If you’re anything like me, you ate, drank and slept Pro Wrestling in the “Monday Night Wars” and “Attitude Era” of the mid-to-late ’90’s but lost interest soon after, tired of bad skits, bad story lines, bad booking and bad matches. You may have heard that Japan is the land of no bullshit as far as great ring work goes but you haven’t been sure of how to dip your toe in the water of “Pururesu” and “Strong Style” without going on a Google wild goose chase trying to find out who the best performers and what the best matches are. AXS TV has your answer. They began airing recent classic matches from New Japan Pro Wrestling in early January and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
AXS has aired 5 episodes so far, consisting of matches from 2013. Highlights included two heavyweight title matches between Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. “Rain Maker” Kazuchika Okada. In the first, Tanahashi, a Bret Hart-style honest worker and noble Face, was able to successfully defend, but the second saw Okada, a boastful Heel reminiscent of The Rock in his early run, clench the Title, slowly winning the crowd over in the process.
My favorite match broadcast so far was from the most recent episode, where Okada defended the belt against vengeful Irishman Prince Devitt and his nWo-esque Heel Stable the Bullet Club. Several high spots in the match, such as Devitt hitting Okada with his own signature Tombstone Piledriver and Okada fighting off the whole Bullet Club and nailing Devitt with his patented “Heavy Rain” finisher (a devistating looking modified neckbreaker/fireman’s carry hybrid) to score the three count and retain the strap. Prince Devitt currently wrestles for NXT as Finn Balor and his performance here has definitely made me want to check out more of his work.
Of course these matches are all old news to hardcore NJPW fans, but neophytes with even the smallest amount of interest should definitely check the show out.
New Japan Pro Wrestling airs Friday Nights on AXS TV.