With thousands of matches available from the near 50 year history of New Japan on offer, there are countless moments to relive on NJPW World for less than 10USD per month! Here is your guide to this past week in wrestling history.
April 13, 1980: Young Junior Heavyweight Pioneers Wow Mexico City!
Satoru Sayama and Gran Hamada had rough paths to stardom. Both were among the smallest prospects accepted into the NJPW Dojo of the 1970s, Hamada so much so that he earned the nickname ‘Little Hamada’. It was the Mexican fans that rechristened him Gran, for the sheer size of his heart and innovative style that several would imitate up to the present day.
Sayama would, upon his return to Japan, undergo his own rechristening, donning the famous Tiger Mask costume and becoming an icon for a generation. Before both would shape junior heavyweight wrestling in Japan, they were on learning excursion to Mexico, and would team up to face two major names in lucha libre history: Baby Face and Perro Aguayo.
Hamada and Sayama took to the skies and reigned in rapid fire offense to their more experienced opponents. With no answer to the two youngsters, the home team would have to resort to underhanded tactics and a low blow to Hamada.
April 14, 2018: Young Lion Umino brings the fight to Yuji Nagata!
Shota Umino’s future is bright. Very bright indeed. The young phenomenon only had his 22nd birthday this week, and made his debut barely two years ago, yet Umino can count the likes of Zack Sabre Junior, Shingo Takagi and Hiroshi Tanahashi on a list of top flight NJPW stars he impressed in singles competition.
Truly representing the New Japan fighting spirit, Umino backs down to nobody, and that includes his harsh Dojo master, Yuji Nagata. Nagata would frequently throw down the challenge to Umino in 2018 to see what the young man was made of, and Umino would always answer that call, be it in the smaller venues of Lion’s Gate, or under the brighter lights at Korakuen Hall, as we see here.
Umino was somehow able to withstand a barrage of kicks from Nagata, and the searing pain of a double wrist lock from the veteran. Rallying, Umino landed some strong blows of his own, including a missile dropkick before Nagata could finally seize control.
April 16, 1994: ‘What are you, some kind of space alien?’
April 16 1994 was a seminal night in Japanese wrestling history, as the first ever Super J Cup emanated from Ryogoku Sumo Hall. 25 years before the Best of the Super Junior finals would also take place from the legendary venue, the very best junior heavyweights from not just New Japan, but a host of other promotions did battle in a single elimination tournament.
Names like Jyushin Thunder Liger of NJPW, Hayabusa of FMW and the Great Sasuke of Michinoku Pro were already blowing away audiences around Japan on their way to international stardom in spring 1994. Late entrant to the field, and progeny of Sasuke’s, TAKA Michinoku, was more of a relative unknown.
While Michinoku would be eliminated in this first round match, it’s safe to say he made a name for himself in this performance. Opposite the second Black Tiger (who would gain further fame as Eddie Guerrero), Michinoku’s night was brief, but the impression he left was lasting. After early offence from Black Tiger put Michinoku on the back foot, the young man was finally able to hit his high flying stride, with a series of high flying evasive maneuvers and a spectacular dive to the floor.
NJPW legend Riki Choshu was watching the match from backstage, and had a legendary encounter with Michinoku backstage on his return from the ring. Meeting TAKA for the first time in his life, Choshu, dumbfounded at what he had just seen, simply asked, ‘what are you, some kind of space alien?’
April 17, 2015: Bad Luck, Tama
Heading into 2015, the world seemed to be on a plate ready for Kazuchika Okada. The main event of Wrestle Kingdom 9 seemed to be the stage for the Rainmaker to surpass Hiroshi Tanahashi and stand tall as the definitive dominant force of the modern era of NJPW. The result, however, didn’t go Okada’s way. The Ace had his hand raised, and Okada would leave in disappointed tears.
By the spring, the confident Okada had found renewed focus, and was on a collision course with new IWGP Champion AJ Styles at Dominion. Before he could take the gold he believed was rightfully his however, Okada had to get through the other members of the Bullet Club. At Invasion Attack in Sumo Hall he defeated Bad Luck Fale in singles competition, and rode a wave of momentum through the Dontaku tour. Here in Korakuen, Fale came close to hitting a Bad Luck Fall, but was denied by a massive Okada dropkick before Tama Tonga fell victim to a thunderous Rainmaker. Of note too in this match is Okada teaming with then mentor Gedo; a man who has a very different attitude with the Bullet Club today.
April 18, 1985: Sumo Hall, Wild Brawl
The magnificent Ryogoku Sumo Hall has become a venue near synonymous with major Tokyo events for NJPW. From the aforementioned Super J Cup, through G1 Climax finals over the years, to 2019’s Best of the Super Juniors final, moments have been made in Ryogoku that echo through the halls, and throughout history forever.
The building was a new one in 1985, however; so new in fact that it had yet to host professional wrestling until NJPW’s Burning Spirit arrived on April 18. Arrive wrestling did with a gigantic main event.
Bruiser Brody was the very vision of a ‘foreign monster’ in All Japan Pro Wrestling through the early 1980s. The lunatic that stormed through crowds, yelling at the top of his lungs and sending fans scattering from the chain he swung with wild abandon inspired admiration and fear in equal measure. This, truly was an uncontrollable beast, and nothing emphasized that point than a sudden jump to NJPW from its biggest rival. If Brody was going to invade New Japan, there was only one reasonable choice for an opponent, and Antonio Inoki soon put himself forward to face the Bruiser.
Brody was confident in his ability to beat Inoki, but also wanted to leave a powerful impression; both before and during his match. Storming through the backstage area, Brody attacked Inoki before their bout, lacerating Inoki’s arm and leading to the NJPW founder making his entrance with a bandage on his left limb. For all Inoki’s burning rage, much of the match was surprisingly scientific; at least, until, the referee was knocked down. There followed an uncontrollable brawl, with Brody landing a brutal piledriver on the floor to Inoki. The match was thrown out, and Inoki would send Brody packing before the night was through, but there was no doubt that Bruiser Brody had made his mark.
April 19, 1984: Riki Choshu Crosses the Boss
Every rebellious faction in New Japan, from Bullet Club through Suzuki Gun to Los Ingobernables De Japon, owes a debt of gratitude to Riki Choshu and the Ishin Gundan. Choshu blazed a trail in the 1980s, and did so in controversial fashion.
Along with Tatsumi Fujinami, Choshu was one of the earliest prospects to come from the NJPW Dojo in the 1970s. In fact, of the two, many within the promotion and in the media had earmarked Choshu for the brighter future. When Fujinami would crest a wave of popularity known as ‘Dragon Fever’ in the latter part of the 1970s then, Choshu grew deeply envious. He would harbour a deep resentment of Antonio Inoki at the same time, feeling as if the company founder treated Fujinami like a favoured son.
It all came to a head in 1982, when Choshu turned on Fujinami, and Inoki in the process. A vicious rivalry with Fujinami began, and Choshu, ousted from the NJPW mainstream, sought like minded souls. With Masa Saito, Animal Hamaguchi, Isamu Teranishi, Yoshiaki Yatsu and Kuniaki Kobayashi, he formed Ishin Gundan, the first real faction to be born from NJPW as opposed to approaching the promotion from the outside. On April 19 in Kuramae, five of Ishin Gundan’s best would take on a team of five hand picked by Inoki.
The ten would engage in a gauntlet match, the winner staying on through a series of singles bouts. Inoki and Choshu, as captains, would enter the match last, and both were fresh as this bell rung, Hamaguchi and Yoshiaki Fujiwara both eliminating each other moments earlier. It was only early spring, but it was burning hot in Tokyo as the match began. Choshu would have to swallow his pride and submit to a Cobra Twist on the night, but the issue was far from settled.