Wrestler's Court: Lessons WWE Cn Learn from New Japan Pro Wrestling | Smark Out Moment

Wrestler's Court: Lessons WWE Cn Learn from New Japan Pro Wrestling

Posted by Oliver Court Tuesday, July 1, 2014
A recent episode of RAW saw Stephanie McMahon projectile vomit on Vickie Guerrero after Roman Reigns spiked her coffee as part of his plan to gain entry into a battle royal. The three segments that this story took place over were packed full of misogyny, gross out 'humour', humiliation of a widow, babyfaces behaving illegally for no good reason, and terrible fake laughter from the commentary team. None of those things are new features of RAW, in fact you could argue that they're all as traditional as John Cena 'overcoming the odds' and Michael Cole shilling the WWE App at every opportunity. Both of which also happened this week, of course. And all this is done to appeal to Vince McMahon, or at a stretch, children under the age of 10.

wrestling Kazuchika Okada NJPW star

I'm not completely negative about RAW right now, because I'm enjoying the emergence of young talents and new acts such as Ambrose, Rollins and Rusev, who appear to be getting genuinely set up as the main eventers of the future. I believe that the current roster, including the guys and girls still in NXT, is the best all-round roster WWE has ever had, and if used right can produce some memorable matches in the near future.

But the product WWE is putting out at this moment is disastrous, and Vickie puking is a perfect example of just how bad it can get. Not even a child could have found that entertaining; it could only ever appeal to Vince's warped sense of humour. And if Roman Reigns continues to get caught up in these wacky Cena-esque scenarios, he is going to lose a lot of fan support.

So what can be done to change this around? Well, as an armchair booker, I can easily suggest WWE look to New Japan Pro Wrestling's product to see some obvious changes that could be made. New Japan has had my two favourite matches of the year so far in Tomohiro Ishii vs Kota Ibushi, and Ricochet vs KUSHIDA. They put on great pro wrestling shows every month, whereas WWE's show quality has been very hit-and-miss lately. There's little to no chance WWE will ever change their presentation style until they are forced to by dwindling popularity and profit margins, but hypothetically, let's see what could be done to improve their product.

A greater focus on in-ring action

Mae Young WWE Hand Segment Grown Up RAW 1000
Backstage skits can get really, really weird.
The obvious difference between WWE's 'Sports Entertainment' and just about every other wrestling company's shows is the varying focus on the actual in-ring action. WWE uses a bizarre Muppets-style 4th-wall breaking presentation of its storylines that can be very hit-and-miss in terms of quality. For every good backstage scene, there are a dozen 'Puking on Vickie' scenes that only appeal to the lowest common denominator. With New Japan, this never happens. All the action is told within the ring or in interviews with the wrestlers. The competition is treated as legitimate and, for the most part, serious.

There are still comedy characters such as Toru Yano who are still pretty important in the New Japan roster hierarchy, but his focus is still shown to be on winning matches and titles rather than messing around in backstage skits. A big part of Vince McMahon's image of 'Sports Entertainment' is a variety show with multiple facets, including what are essentially comedy sketches, but the writers have proven time and again to lack anything resembling comedy prowess. Maybe if the writers focused on telling stories in the ring, we wouldn't have to cringe our way through RAW's terrible backstage antics.

Rotation of Top Stars

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8 Poster New Japan Pro Wrestling Nakamura Tanahashi Okada Naito IWGP
The big stars of NJPW... and Naito.
Despite years and years of attempting to create top stars who can act as a primary draw in the vein of Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold, WWE still only have one 'mega star'; John Cena. Cena is now 37, and his body is starting to feel the effects of 10 years at the top of the business. WWE wrestlers are working or traveling to work almost non-stop, and the top stars only get a break when an injury forces them into one. Cena and Daniel Bryan; the #2 star, also have to work many high profile main event matches which go longer and are physically harder to compete in than regular ones, which only increases the punishment their body takes.

In NJPW, there are 3 'mega star' draws; Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kazuchika Okada. In 2014, New Japan have taken advantage of their great popularity by attempting to split main events between them rather than relying on one top draw to main event a PPV every time. This month, Nakamura main-evented the Dominion show, while Okada main evented the big shows in April and May. Not only does this avoid burning through big matches too quickly, it prevents the big stars from becoming overworked and fatigued, which is especially important for the 37 year old Tanahashi. When one big star main events a show, the others typically work tag matches where they only have to wrestle half the match and maybe don't need to go as hard, keeping them fresh for their turn in the spotlight. It's a system that makes sense, and one that WWE would be smart to adopt, especially in the wake of Daniel Bryan's injury which forced him to drop the title and change their plans.

Announcing match cards well in advance

At this month's NJPW PPV, the lineup for the biggest annual wrestling tournament; G1 Climax, was revealed in a very cool video, and made me mark out in excitement big time by revealing huge match-ups such as Shibata vs Tanahashi, one month in advance. New Japan reveal most of the matches for their next big show about a month in advance, and this allows anticipation to build ahead of time.

In WWE, you'd be lucky if even 4 PPV matches have been booked one week ahead of the show itself. Most of the time, a show will include at least one unannounced match which naturally feels unimportant as it hasn't received any build-up. It seems like a no-brainer to inform the viewer of what matches you expect them to pay to watch, and announcing full cards well in advance would certainly make me more inclined to buy a WWE show.

Long lasting stables

Bullet Club t-shirt 2014 NJPW Takahashi AJ Styles
Right now, the Bullet Club are doing very well as Gaijin douchebag heels seeking to dominate New Japan, and their T-shirts are selling out on US websites, proving that they are helping introduce a larger western audience to NJPW. CHAOS is another stable that includes big stars such as Nakamura, Okada and Tomohiro Ishii (The best wrestler in the world today in my humble opinion), who often band together to take on the Bullet Club on house shows. Stables are a very useful way of spelling top stars, allowing them to wrestle both their future opponents as well as guys much higher or lower on the card as well as avoiding fatigue and keeping match-ups fresh. WWE could very easily form a few stables from their current roster, and allow lower mid-card acts to wrestle meaningful matches against higher tier opponents as part of a stable rivalry.

A real Crusierweight division

Ricochet 2014 New Japan Best of the Super Juniors winner trophy Dragon Gate
Ricochet with the Super Junior trophy.
New Japan hold an annual tournament for Light Heavyweight wrestlers; Best of the Super Juniors. This year, that tournament was won by Ricochet, an incredible Dragon Gate wrestler who occasionally works in NJPW, and led to two Match of the Year contenders in Ricochet vs KUSHIDA and Ricochet vs Ibushi; both of which were 'Cruiserweight' matches. New Japan isn't afraid of showcasing smaller, quicker wrestlers alongside the bigger guys.

WWE passed on singing Ricochet earlier this year on the grounds that they already had enough 'small guys', if dirtsheets are to be believed. Ricochet is a 'once in a generation'-type athlete, and has become one of the best wrestlers in the world. You can never have 'enough' of these kinds of performers, so if this is the reason for WWE passing on Ricochet, then it's pretty damn petty and will hurt the quality of their roster in the long term. I'm pretty sure WWE will never say they have 'enough' big hosses, but this prioritisation of super heavyweights over cruiserweights is again outdated, with so many amazing regular-sized guys on the indies.

I know this reads as very negative towards WWE, and I am overlooking the aspects of NJPW that could be improved here. But as much as WWE wants to be in its own bubble, it's not, and needs to take influence from other areas of pro wrestling in order to become better.

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