FEATURE: The Wrestling Streaming World Tour Part Four



FEATURE: The Wrestling Streaming World Tour Part Four


Japan

Welcome back, time to talk about Japanese pro wrestling or as it’s called by fans of Japanese wrestling; Puroresu.  I should get this out of the way. I LOVE Japanese wrestling. I love the athleticism, I love the sports-like feel, and I love the tradition. Also, there’s a lot of promotions in Japan, nearly fifty. And a lot of them have some sort of streaming service or a channel on YouTube or Twitch and if we start talking about bootleg streams… *ahem* that number gets even higher. So, I have to be really selective.  (My personal favorite promotion, Pro Wrestling NOAH didn’t even make the cut because they don’t have an official service.)

Therefore I’ve picked three that I think cover the best of what Japanese wrestling has to offer: New Japan Pro Wrestling, Dramatic Dream Team and StarDOM.



New Japan Pro Wrestling, also known as NJPW or New Japan is the number two promotion in the world in terms of size and income but most will argue that they’re number one in terms of quality of product and connection with the fanbase.  They’re also number one in Japan and unlike in a lot of other places around the planet when I say number one I mean it.  WWE does not have a strong foothold in Japan.

New Japan call themselves the “King of Sports” and it’s hard to argue.  They were founded in 1972 by Japanese legend Antonio Inoki when it became harder and harder to get NWA Champions to tour Japan.  I spoke of a sports-like feel before and this is what I mean.  Japanese promotions generally don’t do weekly television and the stories reflect that.  New Japan has five big events: Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th every year in the Tokyo Dome, the New Japan Cup in March, the Best of the Super-Juniors tournament in May, the G1 Climax in late July/early August and the World Tag League in late November/early December.

Wrestle Kingdom is essentially the WrestleMania for New Japan but the event that sets it up is the G1 Climax.  Twenty men divided into two blocks will wrestle for three weeks and the winners of each block compete for a contract to challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Currently, Kenny Omega) in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom.  The G1 is a star-making tournament and with very few exceptions, just being in the tournament will boost a man’s career.

It’s not just about the events, New Japan has boasted some of the best wrestlers on the planet the last fifteen years.  I can just list some of the more recent IWGP Champions and it’ll read like a Hall of Fame ballot: Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. 

The first three men on that list are currently the top of the promotion and will likely be the core of New Japan for the next decade and Omega and Okada are arguably the two best wrestlers in the world if not two of the greatest of all time.

But don’t just take my word for it, try out their highlight show on AXS and their streaming service, NJPWWorld.



If New Japan is the King of Sport, then Dramatic Dream Team Pro Wrestling aka DDT is… I’m not sure how to put it in words.  Have you ever seen the video on YouTube of the guy wrestling a blow-up doll?



That’s DDT and more importantly that is DDT’s heart, soul and one-time Ace, the Golden Star Kota Ibushi.  Ibushi, alongside Kenny Omega put DDT on the map as a tag team called The Golden Lovers (the pair recently reunited in New Japan and it’s been a very good storyline and it’s very complicated because no one is quite sure exactly what kind of friends Kenny and Kota are.)



DDT isn’t afraid to do anything and that insanity is often quite beautiful.  You’re as likely to see a five-star match in DDT as you are to see two guys fighting with fireworks in an abandoned factory and it all works because of that lack of fear.  Their streaming service, DDT-Universe can give you a taste of what they have to offer but don’t say I didn’t warn you.  It’s as addictive as it is insane.



Lastly, where would the Kings of Sport be without a Queen? Women’s professional wrestling (called Joshi Puroresu) in Japan has a long tradition of not just being as good as men’s but at times even more popular.  The current top Joshi promotion is StarDOM. (The names of the promotions can get a little eccentric; for example another Joshi promotion: SEAdLINNNG) Stardom was started in 2010 and despite its start as something of a gravure promotion (think half-wrestling/half-bikini model) Stardom quickly gained a reputation for top-tier women’s wrestling with the rise of Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo (Now Kairi Sane in NXT.)

Shirai and Hojo had some of the best matches anywhere and once current top star Mayu Iwatani hit the scene Stardom quickly became one of the most entertaining promotions anywhere.  They’ve also brought in plenty of foreign talent over the last few years, most notably rising star from Australia, Toni Storm.

Their streaming service, Stardom World is a steal at under seven bucks a month.

There’s a ton of others I could mention, New Japan’s longtime rival promotion, All-Japan Pro Wrestling has recently launched their service and if you’re into deathmatch style, Big Japan Pro Wrestling has a very good service as well.  If you want more Joshi there’s the WAVE Network. Really Japan has got a ton of choices for the wrestling fan.

And that’s it, around the wrestling world in less than eighty days.  I hope you give pro wrestling a try and if you’re already a fan of WWE I hope you give some of these promotions a try.  I really think wrestling has something for everyone to enjoy and the best advice I can give you is just dive in.  I promise you’ll find something you like as much as I do.

And maybe stay off reddit… #JustSayin’

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