The 🤼 プロレス thread! Learning Japanese through pro wrestling

Honestly the idol aesthetics in Stardom seem all but vestigial at this point since it seems like they’re focusing on straightforward athletics these days. For the others though there was one magazine I recapped a while back that had a rundown of lots of women’s promotions that might be somewhat useful.

I think Ice Ribbon would definitely be one to include - they were listed second under Stardom in that list, and my impression from watching some shows was a bit of a “super indie” vibe - like a smorgasbord of different sides of wrestling - from major feuds, to your idol types, to deathmatches, to mixed tags, to martial arts focused matches, Ram Kaichou from 666 was in there, etc.
They also have a niconico channel that’s subscribable like nicopro, so it’s accessible at least in some form even if it’s not nearly as straightforward as Stardom or TJPW. I was briefly subscribed to both and my impression was that the Ice Ribbon channel was a back catalog of prior shows while nicopro was new shows on timers, and I found both a bit stressful to navigate and hard to tell what exactly I would have access to (especially not knowing how to buy additional niconico points overseas…). Now that I’ve accumulated some amount of Ice Ribbon matches I’d like to have watched from the magazines though - it might be fun to resubscribe and see if I can’t track them down.

As for SEAdLINNNG (every time I type that name… what a name!) and Marvelous, I’m not sure the best way to get into them (since I haven’t yet)… shows might show up on niconicopro, I think?
But my impression is they’re both small promotions guided heavily by a couple of veterans running them - in SEAdLINNNG’s case, Yoshiko and former Stardom founder Nanae Takahashi (in my recap a couple posts ago I should have remembered THAT’s who that was not just mentioned the cute dog), in Marvelous’ case, former Crush Gal Chigusa Nagayo and Takumi Iroha.

I suppose it’s a wiki so I could update it huh :sweat_smile: (though I’m not sure I know enough to fill in “style” without just cribbing heavily from shupro)

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Both NJPW and DDT put up free matches this week that contain one of my favorite wrestlers! They’re extremely different matches, which show two very different (but equally enjoyable) sides of him.

NJPW’s free match this Monday is Kota Ibushi vs Jay White from the G1 Climax 29 Final on August 12, 2019. Remember, you only have until next Monday (Japan time) to watch this one! Since it will vanish, I’ll put the full description under a cut. I originally watched this match live as it aired, and I was very nervous, haha, because so much was riding on this one.

Explanation and links

This match is pretty straightforward: Ibushi is the babyface hero desperate to achieve his dream, and Jay is the slimy heel desperate to win whatever it takes. Ibushi isn’t always such a pure babyface—he has a very cruel side (often dubbed “murder Ibushi”) that tends to come out when his opponents provoke him too much, but Jay delights so much in tormenting him, it’s easy to root for Ibushi here.

The G1 Climax is NJPW’s most important tournament, and this is the final, so winning it is a pretty big deal. For Ibushi, winning would get him one step closer to his dream of winning the IWGP Heavyweight belt. For Jay, winning it would mean he’s the second ever gaijin wrestler (after Kenny Omega) to win this tournament. The prize on the line is a contract granting the winner the right to challenge for the IWGP belt in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom, NJPW’s biggest show of the year.

There’s a deeper narrative thread also running beneath this match, and it’s the main reason why I was so invested in it, even though the commentary never acknowledges it. Winning the IWGP Heavyweight belt was so important to Ibushi, it was the reason why he chose to sign with NJPW instead of following Kenny to AEW. The Golden Lovers didn’t want to tell another story about one of them feeling overshadowed by the other.

There are echoes of this story throughout this G1 final. In 2018, Ibushi also made it to the finals, but even with Kenny in his corner supporting him, he wasn’t able to win. This year, Ibushi walks out alone. This is in stark contrast to Jay, who brings the entirety of Bullet Club out with him, including Kenta, who freshly joined the faction earlier that night after turning on his “wrestling soulmate” Katsuyori Shibata (wrestlers betraying their soulmates is a bit of a theme for Bullet Club). In 2018, Ibushi was sort of peripherally part of Bullet Club for a time (at least, he effectively married into it), but here, they’re fully his enemies.

I don’t know if this match will be nearly as compelling to anyone else, but I was desperate to see Ibushi win, both because I wanted him to be able to achieve his dream, and I wanted him to show to the world that he was on Kenny’s level and that the two of of them are truly the best in the world so that when the Golden Lovers do reunite, they can finally team up without ambition and jealousy eating away at them. (Kenny actually did watch this match, and the end of it affected him, too, but that’s a story that was told in a different company in a different country).

If you want to watch this match, it’s available with English commentary or Japanese commentary! It’s a decently long match, so just remember that it will disappear on Monday (Japan time)!

The other free Kota Ibushi match this week is very different! It also has a lot of stakes to it, albeit a very different kind.

Here is Kota Ibushi defending his KO-D Championship against Yoshihiko (a wrestler who is a blow up doll) in DDT Pro Wrestling on March 21, 2015, four years before the match linked above.

This match is rather infamous. Some clips from it went a bit viral a few years ago, and some wrestling fans absolutely loathe the existence of it because they think it’s “killing the business” by exposing that pro wrestling matches aren’t actually real fights. Personally, I love it because it’s 1) extremely funny, and 2) extremely cool. There are some genuinely awesome stunt fighting moments in this, and it takes a lot of athleticism and skill to essentially wrestle an entire match by yourself!

If you enjoy Yoshihiko and want to see more of him, here’s a very recent match of his from September 26, 2021. This one has Japanese commentary, so it’s an excuse for some listening practice if nothing else, haha!

Part of the thrill of this match is Yoshihiko’s tag partner: Jun Akiyama. Akiyama is a very established wrestling legend who is known primarily for his work in respectable promotions like AJPW and NOAH. He’s in DDT now, though, and during his KO-D title reign, he fully solidified himself as representing DDT, comedy ridiculousness and all (I wrote about this transformation in several posts on my gif blog because there’s nothing I love more than serious wrestlers doing ridiculous comedy stuff).

Believe it or not, there’s a bit of a story leading into the match linked above, though nothing too involved. Akiyama first appeared with Yoshihiko at the very end of the CyberFight Festival supershow in June, and a photograph of Akiyama with Yoshihiko slung over his shoulders made the cover of 週刊プロレス that week.

A couple months later, they announced that the two of them would be tagging together in an upcoming match. Akiyama made a surprise appearance in a match in September, coming to Yoshihiko’s aid disguised as Yoshihiko’s handler (sometimes a person dressed all in black participates in the match to help Yoshihiko execute certain moves, but this person sort of both exists and doesn’t exist at the same time in kayfabe). The post match comments for this one were really funny, haha. If your Japanese listening comprehension isn’t good enough to catch them, a translation is in here.

Akiyama and Yoshihiko’s opponents are Harashima, the ace of DDT, and Kazuki Hirata, who is known more for his dancing in the ring than his wrestling ability (in kayfabe, at least). He is a very skilled wrestler, though, and really proves it in this match. Some moments here are really special.

Yoshihiko and Hirata are going to have a singles match soon. On October 12, I think? But I don’t know if that match will end up on youtube or not.

Also, sort of an interesting side note: apparently half of the people accessing the new Wrestle Universe streaming service so far have been overseas fans, which is amazing for a company that produces almost entirely Japanese content with almost no subtitles! It just goes to show how much of pro wrestling transcends language. Takagi is promising to add more English content to the service, so DDT, TJPW, and NOAH will likely continue to become even more accessible if your listening comprehension isn’t quite there yet.

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Tomorrow/today (the 9th in Japan) is TJPW’s biggest show of the year, Wrestle Princess! Last year, I wrote up a preview for it to help catch new fans up on the storylines, but this year I ran out of time :sweat_smile:. It should be loads of fun, though, and it would probably be a good entry point for the promotion if you’re curious about it and are willing to try out a Wrestle Universe subscription.

In anticipation of the show, TJPW uploaded a few relevant matches to youtube.

The first one is the match that actually got me into TJPW! It’s a tag team title match between the Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki) and NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama & Misao) on June 8, 2019. (No commentary for this one, sorry).

I knew Yuka a little bit from AEW, but the other three wrestlers were new to me. As soon as I saw NEO Biishiki-gun, I was utterly entranced. My lesbian heart was smitten; I needed them to win the tag titles. They’re the only true heel faction in the entire company, and they’re beautiful and evil, and I wanted them to have everything their hearts desired. If you watch the match linked above, here’s Sakisama’s entrance music (since the video cuts out the entrances, I’m guessing due to many wrestling themes being extremely copyrighted).

In the months to follow, I had just enough time to get extremely attached to Sakisama and Misao’s tag team before things started to go wrong for them. Misao’s story that year was incredible and emotional, so I can’t really complain about her leaving NEO Biishiki-gun, but it broke my heart a little when she split from Sakisama at the end of 2019.

In 2020, Sakisama found a new tag partner. As the story goes, Mei Saint-Michel was drawn to the sound of Sakisama playing the flute in the woods, and she followed after Sakisama and asked her to train her to be her maid. Not long into 2021, NEO Biishiki-gun were once again tag champions.

Yuka and Mizuki hold a grudge against them because NEO Biishiki-gun ended both of Yuka’s tag title reigns previously. My own allegiances have actually shifted over the past year, and as much as I still love NEO Biishiki-gun, I’m cheering for the Magical Sugar Rabbits all the way in this one. It’s rather poetic, because Yuka and Mizuki actually faced each other in the main event of Wrestle Princess last year, but this time, they’re trying for the tag belts together.

Pro wrestling in general tells a lot of stories about love, but TJPW in particular tends to really reward your investment in these stories, which is part of why it’s my favorite company.

The main event of Wrestle Princess this year is also a story about love. It’s another battle between tag partners, this time between Miyu Yamashita, TJPW’s ace, and Maki Itoh, once a failed idol, now an international superstar.

The match that arguably propelled Itoh to the level of fame that she currently has is this one that TJPW just uploaded: Maki Itoh vs Miyu Yamashita in DDT’s one (and so far only) show in the US on April 4, 2019. (This match actually had Patrick Gill doing English commentary, but I believe the version with commentary is only available if you purchase the show on Fite.tv)

This is a short match, and it’s not their best one, but Itoh was amazed by how popular she was in America, and it inspired her to work on improving her English. Eventually, she got her heart set on appearing in the American company AEW (a goal that she achieved in 2021!).

Maki Itoh is rather infamous in the English-speaking wrestling world for her notoriously abrasive personality and her frequent use of profanity and English slang on twitter. Her account is pretty entertaining, if you’re looking for some Japanese reading practice on your twitter feed, haha!

Itoh has crossed paths with Miyu again and again throughout her career, always at pivotal moments for her character, but only in 2021 did they become tag partners. Itoh doesn’t have a great history with her tag partners (she’s insecure and afraid of being overshadowed), but somehow, she and Miyu made it work. And now Itoh is about to challenge Miyu for her title once again, and this time, she might actually finally win it.

Wrestling has a way of bringing things full circle. I love how much it rewards your investment, but it can make it difficult to just jump in, because it feels like you’re always entering in the middle of the story. I hope these posts help at least one person :sweat_smile:

NJPW’s free match this week features the wrestler who got @rodan into wrestling! It’s Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tetsuya Naito from April 14, 2011. I haven’t seen this match, but it’s a G1 final, so it’s probably incredible. Naito is also a really compelling character, but this is an era for him that I’m very hazy on, so I’ll let the match speak for itself (if you want to know more about him, I linked a couple essays about him in the “further reading” section in this thread).

If you want to watch this match, it’s available here until next Monday (Japan time). Japanese commentary is your only option for this one!

In other wrestling news, Wrestle Princess was fantastic! One of my top three shows of the year across all promotions.

If you want a taste, TJPW uploaded part of one of the matches to youtube! This match is Aja Kong & Moka Miyamoto vs Miu Watanabe & Yuki Arai from October 9. The version uploaded to youtube has Japanese commentary. When I linked this initially, I thought it was the full match, but it looks like they only included part of it, sorry!

Aja Kong is a joshi wrestling legend. She has been wrestling for decades. In this match, she’s teaming up with Moka, who is one of TJPW’s rookies. Their opponents are two wrestlers who are also idols: Miu (in pink), a member of the Up Up Girls who debuted a few years ago, and Yuki Arai, a member of SKE48 who is one of TJPW’s newest rookies.

There are a couple main plot threads in this. One of them is the rivalry between Moka and Arai, who each have a win over the other person (and have yet to win against anyone else). TJPW actually streamed the singles match between them as part of the pre-show before Wrestle Princess (there’s even Japanese commentary, and they didn’t mute the entrances, haha). The other story of the match centers around Miu’s determination to do her Giant Swing move on Aja Kong.

Previous to this match, Miu managed to do something that no other wrestler had ever done: she did a Giant Swing on two people, holding one in each arm (the spot went mildly viral on wrestling twitter). Afterward, Miu vowed that she would Giant Swing Aja Kong, a feat that no other joshi wrestler had ever managed to accomplish. Aja warned her that she weighed as much as three people, not two, but Miu’s determination did not waver.

It’s a fun match! The post-match comments are really nice, too (here’s a link to the translation if you need it).

Also, this week, DDT streamed part of their October 12 show live! Loads of listening practice here, because you get three dark matches, the announcements in the venue, and the first two matches on the main card of the show (sadly, you don’t get to listen to the entrance themes). There’s also a live youtube chat that might offer some reading practice, but I can’t vouch for the quality of the chat because I watched the show on Wrestle Universe.

It would take way too long to give context for all of these matches, but if you do want to watch all or most of the stream, here’s Mr. Haku’s live translation thread, which offers more information and some translations for things said in-ring.

Kazuki Hirata vs Yoshihiko is in this! I’ve timestamped the start of that match in the link to the stream below. It was really fun, so I recommend checking out at least that one match. Yoshihiko does some awesome submission wrestling, haha.

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I don’t know that much about that time either, but in broad strokes I know plucky babyface “Stardust Genius” Naito being upstaged by Chaos-leader Nakamura would end up being a big part of what made the former Ingobernable, so that match seems like an interesting look at the roots of the characters they’d both be most famous as later on - weird now to see non-tranquilo Naito and a Nakamura who’s got some of the mannerisms (and hair) but not all of them! (and boy again… I forgot how loud the audience used to be from start to finish in climactic matches)

Meanwhile it took me a lot longer than I should have to realize that the shift to the new Wrestle Universe involves registering separately on the new site, and if you keep going to the old one nothing will appear strange except new shows aren’t uploaded :sweat_smile: Was wondering when Wrestle Princess was going to show up…

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I was amused to see an official NJPW-themed introductory English-learning book up for pre-order. Guess @fallynleaf isn’t the only one actively advocating for wrestling as a vehicle for language learning! I might have to try the Bookwalker version when it comes out next month just out of curiosity…

Turns out the pitch at the top of this thread could have been a lot more succinct just by swapping 日本語 into the following equation :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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Omg, that’s incredible! Thanks for sharing!

I’ve actually heard a couple Japanese wrestlers talk about how they learned English through watching WWE, haha! Shota (wrestler for DDT and Ganbare, not the NJPW young lion Shota Umino) said that’s how he originally learned English.

And of course, plenty of wrestlers are also motivated to learn English primarily so that they can connect better with their English-speaking fans. Miu Watanabe gave a funny anecdote where she talked about not bothering to learn English because she didn’t think she’d ever need it, and then of course she became a pro wrestler, and now has lots of international fans. She really struggles with English more than many TJPW wrestlers, but I honestly find it really inspiring that she tries anyway. Here was her attempt to write her own name in romaji on twitter.

When I see things like that, it makes me feel better about my own limited ability to communicate in Japanese, haha, because it’s a good reminder that even if you make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world, and most people will find it endearing that you at least tried.

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