For the past 3 years, Im following All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), at one time was NWA’s main member/partner in Japan, at one time the number two Wrestling organization in Japan, while the NUMBER ONE from wrestling quality standpoint, even to the point that many fans believed it was the BEST wrestling quality in history.
Interestingly, having followed their history, I feel some similarity between the NWA and AJPW in terms of their history.
1. At one point, particularly during the 90s, AJPW runs a Wrestling product many fans believed to be the BEST show in wrestling quality standpoint in history. Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, and Akira Taue, dubbed as the Four Heavenly Kings of AJPW were tear the house down with their SUPERB competition, along with notable US talents like Stan Hansen, Steve Williams, Vader, who were presenting the SUPERB wrestling match BAR NONE!
HOWEVER, the actual big DAWG (lol) in Japan, even in the 90s is not them. Rather its their rival: New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Despite believed to booked “lesser” quality compared to AJPW, NJPW still a great product on itself. Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono, and Shinya Hashimoto, dubbed as the Three Musketeers of NJPW was their main stars who tearing the house down in Tokyo Dome, NJPW’s main home for their biggest yearly show to this day. Combined with AWESOME Junior Heavyweight Division from Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger, Shinjiro Otani Chris Jericho, to Wild Pegasus (which is no other than someone who’s NOT be named these days), and with their willingness to work together with other promotions for inter-Promotional show (like with WCW for example) unlike the closed-nature of the 90s AJPW, and of course! Antonio Inoki, the Japanese Legend who’s ambition is to tell the world that Pro Wrestling is the STRONGEST form of combat sports, NJPW is the BIGGEST Wrestling Promotion in Japan in terms of attendance and moneymaking.
This is parallel with the NWA, at least before the 90s, and particularly in the 80s, which at that time, WITHOUT QUESTION, is the BIGGEST Pro Wrestling organization in the world.
BUT, once upon a time, a man named Vincent Kennedy McMahon try to challenge the NWA domination, and we know how it going. Up to the mid-80s and prior to the creation of WCW and Monday Night War, we see JCP, which is the de facto face of NWA at that time, trying to fight Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s effort to make his Promotion WWF, now WWE become the new lead in wrestling. At this point, we see JCP promote a straightforward WRESTLING product that fans believed to be more WRESTLING, but we now it was WWE who make more money.
2. Now, after the NWA spend their glory days in the pre-90s and AJPW in the 90s, comes the wind of change. People change, economic change, and Wrestling industry also change. Long story short, both NWA and AJPW are swept away by the wind of change, up to the point they lost most of their “assets” that in effect almost killing them.
We know about the story about how NWA lost most of its members in the decline of the Territory System which make the NWA in the early 90s become a shell of it former self.
In case of AJPW, I think some of you also knowing the story about Mitsuharu Misawa, the face of AJPW quarelling with Motoko Baba, the widow of Giant Baba, the late founder of AJPW about how to lead AJPW after the death of Giant Baba and the coming of the wind of change. Long story short, Misawa broke away from AJPW in 2000 and create Pro Wrestling NOAH, while bringing 98% of AJPW talent, leaving AJPW with only 2 native regular talent with a bunch of native part-timer and foreign wrestler. At this point, AJPW is a shell of it former self.
And looks like both NWA in the 90s and AJPW in the 2000s will died for goods.
3. HOWEVER, despite all the odds, both NWA and AJPW can overcome that. A new generation has re-filled those empty shells into a “new” entity and alive again. The NWA are going a steady rebuilding process that resulted that they still alive today. The same with AJPW. After overcoming the odd, AJPW has bough by Keiji Mutoh, former NJPW face that leave the Promotion, and then he led AJPW into a new path.
Keep in mind that those who “save” both NWA and AJPW from death is a different people and different generation from the previous one who led both organizations during their respective glory days. And along with the wind of change, of course both organizations are feels “different” compared to their past self. That’s why some, even many fans of their former self are criticising the “new generation” because they’re nowhere like their past self. And of course, both organization indeed are smaller and nowhere near the GLORIOUS past of their past self.
Despite that, one things for sure, both organizations ALIVE. And they’re okay in their own will. And some people still love it. Whether the super loyal fans from the past or the new fans that somehow, becoming their fans.
UNTIL ONE DAY……………………………………
4. ONE DAY, both organizations are taken over by individuals. In this respect, An entrepreneur named Nobuo Shiraishi purchased AJPW in 2013, and we all know what’s gonna happen with the NWA. Interestingly both of the new owners is the fans of the past self of both organizations. And with their takeover, they promise to make their beloved one to be GREAT AGAIN like their past self, which they’re not really a fan of the “new generation”.
5. Now the story begin: Both new owners in both organizations is a CONTROVERSIAL individual making CONTROVERSIAL decision and statement. The results is: Once again, AJPW lost most of it roster, led by Keiji Mutoh who create WRESTLE-1. While the exodus of talent is not as huge like the previous exodus, this leave AJPW to be less than half of their roster. In NWA?? Many NWA members, even the CORE members leave, and we all KNOWN the story………………………………………………
And once again. NWA and AJPW, both are a GREAT Wrestling Promotion in the past, once crumbled by the wind of change, successfully overcome the odds…………………………to be crumbling and rebuilded again from start.
Luckily for AJPW though, there’s another takeover in the Promotion. Jun Akiyama. A former youngster once believed to be the future of AJPW, only to leave the Promotion in the 2000s exodus, brought back into AJPW by Shiraishi. From there, he make attempt of another takeover of the Promotion, and now he became the owner of it, ousting the controversial Shiraishi.
So how’s AJPW at this point? Well, Shiraishi make so many controversial decision that makes fans away from the Promotion. Akiyama takeover the damaged AJPW and he trying to rebuilded again. And despite some blood, sweet, and tears, I can say that his effort are successful. Sure, AJPW still a small Promotion and nothing compared to their past self, even smaller compared to their past self when Mutoh held the Promotion. But they’re thriving! They are growing in their own right, and now I can say you that AJPW is one of the HOTTEST Indy Promotion in Japanese Independent scene. Interestingly enough, considering that Akiyama is the product of AJPW in the past when Giant Baba still alive, now AJPW is rebuilded using the almost same philosophy of Giant Baba with more serious WRESTLING, compared to Mutoh version of AJPW which is Sports Entertainment influenced.
And now, I can saying proudly that I’m currently an AJPW Guy.
Now, we will comeback to NWA. How’s the NWA since Tharpe’s takeover? Can Tharpe fullfilling his promise to make NWA GREAT AGAIN? Or he only damaged the brand like Nobuo Shiraishi did to AJPW? If the answer is the latter, will SOMEBODY comes and SAVE the NWA like Jun Akiyama did to AJPW? Or else? What’s next for NWA? Whatever the answer is, I wish NWA’s history won’t be stopped in the upcoming future. I don’t wish NWA to be GREAT AGAIN if the definition of GREAT AGAIN is returning to their past glory. But at least, I really-really wish that someday, the NWA will get its own Jun Akiyama.
This article was written by Dody, a long time NWA Fan and contributor to the Alliance-Wrestling.com Message Board