Thursday, October 26, 2023

Japanese vs. American Wrestling: A Comprehensive Comparison

Japan and America are the two of the biggest professional wrestling markets in the world. Both countries have a rich history of wrestling, and they have produced some of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

Both Japan and America have a strong tradition of professional wrestling. Jack Curley Promotions began promoting wrestling shows in 1907, making it one of the first promotions to present wrestling in an organized form, when it previously was only presented at carnivals and other public events. Rikidozan established the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance (JWA) in 1953, which represented the NWA in Japan, and was the first pro-wrestling promotion to be based in Japan.

Japan and America both have a large number of professional wrestling promotions in their histories. There have been over 200 Japanese wrestling promotions, and over 1,000 American wrestling promotions. In both countries, the fanbases are large and passionate.

While the wrestling scenes in Japan and America have a lot in common, there are also many differences. One difference is that while professional wrestling is generally considered to be a sport in Japan, in America it's debated whether professional wrestling is a sport or entertainment. I find this interesting considering the fact that all spectator sports are forms of entertainment. Perhaps the debate would be ended if the debaters agreed to refer to professional wrestling as a business, since wrestlers are paid to wrestle (hence the term, "professional"). Nonetheless, whether or not to refer to professional wrestling as a sport continues to be a common discussion topic in America.

A second difference between Japanese wrestling and American wrestling is what takes place in the ring. While both styles have matches that focus on technical skill and athleticism, showmanship is another important aspect of American wrestling. Also, while promos are often featured after a match takes place in Japan, promos mainly are used to help build anticipation for an upcoming match in America.

A third difference is roster sizes. Japanese wrestling promotions tend to have smaller rosters than American promotions. For example, NJPW's roster has less than 100 members, while WWE's roster has over 200 members. Also, many independent promotions in Japan have very small rosters and brings in wrestlers who have appeared in notable promotions outside of theirs. For example, Yanagase Pro Wrestling's roster members who wrestle reguarly are Yanagase Kamen Fuerza, Sae, Mari Manji, and Jack Kennedy- four wrestlers. However, NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Champions Kubota Brothers (Hide Kubota & Yasu Kubota) from ZERO1, former KO-D Openweight Champion Yuji Hino, FantastICE Champion Akane Fujita, and many others who are not members of the YPW roster wrestle at their events as well. So, what independent promotions in Japan lack in roster size, they often make up for in star power on their cards.

A fourth difference is how the promotions branch out to foreign markets. NJPW is viewed on television in America by an average of 58,000 viewers via AXS TV, while there are not any American wrestling promotions on televsion in Japan. Streaming has been the most impactful way for American wrestling to get into Japanese homes, as WWE has recently entered a partnership with popular Japanese streaming television service Abema, which has 6.52 million users per month.

Although Japanese wrestling promotions are not utilizing streaming as effectively as WWE, they stil are benefitting from it. 211,800 of the visitors in a month to the NJPW World video streaming website are in the United States, while other promotions use general-purpose streaming platforms such as YouTube (where Michinoku Pro streams, "Michinoku Pro Wrestling LIVE" and TwitCasting (where Yanagase Pro Wrestling streams regularly), all of which could impact major promotions in America.

DVD/Blu-ray is still a popular way to watch wrestling in Japan, with stores such as BIG BLUE having WWE, AEW, Impact Wrestling, and PWG titles available, as well as titles of smaller American promotions. Meanwhile, stores in America are basically not a source for Japanese wrestling videos, but that hasn't stopped BJW (Big Japan Pro-Wrestling) from getting their DVDs into the hands of fans in America, exporting BJW DVDs overseas directly to their customers.

As far as live shows goes, while Michinoku Pro and BJW have made an impact in America in the past, NJPW currently has events in America regularly. Meanwhile, WWE has not hosted an event in Japan since 2019. However, the company still has a strong fan base in Japan, and it has expressed interest in returning. Plus, WWE has recently made a renewed effort to expand its international presence, the streaming deal with Abema being one of them. So it's possible that live American wrestling will return to Japan in the future.

The wrestling scenes in Japan and America are both unique and thriving, having much to offer fans. Which one is better? That's a matter of opinion, as some fans prefer the fast-paced, exciting, and unpredictable in-ring action of Japanese wrestling, while others prefer the added focus on feuds, promos, and comedy of American wrestling. In any case, recent years have seen a growing exchange between the Japanese and American wrestling scenes, with many Japanese wrestlers competing in America, and vice versa. This has helped to raise the profile of both wrestling scenes.

It's also worth noting that not all of the promotions in Japan and America are alike. For example, Michinoku Pro has an annual, "Space War" match, which features comedy and cosplay. Meanwhile, there are some small American promotions that don't have feuds and promos, only shows filled with one-off matches.

In the end, I recommend that you experience both. In my opinion, Japanese wrestling and American wrestling have something for everyone, no matter what you prefer in a wrestling product.

No comments:

Post a Comment