New Japan Pro Wrestling is known - and beloved - for its sensible long-term booking.
The man with the pen, Gedo, has etched himself into the genius realm of Giant Baba, Bill Watts, and Dusty Rhodes by booking the Golden Age of New Japan Pro Wrestling with an impeccable balance. Caution is fused with risk. Intricate, long-term narrative is fused with the necessary reset of the short-term, shocking headline. The clean win directive is fused with the protective, epic singles match model in which the losers resonate as anything but; the winners, sucking air and sweating profusely, put over their spirited wins in post-match press conferences that put over also the company as the consummate emulation of a true athletic event.
'King of Sports' isn't just marketing. There are no losers in NJPW; only though those that must train harder to reach the pinnacle.
At least two of those aforementioned names are known for their devolution as much as their revolution of the art. In the inherently volatile industry of pro wrestling, a staunch, philosophical refusal to move with the times invites the meteorite. The word "sensible", meanwhile, is loaded with that drastic connotation of "predictable" - even "boring".
Gedo has avoided both by fusing logic with audacity, echoing the Lion's roar throughout 47 years of history.
10. Naoya Ogawa Vs. Shinya Hashimoto - Battle Formation 1997
The genesis of Inokism, it should be pointed out here that, irrespective of the results, there was a certain foundational logic to company founder Antonio Inoki's latter-day, controversial philosophy: with MMA flourishing under Inoki's vision of technical legitimacy, his focus narrowed.
Shinya Hashimoto was as legitimate as it got in an arm of the industry that leaned on that tenet to capture the imagination of its paying audience; equipped with both a martial arts-inspired arsenal and a hulking, burly physique, he was the über-credible super-worker of the Three Musketeers era. And it was for this precise reason that Antonio Inoki sacrificed that aura to put over the debuting Naoya Ogawa, Inoki's ideal performer incarnate, in the first and most traditionally compelling of a notorious trilogy of matches impossible to parse in their mendacity.
A decorated Olympian in judo, Ogawa's profile at first accentuated Hashimoto's, especially as the sequel restored parity. It was, at first, the perfect, mutually beneficial dynamic: Ogawa's legit credentials enhanced Hashimoto's aura, and Hashimoto's ring generalship deftly sidestepped any prospective styles clash.
This famous shocker begat something far more infamous in the years that followed; where Inoki initially used Hashimoto's strong drawing power to slowly introduce his new ethos, he later sabotaged it to the detriment of the company.