For decades, our publication has covered Japanese pro wrestling to varying degrees, often depending on how much intersection existed between Japanese and North American promotions. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly clear that many of our readers not only watch Japanese wrestling—in many cases, they actually prefer it to the offerings of U.S. federations.
In particular, New Japan Pro-Wrestling has become a global phenomenon, with merchandise available in malls worldwide, and American fans (including PWI staff) routinely eschewing sleep to catch the company’s biggest events live, as they air. In 2017 and 2018, Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega even parlayed their respective runs as IWGP heavyweight champion into #1 rankings on our annual PWI “500” list. To the delight of fans, New Japan has also made big strides across the Pacific, with the addition of the L.A. Dojo and the New Japan STRONG series increasing its visibility in the States.
Suffice to say, we not only recognize the importance of NJPW—we’ve been actively working to increase our coverage of its athletes, events, and business operations. Thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of one of our newest Contributing Writers, Walter Yeates, New Japan was gracious enough to grant us a rare interview with its new president, Takami Ohbari, who took office last October. Their conversation was so eye-opening—indeed, so newsworthy—that we knew we had to get it out into the world as soon as possible.
Thus, our first-ever digital issue, with the interview as its centerpiece. For the first time ever, we’re excited to present a “Hotseat” interview in both English and Japanese, so that a wider audience of international readers will be able to enjoy it right away. We’d like to thank NJPW for their cooperation and facilitation of this interview, as well as their assistance in translating it for multiple audiences.
While the interview with Mr. Ohbari may be the main attraction of this issue, we wanted the (digital) pages surrounding it to feel equally special. That’s why we’ve also included our in-depth analysis of New Japan’s recent two-night Wrestle Kingdom event. Building on a concept we’ve used many times for WWE’s WrestleMania events, we’ve gone beneath the surface of Wrestle Kingdom 15, revealing the real winners and losers of its biggest matches. You won’t want to miss it!
This issue also features classic photos and stories from our archives, all of which are relevant to Japanese wrestling fans (regardless of where they happen to live). We felt this was important because, in order to properly appreciate the present, it helps to have an understanding of where we’ve already been—in wrestling, yes, but also in life more broadly.
While the official theme of this issue is a look “Inside NJPW”—a play on PWI’s former sister publication, Inside Wrestling—we also know that puroresu is a rich tradition spanning countless territories and promotions. As such, you’ll also find coverage of Japanese wrestling at large, from a special “Capsule Profile” on joshi star Mayu Iwatani to a unique spin on our Official Wrestling Ratings, spotlighting only promotions based in Japan.
Get your copy of this historic issue now: bit.ly/insideNJPW