So everyone’s been talking about New Japan and you’re yet to see what all the fuss is about? Or perhaps you tuned in for your first Wrestle Kingdom and you’re not sure where to go from here. Well here’s all you need to know about NJPW and how to watch it.
- How do I start watching?
- Important payment information
- AXS TV
- Sampling free NJPW content
- Young Lions
- Biggest events in the NJPW calendar
- List of recommended matches from the last year with links and English commentary
- Founded in 1972, New Japan Pro Wrestling is one of the hottest promotions in the world today, and in my opinion, produces the best quality pro wrestling matches on a regular basis.
- Some of the biggest names in pro wrestling history have competed for New Japan, including Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, Dusty Rhodes, and many more.
- Most of New Japan’s championships are branded with “IWGP”. This acronym stands for International Wrestling Grand Prix, which is a fictional governing sports body (similar to the likes of the WBA for professional boxing) used to give NJPW more legitimacy as a sport.
- The roster is split into two weight divisions: junior and heavyweight. The divisions are mostly kept separate in singles competition, and only usually meet in tag team matches.
- The junior division has two championships: the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, and the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships.
- The heavyweight division has one set of tag belts (IWGP Tag Team Championships), two mid-card belts (IWGP US Championships and IWGP Intercontinential Championship), and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the top prize in New Japan.
- Two sets of belts have no weight restrictions: the NEVER 6-Man Championships, and the NEVER Openweight Championships.
- Nearly every member of the New Japan roster is a part of a faction.
- There are five main groups in New Japan (now that The Elite are currently not a part of New Japan), as well as the Sekigun (Main Unit), made up of New Japan loyalists like Hiroshi Tanahashi that don’t belong to a specific group, yet are passionate for the company.
- CHAOS is the standard good guy faction. It may have lost a lot of power in the last year thanks to its leader, Kazuchika Okada, losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, as well as betrayal by former members Gedo and Jay White, but it’s still currently the longest-standing group in New Japan.
- Los Ingobernables de Japon are arguably the most popular group in the company today. They’re effortlessly cool, they do whatever they want, their bond is one of the strongest in NJPW, and fans go wild for them.
- Bullet Club without question are the most globally recognised group in New Japan. If you’ve seen a wrestling show in the last two years, you’ve seen one of their t-shirts. The group may be lacking its most popular stars it once had after a mass exit from The Elite a few months ago, yet their new leader, Jay White, is taking them back to their dastardly, villainous ways of the group’s origins.
- Suzuki-Gun, lead by the ruthless Minoru Suzuki, have a habit of attacking their opponents before every single match. Previously they have been exiled from New Japan for their antics. They’re violent, vicious, and rule-breaking.
- Taguchi Japan is pretty much the joke faction of New Japan. Lead by Rysuke Taguchi, mostly known as a comedy wrestler, it’s essentially a group of wrestlers that just want to have fun together. Never will you see this team presented as a real threat.
- Is there a weekly show?: Not as such. They don’t have a weekly television show like Raw or SmackDown, they have one or two big shows a month with smaller Road To shows leading up to them. The amount of shows depends on what month of the year it is: for example, New Japan have major tournaments four times a year, so when one of them is taking place, there will be more live shows than usual. For anybody with AXS TV: there is a weekly highlight show that shows matches from recent shows. As of 2019, the AXS show will be more up to date than it previously was, and has the same commentary team as NJPW World.
- How much of it is in English?: New Japan has made a major effort to make their content more accessible to English-speaking audiences over the last couple of years, and as such, all big shows now have English commentary available live, and most small shows do too. Also, there are English documentaries on NJPW World, as well as English captions for their Japanese interviews on their YouTube page.
- Where do I start?: I’d recommend starting with a big show like Wrestle Kingdom, or their next big upcoming show. It’s the best way to be introduced to all of their best and most important talents and stories.
- When is their biggest show?: Wrestle Kingdom takes place on January 4th every year.
- How will I know when shows will be on: You can find the upcoming month’s schedule of events at this link.
- Will New Japan Suffer Without The Elite?: Of course The Elite will leave a big whole in the NJPW roster if AEW doesn’t end up forging a working relationship with New Japan, however this company is great at making new stars. In 2016, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Gallows and Anderson all left the company on the same day. NJPW responded by moving Kenny Omega up to the heavyweight division, making him the head of Bullet Club, and creating a major star in the process.
How Do I Start Watching?
- The only way to watch all of NJPW’s shows live and in-full is through the company’s streaming service – NJPW World. – CLICK HERE FOR MY GUIDE ON USING AND GETTING THE MOST OUT OF NJPW WORLD
- NJPW World can be accessed through an official app on Amazon Fire Sticks, as well as through on most browsers, laptops, phones and tablets with Chromecast support.
- Do not use the iOS/Android app. Just use your browser if watching on your phone or tablet.
- Not only does it work out at slightly cheaper than WWE Network every month, it offers regular live shows, as well as access to previous events from decades past, matches from select indie promotions such as Ring of Honor and RevPro, the full ALL IN show, and exclusive documentaries that follow the lives of both their Japanese and English speaking roster members.
- Live shows are available to watch in full usually within thirty minutes after they’ve been broadcast.
Important Payment Information
- Please note that there is no free trial period available, so you will need to purchase the service in order to watch.
- Regardless of when you sign up, the billing date for NJPW World is the first day of every month for every user (so you could be charged 2 days in a row if you signed up on the last day of a month) – IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON SIGNING UP, DO IT AS CLOSE TO THE BEGINNING OF THE MONTH AS POSSIBLE.
- Once you cancel your subscription, you immediately cannot use your account, even if you have weeks left until your next billing date – IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON CANCELLING, DO IT AS CLOSE TO THE END OF THE MONTH AS POSSIBLE.
If You Have AXS TV
- The channel has a weekly review show on Friday nights that includes replays from NJPW’s major shows, including title matches.
- This show airs matches or clips from matches from recent NJPW shows.
- The NJPW AXS TV show now has the same English commentary you would find on NJPW World, and in 2019, they aim to show matches a lot sooner after they’ve taken place than they have in the past.
- Personally, I’d recommend watching on NJPW World to enjoy the excitement of the full show and the live experience, but if you have AXS already, this is a good way of becoming familiar with the product first.
What if I want to Sample Some NJPW Content First for Free?
- Check out New Japan’s English language YouTube channel. They regularly upload past matches featuring full English commentary, including world title matches. They upload a new free match every Monday that has some sort of connection to an upcoming show.
- Also, they upload press conferences, history reviews, interviews, promos and sometimes documentaries with English subtitles.
- The term “Young Lions” refers to New Japan’s group of rookie wrestlers, who train and live at their dojo.
- The name comes from the company’s logo, which is known as The Lion Mark.
- Like any promotion, New Japan are constantly looking to create new stars. Any major wrestling company prefers to craft their biggest players from scratch so they can mold them how they want to every step of the way, hence why so much attention is placed onto the Young Lions.
- Rather than having a developmental territory or system, such as WWE’s Performance Centre and NXT, New Japan have a small group of trainees that learn under and perform alongside established roster members.
- Recently the company opened up an LA Dojo ran by former NJPW competitor, Katsuyori Shibata.
- Young Lions, often referred to as “young boys”, are not scouted by New Japan, hopefuls must apply to attend a training session at the dojo, where only a select few will then go on to be accepted. Already signed wrestlers can recommend potential trainees, like Prince Devitt and Bad Luck Fale did with Jay White, but the wannabee rookie still must apply.
- Young Lions live at the New Japan Dojo with their senpais (teachers), all of which have historic careers within the company.
- When they arrive at the dojo, all Lions have their heads shaven, and are forced to only wear plain black trunks and black boots throughout their experience.
- As well as daily training, Lions are subject to menial labour (food preparation, laundry duties, carrying bags and serving their teachers, etc) every day in order to create humility and respect, two traits which are massively important in Japan.
- Lions are not allowed to leave the dojo unless supervised by a senpai.
- If you’re a Japanese wrestler, you don’t have to have gone through the young lion system in order to be a member of the New Japan roster. In fact, current LIJ member SANADA applied for a position in the NJPW dojo (interestingly in the same training session as stablemate Tetsuya Naito), but was denied a placed so he ended up training with All Japan Pro Wrestling. After honing his craft across the world, SANADA finally made it to New Japan in 2016.
- Before every New Japan event, Young Lions help set up the ring and fan seating around ringside. During the show, Lions surround the ring, each wearing iconic red sweatpants or a full tracksuit, and New Japan t-shirts. Their roles are to prevent fans from jumping the guard rail, protect fans when wrestlers brawl within the crowd, and bring wrestlers ice packs, towels and anything else they may need.
- When they are ready, Young Lions begin to compete in the undercard of smaller New Japan shows, either in singles matches against each other or in 6, 8, or 10-man tag matches alongside the most experienced members of the NJPW roster, such as Jushin Thunder Liger, Kojima and Tiger Mask. Occasionally, New Japan holds events and tournaments just for Young Lions.
- When they first begin to have matches, a Young Lions’ moveset is restricted only to a simple set of moves – headlocks, body slams and their finisher, a Boston Crab. Overtime, they are gradually allowed to include more and more basic moves into their arsenal (tackles, hip tosses, dropkicks), until eventually they can establish their own small moveset and finishing move.
- NJPW currently has official partnerships with three other wrestling promotions: CMLL in Mexico, ROH in the US, and RevPro in the UK. This means they exchange talents with each other, as well as promote shows and tours together.
- They hold at least one tour of crossover events with each promotion every year, which sees talents from both companies teaming with or competing against each other.
- New Japan will send their rookie wrestlers on foreign excursions to gain experience, usually to any one of these three companies.
- The RevPro British Heavyweight Championship is sometimes defended at New Japan shows, the most recent example being Wrestle Kingdom 2019.
- CMLL talents are often participants in the Best of Super Junior and Super Jr. Tag League tournaments.
Biggest Events in the NJPW Calendar
- The biggest show of the year takes place every year on January 4th inside the massive Tokyo Dome – Wrestle Kingdom. The following day NJPW have their ‘Raw After Mania’ style show, New Year Dash, where they set up new rivalries and championship matches going forward.
- The first big tournament of the year takes place in March – the New Japan Cup. This single-elimination tournament is exclusively for heavyweights. 16 men enter, and the winner is granted a championship match of their choosing at a show in April. In 2019, that show will be G1 Supercard inside Madison Square Garden.
- G1 Supercard is a joint show with ROH inside MSG. It will mark the first time a wrestling promotion other than WWE has hosted a show there in over 50 years.
- The Best of Super Juniors tournament takes place in May. It’s a round-robin tournament featuring two blocks of competitors, where the participants with the most points in each block face each other in the final. The junior heavyweight champion competes in the tournament. The winner receives a title shot at Dominion, unless the champion is victorious in which case they can choose their opponent.
- Dominion takes place in June and is essentially New Japan’s SummerSlam. Second biggest show of the year where you’re bound to see an incredible match or two.
- New Japan’s flagship tournament, the G1 Climax, begins in July. Two blocks of heavyweight competitors, including the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, compete in a gruelling round-robin tournament over several weeks. The wrestler with the most points in each block compete in the finals to win the tournament. The victor receives an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom, which they usually defend in the months leading up to the big show. If the IWGP Champion wins the G1, he selects his WK opponent. The G1 Climax is unique in that it is an almost daily event filled with incredible matches. It’s not out of the question to see at least one five-star match on every show, and you get to watch matches that wouldn’t normally happen (e.g. two members of the same faction) take place.
- The year ends with two tag team tournaments, Super Junior Tag League and World Tag League: two round-robin tournaments where the victors get a championship shot at Wrestle Kingdom for their weight division’s title, or alternatively if the reigning champions win, they get to pick their WK opponents.
- At least one big show takes place every month in NJPW, including an increasing number of international shows year-on-year.
Best Matches of the Last Year with English Commentary
- Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada – Dominion 2018
- Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White – Wrestle Kingdom 2019
- Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay – Wrestle Kingdom 2019
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega – Wrestle Kingdom 2019
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho – Wrestle Kingdom 2019
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
- Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiromu Takahashi – BOSJ Finals 2018
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi – G1 Climax Finals 2018
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii – G1 Climax 2018
- Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega – Wrestle Kingdom 12
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA – G1 Climax 2018
- Will Ospreay and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Golden Lovers – Road to Tokyo Dome 2018
- Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada – G1 Climax 2018
- The Golden Lovers vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay – Road to Destruction 2018
- Golden Lovers vs. The Young Bucks – Strong Style Evolved
- SANADA vs. Kota Ibushi – G1 Climax 2018
- Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada – Strong Style Evolved UK
- Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – G1 Climax 2018
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
Follow me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling