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Review: Matt Charlton’s ‘J-Crowned’

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J-Crowned: An Illustrated Guide to the Champions of Japanese Wrestling is the newest publication to feature the artwork of Matt Charlton. The artist’s illustrations were a major selling point for the 2018 release of Eggshells: Pro Wrestling in the Tokyo Dome, written by Chris Charlton. For this project, Matt has taken on the responsibility of both writing and illustrating a book that shines a spotlight on the history of not only the champions but also the significance of the belts around their waist.

Charlton begins J-Crowned with a passage about what it means to be a champion in Japan. Rikidōzan was the template and it was he who established the first national Japanese wrestling promotion. The book gives each wrestler a full page break-down on their career highlights leading up to their eventual championship win. In order to establish his significance, Rikidōzan receives a full six page summary which highlights the titles that he established as well as ones he captured off foreign wrestlers that would in turn validate him as a wrestler.

In talking with Charlton leading up to this review, he assured me that this project is the first in what will be at least two volumes. This volume gives a shine to Rikidōzan’s history with the Japanese Heavyweight Championship & All Asia Heavyweight Championship (both established by Rikidōzan and the JWA) as well as the NWA International Heavyweight Championship, a title Rikidōzan won in Los Angeles.

After a summary of the three belts that came together to form the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, Charlton starts delving into the meat of his book which is the aforementioned Triple Crown, IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the GHC Heavyweight Championship and their champions.

As someone who enjoys learning the history of championships, until this book I had no other option than to comb through articles and Wikipedia entries. With J-Crowned, everything is in one place. Want to know who Mitsuharu Misawa beat to become the inaugural GHC Heavyweight Champion? You can find the answer in the same book that will tell you how Hiroshi Tanahashi started his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign.

The idea to combine the top titles from across a variety of promotions into one book is a genius one because it gives you the opportunity to grow as a fan. If the book strictly covered New Japan Pro-Wrestling, a fan would be able to stay inside their bubble. With J-Crowned, that fan has the option to flip through and learn the history of All Japan Pro Wrestling packed inside a book they purchased for an entirely different reason. This is what I loved about Eggshells. The availability to learn about an unfamiliar promotion is only a page away.

Not only does J-Crowned provide great art and history, Charlton has half a dozen pages dedicated to matches he recommends taking the time to watch. I own the e-book version of J-Crowned and found it a great help when going through the history of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on NJPW World. The amount of information I learned through J-Crowned has justified my purchase of the hard copy.

First we had Eggshells taking our hands to guide us through Japan’s biggest shows. Now there’s J-Crowned, taking us deeper by highlighting the moments in-between.

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for FightboothPW.

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