Zack Sabre Jr. is often heralded as the best technical wrestler in the world. He’s travelled the globe, applying his craft in promotions all over the planet, with great success. But when ZSJ debuted for New Japan Pro Wrestling on February 21st 2017, we saw a totally different side to the technical wizard, and the company have booked him perfectly ever since.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is a company built on traditions, and one of its longest-running customs has been to send members of its roster on learning excursions – extended trips to work in other promotions around the world in order to develop their characters, improve their grappling abilities, or just to have time away from NJPW fans so they can come back to the company with a new character or mentality. Although most wrestlers are sent on excursion during their days as a Young Lion (New Japan’s rookie wrestlers), some are sent away once they are a permanent graduate member of the NJPW roster to improve even further. But of all the many talents that have been sent abroad over the years by New Japan, which had the most successful journeys? Who was the biggest hit in their foreign promotions, and who made the biggest impacts upon their return? Let’s find out – here are the Top 10 Most Successful New Japan Pro Wrestling Excursions.
Outside of WWE, Kenny Omega is the most talked about wrestler in the world today. His time leading Bullet Club shot him into a global spotlight, but it’s not just his cool black and white merch or iconic logo that give people reason to talk – he also just happens to be one of the best wrestlers of his generation. Every time he steps into a ring, Omega puts on an incredible show, and on certain occasions, makes history with the quality of his matches.
As somebody that adores New Japan Pro Wrestling, I absolutely love helping new and curious fans get into what I believe is the best quality grappling promotion in the world. In the past, I’ve written a beginner’s guide to the promotion’s biggest event, Wrestle Kingdom, and a guide to how to start watching NJPW. During my time trying to help New Japan Newbies, I’ve seen a few questions being asked repeatedly, both to myself and across social media and message boards: What is a “Young Lion”? Why are there wrestlers all wearing the exact same black boots and trunks? Why are people stood around the ring wearing red trousers and getting repeatedly beaten up?
Wrestle Kingdom – the perfect place to start your New Japan journey. That’s how it started for me. After hearing about the hype surrounding Bullet Club back in 2014, I decided I needed to start watching some NJPW, and Wrestle Kingdom in 2015 was the perfect place to start. Three years on, I am completely hooked to what I believe to be the best quality wrestling in the world.
As somebody that only got into New Japan a few years ago and believes it to be the best promotion in the world today, I adore helping curious fans get into NJPW in any way that I can. Previously, I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to New Japan, which seemed to help a lot of people begin their viewing experience with the company, but as I know a lot of you will be tuning in for the first time on January 4th, I thought I would put together a quick of bullet point guide taking you through all of the vital information you need to know about how to watch the big event, what time it’s on, how to get around streaming issues, what to watch before and after Wrestle Kingdom, and a brief look through the match card and how each bout has come about. But let’s start things off with the most important part.
Without telling a single soul, 19-year-old Jay White packed his bags in 2012, left his family home in New Zealand, and moved all the way across the world to start a new life in the UK, with the intention of becoming a professional wrestler. In January 2013, Jay began training, and just five years later, he has a match inside the Tokyo Dome against one of the most popular and important wrestlers in Japanese history, at the biggest NJPW show of the year.
Everyone has been talking about it. You’ve seen the internet blow-up over their five and six star matches, you’ve seen everyone wearing Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables de Japon t-shirts, and you’ve even heard WWE commentators talk about the likes of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Gallows and Anderson being IWGP champions – so why haven’t you started watching New Japan Pro Wrestling? Is it because it’s on the other side of the globe? Maybe it’s not the style of wrestling you’re used to? Perhaps you’re worried you won’t recognise any of their stars? Or is it because you just have no idea where to start? Well, here’s where I come in to help. I know how daunting it can be delving into an entire new world of wrestling, and you might need a little bit of guidance through this strange Eastern promotion.
In this guide, I have provided ten matches for New Japan newbies to help get you into watching some of the best grappling on the planet. I’ve made my selections based not only on in-ring quality, but also on how accessible they are to new fans – each match features something that will be familiar to you, whether that be familiar faces that have had significant success in the west, English commentary to help you along the way, or that it’s easy to access online without setting up a paid subscription. I’ll also explain some of the traditions, unique quirks, and oddities that come along with this fantastic promotion. But that’s enough talk, let’s get down to some wrestling: here are 10 Matches for NJPW Newbies.