- Episodes: 38
- Aired: Oct 2, 2016 – Jul 2, 2017
Professional wrestling is a unique form of entertainment that has been around for nearly a century. While many people had suspicions of its legitimacy as a combat sport prior to the 1990s, it still managed to capture a hardcore audience. While many dedicated Western fans are familiar with the WWE and its superstars such as John Cena and Roman Reigns, or its legends from the past such as Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, the art of wrestling also has strong roots in the Land of the Rising Sun.
One such notable organization is New Japan Pro Wrestling, or NJPW for short, is portrayed in Tiger Mask W (the W is meant to be read as “double”). With wrestling as big as it is in Japan, it is only natural that with all the sports anime out there, that it would eventually find its way into anime as well, and that anime would be Tiger Mask W, the sequel to the original series from 1969. So for today, we’d like to break down how pro wrestling is portrayed in Tiger Mask W.
It’s Still Real to Me Dammit!
A weird thing about Tiger Mask W is that it portrays pro wrestling as real. While the industry finally admitted that it’s sports entertainment towards the end of the 1990s, prior to that, the business and its athletes were insistent that they did things for real. Some wrestlers went as far to assault people who asked them if wrestling was fake. One notable incident from the 1980s was when John Stossel asked David Schultz if wrestling was fake only for Schultz to slap him across the ear knocking him down asking him if that slap was fake.
With Tiger Mask W being a sequel to a series from a time when the industry presented itself as real, it only makes sense to portray it that way so it doesn’t negate the events of the original series and maintain consistency. In the end, fans can agree that Tiger Mask W still gets the job done in what wrestling is about as a whole and that it tells a story.
Just because wrestling is entertainment doesn’t mean anyone can get off the couch and do it. There are reasons why wrestlers and fans don’t like the word fake. As the cliché goes amongst wrestlers, you can’t fake gravity with all the high flying moves and the non-stop movement it has. When you get hit in the head with a chair, you’re getting hit for real. When Mick Foley gets thrown off a cage and plunges 3 stories onto an announcing table, that is for real. In order to get into the squared circle, you have to go through hard training. When you look at wrestlers like The Rock or Hiroshi Tanahashi, they look like they can win a bodybuilding contest, while others like Rey Mysterio could be medalists in gymnastics. Some can demonstrate freakish strength. Arnold Schwarzenegger once shared a story that Andre the Giant lifted him like a newborn baby when they met.
In Tiger Mask W, wrestlers in the Tiger’s Den camp go through Hellish training and work out regiments to get into the amazing shape that they are in. They climb high mountains, run for miles and miles, power lift 500+ pounds, and go through hard sparring. The same goes for real life wrestling training. On youtube, you can find videos of Satoru Sayama, the first real-life Tiger Mask, training wrestlers and it shows him beating up on his trainees to discipline them. While many undeniably claim what he is doing is abusively psychotic, there are others who say he is making men out of them for the hard life in the ring.
There are many matches that can be gimmicky in nature. While you got the standard 30-minute one fall match where you can win by pin, submission, or count out, Tiger Mask W also demonstrates the various matches pro wrestling has to offer. In addition to the standard one-on-one match, you can also get tag matches that are two-on-two, or there can be royal rumble matches where you put a certain amount of wrestlers in the ring or arena until there is only one man left standing.
Last, the anime portrays how the idol culture and female pro wrestling have progressively been going hand-in-hand. This is demonstrated through the tag team Candy Pair, who not only wrestle, but also sing and do bikini modeling like present WWE star, Kairi Sane did during her career in Japan.
When it comes to anime or any form of media, people are free to take something to the imagination and pro wrestling is no different. When you watch movies like The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke where audiences get a more realistic portrayal of the wrestling industry, you can see how backstage politics, drug abuse, and the travels of the wrestling business would make a good human drama in terms of anime. But considering how anime is famous for its portrayal of action from all angles, to Tiger Mask W, it’s still real dammit!