On February 7th, hubby and I went to see professional wrestling in Akita City. New Japan Pro-Wrestling promotion visited Akita City that day and matches were held at one of the huge halls of a building named Akita Terrsa Sports Plaza located in the city itself.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling is the largest professional wrestling promotion in Japan and the second largest in the world in terms of popularity, attendance, and revenue (behind WWE). The promotion is known as ‘Shin Nihon Puroresu’ in Japanese and is often referred to as NJPW. NJPW was founded in 1972 and has some of the best in-ring action in the world right now. NJPW is committed to a genuine and grounded brand of professional wrestling, which means this promotion makes the wrestling look as real as possible, emphasizing on chops, marital arts kicks, and submission holds as the fighting style. NJPW, however, is still a carefully constructed piece of scripted entertainment but with fewer theatrics and not as melodramatic as WWE. Storytelling happens inside the ring with brutal affairs of the bouts as well as strategies and mannerisms of the wrestlers. Most of the matches have clean finishes and are treated as a legitimate fight. In NJPW, professional wrestlers are roughly divided into two weight classes with separate championship belts, namely heavyweight and junior heavyweight. Although during my initial stay in Japan I was not at all interested in professional wrestling, over time I gradually developed an interest and became a fan of the sports. This is probably because hubby is extremely interested in professional wrestling and watches almost all the related television programs.
As stated earlier, on February 7th, NJPW wrestling matches took place in a hall of Akita Terrsa Sports Plaza building located in Akita city. We went to the place by our car. We reached in front of the building at about 12.30 pm. To purchase tickets, we stood in a long queue of visitors and after almost two hours of waiting, we reached the ticket counter. As luck would have it, there were a few cancellations of the pre-booked tickets and we could purchase two ‘special ringside’ tickets, each worth 8000 Yen. We were not expecting such special tickets and so were very excited as our seats were immediately beside the wrestling ring and felt that our seats were at an advantageous position to view the matches. Wrestling matches were to begin at 6 pm and we still had about 3.5 hours to kill. So we went to a restaurant at a nearby shopping mall and had a nice relaxed late lunch.
Our ‘special ringside’ tickets
At about 5 pm, we returned to Akita Terrsa Sports Plaza building and bought a NJPW related magazine at a temporary shop set up inside the building. Afterwards we went inside the huge hall where the matches were to take place and sat on our seats. It was really exciting that our ‘special ringside’ seats were just next to the ring and we were fortunate that almost every actions and movements of the professional wrestlers could be observed from such close range. Exactly at 6 pm, the ring announcer of NJPW promotion welcomed the spectators and announced the matches to be held that day. There were six matches that day and all of them were tag team matches contested between teams of multiple wrestlers. Information about all the professional wrestlers in the roster of NJPW can be found in the homepage of NJPW.
I am standing in front of Akita Terrsa Sports Plaza building. NJPW bus is seen in the background (red arrow).
The wrestling ring inside the huge hall as viewed from our seats located just next to the ring
I am standing near our seats located just next to the ring. The NJPW related magazine I am holding was really interesting.
Announcer of NJPW promotion welcoming the spectators
The first match was between two teams, with one team consisting of Komatsu Yohei and Tanaka Sho and the other team consisting of Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. This was the very first professional wrestling match that I watched in my life. So initially I was shocked to see such powerful punches, kicks, and hits. We were sitting just next to the ring, so all the actions and movements of the wrestlers were very clearly visible. Soon I started enjoying the match. The team of Booby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly won the match.
A few photos of the wrestling actions of the first match
The second match was between two teams, with one team consisting of three wrestlers Jushin Thunder Liger, Kojima Satoshi, and Tenzan Hiroyoshi and the other team consisting of three wrestlers Mascara Dorada, Tiger Mask, and Nakanishi Manabu. The chops, kicks, punches, and submission holds where wresters wrenched on arms, legs, and necks were too exciting for the audience. We also got into the mood and enjoyed this match immensely. I am a fan of Tenzan, and so was very happy to see his team win this match.
A few photos of the wrestling actions of the second match
The third match was between two teams, with one team consisting of four wrestlers Captain New Japan, Taguchi Ryusuke, Shibata Katsuyori, and Goto Hirooki and the other team consisting of four wrestlers Cody Hall, Kenny Omega, Doc Gallows, and ‘The Machine Gun’ Karl Anderson. By this match, I realized that the audience was silent for long stretches. Sometimes individual voices and screams of people emboldening their favored wrestler could be made out in the otherwise silent hall. Initially I thought that the audience was not much interested in the action in the ring. But seeing people around me, I realized that it is the contrary. People were very attentive and taking in minute details of the wrestlers’ moves and performances. Whenever there was some nice move or action, people came to life and let out a round of respectful applause. Then it was back to near silence and again a round of applause at the next laudable moment. Soon I grasped the timings of applause and other small details and thoroughly enjoyed the match. The team of Captain New Japan, Taguchi, Shibata, and Goto won the match.
A few photos of the wrestling actions of the third match
The fourth match was between two teams, with one team consisting of four wrestlers Honma Tomoaki, Naito Tetsuya, Makabe Togi, and Nagata Yuji and the other team consisting of four wrestlers Yoshi-Hashi, Yano Toru, Ishii Tomohiro, and Nakamura Shinsuke. This match was a very brutal affair with full-blown strikes and kicks. It was a dramatic and realistic match, and the audience was very attentive and quiet. I have been following the matches of Nagata Yuji on television programs for many years now, and so was very happy to see his team win this match.
A few photos of the wrestling actions of the fourth match
The fifth match was between two teams, with one team consisting of two wrestlers Gedo and Okada Kazuchika and the other team consisting of two wrestlers Takahashi Yujiro and Bad Luck Fale. The ever attentive audience was fully turned on and the high-pitched screams of many young women trying to embolden Okada was a bit hilarious. Okada is a very handsome young wrestler and his in-ring techniques are amazing. But the team of Takahashi and Bad Luck Fale won this match.
A few photos of the wrestling actions of the fifth match
The sixth match was between two teams, with one team consisting of three wrestlers Alex Shelley, Kushida, and Tanahashi Hiroshi and the other team consisting of three wrestlers Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson, and Tama Tonga. I am a huge fan of Tanahashi, and so took many photos of him. On making a grand entrance to the ring, he played air guitar for the audience. His showmanship was very entertaining. The match itself was very aggressive and interesting. The audience paid much attention to the strategies and mannerisms of the wrestlers. Many people appreciated and emboldened one of the wrestlers fighting his bitter rival from past contests. I was extremely happy to see Tanahashi’s team win this match. After the match, Tanahashi again played air guitar with the championship belt. His microphone skills were also delightful and entertaining to the audience. It was one of the best and most entertaining matches for me.
A few photos of the wrestling actions of the sixth match
The sixth match was the last of the wrestling matches held that day. After the sixth match, Tanahashi Hiroshi interacted with the audience and shook hands with many people who eagerly waited in a queue. I was very excited to shake hands with him. After shaking hands with me he moved forward a few steps but returned to talk with me! Suddenly there was pin drop silence all around me and I just froze as I never expected him to remember me. Apparently he recognized me from 5 years ago when hubby and I met him and a few other wrestlers in Akita City. On 26th December 2010, NJPW had held wrestling matches in Akita City. That time, by chance hubby saw a few of the wrestlers at a building named Alve in the city and requested for a photo with Tanahashi and Tenzan Hiroyoshi, and both of them had happily obliged. But Tanahashi remembering me from 5 years ago was really shockingly surprising for hubby and me. I guess me being a dark foreigner in a sparsely populated city is remarkable and has its own advantages. Tanahashi has a lifetime fan in me.
With Tanahashi Hiroshi (December 2010)
With Tenzan Hiroyoshi (December 2010)