J-Crowned: An Illustrated Guide To The Champions Of Japanese Wrestling, Volume 2 – Book Review

Deeper than anything you can read anywhere else, J Crowned: An Illustrated Guide to the Champions of Japanese Wrestling Volume 2 encompasses the enormity of six different Japanese championships in stellar fashion, a vivid pleasure to read: Wikipedia with depth, dedication, and heart.

Author and illustrator Matt Charlton provided an indispensable book to the wrestling library when his first volume released earlier this year, initially covering the origins of wrestling in Japan and the heavyweight champions of years past. This second volume focuses on the junior heavyweight champion lineage and the everlasting women of Japanese pro-wrestling, single-handedly ensuring their importance to wrestling will never be forgotten.

Specifically, this book covers the journey of each wrestler to have held NJPW’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, AJPW’s World Junior Heavyweight Championship, NOAH’s GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, AJW’s WWWA World Championship and finally Stardom’s World of Stardom Championship and High Speed Championship. In covering these champions, J Crowned provides a broad picture that encapsulates far more than the just the champions and their achievements: naturally offering an overview of each wrestler’s legacy that remains visible in wrestling rings today and a vaster look at the wider wrestling landscape in decades past.

Your first introduction to each champion is through Charlton’s talented and distinct art. Each wrestler is depicted in grand detail, extending to the titles themselves and Charlton’s recommendations for classic matches, his art capturing pivotal moments in the heated battles. Between drawing, writing and self-publishing, there can be no arguments about Charlton’s unprecedented dedication and hard-work combining to make J Crowned truly special.

Manami Toyota, as illustrated in J Crowned Volume 2

The women’s section is of particular note, a large portion of the book deservedly dedicated to the deity-like figures who helped pave the way for the explosion of women’s wrestling across the world today. As somebody who’s attention is constantly caught by the remarkable superstars of Stardom but has no knowledge of the promotion, I was engrossed by the women’s section and gained a bottomless appreciation for the stars of past and present, and that’s before I’ve begun seeking out any of their matches. It’s proof of the power behind Charlton’s work – lending his wise words to showcase the significance of each wrestler so much so that I have a deep respect for wrestlers I was unaware of a few hours ago, and that is where the strength of Charlton’s work truly lies.

Woven into the profiles are a treasure trove of trivia, such as Jaguar Yokota being the innovator for both the Jackhammer and Tiger Bomb, and Naomichi Marufuji being the first man to win the IWGP, GHC and AJPW Junior Heavyweight Championships. It’s impossible to finish this book and not have a bevvy of interesting insight implanted in your head.

Impressively, J Crowned works as both a simplistic introduction for new fans and a detailed dive for old fans. It is never dull, even when covering champions you already know of, a credit to Charlton’s writing which is able to breath life into what could have been ponderous. The true excitement is found in those you are not aware of, a thrill in finding something previously unknown that drives you to search for more.

Hiromu Takahashi, as illustrated in J Crowned Volume 2

Astonishing is Charlton’s ability to condense a wrestler’s legacy into a single page. Entire books could be written about titans such as Jushin Thunder Liger or Manami Toyota – legends that changed the entirety of wrestling – yet Charlton manages to provide a spectacular level of insight in the single page he dedicates to each champion. He provides the perfect splash of information, enought to understand the wrestler’s importance and their journey’s to and with the titles, but leaving the reader the luxury to further research favourites online, even offering particular stand-out matches.

Wikipedia may have a list of reigns for each title, but what J Crowned offers in comparison is immeasurable, and for the ludicrously low price of only £3/$4 (for the digital edition), Charlton and J Crowned more than merit your attention, acclaim and love.

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 interview with Matt Charlton.

While J-Crowned Volume 1 provides illustrated biographies of some of the most famous heavyweights to reign as champions in New Japan, All Japan and Pro-Wrestling NOAH Volume 2 contains the Junior Heavyweight Championship lineages of those same companies. It broadens its range by including stars of AJW and those women who have held The World of Stardom and NEO High Speed Championships. A celebration of the individuals who have achieved excellence within the realm of pro-wrestling, J-Crowned Volume 2 continues the acclaimed series which exists to inform and take steps against the forgetting of the magnificent men and women who have done battle in the ring.