“J-Crowned” is not only an illustrated guide of champions but also a great reference book about Japanese wrestling history. The book covers every Triple Crown, IWGP, and GHC Heavyweight champion. Not only is it full of rich history, but it also features beautiful artwork by Matt Charlton.
You probably have seen a lot of Matt Charlton artwork on Twitter @ShiningWizardDs, but if you have not, that is a page that I recommend following. Charlton focuses on Japanese wrestling and his artwork of wrestlers, matches, and moments makes for a great timeline addition. Charlton has also shown his work on “Eggshells: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome” and on the yearly VOW NJPW Year In Review ebooks. This is Charlton’s first solo work.
After the introduction of this work, the story of Rikidōzan and three of the early championship titles are told. It has the text followed by artwork. It is important to start with Rikidōzan to be able to understand where the other wrestlers, companies, and titles fall under. This history lesson is told in a summary that emphasizes why Rikidōzan is important. Without him, Japanese wrestling might not have been what it is today. He even trained the two founders of the two big companies, Giant Baba of AJPW and Antonio Inoki of NJPW. This is why it is fitting for the first pages to focus on him.
The rest of the book is divided into three parts: the history of the Triple Crown championship, the IWGP Heavyweight championship, and the GHC Heavyweight championship with all of its champions in order. All of the wrestlers are drawn and all of the wrestlers have a mini-biography of where they came from, how they won the title, how they lost it, and their current place at the moment.
The biographies are short and one page long, but they are perfect to understand the importance of the wrestlers and their respective place in their wrestling companies’ title pictures. The wrestlers that have won more than one of the three titles focused on this book, like Keiji Mutoh, Satoshi Kojima, Genichiro Tenryu, Mitsuharu Misawa and others, get additional information on why they won both titles and why some of them jumped ship to a new company. Some of the artwork are illustrations of important matches for those titles.
It is not only the wrestler’s biographies, but the championship belt as well, and those have artwork accompanying the biography. You’ll learn which titles belts were unified to create the Triple Crown for AJPW, which was NJPW’s first heavyweight title, the history of the IWGP tournament and the creation of the heavyweight title, and which steps were made to legitimize the GHC Heavyweight title for Pro Wrestling NOAH. The origin story of both NJPW, AJPW, and Pro Wrestling NOAH are featured throughout the story of the wrestler’s and titles.
“J-Crowned” is a trip through Japanese wrestling history, and for new fans or those interested to enter this world, it is a great pick up. In my case, I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of the Japanese wrestling landscape since I focused mostly on NJPW, which I became a fan of after being blown away by Wrestle Kingdom 9 on PPV in 2015. It has been a learning process throughout the years, and Chartlon’s book has helped in putting in order the Triple Crown and GHC champions in my head and who I should pay attention to when I look for past matches and match playlists from AJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
“J-Crowned” alongside “Lion’s Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling” and “Eggshells: Pro Wrestling in the Tokyo Dome”, both by Chris Charlton, are great reads to get you started on the history of pro wrestling in Japan. Matt Charlton’s work can’t be out of your collection.
This is a great illustrated guide of all of the champions of three of the most important titles in Japan. I definitely recommend this book because of its rich history and beautiful artwork. A perfect book for new fans and a perfect addition for those that has been following it for years.