Young Lions: A Beginners Guide for New Japan Pro Wrestling Newcomers
New Japan Pro Wrestling is one of the biggest promotions in the world and the biggest in Japan. Some fans are afraid to check NJPW due to being from another part of the world and how different it is from promotions based in the US. In this guide, we’ll help all newcomer fans understand the basics of the promotion.
New Japan Origins
The JWA was the first pro-wrestling promotion in Japan and was founded by legendary pro-wrestler Rikidozan; and he had two pupils, Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba; by the early 70s, both left the JWA and founded their promotions. Giant Baba established All Japan Pro-Wrestling, and Antonio Inoki founded New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1972.
Inoki’s NJPW emphasized incorporating strikes from martial arts and submission wrestling, which would be called Strong Style.
Championships & Weight Classes
In NJPW, and for that matter, most Japanese wrestling operates with two weight divisions, Heavyweights and Jr. Heavyweights. NJPW currently has eight championships divided for their weight classes. Those titles are:
- IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
- US Heavyweight Championship. (IWGP)
- IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.
- IWGP Tag Team Championships.
- IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships.
- NEVER Openweight Championship.
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Championships.
- Strong Openweight Championship.
The openweight titles can be defended by any of the two weight classes, and in the last year, the label has gained more relevancy in the promotion. One special mention is the King of Pro-Wrestling (KOPR). It’s a trophy the lowered card wrestlers fight for, and it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things.
Tournaments & Major Shows
One of the most significant selling points of the promotions is their emphasis on tournaments thought out the year. The most crucial game in NJPW is the G1 Climax, and the winner is awarded a title match for the IWGP World HW title at the Wrestle Kingdom show, always celebrated on January 4th.
NJPW currently has nine tournaments; the winners of the tournaments get as prize title matches for the biggest title of their divisions. One key aspect is that the Champions also compete in these tournaments.
- G1 Climax (Round Robin).
- Best of Super Jr. (Round Robin).
- World Tag League (Round Robin).
- New Japan Cup (Single Elimination).
- New Japan Cup USA (Single Elimination).
- Super Jr. Tag League (Round Robin).
- Super J-Cup (Single Elimination).
- Young Lion Cup (Last held in 2019).
- Lion’s Break Cup (Last held in 2020).
NJPW has several marquee shows like Wrestle Destiny or Dominion, but the biggest one is Wrestle Kingdom, and lately, it’s been a two-night show in the Tokyo Dome, one of wrestling’s meccas.
New Japan Pro Wrestling Factions
NJPW has a lot of factions, which always come into play when feuds or matches occur in NJPW. These factions are:
- Bullet Club (Lead by Jay White).
- Los Ingobernables de Japón (Lead by Tetsuya Naito).
- Suzuki-Gun (Lead by Minoru Suzuki).
- The Empire (Lead by Will Ospreay).
- Chaos (Lead by Kazuchika Okada).
There’s also the Main Unit; wrestlers are not part of a faction but work together when needed.
Now you’re ready to enjoy NJPW!
Check out Juan’s All-Elite Wrestling guide HERE.