Unless Sakura Genesis ends up happening on the 31st, COVID-19 will cause New Japan Pro Wrestling to go the entirety of March 2020 without putting on a wrestling show. To keep fans engaged and subscribed to NJPW World during this time, the company started the NJPW Together Project, which consisted of adding matches to the World archive and streaming new talk show-style programs with various wrestlers. Some of these talk shows were more entertaining than others, but all of them gave fans valuable new information about NJPW wrestlers.
You can watch all the NJPW Together programming here and you can read what I thought were its most important revelations in this below, starting with…
Rysuke Taguchi Only Watched NJPW For Six Months Before Deciding To Work There
One of NJPW Together’s most comedic and chaotic shows was the supersized edition of Taguchi Japan Presents: Monthly Six Nine in which usual host Ryusuke Taguchi is joined by Kota Ibushi and Togi Makabe. As fun as it is to watch Taguchi try to do the tablecloth trick and succeed one out of three times, the show’s more serious moments are some of its most interesting. The first segment of the show asks the wrestlers to share their favorite standout moments from NJPW history, and their observations are a rare look for international fans at New Japan matches from decades past from the perspective of people who watched them on TV as young fans.
Ibushi, a self-described “pro wrestling maniac,” chooses two NJPW vs. UWF matches (Yoji Aino vs. Riki Choshu from 1995 and Shinya Hashimoto vs. Nobuhiko Takeda from 1996), which aired when he was in his early teens. Makabe also gives some observations on these matches from the perspective of someone who was a young trainee at the time, and they note how much crazier the New Japan crowds were back then.
For his own picks, Makabe talks about his 2009 G1 Climax win over Shinsuke Nakamura – the climax of the GBH vs. Chaos feud in which Makabe turned face after Yano betrayed him to form Chaos with Nakamura – and Hulk Hogan defeating Antonio Inoki to win the IWGP League in 1983, which Makabe watched when he was in elementary school. He describes Inoki as basically a superhero to his generation and recalls “yelling at my TV for Inoki to stand back up” when watching this match, in which Hogan defeated Inoki in “a moment that shocked the nation,” as a kid.
Taguchi’s picks also give insight into his history with wrestling as both a fan and a performer. He says he was only vaguely aware of pro wrestling until, while in his late teens, he saw the January 4, 1997, Tokyo Dome match between Riki Choshu and Shinya Hashimoto. His second match choice, the June 1997 Best of the Super Juniors final between Koji Kanemoto and El Samurai, “inspired me to become a New Japan junior wrestler.” In Taguchi’s words, “I watched this in January and decided to become a pro wrestler by June.” It took a little longer before he did actually become a pro wrestler though; he entered the New Japan dojo in 2002 after competing as a freestyle wrestler in college.
Kota Ibushi Doesn’t Live By 24-Hour Days
A big part of the Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi talk show, along with the producers urging the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions to take their shirts off, is the Ace trying to get the usually quiet and cryptic Ibushi to open up. Tanahashi observes that because Ibushi shares almost nothing about his life on social media, his private life is “like a myth.”
Previous attempts to learn about the real Ibushi have produced weirder results than anyone could have imagined (on Kushida’s podcast in 2017, he said he doesn’t trust books and he has no hobbies), and this one is no different. Ibushi reveals that he believes “It would be better if days were 25 hours” and describes how he has figured out how to live his life by 25-hour days.
If Ibushi goes to bed at midnight, he gets up at seven in the morning. Then the next day, he goes to bed at one in the morning and gets up at eight, and so on. According to Ibushi, on the day of this talk show he had gone to sleep at seven a.m. and woken up at two. While his preferred cycle does get broken up by work, especially while on tour, he claims he’s “been doing this since junior high.”
Tanahashi remarks that “I wanted to reveal the myth behind [Ibushi], but it’s just getting more mysterious.” This is an accurate observation by the Ace. The more insights we glean from the mind of Kota Ibushi, the more his inner life seems to be truly unknowable.
Tomohiro Ishii Also Has Unique Sleeping Habits
My favorite of the NJPW Together shows by far was Yano’s talk show, which turned out to be a sequel to the Chaos High School (or Chaos Academy) DVD from 2015. Yano leads his class (Sho, Yoh, Ishii, and for the last ten minutes, Yoshi-Hashi) through some school-themed activities (calligraphy, a thumb wrestling tournament, and a salesmanship class where they have to advertise Yano’s merch), with stories shared and fan questions answered throughout the show. We learn that Sho keeps getting stopped at airports because of all the powdery supplements in his carry-on and that Yoh almost ran away from the NJPW dojo after accidentally denting Ishii’s car.
The most interesting info comes from Ishii himself, who gets flustered by fans on Twitter calling him cute and, when prompted by Yano, talks about his love of large animals and when he worked as Riki Choshu’s assistant. Yano also shares a strange fact about his frequent tag partner’s travel habits, telling Sho and Yoh, “Every time he stays in a hotel, he asks for a fan. Do you guys know what he does with it? He sticks his feet out of bed and aims a fan at them.” Ishii confirms he does this “even in winter” and explains it with “I have a condition.” A quick web search for “hot feet at night” reveals this is a symptom of many medical conditions I’d never heard of before, so Chaos Academy really was educational.
Take The Elevator In Vegas At Your Own Risk
The other crucially important Ishii fact shared on this show is that once when he was in Las Vegas, he got stuck in a hotel elevator for two hours. Yano reveals this to the shock of Sho and Yoh while Ishii is out changing into his school uniform (he showed up in a tracksuit and Yano got fans on Twitter to pressure him to go change) and tries to get Ishii to share more about the incident he comes back. He remains pretty tight-lipped, saying that only a nearby window provided light in the elevator, and that “nobody came to help me.”
At the time, when he was in Vegas in 2015 to perform on Ring of Honor’s 14th Anniversary Show, he shared about the incident while it was ongoing with three different blog posts, two posted while stuck in the elevator. One was made after being trapped for twenty minutes (“Why is this happening???”), one after an hour, and one when he was finally rescued. The hotel manager later apologized to Ishii for the incident, but it will still live on in New Japan lore forever, probably, as long as we have those sad elevator selfies.
Togi Makabe Is One Of New Japan’s Top Hunks
Togi Makabe’s top guy days in NJPW are behind him, but his history hosting a TV show about his love of sweets means he’s still probably the most mainstream-famous member of the roster. He brings easy Regular Celebrity charisma to both Monthly Six Nine and he and Honma’s talk show in which they respond to fans’ requests for advice. The questions cover a variety of topics, and two are explicitly very thirsty for Makabe. The only hornier moments on the NJPW Together project are producers trying to get Ibushi to take his shirt off and how they film his torso once he does it.
The first horned-up question comes about fifteen minutes into the show when someone writes in “I’m worried because I like you both so much, especially Makabe. I dream of you every night. But I always wake up at the best part. I go back to sleep, but I don’t get the rest of the dream. It’s frustrating. What can I do?”
Makabe takes this question very seriously once he figures out what it means, asking production if the sender was male or female (“Anonymous.” “That doesn’t help me.”) and eventually advising them to “kiss something soft and imagine it’s me.” His follow up advice is to send him a fan letter with their photo and “then who knows what might happen,” making this both the horniest and most productive episode of the NJPW Together Project.
The last question of the show is from another Makabe admirer and it’s sent in late enough that I think it’s probably fake. Still, I very much want to believe it’s real. In the message, the “Unchained Woman” describes her crush who doesn’t know she exists (who is clearly Makabe) and asks “How can I show my love for him?” Makabe recommends she “Tell me in person! I just might give you a hug. But it’ll turn into a front suplex.” Sincere or not, these questions mean that Togi Makabe needs to be recognized as one of NJPW’s top heartthrobs for at least the next year.
Hiromu Takahashi Can Turn Invisible Now
The most important event in the NJPW Together project happened in its first installment, the talk show with Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi. It seems like maybe the IWGP Heavyweight/Intercontinental and Junior Heavyweight Champions were supposed to reflect more on the videos about the history of L.I.J. and the matches they chose to be played during the show, but things were quickly derailed by a revelation that could have a massive impact on NJPW’s junior heavyweight division: Hiromu Takahashi has gained the ability to make himself invisible.
After opening the show by cutting a manic promo on the coronavirus and chanting “Healthy! Healthy! Wash your hands and gargle!” long enough that production cut to a Technical Difficulties screen, Takahashi and Naito do some fairly normal Q&A. Then Hiromu reveals that he no longer turns into a monkey when Naito claps his hands (a thing back in 2017, the last time these two attempted a talk show program), but he has gained the power to turn invisible by snapping his fingers, and he can turn other people invisible too. Hiromu explains he gained this ability “somewhere in a forest” and uses it to cause chaos throughout the show. The rest of his weight class is pretty lucky Hiromu’s a babyface nowadays because if not, he could easily use this new power to hold on to the Junior Heavyweight Championship forever.