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Damn that was a good show, and here is why.

Hey, gang. We are into the new year and honestly I’ve not been in the greatest frame of mind. Just haven’t been feeling all that good about anything lately and news bombardment of Trump’s band of flunkies all the time isn’t helping, but that’s a rant for another day.

One of the better things that brightened me out of my funk for a little while was Wrestle Kingdom 11, a wrestling event out of Japan that has garnered a lot of hype here in the States, even to fans who don’t follow the Japanese wrestling scene at all. It was a stacked 5-hour show that was broadcast in both English and Japanese through New Japan World, NJPW’s streaming website.

Holy shit was it amazing!

Now WrestleKingdom is the biggest show of the year for the biggest company in Japan, New Japan Pro Wrestling. The event is held every year at the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. Although this is the 11th WrestleKingdom, the January 4th Tokyo dome show has been held since 1992, just under different names. This year’s event was headlined but IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada facing the challenge of Kenny “The Cleaner” Omega, The Canadian who is the leader of the evil Bullet Club. The rest of the show featured 10 other matches, with 7 of them being title matches.

Now, I try to follow New Japan as part of reviewing the American show on Friday nights. I had seen WrestleKingdom 9 and 10 so I know how good these show can be, but even with all that this show blew them away, let alone anything the WWE has put on lately. I was into it from the first match until all the way to the end of the incredible main event.

But why? Why did I get into this show more than any of the WWE stuff?

Every wrestling fan is different of course. And much to WWE’s dislike, we don’t all do or feel the same way. For me, looking at this event made me think more than any other why I enjoyed this show more.  Found quite a few in thinking it over.

First thing I think it the exposure. The WWE puts on 5 to 7 hours a week that I watch. Even if the shows are supposed to be “separate” and in competition with each other, it’s pretty much the same thing every time. Personally, WWE’s “205” show is my favorite. But I watch RAW and smackdown as well. With the Japan stuff, I watch the weekly AXS TV show, but that action is usually six months or more old before it airs on TV here in the States. Any of the event leading up to WrestleKingdom was covered in a Japanese language video, or read up on. I didn’t have to wade through a ton of shit to get to the point or the stuff I wanted to see.

Speaking of shit, even in it’s day to day stuff, New Japan doesn’t have the writing the WWE has and that is fine by me. Sure, NJPW has some real duds like Yoshi Tatsu’s imitation of Triple H or the Bullet Club’s lack of originality, but they also don ‘t have the owner’s kids sucking up screen time and 30-minute promos with the same cheesy lines over and over again. Specifically, with WrestleKingdom, it was all action and not much else. Not comedy skits, no long overdrawn promos, and no boring segments where they desperately tried to show people that they can be relevant and funny. Hell, the comedy New Japan Rumble before the show had more action than anything the WWE does. Yes. The opener of the Wrestlekingdom show was essentially a promo for Tiger Mask W, but under those masks were two VERY talented guys having a good match.

The wrestling itself was on a much different level as well. It was more realistic and you could see almost everyone on the card was putting all their effort into the match. Even those that aren’t known for their epic wrestling (Yoshi, Bone Soldier, and some of the older guys) were grouped into the Rumble that covered that up. In the WWE, hell that would get you in the main event!

The event also didn’t seem forced. It’s a little hard to describe but sometimes WWE’s programming feels like someone trying to shove a square wood block through a round hole on some kids toy. Maybe it’s the stuff scripted to the nth degree, the bad acting, or what, but the NJPW stuff seems to flow more naturally, largely because their reasons for fighting are either one guy wants to overcome the challenge of the other, one guy thinks the win of the match will make them a bigger star, or something to do with groups fighting each other and very little else. Maybe it’s Japanese sensibility, there creative keeping things simple, or they just realize they aren’t soap opera writers makes NJPW easier to watch for me.

There are probably a lot more reasons that I haven’t found that made this show so into this show, be it the better actual wrestling, the halfway decent English commentary, or the fact that it is just a step away from the norm, but whatever it may be, I suggest you try to catch the show even if you are only a casual wrestling. A place like YouTube, daily motion, and New Japan world have it online, while AXS begins covering this show Friday night.

So things aren’t completely terrible. You just gotta look for the good stuff out there!

You can see my published work HERE

You can see my work for Japanator HERE and Tomopop HERE

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