I've been meaning to visit this thread for a while now.
The following shall contain random musings from a long time Puro fans point of view.
So, 2013 has been quite the entertaining year so far for Puroresu fans as far as I can tell. Not since 1999-2002 have I kept -and shall continue to keep- such a close eye on the up to date happenings in NJPW. Not saying the past Eleven or so years I've not kept up with the overall happenings in NJPW (and the rest of the promotions in Japan), because I've not missed a Wrestle Kingdom yet, and I've watched countless NJPW/AJPW/Noah/DG/"indy" matches on YouTube as well as purchasing certain shows on DVD, but watching things in chronological order became a thing of the past for me. Also, I've not seen as much Puro as I have WWE or the Indies (fuck a TNA; apart from -the disapointly painful exerience of- attending the TV tapings at Wembly Arena, and downloading the Xtravaganza PPV special thing they did recently, I've not seen a damn thing), but -now that full AJPW/NJPW shows are available on YouTube within a week or two (?) of happening- it's never been easier to be a fan and keep track of things (on screen) of the best WRESTLING scene on the planet.
Side note 1: the reason why I stopped avidly following is because after WCW and ECW folded, the US wrestling scene became such a vast landscape of talent, competing for so many different Indy feds/TNA, that I just couldn't keep up with it all--Puroresu went through a series of major changes around the time I stopped fanaticising over wrestling from the East as well, and required even more attention than ever before. There's also the fact that before 2007 the only reason I ever went on the Internet was to visit a select few obscure sites that sold "underground" wrestling videos/DVD's, so, like, streaming/downloading wrestling was something I was unfamiliar with. In other words, shit got too expensive.
Things I wanna point out.
NJPW is the best promotion anywhere.
Not just because of the wrestlers they have, but the booking is second to none, and with Bushiroad Inc aggressively marketing and promoting things, the company is in the best shape financially that it has been in in years, and the presentation of the product is at it's best. Each member of the roster is positioned on the card perfectly, and given the resurgent boost of interest in NJPW, this clear and easy to follow presentation is exactly what they need right now.
The rivalry and matches between main eventers Okada and Tanahashi are unequaled in 2013--same could have been (and -by many folk- was) said last year. Perfectly matched, in the chemistry they have in the ring and by their somewhat similar new age puro practitioner look, the pair have stumbled onto something that is very rare in wrestling--a long running feud that gets people talking. One clear top main event star at the top of his game that fans can relate to and pay money to see is necessary for any promotion to succeed, but to have two of them makes world of difference. Okada is definitely the C.M. Punk to Tanahashi's John Cena, in terms of standing within the company, but the difference is Okada isn't booked as a cowardly heel, thus giving the feud a far more even feel about it. No one really believed Punk could win clean against Cena. Okada has defeated Cenas Japanese counter part clean for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Twice. That's the way to make a star. Losing to Okada hasn't hurt Tanahashi in the slightest, and has only helped create a superstar of equal footing--a booking practice that WWE has been miserably inadequate at these past few years.
As for the rest of the roster, and the way they are booked..
On the home front, Goto, Nakamura, Yano, Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Suzuki, and others, are at the top of their game, and vets like Tanaka, Michinoku, Nagata, Tenzan, Kojima, Liger, and Tiger Mask (IV) still put on performances many in WWE can only dream of (being given the opportunity). These guys are the reason NJPW could never be called a "one feud fed", and anything they take part in adds to the proof that a promotion can have multiple and entertaining feuds running cohisively with one another. If ever there was a place for WWE to look for creative inspiration, NJPW is (and, if I think about it, almost always has been) the place to start. Logic is rarely compromised, almost every match is treated seriously, titles have prestige and worth and are treated as the be-all-and-end-all of their respective divisions and title changes are a big thing, individual pushes are given sufficient time to mature, and, above all, the consistency of rarely waivers, and the poor decisions that are made are few and far between. While good booking is something that is key to success for any wrestling promotion, and hitting the right buttons at the right time can add new fans, it only takes one or two bad booking decisions to turn fans away in far greater numbers.
I've missed Naito this year--his return should see his rise to the top of the card continued, and I smell an IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign in the latter part of this year, leading into a defence against Okada or (more likely) Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 2014.
As for the current crop of "Gaijin" talent.. Devitt is obviously still their number one--his recent heel turn is either the beginning of a long run in the Heavyweight main event scene, or the start of what may be his last year with the company, depending in his state of mind when it comes to resigning his contract [NJPW only offer year long contracts, if I'm not mistaken.]. Perhaps next year Prince will finally become a household name and join HHH's Circus Of Travelling Indy Workers--no doubt, given the abundance of similarly styled wrestlers currently on the roster, he would fit in well to day the least.
The rest of Devitts English speaking peers are definite positive additions to the roster for me. Harry Smith became Davey Boy Smith Jr and has finally become a convincing Heavyweight contender, which is something that was never gonna happen in VinnieLand. Do I see an IWGP Heavyweight Championship run in his future? A run with the Intercontinental Championship could do wonders in terms of positioning him to move up to the top of the card and become NJPW's top foriegner in 2014. Being a huge fan of, not only the rich legacy that his family created over the years, but the man himself, I hope to see him continue his ascension up the card until he becomes the man in NJPW--his destiny is in Jado and Gedos safe hands, so Smith fans should remain positive. Alex Shelley has the ability to replace Devitt as the Jr Heavyweight foreign kingpin, if he plans on sticking around that is--those WWE rumours are never too far off whenever his name is mentioned, meaning a sustained push is only plausible if the commitment is there. Either way, he's Alex f'n Shelley, and is a worthy part of the roster. Lance Archer is a bit of a beast, but thats about it. Lastly, Karl Anderson. This guy just keeps on getting better, and Giant Bernard/Tensai returning to WWE was a major plus for his career. As good as their team was, he was always gonna play second fiddle to the bald behemoth. His match with Tanahashi cemented and justified his status as Ichiban Gaijin. An offer from WWE or TNA is the only thing that could prevent him from winning the big one this or next year. Saying that, he faces an awful lot of competition, and room for improvement, with the latter being key before that push that truly takes him to the top happens. Does he have what it takes? This time last year I might have laughed at you, but his improvement over the last ten or so months points towards continued success, and a sustained push that could see him become the first foreign IWGP Heavyweight Champion in a long time. The loss of Shelton Benjamin, M.V.P, and Lowki is only really notable in Lowki's absence. He had some phenomenal matches last year, and the Jr Heavyweight Division will miss him. M.V.P never set the world on fire in NJPW, but he did have a fair run, although, I never saw him as a potential Heavyweight Champion, so it's not like he left before his time or anything. Shelton was a card filler at best, and, of the three, his presence shall be missed the least.
The last show I watched was Invasion Attack, so I've a little over a month to catch up on, but WOW did I enjoy it. NJPW at Sumo Hall generally yields good shows, but this one was particularly fantastic. The main event will be hard to beat in terms of being "match of the year" in any promotion, and the undercard was stacked with top performances from what is arguably the best roster on the planet. The focus on all of the outsiders never hurt things either. Imagine that, a promotion treating non-members of its roster with respect based on accolades earnt elsewhere. Unheard of in VinnieLand.
This year is shaping up extremely nicely, and the future doesn't look too shabby either--Okada vs Suzuki should be one hell of a clash.
AJPW is back, baby!!
After hearing that they are now under new ownership, and and are attempting to revitalise their product, I decided to give them another chance after giving up on them ages ago. I wasn't disapointed. No longer the mixed offering of the last twelve or so years, AJPW seems to have found a strong identity, and is the clear number two company in Japan. I wish them nothing but success. Lord knows they deserve it after the terrible mismanagement they've suffered through under Keji Mutos rule.
Burning are currently the most interesting development in all of Puroresu.
Which leads me to..
Noah is in a terrible state.
KENTA is the GHC Heavyweight Champion. That's about all that's of interest to me.
To end this post, I'd like to say, congrats to Kenta Kobashi for calling it a career while he still can. The sort of matches he has put on over the years makes this quite the accomplishment.