OWE in Japan: Sellouts and New Dates! (plus more!)

– Both of OWE’s Japan dates have officially sold out. Contrary to what the OWE Twitter account said,  ” Sorry , friends in Japan , will announce next OWE shows in Japan soon!,” the OWE Facebook page and Michael Nee have both indicated the next date is June 24th 2019. No venue has been announced yet.

 

– A recently published article on OWE’s official WeChat account indicated that the round-robin tournament to decide who will go to AEW’s Double or Nothing event will be starting back up again. The fan vote has concluded to determine that Xuan Xuan, who beat his nearest competition by over 300 support ticket votes, is back in the tournament.

As the eliminated competitor to get a second chance in the tournament, he was originally supposed to team with Hyperstreak, but the article also announced that Hyperstreak had to pull out due to an injury. He will be replaced by Fan Qiuyang, guaranteeing that any team who wins will feature Chinese talent at Double or Nothing, .

The initial article has since been deleted by the user who uploaded it to OWE’s WeChat platform, and has been replaced with an almost identical article which shuffled the formatting and media placement a bit. The key differentiator between the two is that only the first article published specifically mentioned Fan Qiuyang as Xuan Xuan’s new partner, while the second article skips over that detail.

There has been, unfortunately, no confirmation on whether or not any of OWE’s roster have had their visas approved as of yet.

 

– Based on a poll on OWE’s facebook page, it is likely that NEO-TV will be prioritizing the “Who Will In” tournament over older, unreleased content from the tournament to crown OWE’s first champion.

 

– From looking at the announced line-ups for the Japanese dates, these shows will not see any of the tournament action. That being said, the AEW/OWE connection seems to be strengthened by Michael Nakazawa working the cards.

 

– in the latest episode of Being The Elite, Matt and Nick Jackson announced that AEW has signed CIMA to a full time contract. What this means for his position as president of Dragon Gate International and as VP and head trainer of OWE is, as of yet, unknown.

#DiscoveringWrestling #008 – My Journey to Japan for Wrestle Kingdom 11 (Part 3)

How could I go to Japan and not get a whole bunch of wrestling merch? Well, the answer is: I couldn’t! So, we’re gonna talk about all the cool things I grabbed, and where you can find similar things for yourself! Once you’ve got your feet on the ground in Tokyo, I’m sure you’ll love these places.

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Who says print media is dead? It’s just in another language!

At the merchandise tents outside of the Tokyo Dome purchases and  those inside Korakuen Hall, I procured my NJPW and NOAH Programs and my awesome Wrestle Kingdom 11 banner towel. Programs nowadays in Pro-Wrestling feel like such a thoroughly Japanese thing. Certainly thay have a history outside of just Japan, but I haven’t seen a true program readily available at pretty much any western shows. Sadly for me, but potentially beneficial if you wear a Medium or Large size T-Shirt, they had a tonne of gorgeous T-Shirts for sale at both shows. Sadly, the largest size I’ve seen is an XL, and a Japanese XL is a North American Large, at best. Being a 2XL prohibited me from getting any of the really cool shirts for myself. Obviously it is always good to buy merch directly at live shows, particularly for smaller promotions as it is a big driver of income for a lot of talent and promotions

The awesome Japanese Pro-Wrestling magazines are from Lawson convenience (konbini/combini) stores, but 7-Eleven or any other major konbini should have them as well. And while you’re there, get yourself some of their hardboiled eggs. You’ll never have a better, tastier hardboiled egg experience. I’ve tried to replicate it at home, and it’s proving impossible to get that velvety consistency to the yolk while ensuring the white is fully cooked… but I digress, we’re not going to talk about Yudetamago… yet.

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Aristrist, NJPW Shop, and BackDrop, respectively.

On my trip to pick up tickets for the January 7th NOAH Korakuen Hall show, I had just enough time to hit up one of the Suidobashi area stores. Since I had a specific purchase in mind, I chose to hit up the NJPW store, which is a short walk from Korakuen Hall, along with other famous Wrestling stores like Todokan. The NJPW store filled to the brim with cool shirts and hats, collectible card games and rather hefty title belt keychains. It is, regrettably but expectedly, overpriced in general, however it is also the only place you can find certain things reliably, such as my all-too-adorable Tana-kuma. I’ll tell you, I had a hard damned time picking out which of the Teddy bears I wanted most, as the Okada-kuma and Naito-kuma are equally adorable… and at ¥8000 each, I could only afford one. For the record, there’s also a Nakamura-kuma, but you’ll have to hit up eBay or another reseller at this point.

On this trip I also had the incredible pleasure to make my way to the physical boutique for Masahiro Chono’s Aristrist clothing line. I had been a fan of this venture of Chono’s since late high school when I first discovered it. I grabbed a slick black-on-black nWo hat, one of the few hats i have ever bought that fits my giant cranium properly, which has his cross-branding all over it. Very well made, and comparably priced to other boutique-type stores at approximately ¥5400 after taxes. Again, I was hit with the curse of nothing-fits. The year before a good friend who was attending Wrestle Kingdom did me the amazing solid of getting me a T-Shirt from his store, autographed by the man himself. Sadly, even at a 2XL from Aristrist I’m a bit hefty for s comfy fit. But that’s more due to my recent weight gain than an issue of it being small for a 2XL, as it is well within the parameters of shirts I used to fit into. So if you need an XL or 2XL and are on the smaller size of that range, Aristrist’s amazing designer clothes will fit you. But watch out, the awesome dress shirts and jump suits can often go up towards the ¥80,000 range.

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Check out those signatures!

On, literally, my last day in Tokyo I made the effort to swing by BackDrop in Akihabara. They import a lot of western stuff, like WWE and ROH T-Shirts and action figures, but also have plenty of NJPW merch, mostly t-shirts that wouldn’t fit me, but I did score a signed Young Bucks SuperKick party hat, and another one that fits my damn giant head, at about ¥4000.

As someone with varied interests, such as a love for mecha model kits, anime, and video game goods, Akihabara was easily my favourite part of the city. I loved exploring the arcades, cafes, stores, and restaurants. It felt like I was meant to be there. The fact that BackDrop was easily accessible and located right along a main stretch of the area, made it seem all the more like a place meant for me.  photo

On one night towards the end of my stay I ate at the original Ribera steakhouse, seated at a counter infront of the chef as he cooked steaks and handed them out to the at most 10 people who could fit in the restaurant. The steaks were tasty but nothing super tremendous. But the atmosphere was termendous. I sat under a picture of Bam Bam Bigelow, and surrounded by other photos of an absolute who’s who of Pro-Wrestling and MMA’s long and often intertwined history. I’d say it might be better to try the newer location, for likely more comfortable seating.

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Warsman, Robin Mask, and Candian Man come home to Canada!

One of the best things about my trip was the awesome endurance of the Kinnikuman franchise. It seemed everywhere I went I ran into it. Whether it was S.H.Figuarts at every Tokyo Toys R Us, life-size replicas in Malls, an Aristrist themed figure in their boutique, an entire line of NJPW merch or, the holy grail, the little rubber figure themselves, Yudetamago‘s franchise followed me around on my vacation. , A good distance outside of Tokyo proper lies a hidden, dusty gem in Godzilla-ya.  I almost didn’t find this store, Google Maps tried to tell me it was in some poor blokes office when I relied on GPS, but it was destiny that I go there. I expected something much different. When I finally got to this toy store it was like someone had taken all the dustiness and crampedness of your grandparent’s attic and  shoved a cornucopia of retro Tokusatsu, Anime, and other toys into this mess and decided to place a cash register awkwardly balanced on a table.

Located in what appears to have once been someone’s fancy cabinet, in a drawer at foot level that stuck out just enough to make the already severely limited footspace inhospitable, was a mountain of retro Kinnikuman mini figures. Better known in the west as M.U.S.C.L.E.. In my excitement I shot my hand down and drew up one figure, In my hand lay Canadian Man, looking at him I knew I would have to wash him with soap to clean off the grime, but he had to be mine. What a treasure of a find!  Next time I’m in Japan I want to visit there again, with the aim of getting a complete set of Kinnikuman figures out of that drawer. But on a serious note, it really isn’t clean. My girlfriend has allergies and asthma and she literally could not stay in the store for longer than 2 minutes. Be warned.

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Part of me wanted to negotiate with the store owner to buy this life-sized Kinnikuman satue.

There rests one souvenir that only a handfull of people I know have, and you can’t buy this one anywhere, as it was a wonderful gift from a man I met there.

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Thank You, Fumi! I’m getting this framed!

Have you been to Wrestle Kingdom? Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #007 – My Journey to Japan for Wrestle Kingdom 11 (Part 2)

So, with tickets packed in my carry-on and thousands of pounds of steel under my ass, I flew on my merry way to Tokyo… with the least leg room imaginable and a seat that didn’t recline. After a nearly sleepless, cramp inducing 14 hour flight i landed in my Mecca: Tokyo!

The two days I spent in Tokyo before Wrestle Kingdom 11 flew by in a brief whirlwind of great food, wandering around Akihabara, and nervously making certain it wasn’t January 4th yet. Seriously, with that time change I kept thinking I had somehow missed the show. On the day of the event, somewhat to my Girlfriend’s chagrin, I spent pretty much the entire day in the shadow of the Tokyo Dome. I met up with the good people I had met online, hung out, talked wrestling, met the author of the best book available about NJPW. My day escalated to the point where I was having cameras pointed at me for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it was because I was a big white guy in a Bullet Club T-shirt and the Japanese fans wanted me to be center in their group shot. Three times, however, it was for professional coverage of the event. I was lucky enough to be in a video with Steve Corino and Kevin Kelly, thanks to my association with those great people I had met online. Then I was ambushed by a cameraman while I was returning from getting a beverage at a vending machine, where I awkwardly sputtered out some words of support for The Cleaner. Finally, as I shared last time, I was interviewed in my seat for the NJPW World documentary on Omega.

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It’s-the-Ace!

As the show started and the crowd began to pack in i could feel the energy intensify. You know you’re in for a good show when, before that first match even begins, there is a certain electricity in the air. It’s rare at a smaller venue, but large arena shows certainly do not hold an exclusive license on big match feelings.  I sat next to a Japanese man wearing a Yano Toru shirt. He spoke next to no English to me and yet, through the magic of Pro-Wrestling, we shared some cool moments as the show went on. We shared annoyed glances and laughter between us as a nearby drunkard yelled incessantly throughout the show, somehow I managed to communicate to him, before the entrance, that Tiger the Dark was ACH and he got really excited, and even though I was repping Bullet Club and he was for Chaos, we laughed and smiled at each other as we enjoyed big spots and exciting moments throughout the show.

 

 

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I cried a bit when Goto won the NEVER belt.

I’m not going to review the card, as more qualified people have already done so. But I did want to talk, briefly at least, about the energy in the Tokyo Dome during the greatest match I have ever seen. Each near fall and big spot that built towards the climax elicited a rumbling of energy and a tingling that seemed to run through the crowd in waves. Highs and lows for different fans in attendance seemed, as the action swayed back and forth between the performers, was balanced so well that up until that very last moment I don’t think anyone in attendance knew how it would all play out. I had flown all the way to Tokyo to see a fellow Canadian potentially claim the biggest win of his career at the biggest show of the year and I walked away with my hopes dashed against the rocks, but a full and satisfied soul. Riding the waves of the match was exhilarating and there’s nothing like a live audience around you to really push that feeling to the next level. Wrestling always transcends barriers of language and culture and this match, it was the epitome.

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#BC4Life

When I set out on my journey, as I wasn’t traveling alone and had many non-wrestling things I wanted to do in Japan, I knew the number of shows I would see would be limited. Somehow more meaningful to me than even Wrestle Kingdom was the January 7th Pro Wrestling NOAH show in the legendary Korakuen Hall. For many years, thanks to a variety of factors, NOAH had been my favourite wrestling company, but they had fallen on hard times and bad booking. Their gates and attendance had been declining steadily, and this show was dubbed as “NOAH the REBORN”, branded as an effort to kickstart the company after cutting ties with NJPW financially and creatively. The hard bench under my ass was uncomfortable and yet, somehow I had managed to get one of the best seats in the house by buying my ticket the day before. The atmosphere was amazing and the in-ring competition presented truly returned to the roots of what NOAH was all about. It truly felt like a new era as, during the main event, the crowd slowly changed from vocally supporting Takashi Sugiura to supporting Katsuhiko Nakajima, the new champion and the face the company is clearly trying to build a new legacy on the shoulders of. Since there’s no real way to watch it other than online, please watch this match here.

It meant the world to me for a NOAH show to go back to basics and present such solid action and story telling, as Sugiura fought to reclaim the title he had lost to the babyfaced veteran (seriously, Nakajima has been wrestling for a surprisingly long time for his age). It gave me hope that I could see, just maybe, NOAH’s tide rise again to the heights it was at with Misawa and Kobashi at the helm. Do yourself a favour and go see a NOAH show while you’re in Japan for Wrestle Kingdom next year.

 

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Support NOAH or Nakajima will put you to sleep.

Have you been to Wrestle Kingdom? Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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