Editorial Columns

How New Japan Is Wrestling With Coronavirus

Ciaran Hayward looks at how New Japan Pro Wrestling are keeping spirits up during the Coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has put the world’s shoulders down to the mat for the three count so New Japan are giving fans unique experiences in the lapse of any live wrestling shows by giving us live talk shows, never before seen matches on New Japan World, interviews and more.

March is always an exciting month in the New Japan calendar as it brings us their Anniversary Event and the New Japan Cup. But plans that any wrestling company had put in place have now been thrown over the top rope. In a valiant effort to give fans something to look forward to, New Japan have started the NJPW Together Project. At the time of writing, NJPW have given us five live talk shows (all subtitled in English), 20 previously unseen matches on NJPW World, two NJPW Official English podcasts and a Kazuchika Okada documentary that was previously only available in Japanese now has English subtitles. 

We had the brotherly duo of Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi interviewed live in Korakuen Hall to kick things off. It didn’t take long before Hiromu turned a calm interview into bedlam when he claimed he could turn invisible, which in turn led to him messing with the interviewer and a Tokyo Sports reporter. He taught us how to dance to his own entrance music and how to stay safe from the Coronavirus in his own special Hiromu way. Meanwhile, Naito is trying and mostly failing to not constantly be laughing at Hiromu’s antics. 

Class was in session with teacher Toru Yano as he taught lessons in the Chaos Academy with students SHO, YOH and Tomohiro Ishii. Yes, even the Stone Pitbull is doing his part! We didn’t get the New Japan Cup but we did get the inaugural Thumb War Cup and discovered which fellow Chaos team member the students would date if they were a girl. It’s not quite the same as seeing Ishii deliver a deadly brainbuster but it’s certainly still entertaining. 

Makabe and Honma spent a session taking fan questions and surprisingly a lot of wholesome life advice was given by the pair. One thing I’ve gained from all of this is a newfound appreciation for Makabe, he is a joy to listen to. 

The current IWGP Tag Team Champions Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi had their own live interview in Korakuen Hall. This was certainly a…unique interview with a lot of risqué talk. The thirst was real. The Golden Ace pair tried to figure out a signature pose for their new team and even had an arm-wrestling match, which one of them one surprisingly easy. 

Taguchi held his monthly Six Nine show (69, get it? Do you get it?) with guests Ibushi and Makabe. We learned that Ibushi is pretty much hopeless when it comes to Twitter and didn’t know how to do a hashtag and that Makabe barely knows who Jon Moxley is. One of the segments involved them trying to guess the entrance theme music for fellow New Japan wrestlers and they were worryingly bad at doing so.

Matches not previously available on NJPW World include the infamous deserted island matches! The first being Antonio Inoki vs Masa Saito from October 1987 and the second being Hiroshi Hase vs Tiger Jeet Singh from December 1991. More recently there is the 2013 Anniversary Event main event which saw then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi take on IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt. Other gems include Prince Devitt defending his Championship against Gedo during Kizuna Road 2013 in front of an incredibly wild Korakuen Hall crowd and Kota Ibushi defending his title against Nick Jackson in a rare singles match for the Young Bucks member at Invasion Attack 2014.

This may not entirely fill the void that we are suffering from without our prescription of New Japan’s wrestling events, but NJPW deserves recognition for the efforts they are making to ensure fans are still receiving a healthy amount of content. They could have very easily put old matches on NJPW World to give fans a little something to watch in the interim but instead they have truly gone to great lengths to help keep the fighting spirit among the fans alive during this difficult time.

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You can find me on Twitter @CiaranRH. Thanks for reading.

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