For my blog post this week, we have been asked to talk about an experience encountering an Asian media, product, text, topic, or service with an autoethnological approach. Therefore, I will be focusing this bost around my first experience in watching a New Japan Pro Wrestling Match.
I am a wrestling fan and have been for many years now. I grew up watching WWE and cried when my favourite wrestler, Jeff Hardy, was made to retire from WWE in late August 2009. I dropped off watching WWE due to this and also due to moving houses and also away from friends who watched wrestling. I had a substantial break between 2011 and 2014. In 2014 I came back to WWE harder than ever and became a hardcore fan of the product. In 2017, my whole life as a wrestling fan hanged when I saw an insane gif on Facebook.
That gif is of Katsuyori Shibata giving Kazuchika Okada an absolutely sickening headbutt. You can seriously hear the thud when he connects in the video. Despite never having heard of Okada, Shibata, or even NJPW, I dropped my homework and watched the match straight away. I was truly blown away by the level of physicality and athleticism that was on display from these two wrestlers. I could not understand the wrestlers, the commentators, or the crowd; I had no clue what their previous history was or what the storyline leading up to this was, and yet it rocked my world. Till this date, it is only 1 of 3 matches that left me massively emotional upon finishing it. Dave Meltzer, the most popular sports journalist for wrestling and the most respected reviewer of matches, gave the match a massive 5-star rating (his previous highest score) and donned it as the best wrestling match of 2017.
This match was vastly different from anything that I had seen before and, just like with a lot of Japanese products, is vastly different compared to the product of wrestling that is presented in the west. Western wrestling has a larger focus on the story being told through big moments and promos (monologue or dialogue) whereas Japanese wrestling focuses on athleticism and the pacing of a match to truly tell its story. There is nothing wrong with either, they are just different ways to tell the same story. This 40-minute match changed my life as a wrestling fan and I have not looked back.