Ever since we booked tickets to Japan, I wanted to go to a New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) show. In the past year, I’ve slowly, somehow gotten back into wrestling1. It was a pretty big part of my childhood. The extent of my knowledge is that AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are from NJPW. And that they’re closer to NXT shows size-wise than they are WWE shows. I’ve wanted to go to an NXT show so this would be close.
Getting tickets was a more complicated than expected. The expectation being you go to, say, Ticketmaster Japan and order with like 8 clicks. Not quite. After giving up on the machine at the convenience store, we asked a hotel attendant if he knew anything about tickets for the show. When or where it was. He made some calls, wrote things down, wrote them down again phonetically, and explained that we’d need to go to the box office. Early.
I’m not entirely sure how ingrained in Japanese culture pro wrestling is. Before leaving, we asked the hotel attendant if he was familiar with NJPW, and he replied about the same as you might expect a friendly hotel attendant in America to: I know some characters because my friends watch.
After getting to Tokyo Stadium2, we saw a gigantic gigantic line. Like hundreds of people long. For a second I thought that was for the wrestling show. Then I remembered it was a wrestling show and knew that definitely wasn’t the line. (It was for a Giants/Tigers game — think Yankees/Red Sox.)
The Tokyo Dome reminds me of an old Hulk Hogan video tape that we had with some of his matches. I won’t even say it was the best of compilation. Because if it has a match with Hulk Hogan and Stan Hansen in Tokyo then I can think of five bigger leg drops without much thought. but it always gave me the impression that wrestling was huge in Japan.
2000-seat Korakuen Hall is great venue. The only other wrestling show I’ve been to is Monday Night Raw, which was in the 18,000 seat Honda Center. Korakuen Hall is the size of a large high school gym. I understand why people say NXT shows feel so cool because of the small venues.
I was surprised how… normal everybody looked in the crowd. A couple guys in suits. It’s not still real to them.
I knew the Bullet Club was some kind of nWo-type faction with better shirts. I didn’t expect them to be a bunch of cowards. Pretty much doing a good job being heels. I can picture AJ Styles there. He’s the right size and it’s pretty apparent what people mean when they say Vince McMahon is a body guy. NJPW doesn’t have as many guys with that kind of body type.
There were a couple of matches involving 8 to 10 people. Good matches usually aren’t composed of random people put together as teams. These weren’t good matches, But I was happy to see all the different characters. Wrestling is different in Japan but heels are heels and the baby faces are baby faces and it was pretty clear who’s who.
There weren’t many promos being cut and there wasn’t much story progression. From what I gather could gather, most of the matches were part of an ongoing tournament, sort of like King of the Ring.
Ricochet and Will Ospreay wrestled and it was the highlight of the night. They brought the house down. Meaning the crowd clapped vigorously. I mistakenly thought this kind of match was routine for NJPW main events.
Afterward, I was trying to find highlights from the match and started to the tweets and articles about how great the match was. Later followed by former wrestlers arguing amongst each other about whether it was a good match or not. My two cents: it was awesome3. I’m a casual fan. My girlfriend is the girlfriend of a casual fan, meaning she watches more wrestling than anyone probably should. It was one of the highlights of the trip.
I’d say it was a pretty major part of my childhood. Pre-Monday Night Wars, I thought it was real. I was into it through the Monday Night Wars and slowly stopped watching. In the ticket office line, we happened to be standing in front of another group from New York. One of them had just about the same story: they’ve gotten back into wrestling in the past year or so and came because it’s supposed to be like an NXT event. There must be dozens of us. ↩
The area around the Tokyo Dome was pretty cool also. It was sort of an amusement park and mall mashed together. ↩
Especially when a guy about ten rows back yelled, “THIS IS AWESOME.” and got the chant going. He was absolutely right. ↩