By April Lavalle
This weekend, I decided to expand my wrestling horizons and watch New Japan Pro Wrestling for the first time ever…during the first night of their G1 special. Sure, I knew going into this viewing that I would likely be simultaneously confused and overwhelmed, but I also figured that the best way to get into something new to me was to jump in with both feet.
And jump in I did.
After seeing millions of NJPW GIF’s on my Twitter feed over the years, I felt somewhat prepared for what I was about to watch. But, really, I was wrong.
After taking a few days to gather my thoughts, here are my uncensored first impressions:
The audience is SO damn quiet. This is probably the first thing that struck me. At first it felt weird, but ultimately, I did not hate it.
Oh wow they curse! Cool! F—shitpiss! Wrestling is fun when you don’t have to worry about appeasing 10-year-olds (not that there is anything wrong with that).
There are so. many belts. Not just belts that people are competing for or currently holding. Just like, a bajillion belts from all over the place. They bring them everywhere they go. That seems heavy and annoying and to be honest, it confused me at first. But I get it.
Okay, let’s talk about the wresting.
Off the bat, the wrestling seemed much more clean and elegant. Not to sound cliche, but at times things really seemed more like a dance than a fight. It is very obvious very quickly that there is definitely an emphasis on athleticism in NJPW. Some matches felt like a showcase for wrestlers to flip, punch, and parade around. Others felt more like authentic fighting. The best was when those two things were done simultaneously.
Also, NJPW wrestlers SELL. LIKE. MOTHERF—ERS. Strong style indeed. You get punched in the face? You act as if you were hit by a car going 90. It’s very exciting. There were multiple times throughout the night where I thought for SURE someone actually got knocked out. Oh, also, people sure like landing on their necks. Like everyone is landing on their damn necks over at NJPW.
Another thing they love almost as much as landing on their necks? Slapping each other.
And I don’t want to judge wrestlers based off a single match, but this is what I will say about a few who stood out:
-The Young Bucks are fun.
-I never felt more connected to a wrestler than when Hiromu Takahashi entered with a stuffed cat.
-In my notes I wrote “TANAHASHI’S PONYTAIL” in all caps with no other explanation.
-Kenny Omega. Yep. I get it now. Sorry for being so late to the party.
Some things I didn’t really like: I could be totally wrong, but there seemed to be fewer storylines in NJPW? I wasn’t familiar with any storylines going into the viewing, but there weren’t any really clear stakes going on. Also, I know that Japanese wrestling promotions usually separate women and men, but I missed watching female wrestling.
I understand that NJPW isn’t for everyone, but I really had a ton of fun watching the G1 Special. By the time the weekend was over, I ended up with a subscription to the New Japan World streaming service, a list of matches to watch dating back to the ‘70s, and a crush on Kazuchika Okada. I would consider that a pretty successful first viewing.