There are thousands of hours of classic matches available to watch on NJPW World. So much so, it may be hard to know where to start! Luckily, every week, we take you through some of the highlights in NJPW history.
May 11 2018: Los Ingobernables De Canada
Ring of Honor’s War of the Worlds tour has long been a chance for fans in the US and Canada to see the stars of New Japan Pro Wrestling. In May 2018, the Canadian public was especially excited to see Los Ingobernables De Japon, and even more so to lay eyes on Hiromu Takahashi in person. The Ticking Time Bomb was about to start his winning Best of the Super Juniors campaign, and was riding a wave of popularity, bringing his soft friend Daryl along with him. EVIL and SANADA meanwhile were fresh off their first IWGP Tag Team Championship reign, and both were looking to make a mark as singles competitors in the G1 Climax.
In the opposite corner, an interesting combination of ROH stalwarts. Kenny King, Colt Cabana and Jay Lethal stood to represent their home promotion in the face of the incoming LIJ. How did the match play out? Relive it here!
May 12 1996: ChoTen in Korakuen
From one wildly popular anti-establishment faction in Los ingobernables De Japon to another. LIJ wouldn’t have existed without nWo Japan, and the New World Order on either side of the Pacific arguably would never have taken off to the same degree had it not been for Masahiro Chono.
The nWo was yet to make its presence felt in either Japan or America as of May 1996, but groundwork was doubtless being laid. Masahiro Chono was in the midst of a dramartic change of disposition ever since the prior year’s G1 Climax, a change of disposition that saw him change his look and attitude from hard working blue chip prospect in colourful tights to black leather, a goatee and a bad attitude. No longer a team player for New Japan, Chono was a lone wolf that refused to be part of team NJPW in their clashes with the UWF up to the spring.
Chono had his new attitude recognised by veteran antagonist Hiro Saito. Saito took Chono under his wing and resurrected the Okami Gundan, a stable of renegades Saito had been a part of in the 1980s. Young prospect Hiroyoshi Tenzan would also join the group, and the ChoTen tag team would rech the summit of the IWGP Tag Team division a massive five times in the coming years.
This upstart new stable would draw the ire of another group of outsiders that was given a new edge for the 1990s. Heisei Ishingun was a revival of the Ishingun group that Riki Choshu spearheaded a decade earlier. Shiro Koshinaka and Tatsutoshi Goto’s group was an antagonistic force ever since the decade began, and the presence of Okami Gundan on the scene led instantly to a turf war.
The result, a tag match in Korakuen Hall that’s as wild as they come. Relive it here!
May 14 2005: A legendary Tokyo Dome Tag Match
Masahiro Chono would go on to spearhead more than a few legendary wrestling factions. As mentioned, Okami Gundan would evolve into nWo Japan, and when that organization folded, Team2000 would come up in its place. After T2000 disbanded, Chono would maintain his closer nit ties and make new ones, forming New Japan Black and making an alliance with the CTU group that Jyushin Thunder Liger headed up.
Together, Black and CTU put a united front dedicated to changing NJPW’s stance in a challenging period for the promotion, but their values ran against the establishment, represented in the Tokyo Dome in May 2005 by former New Japan president Tatsumi Fujinami. Fujinami was in need of a partner to contest Chono and Liger, and recruited another company president to make a team as tough in ring as they were in the boardroom. Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Mitsuharu Misawa made this an all star tag. While there were doubts over how Fujinami would perform after being relatively withdrawn from active competition, he pulled out all the stops from the outset in this classic bout.
May 15: MVP Takes the IC!
After NJPW went through struggles in the 2000s, one of the first signs of its return to prosperity was a 2011 tour in the United States. A series of events conducted in conjunction with the Jersey All Pro promotion saw the IWGP heavyweight Championship defended in America for the first time in over a decade, and a single elimination tournament to crown the first ever Intercontinental Champion.
The belt itself looked a lot different than the one we know now; it was Shinsuke Nakamura who would replace the black and bronze with white and gold。The Pennsylvania Asylum nonetheless bore witness to history as MVP faced Toru Yano in a unique tournament final.
May 16 1975: Kintaro Oki on a World League Warpath
One of the most interesting factors going into 1975’s World League was the presence of Kintaro Oki, and Oki’s bitter hate of Seiji Sakaguchi.
Born in Korea, Oki was so devoted to the idea of being trained by national icon Rikidozan that he stowed away on a fishing boat and illegally crossed over to Japan as a young, poor man. Oki would be arrested on arrival, but his story caught the ear of the founding father of Japanese pro wrestling, and onhis release, Oki was admitted into the old JWA dojo.
Oki would make friends in those days with Antonio Inoki, a man who Oki had a kind of kinsman-ship with. Though Inoki was born in Japanese, he had spent his formative years in Brazil, and Oki felt that he and Inoki were both outsiders in some form, and both fiercely devoted to Rikidozan.
When JWA faced hard times in the wake of Rikidozan’s death however, Inoki would eventually leave JWA and form New Japan Pro Wrestling along with Sakaguchi. To Oki, the ‘new’ in the promotion’s name was an affront to the legacy of his teacher and hero, erasing what Rikidozan had created. The furious Oki would reach some level of understanding with Inoki after the two had a classic match together, but still bore a grudge against Sakaguchi that exploded in this bloody brawl.
May 17, 1992: Over Heat, Choshu Over
On June 9 2019, NJPW will rock the sold out Osaka Jo Hall. In 1992, New Japan came to Osaka a little earlier in May. While Dominion 2019 will see Chris Jericho challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time, Over Heat Night had a first time challenger rather earlier in his career. Keiji Muto was on a hot track to superstardom ever sicne returning from excursion in 1990, and finally reached the IWGP Heavyweight challenger level in 1992.
His opponent was a Riki Choshu in his 18th year of in ring action and third IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign. Choshu had clinched the title in grand form, by defeating Tatsumi Fujinami in the main event at the Tokyo Dome in January and unifying the IWGP and Greatest 18 Championships. Muto stood on the precipice of the biggest moment of his career, but Choshu and his Riki lariats would make Muto wait a while longer.