Figured this brief guide to New Japan would be useful for the recent influx of new fans trying to get into the product since the move to iPPV and DAVE's pimping. Long overdue but better late than never.
Without doubt the biggest star not only in New Japan but in all of Puro wrestling right now. He's the John Cena of New Japan in so many ways. The company revolves around him. He's probably the best main event workers you'll find anywhere right now though so him being on top of nearly every major New Japan show in the modern era is hardly a pitfall and a large reason for their current success. Massive draw and is able to produce top quality matches on top of it. Recommended Matches vs Minoru Suzuki - 8th October 2012
vs Kazuchika Okada - 16th June 2012
vs Yuji Nagata - 3rd April 2011
The Top Guys
New Japan's rising star. Yes this is indeed the same Okada who achieved rarely seen jobber status in TNA. He's their next big thing and with good reason too. 2012 really saw him break through in New Japan after taking time away to develop his craft. They gave him a massive push in 2012 with him winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and G1 Climax and quickly cemented his main event status in the company within a matter of months. In the ring he backed that status up with a very consistent year including some outstanding individual performances in big main events. The sky is the limit for Okada. He's got the look, he's got the size, he's got the athleticism, he's got the talent and he's over with the crowd. It's no surprise that WWE were reportedly interested in him. Recommended Matches vs Tetsuya Naito - 3rd August 2012
vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 16th June 2012
vs Karl Anderson - 8th October 2012
Swag personified. In the prime of his carear right now and viewed by many as the #2 guy to Tanahashi. Okada might be stepping over him to that position currently but Nakamura is still very much one of the major players on the New Japan roster and one of the best wrestlers going today. Recommended Matches vs Kazushi Sakuraba - 4th January 2013
vs Kazuchika Okada - 5th August 2012
vs Minoru Suzuki - 14th August 2011
Formerly Shinya Makabe and amazingly formerly a junior. Not the most technically gifted wrestler on the roster but he's a big star, very over and can produce a really great match when he's on. He's kinda one dimensional in the sense that most of his best stuff is brawls. He's fine working other styles but hard hitting slugfests and brawls are where he excels. Recommended Matches vs Katsuyori Shibata - 4th Janaury 2013
vs Tomohiro Ishii - 23rd December 2012
vs Masato Tanaka - 26th September 2010
The other rising star in New Japan. Currently out injured with a long term leg injury but will hopefully be back in the coming months. Extremely charismatic and athletic babyface. Rose in the Junior ranks with Yujiro Takahashi under the No Limit team. I think they worked in TNA a few times so some of you might recognise him from there. Since then he's really shot through the ranks in New Japan working his way to the top of the roster from the Junior ranks and far exceeding his old partner turned constant rival Yujiro. Injury has halted his rise but bar a drastic change he'll continue his rise upon return. Recommended Matches vs Kazuchika Okada - 4th March 2012
vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 10th October 2011
vs Shinsuke Nakamura - 14th August 2011
THE New Japan veteran. Been around over 20 years now but you honestly wouldn't guess from looking at him, especially looking at him working in a big match. Extremely reliable to produce at whatever level on the card he's placed which these days ranges from the bottom to the very top. His days of being one of New Japan's top guys have passed now and sadly his era as the ace was during New Japan's dark era during the early to mid 2000's. Recommended Matches vs Minoru Suzuki - 4th January 2013
vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 3rd April 2011
vs Suwama - 9th April 2011 (AJPW)
Hasn't aged as well as a veteran like Nagata but such is the talent of the New Japan roster right now that even someone like Tenzan can still produce great matches in the right setting. These days he's tagging with Satoshi Kojima, his long term rival and tag partner. Not the best wrestler on the roster currently but still very over and worth your time in PPV matches. Recommended Matches vs Shinsuke Nakamura - 5th August 2011
vs Satoshi Kojima - 14th August 2011
w/ Satoshi Kojima vs Toru Yano & Takashi Iizuka - 16th June 2012
As previously mentioned, the long term rival and tag partner of Tenzan. Kojima came through the ranks in New Japan in the 90's but his popularity never really took off until he joined All Japan in 2002 where he was able to gain much more success and become greater recognised as a top star in Japanese wrestling. He returned to New Japan in 2010 and immediately won both the G1 Climax and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Currently he's primarily working tag matches with Tenzan rather than singles matches. It'd be fair to say his best days are behind him now but he's still has a lot to give both as a singles and a tag wrestler. Recommended Matches vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 4th January 2011
vs Minoru Suzuki - 18th July 2011
w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Toru Yano & Takashi Iizuka - 16th June 2012
MiSu's a pro wrestler turned MMA fighter turned back to pro wrestler. Wikipedia him for more info but long story short, he was one of Pancrase's biggest and most successful fighters making himself a top name. Since he came back to pro wrestling in 2003 he's worked freelance. This basically means he works where he wants without a contract. After extended spells in NOAH and All Japan he returned to New Japan in 2011 and has been a permanent fixture on cards since. His current run is by far the best I've seen from pro wrestler Suzuki and he's one of the best workers currently working New Japan shows. Just from the picture you can probably tell he's a wackjob but he's a wackjob who can seriously fuck you up. One of the best things about New Japan right now is they have guys like Suzuki and Nagata who can put on great shows at any position on the card. Super fun in lower card multi man tags, great midcard singles matches and really turns it up for main event matches given the chance. Recommended Matches vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 8th October 2012
vs Toru Yano - 5th August 2012
vs Shinsuke Nakamura - 14th August 2011
What a poser. Definitely a veteran but never really became a top star like Nagata, Tenzan and Kojima did. Got a IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign in 2009 but it was only really a token gesture title run lasting just over a month before dropping the title back to Tanahashi. Last year he suffered a really serious back injury which kept him out of action for roughly a year and could easily have ended his carear for good. Since he came back he's clearly broken down beyond realistic repair. However, he still knows what he's doing in the ring and combined with the New Japan environment and his current roster position his matches are still fun. Currently limited to tags in the lower card. Recommended Matches vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 6th May 2009
vs Masato Tanaka - 14th March 2010
w/ Hirooki Goto vs Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yuji Nagata - 29th May 2011
Again a guy who's achieved veteran status from being around for a long time but never really achieved great success to become a top star bar his role in the Nagata tag vs Kawada/Fuchi from 2000. As a wrestler these days he doesn't really offer anything so alas he's the opening match guy that gets easy heat from his goofy heel antics. Recommended Matches I don't know. He's isn't someone to look out for. Watch that 2000 tag though.
Mid Carders & Below
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Very appropriate description of Goto. I'd classify him as a mid card guy right now but the beauty of New Japan is that anyone can be put into a PPV main event and not look out of place. That's why you end up without about 10 different PPV main event matches each year and not 3 or 4 Vincent. Goto was supposed to be one of New Japan's top stars but never really reached that level through never winning the big prize, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Large number of prizes to his name but never the big one. He's still pretty over with the crowds but not on the level of the main roster members that I mentioned above. Not the best worker on the roster but with the right guy he can have a really great match, especially if he's paired with Tanahashi and Nakamura. Recommended Matches vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 18th June 2011
vs Tomohiro Ishii - 20th May 2012
vs Shinsuke Nakamura - 4th April 2010
Amazingly got the opportunity to tour with New Japan through Tomko being a greedy tool and New Japan needing a new partner for Giant Bernard (Tensai). Him and Bernard formed one of the best teams of recent years as Bad Intentions before Bernard left New Japan just under a year ago to rejoin WWE. Since then in 2012 Anderson has really kicked and earned himself a singles push and done much better than most though he'd do without Bernard. He's basically mastered the art of working a 10 minute singles sprint to the extent where he even had a great little singles match with Shelton Benjamin of all people. Recommended Matches w/ Giant Bernard vs Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan - 4th Janaury 2012
vs Shelton Benjamin - 5th August 2012
vs Kazuchika Okada - 8th October 2012
This is what you get when you combine Lance Hoyt and Vance Archer together. Part of modern New Japan's charm has been taking gaijins and improving them tenfold. Bernard, Anderson, Devitt, MVP, Archer. The list goes on and it's no fluke. Archer joined in 2011 and since has been part of Minoru Suzuki's stable and more recently formed a more permanent tag team with Harry Smith now known as Davey Boy Smith Jr. For those of you only familiar with Archer from TNA or WWE, it's time to re-assess him because he's improved a might chunk in just over a year of working New Japan. He's playing the Bruiser Brody type intimidating badass heel and he's fitting so well into that role now. Recommended Matches w/ Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs Karl Anderson & Hirooki Goto - 2nd December 2012
vs Giant Bernard - 5th August 2011
Davey Boy Smith Jr.
aka Harry Smith. Was actually briefly apart of the New Japan roster pre WWE but nobody even in Japan probably remembers so he's essentially a new guy to the roster. He's only been there a few months but he's already established a dominant roster spot as part of Suzuki's stable Suzuki-Gun and as half of the tag champs with Archer. Smith being technically very good isn't some big secret and him and Archer have already shown the signs of making a very strong team together. Recommended Matches w/ Lance Archer vs Karl Anderson & Hirooki Goto - 2nd December 2012
w/ Lance Archer vs Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan - 8th October 2012
The same of ECW fame. He's technically a ZERO-1 guy but they only run shows sparingly so he basically always turns up in New Japan as a undercard heel. He's got a style and he only really works that one style which after seeing how work so many matches gets old. For new fans there's a strong chance you'll enjoy him more than experienced puro viewers do right now. He'll work hardcore spots into every match and expect a table spot in every singles match of any significance. Recommended Matches vs Manabu Nakanishi - 14th March 2010
vs Togi Makabe - 26th September 2010
vs Tomohiro Ishii - 19th November 2012 (NEVER)
Yes, the same MVP from WWE fame. Started off with New Japan in 2011 and got a pretty big push culminating in becoming their inaugural IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Hasn't really done as much in 2012 and isn't featured on every tour they run. Still waiting for him to get his title shot after tapping Tanahashi out in 2011. As a worker he's better in New Japan than he was in WWE. The passion for puro wrestling is so clear to see when he wrestles in New Japan and his matches are generally good. Recommended Matches vs Satoshi Kojima - 7th August 2011
vs Minoru Suzuki - 2nd August 2011
vs Hirooki Goto - 10th August 2011
Really a pointless figure on the New Japan roster right now. He isn't that good unless he's tagging with Nagata. Move on.
Such a fun heel act. Aren't too many wrestling characters right now who are as consistently entertaining as Yano. Not one for the rules, he'll cheat at every opportunity. Yano's really special when the crowd get behind his shtick though. Not your traditional workrate wrestler but part of New Japan's beauty in the variety of wrestlers that are suited to several positions on the card and the variety of colourful characters who can also wrestle on top of being entertaining. Recommended Matches vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 13th August 2011
vs Minoru Suzuki - 5th August 2011
vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 1st April 2012
Naito's old partner and on off nemesis. Yujiro kinda stayed near the bottom of the card while Naito progressed towards the top of the card once No Limit broke up. Even a guy like Yujiro will get title shots in PPV main events though. Technically gifted but a lot of people have an issue getting invested in his character. Recommended Matches vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 11th November 2012
ISHII. This guy is awesome. He's a bottom of the card guy and doesn't make some PPV cards. When he gets the spotlight though he fucking grabs it and runs to high heaven with it. Very hard hitting style and is willing to get hit even harder than he hits himself and he hits very hard. Plays the role of undercard guy who doesn't go down without one hell of a fight to perfection. He's due more spotlight and my crystal ball tells me he'll be getting it in the very foreseeable future. Recommended Matches vs Hirooki Goto - 20th May 2012
vs Masato Tanaka - 19th November 2012 (NEVER)
w/ Shinsuke Nakamura vs Minoru Suzuki & Kendo Mashimo - 24th November 2012
He sucks. Very bottom of the roster. Never produced a performance worth praising. A very rare negative of modern New Japan. Move on.
Such a bright prospect. He's Haku/Meng's son and Camacho's brother. He's still only really starting out both in New Japan and the world of wrestling but even now he has more ability than the majority of TNA and WWE's rosters. Ridiculous charisma and athleticism. Not a major roster member and he'll primarily be featured in undercard tags but he always gets to shine in those multi man tags and is always worth checking out. Lack of recommended matches is due to lack of exposure rather than lack of chances taken. Just find any multi man tag with him in and you'll get an idea of how good he is.
Captain New Japan
For real. No all time great roster is complete without a loveable babyface goofball. This is New Japan's. He had a brief run in 2011 under the Hideo Saito name as a more serious goofball. They basically gave up on that and turned him into a comedy character. He isn't that great so this is a great case of New Japan getting the most out of very little. Find one match and you've seen everything he has to offer.
I'll start off with a brief idiots introduction to Juniors as it's not a common division in the states. Juniors are basically lighter wrestlers similar to cruiserweights but tend to work very strong mat based and striking style on top of the high flying moves. Devitt is currently the face of New Japan's junior division and like Tanahashi is basically a permanent fixture in the title picture for this division. Devitt's Irish for those who didn't know and that kinda makes his success in New Japan all the more impressive despite New Japan's current junior divison being pretty stale and reliant on outside talent like Low Ki and Kota Ibushi coming in. Devitt's really good although he's dropped off a little bit in the past year or so in terms of churning out as many great matches. Recommended Matches vs Kota Ibushi vs Low Ki - 4th January 2012
vs Kenny Omega - 3rd September 2010
vs Low Ki - 3rd May 2012
In some ways the Goto of the juniors division. Often around the top but never quite at the top and often overrated by a lot of people. Taguchi is Devitt's tag partner which has produced the vast majority of his best matches. He isn't bad but at the same time I'm trying to think of positives for him and I really can't think of a load other than he's pretty decent. Recommended Matches vs Low Ki - 10th July 2012
vs TAKA Michinoku - 6th July 2012
w/ Prince Devitt vs Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega - 23rd January 2011
Jushin Thunder Liger
Everyone is familiar with Liger right? The most popular junior of all time and most probably the best junior of all time. He's about as big of a New Japan legend as you get. These days his body is pretty worn down so you're not likely to get Liger working big matches, certainly not big singles matches at least. He'll still pop up in the odd tag and look like a million bucks though. Used more as a middle man for promotion partnerships now like working with the CMLL guys. Recommended Matches w/ Tiger Mask IV vs TAKA Michinoku & Taichi - 16th June 2012
vs Great Sasuke - 28th May 2011
vs Minoru Suzuki - 23rd December 2012
Tiger Mask IV
YOSHI-HASHI's great rival for worst wrestler in New Japan. He's lazy, big-headed and really bad these days. Not worth your time despite the famous mask.
Technically a K-DOJO guy. Well THE K-DOJO guy. Thankfully me and you are blessed with regular TAKA in New Japan these days thanks to his friendship with Suzuki and boy is regular TAKA greatness one hell of a treat. Him and Taichi together are the best goofballs in all of wrestling. Anywhere. One of the many great things about New Japan is how well they maintain the established hierarchy. Juniors are never really allowed to compete with Heavyweights in a way that makes them look equal so TAKA's role is basically to take a beating from Suzuki's rivals, CHEAT a lot and make fun of other Juniors by embarrassing them when they face each other. Without doubt one of the most entertaining wrestling acts of 2012. Recommended Matches w/ Taichi vs Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV - 16th June 2012
vs Ryusuke Taguchi - 6th July 2012
w/ Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & Taichi vs Yuji Nagata, Togi Makabe, Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi - 19th July 2012
Head goon of Suzuki-Gun. You'll see him ringside for nearly every Suzuki match helping MiSu to cheat and throwing chair shots at ring boys. He's the junior version of Yano and that's a massive endorsement because Yano is an amazing character. Taichi is exactly the same as Yano in the cheating sense and exactly the same as TAKA in the junior goofball sense. So much fun. Recommended Matches w/ TAKA Michinoku vs Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV - 16th June 2012
w/ Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & TAKA Michinoku vs Yuji Nagata, Togi Makabe, Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi - 19th July 2012
The first step in rebuilding New Japan's Jr. division internally after being signed from Tajiri's defunct SMASH promotion. Look for him to be the future star of the Jr. division ala Naito at the top of the card. Looks a top prospect for the future and has already had a handful of great matches. Recommended Matches w/ Alex Shelley vs Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov - 8th October 2012
vs Prince Devitt - 19th March 2011
vs Prince Devitt - 27th May 2012
Works more of a lucharesu style than the traditional puroresu junior style. Only just signed with New Japan this past week after spending about 6 months there from All Japan where he started out. Not the finished article yet but he's tons of fun and has bags of potential. Hopefully they give him spotlight now he's under contract. Recommended Matches w/ Super Crazy vs Shuji Kondo & Hiroshi Yamato - 29th April 2010 (AJPW)
w/ Dragon Kid & Power Pro Kamen vs Minoru, Susumu Yokosuka & KAGETORA - 24th January 2011 (GAORA 20th Anniversary Special)
vs Rocky Romero - 27th May 2012
Not technically under contract to New Japan but he's been pretty predominant on the shows for a couple of years now. Originally teaming with Davey Richards he's now teaming with Alex Koslov after New Japan stopped working with Davey. They've only just started tagging together in New Japan but do already have a IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship run to their names. Romero's at veteran status that can still move with the new kids. More than knows what he's doing in the ring enough to produce some really good matches.
Recommended Matches w/ Alex Koslov vs KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley - 8th October 2012
vs Prince Devitt - 23rd December 2011
w/ Davey Richards vs Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi - 10th October 2011
Romero's new partner in crime. Very little experience in New Japan and not officially under contract but expect to see him pop up plenty in 2013. He was in FCW for a while so some might recognise him from there. He does the Russian foreigner gimmick. Very good in the ring. Recommended Matches w/ Rocky Romero vs KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley - 8th October 2012
vs Daisuke Sasaki - 6th June 2012
w/ Rocky Romero & Brian Kendrick vs KUSHIDA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi - 10th June 2012
Again not technically under contract to New Japan but he's part of their plans right now and you'll be seeing more of him as he's holding the junior tag belts with KUSHIDA. You all should know who Shelley is if you're trying to get into New Japan. The same Alex Shelley from TNA. He's had spells in New Japan before with Chris Sabin but only very recently returned to tag with KUSHIDA.
Technically under contract still with New Japan but he's working All Japan full time now as part of their partnership agreement so chances are if you're only following New Japan you wont see Kanemoto for a while.
Jado & Gedo
Holy cow at how well them 2 pictures fitted together. 2 pics there not 1. I know. The famous double act. These are the guys who are booking all this beauty right now. Nothing fancy to what they're doing. Just booking an incredibly talented roster logically and structured. They'll still turn up in the odd juniors tag to make the numbers up. You'll probably see Gedo ringside for Okada matches too as he's Okada's spokesman/right hand man.
The Next Generation
Takaaki Watanabe & Hiromu Takahashi
Chances are you wont see much of these two from the off but both have tons of potential that's clear to see already just from facing other rookies and the odd multi man opener. Watanabe's heavyweight and Takahashi is junior. Hiromu is also the more talented brother of Yujiro.
He's coming. Was supposed to debut at Wrestle Kingdom this year but had to pull out due to injury. He's been a superstar ever since his debut in ZERO-1 due to his father, Shinya Hashimoto, who was a legend all over Japan in the 90's and early 2000's, particularly in New Japan. He'll be a big star once he debuts in New Japan which should be in the foreseeable future.
Championships & Current Champions As of January 21st 2013
IWGP Tag Team Champions - Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion - Prince Devitt
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions - Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA
NEVER Openweight Champion - Masato Tanaka
If you navigate around the links then you can find history of every title defence too. Site is in German but if you can't navigate around the results sections by the names then you're a lost cause.
NEVER It's not a partnership really but I'll mention NEVER here. It's basically New Japan's sister promotion which they run several shows a year under. I'm not really sure it's purpose. Kinda to use the lower card guys in a bigger role I guess. They introduced a belt for it last November. Again, no idea why really. It's basically an undercard belt that's being defended on New Japan shows now too. It is giving us an Ishii main event in Korakuen Hall though so that's purpose enough for me.
CMLL You'll often see CMLL guys coming over from Mexico for the odd tour. They usually get a spot in the G1 and BOSJ too. I'll mention the leagues later. New Japan usually send one of their guys over to Mexico for each tour during the year too. Isn't a jobber trade either. They send their stars to Japan and vice versa. They run a series of shows together at the start of each year called Fantasticamania in Japan.
All Japan You might see the odd All Japan guy come over for the odd show but it's not frequently. Their is a working relationship between the two though, mostly producing a co-produced supershow under the We Are Pro Wrestling Love banner.
Tournaments and Leagues New Japan like most puro promotions run a regular series of annual tournaments and leagues throughout the course of a year. This is much more traditional in Japan than in the States. The annual tournaments include:
G1 Climax The biggest tournament going in pro wrestling right now. Yes, even bigger and more prestigious than the coveted Bound For Glory Series. All of New Japan's top heavyweights compete in a league format with only one winner. There's normally the odd outsider thrown in there too. The winner gets a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. This year they did something a bit different and had the winner gain a MITB style contract for a title shot at a time of his choosing. Naturally because of the culture difference this was cashed in at their biggest show of the year in advance rather than after a sneak attack on TV. No idea if they'll do that gimmick again this year. Usually the winner gets their title shot at one of the preceding PPVs. Generally speaking you'll get 2 blocks with a Final or sometimes a Semi Final at the end of the blocks. Usually the biggest tour that New Japan runs all year.
New Japan Cup Elimination style version of the G1 Climax but run over a much shorter tour and generally with less importance or prestige. Winner still gets a title shot at the end of it.
G1/World Tag League The league for tag teams. Was called the G1 Tag League but last year they called it the World Tag League. Same thing, different name. Format has changed over the years but currently it's the same format as G1. 2 Blocks of teams, winners go into either a Semi or straight to a Final. Winners get a tag title shot.
Best Of The Super Juniors And finally the one for the Juniors. League format with 2 Blocks. New Japan's own Jr. division is pretty slim right now so recently this has been crammed with Jr. wrestlers from all over the world. Semis/Final and winner gets a title shot. They usually run a small Jr. Tag Cup each year too. Varies each year depending on who they can bring in but it's by far the least important tournament they run.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura vs Hirooki Goto Not a 3 way feud but these 3 are the big stars that came from the early 2000's generation and their matches together always carry an extra bit of significance because of their history together. Any combination of these 3 always tends to deliver.
Yuji Nagata vs Minoru Suzuki These 2 never have and never will like each other. Somehow they always find themselves renewing this rivalry and facing each other at the Tokyo Dome show. These 2 could probably work a good match together in their sleep.
Prince Devitt vs Kota Ibushi Considered by many as the two top juniors in Japan, these 2 have been wrestling each other almost continuously for years now, both in singles and with their respective partners Ryusuke Taguchi and Kenny Omega. The tags always deliver.
Existing Rivalries As of January 21st 2013
New Japan rivalries are generally more based around championships than personal storyline feuds like you'd get in WWE and TNA so there isn't a straight forward answer to this one. Tanahashi and Okada are the big rivals for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Archer/Smith vs Tenzan/Kojima is the big continuing rivalry for the Tag Team Championships and likewise Shelley/KUSHIDA vs Romero/Koslov is a continuing rivalry for the Jr. Tag Team Championships. Generally speaking the top rivalries are all between the Champions and the Challangers.
Stables There's currently two major stables in New Japan. They're more wrestlers who are aligned together and work tags together than NWO type factions. These are:
CHAOS Probably the best name for a stable ever. This is the predominant group of heels in New Japan. Currently led by Shinsuke Nakamura but don't be shocked to see a possible changing of the guard or possible split due to Okada's rise. Members of this stable are: Shinsuke Nakamura
Rocky Romero(and whoever he's tagging with)
Suzuki-Gun Minoru Suzuki's stable. Was originally Satoshi Kojima's stable until Suzuki returned to New Japan and essentially stole it turning Kojima back babyface. Yoshihiro Takayama is usually part of Suzuki's groups but he's been injured for a while so has been away from New Japan. Expect to see him tagging with Suzuki again once the opportunity is available. Members of this stable are: Minoru Suzuki
Davey Boy Smith Jr.
The babyfaces tend to just tag with each other depending on common foes.
Killer Elite Squad Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith. This is what KES on their tights stands for, not a tribute to the film about a bird.
TenKoji Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan. The veterans team who have been working together more or less consistently for around a decade now.
Toru Yano & Takashi Iizuka The despicable duo of the CHAOS stable. These 2 represent the literal meaning of CHAOS. Expect havoc, announcer harassing and plenty of rule breaking
Minoru Suzuki & Kendo Mashimo MiSu's current regular partner since Takayama got injured and Smith came in to tag with Archer.
TAKA Michinoku & Taichi The Goon squad of Suzuki-Gun. Complete goofballs. Expect them to get their ass kicked and mock people.
Tokyo Pimps Yujiro Takahashi & Masato Tanaka. Undercard team. They cheat on each others behalf.
Muscle Orchestra Manabu Nakanishi and Strong Man. Another wonder of New Japan is the many guest appearances of Strong Man who is a total parody of himself and the greatest promo going. These two are really strong and will do Argentine Backbreakers in unision. Try not stomping your feet along with them. Just you try it.
Apollo 55 Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi. Long time junior partners. The only reason to really care for Taguchi.
Time Splitters I don't get the name either. Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA. Not sure how long Shelley is sticking around for but they're the Jr. Tag champs so I guess they should be mentioned as a team.
Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov Romero seems to be around for most tours these days and they've brought Koslov back for enough tours that they seem happy enough with these two as a team. They'll be a constant fixture in the Jr. Tag division.
Wrestle Kingdom - 4th January Same date every year in the Tokyo Dome. Massive venue for wrestling. Don't get any bigger than Tokyo Dome shows and only New Japan can come close to having the ability to draw a respectable crowd in the Tokyo Dome these days. This is New Japan's Wrestlemania show for the year. In past years it's been Puro's Wrestlemania show hosted by New Japan but this year they built it and presented it as New Japan's Wrestlemania show which was nice and hopefully continues.
Wrestle Kingdom is really the only unique major show that New Japan run in terms of size and significance. Shows in Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan produce major cards as that's a big venue to sell out too. There's usually 2 Ryogoku shows per year but I think I read they're running 3 this year. The beauty of their PPVs is that all of their PPVs produce big cards just because of the talent depth they have at their disposal so it's not like WWE or TNA where they save their big matches for their big 4 events.
Recommended Shows I don't want this to sound like a cop out but you really can't go wrong with any New Japan PPV from 2010-2012. Seriously. There might be like 2 or 3 which are just good matches and missing a great match. The really essential ones off the top of my head I'd say are: King Of Pro Wrestling - 8th October 2012
Dominion - 16th June 2012
G1 Climax Final - 14th August 2011
Recommended Matches I'll try and keep this list to the essentials and keep it to just recent stuff as I did with the recommended matches in the roster profiles. Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega - 23rd Janaury 2011
Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega & Manabu Nakanishi vs Jado, Gedo & Shinsuke Nakamura - 3rd April 2011
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Yuji Nagata - 3rd April 2011
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Hirooki Goto - 18th June 2011
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Toru Yano - 13th August 2011
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito - 10th October 2011
Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito - 4th March 2012
Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii - 20th May 2012
Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV vs TAKA Michinoku & Taichi - 16th June 2012
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada - 16th June 2012
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki - 8th October 2012
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazushi Sakuraba - 4th January 2013
How Can I Watch?
I'll plug the New Japan source of material first before the pirated stuff. Every PPV is available on iPPV. Don't have any worries about stream quality or errors like other promotions have with their iPPV streams. None of that with New Japan. There is no English commentary for the shows though. You don't really need English commentary to get invested in these matches though and honestly I don't think it'd be the same without over excited Japanese commentary.
They also runs on free TV in Japan. These aren't available to access on iPPV from New Japan so pirated material is the only way to view them. This is the best source for up to date puro downloads. You can get all the links for free but you get them as soon as they're released if you donate to them. Jahmale Hepburn provides streaming links on DailyMotion to individual matches from New Japan shows.
The shows also become available on discs from traders. They're just TV recordings not official releases so don't expect fancy productions. Best sources are IVP Videos, SlamBamJam and Jeff Lynch (PM me if you need his email). I also have a fair share of recent New Japan shows (link in sig) plus a tasty comp of Tanahashi's title run from 2011-2012.
They don't run a weekly TV schedule like WWE does. They run monthly tours with several smaller shows being broadcast on free TV in Japan and a PPV usually at the end of the tour.
What transformed New Japan into a big company again? Wasnt pro wrestling struggling in Japan for the last few years?
Logical booking and being blessed with a crazy talented roster. If you want to get into numbers then they're still not doing GREAT last I heard. I think they're running on a profit now though so the money figures are improving just not at the same rate as the quality of the product which really is all fans care about for the most part. They always draw strong crowds too which is the important thing. The industry in Japan as a whole is struggling right now for sure but New Japan are far exceeding what any other promotion is doing in virtually every aspect.