As the world of television shifts from cable providers to online subscriptions, an increase in the availability of overseas programming has occured. Gone are the days of “tape trading,” a form of bartering that would involve sending funds overseas in order to receive a third generation VHS copy of the show of your choosing.
This availability has done wonders to shed some light on some of the finer products this world has to offer. One such product would be Japan’s ZERO1 Pro Wrestling.
While its more successful competition, New Japan Pro Wrestling, has taken the Western world by storm, via a new emphasis on global branding, the smaller promotion ZERO1 has continued to produce an extremely hard hitting style that fans will likely find incredibly intriguing.
World champion Kohei Sato is a worthy title bearer who is prone to deliver exceedingly vicious headbutts on his prey, until he splits himself wide open as a result. Fresh off of a fantastic title defense on the February 8, he is the current centerpiece of the company.
Meanwhile, the tag team championships are treated as a main event prize, a trait that can only serve to elevate the prestige of the titles. Current champions, the Dangan Yankees (Masato Tanaka and Takashi Sugiura) are arguably the best tag team in the entire country, and the matchmakers always seem to put them in matches with opponents who are a match for their physical style, thus resulting in high quality tag title defenses.
The secondary championship is known as the United Nations Championship, currently held by internet favorite Hideki Suzuki, who is currently in the midst of an extremely physical feud with Masakatsu Funaki, as they try to out-man each other in the toughness department. That’s kind of ZERO1’s charm: Let’s strip away the bullshit and fight each other to see who’s the biggest badass.
The crown jewel of the Jr. Division are the Jr. tag titles, and a pair of NWA singles titles: the International Jr. Heavyweight Championship, and the World Jr. Heavyweight Championship. The matches are usually low-card eight-minute matches, which is fine for what it is.
There’s always a Shinjiro Otani match on the card, being that he’s the president of the company, and the guy is still fantastic. He’s not nearly as old as he looks, though. If the guy would just get a haircut and grow a goatee I actually think it’d do wonders. Killer promo as well, that guy. More of the same ZERO1 bad-ass-ery.
And then finally, right when you think the brand may be a little one-dimensional with all steak and no sizzle, more sport with less television-style entertainment, they give you the one and only Daemon Ueda~! This guy does the wackiest vignettes in the wrestling world, getting drunk at sushi bars, or belted by BDSM mistresses, invading office buildings, stabbing trees with Kohei Sato pictures on them in training for an upcoming match, and the like. I’m not big on comedy being overdone in wrestling, and this hits the perfect balance. The vignettes are literally the closest thing we have these days to a modern Muraco & Fuji on TNT
Note: This article was featured in The Prospector Spring 2015 print edition.