Growing up, I’ve always watched American Pro Wrestling such as the WWF (now WWE) and WCW. When YouTube was invented, I started seeing my favourite North American wrestlers in a whole different setting: Japanese pro wrestling. Since then, I had dreamed of watching Japanese pro wrestling. My dream came true when I got tickets for the 15th night of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) G1 Climax 29 tournament in Hamamatsu on August 7th. I could not help notice the differences between American and Japanese pro wrestling, and pro-wrestling on TV and live.
Highlights of Night 15 of G1 Climax 29
I get to the Hamamatsu arena and see many people scattered around. I enter the arena and see a wrestler and pioneer of MMA I’ve always admired: Minoru Suzuki. Nobody seemed to want to come near him. I guess it’s his murderer-like scowl. I reach for my cellphone to take a picture and Suzuki looks at me as if he really wanted to kill me. I see above his head a sign that says, “No Photography.”
I enter the room where the ring is; it’s much bigger on TV. On the screen above the ramp wrestlers use to go to the ring, messages such as “don’t touch the wrestlers” and “If wrestlers come towards you, get out of the way” are displayed. I didn’t know how useful this message would be until the first match.
The event begins with a 3 vs 3 match: Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji and Toru Yano vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi and Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki chases one of his opponents into the crowd, frightens the spectators in front of me, knocks over their chairs and throws them at his opponent. Good thing I got out of his way. Suzuki’s team wins.
I am excited to see Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose). He teams up with Shota Umino to take on Yoshi Hashi and Hirooki Goto. The match is short but each wrestler pulled a few exciting moves.
My favourite match is Will Ospreay vs. Kenta Kobashi. Throughout the match, Ospreay performs high-risk areal moves that dazzled the crowd.
Although EVIL and Kazuchika Okada rely mainly on strikes in their match, it is great to see Okada show the crowd the IWGP Heavyweight
Pro Wrestling Live vs. Pro Wrestling on TV
I have to admit, on TV, pro wrestling looks a lot more serious than live. At the G1 Climax, Jon Moxley jumped up and down and clapped his hands like a little girl when Shota Umino suplexed Yoshi Hashi. At the end of the match, when Moxley got in Hirooki Goto’s face and both men threatened each other, both men looked like bullies from a vaudevillian act.
The feel of the arena is also quite different. On TV, arenas look bigger, lights look brighter, and commentators add to the excitement. In the arena, that night, a tall man sat in front of me a blocked my view, making it hard for me to see the wrestlers when they would go to the ground or out of the ring. On TV, the cheers and jeers of the crowd fade in the background. In the arena, some guys behind you shout in your ear the names of their favourite wrestlers as if their cheers would change the outcome of the match decided long before the event.
I guess they were just having fun.
American Pro Wrestling of the ’90s vs Current Japanese Pro Wrestling
The American pro wrestling landscape is and was filled with giants who weighed over 250 lbs with arms bigger than the average person’s
waist. In Japan, both Japanese and foreign wrestlers had believable physiques. They were muscular but they looked more like Olympians than body builders.
In the American Pro Wrestling of the 1990s, wrestlers kept using throws. In Japan, however, especially that night in Hamamatsu, wrestlers relied mainly on strikes.
American pro wrestling of the ’90s relies on soap opera-like storylines whereas Japanese pro wrestling focuses more on wrestling and less on talking.
Which is Best?
If you like stories, watch WWE and old American pro-wrestling.
If you like wrestling or something that mimics an athletic contest, go for Japanese pro wrestling new and old.