Japan world.
My first introduction was the World Tag League, an OK tournament to dip my toes in but a definite place holder in the build up to Wrestle Kingdom. Wrestle Kingdom 9 was my first Dome show that I watched. Jim Ross on commentary was a huge plus for me, I felt he did an OK job but felt there wasn’t that all seeing, all knowing person on commentary. Potentially it is because I have been listening to John Pollock, Chris Charlton and WH Parks on the LAW and JAW (Japanese Audio Wrestling) who could express and discuss NJPW much better than the old school JR. The match that really took me into the culture and hooked me (pun intended) into the event was Sakuraba v Suzuki. It felt so different from what came before and after on the show. From there it just kicked on and offered such variety.
Watching on a terrible, cheap tablet was not ideal – ocassionally I could get to use a laptop but it wasn’t a viewing experience I enjoyed. For Christmas 2013, a friend of mine purchased a Chromecast for me and that was a game changer. I could now watch New Japan on my TV (normally when the wife goes out!).
The G1 has been a source of anxiety for me. So many matches that I feel I must watch everything. Due to being a father of two that is not something I can always do, so I pick and choose. However, 2017 has been a bastard of a year. The amount of quality matches to get through has put me behind. I am watching all matches in the tournament with great attention. After watching in the build up to my holiday, I was delighted to listen to the great new commentary team of Kevin Kelly and Don Callis call the action on the first 3 nights. A highlight for me was Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr and Naito vs Ibushi.
This year I have seen Naito, Ibushi and Zack live and I am thrilled. Props to XWA for their work to get Ibushi over. I saw him ride a bicycle as a weapon. It was superb. Another British promotion doing all they can for fans.
Then I went on holiday and, with a long drive to Cornwall and a cottage in the middle of nowhere it is safe to say I was unsure if I would get any Japanese wrestling action in my 2 weeks away. I arrive to find WIFI! Yes technology – you prove yourself as amazing. Fortunately, my kids decided to wake up for the first 3 or 4 nights at 6am, a good 3 hours before anyone else in the house. All I needed to do was feed the Little Rascals and put on CBeebies. TV parenting for a few hours whilst their daddy watched some of the worlds best strong style the shit out of each other.
I do plan to watch the g1 over again with more attention paid to the great work of these athletes. My favourite match is probably Omega vs Elgin which had me visibly animated, but this is a series of matches where top matches are everywhere. I even enjoyed the Omega vs Yano piece of work that the internet went crae crae about. I found it refreshing and entertaining. In a series of matches that are all about strong style, sometimes you need to have something distract you or offer something completely different. I know I am in the minority when I say that Yano is needed in the G1 to offer something different. Having said that, I haven’t watched Elgin v Yano but have heard terrible things. I am looking forward to seeing this 4 minute train wreck.
Finally, the quality of refereeing is getting a lot of attention. I don’t see it as a massive issue, they are no where near as bad as Chris Roberts! (Love you Roberts…. Sort of)
I believe NJPW really does offer an alternative to the WWE’s corporate, sterile product. They are constantly adding English content, the browsing experience is in a much better place. We also have an NJPW Europe store – whilst highly limited, it does offer the opportunity to support our favourite members of the New Japan roster… sort of.