Off The Top Rope #2 – New Japan Is Ready To Conquer The World

Off The Top Rope #2 – New Japan Is Ready To Conquer The World

On January 4 2018, a massive tectonic shift was felt throughout the world of professional wrestling/sports entertainment.

At New Japan Pro Wrestling’s premiere annual event Wrestle Kingdom 12, Bullet Club enforcer Kenny Omega put his IWGP United States Championship on the line against Chris Jericho. After over 45 grueling minutes of Jericho delivering a brutal offensive onslaught both in and outside of the ring, the near 35,000 fans in attendance at the Tokyo Dome witnessed Kenny the Cleaner overcome the odds and defeat the WWE legend to retain his title.

Though his was the second to last match on the card (the IWGP Heavyweight Championship confrontation between Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito closed the show), many pundits and fans alike have argued that it was Jericho/Omega — a bout which featured two non-Japanese superstars or “gaijin” as the Japanese fans call foreign wrestlers — that was the main event of the night.

The debate surrounding and attention sparked by the dream match sounded a rally cry for those hoping New Japan would further establish itself outside of the Pacific. However, by creating the IWGP United States Championship in 2017 and crowning Omega the inaugural champion at the G1 Special in USA in Long Beach, California — and then booking Omega to defeat the WWE stalwart Jericho — New Japan Pro Wrestling sent a subtle but strong message to those paying attention to changing landscape.

The King of Sports is ready to conquer the United States and the rest of the world.

Despite being the underdog in the tale of the figurative tape, the potential marketplace brawl against the WWE is very winnable. They have a talented roster of homegrown and imported stars (and relationships with freelance talent they can bring into the fold when needed). The company has the momentum garnered from coverage of Jericho/Omega to further fuel interest. And, after seeing a surge in subscriptions to their digital streaming service New Japan Worldthe company’s online streaming service — leading up to Wrestle Kingdom 12, they have a sharp focus on how to better serve and cater to potential customers residing in North America.

However, their overall battle strategy going forward highly depends on circumstances that are ultimately beyond their control: namely, the favorable outcome of Bullet Club’s “All In” live event in September.

The show, set to take place at Chicago’s Sears Centre Arena, will mark the first live event hosted at an arena by a wrestling promotion other than the WWE since 2001. The multi-purpose venue seats 11,000 — compared to 2017’s G1 Special in USA which debuted to nearly 2,300 attendees — and if the show sells out or gets close to it, it will go a long way to ease concerns on whether there is a lucrative future in New Japan marketing and hosting non-WWE wrestling shows stateside.

If the event is a smash hit and New Japan Pro Wresting itself goes “all-in” on the United States and other English-speaking territories, their next step revolves around expanding their budding domestic public relations infrastructure in order to expand the awareness about the established “wrestling kingdom”.

It was nigh impossible to obtain DVDs of the King of Sports’ live events in English in the past, something which served as a vital revenue source for any wrestling company historically. However, hope is on the horizon: the company recently announced a deal with the United Kingdom based TV Ashai to distribute DVD releases of their programming across the globe.

And while the WWE Network stands as the standard bearer for regularly produced and instantly available digital wrestling content, New Japan World has become a strong alternative for fans outside of Japan in search of alternative wrestling-based programming. (AXS TV also carries New Japan content both on cable and on demand.)

More work needs to be done, however, in order for New Japan to match the domestic scope of WWE. Top tier superstars — like Okada, Naito and Omega — need more mainstream media exposure in order to become household names like their WWE counterparts. New Japan must establish permanent “dojos” or training centers in the U.S. (not just hold brief training camps like they scheduled recently in California) with the hopes of finding the talent of tomorrow — and to eventually rival the WWE’s Developmental Center in Orlando, Florida.

And most importantly, especially if the promotion wants to cater to casual fans much like the WWE does so well, they must make their product even more accessible to a broader audience (i.e. a stronger English-based social media presence, more local avenues to obtain official merchandise, and regularly scheduled fan events and live tours).

The case maybe that sometime in the (hopefully near) future New Japan Pro Wrestling, after advancing their brand evermore so outside of Asia, will announce Wrestle Kingdom — a show that rivals Wrestlemania in execution, production and scope — will take place in the United States for the first time in the event’s history.

Then, it would be only a matter of time until the WWE and New Japan would clash in an all-out market competition, a conflict which would be reminiscent of the “Monday Night Wars” of old. And the winners in the end will be the most important people of all: wrestling fans both foreign and domestic alike.

6 years ago by Wrestle Talk


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