The dangers of the modern, overarching in-ring style have become more and more apparent over the last couple of years.
Particularly in Japan.
What's sobering is that the incredible risks synonymous with New Japan Pro Wrestling aren't that necessary. Hiroshi Tanahashi spearheaded this current Golden Era by projecting sheer star power and wrestling with the purity of a wrestling genius. Injecting actual strategy into his epic, slow-burning masterclasses, he also pioneered modern wrestling's dizzying, ultra-dramatic reversal-strewn finishing sequences, in which he countered (and countered) the signature moves of his challengers. In effect, he put them over by frantically avoiding their offence as much as taking their arsenals would have. He also avoided the risk of serious neck injury and concussive trauma with this expert narrative innovation born from a complete aversion to the strong style of pro wrestling.
In doing so, he brought the acclaim and box office back to New Japan.
And yet, the performers still take the risks the Ace avoided, perhaps self-consciously so. Tanahashi was and somehow remains very much the once in a century talent he markets himself as. His main event successors have brought back the head drops and repatriated dangerous table spots from the U.S. in recent years, all but inviting a sense of grim inevitability.
This week, sadly, that inevitability materialised...