Sunday, March 25th, I had the honor of attending New Japan’s return to the U.S. with their event titled “Strong Style Evolved.” Founded all the way back in 1972, New Japan Pro Wrestling has long been a staple in the world of professional wrestling, helping build the careers of many of the top superstars in the world both past, present, and inevitably the future.
Having done one tour back in 2011, the promotion made their long-awaited return to the U.S. last July, debuting the new IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship in a two-night tournament that blew the roof off of the Long Beach Convention Center with non-stop exciting action. Returning for only one night this time, the organization made sure to bring a quality card of matches to satisfy the audience and they sure did not disappoint.
The event was held at the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. The venue was surely an upgrade from last year’s event which was held at the Long Beach Convention Center, also in Long Beach, California. There is not a bad seat in the arena and it is just big enough to make it feel like a big event without taking away the intimate feel that is felt in smaller arenas.
The style of wrestling known as strong style, which is mixing wrestling with real fighting moves to make it feel more like an actual fight, is most commonly associated with New Japan wrestlers. A style popularly used by the likes of Antonio Inoki, Justin Liger, and many others, it was brought into the mainstream after the WWE debut of former NJPW talent Shinsuke Nakamura, who will be competing at Wrestlemania against A.J. Styles for the WWE Championship in a rematch from their famed meeting at Wrestle Kingdom 10, New Japan’s version of Wrestlemania.
Strong Style couldn’t have been more properly displayed than it was Sunday night at the Pyramid. Early in the night, we saw Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahasi exchange body chops for a lengthy amount of time. The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) and Young Bucks delivered devastating knees and kicks in a grueling 35-minute tag match in the main event. But it was Minoru Suzuki and Tomoro Ishii taking turns delivering brutal forearms to each other’s jaws that was the prime example of what Strong Style is compared to in the WWE style of wrestling.
New Japan Pro Wrestling will be making their return to the United States in the summer when they visit San Francisco on July 7th. If you are in or near the area, I highly recommend you try to attend one of their shows. Be quick on buying tickets though, as demand is always high as they quickly sell out minutes after being released to the public.