Fans of professional wrestling are living in a golden age right now. Not only is the talent level of wrestlers around the world at a peak that fans have never seen before, but it’s also easier than ever to enjoy promotions from around the world, thanks to the magic of the Internet and streaming platforms.
One professional wrestling company I’ve been enjoying for the last couple of years is the largest in Japan, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). With the company recently putting on their annual Wrestle Kingdom event in the Tokyo Dome in early January, all eyes are on them for a little while, which is why it’s a great time to learn the basics needed to enjoy the high-quality matches that this promotion puts out on a regular basis.
NJPW was first launched in 1972 by famed Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. The company has changed hands multiple times but, as of 2012, is majority-owned by multimedia company Bushiroad (TV Asahi and Amuse Inc. own minority stakes).
The company’s first excursion into the US came in 2011, when they toured the east coast. The following year’s King of Pro-Wrestling pay-per-view was the first NJPW event that viewers outside of Japan were able to order online, via the website Ustream. Over the coming years, NJPW would slowly increase its presence in the United States more and more, leading to 2019 when the promotion held both the first night of the G1 Climax tournament and the Super J Cup tournament on American soil throughout the year. This excitement was capped off with the announcement in October 2019 that NJPW would be opening a US-based expansion at some point in the near future.
One thing that NJPW does better than almost anyone else is tournaments. While there are many different tournaments that happen throughout the year, there are two in particular that we’re highlighting in this article: the Best Of The Super Juniors and the G1 Climax. In both of these tournaments, the rules are pretty simple: two groups of 10 wrestle face each other in round-robin style singles matches. At the end of the tournament, the top scorers of each block face off, with the winner receiving a title match for their respective weight class (Junior Heavyweight for the BOTSJ tournament and heavyweight for G1 Climax). For the last few years, the BOTSJ title match has taken place at Dominion while the G1 Climax title match has taken place at Wrestle Kingdom.
Major Annual Events
New Japan Pro Wrestling holds many events each year, but there are a few notable annual events that are particularly important to both the fans and the company.
Wrestle Kingdom is the first big event of each calendar year. Held in January, Wrestle Kingdom is the New Japan Pro Wrestling equivalent of WWE’s Wrestlemania. Held in the Tokyo Dome each year, this event is the culmination of all the storylines and events that have occurred over the last twelve months. In 2019, the event was even bigger, with it taking place over two nights as opposed to one.
The New Beginning
Usually held in Osaka in February, this is the second big event of the year, which sees the start of many storylines and programs between the athletes. As the name suggests, it’s seen as a brand new start each year.
If you’re interested in seeing the best of the light heavyweights do battle against each other in the ring, the Dominion event, held in July, is your ticket to that. At this annual event, the Best of the Super Juniors tournament concludes with a match to determine which light heavyweight is the champion of the tournament.
The first major event after the G1 Climax tournament, this annual event usually occurs in September and will often feature the winner of the G1 Climax putting his heavyweight title match certificate on the line against a challenger.
And there you have it! These are the basics that you need to know about New Japan Pro Wrestling in order to start diving in and watch sweaty, muscle-bound men rolling around on the canvas mat for your entertainment! 2020 is going to be an amazing year for the promotion, so if you haven’t gotten your foot in the door yet, now is a fantastic time to do it!