Understanding New Japan Wrestling via Hip-Hop

Melton Sharpe
New Japan's Shinsuke Nakamura and Danny Brown: Separated at Birth?
This Saturday, May 17th, the Hammerstein Ballroom will play host to an exciting historic night in professional wrestling. New Japan Pro Wrestling, the second biggest wrestling company on the planet, will be facing off against respected American wrestling promotion Ring of Honor for a rare cross-promotional international flavored internet pay-per-view, appropriately titled War of the Worlds.

For a lot of the Japanese talent, it's their first time competing in the states. If you're unfamiliar with Japanese pro wrestling, known by fans stateside as "Puroresu," the biggest difference can be seen in their "Strong Style" of combat (the emphasis on the "fight" elements of wrestling where they hit really, really hard) which Ring of Honor comes closest to of any American organization to emulating. Also notable from New Japan are the elaborate entrances from their colorful characters. To help familiarize you with the New Japan talent before Saturday's event, which has been sold out for months but is still available on iPPV, we've matched the wrestlers with who their equivalent is in the hip-hop world. This is our hip-hop guide to War of the Worlds.

Shinsuke Nakamura
Hip-Hop Equivalent: Danny Brown

When we first saw Shinsuke Nakamura, our first thought was how much he resembled Detroit's Danny Brown...down to the same haircut and mannerisms. The more we watched of the reigning IWGP Intercontinental Champion, we realized his unorthodox style in the ring was comparable to Brown's too--as eccentric as it is effective. While Nakamura is billed as "King of Strong Style," fans have taken to calling him "Swagsuke," as seen from the above must-see clip of his entrance. This Saturday, Nakamura will be taking on ROH fan-favorite and current indie "it"-wrestler Kevin Steen.

Ring of Honor
Jushin "Thunder" Liger

Jushin "Thunder" Liger
Hip-Hop Equivalent: E-40

Longtime wrestling fans may have seen Jushin Liger during his runs in North American promotions throughout the '90s. His colorful attire and persona, originally based on an anime character, and his innovative moves in the ring make him one of the most influential professional wrestlers of all time. Sort of like how Bay Area legend E-40 has launched countless pieces of hip-hop slang over the years and set numerous trends. Liger's famed shooting-star press maneuver perhaps the closest physical equivalent to E-40's trademark flow. This weekend, Liger challenges ROH's Adam Cole for his World Heavyweight Championship.

Ring of Honor
IWGP Champion AJ Styles

AJ Styles
Hip-Hop Equivalent: Macklemore

North American wrestling fans probably recognize AJ Styles for his decade on top of Spike TV's TNA Wrestling promotion. Since parting ways from them last December, Styles has gone the independent route, making appearances wherever he wants for top companies around the world. Not unlike Macklemore making an impact for indie musicians by scoring a plethora of Grammys this year, Styles has taken home some gold of his own by winning New Japan's IWGP Heavyweight Championship last month, the first American to do so since Brock Lesnar. Styles is set to defend his belt against frequent rival "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin, who Styles has never vanquished in an ROH ring.

Location Info


Hammerstein Ballroom

311 W. 34th St., New York, NY

Category: Music

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