Celebrating Wrestling in Japan: What the Hell Is Puroresu?
Anybody can agree that WWE is too mainstream. They did put wrestling on the map for America and it was very big in the early days like the 80s and 90s but that momentum has slowed down. People still put WWE as the highest bar in terms of quality wrestling. It really bugs me, has any of them seen a Japanese wrestling match?
Puroresu. That is what Japanese wrestling is called. I think WWE has clearly defined the differences between them and puroresu or lucha libre. WWE is sports entertainment. Puroresu is also scripted wrestling, I'll give you that but it is more realistic. There is no outside interference, run-ins, or referees conveniently looking the other way. Blatant cheating draws boos from the audience, no matter how popular the wrestler. Almost every match ends clean, with no cheating and no disqualification.
Japanese wrestlers also like to do "stiff" matches which is pulling no punches. You hurt who you wanna hurt and its encouraged. Promos are rarely used and interviews usually occur after the matches rather than before, where they can be seen sweating and tired, as testimony to the match they have been in.
Let's honor some of the best wrestlers of Puroresu. If you haven't heard of any of them, then now is your chance. Witness what wrestling truly is.
If Ric Flair is the greatest wrestler of all time then Mitsuharu Misawa is beyond that. That is saying something.
Misawa is a wrestling legend in Japan being a technical worker who can brawl. He is famous for innovating the Tiger Driver which is lifting your opponent Tiger bomb style but dropping him on their head. As seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz3aq_H2KN4
And he also innovated his devastating finisher called the Emerald Flowsion. Just check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6s7oqVkRPI
He is not just an innovative wrestler but he was also awarded with twenty four 5 star matches throughout his career and honestly, that is god-like.
Unfortunately, Misawa is no longer with us. After taking a belly to back suplex on 2009, Misawa was knocked unconscious and was immediately rushed to the hospital and was announced dead.
RIP Mitsuharu Misawa
Keiji Mutoh is a japanese legend that has locked horns with some of the greatest in the likes of Antonio Inoki and Ric Flair. He is the first japanese wrestler to gain fame outside of japan and the first japanese to gain fame in the NWA which is a legendary feat.
Mutoh spent some of his wrestling career as The Great Muta which is a gimmick who wore face paint and spits out a green or red mist which other wrestlers has adopted.
Mutoh is credited for innovating the Shining Wizard. As seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH9frkJs_Ck
He is also famous for taking part in what is generally considered to be the bloodiest professional wrestling match of all time against Hiroshi Hase, where Mutoh accidentally bladed himself so deep that he bleed like crazy. This leads to the creation of the "Muta Scale" where critics judge the amount of bloodshed in a match comparing it to Mutoh's blade job and there is a lot of blood in that match. If you're interested, check the video above.
Mutoh is also the innovator of the Muta Lock which is commonly known as an inverted STF. Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjXEfkwZe4o
One hell of a wrestler, this dude should have a statue build for him.
WCW is credited for introducing Japanese wrestling to the US. They had a sense of real wrestling and they knew there are some in Japan. One of the greatest Japanese wrestler they ever raked in is Keiichi Yamada better known as Jushin Liger.
Keichii Yamada gained fame in his gimmick where he dressed up as a masked wrestler inspired by an anime (japanese cartoon). Yamada was given a superhero-like full body costume and a demonic looking mask, resembling the superhero type featured in anime programs.
One of Liger's famous matches is between The Great Muta where Muta resorted to his underhand tactics that had become his style over the years. He tore at Liger's mask and eventually ripped it off, but Liger kept his face down on the mat. After grabbing a chair outside the ring, Muta entered the ring but before he could hit Liger with it, Liger stood up and revealed his face to be painted pale white with red writings and spit mist into Muta's face. He tore off his bodysuit and revealed a painted chest, then proceeded to fight more aggressively the rest of the match, despite losing the match to Muta. It's an awesome match as seen above.
Yamada innovated the Shooting Star Press. See his version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4F0Cm92fLU
Yamada also have a devastating finisher in his arsenal called CTB/ Crash Thunder Buster. Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFpQaOEcnZk
The Ultimo Dragon is the Rey Mysterio of Japan. In terms of style and in popularity. Ultimo Dragon has adopted a lucha libre style wrestling and adopted it in most of his matches.
He is more famous for innovating the Asai Moonsault which is a must move for any high flyer. Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teDV1wlrlj0
The Ultimo Dragon also competed in the WCW and WWE but had a limited run. There is no way a japanese wrestler can make it big in WWE for some reason. Unless you're an effective face or has an underdog gimmick or both. Cmon, a foreigner wrestler is welcomed by "USA" chants and there is no coming back from that.
Anyways, Ultimo Dragon is also credited for his wonderful finsher called the Asai DDT. An awesome finisher, seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2uuTr4lQ2I
Kenta Kobashi is a rock star in Japan. I can describe him in two words. BURNING HAMMER! A freak of a finisher he innovated where he lifts the opponent and drops them on their head. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP_23tMm580
Kenta Kobashi is famous with his matches with Mitsuharu Misawa where they always bring out their best and is regarded to be the best matches of their career. Imagine Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit and multiply it by two.
If you aren't amazed by the burning hammer, check out his other finisher he also innovated. The Orange Crush, seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t0oFWON8GI
The Crush Gals
I should include in this list the famous female tag team wrestlers of all time. Japanese wrestling was big in the 80s and the female wrestlers want to rise too. Joshi, is what they call themselves. The Crush Gals helped Joshi reach mainstream media.
Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo made up The Crush Gals. The pair were formidable grapplers with tomboyish haircuts and great singing voices. The pair quickly became icons of Japan’s female pro-wrestling world and icons of the sport that were comparable to that of Hulk Hogan in the United States in the 80's.
They were innovative for the fact that not they are not only wrestlers, they are also top chart singers so move aside Honky Tonk Man. Both girls are retired now but are no doubt considered legends in Japan.
One of the greatest female matches hands down is between Chigusa and Dump Matsumoto in the famous hair match where the ending had Chigusa covered in blood, KO'ed by Dump, who proceeded to shave her head as thousands of fans screamed in disbelief. Lioness Aska was at ringside and entered the ring to help fend off further attacks & console the upset head shaven Chigusa. Check the video above.
Satoru Sayama is the first wrestler in Japan to wear a mask. Not just any mask, he wore a tiger mask that billed him as one of the most legendary wrestlers in Japan. Tiger Mask was a successful comic and cartoon wrestling hero as early as the late 60's, but in the early 80's, Satoru Sayama adopted the costume for use in the Ring. Suddenly, a superhero was flying around the Ring like no one had ever seen before, having mastered moves from Mexico, and invented dozens more to rival the super-powered exploits of his fictional namesake. Tiger Mask helped the acrobatic junior weight division into main stream media.
Tiger Mask is so popular that even in America, people flock to see him. It was a gimmick from above that gave cruiserweights the spot light.
Tiger Mask is famous for innovating the Tiger Feint kick or more comonly known as Rey Mysterio's 619, seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o03Chh8b9X0
And another trivia. Satoru after his retirement wrote a book called "Kayfabe" which is about exposing the secrets of Japanese wrestling and after that, the term was picked up into popular media. So whatcha gonna do?
One hell of a tag team worker, Jun Akiyama is famous for being an innovative tag team wrestler. He had kick ass tag team matches between Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Takao Omori where he feuded and teamed up with throughout his career.
He is famous for innovating the Blue Thunder Driver. Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxSA8PPJAAg&NR=1 and the Wrist clutch Exploder Suplex, seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMLZ0rJsiJo which is just jaw dropping awesome.
One of the best in the business. He is famous for being stiff in his matches. He is famous with his matches against Kenta Kobashi, Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa. His reputation for giving and receiving punishment is unmatched outside of Japanese death match circles.
To give you an idea of how a legit Kawada is, he once broke his forearm hitting Mitsuharu Misawa in the back of the head. Kawada kept going for 17 minutes more without even flinching.
One of Kawada's devastating finisher is the Ganso bomb, seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iQ1PFkXlV0. Moves like these is the reason I'm glad WWE is PG, damn.
If you liked that, check out his folding powerbomb. Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAK3hHh8mnM
And that ends my slide. A tribute to the greatest workers of Japan. I hopeI was able to share to you Bleachers the wonderful world of Puroresu.
If you're tired of WWE like me then Puroresu is the remedy for you and always remember to celebrate wrestling and its rich heritage.
Comments are welcome. Thank you for reading.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!