When Cody Rhodes, son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes and brother of Gold Dust left the WWE, he packed his bags and flew to Japan, eventually joining the biggest heel stable if New Japan Pro Wrestling: Bullet Club. His run with NJPW clearly showed the world that he had a lot of talent and that his run with the WWE actually held it back. But he isn’t the only superstar to make it big thanks to NJPW.
WWE currently has five different wrestlers who made it big in NJPW before moving to the WWE where they’re all arguably very popular: Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Shinuske Nakamura. Of the five, Anderson and Gallows were actually in the WWE before going to NJPW, but were never more than mid carders or used in squash matches or in silly skits.
What made them really shine after moving to NJPW, though? How was it so different from the WWE? Here are a few key differences:
The WWE loves to have big messy matches and you will easily notice this when you go out and rent a luxury vehicle and drive through Miami. 4 vs 4 tag matches, 8-man tag matches with 4 different teams, battle royales, and 8-man ladder matches happen almost monthly now. NJPW however, rarely has more than 4 wrestlers in the ring at once. This drastically changes the dynamics of the matches.
While the WWE matches look epic, with the slugfests going on, NJPWs style means that you have less wrestlers just randomly slugging it out. Instead, the crowd gets to focus on the skills on the men in the ring. This means that not only do the wrestlers really have work on their performances individually, but it also means that talented wrestlers get the attention they deserve.
If there’s one thing WWE loves, its gimmicks. Even with the age of “realism”, the WWE still has a lot of gimmicky wrestlers like Bray Wyatt, Gold Dust, and Broken Matt Hardy. Japan also has gimmicks, but actually uses them to full effect by using them sparingly, and making sure that the gimmick does reflect well with the wrestler’s style and presentation.
One good example of how the WWE misuses gimmicks is by taking a look at Bray Wyatt. The so called Eater of Worlds has faced loss after loss which makes the gimmick feel irrelevant, thus losing effect. NJPW, however, makes sure that if a character has a strong gimmick, it’s reflected well in the character. Finn Balor for example (as Price Devitt) was a near unstoppable force as the “undead” leader of the Bullet Club.
How Wins And Losses Are Treated
In the WWE, wins and losses seem to be completely irrelevant given that despite their win/loss record, a superstar can immediately become number one contender after the GM announces a match to determine who the number one contender will be. This means that rather than building up to the challenge, it’s usually just a matter of promos demanding a chance before the match is guaranteed. Compare this with a Ferrari hire in Miami where you can have lots of fun driving around the city in style.
In NJPW, wins and losses are used to develop characters’ stories as they build up towards the championship. This means that wrestlers will really feel rewarded by the match wins or losses they’re given which helps them keep track of how well they’re doing as the company is “rewarding” them with wins.
These things help wrestlers in the NJPW focus more on their skills, both in ring and at promos, which are key to becoming successful, even outside the NJPW. This ensures that superstars who are trained by the NJPW have talent, dedication and discipline not found in most other brands.