When I first heard of New Japan Professional Wrestling, it was by some red faced dude getting fired up because he was none too happy that all I knew at the time was WWE and TNA. He then proceeded to angrily tell me about Ring of Honor and New Japan Professional Wrestling.
Understandably, I was confused. Mostly with whatever happened to Old Japan. I hope it’s doing okay.
But after that, I was hearing more and more about it, and about some group called Bullet Club. About how people were recommending it for those tired of WWE. At the time I didn’t see why people were mad about WWE. I was one of those fans.
Then came the moment my brother showed me an episode of NJPW on AXS TV and in that moment, the aesthetic felt like something else. Nostalgic, yet modern. Classic, yet cool. I felt like I was watching the Attitude Era and Nitro episodes I’d see when I was a kid.
This was what I saw in my first match: a bald man that looked as though one of the Ninja Turtles achieved human form, and I mean that in the best way. This man was Tomohiro Ishii. Sitting in the corner across from him was a man in a leather jacket with sunglasses. His hair was silver and black. It was Bullet Club member, Kenny Omega.
These men moved in ways I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. They were really hitting each other. The turtle dude was awesome, but this Cleaner dude magnetized me. And guess what? He won. Sorry Ishii. I do not remember when this match was or where it happened. But I never forgot this moment.
Something about the turnbuckle and the cerulean blue and the dark arena felt magical. This was something different from what I was used to.
And then I didn’t watch any more. It wasn’t WWE and nobody from WWE was there, at least none that I knew and recognized at the time.
However, back in the land of sports entertainment, I have these people who were said to have made their name in Japan. Ricochet, Finn Balor, War Raiders, AJ Styles, Asuka, Io Shirai, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Especially Asuka and Shinsuke. The more I watched, the more I was interested. I’d watch YouTube clips here and there, and Super Eyepatch Wolf’s first video on pro wrestling kept me watching this form of fiction, but it was his retelling of the story of the Golden Lovers.
It was the aspect of long-term storytelling, spanning about a decade mixed with everything I already loved, that at last convinced me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the types of wrestling I had not seen before.
As often as I could, I would watch these matches on AXS TV until I no longer had coverage for AXS. I didn’t look much further after that and moved on.
Fast-forward to February, 2021, when it was announced past patches from Wrestle Kingdom 14 onward would be streaming every Thursday on the Roku Channel, and I’ve been watching ever since; I was finally able to catch up with the rest of the world on some of the big events: Jushin Thunder Liger’s retirement, Jon Moxley regaining the U.S. title, EVIL defecting from Los Ingobernables de Japon to Bullet Club… pretty much anything that was significant that had happened, I got to see.
And what I do miss out on, I’ve got my friends at Wrestle Inn and my friend in Mith Gifs Wrestling to inform me of all I need to know.
But one of these days, I’ll be able to catch up and see what I’ve missed out on. Soon, I’ll finally be able to see what the hype for the Omega/Okada series is all about…
Until then, I’ll find out what happened to Old Japan.