We here at The Boston Crab will be kicking off our coverage of Japanese professional wrestling with an overview of the art form and the differences that can be found in the way it is presented in Japan. This will be for the benefit of fans unfamiliar with the Japanese wrestling product and might be interested in starting to follow it.
To begin with, the Japanese term for pro wrestling is Puroresu (プロレス). How do you pronounce it you ask? Simply take the first syllable of the word “professional” and combine it with the first syllable of the word “wrestling” to get a word which phonetically sounds like “pro-wres.” Easy!
For all intents and purposes, Puroresu is a sport. Weight classes hold far more importance than in Western pro wrestling, and traditional Puroresu promotions use both heavyweight and junior heavyweight divisions. The vast majority of matches end with a clean finish, and though there may be storylines and gimmicks, they are no substitute for the impression that a wrestler makes in the ring, bell to bell. You’ll also see coverage of events in the major Japanese newspapers. Can you imagine the results of a WWE or TNA pay-per-view being printed in the Irish Times? That happens regularly in Japan.
The WWE’s format is to broadcast weekly television that promotes monthly pay-per-view. This is not a widely used format in Puroresu. The exception is Dragon Gate, which has a TV show called Infinity that builds towards pay-per-views which air irregularly throughout the year. The only other company that makes use of pay-per-view is New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
Currently, NJPW is the only company with a major TV deal that reaches a large audience. For other companies, syndicated television is widely used to broadcast events.
The Puroresu format is to embark on a tour that lasts for approximately two weeks, with a show being held almost every day. The last show of each tour is held in a major venue and has a major card to go with it. The tour is followed by a brief period of rest, and then the company will hit the road again.
A cultural difference can be seen in the way fans react to the matches. Ring of Honor fans might find them subdued, but the quiet attentiveness of the crowds is their way of showing respect to the wrestlers and the story they are telling in the ring. When a match reaches a climax, any good crowd will come alive for it, and it can make the pinnacle of a match that much better.
The Puroresu promotions that attract a mainstream audience are:
- New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
- All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJP)
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- Dragon Gate
Pro Wrestling Zero1 is seen as the threshold between mainstream and independent. They can be best described as the largest independent promotion in Japan, similar to how Ring of Honor is the largest independent promotion in the United States. Below Zero1 you have a number of other well known independent promotions including:
- Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW)
- Dramatic Dream Team (DDT)
- Michinoku Pro
- Kensuke Office
The Boston Crab will soon be giving a brief introduction to some of the major Puroresu promotions. These will include bios on some of the main stars in the industry and some of the most acclaimed matches that have taken place in the past year. Until then, Sayonara.
Aaron Mc Nicholas