A Look At NJPW’s International Expansion

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With the four-day NJPW Fallout Down Under tour (February 16-19) underway in Australia and Strong Style Evolved taking place in Long Beach, California on March 25th, this is an interesting time in New Japan Pro Wrestling (Shin Nihon Puroresu). Never before in the companies, 40-year history have they attempted to expand their reach in such a manner.

Photo: NJPW

In the past two years, NJPW has been able to captivate fans who are interested in a wrestling-centric product, which puts wrestling at the forefront of storylines, bypassing twenty-minute in-ring promos, backstage segments with authority figures, and watering down the product to cater towards children. Anyone who watches NJPW (especially a Guerrillas Of Destiny match) will quickly learn that the product is catered towards adults who enjoy watching a physical product. The product also has a unique aura surrounding their various shows. A certain pageantry exists around an NJPW card. The production is delivered in dramatic fashion, title matches feel like major events, and competitors are expected to put on a top-notch match every time they step into the ring.

Cody Rhodes recently gave an interview with Australian blogger, Jamie Apps, about New Japan spreading in Oceania. Where he spoke about how the New Japan product is different from World Wrestling Entertainment. Cody spent time detailing how NJPW caters to fans who want the bulk of the wrestling story to be told inside the ring – instead of through words.

It’s clear Takaaki Kidani (President of Bushiroad and Chairman of NJPW) is looking to cultivate fan bases around the world for the growing company. It wouldn’t be out of character for him to announce the launching of the North American branch of NJPW when the company is in California in March. The company has been able to achieve this success thanks to the quality of their matches, New Japan World, and social media sharing.

With the IWGP Conception, which publicly consists of NJPW (Japan), Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre [CMLL] (Mexico), Ring Of Honor [ROH] (United States), and Revolution Pro Wrestling [RevPro] (United Kingdom), New Japan has been able to make waves in key wrestling markets. Between CMLL and ROH, the IWGP Conception has created a strong foothold in North America – allowing for each company to receive benefits of talent trades, increased exposure, and larger gates. However, New Japan has been the breakthrough promotion among fans due to the quality of shows they have put on since the inception of New Japan World; allowing the product to be seen by fans around the world. While the company hasn’t focused as heavily on the United Kingdom, they have seen growth in the territory – as numerous members of the roster have received bookings throughout the area.

Photo: NJPW/ROH/CMLL/RevPro

New Japan’s partnership with Fale Dojo in New Zealand, owned by roster member Bad Luck Fale, has produced a wealth of talent for the promotion and gives them a direct inroad to increase their visibility in Oceania. Jay White, Toa Henare, and Hiku’leo
all began at the Fale Dojo before transferring to the official New Japan Dojo to complete their training. Mark Charles Tui works as the General Manager of the Fale Dojo and is playing a vital role in the training of current prospects at the facility.

When searching for English speaking wrestling forums along with Facebook and Twitter – users will quickly find multiple threads about New Japan Pro Wrestling, encouraging others to sign up for a New Japan World subscription instead of pirating the product. The social phenomenon pressed by decades-long fans of the company has helped the company grow, especially among disenchanted wrestling fans. While the company has grown in popularity around the world, NJPW has yet to reach domestic popularity heights they had in the early 1990s and definitely not to the level of when Antonio Inoki was in his prime.

The 34,995 paid crowd at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 show at the Tokyo Dome provides empirical evidence that the Japanese fanbase is beginning to flock back to the product. In just two years NJPW has increased their paid dome attendance by over 9,000. Detractors of the New Japan product point towards the past two years of income in comparison to the WWE – while leaving the conversation there. Yet, with current growth levels, NJPW will be able to secure their place on the international stage.

With their current popularity in North America and Oceania – they may have already cemented their place in the global place. International stars like Kenny Omega, Cody, The Young Bucks, Will Ospreay, Jay White, Marty Scurll, Bad Luck Fale, and Tama Tonga have definitely played a role in introducing the product to communities around the world.

Those like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada have seen their stock grow around the world after delivering great performances. Okada becoming the first Japanese wrestler rank #1 on Pro Wrestling Illustrated yearly 500 list may not have meant much to those in the wrestling business, but it did resonate with fans. Tomohiro Ishii may be more of an international draw than he is in Japan due to the reception he receives from fans around the world.

While New Japan continues international tours it could be fruitful if they look at expanding in China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea where it could be possible to create new fanbases.

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