The Accidental Fan: The Suplex Saga, Episode II — New Japan Strikes Back

by Sabena Allen | 7/27/18 2:00am

The Accidental Fan: The Suplex Saga, Episode II - New Japan Strikes Back

Every January, New Japan Pro-Wrestling holds the Tokyo Dome Show, their equivalent of WrestleMania. Now, if anyone is reading this and thinking, “What the hell is WrestleMania?” I totally know where you are coming from. I basically know nothing about wrestling, as you might have noticed from the first “episode” of “The Suplex Saga.” I know I mentioned WrestleMania held by World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. in my last column, but I did not explain in detail what it is. Basically, WrestleMania is the WWE’s biggest event. It’s why “The Rock” is called “The Rock,” not Dwayne . Now, you might have heard of WWE in a joke someone made about how crazy professional wrestling can be, or maybe you watch some or all of their shows (and there are a LOT of them). Regardless, WWE is the largest professional wrestling program in the world, which is why New Japan’s version at the Tokyo Dome is also a big deal.

While we are addressing terminology, I might as well explain the title of this “Saga.” A “suplex” is when a wrestler picks up his or her opponent and throws the individual over his or her shoulder, using the opponent’s body weight against themselves. Although that sentence reads horribly, the pronouns were necessary because there are a lot of badass female wrestlers and they deserve credit. In fact, that takes us back to New Japan. My favorite wrestler is a woman. Her name is Brandi Rhodes and she is married to Ring of Honor and New Japan wrestler Cody Rhodes. Cody used to work for WWE, and when he broke with the organization, it still had rights to the name “Cody Rhodes,” so to get around that, Brandi and Cody come on together and are billed as “Cody and Brandi Rhodes.” They fight dirty and even use Brandi to get the upper hand in some fights. Of course, I am saying all of this having watched very few of their matches, but again, I am an “accidental” fan.

So, aside from their cute team dynamic, Cody is billed in New Japan as “The American Nightmare,” and is more of a ‘heel,’ or villain. Wrestlers are notorious for playing characters in storylines designed to supplement the fights. Each character even gets his own theme music. The lines are a bit blurrier in Japanese wrestling than in the WWE, but Cody is certainly more of a villainous character. The ‘heroic’ wrestlers are ‘faces’ or ‘babyfaces.’ Again, this dichotomy is emphasized more in American wrestling, but it is a classic distinction across the board. I would go on more about Cody’s career, but it is all a bit hazy and all of the titles and leagues can be confusing for someone who is not a serious fan. Indeed, I think that is part of the reason why professional wrestling can be so inaccessible. There are a lot of characters, a lot of different shows and so many titles. It’s as extravagant as when they come out with these huge belts and wave them in the air; it can all be a little overwhelming.

Additionally, sometimes with tag team matches there can be multiple teams of wrestlers in the ring at the same time with the goal is to be the last one standing and still in the ring. Naturally, this is coupled with the fact that the whole show is highly dramatic, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. In a soccer game, for example, you may boo the other team, but they’re never really a literal ‘heel.’ You probably do not need that level of personalization to be invested, but wrestling is different.

I think being a casual wrestling fan is hard because the entry point is relatively high. Those story arcs can last across events and even years. It is also pretty hard to find comprehensible information about these rivalries without following them on TV and social media, and most people, myself included, do not have the time to follow the entirety of the Bullet Club on Twitter and Instagram as well as keep up with the Young Bucks on YouTube. That being said, it can still be fun just to tune in and watch the drama, although that is made easier when you have a wrestling fan to explain things to you. Due to some circumstances, I no longer have that, so I might just be sticking to “GLOW” in the future. However, if you do feel the need for some wrestling fun, New Japan is a good place to start. For me, it felt less overwhelming than when I had tried to watch WWE because it feels like there are fewer wrestlers and storylines to be confused by. May the suplex be with you.