Shin Nihon Puroresu Wrestle Kingdom 12

Join the ranks of the puroresu otaku. It's a good place to be.

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Full disclosure: As a former pro wrestler and MMA fighter my perspective tends to be different from the majority of fans.

Pro wrestling has historically straddling a gray area between sport and variety show, with Japan learning more toward sport than the west. Over the last few years Shin Nihon Puroresu (New Japan Pro Wrestling) has been creeping more toward being an entertainment property under the ownership of BushiRoad and away from being presented as a straight sport. You may know BushiRoad as the company that produces the Weiβ Schwarz anime-based CCG or as the creator of Tantei Opera Milky Holmes.

To give new fans some perspective, the Super Bowl is the Wrestle Kingdom of football, and Shin Nihon’s biggest show of the year has been held January 4 at the Tokyo Dome show since 1992. 

The most common argument you hear against pro wrestling in the west is that it’s “fake.” Well, I’ve got news for you, the TV shows, mainstream news, anime and movies you watch are just as predetermined. In Kaminomi 2 Nagase Jun (the world’s youngest Jumbo Tsuruta fan) described MMA as being about real strength, while pro wrestling is about ideal strength. She (and by proxy the mangaka) gets it.

If you've seen Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai! you have some appreciation for puroresu being presented as legitimate competition. While the fans understand the results are predetermined, the result of matches should mean as much to you (when done properly) as your favorite scenes featuring best girl. 

Contrary to popular belief, much of what happens in puroresu, and even American pro wrestling, hurts a lot and results in more damage being taken than in "real" MMA fights. More often than you'd think the secret is that you get hurt for the sake of the match.

Seeing the show

There will eventually be a Japanese-priced BD of the show, but the primary means of seeing it is on Shin Nihon's streaming service NJPW World - 999 yen per month which includes live and archived access to all major, and many smaller, shows. There is even an English dub (commentary) for the major shows. Click the EN button on toward the top right if you can't read Japanese.

A redacted version of the show will also air on AXS TV, with a different English dub, 1/6/18 at 8::00PM EST. 

The Show Itself

Finally, right? If you're the kind of otaku who likes sports anime way more than actual sports, this may well be right up your alley.  In half of the double main event, fellow otaku Kenny Omega does battle with Fozzy lead singer, reality TV guy and wrestling legend Chris Jericho.

This match is worth the price of admission by itself. Chris Jericho has been one of the better performers in WWE since we went there in 1999, and Kenny Omega has emerged as one of the better wrestlers I've ever seen over the last few years. This is an absolutely epic battle and everything good about wrestling done right. If you don't think this was worth your 999 yen, puroresu isn't for you normie.

I went into this wondering if Jericho had anything left in the tank at 48 after several underwhelming years in the WWE. This is probably the best match of his entire career. My expectations were high due to Omega's otaku power, and they were still demolished.

The rest of the show will give you a good idea of what is currrently being offered by Shin Nihon and whether or not it is something you want to follow. The junior heavyweight matches feature insane acts of death defying high flying. Most people like it, but I'm not really a fan. Ibushi Kota (who is also Tiger Mask W in Shin Nihon) is one of the best there has ever been at that style, and he faces Cody Rhodes, one of the better guys at the current WWE/American style of wrestling.

MMA pioneer Suzuki Minoru (now one of the best pro wrestlers of all time) defends the NEVER Openweight Title against Goto Hirooki, in a match where the loser will have his head shaved. (Don't look at me, it's largely a Mexican thing that made its way across the ocean.) This has been very well received.   

Tanahashi Hiroshi defends the IWGP Intercontinental Title against Switchblade Jay White. Tanahashi has reigned supreme as the top guy for most of the decade, but age and injuries are finally starting to take their toll. Can the young White boy make a triumphant return to Shin Nihon, or will Tanahashi persevere to air guitar (it's his thing) another day? 

In the main event, the man with the biggest case of White envy you will ever see (seriously, he even writes his name in katakana now) Okada Kazuchika defends the IWGP Heavyweight Title against Naito Tetsuya, who won the G1 Climax, a gruelling 20 man round robin tournament, over the summer to get this shot at the title. This is a journey of redemption for Naito, who won the tournament in 2013 and challenged Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 8 only to come up short as the fans turned on him. Then Naito was a hero the people hated, which inspired him to go to Mexico, come back evil and become a villain half of the audience loves. Will this be the redemption Naito has hungered for for the last four years? Or will Okada, who has held the title without losing it longer than anyone ever has, pull it out yet again?


Seriously, check it out. If you can't/won't swing 999 yen, it's not that hard to pirate.  I intended to go into more detail on some of these things, then I realized the AXS replay will be starting soon and wanted to get this up before then.

I reached out to Kenny Omega to see if he had anything he would like to express to fellow otaku seeing him and/or Shin Nihon for the first time, but did not receive a response. (T_T)

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Real life prince, real-life ecchi and real-life holder of two doctorates. Former Congressional candidate weighing the possibility of running for US Senate or President in 2020. Also known to be an erstwhile translator of otaku culture: Twitter shitposter: and thinker of wrong thoughts:      


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