When Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki left the JWA (Japan Pro-Wrestling Alliance), they established their own promotions that reflected what they each saw as pro wrestling.
Antonio Inoki established New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) with a focus on martial arts and submissions. This style would later be own as Strong Style… Meanwhile Giant Baba’s vision of pro wrestling was more focused on long-term booking. He established All Japan Pro-Wrestling (AJPW) with his style own as King’s Road.
Back in the Day…
In the 80’s and 90’s, both promotions were in sort of a philosophical war to determine which style was better. Some people like to look at this debate with which promotion ended up succeeding the most. NJPW was the most successful promotion in Japan and arguably the second biggest promotion in the world. With AJPW, they basically became a super indie promotion. While this is a fair debate, it doesn’t tell the whole story in terms of styles, and which one succeeded over the other.
When both styles went head-to-head in the 80’s and 90’s, the advantage was clearly for King’s Road… Especially when looking at the legacies of wrestlers like Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi as all-time greats. And of course, you can add the legacy of Giant Baba as one of the best bookers ever. Strong Style was not as far behind though. However at the end of the day, people still talk more about AJPW during those days than NJPW.
Today, King’s Road and Strong Style have fused to become a new style. But one of them had more influence over the other, and that style is King’s Road. Modern-day NJPW is as much a King’s Road promotion as 90’s AJPW. Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi’s bodies of work are the best examples of this. One of the greatest match of all-time, Omega vs. Okada IV, is pretty much a love letter to King’s Road…
Aspects of Strong Style are still felt in NJPW, but all the major programs fall more under the category of King’s Road. Even outside of NJPW, there are promotions that favor King’s Road, like AEW in North America.
At the end of the day, you can say that King’s Road took aspects of Strong Style and infused them into their own. So the obvious answer? King’s Road and Baba’s philosophy won the battle over Inoki and Strong Style. After all, it’s wrestling… And wrestling always evolves over time, fusing styles to create something new.
Which do you prefer? Strong Style or King’s Road? Let us know in the comments!