Wrestling has never been more accessible to fans worldwide as it is today. With the internet at our disposable and a number of streaming services, wrestling fans are spoiled. However as a non-Japanese speaking fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling I’ve never had the luxury of knowing their history. I can go back through the NJPW World archives and see old matches but I would be woefully out of touch with the story and wrestlers. But thanks to the excellent Eggshells, I now have a backlog of matches I’m intrigued to visit, armed with the wealth of knowledge offered by the book. With Eggshells, author Chris Charlton takes aim at the wrestling history of the most iconic wrestling venue in Japan, arguably the world, the Tokyo Dome. The focus is on every wrestling event that has taken place in the Tokyo Dome, over 60 shows (from NJPW, AJPW, UWF and more) dating back to 1989. Chris gives an overview of the pro-wrestling landscape as a whole surrounding each show. He helps you understand what gave birth to the matches and feuds; gives a stellar re-telling of the shows and an explanation of what ensued in the aftermath, both inside and outside of the ring. The praise being heaped on Eggshells is thoroughly deserved as Chris successfully takes on a mammoth, arduous task in his intricate detailing of 3 decades of history. Whilst the focus is on the Tokyo Dome, the reach of this book is far larger than just what happened inside the stadium.
The work and detail that has gone into Eggshells is a marvelous feat, as Chris constantly references multiple outlets such as books, interviews or promos, which all help give a real feel for what was happening at the time. To coincide with this, there are quotes provided especially for Eggshells from those inside the wrestling world, whether it be about what the Dome means to them, their thoughts on historical shows or their feelings on their own matches. You get an insight into what matches made an impact on a young Kota Ibushi, Kenta Kobashi’s feelings on wrestling in the Tokyo Dome and Kenny Omega’s thoughts on his legendary Wrestle Kingdom 11 match with Kazuchika Okada. The researched information and exclusive quotes combined with Chris’ excellent story-telling offers a great tag-team that aids the narrative. More than just the matches on the show you get a visual of what was happening backstage too; what was happening between the higher-ups of each promotion and the booking of matches that led to the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
The book follows a year by show, show by show structure, giving a run down of the event and the match-card before diving into the story that resulted in the show. Whilst obvious, this does help keep track of where you are as it could sometimes get tricky. Due to the number of different wrestling promotions at play throughout the years I would occasionally get myself confused. I found myself constantly invested in wrestlers I had never heard of and feuds I never knew existed, so much so that I found myself taking notes on matches that I wanted to watch, such as the match between Ogawa and Hashimoto in 1999. I still have a long list of matches to get through. Whilst I purchased Eggshells to learn more about NJPW I was pleasantly surprised at how naturally I began care to about the other promotions’ events.
I was met with constant facts that blew my mind; did you know that in a 1990 match, Vader’s eye popped out of its socket when he took on Stan Hansen?! Or how much of a real strive there was from Inoki to make wrestling and NJPW more than just wrestling? There would often be shows which showcased MMA fighters face off against each other and often face off against wrestlers, with the most famous being Antonio Inoki vs Muhammad Ali (although that match did not take place at the Tokyo Dome).
Eggshells is accompanied with distinct art by Shining Wizard Designs that capture legendary Tokyo Dome moments and would often get me excited for the year I was about to read. I find myself nostalgic having attended Wrestle Kingdom 12 where the book wraps up and also privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of the ever-growing Tokyo Dome history.
There will be names you know that play a big role in the days of old, such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, and you’ll no doubt learn something knew about what they offered to Japanese wrestling as a whole. But you’ll also learn about a whole new world you didn’t know existed; learn about plans that never came to fruition and get a history on promotions you may have never watched. If you are a die-hard Japanese fan or just getting involved now, I would highly recommend picking up Eggshells. The depth of detail on offer compliments fans old and new. But be warned, by the time you finish reading the book there’s a good chance you’ll be looking up flights to Tokyo for the next Wrestle Kingdom.
You can purchase Eggshells through Amazon here (USA) or here (UK).
You can follow the author Chris Charlton on Twitter @reasonjp.
You can follow the artist Shining Wizard Designs on Twitter @ShiningWizardDs.
For further reading check out Chris’ previous book, Lion’s Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling.