New Japan Pro-Wrestling for Beginners: Part 1 – What to Know
If you are a long time WWE fan, new to wrestling, or just got on the New Japan Pro-Wrestling train after watching the finals of G1 Climax 27, it may be confusing on where to start or continue after starting. Let me provide some information that helped when I started a year ago and what has happened since. I joined www.njpwworld.com the morning of the finals of G1 Climax 26. After finishing the finals, I was ready to watch more. I had questions such as:
- When is their version of Monday Night Raw?
- Who are all these guys in groups?
- Who are all these guys?
Google was providing information, but I needed someone to explain it where I could just jump in and have a rough understanding. Then I went to /r/njpw and was provided information and recommended matches. Now that the finals of G1 Climax 27, I’ve seen people posting the type of questions I had when I joined. Hopefully this can be a resource for new fans that can be referenced and shared with other new fans. Thanks to these redditors for explaining this stuff to me a year ago: xorangeelephant, Savagekoala93, standingdropkick, LongWangDynasty, Showbuckle, Expletius, Ezzanine, Eagle0825, Sir-Cadogan, and wander_endless.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling does not have a weekly Raw type show. They have monthly Pay-Per-Views that are available by subscribing to www.njpwworld.com. Leading up to each PPV there are “Road to” shows. Usually these are loaded with multi-man tag matches. This seems to be for a few reasons:
- The fans area able to see more wrestlers.
- The wrestlers are able to take it a little easier.
- Fueds can stem from these matches by who gets a pin fall on who.
- Tease feuds and upcoming main events.
The big show schedule is:
- Wrestle Kingdom – January 4th each year (also known as the January 4 Tokyo Dome Show)
- New Beginning – February
- Sakura Genesis (Previously Invasion Attack) – April
- Wrestling Dontaku – May
- Dominion – June
- Destruction – September (Three shows now)
- King of Pro-Wrestling – October (Second Monday – Health and Sports Day)
- Power Struggle – November
In addition to the major shows, New Japan also has tournaments:
- New Japan Cup – March – Single elimination style with the winner choosing a shot for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship or the NEVER Openweight Championship.
- Best of the Super Juniors – Mid-May – Beginning-June – Round-robin style with the winners to face off in the finals.
- G1 Special in USA – Beginning-July – New two day event with a single elimination tournament for new IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. This was the first event held in the US, so it is unknown if this will be annual or if the next US event will be different.
- G1 Climax – Mid-July – Mid-August – Round-robin style with two block winners facing off for an opportunity to face the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at WrestleKingdom.
- Super J-Cup – End-August – Junior Heavyweight singles tournament. Returned after a seven years in 2016, but I have not seen anything about it coming back this year.
- Super Jr. Tag Tournament – End-October – Beginning-November – Junior Heavyweight Tag tournament.
- World Tag League – End-November – Beginning-December – Same as G1 Climax, but for IWGP Tag Team Championship.
New Japan also has cross promotion events with CMLL, What Culture Pro Wrestling, ROH, and other independents.
New Japan is presented more like a sport than entertainment. Which is why the ring looks to have so many ads and not like a male soap opera. Stories are told in-ring or in post match interviews. The titles are named for the International Wrestling Grand Prix, like a kayfabe boxing commission for wrestling.
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Main title.
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Actually feels important unlike the current WWE version.
- IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship – This is a new title as of July 2, 2017.
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – Seems as important as the Heavyweight titles. Even main events shows.
- IWGP Tag Team Championship – Has been pretty lack luster this year, but the current champs have made it pretty good.
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – Great matches and seem more important than the IWGP Tag Team Championship currently.
- NEVER Openweight Championship – This was supposed to allow small guys and big guys to have matches against each other, but has been pretty boring.
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship – A fun idea having a trios belt without weight class, but does not seem important.
NJPW has many stables. The most known being Bullet Club for outsiders. The italics portion is the first thing that came to mind about each name.
CHAOS – Was a heel faction formed by Shinsuke Nakamura. Now they are more babyface. There is no clear leader, but Okada is the current Ace of New Japan (top guy.)
- Kazuchika Okada – Finisher: The Rainmaker (a lariat.) This guy has what some people are saying the best year in wrestling ever.
- Hirooki Goto – Described to me as the guy who comes close. He had some great matches with Kenny Omega last year.
- Tomohiro Ishii – Big tough looking guy who usually has pretty physical matches.
- YOSHI-HASHI – Puts on good matches, but nothing really stood out character wise this last year.
- Toru Yano – Makes this weird face and throws his hands up like a “What? Me?” type of expression. Always hitting low blows or other shenanigans.
- Gedo – Usually comes out with Okada, has a bandana that covers his eyes, and is co-head booker. Sometimes wrestles.
- Jado – Co-head booker and sometimes wrestles.
- Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta (Roppongi Vice) – Recently this team broke up. Rocky told Trent that he could go on to the heavy weight division.
- Will Ospreay – UK guy who does amazing acrobatics.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) – Heel stable, but gaining popularity like nWo and Bullet Club. CMLL has the original Los Ingobernables. This faction is very popular with the Japanese fans and has a very solid group of wrestlers. They are gaining ground with US fans as they now have shirts in Hot Topic also. Includes Daryl.
- Tetsuya Naito (leader) – Puts on amazing matches and looks super cool doing it. One of the best in NJPW.
SANADA – Comes out in a mask and baseball bat. Solid matches in the ring and seems like he is ready to have a big breakout year any time now.
EVIL – Comes out in a robe and plastic scythe. Just had a great run in G1 Climax 27.
BUSHI – Wears a luchador mask. Spits mist. Has had excellent matches against KUSHIDA this past year.
Hiromu Takahashi – Recently came back from CMLL and has great matches with KUSHIDA and Dragon Lee (CMLL). One of the top Junior Heavyweights. Carries Daryl.
Bullet Club – Heel stable with mostly Non-Japanese wrestlers. Most popular stable stateside with LIJ gaining traction.
- Kenny Omega (leader) – Finisher: The One-Winged Angel. The most protected finisher currently. No one kicks out of it. One of the best wrestlers at this time. Won G1 Climax 26 and part of some of the greatest wrestling matches ever this year.
- Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson (The Young Bucks) – Amazing tag team that are highly skilled and entertaining. They wrestle in the Jr. Heavyweight division.
- Marty Scurll – UK independent wrestler who just recently joined. He breaks peoples’ finger.
- Cody (Rhodes) – Debut match was at Wrestle Kingdom 11 against Juice Robinson, but challenged Okada at the G1 Special in Long Beach.
- Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga (Guerillas of Destiny) – Watchable tag team. Tama Tonga > Tanga Loa. Their matches are NSFW due to language.
- Bad Luck Fale – Former Rugby player from New Zealand. He is like the enforcer, but can have decent matches.
- Yujiro Takahashi – The Tokyo Pimp. Comes out with pretty ladies.
- Hangman Page – Has not done too much, but had some good matches on the under cards of some G1 shows this year. Including a IWGP Tag Team match with Cody.
- Chase Owens – Has not done too much
Past Notable Members
- Prince Devitt (Finn Balor)
- AJ Styles
- Karl Anderson
- Luke (Doc) Gallows
- Adam Cole
Suzuki-Gun – Heel stable which usually has interference in their matches. Suzuki-Gun just came back from being on loan to NOAH (another Japanese wrestling promotion.)
- Minoru Suzuki (leader) – This guy was a founder of MMA. He is scary and hits hard.
- Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer (Killer Elite Squad / KES) – I have not seen much of these guys as Lance Archer was injured earlier this year, but just came back at the G1 Climax 27 finals.
- El Desperado – Wears a luchador mask and currently has stolen the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.
- Taichi – Like a single boy band guy and comes out with an attractive lady.
- Taka Michinoku – Yes, the guy from WWE! He looks pretty good for an older fella.
- Takashi Iizuka – This guy looks crazy and is usually on a leash.
- Yoshinobu Kanemaru – I don’t know much about this guy.
- Zack Sabre Jr. – UK wrestler who recently joined Suzuki-Gun. Excellent mat and technical abilities.
Taguchi Japan – Babyface group that formed in 2017. This is not really a stable but a rotating group of wrestlers that are not in any other stable that form tag teams and trio tag teams.
- Ryusuke Taguchi (leader) – This guy throws his ass at people and goes by the name Funky Weapon. This sounds pretty 90’s WWF, but he is pretty good in the ring. Recently formed a tag team with Ricochet: Funky Future.
- Ricochet (Prince Puma) – This guy has more abs than the entire wrestling world put together. He is super acrobatic and extremely fun to watch. Has a couple matches with Will Ospreay that are highly recommended due to matching styles. Recently formed a tag team with Taguchi: Funky Future.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi – Previous Ace of New Japan. Rockstar level wrestler who puts on top tier matches. Also had the best hair, but recently cut it.
- KUSHIDA – Junior Heavyweight wrestler who is the current Ace of the division. Dresses like Marty McFly and current finishers are the Back to the Future and Hoverboard Lock.
- Juice Robinson – Used to be in NXT and came to New Japan Pro-Wrestling as a Young Lion. He has since become part of the main roster and had a great G1 Climax 27.
- David Finlay – Son of Fit Finlay. He is no longer a Young Lion, but has not really found himself.
- Manabu Nakanishi – Older wrestler that I am not familiar with his history.
Other Notable Wrestlers of New Japan Pro-Wrestling
- Katsuyori Shibata – This guy was brutal. His kicks were super hard and would headbutt opponents so hard his head would bleed. This lead to him having surgery and paralysis. He is moving now and showed up at the finals of G1 Climax 27 to a surprised crowd who cheered and cried.
- Michael Elgin – Strong guy out of Canada who previously also worked with ROH. He was part of the first ladder match with Kenny Omega in 2016 and consistently has high quality matches.
- Jushin Thuder Liger – You have probably heard of him if you are a wrestler fan and may recognize his mask if you are not. He wrestled his last Best of the Super Juniors this year. He is a legend.
- Tiger Mask IV – An older wrestler who has recently been made into an anime. Earlier this year a larger Tiger Mask made his debut with a tiger mask in the style of the anime and the body of Kota Ibushi.
- Kota Ibushi – A very free spirit guy who does not like commitment. He just came back during G1 Climax 27 and everyone is ready for a Ibushi/Omega match.
- Hanson and Raymond Row (War Machine) – An ROH tag team that are currently the IWGP Tag Team Champions and have given some life to the Heavyweight Tag Team division.
- Yoshitatsu – Sent to CMLL this year. Is in the Bullet Club Hunters (with one time partner Billy Gunn) which is in neo green like DX and does the HHH water bottle spit entrance and uses the Pedigree finisher.
- Young Lions – Trainees/rookies who will always take the pin fall in a multi-man match and are only allowed to wear trunks. These are the guys who are on the outside of the ring by the guardrails during matches.
- Excursion Boys – After some time, Young Lions are sent to another promotion like CMLL or ROH to gain additional experience outside NJPW.
There some older guys that I know have some major history in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but I do not feel like I can properly give an opinion on them. They are getting older, so while they are undercard now and still have fine matches, their prime was probably top notch:
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima (Tencozy) – Satoshi Kojima as the original leader of Kojima-Gun, but was kicked out, and the stable became Suzuki-Gun when the members went with Minoru Suzuki.
- Togi Makabe
- Tomoaki Honma – Seriously injured earlier this year, but is doing better.
- Yuji Nagata
Now that you know some information about New Japan Pro-Wrestling, next I will provide some matches that are worth watching to get caught up with current story lines: New Japan Pro-Wrestling: Part 2 – Where to Start.