Watch what I'm talking about here and here. This is a fine championship match from Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, early 2009, pitting KENTA, 5'9", 179#, in brown and yellow, against Katsuhiko Nakajima, 5'10", 209#, in white and gold. I wonder if some of you readers can suggest some possible explanations why I love Japanese wrestling, because in many ways it differs dramatically from the grunt-and-grimace old-school American wrestling I love, while still retaining a lot of its original spirit, I feel. I lived in Japan as a kid, so nostalgia for my time there may play a small part in my affections, but I'm not inclined to think it plays any substantive part. I am not especially attracted to Asian men, in general, i.e. I am not a "rice queen," but in action in the wrestling ring they somehow gain sex appeal 100-fold--whereas non-Asians also gain sex appeal while wrestling, but, let's say, a mere 80-fold. Here are my thoughts at present--
- I like it because it manages to be over-the-top hyper-dramatic without the self-parody and clowning of WWE. The guys seem to mean business. Japanese wrestling has elements of comedy, to be sure, some of it too bizarre for words, but that comedy is segregated from the main matches, whereas in WWE nearly every televised fight is a cartoon, only shorter, wedged between moronic and blustery microphone speeches. (On this point, American indy/regional wrestling is also far superior to WWE.)
- On a related note, I like the Japanese concept of masculinity. Maybe it's eight-tenths "short man syndrome." I don't know. I like samurai movies, the samurai code, the steely professionalism of the Asian warrior.
- I like that there's cheering for both competitors in most cases. The fans do not appear to be corralled into one camp or another. ROH is a bit like that, where, for instance, as many fans booed Tyler Black back when he was champ as cheered for him. Japanese fans like whom they like, sure, but there's something more, too: greater respect for the spectacle of wrestling than for the personalities of the individual wrestlers--two competitors like KENTA and Nakajima can face off and receive respectful applause for a well-turned move or hold, regardless of which one does the trick. (Some of my feeling here might be nostalgia for the old kinescopes of 1950s American wrestling, with men in the audience in coats and ties and ladies in gloves and pillbox hats, as if attending a church service.)
- I like the way Japanese wrestlers pull off high-flying acrobatics and yet manage still to make it look convincingly like combat. It seems to me that American and British wrestlers pulling the same schtick usually make the derring-do an end in itself, seldom convincing me that the move, however impressive, is instrumental to a strategy for defeating the other man.
- Admittedly I may like Japanese wrestling because I see and understand so little of it that I miss that it's just as big a mess as WWE. That's a real possibility--but at present there's just no way of putting that hypothesis to the test.