FEATURE: The Wrestling Streaming World Tour Part Four

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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’
Just another guy on the internet.