This past Wednesday, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) announced tickets would be going on sale, May 1st for the July 7th G1 Special in San Francisco. The company added the following language along with the announcement:
“After wildly successful events in Los Angeles, NJPW management sought out a bigger building for our San Francisco debut. The Cow Palace will host 10,000 strong witnessing the very best pro-wrestling on the planet. With our biggest American crowd to date on hand, and the historic legacy of this famous building to live up to, you can be sure of a card for the ages.”
The historical significance of wrestling at the Cow Palace is well documented, however, the significance of NJPW’s international expansion and the future of the company has gone without much mention.
While mainstream coverage for NJPW has increased over the past several years, the depth of coverage to the more intimate aspects of the promotion are often ignored. Perception could change if the company is able to sell 10,000+ tickets in North America. Projections lead some to believe demand for the product in the United States specifically could have seen them draw over 10,000 fans last year — yet, the company was extremely conservative when booking the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California for the Strong Style Evolved show on March 25, 2018.
The capacity for the G1 Special could be anywhere between 11,000 to 15,000 depending on how the final floor map is laid out, which could possibly change if tickets sell at a rapid pace. The two night, July 1-2nd G1 Special in 2017 saw more seats made available due to extreme demand. Those shows took place at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California.
A marquee match will be necessary to raise anticipation levels even further to ensure the final draw of the show exceeds 10,000. NJPW has teased a possible Chris Jericho and Tetsuya Naito match since December of last year when the two were in separate co-main events at Wrestle Kingdom 12. On that show, Jericho lost a match where he challenged Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States Championship, while Naito was defeated by Kazuchika Okada when he challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Naito is often mentioned as having the highest merchandise sells in NJPW and Jericho remains a draw despite no longer having a full-time wrestling schedule. Despite Jericho claiming he was done with NJPW on Twitter, it’s possible an encounter with Naito has been on the docket for quite some time.
The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) have never had more intrigue surrounding them, The Young Bucks move to the heavyweight division, the continued international rise of Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the current Bullet Club conflict will almost all certainly play a role on July 7th. Rey Mysterio Jr may also make his NJPW in-ring debut after a scheduled match against Jushin Thunder Liger was scrapped earlier this year.
The cards are in place for NJPW to draw a sizeable crowd and a gate which surpasses well over $150,000, doing so will allow for the company to open further eyes in the United States. More importantly, NJPW being able to put on a show in the United States in front of an engaged crowd will open the eyes of more fans in the United States in Canada who mainly consume the World Wrestling Entertainment product.
If NJPW is able to secure a foothold in California, a North American brand of the product is possible – especially with their ties with Ring of Honor (ROH). A consistent revenue stream which accompanies the US dollar will give the company financial stability and allow them to continue their push in Oceania and the United Kingdom while they continue rebuilding their Japanese fanbase.
When the “New IWGP Conception” was announced on July 18, 2015, there wasn’t a lot of press covering how the move could alter the global wrestling landscape – however, less than three years later the international expansion has resulted in exciting new times for wrestling fans, especially for those who asked for an adult product which main focus was the in-ring product.