A Drink at the Inn With: Matt Charlton

Author and illustrator, Matt Charlton has recently released his stunning new book, the second volume in the J Crowned: An Illustrated Guide to the Champions of Japanese Wrestling series. Created as a means to “to inform and take steps against the forgetting of the magnificent men and women who have done battle in the ring”, Charlton has elected to take on a mountainous task that he takes great pride in, seeking to provide an important foothold that refuses to let the greats of years past fade with time.

In this exclusive interview with Wrestle Inn, Charlton talks to us about his newest volume, the future plans for J Crowned and his views on wrestling in 2020.

What was the reception like for volume 1?
The reception to volume 1 was staggering…Just so many generous hearted people who were so kind about the book, something I’m so incredibly grateful for.

Which wrestlers were your personal favourites to cover in volume 2?
That’s a tough one…There’s a few people in the book who I have a personal connection with like the wonderful Kris Wolf or the former Fergal Devitt, so it was a real pleasure to share their stories. Likewise there are those performers I’ve always loved, like Kaori Yoneyama or Shuji Kondo whose exploits need to be yelled from the roof tops…I don’t know, from legends who people mightn’t venerate as much as they should like Masanobu Fuchi to youngsters who came and went like Koguma, it was never a chore to write about any of these lives.

Why was it important for you to dedicate a portion of the book to the women champions?
There was never any question of doing a book about Japanese wrestling champions and not including at least one contemporary women’s wrestling organization alongside the AJW legends. AJW and the World of Stardom were originally part of the first book, before the publisher decided to put the focus on the three championships that ended up in Volume 1, so I’ve been impatient to get those biographies out into the world. Jaguar Yokota, Kyoko Inoue, Bull and Aja are just timeless legends…and with the Stardom/NEO section, taking pleasure in being able to talk about Meiko Satomura, Kaori Yoneyama and Nanae Takahashi, for example, with the hope that people will explore outwards from Stardom and see just how rich and diverse the women’s scene is in Japan right now.

Bull Nakano, as as illustrated in J Crowned Volume 2

What are the future plans for J Crowned? Can we expect volume 3?
I have an unfortunate need to keep working and planning, so absolutely, yes. I spoke with a collaborator earlier in the year saying that once volume 2 was out in the open we’d finalize a schedule for something I’m really excited about…it might take a year or so to get it finished, not quite volume 3, but exploring the potential of this kind of format to provide in depth knowledge of a specific company. Haha, this time I’m planning on sticking to drawing…In truth, there’s a world of pro wrestling out there and there has been for a hundred years, for the rest of my life I’ll be trying to draw people’s attention to it somehow.

What are your feelings on wrestling in 2020?
That’s a very big question…Wrestling is like music, movies, literature and art, you know? It’s a medium of communication…and whatever happens, it’s the highest art form in the world to me, that’ll never change. Haha, I’ve wrestled and I’ve run my own wrestling company (to the point of mental and financial collapse), so I’ve found a way to always look at the murky water in the glass and see it as half full. Haha, specific companies, people and places we could talk about for days though, I was bending my brother’s ear about it just last night…

What have been your wrestling highlights this year?
Despite the difficulties we’ve faced this year, there have still been some tremendous matches and people who have reached out and had career best years…Both Risa Sera and Rina Yamashita stand together at the front among the wrestlers of the year, with their blood soaked match in August essential viewing. NOAH have had a remarkable year too, haven’t they? Go Shiozaki, literally shouldering the weight of the world as we see ourselves in him and will him to overcome his trials…New Japan were derailed worse than most by covid, but Hiromu still brings joy, fluffy haired summer KENTA was a delight too…oh and seeing Dick Togo back on a grand stage is almost worth the price of admission in itself.

You have a table at Wrestle Inn. What meal are you eating, what drink are you drinking, and what two wrestlers are you bringing for company?
We’ve been through a long phase of bars being closed here because of covid, the best breakfast is Spanish Omelette and I miss it, do you think Wrestle Inn could whip me up one of those with cheese and mushrooms? I’m drinking coffee at all hours of the day, so a mug of coffee please…um, Joe Legend is the best company, I love that man and he’s gone through a rough time recently, so I’ll definitely go out with him and, lets say Alex Shelley to round out the three…Those two know each other well and he’s been reading Alan Watts recently and so have I, so I’d love to chat about reading matter and the Time-Splitters.

Click here to purchase J Crowned Volume 2 from Amazon

Click here to purchase J Crowned Volume 1 from Amazon

Click here to follow Matt Charlton on Twitter @ShiningWizardDs

Click here to read our review of J Crowned Volume 2