Great show of New Japan, in an awful place

hiroshi tanahashi jon moxley
Hiroshi Tanahashi gets ready to punch Jon Moxley during New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Capital Collision.” Photo by Crystal Graham.

Kazuchika Okada, ahead of his first collar and elbow tie, was greeted by the Washington, DC crowd with chants of “That’s awesome!” and “Holy shit! Holy shit!”

Okada, the IWGP heavyweight champion, is, yes, the best professional wrestler in the world, and American fans don’t often see him live.

New Japan Pro Wrestling was at DC’s Entertainment and Sports Arena on Saturday night as part of its long tour of the United States on Saturday for a show called ‘Capital Collision’ because pro wrestling shows need names like this- the.

This one actually didn’t need a name, with Okada, NJPW “Ace,” Hiroshi Tanahashi, Japanese legends Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii mixed in with former AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, British star Will Ospreay and Jay White, an Australian. who has already had a run with the IWGP heavyweight title, and is set for a longer run as the company’s high heel.

The show was typical of New Japan – big top matches, with Tanahashi defending his IWGP US title in a four-way match with Moxley, Ospreay and Juice Robinson in a four-way main event, Okada teaming up with Rocky Romero against White and Hikuleo , and Ishii facing fellow AEW star Eddie Kingston; after a series of multiple matches, including one at eight and one at 10.

The vibe was… wrestling nerd convention. Ninety percent of the fans in attendance were kitted out in wrestling t-shirts, most touting New Japan or AEW, and far too many for comfort did it all with outfits including title belts, goggles sunglasses, bandanas, clothes that looked like something a wrestler might wear in the ring.

OK, I’m tough; shouldn’t judge fans having fun, and a crowd that comes for a show from New Japan is not at all like, say, a WWE crowd.

A security guard stationed outside my section – we were section 109, row A, seats 1-2 – kept a running comment with a few fans in our section, and one of his questions at the start was, How big is New Japan compared to WWE?

My answer: WWE is much bigger, but the people who come to a show from New Japan are more hardcore.

Later, he said he had been a John Cena fan back then. It’s not something that would go well with this crowd.

Japan’s new shows don’t start with a contrived 15-minute segment setting the heat for the main event.

No pyro, no heel GM.

The presentation is essentially MMA theater. New Japan is proud of its “strong style” approach, almost wrongly.

Fans in my section, as the night wore on, lamented the endless stabbings that were a feature at one point or another in every game.

Which isn’t to say fans went home unhappy, because the show met expectations, exceeded them.

We had a good moment or two between Jeff Cobb and Jonah in one of the first multi-man tags, a chance to sing with Suzuki entering, Okada teasing the Rainmaker, and then a hellish main event that ended by an upset victory for Robinson, newly a heel and now with Bullet Club, to win the US title, disrupting next month’s dream match between Tanahashi and Moxley at the New Japan-AEW supershow.

Pretty much everything about the presentation was authentic – right down to the ring presentations in Japanese.

The only thing we lacked: no red shoes.

(That, and not Tetsuya Naito, released after undergoing eye surgery last month.)

Two things that turned me off: the place is barely bigger than a high school gymnasium, out of the way, only four years old and somehow still outdated; and then there was our section security guard, who kept asking us if we knew the wrestling was fake, and had a loud conversation with another security guard about it was “gay” for men to wrestle “in their drawers”.

For the record, yes, wrestling is “fake,” as it often is in this world; and calling things “gay” went out of fashion about the third year.

Solid show from New Japan, but I would recommend that they never book the Entertainment and Sports Arena again.

Chris Graham’s Story


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