In the sea of great options North American pro wrestling fans can find on cable television these days, AXS TV's New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) show gets lost in the shuffle.
AXS isn't on everyone's cable system, but that can also be said of El Rey or Destination America. Perhaps the bigger barrier is that the content of NJPW isn't new. But I'd wager that it's new to large chunks of the audience, and it is a new presentation, with English language commentary from Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett.
Those two men do a phenomenal job, making the matches feel fresh even if you've seen them before, and striking an excellent balance of technical knowledge, puroresu history and entertainment. The bouts they've chosen for the series have also been presented chronologically and build to climaxes of feuds or to showcase the growth of characters and performers.
If you've ever considered giving this show or the New Japan product a chance, tonight would be a great time to do it. The IWGP Intercontinental title match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi main evented the 2014 January 4th Tokyo Dome show that serves as the promotion's version of WrestleMania. That's noteworthy because the Intercontinental belt, worn by "King of Strong Style" Nakamura coming into this bout, is technically a secondary title for New Japan just as it is for WWE. But the title has been elevated to such a level that fans voted for this match to headline the show over the IWGP Heavyweight championship match (which was also excellent, and was featured on last week's version of the show).
I don't want to give away too much about the match, because if you haven't seen it, you need to, and because it should be broken down by better technical analysts than me. Ranallo and Barnett will bring you up to speed on the history these two men - a former amateur wrestler and mixed martial artist with oddball charisma oozing out of his every pore in the champ, and a heavyweight aerialist known as "the Japanese John Cena" who has deservedly sat atop the company for a decade - and the events that lead to this, their 15th one-on-one match.
Here's a preview from the fine folks at AXS:
If that's not enough, let me tell you that Nakamura's entrance involves multiple pole dancers and a contortionist. And that description doesn't do it justice. It's worth the price of admission alone.
Tune in tonight at 8PM Eastern. See if you get AXS by clicking here. And if you're going to watch, feel free to use the comments below as an open thread or reactions discussion.
Check it out. You won't be disappointed.