I have only recently started following New Japan Pro Wrestling closely. While I would go find the occasional match that was talked about, and was a little familiar with the major players, it wasn’t something I felt the need to seek out. The release of New Japan World, New Japan’s streaming service, has made it a million times easier to keep up with NJPW though, and I’m very glad for that
I don’t feel super qualified to critique NJPW too much since I’ve only been following it for a few months, but there are some things that are readily apparent. The in-ring product is top notch. Three of the five matches I’ve considered Match of the Year Candidates are from NJPW. As opposed to what we usually see in WWE, wins and losses matter. Their mid-card is treated as important. Even comedy acts and jobbers are treated as important, and given time to put on good matches.
Not to say NJPW is perfect though. The Bullet Club, a group of foreign heels, are sometimes tedious, and the story of them holding all the belts was done last year, and apparently not very well. And while treating everyone on the roster as important is normally good, sometimes some guys are given too much time, and the matches just drag. Also, there is the language barrier. Nearly everything is in Japanese, but that’s not as much of a detriment as you might think since they do such a good job with telling their stories in the ring. These are really minor complaints though, and out of the dozen or so of shows I’ve watched, I have yet to see bad or boring one.
The first show I watched was WrestleKingdom 9, back in January. The show was shown on American PPV with a commentary team of Jim Ross and Matt Striker. It serves as a great jumping off point for new fans, as Ross and Striker break the language barrier down, and are pretty good introducing us to the various wrestlers American audiences are probably unfamiliar with.
If you can work around the language barrier, New Japan World is definitely worth the monthly subscription. It’s cheaper then the WWE network, as has decades worth of classic content along with each new show streaming live. Some of the roster has quickly jumped up to be personal favorites. Guys like Tomohiro Ishii, Minoru Suzuki, and Tomoaki Honma are awesome to watch every time they step in the ring.
In short, NJPW is a great alternative to WWE. They’re the second biggest wrestling company in the world, and with New Japan World and increasing their English-speaking shows, I really think they can become a strong competitor to WWE over here in the states.