Going back on my assumptions and thoughts on watching my first match, and doing more research about Japanese wrestling specifically the history and the major parts and figures in the business I found that my assumptions were lacking a tad as i focused on some small things and didn’t give enough room to talk about what I was watching and how I was reacting to it.
So through this blog post I will analyse further what I noticed the most from my match, delve deeper into the cultural aspects of it and bring up new things that I had wondered and seen through watching the match again.
the first point that I brought up in when watching the match was the crowd, which was a whole new thing to me as there was so many older viewers and the crowd was split pretty evenly in sex. This led me to the assumption that professional wrestling is watched mainly by people older than teenagers in Japan and that it does not cater to one sex more than the other, which is extremely good seeing as wrestling in the western world has always been seen as a show for children and mainly focusing on males.
Another reason as to why the audience may be split evenly is that female wrestlers in Japan are treated with much more respect by the company and the audience than their counterparts in the western world. Japanese wrestlers or Joshi puroresu are portrayed as being just as hard hitting and physical as the males, sometimes more-so because of their size and weight! The Joshi puroresu aren’t seen as being a draw because of their looks or the size of their assets, like some other companies do/did but have actually shown themselves to be a strong crowd pulling force and have remained stable while the male wrestlers have faltered in times of scandal. Some of the most renowned joshi puroresu are Kana, Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, Malia Hosaka and Akira Hokuto.
Another part of the show that I found to be a different was just how quiet the crowd was and how uninterested they seemed at times. I know that if I was there I would be jumping out of my seat with excitement and joy. I first thought that the reason for the quietness what that they were watching the match from a technical standpoint and like a theatre play, where they would gasp when they see something dramatic or laugh when they see something funny. And that is sort of what happens but in between those parts they are silent. After some research I found out that this is quite normal, apart from the few exceptions…
The usual ‘ohhing’, ‘ahhing’, applauding and laughing are seen throughout when they are called for, but the silence is seen as a cultural thing as they are showing respect to the performers, just like you would a theatre show like I mentioned. This notion of respect for the performers has taken me off guard as I am so used to the crowd involving themselves in the world created in the ring and trying to make the show about themselves. This can be seen in a lot of western promotions such as WWE and to an extreme extent (mind the pun) the original ECW.
I then talked about the styles of the matches and the rules that are accompanying it, such as the hard hitting strikes and the rules such as the 20 count for being out of the ring and the flow of the match being more about getting moves in, being as technically sound as you can be and having the fighting being the forefront of the story. This is a completely different way of producing pro wrestling to some of the other cultures as most others rely on extremely story based content and putting the actual wrestling on the back end to progress the narrative. From what I gathered, in japan the wrestling IS the narrative.
Kayfabe, which is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature.(WhatCulture,2015)
While kayfabe seems to act the same in all cultures, in Japan they way that they use kayfabe to their advantage is completely different. Just like how western cultures tell their stories like soap operas with wrestling in between, Japan portrays its product with what looks like actual fights where the only goal is to hurt the other person and win. The match that I watched was so physical and the elbows and slaps they were giving each other seemed to really leave a mark. So why would they be enduring all this extra pain if it wasn’ to make the fighting look more real. I think that Japanese wrestling prides itself on being the most technical and ‘wrestling’ wrestling promotion in the world as the amount of submission hold and grappling I saw in the matches that I have watched have outweighed any other cultures.
Japan focuses on slow pacing through the matches where it starts of slow with minimal exciting spots and mostly ground work, then ramps right up to the end where people are flying everywhere. it flows so well that It brings you into the story of the match more than having a long backstory about why these two people are fighting because they were picked by Donald Trump.