10 Things WWE Could Learn From NJPW
By: Gary Schweder II
Everyone can learn from their peers. It’s very healthy to compare your routines to those of your competition. It seems like the WWE hasn’t done this since the days of competing with WCW, but there are plenty of modern day lessons to be learned. Here are ten lessons I wish WWE would learn from current NJPW.
1) Development of Wrestlers:
The NJPW Young Lion system may produce a lot of formulaic matches, but it also produces quality homegrown talents. The chores and repetition that Young Lions endure makes them respectful and solid workers. They must also garner favor from the crowd with no gimmicks, but with the tools that God gave them. A gimmick is the first thing WWE gives their rookies. WWE puts a high emphasis on microphone skills and promotes talents before they are ready. This can put green wrestlers in danger of hurting themselves or others. It also has made it difficult to produce homegrown talents and has made it a necessity to pillage other promotions.
2) How to treat their veterans:
Veterans in NJPW aren’t necessarily put in top spots, but they are respected for what they have left to offer. They’re paired up with young talents in order to pass on knowledge and prestige. The recent retirements of Jushin Liger, Tiger Hatori and Manabu Nakanishi are perfect examples of how talents, at the end of their line, should be treated. Fans were given notice ahead of time so they can appreciate the talents one last time. NJPW also holds extravagant retirement events. WWE often disregards aging wrestlers or they run them into the ground. You could be watching a WWE legend’s last match and not even knowing it. They seem to currently be botching Matt Hardy’s last days in the company for example.
3) Teaching their viewers to be better fans:
Before every NJPW event they show an entertaining video about fan etiquette. The wrestling community can sometimes be toxic. The video is a small touch, but I believe it goes a long way in mitigating that toxicity.
The video has gone through many iterations. Here is one of my favorites:
4) How to book foreign wrestlers:
NJPW still has a long way to go, gaijin isn’t exactly a complimentary term, but they are still better at booking foreigners than WWE. Too often WWE hold back wrestlers for not speaking the language or book them as simple xenophobia based heels. NJPW does a much better job giving wrestlers a cool foreign mystic and putting them in top spots. One of the most successful factions, the Bullet Club, began a group of foreigners taking over NJPW.
5) Creating factions:
The future does look promising with great acts like the Undisputed Era, but the WWE still has a lot to learn. It always seems like you’re just waiting for a faction to break up in WWE or they are just underused wrestlers hodgepodged together. In NJPW faction members, are for the most part, loyal. This makes it a much bigger deal when there is a betrayal. Also the factions consist of wrestlers who have the same attitudes and views. NJPW also uses factions to protect wrestlers records and health.
6) Partnerships with other promotions:
The recent CMLL / NJPW Fantastica Mania tour really highlighted how an influx of talent from another promotion can break up the Monotony of routine. NJPW’s partnership with ROH constantly creates dream matches. WWE, on the other hand, seems quite content playing by themselves.
7) Embracing different body types:
Although it’s fair to say that NJPW still favors bulked up Supermen, they also do a much better job booking wrestlers with unique body types. A vertically challenged wrestler like Tomohiro Ishii would be overlooked in WWE. In NJPW Ishii is booked like the toughest kid on the block. Wrestlers like Toru Yano or Zack Sabre Jr are valued for what they are instead of hindered for what they’re not.
8) Making their titles prestigious:
NJPW has a lot of titles, maybe too many. Yet they still feel like they carry more gravitas and prestige than WWE titles. They achieve this through deliberate booking and long reigns. It is also a very big deal to score a victory on any of these champions. WWE will sometimes put a title on a wrestler as a quasi experiment and will take it off just as fast as they put it on. They also allow their champions to lose in non title scenarios far too often.
9) Developing story through in ring action:
While watching NJPW you will never have to sit through a hour with no wrestling or suffer through a silly backstage skit. Their storytelling is done in the ring and in front of the fans. It gives us more of what we love about the sport, actual wrestling.
10) Longtime booking:
WWE storytelling can be erratic. Stories can be hastily told or dropped completely without payoff. It often leaves the viewer unfulfilled. NJPW storytelling requires patience. There is always a payoff, but sometimes requires years to play out. It makes the viewer feel rewarded for watching. Naito’s recent Double Gold victory has been the culmination of his entire NJPW career for example. It’s obvious that longtime booking is the biggest NJPW quality they’d like to see WWE adopt.
Bonus Lesson: Inoki-Ism
Recently the WWE could really learn from one of NJPW’s biggest mistakes. Inoki-Ism refers to NJPW founder’s, Antonio Inoki, fetish for promoting legitimate “shoot” fighters over more skilled “workers”. This practice almost ran NJPW into the ground and stifled some of their greatest talents. Shoot fighters can be great wrestlers (Angle, Baszler, Riddle, etc..) but can also lead to disaster if they don’t commit themselves to the business. It can lead to bad matches and top spots being held hostage. It can also be brutal to watch “the best in the world” at their craft get pummeled inside an octagon when they believe that those achievements are necessary to their development.
Stay tuned to All Everything Entertainment for 10 things NJPW could learn from WWE.