Even if you are a newer fan of pro wrestling, pictures of Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Último Dragon, and The Great Sasuke with a lot of belts must have appeared before your eyes at least once.
The image of seeing masked men with what looks like 10 belts is really impressive, and luckily you can know all about this piece of pro wrestling history in the latest book of the J-Crowned series. “J-Crowned: The J-Crown Edition” by Matt Charlton brings back the mix of amazing art and history of pro wrestling, with this edition focusing on the J-Crown tournament and the history of each and every title that composed it.
What is the J-Crown?
It was a moment in time when the NJPW, CMLL, WWF, Universal Wrestling Association, Michinoku Pro Wrestling, Wrestle Dream Factory, Wrestle Association R, and World Wrestling Association Junior champions competed in a winner-take-all tournament. The first tournament was held in 1996 and was won by The Great Sasuke. The final champion, Shinjiro Otani, dissolved the J-Crown in November 1997 after the WWF and WAR reclaimed their belts back.
Each belt went back to their home promotion.
The belts that were in contention were the following:
- British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship – Michinoku Pro Wrestling
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – New Japan Pro Wrestling
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship – Wrestle Dream Factory
- NWA World Welterweight Championship – Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre
- UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship – Universal Wrestling Association
- WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship – Wrestle Association R
- WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship – World Wrestling Association
- WWF Light Heavyweight Championship – World Wrestling Federation
That’s a lot of titles, and you get the history of each title and their most important champions.
The concept of the book is the same as the previous entries in the series: it starts with the history of the title, where it came from and why it was created. Then you get a list of the champions with their amazing art and a short biography of their career and their time with the title. All of it is easy to read and flows greatly, which is helpful to get a sense of the history of pro wrestling.
You don’t get the history of all the champions for every belt. For the NJPW Junior Heavyweight, you can refer to Vol. 2 of the series for all the champions. For the other belts, you get a great selection of the most important figures, which works especially for the Mexico section.
While the previous books focused on Japanese wrestling, something I loved about this version is that it goes to Mexico. One of my lagoons of pro wrestling knowledge is Mexican wrestling, something that I’m slowly learning with my work for the podcast “Lucha Jobbers”, and this “J-Crowned” entry gave me a lot of information since CMLL and UWA are big parts of the wrestlers profiled. I even learned more about El Santo and a lot of his contemporaries that weren’t that known to me, and their accomplishments and history. Plus, it made me go to Lucha Wiki and read funny Lucha Libre names.
Reading about the WWF Light Heavyweight title, since it was mostly defended at the beginning of my fandom in the 2000s, gave me a lot of nostalgia of my early days as a fan.
Another interesting thing you’ll notice while reading the history of all the J-Crown titles is that their point of convergence was not only in August 1996. These belts have been defended and won all over Japan, Mexico, and the United States. There have been easily more than five wrestlers that have held two of these titles at the same time, which speaks on how pro wrestling companies did their partnership back then.
This is not only pro wrestling history from the perspective of the wrestlers and the titles, but also of wrestling companies that used to work together. You will learn how these partnerships worked and their complicated histories. You will find out where Toryumon came from and its transition to Dragon Gate. You will read about the big Mexican companies stealing each other’s talents. You will even learn about WAR and Michinoku Pro Wrestling. You will learn how the politics of one company influenced another. You will also learn that just like in 2021, wrestling companies working together is fucking cool and has always been part of pro wrestling.
The most important aspect of this book series is that it immortalizes pro wrestlers and pro wrestling history.
US pro wrestling history is pretty well documented, hell, there are two “Fall of WCW” books, for example. What Matt Charlton brings is a spotlight and memorializes the history of pro wrestling in Japan and Mexico. Charlton definitely loves what he does, loves pro wrestling, and you can feel it on every page and every drawing of the wrestlers and the belts.
Add “J-Crowned: The J Crown Edition” to your collection alongside Vol.1 and Vol. 2 (which I reviewed here and here). A guide to pro wrestling history that’s beautiful to look at and gives tributes to these men that have been entertaining us for years.
What more can you ask for?